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Tips for Pacific Rim National Park, West Coast Vancouver Island

One of the highlights of our visit to Vancouver Island in Canada was the west coast. There are many tourist attractions here. The hip town of Tofino, Ucluelet and the Pacific Rim National Park with its beautiful beaches and rainforest, just to name a few.

The east coast of Vancouver Island is known for it spotting bears and of course orcas / whale Watching tours. The east coast is therefore where most tourists usually stay on Vancouver Island. But those who make the effort to travel to the west coast of Vancouver Island can see some of the world's most beautiful beaches and hike in a temperate rainforest (in North America!). In this article I will tell you all about it.


Our journey through the United States and Canada

This article is part of a large one-year tour the United States en Canada, with a Dutch 4×4 camper that we shipped ourselves… It is a bucket list worthy and an once in a lifetime experience that will never be forgotten.

Tips for Pacific Rim National Park, west coast Vancouver Island 22

We wrote almost 100 articles about this ultimate tour. Visit our North America page for more information.


About Pacific Rim National Park

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is a national park on Vancouver Island with an area of ​​511 km². The national park is made up of three separate regions: Long Beach, the Broken Group Islands, and the West Coast Trail. The Pacific Coast Mountains, which are characterized by rugged coasts and temperate rainforests, is what makes the park so unique. The high mountain ridge, the relatively mild climate and the large ocean provide a variety of ecosystems on a relatively small piece of land and sea.

Things to Do in Pacific Rim National Park

Pacific Rim National Park is best known for two things: the temperate rainforests and the huge beach called Long Beach. If you like hiking, beaches and surfing, this national park has come to the right place!

1. Hiking in the rainforest (rainforest trail)

There are several places where you can walk into the temperate rainforest. Some trails are up to 15 kilometers long, but fortunately there are also a number of short trails that are easily accessible by car or camper, including Rainforest Trail Loop B (Location here).

The Landscaped Walkways of the Rainforest Trail | Tips for Pacific Rim
The Landscaped Walkways of the Rainforest Trail | Tips for Pacific Rim
The green moss covers the ancient trees | Pacific Rim Rainforest
The green moss covers the ancient trees | Pacific Rim Rainforest

This trail can be completed in about 30 minutes on beautifully landscaped trails through the rainforest. We really couldn't believe our eyes here. The huge trees, the green moss and the many layers of fallen trees below you. The rainforest is a unique place on the island.

Malou tries to discover where the ground is | Rainforest Trail, Pacific Rim
Malou tries to discover where the ground is | Rainforest Trail, Pacific Rim

You feel and see when you walk there that complete ecosystems live under the paths. There are also a few trees that are so huge and thick that you can almost live in them!

Chris comes out of the tree | Rainforest Trail, Pacific Rim
Chris comes from the 1000 year old tree | Rainforest Trail, Pacific Rim

2. Surf, swim and hike at Long Beach

There are several places where you Long Beach you can enter there is also a lot of difference in the type of beach you will find there. Long Beach has stretches where the beach is rocky, but also stretches with huge sandy beaches, teeming with swimmers and surfers. These beaches have different names, but they belong to the whole of Long Beach, Pacific Rim. Below you can see the three beaches that make up Long Beach.

Long Beach, Combers Beach and Wickaninnish Beach
Long Beach, Combers Beach and Wickaninnish Beach

3. Wickaninnish Beach

Wickaninnish Beach is largely protected. This is signposted from Combers Beach. There are large groups of migratory shorebirds that call this beach their temporary home.

Migratory shorebirds on Wickaninnish Beach
Migratory shorebirds on Wickaninnish Beach

Tip:: Flying a drone is here strictly forbiddenbecause you can scare the birds with it. Respect that rule! The birds really need that rest.

Dogs are also not welcome on this part of Long Beach, for the same reason.

Realize that the birds may have just completed a flight of thousands of miles from Russia, Asia or Hawaii. You are in the westernmost part of North America, on the Pacific Ocean. So don't disturb the birds, not even on foot!

4. Comber's Beach

You need the birds Wickaninnish Beach not to disturb to see them well. Every 10-15 minutes a flock of shorebirds comes low over the beach and the waves skim over Comber's Beach. A beautiful face.

A flock of shorebirds skimming low over the beach and waves | Combers Beach, Pacific Rim
A flock of shorebirds skimming low over the beach and waves | Combers Beach, Pacific Rim

Take a moment to take a walk on the beach here. The soft sand is wonderful to walk on with bare feet. In the meantime, enjoy everything you see around you. Crabs, shells, birds and even sea lions!

Walking on Combers Beach | Pacific Rim National Park
Walking on Combers Beach | Pacific Rim National Park

Tip:: To spot the sea lions, it is best to bring binoculars. About 150 meters from the coast, there are a few small islands. Groups of sea lions can often be found on the rocks. The nice thing is that you can hear them well when the wind is right. The weird barking of these beasts is quite entertaining.

Malou is looking for sea lions at Combers Beach with her binoculars
Malou is looking for sea lions at Combers Beach with her binoculars

5. Magical Sunset at Mackenzie Beach

North of Long Beach, it is busiest. on Mackenzie Beach many swimmers and surfers can be found throughout the day braving the waves and often cold water. When the wind dies down and the water recedes (ebb and flow), water remains behind a sandbank that is mirror-smooth. We saw two professional photographers here taking pictures of families, couples and even a wedding couple.

Mirror-smooth water at Mackenzie Beach | Tips for Pacific Rim National Park
Mirror-smooth water at Mackenzie Beach | Tips for Pacific Rim National Park

It is the place where people gather in the evening to enjoy the sunset and take pictures. Many visitors make a real effort, well prepared with folding chairs and cooler boxes, filled with food and cold beer. Not surprising at all, because it is indeed a beautiful place with those islands just off the coast.

Sunset at Mackenzie Beach | Pacific Rim National Park
Sunset at Mackenzie Beach | Pacific Rim National Park
Sunset at Mackenzie Beach | Pacific Rim National Park
Sunset at Mackenzie Beach | Pacific Rim National Park

Plan your vacation to Canada here

Tips and other things to do

Those visiting Pacific Rim National Park can choose to combine it with a number of other attractions just outside the park. There are two well-known towns nearby, Ucluelet in the south and Tofino in the north. Also, the route to the west coast of Vancouver Island is an attraction in its own right, so take your time.

1. Amphitrite Point Light (lighthouse) in Ucluelet

In the southernmost point of the town of Ucluelet you can take short Lighthouse Trail walk through the forest. From this trail you have a view of a number of islands where, among other things, large groups of sea lions can be seen.

Malou on the Lighthouse Trail
Malou on the Lighthouse Trail

There are also several viewpoints with benches where you can sit down and enjoy nature. Keep your eyes out to sea as many whales migrate here too, including Humpback whales and Gray whales! They are often easy to see from a great distance, especially because of the 'plumes' that you see by breathing when they briefly surface.

Amphitrite Point Light (lighthouse) in Ucluelet
Amphitrite Point Light (lighthouse) in Ucluelet

The viewpoint at the lighthouse itself is also worth a visit. here are many information boards about the sea and the animals that live there.

2. The route through the mountains

The drive from the east coast of vancouver Island to the west coast of Vancouver Island can only be done via one road: the '4'. This road meanders and winds through the mountains past several lakes and right through rainforests. Driving this road is an attraction in itself! Take it easy, take a good look around you and stop regularly. You don't come across this kind of beautiful roads very often.

The Route to Pacific Rim
The Route to Pacific Rim

3. Tofino

Tofino is the immensely popular 'surf town' where surfers and hippies settled in the 80s because of the beautiful waves and mild climate. We secretly had high expectations of this town, but unfortunately we found it quite disappointing. For us in 2022 it felt like a much too expensive 'hipster town' that revolves 100% around tourism.

Everything was ridiculously expensive. Campsites from +- 100 dollars a night, drinks from 10+ dollars and simple restaurants where you just pay 35+ dollars for a main course.

A band played in Tofino
A band played in Tofino

We drank 2×2 beers on a terrace (during happy hour!) and ordered nachos to share. Price: $ 56. As if that wasn't enough, we were only allowed to stay after that if we would pay an extra 30 dollars pp for the live music of the evening. We decided to leave because we didn't feel like paying another 60 dollars.

Tip:: did you know that you can fly to Tofino from Vancouver within an hour with a seaplane, and vice versa? For roughly $200 you can fly to your destination in an hour. View the offer here.

Do not get me wrong. Tofino is located in a beautiful place with beautiful beaches nearby. It has a nice history, it is a town built by hippies and surfers with many colorful bars, boutiques and shops. In our opinion, definitely worth a visit, especially if you 'just' want to enjoy your holiday and don't have to worry about the money.

4. Where to stay (with the motorhome)

There are campgrounds just outside the park near Tofino and Ucluelet, but expect to pay anywhere from $70 to $100 a night here. Wild camping is prohibited in Pacific Rim National Park and they are also very strict in and around Tofino. There is a 'city ordnance' that prohibits wild camping or overnight parking in the entire municipality. This makes it very inconvenient and you risk fines.

Chris and the World Travelers camper
Chris and the World Travelers camper

So you soon have to rely on (expensive) campsites, or you have to leave the area. Those who, like us, don't want to spend 70 to 100 dollars per night for a campsite, can choose to camp in the wild, but do this wisely and leave the area. Fines are handed out here immediately, without warning.

Tip:: Through iOverlander we found a handful of wild camping spots just outside Pacific Rim National Park, where wild camping and/or overnight parking is still allowed. Along road '4' towards Kennedy Lake, you'll find some of those spots. It was about a half hour drive from Tofino to the places where you could spend the night along the way. Not ideal, but free.

Conclusion

It was a wonderful ride from the east coast of Vancouver Island to the west coast of Vancouver island through the mountains. On the way you look out for the high mountain peaks, the beautiful lakes and the ancient rainforest forests around you.

The rainforest in Pacific Rim National Park
The rainforest in Pacific Rim National Park

Pristine, untouched and well protected. Pacific Rim National Park, the various 'rainforest trails' and the enormous beaches are really beautiful. Whether you come for the surf, the sunsets, the rainforest or the sea lions and whales off the coast, the park will definitely leave a positive impression on you.

Sunset at Long Beach, Pacific Rim National Park
Sunset at Long Beach, Pacific Rim National Park

Those on holiday can really let themselves be pampered here. From beautiful hotels in Tofino (offer here) and lodges right on the beach in Pacific Rim National Park (offer here), to fine restaurants and hip bars.


Our advice for camper rental:
Camper trips through Canada from Travelhome

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Chris

Owner of Wereldreizigers.nl † Discover the world!
- Full-time blogging world traveler.
- Writes about travel, photography, sustainability and gadgets.
- Likes to discover extreme and unknown places.

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