Owned by the Pacific Northwestern Ucluelet tribe, Wya Point Resort is a slice of heaven situated on unspoiled Wya Beach in southwestern Vancouver Island, British Columbia. After an hour-long beautiful and exciting Orca Air flight, I arrived in Tofino, on the west coast of the island. We rented a car from the tiny airport and drove a short way to Ucluelet. The ferry to Nanaimo is also an option, and then a three-hour drive across the large island.
Currently there are nine one-to-three-bedroom, beautifully designed lodges at Wya Point, with heated concrete floors and gas “wood” stoves on the first level. Lodges are equipped with everything you need to cook, and their complete kitchens each have a gas stove, outdoor gas grill, pots, dishes, and bottled water. All of the beach-facing windows are large and curtain-less and private, so no one from the other cottages can look in unless they’re out on the barren beach. The cathedral ceilings in the bedrooms and carved yellow cedar wood trim add to the serenity of the lodges. There are spacious decks for each lodge with outdoor furniture. This is THE place to get away from it all!
Down the dirt road on private Ucluth beach are camping sites and even yurts with spectacular views set back into the old growth forest. The movie Twilight was filmed at site 14! One bonus for particular campers (like me) is the luxury bathrooms and showers at the camping sites. Besides the tranquil view and enjoying having nothing to do, we managed to pack in quite a lot of activity over a long weekend in late May. Stand-up paddleboard lessons and rentals are available right outside the lodges. The calm Wya Beach is especially good for paddleboarding.
Down the road at Wya Point Surf Shop Café we rented surfboards and had a lesson with Tyson Touchie, a member of the Ucluelet tribe and surfing teacher “extraordinaire.” Boards atop our van, we drove a little ways down Pacific Rim Highway to surf at Wickaninnish Beach. Tyson’s patience, calmness and love for the sport transferred to me, and even though I thought I wouldn’t be good at it, I learned to love it!
The next part of the lesson was getting to know and feel comfortable with the large board in the water, and then, catching waves! We all first rode in on our bellies—known as a “belly-ride”—and just that made me keep wanting more. I finally “got” the surfer philosophy of “one more wave”! I could see spending hours trying to find and ride the perfect wave. It cost only $80 for the three-hour lesson and 24-hour rental of all the essential gear (board, wetsuit, booties). The beaches on Vancouver Island are made for surfing! The Wya Point Surf Shop Café is a food truck where I had a delicious freshly caught and seared tuna wrap. It’s always busy with the locals, especially after surfing where people congregate around the fire pit.
The Ucluelet tribe is part of the Nuu-chah-nulth group that encompasses many different Pacific Northwest tribes indigenous to western Vancouver Island. The carving of totem poles and power animals is typical of the Northwest Pacific tribes. As was the spirituality associated with the hunting of whales. Carvings by First Nation Ucluelet artist Clifford George adorn or are featured in the lodges at Wya Point Resort. Lodge 2 has a dramatic six-foot high orca whale in the living room, and each cottage or lodge has its own “power animal.”
A carved pair of sea otters flanked the entrance to my lodge. One of the otters has an intricately carved orange sea urchin in its paws. I particularly loved the First Nation’s reverence for nature and animals. I saw bald eagles, crows, sea otters, and grey whales while at Wya Point and out on a boat from Jamie’s Whaling Station in Clayoquot Sound (a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve). Vancouver Island is abundant in wild animals. Most of the 3500 cougars in British Columbia can be found on Vancouver Island, along with wolves and bears. Small dogs (which are allowed at pet-friendly Wya Point Resort) are encouraged to be on a leash when walking.
The main road—the Pacific Rim Highway—has the Pacific Ocean on the west side with many beaches. On Wickaninnish Beach is the Kwisitis Feast House, a cultural center, museum (with life-size mannequins in a 200-year-old whale-hunting canoe), gift shop, and restaurant with a killer view overlooking the beach and ocean. The native cuisine is simple and delicious; offerings focus on the abundance of fresh salmon and cod and local prawns.
At Kwisitis the superb wines are from the BC’s Okanogan Valley. Our group was treated to members of the Ucluelet tribe singing and drumming while the children danced the “sparrow dance.” I felt honored to be at such a celebration. The following evening we had dinner at Hank’s Ucluelet. The small bistro is dedicated to local farmers, gardeners and fisherman and everything is organic. They also have a great British Columbian beer and wine menu.
Another highlight of the Ucluelet visit is when I walked the Lighthouse Loop—a 2.6-km trail that goes by the old lighthouse and takes 40 minutes. The Wild Pacific Trail is the creation of “Oyster Jim” Martin, whose dream was to preserve the ancient trees and spectacular views of Barkley Sound and the Broken Group Islands for hikers to enjoy forever. Bring your camera!
Downtown, the Ucluelet Aquarium is a great place to visit. The employees are nature-lovers and devoted to the animals and educating the public. This aquarium has a unique catch-and-release program. If you go at feeding time, you can watch the large female octopus devour a crab. These creatures are so interesting and intelligent, and the good news is that she will be back in Clayoquot Sound in six months. I left Ucluelet, a place I had never heard of, full of new excitement for this special pristine area, now one of my favorite places on earth and knowing that I will be back.
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