Saturday, June 19, 2010

Inspired by nature

1A walk along the trail offers an opportunity to see the power of the Pacific Ocean that can produce awe-inspiring waves or grind ships to bits on the sharp rocks. The big waves also provide Canada's best surfing at Long Beach between Ucluelet and Tofino.

But the power of the ocean that's best seen during a storm provides ample reason to get out your rain gear and head to the Wild Pacific Trail for storm watching or taking photos rather than hunkering down in your motel room when it rains. Unless, of course, you're staying somewhere, such as the Black Rock Oceanfront Resort in Ucluelet, that lets you see the shore without venturing outdoors.

"There's not another dining spot with this kind of view," Adele Larkin, Black Rock Oceanfront Resort general manager, said during breakfast in the resort's Fetch restaurant. "Both the lobby and the restaurant have unobstructed views of the stormy shore.

"The ocean view is one of the major attractions," Larkin said.

Vancouver Island offers far more than storm watching, from great beaches to museums to scuba diving to fine restaurants and spas. There's no shortage of activities for a wide range of ages and tastes.

The completed portions of the Wild Pacific Trail are close to the fishing and logging village of Ucluelet on the west coast of Vancouver Island. While it's not a difficult trail, the hills and wooden steps leading up and down to stream crossings will give hikers a bit of a workout.

Storm watching is one attraction, but wildlife such as bald eagles soaring overhead is another. You can watch whales from shore or take one of the boats that get up close for a much better view of these huge mammals.

In addition to the three completed portions of the trail at Ucluelet, plans called for the trail to be extended north to the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. The completed sections range from one to three kilometres in length.

While the waves crashing on the shore show nature's power, an equally clear indication is the trees and bushes that have their shape twisted by the wind. Some are bent over, while others have few limbs on the windward side.

Most of the rooms at the Black Rock resort have a view of waves breaking over the volcanic rock at Big Beach in Ucluelet. Two of the best views are from the lobby or the wine cellar below the lobby. The wine cellar, which is proving popular for weddings, looks out into the surge channel coming in from the beach.

Plenty of rain -- 665 centimetres annually -- falls on the west coast of Vancouver Island, so rainy or stormy days aren't rare. In contrast, Victoria receives 64 centimetres of rain.

Larkin said the resort attracts international visitors, as well as Canadians from Alberta and Saskatchewan and a variety of locations in B.C.

"We try to bring to their attention that there's a plethora of things to do," said Larkin.

Whether you fly to Vancouver Island or take the ferry, there are always attractions close at hand. Ferries departing Vancouver transport passengers to terminals near Victoria and Nanaimo.

From Alberta, WestJet or Air Canada fly into Victoria, Nanaimo and Comox. WestJet's Edmonton to Comox flight takes about 80 minutes.

Arriving by either ferry or aircraft, visitors to Victoria have the option of stopping at attractions near the airport and ferry terminal such as Butchart Gardens, a number of wineries or varied activities at locations such as Brentwood Bay. Victoria has a wide range of attractions for a range of tastes, including the Royal British Columbia Museum.

Lodge features marina

Brentwood Bay Lodge, located near the dock for the ferry connecting the community to Mill Bay, offers a marina, kayak rentals, boat tours and scuba training. Many boaters leave their craft in the marina, then board the tour boat for a short ride to Butchart Gardens.

Marina manager Matt Smiley said the inlet -- a glacier-carved fjord about 230 metres deep at its deepest point -- is home to a variety of marine life, including eels, sponges and starfish.

The lodge is close to the shore, offering an unobstructed view of the bay from the restaurant and lounge.

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