The coastal BC town of Ucluelet is a unique place with a rich culture and history. Today, in honour of Culture Days, On This Spot is featuring our Ucluelet content. Enjoy our two self-guided walking tours, which dive into the history of the town. Both are available for free online and through the On This Spot app. Go for a walk, explore your community, and learn about Canadian history through sets of then-and-now photos.
Ucluelet sits on a narrow inlet on Vancouver Island’s jagged and storm-wracked west coast. The sheltered harbour has for millennia been an oasis of calm for the Nuu-Chah-Nuulth people, and the word ‘Ucluelet’ in their language means ‘People of the safe harbour.’ Since the 1870s, European and Japanese settlers have been drawn to the great abundance of fish and trees that surround it, and a small, hardy community has developed. As those industries have wound down, it is the region’s spectacular beauty itself that now draws people here from all over the world.
On This Spot’s first tour in the town is ten stops long and delves into the history of the many people and cultures that have called this place home, from the original Indigenous stewards to the early European pioneers, Japanese immigrants, fishermen, hippies, and eco-tourists. This tour begins at the intersection of Waterfront Drive and Bay Street and then makes its way to the Government Wharf. From there, we will leave the busy downtown centre for a brief stroll along Imperial Lane towards the long dock at the end of Otter Street. Getting down to the dock requires going down a long flight of steps, but you will be rewarded with excellent views of the harbour. Finally, we will return downtown for the final stops of the tour.
Our second tour explores the history of Ucluelet’s seaplane base, an important part of the settlement during the Second World War. During this time, Ucluelet was home to a Royal Canadian Air Force seaplane base. It was one of a network of air bases and radar stations that was British Columbia’s first line of defence against Japanese military incursions. Protecting Canada’s long, treacherous, and sparsely populated west coast was an immense challenge, and the flexibility of seaplanes, being able to take off and land without air strips, made them ideal tools for this task. After the war, the base was abandoned and little remains of it today. Much of the former grounds have been reclaimed by the forest. While this area is mostly quiet today, the photos in this tour can help reconjure the hive of activity that was once here.