Ucluelet Weekend Getaway Guide: Storm Watching on BC’s West Coast

Ucluelet's stormy weather and lush ecosystems draw visitors from far and wide - umbrella optional!

Credit: Curt Woodhall

Ucluelet’s coastline has seen its share of spectacular storms

Few BC getaways are coveted for their torrential downpours and gale-force winds, but in Ucluelet, monstrous waves and deafening thunder are more sought after than sun by visiting storm watchers

This quiet seaside village 45 minutes southeast of Tofino provides an exciting stage for watching Mother Nature’s spectacular fury, and offers an assortment of eco-activities, culinary gems and luxury digs with which to round out a weekend getaway amidst a stunning west-coast backdrop.

Explore Ucluelet’s Landscape

Ucluelet’s rugged coastline is beautiful no matter the weather / IMAGE: Courtesy Black Rock Resort

Protected by the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, the Ucluelet area is a marriage of tranquil and dramatic, with a landscape of towering coastal old-growth trees and rocky shorelines and beaches connected by a network of hiking trails. Shallow seas and temperate rainforests support a plethora of wildlife that adds to the area’s magic and draws visitors from BC and around the world.  

Black bears, black-tail deer, marmots, bald eagles, otters, sea lions, harbour seals, and killer, gray, sperm, humpback and blue whales all make Ucluelet’s surrounding wilderness home.   

Archipelago Cruises offers a variety of leisurely wildlife-watching cruises aboard a 53-foot motor yacht. The cruises meander through the Broken Group Islands scattered in the sheltered waters of Barclay Sound. This group of more than 100 islands and islets are famous with kayakers and wilderness campers for their tranquility and pristine west-coast beauty.

Storm chasers can opt for a high-speed zodiac vessel with Subtidal Adventures for the thrill of rougher waters. Guided whale watching tours are another hugely popular activity in the spring, summer and fall months.

Jamie’s Whaling Station departs Ucluelet daily to the open waters in search of gray, killer and humpback whales. Cruise times depend on the season and tides, and reserving in advance is recommended as seats are limited and fill up quickly.  

To explore the rugged coastline by foot, grab a slicker and gumboots and head to the Wild Pacific Trail for plentiful views of the Broken Group Islands and forceful Pacific Ocean waves pummelling outer reefs and the mainland shore. Forgo the umbrella as it stands little chance against the powerful gusts of wind that batter the trail’s many lookouts. 

Dining and Accommodations in Ucluelet

The Black Rock Oceanfront Resort offers a spa, lounge and fine dining in Ucluelet / IMAGE: Courtesy Black Rock Resort

Norwoods, with its flawless cuisine and intimate wine-bar atmosphere, makes for a delicious discovery in Ucluelet. Menu highlights include a local seafood trio of crab chowder, grilled octopus and tempura prawns, pappadam crusted Pacific albacore tuna with ponzu vinaigrette and a sinfully delicious pumpkin crème brulee.

Casual favourites in Ucluelet include the house-made soups, meat pies and gourmet dogs at Ukee Dogs Eatery, and the ever-popular fish and chips from the Jiggers roadside truck.
Where to Stay in Ucluelet

Ucluelet accommodations range from frugal to five-star and everything in between. A unique ultra-modern option is the Black Rock Oceanfront Resort. Perched on a jagged rock cliff overlooking the crashing waves of the Pacific, this all-suite property with chic décor features the award-winning Drift Spa, live music in the Float Lounge and the artisan-inspired fine dining restaurant Fetch.  

A more secluded alternative is The Cabins, with its cozy, fully equipped cottages on Terrace Beach, steps from the Wild Pacific Trail.

Tips for Your Ucluelet Trip

Even in the summer, Ucluelet’s weather can change on a dime / IMAGE: Black Rock Resort

Storm season in Ucluelet runs November through March and many hotels offer discounted rates for those wanting to witness the eight-foot waves and punishing winds. For cost savings in milder weather travel to Ucluelet in spring or fall, but keep in mind that the weather can change on a dime, in any season, so be sure to pack warm clothes and rain gear.

Breaking up the drive with an overnight stop in Parksville will make for a more relaxing trip. The Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Resort, with its unique log-constructed accommodations, three restaurants and award-winning spa, is a beautiful spot to spend an evening before completing the drive to Uclulet.  

Mhairri Cuthbert is a travel writer at Arrivals Travel