Tell anyone who’s been to Ucluelet that you’re going and their sudden excitement and enthusiasm will infect you. My Dad talked animatedly about walks alongside quiet coastline. Lit up with excitement on hearing my holiday plans, my hairdresser launched into a series of recommendations for nearby Tofino. My manager sighed at the mention of Vancouver Island: it’s so beautiful.

It didn’t take long for us to realise why memories of Ucluelet made them quite so giddy. Here are five reasons why you should also visit Ucluelet on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

5 Reasons to visit Ucluelet, British Columbia image by Shark Repellant via flickr

1) The Nature

During our four days we encountered a black bear prowling the shoreline with her three cubs, a deer sauntering down the footpath and a racoon fishing for crabs. While eating dinner, we watched bald eagles perched in trees and soaring through the skies. A whale watching tour allowed us to spot grey whales blowing their spouts, and harbour seals and sea lions sprawled on rocky island outcrops. And that’s just the species we saw and could identify.

5 Reasons to visit Ucluelet, British Columbia

2) The Hiking

Two areas near Ucluelet are counted as units of the Pacific Rim National Park (the third unit is the Broken Group Islands). Stretching up the coast, the Wild Pacific Trail is a series of three scenic walks – the ones my Dad was talking about, in fact. Totalling about eight kilometres altogether, they were the perfect way to spend a gentle morning or afternoon: along the way we discovered rugged beaches, an historic lighthouse and towering ancient cedars. A short drive away, in the Long Beach Unit, you can explore trails through the Island’s temperate rainforest, before flopping out on the eponymous stretch of sand nearby.

5 Reasons to visit Ucluelet, British Columbia image by kcxd via flickr

3) The Watersports

Long Beach isn’t just somewhere to sprawl – it’s also, apparently, a great place to surf (as are many of the other beaches in the area). If surfing’s not your thing, plenty of companies offer the opportunity to try Stand Up Paddleboarding or sea kayaking. We chose the latter, journeying out to a seemingly deserted beach with a guide. Once there and back on our feet, we scrambled over rocks and logs to find caves and elephant rock, the latter so-named for its remarkable similarity to the animal. The experience was made, however, by the wildlife we encountered: bald eagles taking off from the shore, huge starfish wrapped around the underside of piers and even a black bear tucked away in the trees.

5 Reasons to visit Ucluelet, British Columbia  image by kcxd via flickr

4) The Restaurants

For a small town, Ucluelet has more than its fair share of interesting, small, independent restaurants. Hank’s Untraditional Barbeque serves up slabs of meat, including melt-in-your-mouth pork loin, alongside the best potato salad I’ve ever tasted. The Ravenlady is a food truck specialising in oysters served in a variety of unique ways: mine were battered and squeezed in an overflowing po boy (sandwich). We enjoyed comfort food on the deck of Matterson House, a butter-yellow 1931 cottage. Lazy afternoons were spent with coffees on the benches outside Zoe’s Bakery, munching through their selection of delicious cakes.

Further afield, in Tofino, on the advice of my hairdresser we sought out fish tacos from Tacofino, a bright orange food truck just outside of town. Don’t be put off if you see a queue – there’s a good reason for it.

5) The Atmosphere

But while there are plenty of places that could probably offer all of the above, it was the way Ucluelet made us feel completely at home that had us picking out a plot for our (sadly hypothetical) new home. How the shops and restaurants were all slightly quirky and independent without feeling too exclusive or try-hard. How the locals smiled and said hello as we passed them on our way to town. Watching fishermen bring in their nets at dusk. The pervading sound of waves, both gentle and crashing, and the whale-call-like moan of the ‘noise buoy’ that warns ships away from the rocky coast.  Ucluelet was more than just charming: it was a breath-taking, head-over-heels romance.

5 Reasons to visit Ucluelet, British Columbia image by Aaron Bergunder via flickr

Have you ever been to Vancouver Island – what was your favourite place or best memory?

This is a guest post by Amy Feldman.

Headshot Amy is Guidebooks and Books Editor for a UK-based conservation and heritage charity. When not at work, she can usually be found exploring her home city of Bristol, kickboxing, learning to play roller derby – and planning her next adventure further afield.