- Food & Drink
Storm watching in Ucluelet
Not many vacations begin with picking a hotel before you have a destination, but when a daily deal popped up in my inbox offering a discounted stay at Black Rock Resort, it was settled — we were going to Ucluelet.
My husband and I have a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with BC Ferries. Missed reservations, cancelled sailings and hours spent bonding with any reading material within reach tend to steer us away from Island adventures, but the call of Black Rock was too strong.
I had heard rumours of Neptune’s fury pounding against the promontory under humbling titanium skies, in stark contrast with the elegantly protective enclave of Black Rock. A colleague had just spent his honeymoon at the award-winning resort, and he came back raving with a wink and a grin. So instead of waiting to use my deal in summer like a sane person, we booked our stay for a few weekends later. Mid winter.
Our anticipation was palpable as we disembarked the ferry, our troubles ticking off one by one as we passed the familiar landmarks of Coombs, Cathedral Grove and Port Alberni and wound our way towards a new experience.
Neither my husband nor I had ever reached the end of the Pacific Rim Highway and turned left — we had always steered ourselves right, with the six world-quality surfing beaches off Tofino in our sights. Nor had we been to the area during storm season, which lasts November through February, when some serious weather rolls in from Japan, along with up to 15ft of rainfall.
And while we had anticipated snow enough to trade our smart car in for something a little more weighty (Sutton Pass, midway along, has an elevation of 240m), we had little idea what weather a January expedition would entail until we were sliding in it. Slowly, and safely (the three-hour drive stretching into four), we arrived. And it was worth every skid of the tires.
Ucluelet means “people of the safe harbour” in the indigenous Nuu-chah-nulth language, but walking into the West Coast-inspired lobby of Black Rock Resort, located in the throne seat of a rocky headland on the peninsula’s western side, is akin to discovering the ocean for the first time. And there’s nothing safe about it.
I had never witnessed anything like the howling wind and frosty whitecaps of the Pacific Ocean, condensed by mutinous rocky cliffs into one swirling, rabid mass — a blazing quasar rendered in water rather than light.
After being drawn outside despite the rain (getting as close to the spectacle as possible), we eventually made our way to our beautifully appointed, strangely serene quarters — complete with full kitchen, river rock shower, and an uninterrupted floor-to-ceiling view of the thrashing bay from the balcony, bed AND soaker bathtub.
While it is tempting to spend the entire visit staring out the windows, you are minutes away from the rainforested and beach-marked Wild Pacific Trail; the stiff (and I mean bowl-you-over) winds haranguing Amphitrite Lighthouse; and the postcard-perfect town of Tofino.
Admittedly, we still ended up at our familiar Tofino haunts (Common Loaf, Shelter, Tofino Brewing Co.), as many of the businesses in downtown Ucluelet were closed for the winter.
Going in the off season had us feeling like seabirds — unaffected by the whims of nature. But it was as bears, grudgingly emerging from hibernation, that we loaded up our borrowed car two nights later and put the rawness of Clayoquot Sound at our backs.
In true Vancouver Island fashion, though, our trip wasn’t done with us. We arrived in Nanaimo only to find our ferry (and all the ferries that day) being tossed about like toy boats in a bathtub. Storm season or something… But the bright side of being forced to spend a Sunday night in Nanaimo? It gave me plenty of time to write this story.
Note: You can check Vancouver Island travel and weather informatio , including BC Ferries, Washington Ferries, HeliJet, seaplane and airplane flights with Crossing the Pond — a mobile app that understands my frustrations.