West Coast to the Pacific Rim National Park Attractions
West coast detour to the Pacific Rim National ParkAbout 4 km / 2.5) south of Parksville, Hwy. 4 branches off at the start of a thoroughly rewarding 185 km / 115 mi detour to Tofino on the west coast.The road is winding with hills and can be challenging when areas of the road are covered in fog. The road is one you will want to drive during the day.
Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park
Just 20 km (12 mi.) west of Parksville Little Qualicum Falls is one of Vancouver Island's loveliest Provincial Parks, a forested upland area with numerous little ravines and waterfalls and glorious sparkling blue-green pools irresistibly inviting for a swim.
Seaplane, boat or 100 km (62 mi.) of gravel road from Port Alberni (thrice-weekly bus service) are the only ways of reaching the picturesque little fishing community of Bamfield (population 240), snugly situated in the shelter of Bamfield Inlet on the eastern side of Barkley Sound. Here instead of a village street there is just open water and a boardwalk over a kilometer long. Bamfield is also the start of the 72 km (45 mi.) West Coast Trail to Port Renfrew (ref Pacific Rim National Park). There are a couple of reasonably short and entirely delightful walks, one to Keeha Bay on the Pacific, the other to the lighthouse at Cape Beale. Boat hire; scuba diving on sunken wrecks off the deeply indented coastline; excursions by boat to the Broken Group Islands, part of the National Park.See Pacific Rim National Park (91 km (56 mi.) from Port Alberni).
Situated on a promontory right on the Pacific coast, the small fishing village of Ucluelet is a convenient gateway to the northern section of the Pacific Rim National Park. Near Ucluelet itself Amphitrite Point with its lighthouse and Marine Tracking Station is exceptionally scenic. In years past the tortuous, often storm-battered and mist-shrouded coastline brought disaster to many ships.Trips to the Broken Group Islands, big game fishing, scuba diving and whale-watching are also possible from Ucluelet. In April and again in late autumn Pacific gray whales pass by on their long migration.
At the end of a promontory, some 42 km / 26 mi north of Ucluelet, Tofino is a very attractive little fishing village and one of the oldest settlements on the west coast, a trading post supplying local settlers having first been established on Stubbs Island in 1875. There are boat trips to Hot Springs Cove (Maquinna Marine Park, 30 km / 19 mi north) where the water temperature reaches almost 50°C (122°F), and to Meares Island. Whale-watching trips and scuba diving can also be arranged.Many people stay in Tofino if they are visiting Long Beach and Pacific Rim National Park.
Tofino Botanical Gardens
The Tofino Botanical Gardens feature 12 acres of waterfront trails through natural areas and gardens. Bridges lead over water features of this tranquil setting. The gardens feature both domestic plants and more exotic varieties as well.
Address: 1084 Pacific Rim Highway, Box 886, Tofino, BC V0R2Z0, Canada
Opening hours: 9am-Sunset
Entrance fee in CAD: Adult $10.00, Students $6.00, Child 12 & under FREE
Useful tips: Dogs are not allowed to be off their leash on the property, and dogs are not allowed in the gardens. Events: The Shorebird Festival in May, the Food & Wine Festival in June and the Lantern Festival in August.
MacMillan Provincial Park - Cathedral Grove
In the MacMillan Provincial Park some 15 km (9 mi.) further on, a stand of towering Douglas firs known as "Cathedral Grove" (which somehow managed to escape a forest fire about 300 years ago) includes several specimens between 600 and 800 years old. A forest walk winds through the grove past trees up to 75 m (245 ft) tall with trunks as much as an impressive 3 m (10 ft) across. Beyond the Park the road continues westwards across the Beaufort Range, where Mount Arrowsmith (1806 m (5930 ft)) is a popular ski area.
Clayoquot Sound, which with its deep fiords and countless little islands opens out north-west of Tofino, is one of the last surviving areas of temperate rain forest. A decision by the provincial government to allow clearance of half the remaining 3500 sq. km (1350 sq. mi.) of virgin wilderness has met with increasingly fierce opposition.The area has been the site of major protests to save the trees.