Ucluelet: Visiting the Quintesssential Tongue Twister

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Ucluelet (pronounced yoo-cloo-lit…say that five times fast) was yet another unplanned locale for us. Our efforts were originally directed towards Tofino, which is the popular northern town on the western peninsula of Vancouver Island. However we had trouble finding available accommodations there, and in the spirit of “rolling with the punches” we decided to capitalize on some vacancies in the southern town of Ucluelet.

Ucluelet coastline

This post was originally published in 2007. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.

Kelly was initially wary of Ucluelet, as his adolescent memories of the place were that of a lumber town, with lots of industry and very little character.

However the last few years have been good to the west coast of Vancouver Island, and Tofino isn’t cutting it for all the tourists that want to vacation here every summer. (And when you drive the wonderful rolling winding road across the Island, you know that you’re headed towards paradise.)

In Ucluelet, we enjoyed mountains and ocean alike. Our main goal was to hike the west coast, and harvest our own dinners: crabs, mussels, scallops, and whatever else came into our nets.

Until we landed on the peninsula, everybody looked at Kelly like he was crazy for going crabbing. He reminisces about tossing nets out off the docks many years ago and catching numerous crabs, and has talked about it for years to me (and anybody else who would listen)! But everybody we mentioned it to in BC looked at us like we were crazy for even thinking of it….they’d never heard of such a thing. I guess the North American “fish for your food by going to the supermarket or restaurant” ideal is prevalent even on the Island!

But much to our surprise and delight, the owners of the hostel we stayed at in Ucluelet were avid crabbers and had lots of suggestions for us. This was my first affirmation that Kelly wasn’t totally crazy.

a huge starfish in a crab trap in Ucluelet

So on day one of our seafood excursion, we caught a few crabs, and a LOT of starfish (which we threw back of course). I used to think starfish were cool, until we caught so many in our traps that I became frustrated with them! They’re everywhere!

Starfish also like crab bait. Didn’t know they came this big and…..icky! Day two led us to the west coast where we hunted for mussels in the tidal pools at low tide. I know the usual “I once caught a fish this big” exaggeration tendency is prevalent, but really – we had no end of California mussels that were in excess of 20cms long. Not like the “all you can eat” tiny mussels I’m used to in the pubs of Ontario – that’s for sure!  
Check out this video of the mussels…..even the locals hadn’t seen them this size and weren’t sure what they would be like!    

And for such a burgeoning place, Ucluelet is still tiny. There is one main drag (if you can call it that), zero traffic lights (one stop sign), and the town boasts one grocery store, some restaurants, hotels, cottages, a post office…..and….well…..not much more. Everybody – I mean everybody – says hello.
The people who live here are in love with it – understandably. It’s beautiful, peaceful, and soul-soothing. A touch remote at times (if you have a medical emergency you have to be lifted out by helicopter), but as long as you’re comfortable with that, it’s a great place to set some roots and grow with a growing community.

The only problem I found with the town is the bloody name. I twisted my tongue over Ucluelet so many times, I eventually gave up even trying. Save for their name – they have the ultimate place to be.

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