Top family friendly activities in Ucluelet

If you have followed my blog for a little bit now you must know I am a big fan of Vancouver Island, particularly Tofino. I have been there for work and play several times, but on a recent trip I wanted to discover a slightly less touristy area of that part of the island – Ucluelet.

I have always loved the island vibe. Small, laid back beachfront communities where surfing is a locals favourite hobby and everyone knows everyone at the local cafes. However I didn’t know how different Ucluelet could be. Located on the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ First Nations traditional territories, the beaches here are covered in black rock instead of sand, and just steps from your front door you are transported back in time as ancient rainforests sing to you in the wind. It is rugged beauty like nothing you have seen before and something that will have you coming back for more.

Why Ucluelet?

One thing that I absolutely loved about Ucluelet over staying in Tofino was the walkability. Sure, if you are able to find a place close to town in Tofino you can get around easily, but if you want to stay at one of the more luxury resorts on the beach, you would have to drive into town. In Ucluelet no matter where you were staying  you were just minutes from beautiful trails, the rugged yet beautiful rocky oceanfront,  and delicious dining.

Where to stay

Since we became a family of four (a human and fur baby) it can be difficult to find accommodation for all of us, but I loved that Ucluelet had a lot of kid (baby) and pet friendly places. We spent the weekend in luxury and stayed at the Black Rock Oceanfront Resort.

This beautiful hotel is located right on top of the dramatic black rocks of the Pacific Ocean – you can literally see the waves crashing against the shore through every window. It is also nestled right in the middle of the Wild Pacific Trail, basically an ancient rainforest is on your doorstep. And the best part, both the beach and the trails were accessible right from the hotel property and easy to access with both dog and baby (in fact some of the trails were even stroller friendly).

As for the accommodations, they were pretty special. Again rooms either have an ocean or rainforest view and we were lucky we had a bit of both. There was also lots of space so that we could put the baby to sleep while still staying up. And lastly there were dog treats for Huey when we arrived.

Top family friendly activities in Ucluelet

Alright let’s get to the good part – what makes Ucluelet so fun for the whole family to enjoy? Well we covered a lot in our 3 days – and all of it was family friendly ( although we had to leave Huey behind for a few food experiences).

1. Go for a treat at Zoe’s Bakery

When I asked for suggestions of what to do in Ucluelet literally everyone messaged me that I needed to visit Zoe’s bakery and cafe and so I set out on a mission the first day we were there to beat the crowds (I heard it could get quite busy and I wanted to make sure I got the best treats). Zoe actually used to work at the Black Rock before opening up the bakery – and let me tell you – these treats were well worth the early start to the day.

2. Treat yourself again with a day at the spa

Ok, this one isn’t completely family friendly – but we do have a baby that loves the water -and the Black Rock is home to two hot tubs and one pool. So while I wasn’t able to indulge in a spa treatment this time (which I have heard is spectacular), I was able to enjoy the pool with my little one – and let me tell you the views from the spa area are worth it – even if it’s just for a quick dip

3. Visit the beach

While you can see the beach from literally every room in the resort, it is so much fun to go down and check it out. You won’t find the sandy beaches here (for that you have to travel a bit closer to Tofino) but it was so fun to go out and see the rocks up close and keep our eyes open for some tiny creatures that call them home.

5. Go for a hike

It is so special to be surrounded by such beautiful nature. One of the things I love about this part of the world Pacific Rim National Park. You will feel so small amongst the giant trees that call this rainforest home. We did a few different hikes and really loved both the Wild Pacific Trails just outside the hotel as well as Lighthouse Loop (we took the stroller so we didn’t break our backs and there were so many gorgeous viewpoints along the way).

4. Enjoy the culinary scene

I have always been impressed with the food on this part of the island and Ucluelet did not disappoint. Some of our favourite eats included

Heartwood Kitchen : This adorable renovated cottage made you feel right at home – even though our son decided to have a meltdown, the staff was still so kind and welcoming and the food was delicious. Casual bistro style foods.

West Coast Salty Buns:We stumbled upon this adorable Mexican food truck famous for their well, salty buns. The food was so flavourful and later I learned that they really pride themselves  on sourcing local products, no wonder it all tasted to fresh. A must do lunch spot.

Currents Restaurant:Talk about dinner with a view. This restaurant is located in the Black Rock Resort overlooking the ocean. Try and book in for around sunset to get an incredible show while eating a tasty meal.

Abbondanza: If you are a fan of pizza you need to make a stop here. I had the best fungi pizza of my life! A very small hole in the wall spot so we decided to order out, but as a self proclaimed pizza connoisseur this is a must! Even the locals say so.

5. Visit the aquarium

The Ucluelet Aquarium is a none for profit catch and release aquarium that focuses on education. All of the displays here are with marine life found right in the local waters in Clayoquot and Barkley Sounds. The staff there is also so helpful and ready to answer any questions. While Max was still very young he really did enjoy watching the fish swim and I enjoyed learning about this amazing program.

6. End the day with a local beer

The Ucluelet Brewing Company is situated right on the water so it offers a gorgeous view with some tasty local craft brews. As someone who isn’t a big beer drinker I really appreciated the staff helping me find some drinks I would enjoy – and guess what they are baby friendly too. Max had a great nap while mom and dad enjoyed a drink after a long day of exploring!

I absolutely loved the laid back and welcoming feel of Ucluelet and I can’t wait to head back to this magical place with the family again soon.

 

Happy traveling my friends,

xo

Mia

 

Exploring a new side of Tofino

It is no secret that I love Tofino. In fact, I think I have been quoted saying “it’s my favourite place in the world”. I can’t even count the amount of times I have been there and every time I go I discover something new. So you can imagine my excitement when my first post pandemic trip was going to be to Tofino. You can imagine my excitement even more so when I was going to be staying at a new location, the Tofino Resort and Marina.

What I loved about the Tofino Marina Resort

I have been very lucky to stay at some gorgeous lodges in Tofino, but one downside is they were always so far away from town. Tofino Resort and Marina is located just a 5 minute walk into town, so you can go for dinner and drinks and get home safely. I also loved that you don’t really have to leave the resort to have an amazing experience. The world class restaurant 1909 is right on the property and all the adventures we took started at the marina just steps from our door.

Day 1: Unique Hikes

 

Like I said this was exploring a completely new side of Tofino and so no surfboards but definite beach visits. In fact the hike I was told I was doing was called the “West Coast Facial” where we would find some spots on the beach to feel the ocean spray.

Tofino Resort and Marina partners with Long Beach Nature Tours for hiking adventures and we were taken on a custom tour starting at one of the trail head entrances to Pacific Rim National Park. I had done a few hikes through parts of the park before, but I had never been fully emerged in it. It was incredible to see and smell the giant old growth cedar trees. After about 6km the trees opened up and unveiled a beautiful beach. We had made it to Florencia Bay, and guess what we were the only ones there (quite the contrast to the usually packed Tofino Beaches). We walked along the sand for a while taking in the fresh ocean sent before we dipped back into the forest to make our way to a different beach look at point at Wickaninnish Beach – equally beautiful and equally as quiet.

We ended the day with a delicious dinner at 1909.

https://www.theweathernetwork.com/ca/videos/gallery/what-is-a-west-coast-facial-this-bc-hike-ends-with-a-unique-skin-treatment/5802443041001/6264187909001/forecasts

Day 2: Ocean adventures

We got up and made our way to the marina for a full day of adventure on the open water. We were going for a true West Coast Safari of sorts, keeping our eyes peeled for the BC big 5: Orcas, gray whales, bears, sea lions, and seals. Before we even really left the marina we first laid a crab trap (which we would get later for dinner). Not long into our trip, we heard the best news on the radio, orcas nearby. We made our way out to where they were spotted and at first noticed the spray followed by a gorgeous killer whale emerging from the waters. It was a whole family of them out for a hunt. While I always love seeing orcas, I was most impressed with how up close and personal we got with some steller sea lions. It was quite easy to tell the dominant male in this bunch. We drove by some cute otters rafting, some seals bopping their heads up to say hello, and saw the distant spray of a grey whale. Oh and from the shore we did see a black bear – crossed everything off our list. Then it was time to come back and feast on our tasty crab.

https://www.theweathernetwork.com/ca/videos/gallery/from-sea-lions-to-orcas-set-sail-and-explore-bcs-incredible-wildlife/5802443041001/6264894763001/forecasts

Like I said this was a very different Tofino experience then what I have done in the past. Less relaxing on a beach and more adventure and exploring and I feel like that is what Tofino Resort and Marina is all about. You can find out more about their tours on their website.

 

I am already planning my next trip to Tofino because this place never gets old.

Happy exploring my friends,

xo

Mia

What it is like to see a grizzly up close and personal with Adventure Quest

One of the things I love most about BC is the natural beauty and endless wildlife. From the mountains to the ocean you can find whales, seals, elk, black bears, and grizzlies to name a few. While we have some neighbourhood black bears, I have always been a little afraid of grizzlies and never really wanted to get close to them.

That was until my dad (who happens to be a National Geographic photographer) told me about the Grizzly Bear Adventure with Adventure Quest Canada and Homalco Adventure and Wildlife Tours. He described it as a bucket list experience and so I definitely wanted to find out more.

I found out that not only do you get up close and (safely) personal with the bears, you also get to learn about these amazing animals in their natural habitat and learn about the first nation reserve that they live on, and to say the least it is a bucket list experience that I want to share more with you.

 

Getting here

The tour starts in Campbell River on Vancouver Island. I am not going to lie, it is a bit of a treck to get here from Vancouver. You can either fly or take a BC ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo and then drive about two hours. I decided to do the later because I always have a great experience with the ferry. It is a  comfortable journey and I can take my car with me so I don’t have to worry about transportation on the other side. Another bonus is they have great food on board, and you never know what you might see. I have spotted whales several times from the ferry deck.

Where to stay

Campbell River is a small town and I absolutely love exploring some of the local spots when visiting a quaint area. I decided to stay at one of the local spots, Painters Lodge. The beautiful lodge is located right on the ocean and I was lucky enough to have a room overlooking the water. The room had a large balcony so I could sit outside with my morning coffee and keep my eye peeled for orcas in the distance (staff told me it is pretty magical when they swim by). I also loved the downstairs restaurant. The food and drinks were delicious, the staff was so friendly, and there were beautiful ocean views. I loved the lodge because it had a very comfortable vibe.

The tour 

The tour started at Discovery Harbour Marina in Campbell River. The tour starts with a two hour boat ride from the Island to the mainland, Bute Inlet. Along the way we saw two humpbacks eating and another three sleeping. It was pretty neat since I have never seen whales sleeping before. We also spotted some stellar sea lions and seals out for a morning swimming.

 

Once we arrived at Bute Inlet and Hamalco First Nations land we met with our guides Tony and Koji from the Homalco First Nations. They greeted us with a traditional welcome and went over some safety tips. Then we were off on our adventure.

There were several different viewing towers that wrapped around two different rivers. The reason this is such a popular spot for the grizzlies is because of the annual salmon run and a lot of the bears are trying to eat as much salmon as possible before they go into hibernation in November.

It didn’t take long for us to spot our first bear. At the first tower we stopped at we came across a big male relaxing in the distance. I was already in awe of these amazing animals.

After driving around for a little longer we came across another fully grown female sleeping by a tree. She was honestly no more than 20 meters from us. She sniffed around (smell is their best sense) and once she realized we were no threat, she continued with her nap. It was amazing to see that the bears weren’t the killers a lot of people make them out to be, and while they are more aggressive than black bears, they will only really attack if they feel threatened.

At the next viewing tower we didn’t come across any bears but we did get to see the bears favourite lunch meal, salmon. Just below our viewing deck were about 10 giant salmon swimming upstream getting ready to spawn. I have honestly never seen such large fish in my life.

Our last stop of the day was the most spectacular. We weren’t in a tower but out in the open and the only thing separating us from the grizzlies was the river. First we saw a female bear eating a salmon. Moments later, she went back into the water and we had a chance to watch her fish for a salmon and take it back to the shore for lunch. You could hear the crunch sounds of the bear chowing down on the fish. It was incredible.

Moments later we noticed another bear heading over, closely followed by an adorable nine month old cub. I couldn’t believe how adorable the fluffy baby was and it was amazing to see how protective the mother was of her cub. She crossed the river to check us out and got really close before going back to her cub and trying to find food for the both of them. I still cannot believe the beauty of the bears and seeing them in their natural habitat was so special.

After two hours with the bears, it was time to head back to the boat and make our way back to Campbell River. Along the way we were lucky enough to be treated to a show from a lone male orca. He breached twice and was doing some flips along the water. I have never seen an orca act like that before.

Alas it was time for the tour to come to an end but I still cannot get over how lucky we were. From spotting humpbacks, to orcas, and then having a chance to get so close to he bears and learning more about them and their habitat was a really amazing and unforgettable experience. You can find out more about the tour and experience here.

I also wanted to share some more pictures with you. All of them were shot on my new Nikon Z.

Happy exploring my friends,

xo

Mia

 

 

Why Sooke is Vancouver Island’s Hidden Gem

I have visited Vancouver Island on several occasions, but most of my trips have taken me to shorelines of Victoria or Tofino. I had never hard of a town called Sooke, that is until my boyfriend planned a surprise getaway for the two of us. Not knowing much about the town, I didn’t really know what to expect on the trip.

About Sooke 

Photo credit; Connor McCardle

If I did have any expectations, they would of been blown right out of the water. Sooke turned out to be the most quaint, beautiful, and relax place I had ever visited. Known as the place where the rainforest meets the sea it offers so many hidden gems just waiting to be explored. From beautiful hiking trails like the Juan De Fuca trail and ocean front homes it is where you go for ultimate tranquility, and with few hotels it is a lot less busy then some of the other spots on the island.

Where to stay

photo credit; Connor McCardle

As mentioned, there are very few hotels and motels in the area so we turned to airbnb to find the perfect spot to stay for our trip. I highly recommend this because you never know what adorable spot you will find. We stayed in a cute cottage right on the ocean. We ate all of our meals right above the water, searched for whales right from the window, gazed up at the milky way, and fell asleep listening to the waves crashing against the rocks below. It was truly a little slice of heaven.

What to do

Day 1: Potholes, Markets and Stars 

Day one of our trip took us to the Sooke Potholes, a very easy hike that takes you alongside the Sooke River. Gaze at the rivers unique rock formation that was formed from the last ice age millions of years ago. The park has several trails and all of them are beautiful. We followed the river to  a secluded rock pool and beach. We daringly jumped in to the freezing water and hung out on the beach.

On the way home form the potholes, we saw signs pointing to the Country Market. The market located at Otter Point Road runs every Saturday from May to October and it is absolutely adorable. Explore the local artists and taste some delicious fresh local fruits. Pick up a homemade piece of jewellery as a souvenir.

Living in the city, I sometimes forget that stars even exist in the sky. Away from the lights and pollution, the Sooke sky offered a perfect canvas to star gaze. We stayed up well past my bed time and gazed at the Milky Way. We even caught a glimpse of Mars.

Day 2: Rainforest hikes and river floats 

The second day of our trip took us on a little drive to explore some of the beautiful rainforests hikes in the area. We made our way through the trees of the Juan De Fuca trail down to Mystic Beach. On the beach you will find beautiful rock formations, forests on either corner, and a small water fall in the centre of it all. It truly fit its name, mystic to say the least.

A little bonus, about an hour and a half from Sooke on the way to catch the ferry in Nanaimo we discovered floating on Lake Cowichan. Hundreds of people cooling off in the water on their floaties. While we didn’t have our donuts on us, we did jump in. Definitely plan to come back to get the full experience.

Just a few weeks ago I had no idea Sooke existed, now it has become one of my favourite spots in B.C. It is calming and beautiful and truly a small hidden gem on a giant island.