The west coast of the Island is still wild and remote, and just getting there can be a serious and, at times, terrifying adventure. Back in the day, the only way in was by boat and then by floatplane. Nowadays there’s a highway, but it’s a narrow, winding, mostly single-lane road subject to frequent landslides, washouts, and terrible accidents. But it is a spectacularly beautiful drive, considered one of the most scenic in Canada.
By Car -- Take Hwy. 1 north from Victoria or Nanaimo to the turnoff near Parksville. From there you will follow Hwy. 4 through Port Alberni, past the towering old-growth cedars of Cathedral Grove, along a breathtakingly narrow mountain pass, and on to a T-junction. There the road splits, going south to Ucluelet or north to Pacific Rim and Tofino. The trip from Nanaimo takes about 4 hours; from Victoria, close to 6.
By Bus -- There is regularly scheduled Greyhound Lines bus service year-round from Victoria and Nanaimo (tel. 800/661-8747; www.greyhound.ca) as well as a service run by Tofino Bus (tel. 866/986-3466 or 250/725-2871; www.tofinobus.com) in the summer months.
By Plane -- The good news is that there’s actually an airport here now, located halfway between Tofino and Ucluelet. The bad news is that it’s tiny and subject to bad weather, especially fog, so flights are often diverted to Port Alberni or Qualicum and passengers bused in. Orca Airways (tel. 888/359-6722; www.flyorcaair.com) provides daily service year-round from Vancouver, and daily service May to October from Victoria. The flight takes about an hour from either city.
The Pacific Rim Visitor Centre (tel. 250/726-4600; www.pacificrimvisitor.ca), at the junction of Hwy. 4 and Ucluelet, serves as a general information gateway for Ucluelet, Tofino, Port Alberni, and Bamfield. It’s also a good place to pick up your day-use park pass (C$8 adults, C$7 seniors, C$4 children 6–16, C$20 families), although you can also purchase a pass at machines in the park’s parking lots.
More information is available from the Ucluelet Visitor Info Centre (tel. 250/726-4641; www.uclueletinfo.com), or the Tofino Visitor Info Centre (tel. 250/725-3414; www.tofino-bc.com), both open June through September. For more details on the park itself, stop in at the Kwisitis Visitor Centre (formerly the Wickaninnish Interpretive Centre) and the Long Beach Unit of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada (tel. 250/726-3500; www.pc.gc.ca), which is open mid-March through mid-October.