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Visitors at the Ucluelet Aquarium
(Brendan van Son photo)

Ucluelet

Culture & History

The Nuu-chah-nulth people have called the Pacific Rim home for thousands of years.

Ucluelet seems to have been a fishing village forever. It was a First Nations settlement when fur sealers, the first settlers, arrived in the 1870s.

A First Nations Past

Nuu-chah-nulth legends flow back to the beginning of time. Archaeology traces their presence here to 4,300 years ago. When visitors to the area so often identify a kind of spirituality with this breathtaking coast, it's no surprise.

Nuu-chah-nulth People

People describe this world as "Life on the Edge." Whoever lives on this edge is intimately and irrevocably tied to the ocean. The Nuu-chah-nulth fished for salmon, cod, halibut and shellfish. They hunted sea lions, seals and whales. Ucluelet today has no showcase for this rich Aboriginal heritage, but the nearby Wickaninnish Interpretive Centre houses a collection of Nuu-chah-nulth artefacts.

Europeans Arrive

Europeans discovered Barkley Sound in the 1770s, in pursuit of whales and seals, but it took another 100 years for settlers to reach the "edge" and confront the challenges of daily life. Since then, the rush of history has brought gold prospectors during an impractical Gold Rush in 1900, miners, foresters, Japanese fishermen, soldiers, dreamers and entrepreneurs. All have contributed to Ukee's rough-and-tumble soul.

George Fraser Brings Rhododendrons

In 1894, horticulturalist George Fraser arrived in Ucluelet and found conditions ideal for growing and experimenting with rhododendrons. His impassioned work in rhodie hybridization was globally acclaimed and he created several new species of the billowing flower.

George Fraser Day

Today the Fraser heritage is celebrated every May as the George Fraser Day and Heritage Fair with entertainment, refreshments and tours through Ucluelet's exquisite George Fraser Memorial Garden.

Ucluelet Today

The new wave is tourists, coming the distance to the coast since the logging road from Port Alberni was paved in 1972. They, too, discover a kinship to sea and rainforest as they fish, sight whales and bears, and hike through ancient cedars.

Ucluelet today continues to both reflect its rugged past and qualify as one of the most easygoing corners of BC. Its outdoor adventures represents a new era of eco-excitement. Ukee folk are never too busy to bid newcomers a warm hello.