Birding -- The Tofino/Ucluelet area is directly in the path of the Pacific Flyway and attracts tens of thousands of birds and wildfowl; it’s also home to bald eagles. The area celebrates its rich birdlife with the annual Flying Geese & Shorebird Festival every April and May. During those months, large flocks of migrating birds fill the skies and estuaries along Barkley Sound and Clayoquot Sound. Avid bird-lovers should contact Just Birding (tel. 250/725-2520; www.justbirding.com), which offers a variety of birding tours starting at C$99 per person.
Fishing -- Fishing remains the big outdoor activity in Ucluelet, and salmon is still the most sought-after catch. Charter companies that can take you out include Island West Resort (tel. 250/726-7515; www.islandwestresort.com), Castaway Charters (tel. 250/720-7970; www.castawaycharters.ca), and Long Beach Charters (tel. 877/726-2878 or 250/726-3474; www.longbeachcharters.com).
Hiking -- A hike among the hushed stands of old-growth timber or along rocky, wave-dashed coastline is an unforgettable experience, and there are several great hikes along this coast for hikers of all abilities, even gentle strollers.
In Ucluelet, the Wild Pacific Trail (www.wildpacifictrail.com) skirts the rugged coastline with fabulous views of the Pacific Ocean and the Broken Islands; bald eagles nest along parts of the trail. For an easy and scenic walk, take the 2.7km (1.7-mile) gravel-paved stretch from Peninsula Road in Ucluelet to the lighthouse. This 30- to 45-minute amble passes surge channels and huge rock formations.
The 11km (6.8-mile) stretch of rocky headlands, sand, and surf along the Long Beach Headlands Trail is the most accessible section of the Pacific Rim National Park system, which incorporates Long Beach, the West Coast Trail, and the Broken Islands Group. To access it, take the road to the Kwisitis Visitor Centre (formerly the Wickaninnish Interpretive Centre exit) on Hwy. 4, and follow the signs. In and around Long Beach, there are numerous other short hikes, including the 3.3km (2-mile) Gold Mine Trail near Florencia Bay, where you can still see a few artifacts from an old gold mine.
If you’d prefer to have an expert guide lead you into the wilderness, you can’t go wrong with Long Beach Nature Tours (tel. 250/725-8305 or 250/726-7099; www.longbeachnaturetours.com). Naturalist Bill McIntyre, a retired Pacific Rim Park chief, leads guided beach, rainforest, and storm walks that explain the ecology and wildlife of the area. Half-day hikes for 1 to 5 people cost C$225; full-day hikes C$450.
For a truly memorable walk, take the 3.3km (2.1-mile) Big Trees Trail through the dense rainforest on Meares Island in Clayoquot Sound, just off Tofino’s shores. Built in 1993 to protect the old-growth temperate rainforest, the boardwalked trail, maintained by the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations band, has a long staircase leading up to the Hanging Garden Tree, the province’s fourth-largest western red cedar. You can access the island by canoe or take Tofino Water Taxi (tel. 866/794-2537 or 250/725-8844; www.tofinowatertaxi.com; C$30 adults, C$25 students, C$20 youth round-trip).
Kayaking -- One of the quintessential experiences of this region is paddling through the Broken Islands or Clayoquot Sound. For a region famous for its stormy weather, these waters are surprisingly calm, and as you paddle, you can see bald eagles, porpoises, even a friendly orca or two.
Several local companies offer kayak rentals, tours, lessons, and tours. Among them are Majestic Ocean Kayaking (tel. 800/889-7644; www.oceankayaking.com) and Tofino Sea Kayaking Company (tel. 800/863-4664 or 250/725-4222; www.tofinoseakayaking.com). They offer half-day harbor trips (C$67), full-day paddles to Barkley Sound (C$170) or the Broken Islands (C$260), and weeklong adventures in Clayoquot Sound (C$1,450). Single kayak rental will run you about C$58 per day.
Surfing -- The wild Pacific coast is known as one of the best surfing destinations in Canada, and most surfers work in the tourism industry around Tofino, spending all their free time in the water. There are several surf schools that offer lessons, rentals, and gear. Lessons generally start at C$55 (not including gear), board rentals at C$25, and wetsuit rentals at C$20. Contact Live to Surf (tel. 250/725-4464; www.livetosurf.com), Pacific Surf School (tel. 888/777-9961; www.pacificsurfschool.com), or Surf Sister (tel. 877/724-7873; www.surfsister.com).
Wildlife-watching -- One of the most unforgettable experiences along this coast is a close encounter with the local wildlife. Gray whales, bald eagles, black bears, porpoises, orcas, seals, and sea lions all call this area home, and there are several outfitters that help you get up close and personal.
One of the oldest outfitters is Jamie’s Whaling Station (tel. 800/667-9913 or 250/725-3919 in Tofino; tel. 877/726-7444 or 250/726-7444 in Ucluelet; www.jamies.com), which departs from both Tofino and Ucluelet. It uses a glass-bottomed power cruiser, as well as a fleet of Zodiacs for tours to watch the gray whales March through October. A combined Hot Springs Cove and whale-watching trip is offered year-round. Three-hour bear-watching trips are normally scheduled around low tides, when the bruins forage for seafood on the mudflats. Fares (for this and other companies) generally start at around C$90 per person in a Zodiac and C$100 per person in a covered craft; customized trips can run as high as C$200 per person for a full day.
The best time to see the whales is in March, when about 20,000 gray whales migrate past this section of Vancouver Island as they head north to their feeding grounds. That’s when the Pacific Rim Whale Festival (tel. 250/726-7798; www.pacificrimwhalefestival.com) is held in Tofino and Ucluelet. If you want to learn more about these magnificent creatures, it’s well worth checking out.