During our time as a family in Barkley Sound in the 1960’s, Ucluelet was the destination of choice for our supply runs every couple of weeks. The 2 hour run from our Island cabin to the deep harbour and headlands which shelter Ucluelet had the bonus of passing through some excellent rock fishing areas, resulting in a cooler of cod and snapper added to the dry goods and rare fresh vegetables we could find at the one general store that existed at that time. The town is aptly named – a Nuu-chah-nulth word meaning “people of the safe harbour”: it was always a relief to escape the pounding of the outer areas and enter the relative calm of the inlet ending the run up to the city wharf.

At that time only a general store and one restaurant could be accessed by walking up from the wharf. The store was a magical place for a young girl. It is still there and still seems (and smells) the same, only lacking groceries which are now found at a large CO-OP grocery store at the stop of the hill. The original restaurant and its infamous jukebox (Nancy Sinatras “These Boots are Made for Walking” seemed to be playing every time we went in for lunch) are no longer there.

The history of the town mirrors that of Tofino in terms of settlement, Indigenous displacement and economic activity. Although lower key, tourism is starting to develop with a number of higher end vacation rentals and lodges appearing at the west end of the peninsula. The vibe in Ucluelet is very different from Tofino – more down to earth, less crowded, with very rocky beaches on the outer shores of the peninsula.

Our hiking goal today was the Amphitrite Point Lighthouse which was initially constructed in 1906 following some horrific ship wrecks in the area. Although now unmanned, it still is active. The trail wound along the coast opening out on some glorious coastal vistas looking north before transiting through old forested paths to the coast looking south into Barkley sound, before finishing at the lighthouse.

We finished our day in Ucluelet with a brief walk around town and trip down memory lane for me, before heading back towards Tofino and Wickaninnish Beach.

Ucluelet in the 1960’s

The original Wickanninish Hotel and cabins were located on this beach before the creation of Pacific Rim National Park and its purchase in 1977 by Parks Canada.

The hotel is now an interpretation centre, while the cabins are long gone: cabins which created a lot of happy memories for me during our stays there. They were also the preferred vacation spot for the Group of Seven artist Arthur Lismer and his wife during the 1950’s and 1960’s. The influence can be seen in his later art.

Despite the west coast influence, I never completely understood the Group of Seven until I visited Georgian Bay in Ontario, An interesting trip involving a large boat, a captain unable to read a nautical map, narrow misses of several shoals, plus a lack of food and water. A story for another time……

Our plans tomorrow include Long Beach and hopefully Radar Hill…….

Leave a Comment