One of the treasures in the park is found on the south end of the Wickaninnish Beach: Kwisitis Visitor Centre. It is a stunning example of west coast architecture. It’s where land meets ocean and the building offers amazing views (it’s a popular place for storm watching). A great place to learn about the area and the first inhabitants of the Island. The centre is free to enter (with National Park pass) and the displays are remarkable. From life-size First Nation replicas of whaling to giant murals of ocean scenes and more, it is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. It is worth the trek up the Wick Road!
Originally, the building was referred to as the Wickaninnish Interpretive Centre but under the guidance and advice of the Nuu-chah-nulth Working Group, and with the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ First Nation, the name was changed in order to better reflect the traditional name used by the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ.
While the displays are amazing and informative, there is another display that is worth mentioning. Fashion! Evening dresses and shoes! Imagine our surprise when we saw the two ball gowns on display! In the middle of a history museum? How did this relate to the impressive murals and history of the area? Was this another treasure?
Yes, garbage. Mounds and mounds of plastic and other debris is polluting and clogging our oceans. There are thousands of kilograms of garbage washing up on Long Beach each and every year! In 2016, 40 tonnes* of garbage was collected just from the beaches on the West coast of the Island!
In 2013, the local secondary school collected trash and worked to create trashion. The two best ensembles are on display in the Visitor Centre and it works well to help everyone understand we all have to do our part in reducing our footprint and impact on, not only the Island, but everywhere we live.
One stop we were keen on making was hiking in the rain forest. Pacific Rim is home to many old growth forests and due to it’s location and a metereoligical phenomenon (orographic precipitation), it experiences large rainfalls (on average, up to 3000 mm per year). This creates a unique environment and allows the rain forest to flourish and are a treasure of this beautiful park.
There are two great, short rain forest hikes. Rain forest trails A & B are located along Highway 4 towards Tofino. With one trail on each side of the highway, there are lots of options for exploration. Both trails have had their stairs and boardwalks replaced over the 2017/2018 season so it makes for simple, steady walking.
Trail A (on the east side of the highway) accentuates the forest growth cycles. Home to both giant western red cedars and western hemlocks, the trail winds its way through the forest, allowing various vantage points to see the mammoth trees and to witness the life cycles of the forest. With lush ferns, big leaves, a beautiful boardwalk and lots of stairs, the trail is an easy fun way to explore the park.
Rain forest Loop B (adjacent to the parking lot) is again a boardwalk trail through the forest, peppered with many sets of stairs. Home to the same large cedars and hemlocks, it offers an interpretive look at the structure (of the forest) and the inhabitants who call it home. Birds, little creatures and bear can be spotted on the trails. Both hikes are about one kilometre in length but there are a lot of stairs and many places to rest (don’t forget to try and find the Park’s Canada Red chairs!).
In addition, the Long Beach part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve has many, many (many), great hiking trails. From the short and easy, barrier free access trail (Shorepine Bog Trail) to the more difficult Nuu-chah-nulth Trail, there are trails for everyone and a unique and fun way to explore the area. They are immersive, informative trails with lots of information about this unique and serene ocean-side landscape. Even if you’re not an experienced hiker, some of the trails in the park are easy strolls and are precious treasures you should put on your itinerary!
Additional information about the visitor centre and it’s renaming was gathered from a few sources. We encourage all visitors to take a moment to visit the thoughtful and detailed sites cited below.
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