Pacific Rim National Park Reserve on the west coast of Vancouver Island is one of those must see places. The reserve encompasses three main areas: the West Coast Trail, a rugged 47 km hike along the historic rescue route, the Broken Group of Islands consisting of a hundred or so islands in Barkley Bay and the Long Beach area.
While I have no illusions about my ability to hike the rugged West Coast Trail, I have been privileged to spend a glorious day among the Broken Group of Islands aboard a small boat. This spring I renewed my acquaintance with the Long Beach part of the reserve. Wikanninish Beach is the most spectacular of the many beaches in the reserve. It stretches for about 16km(10miles). Before the park reserve was created camping and driving on the beach was allowed. Many hapless beach campers woke in the morning to find that their vehicle had been partly swallowed by the sand. Now the reserve is managed carefully with an eye to preserving and restoring damaged areas like the shore sand dunes.
There is a modest fee for entering the park facilities and using the parking lots. It helps to finance the work being done to preserve this amazing area. One day will give you a taste of the reserve, but two or more will allow a more through appreciation of it.
A drive up Radar Hill near the town of Tofino will give you a panoramic view of the area. This location was a radar station during WWII but has been transformed into a tourist lookout complete with paved access road and boardwalks.
Because this area is west of the Vancouver Island mountains, it gets heavy rainfall for much of the year. This has nurtured a temperate rainforest. Boardwalks and stairs will lead you through a cool jungle of plant growth at one of the areas of interest. Another inland walk on boardwalks will take you over a boggy area where you can observe the shore pines. The shore pine walk is level walking.
If you are up for a climb, visit Florencia Bay. A well-constructed set of sturdy steps lead down to the sandy beach. If you are like me, I opted to look at the beach from the viewpoint. There is a memorial here to the wreck of the Valencia in 1906 in which 136 people lost their lives. Numerous ship wrecks along the coast line have earned the area the name of Graveyard of the Pacific.
Park headquarters are located on sandy Wikanninish Bay. There is an interpretive centre here as well as restaurant and gift shop in high season. Walking trails lead from here to small beaches as well as giving easy access to Wikanninish Beach. Surfers come from many areas to experience the consistent waves. Wet suits are a must as this is the N.Pacific!
This area is in the historic territory of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations.
If you visit
Getting to the west coast of Vancouver Island is usually by road. Highway 4 is paved and private car or the Tofino Bus is the usual way to get there. There is limited air service as well. Distances are quite large and a personal car is the best way to access the various attractions.
There are many levels of accommodation available from primitive campsites to five star resorts outside the park reserve.
Be aware that much of the area is unspoiled wilderness. This means that a healthy bear, cougar and wolve population lives here. Use common sense and keep poochie on a leash. Don’t explore the forest after dark.
Bring rain gear. I had a fortunate three days of brilliant sunshine last visit, but you cannot count on it. One of the big attractions for many is the storm watching as systems roll in off the Pacific.
Bring binoculars. This is prime wildlife viewing territory. Whales migrate close to the beaches in the spring. Killer whales remain in the area as do sea lions and seals. Bears seen from a safe distance are always a treat.
Tags: environmental protection, nature, pacific rim national park reserve, travel