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Travel Advisories

Ucluelet Uncovered: Exploring the Town’s Hidden History

For those truly seeking immersion while visiting Ucluelet, BC on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, appreciating the area’s history is vital for a well-rounded experience. It tells a story that slowly builds on itself and makes every experience more colorful. Some stories only the oldest locals know, and on a good day, they might divulge. Arriving in Ucluelet, it’s easy to get caught up in the beauty of the impressive vistas. Yet, beyond what meets the eye, the town is steeped in unique narratives and a history as vibrant as its sunsets. Let’s explore some hidden histories you might accidentally overlook while visiting.

Ucluelet, home to approximately 2,500 year-round residents, sits on the traditional territory of the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ people, who have inhabited the area since time immemorial. The heart of the town nestles against an inlet, while the opposite side faces the expansive Pacific Ocean. Renowned hiking trails, such as the Wild Pacific Trail, trace the shoreline, where waves crash and dance with the black volcanic rock.

Springtime is a particularly captivating time in Ucluelet as the town (and surrounding forest) springs to life. One flowering shrub, abundantly found in Ucluelet and even on the trails around town, is the Rhododendron. These slow-growing plants can be found in towering size (attributed to their age) around Ucluelet, in thanks to the landscaping enthusiasm of George Fraser. In 1892, he purchased crown land where Ucluelet now sits. His passion for creating new plant strains, beautiful yet suited to the harsh winters, led to the proliferation of Rhododendrons, among other plants. These Rhododendrons in Ucluelet narrate the story of a passionate and determined gardener whose legacy enriches the town today.

Looking out towards the Lighthouse Loop on the Wild Pacific Trail on a calm and sunny day, one wouldn’t suspect that the same waters were once dubbed “The Graveyard of the Pacific.” During storm season, the waters off the coast of Ucluelet claimed many ships, most notably the “The Pass of Melfort,” which sank on December 26th, 1905. This 299 ft long and 44 ft wide vessel, carrying a crew of around 30, was headed to Puget Sound from Panama. The tragic loss of life spurred the construction of Amphitrite Lighthouse, which stands today as a beacon for ships navigating the treacherous waters. Evidence of another doomed shipwreck can be found at Big Beach, where the lower hull of a mystery shipwreck, circa 1896, rests among the trees and salal bushes.

Many buildings around Ucluelet have stood since the early 1900s, supporting a small yet ambitious town. Heartwood Kitchen, a beloved breakfast spot, was once Matterson House Restaurant, built by the Matterson Family in the 1920s (originally called Glendale Cottage). During WWII, when Ucluelet housed the Royal Canadian Air Force Seaplane Base, it served as the Officers’ Mess, where officers gathered and dined. Graffiti from pilots stationed in the area can still be seen in the garage on the property.

The West Coasters Re-use-it, a quirky and popular second-hand shop, currently occupies the space where Ruths Gift Shop once operated in the 1940s. Though the windows and door may have moved, the foundation remains strong.

What was once St. Aiden’s church, built by volunteers and community members and open to the public in 1952 is now the popular Ucluelet Brewery. Today, it remains a hub for community gatherings, welcoming families, visitors, and locals to enjoy its hilltop views and great fare.


For more information about the rich history of Ucluelet and a virtual tour through history, visit:

Ucluelet | On This Spot and Home

Ucluelet and Area Historical Society

The History Of Ucluelet | People of the Safe Harbour (

Ucluelet, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, is known for many things, but surfing hasn’t always been at the top of the list. This oversight, once a well-kept secret among locals, is now being brought to light.

Meet David Schiaffino – the 2019, 2021, and 2023 Longboard Champion of Canada. Not only is he a longboard enthusiast, but he also owns Ukee Poke and West Coast Shapes Ukee. He is a well-respected local who knows great longboard waves. With a vision of bringing people together through friendly competition, building community, and shining a spotlight on surfing in Ucluelet, his hard work and dreaming have paved the way for the first-ever Vancouver Island Longboard Surf Contest. This inaugural 3-day event marks just the beginning; the hope is to build a world-class surf event and add more competition days with top athletes in longboarding.

“The goal is to bring people together, create a buzz around longboarding, and showcase all that longboarding has to offer in this amazing place we call home.”

 –David Schiaffino

Let’s set the stage: the event will take place at Wickaninnish Beach, which sits humbly on the traditional territory of the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ people and stretches as far as the eye can see. Named after Chief Wickanninnish, who ruled the Clayoquot Sound in the 1700’s, the beach resides within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Roughly a 15-minute drive from Ucluelet, “Wick” beach is considered Ucluelet’s local break due to its proximity to town. Known for its playful sand dunes, expansive shoreline, shorebirds, and sometimes strong rip tides, it once housed the renowned Wickaninnish Inn, now the Kwisitis Visitor Centre (temporarily closed). Spring and Summer bring vacationers and locals out in droves to embrace the sunshine, soft sand, and of course, the ocean.


Although longboarding is a relatively new sport to grace the waters of Vancouver Island, the embrace of smaller springtime swells means more people can try their hand at the sport. Technically speaking, the main difference between a longboard and a shortboard is the length – a longboard is above 9ft in length and uniquely allows surfers to propel into smaller waves, making it an ideal sport for Spring and Summer sessions. Ucluelet is home to several great surf shops, making it easier than ever to book a lesson for the whole family with a knowledgeable local. You might find longboarding to be your new favorite sport.

From May 31st to June 2nd, 2024, the Vancouver Island Longboard Surf Contest will bring together surfers and spectators alike, proving indeed that Ucluelet is a surf destination. The weekend promises to be packed with action, celebration, and great after-parties throughout town. It is the perfect time to ignite a new passion, experience a true West Coast community event, and witness longboarding talent like never before. Get ready for an unforgettable, family-friendly adventure as Ucluelet warmly welcomes you to explore the charm of its small-town surf culture.

Sponsorship packages are still available! Email for more information. All ages and skill levels are welcome to compete, including men’s and women’s under 18, open (any age), and master (40+). Follow @vilongboardsurfcontest on Instagram for more information.

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