In the decades before the Pacific Rim National Park was born in 1970, this moss-laden landscape of mist and surf was a little-known outpost, a world apart. If adventurers managed to coax a vehicle across the tortuous road that led west from Port Alberni to the isolated ports of Tofino and Ucluelet, finding a bed was a simple matter at one of the few local inns. The alternative was constructing a driftwood shelter on one of the fabulous beaches nearby.
One million visitors a year now make this same journey on black-topped highway 4 (Pacific Rim Highway) to experience the romantic isolation of the region. It’s a tribute to the scale of this environment that so many travellers can be absorbed into it and still leave it so (apparently) empty.
The open ocean stretches off unbroken and vacant, while the elemental forces at play here – the winds and the tide, the sun and the rain – excite within visitors a deep-seated resonance, a sense of belonging to this place. Undoubtedly, the same chaos that reigns in winter during gale-force storms mimics, on a microcosmic scale at least, the fury of the Big Bang. And on eternal summer evenings, when a magenta sunset ignites the ocean’s summer evenings, there’s a peace so prevalent that you could almost bottle it and call it salvation. Take your pick of moods; they’re both soul-satisfying.
Nowhere else on earth has the meeting of land and sea created the magnificent beauty of Canada’s Pacific Coast. The spectacular Pacific Rim National Park is the only national park on Vancouver Island, providing protection for substantial rain forests and an amazing marine environment on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The full force of the mighty Pacific Ocean mercilessly pounds the constantly changing shores of this rugged coastline.
The territory now known as the Pacific Rim National Park has a significant history, having been inhabited by the Nuu-chah-nulth people for thousands of years. A rich natural heritage evolved as Vancouver Island became isolated from the mainland, retaining a great diversity of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish species.
This unique park encompasses a total area of 49,962 hectares of land and ocean in three separate geographic units – Long Beach, the Broken Group Islands and the West Coast Trail. Features of the park include long sandy beaches, an island archipelago, old-growth coastal temperate rainforest and significant Nuu-chah-nulth archaeological sites.
Recreational and outdoor adventure opportunities in the Pacific Rim National Park are numerous:
- Camping in Pacific Rim National Park
- Canoeing & Kayaking in Pacific Rim National Park
- Cycling & Mountain Biking in Pacific Rim National Park
- Diving in Pacific Rim National Park
- Fishing in Pacific Rim National Park
- Hiking & Backpacking in Pacific Rim National Park
- Surfing & Windsurfing in Pacific Rim National Park
- Whale watching & Whale Festivals in Pacific Rim National Park
The weather in the Pacific Rim area has a profound effect on any planned activities, as precipitation along the west coast of Vancouver Island is amongst the heaviest in the world. Match the season with your desired activity, and come prepared for rain, awe-inspiring winter storms and glorious sunshine! Visit the Park Information Centre for information on all Visitor Services.
The best known and most visited of the 3 regions, Long Beach is famous for the long sandy beaches of Schooner Cove and Wickaninnish and Florencia Bays, stretching between the two villages of Tofino and Ucluelet.
The 13,715-hectare Long Beach unit incorporates numerous rocky points and headlands, offshore islets and the mudflats of Grice Bay, an important wintering habitat and stopover for migrating waterfowl.
The impressive Green Point Campground caters to campers and RVs and, along with the Wickaninnish Centre and Parks Canada, provides valuable and interesting heritage learning programs on cultural features and the natural ecosystem of the Pacific Rim National Park.
Long Beach caters to visitors seeking to relax in the picnic areas, comb the beaches or stroll along the trails and boardwalks.
Radar Hill, just south of Tofino, provides a great view of Tofino Inlet, Meares Island and Gowlland Rocks. Naturalists watch whales from shore or follow the self guided Shorepine Bog Trail to study the moss, plants and interesting bugs found in a bog environment.
Late June to early September is high season in the Park and surrounding area. Mid-October through mid-March is the Park low season. Expect most park facilities, including the Wickaninnish Centre, the Park Information Centre and Green Point Campground to be closed. Visitors can drive the Pacific Rim Highway (Highway 4) from Port Alberni to Long Beach, 68 miles (108 km) of paved winding mountain highway. Busses run between Port Alberni and Ucluelet/Tofino, or the more adventurous can hop aboard the MV Frances Barkley for the trip down the Alberni Inlet and Barkley Sound to Ucluelet.
The Broken Group Islands Unit consists of over 100 islands, islets and rocky outcrops scattered in the centre of Barkley Sound, between Loudoun Channel and Imperial Eagle Channel.
This unit totals 10,607 hectares, of which only 1,350 hectares is land.
The larger of the forested islands are Effingham, Turret, Turtle, Dodd, Jacques, Nettle and Gibraltar Island.
The Broken Group is known internationally for awesome kayaking and wilderness camping enjoyed by organized adventurers seeking escape to the remote and desolate islands within the park. Natural features of this tranquil group of islands include lagoons, sandbars, blowholes, arches and secluded anchorages. Ancient native middens, village fortifications, stone fishtraps and archaeological sites stimulate the imagination of visitors to this traditional territory of the Nuu-chah-nulth people.
There are seven designated camping areas in the Broken Group Islands within national park boundaries, located on Hand, Dodd, Willis, Turret, Clarke, Gilbert, and Gibraltar Islands. All island visitors and users must camp in these designated campsites. Random campers will be asked to move to one of the designated campsites. All the campsites are small, and cannot sustain large groups. Please practice low impact camping techniques.
Camping was discontinued on Benson Island in May 2009 out of respect for its cultural significance. Archaeological research dates traditional use of Benson Island for over 5,000 years. Tseshaht First Nation’s oral traditions name this site as their origin place where the first Tseshaht man (Naasiya’atu) and woman (Naasayilhim) were created. It became the site of their principal village of Ts’ishaa. It is from this village that the Tseshaht derive their name, as Tseshaht literally means “people of Ts’ishaa”. Visitors are encouraged to visit Benson Island during the day and return to designated campsites for the night.
Maximum stay on each island campsite is 4 days. Maximum group size is 10 person total, and applies to private and commercial and non-profit groups. Maximum stay in the Broken Group Islands is 14 days. Solar composting outhouses are provided at all eight campsites. Please follow the posted directions for use of these facilities.
Camping fees in the Broken Group Islands are from May 1 to September 30. Fees are mandatory, non-refundable, and will be collected by a National Park licensed concessionaire at the campsites in the morning and evening. A Use Permit will be issued when fees are paid. VISA, MasterCard and cash are accepted.
Canoe and kayak access to the Broken Group Islands from Bamfield or Ucluelet is not recommended due to the exposed passages. Boaters and ocean paddlers can access the Broken Group Islands via Toquart Bay in northwest Barkley Sound. The unsigned road turnoff is located about 12 km northeast of the junction of Highway 4 and the Tofino-Ucluelet Highway.
A BC recreation campsite is located at Toquart Bay on the North side of Barkley Sound providing a boat launch for access to the islands. The popular Torquart Bay Recreation Campsite sees a lot of traffic from kayakers heading over to the Broken Islands. There are about 15 oceanside open tent sites, as well as RV areas, a cement boat launch, and lovely south-facing sand beaches. There is a parking fee for those who wish to park at the site but not camp there. From Port Alberni follow the Pacific Rim Highway 4 for about 50 miles (80 kms). Turn left at the sign for Torquart Bay on to the Maggie Lake Forest Service Road and follow it for 15.5 km.
The MV Frances Barkley will transport paddlers, kayaks and canoes to Sechart, on the fringe of the Broken Group Islands. The passenger and cargo vessel travels between Port Alberni, the Broken Group Islands, Ucluelet and Bamfield during the spring, summer and fall.
The West Coast Trail Unit of the park includes the section of coast southeast of Barkley Sound between the villages of Bamfield and Port Renfrew. This 25,640-hectare strip contains the 75-kilometre historic West Coast Trail, originally constructed for the rescue of unfortunate mariners shipwrecked off the treacherous west coast of Vancouver Island.
This internationally acclaimed hiking trail largely retraces an old telegraph route first established in 1890, and follows a rugged shoreline where approximately 66 ships have met their demise along this stretch of the “Graveyard of the Pacific”. The old telegraph line once connected Victoria with Cape Beale near present day Bamfield. Shipwreck survivors followed the rough and arduous trail in either direction, finding shelter in wooden cabins constructed at intervals along the route.
The land of the West Coast Trail unit is temperate coastal rainforest dominated by old-growth spruce, hemlock and cedar. Some of the tallest and largest trees in Canada grow along the West Coast Trail and in the adjacent Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park.
The topography of the region features natural wonders like the Hole-in-the-Wall, a natural sandstone arch carved by relentless wave action over time, the Tsusiat Falls at the mouth of the Tsusiat River, the Nitinat Lakes and Narrows and countless caves, creeks, coves, tidal pools and rocky headlands.
Recreation is decidedly of the wilderness variety! The merits of hiking the challenging West Coast Trail are known around the world. Of equal stature in the paddling world is the Nitinat Triangle Canoe Route, a gruelling battle against the wilderness, winds and extensive portages.
Access to the West Coast Trail unit of the park is via the trailheads at Bamfield and Port Renfrew.
Pacific Rim National Park is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, stretching between Port Renfrew on the southwest coast to near Tofino on the central west coast of Vancouver Island.
Nearby Regions & Towns
- Pacific Rim (West Coast)
- Pacific Rim Highway 4
- Barkley Sound
- Broken Group Islands
- Port Renfrew
- Port Alberni
Parks Canada – British Columbia
Phone: 250-726-4600 (Pacific Rim NP Information Centre – Year Round)