Getting away doesn’t have to cost a fortune. With some creative planning, you can enjoy a weekend away that won’t blow (even the most conservative) budget.
Since moving back to the lower mainland, British Columbia, I have been desperately trying to organize a getaway to the Tofino/Ucluelet area on Vancouver Island. It was difficult deciding if we should plan a trip during the warmer months or head over during storm season. Yes, storm watching is a thing on the west-coast of Vancouver Island. It doesn’t matter what time of year you go to Pacific Rim National Park, you will experience some of the most immense panoramic ocean views British Columbia has to offer.
This getaway wasn’t going to be a glamourous weekend of spa retreats and 5 course meals, this was a weekend away with some long-time friends for some much-needed relaxation. A sensible weekend with practical people, some good wine (very good wine) and tasty food we put together in our cabin (mostly snack food because really, who wants to cook).
Having 5 ladies with different travel styles and budgets, the planning process was challenging but with a little research and some suggestions, we found the perfect balance at a great price.
To keep costs down, we stayed in Ucluelet instead of Tofino and we went during the first half of June instead of later into the summer when prices increase and people tend to congregate to this area. We found the townsite to be very pretty, quaint and really, quite enjoyable. We saved about $100/night staying in Ucluelet instead of Tofino. Had we stayed in Tofino, we would have paid much more for the same accommodation type.
We booked our cabin about 6 weeks in advance with Terrace Beach Resort directly. Please note that they do not use any third party booking services like Airbnb or Expedia. They have a notice on their webpage stating such, warning people to use cation when booking. There were still a few cabins to choose from but they were filling up quickly. We chose a cabin (Hummingbird #25) with a bedroom, a loft and a pull-out sofa and a small kitchenette. The place was great, we had an ocean view with a private hot tub. To stretch our dollars further, we each picked up some groceries before heading out along the winding highway from Nanaimo to the west coast of the island.
Although it was unplanned, it turned out that we ate dinners in the cabin and lunches while out exploring. A perfect compromise as we didn’t have to worry about who would drive and who would drink later in the day. Everyone had an enjoyable time relaxing and enjoying the company of each other for a few short, meaningful days.
What makes it great: Rustic coastline with views that you will only find on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Endless outdoor adventures, something for everyone to enjoy, regardless of physical capability.
How to get there: Easiest access is via car however bus service is available from the Nanaimo ferry terminal. Something to note, there are 2 ferry terminals very close to each other in Nanaimo, Departure Bay and Duke Point. When returning to Nanaimo to get back to the mainland, ensure you get on the correct terminal for your needs. Take highway 19 north from the Nanaimo ferry terminal (Departure Bay). When you reach Qualicum Beach, head west along highway 4. The single lane highway winds deep into the middle of Vancouver Island and pops out along the west coast where you will head south towards Ucluelet or north towards Tofino.
What to do: Hike the Wild Pacific Trail, Kayak the Ucluelet Inlet or Broken Group Islands (we spotted some black bears). Visit Cathedral Grove, MacMillan Provincial Park, home to some of British Columbia’s oldest and biggest Douglas Fir trees. Take in the public market, Saturdays in Tofino, Sundays in Ucluelet. Watch suffers tackle the big cold waves on Long Beach, Pacific Rim National Park.
What to eat: Our weekend was low key, rather than go out and hit the food scene, we kept it simple and sampled some great fare from 2 very popular food trucks! Raven Lady Oyster truck and Tacofino serving tacos, and other delicious food with Mexican flare of course!
What to bring: In addition to your standard weekend wardrobe, make sure to bring sturdy shoes for hiking, layers including a waterproof jacket and a bathing suit if your accommodation has a hot tub!
Cost: Sharing accommodation was the budget saver on this trip. As well, bringing in some of our own groceries (and vino) also kept costs way down. Our cabin at Terrace Beach Resort was Canadian $199/night + taxes. We did have to pay an additional fee for extra adults, $10/person/night. We shared this extra cost among 5 adults which worked out to about $50/person/night. In addition to the cost of accommodation, the only other expenses incurred were the cost of gas and the ferry ride from Vancouver to Nanaimo.
Would I go again: Uhhh hell yeah!
Here’s what we did:
• He-Tin-Kis Park is where the well known Wild Pacific Trail is found. We walked the Lighthouse Loop, a 2.6 km loop trail. We headed out in the morning after a quick bite and an extra-large coffee. We started at our accommodation, Terrace Beach Resort, and continued up the well marked trail. At every turn the view impresses with it’s beauty, and just when you think it can’t get any better mother nature surprizes you with another unbelievable view of the Pacific Ocean crashing upon the rugged shoreline. The hike is geared for all levels and is well marked and maintained.
• Later in the day we ventured out and walked around the village of Ucluelet (Peninsula Rd). Highlights included an Artisan gallery, Reflecting Spirit Gallery, which has some amazing art work by local artists. Before returning to our cabin, we had a quick bite to eat, purchasing some delicious oysters from a local food truck parked at Peninsula Rd and Bay Street, called Raven Lady. OMG so good!
• At 5:30 we headed down to Ucluelet Harbour for a 3-hour kayak tour with Majestic Ocean Kayaking. The instructor was friendly and knowledgeable about the area. We followed the shoreline and spotted some California Sealions and a couple of abandoned ships. The highlight of our tour was seeing a pair of bears along the shoreline near the fish hatchery.
• We ended our day back at the cabin with a home cooked dinner, a glass of wine and a soak in the hot tub.
• The following morning, we headed up to Long Beach, Pacific Rim National Park to watch the surfers. The sun was out, the wind was strong. We were told that 2 grey whales hang out up near long beach and that they were spotted the day prior. Unfortunately, we were not able to see them, the water was choppy, which limited our visibility.
• It was close to lunch so we decided to grab a quick bite to eat at Tacofino. The line up was long but the wait was worth it. Tuna taco, tempura breaded taco yum. Finished the trip off with an ice-cream from the chocolatier.
Our weekend getaway turned out to be a weekend well spent. The weather was fabulous and the company was even better! Taking time to explore a little closer to home really pays off when you live in an area that others only dream of seeing. I’m pleased that I can place another check mark on my bucket list.
Have you ever been to Ucluelet or Tofino? What are some places close to your home that you’re hoping to go see? Maybe you live in a place that most people dream of visiting.
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*Please note, we have not received any compensation or “gifts” from any of the companies mentioned or links in this post. All opinions are honest recollections of our time in the area and are based on personal experience.