New Safe Harbor

The rugged western coast of Vancouver Island sees a new lodge with a celebrity pedigree.

By: Joanne Blain

VANCOUVER, British Columbia The wind-swept beaches of Ucluelet, B.C., are about to get a touch of Hollywood glamour. Actor Jason Priestley and his family have just opened the Terrace Beach Resort in the town on the remote western coast of Vancouver Island.

Priestley best known for his starring role in the TV series “Beverly Hills 90210” and for the car-racing accident that seriously injured him in 2002 was an investor in the Roots Lodge, a rustic luxury resort on the site that opened in 1999 but quickly became mired in legal and financial problems.

Rather than walking away and losing his investment, Priestley decided to buy 15 of the 25 units that made up the lodge and turn them into a new resort that his father, Lorne, will manage.

The unusual property is a collection of cabins and lofts connected by a wooden boardwalk. Its accommodations range from three-level waterfront cabins with kitchenettes, fireplaces, barbecues and Jacuzzi tubs to ground-level bachelor units.

Rates for beachfront cabins range from approximately $213 in the off-season to $266 in peak season, while bachelor units are about $75 year-round. Five-night packages are also available.

Priestley, who was born and raised in the Vancouver area, said in a recent newspaper interview that he loves the Ucluelet area and the location of the resort, set on a sheltered harbor on the large island that is also home to British Columbia’s capital city of Victoria. The actor has spent a lot of time in the area in recent months, filming two TV movies in Victoria.

Ucluelet a native Indian word meaning “safe harbor” sits at the southern tip of a narrow peninsula that abuts Pacific Rim National Park, one of the most rugged and spectacular parks in Canada. A former logging and fishing town, Ucluelet is larger and less tourist-oriented than Tofino, a charming community at the other end of the peninsula.

Stretching between the two towns is Long Beach, a six-mile stretch of sand and rocky outcroppings that’s known for its wild and wind-swept surf and also serves as the gateway to nine well-marked trails that venture into old-growth forest. This is the most visited portion of the park, which was established in 1971 and is divided into three distinct areas.

Ucluelet is the closest town to the Broken Islands portion of the park, which is accessible only by boat. It’s a secluded haven for boaters and kayakers, with ample opportunities to see wildlife ranging from eagles to sea lions.

The northern end of the West Coast Trail, a demanding 47-mile hike that takes five to eight days to complete, is in Bamfield, roughly an hour’s boat ride from Ucluelet.

Because this portion of the park is a protected wilderness area, a quota system exists for hikers and reservations are required. So is a willingness to get down and dirty on the irregular, often muddy trail.

Less physically demanding are the whale-watching excursions, offered between February and October, that provide visitors with a good chance to see one of the many pods of gray whales and orcas that pass by the island during their annual migration. Several companies offer excursions from Ucluelet and Tofino. Guided fishing charters are also available from both towns.

The Terrace Beach Resort pays 10 percent commission to travel agents.