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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 (

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