Encompassing the Canadian West Coast Trail, Pacific Rim National Park is a beautiful coastal area found along the western coast of Vancouver Island. Separated into two sections with two separate driving routes to get there, we visited the northern part first.
From Port Alberni we did two day trips to Tofino and Ucluelet. Our original plan was to stay in Tofino or Ucluelet, but they booked up quickly. We didn’t mind the drive in, which would normally take less than an hour. However, the ongoing construction work done at Kennedy Lake meant that there was a delay each time we went in or out. They were blasting the side of the mountain overlooking the lake so the road was down to a single lane. Cars were only allowed through once per hour in either direction, so patience was necessary.
Once we got through we made our way to Long Beach first. It’s the most popular spot along the trail, and the parking lot fills up quickly on busy days. We managed to get a spot in time, and paid the fee ($10 per adult for the day).
With over 16 kilometres (10 miles) of wide, sandy beaches, Long Beach is popular with hikers, backpackers and day-trippers alike.
After Long Beach we drove up to Tofino. It’s a lively place but crowded and fairly touristy so we quickly headed back down to check out more beaches and trails. A short drive from Tofino was Radar Hill, a lookout spot where we check out the mountain views.
We then drove back south to visit the less travelled beaches. Next stop was Wickaninnish Beach, where we could walk the trails to a few other nearby beaches.
Near the Kwisitis Visitor Centre is a trail system linking it to a few other beaches. The trail is close to the water so the views were excellent throughout the walk.
From Wickaninnish Beach it was a 1.5 kilometre (about 1 mile) walk to the South Beach Trail. There’s some up and down but otherwise it’s a well-maintained trail.
It’s possible cut across to Florencia Bay from a split in the trail, but with time running out in the day we decided to continue to South Beach and drive separately to Florencia Bay.
We finally arrived at South Beach, and it ended up being our favourite spot of the day. While not massive like Long Beach, it was impressive in its own way with dramatic rock formations and the sound of the pebbles rolling into the sea.
One of the unique features of this beach was the sounds of the large pebbles washing to shore and then rolling back into the foamy waves. Because it requires some walking to reach, the spot was empty when we were there. One of the advantages of getting away from the parking lots!
Our final stop was Florencia Bay, another popular surfing spot and easily accessible by car. This beach was originally called “Wreck Bay” because of a 200-tonne ship named Florencia that capsized further north off Vancouver Island in 1860. Wrecks were once very common in the rough waters off the west coast.
On this day we focused on the northern section up to Tofino. The next day we did the southern section in and around the town of Ucluelet, another beautiful section of coastline. And that will be the focus of our next post.