Finally we reached the Ucluelet. Ucluelet and Tofino are two small (population 1500 and 2000 people) communities on opposite sides of what is known as a Long Beach. During tourist season population swells to several thousands since both places are extremely popular with surfers, whale and bear watchers and fisherman. In addition, some people come here for winter storm watching. Both places have extremely picturesque location that is so beautiful that it almost feels unreal. They are surrounded by riffs, small islands and rocks.
The very first thing we did was to make a reservation at the restaurant (Norwoods) we loved so much during our last year visit. Then we spend about an hour on Wild Pacific Trail planning to come back next day and returned to the restaurant. Just like our last time, it was heavenly experience. These guys know their business. Everything – ambience, food, service were implacable. We ordered Local Gallo Mussels in Thai Style Green Curry and Seared Baja Scallops and Local Octopus with Truffle Potato Puree, Sweet Ginger Chili Sauce and Leek Hay for appetizers. For the entrée Alex ordered Seared Local Halibut with Warm Potato and Vegetable Salad and I ordered Seared Local Albacore Tuna with Crisp Ramen Noodles, Shanghai Bok Choy and Room Temperature Ponzu Sauce. Everything was perfectly prepared and artfully presented. I even got my picture taken with The Man himself – Richard Norwood. Everything was so perfect that we made a reservation for the next evening.
This is how they look from the outside:
"The man" himself and I:
Their open kitchen:
After dinner we went to our hotel. This the very first time I chose this hotel over the Tin Wis Resort where we stayed many times. I was lured by great reviews, free breakfast (Tin Wis’s breakfast was bad `and expensive) and better rates. Other thing for them was that Tin Wis always had quite unfriendly service that I was getting tired off.
This is how we ended up in the Middle Beach Lodge. The lodge gave us very mixed experience. Our room was not just ‘cozy’ as it was described in some reviews but rather tiny. There was no desk and no TV. It had small balcony with a great view of the ocean and was very clean. Bed was very comfortable. But no TV! However, the lounge room was large and very well designed with huge fireplace made from local rocks. Their breakfast was fresh and tasty (great croissants!). People stayed mostly in the lounge room socializing with each other and went to their rooms just to sleep. We also spent an evening there but simply because it was difficult to use computer in our room without any desk. We are not big on socializing with total strangers. They do have larger cabins and suites but for significantly higher price. One other thing is beach access. The Tin Wis Resourt was located right on the beach and provided easy opportunities for late night walks, the Middle Beach Lodge was located high on a cliff and while it provided great views, it was quite a hike just to get to the beach (we did not go there). I am not sure if we ever stay there again.
Our tiny room:
View from the balcony:
Their rustic lounge:
Sunset view from the deck:
We spent our next day May 16 in Tofino and Ucluelet. First we walked around Tofino taking pictures and visiting little store.
By one of the store we met Winston the Pig. He was very handsome animal that was tied to the fence with a long rope and was busy foraging grass. We took multiple photos of him and then met his owner – the Quilting Store owner. Winston was 1 year old 60 lb Vietnamese pot-belly pig with great personality and very clean. He was housebroken when they got him. He used kitty litter box as a piglet and later started asking to be let out when he needed to go. Very-very adorable little guy!
Then we drove to Ucluelet and spent couple of hours on Wild Pacific Trail. I keep forgetting to mention that weather so far was absolutely perfect – sunny and cool, just the way we like it. So I took a lot of pictures while on a trail since each turn provides you with completely different and very beautiful vistas.
At 6pm as soon as they opened, we went to Norwoods again. They recognized us and made us feel as we were their good friend. We ordered there appetizers Warm Sourdough Baguette, Fresh Unsalted Butter and Olive Tapenade, Salad of Grilled Gem Lettuce with Pork Belly Confit, Crispy Parmesan, and Pulled Duck Spaghettini with Confit of Duck, Local Mushrooms and Parmigiano Reggiano. Again, they were very original and super-tasty. For the entrée I had the halibut that Alex had yesterday and Alex had their special - Seared Local Ling Cod with Roasted Pepper and Sun-dried Tomato Risotto and Green Beans. Both dishes were excellent and quality and preparation of fish was simply superb.
Alex's Ling Cod:
Next day, May 17, we went back to Parksville. While driving along Hwy 4 we visited Port Alberni. It is a town with 17 000+ population which initially was dependent on logging and mining but now is developing tourism and fishing center. However, in spite of very picturesque location, the city itself does not have much to offer.
After Port Alberni we stopped by Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park and took a relatively short close loop trail to the falls. Lower Falls are located practically next to the parking lot; Upper Falls require some easy hiking to reach. Again, just as with all other falls that we visited during this trip the falls we the most powerful we’ve ever seen them. There is a lot of water this year. Upper falls that a rainbow over them but still looked like the gates to the hell with the black cliffs and bubbling water.
As we drove through Coombs again, we saw their famous goats which were finaly where they belong – on the roof of the store.
Later we arrived to Parksville where we stayed in the same hotel. We decided to repeat our previous experience again and go to a restaurant just for the appetizers and then have cheese and wine in our hotel room. However, this time we decided to check our hotel’s restaurant which was pretty highly rated on Tripadvisor. We also had good memories of it from our previous trips. Big mistake! While food was eatable, it was very generic. Their crab cakes had no crab flavor at all and the salsa they were served with had no salt or any species in it. I had to add Tabasco and salt to make it somewhat palatable. Our server was not the greatest. She did not offer us any bread and when asked brought it to us when we almost finished our appetizers. She gave us ½ off from one of the appetizers as some kind of a promotion which was nice but we came there for food and not for the discount. When I shared our bad experience with a front desk, he said that their chef just came back from Australia vacation so he was not sure who did the cooking. Whatever, I decided against eating breakfast there and we had coffee and sandwiches in our hotel room.