With sweeping coastal landscapes, crashing waves, Canadian surfing, marine wildlife, ancient rainforests, and deep Indigenous history, the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is a breathtaking trip on Canada’s beautiful Vancouver Island.
Here is everything you need to know about the park to plan a successful trip. We’ve included the best beaches and trails, as well as other things to do in the area.
Pacific Rim National Park
Pacific Rim National Park is over 500 square kilometers of forest and coastline on Vancouver Island. The Park spans from Ucluelet to Tofino. The three main sections are West Coast Trail, Long Beach, and Broken Islands.
Broken Islands is a group of more than 100 islands that are part of the Pacific Rim National Park. This part of the park is only accessible by boat or kayak. Many companies offer guided tours of the islands and there are eight remote camping spots on the islands.
Long Beach is arguably the most popular part of Pacific Rim Park. This 10-kilometer strip of sandy white beach is located between Tofino and Ucluelet and offers amazing hikes, fun surfing, a campground, and an Interpretive centre.
West Coast Trail
The West Coast Trail is a world-famous hike made for the experienced hiker. This 75-kilometer trail hugs the coast as you trek through white-sand beaches, rippling tides, and ancient rock formations. You will enjoy the canopy of lush rainforests, cool off in crystal lagoons, and be surprised by the numerous lookouts. It takes anywhere from 5 to 10 days to complete the hike. If you are one for bucket lists, the West Coast Trail has been called the best hike in the world.
Best Time to Visit
The best times to visit the park are in the summer, between late April and early October. June and July are some of the most popular times to visit.
You can still surf and storm watch during the winter, but the weather can be unpredictable, and many attractions will be closed.
History of Pacific Rim National Park
Pacific Rim National Park has been taking people’s breaths away for at least 4,300 years. According to the oral histories and legends of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation, they have lived here since the world was created. Over 9,000 people called the Pacific Rim home before Europeans found the area.
Some areas of the Pacific Rim National Park have different historical significance. Here are some of the spots.
First Nation History
Don’t forget to visit the Kwisitis Interpretive Center to learn about the history of the local First Nations. Tofino and Ucluelet also have galleries and museums to deepen your knowledge of the history of the area’s people.
Little Beach Heritage Site
Archeologists have found many First Nations artifacts on the shores of Little Beach. Believed to be the landing place of First Nations people over 2000 years, this beach is a little sliver of historical beauty and nature.
Army Training Area
Wickaninnish Beach was the training area of the Canadian Armed Forces from 1942 to 1957. Unexploded explosives can still be found in the sand dunes on the beach.
Tofino Plane Crash WW2
After Pearl Harbour, an airfield was established in Tofino. In 1945, a Canso bomber plane had an engine malfunctioned and crashed on Radar Hill. Luckily, everyone on board survived and was rescued within a day. You can visit the site and the remains of the plane by hiking through a bog forest in the Pacific Rim Park.
Things to do
There are many easy hikes in the Pacific Rim Park. Check out the section down below for some of our favourites.
Tofino and Ucluelet are excellent spots to whale watch and many companies offer boat and zodiac tours. The most popular whales to frequent the area of humpback, grey, and killer whales although other whale species and coastal and marine wildlife can also be spotted on your trip.
Long Beach is a great place to watch surfers catching a wave. You can also spot surfers in Tofino, the surfing capital of Canada, and Ucluelet. If you want to try it, you can hire a local instructor in Tofino. You can also rent boards and wet suits in town. Surfing is a year-round activity here, and surfers wear wet suits all year to protect themselves from the cold.
Old Growth Trees
Towering Sitka spruce trees line the coast of the Pacific Rim Park. Growing to a remarkable height of 70 meters, the evergreen trees grow less than a kilometer from the ocean.
Kwisitis Visitor Centre
The Kwisitis Visitor Centre is on the shore of Wickaninnish Beach. With floor-to-ceiling windows, you can enjoy panoramic views of the coast while learning about the First Nation culture and First Nation land that you are exploring at the Pacific Rim National Park.
Storm watching originated in Tofino. Watch the massive waves explode on the shore and rocks from a safe distance. Blow Hole Halfmoon Bay is a great place to watch.
Long Beach, its own portion of Pacific Rim Park, is an essential part of your Pacific Rim journey. It has three sections: Schooner Cove, Wickaninnish, and Florencia Bay. With rippling waves and an abundance of surfers, it makes it a great place to people watch. It does happen to be one of the coolest parts of the park so it is not ideal for sunbathing or swimming without a wet suit.
The Wickaninnish portion of the beach is the most temperate part of Long Beach. You can storm watch from the safety of the Kwisitis Visitor Centre or one of the many resorts. A short trail connects it to South Beach.
Mackenzie Beach is located in Tofino. It is a sheltered beach that provides warmer weather and smaller waves, making it a good choice for families or those who want to bask in the sun.
South Beach is just a one-kilometer trek from Wickaninnish Beach and features spectacular rock formations, formidable waves, and sweeping tides. Visit at low tide to explore the rock formations, but be aware that the water levels can change fast.
Little Beach is located in Ucluelet. Archaeologists have found many First Nations artifacts on its shores, which gives it a cool historical significance. It is also a great place to start kayaking. Located on the Wild Pacific Trail, there are many hikes nearby.
Enjoy Caribbean-white sands at Chesterman Beach in Tofino. This long sandy beach features a lighthouse and islands just off the shore.
Since many of us don’t have the time or the stamina to hike the entire West Coast Trail, the Lighthouse Loop is a compromise that offers stunning views on a short and easy trail. It starts at the Amphitrite Lighthouse and boasts views of the ocean and Barkley sound in a 2.6 kilometer loop. It’s a great place to storm watch and admire the active lighthouse guiding ships home.
The Wild Pacific Trail
The Wild Pacific Trail is a 9-kilometer trail on the coast. The Lighthouse trail is part of the Wild Pacific Trail, plus the Big Beach Section and Brown’s Beach Section.
South Beach Trail
This short and rewarding trek begins at the Kwisitis Visitor Centre and winds through the trees of the rainforest. Stop at Lismer Beach or continue your hike on the Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tail. You can also take a series of boardwalks and stairs to South Beach.
The Artist Trail
Take this 5-kilometer trail on the West Coast trail to enjoy gorgeous coastal views and breathtaking cliffs and rock formations.
Tonquin Trail is a simple walking trail that winds through the forest down to the serene Tonquin Beach – a favourite spot to watch the sunset.
Take a break from the wild, and wine and dine in style in Tofino, on the border of the Pacific Rim Trail. Stroll through the whimsical street, explore the First Nations shops and art galleries, or take a break at one of the many hip cafes in town. Tofino is known for fresh-caught seafood dishes as well as many other delicious food options.
An easy hike in Tofino up Radar Hill, will offer beautiful, if not crowded, sights of the sprawling Tofino beach from above. If you don’t feel like walking, you can also drive up.
Uculet is the town boarding the other end of the Pacific Rim Park. Less touristy than Tofino, the town is proud of its First Nation heritage and has many art galleries celebrating Indigenous culture. Uculet is also a great option to surf, fish, and whale watch.
Hero Image by: James Wheeler