Halfmoon Bay and Florencia Bay {Pacific Rim National Park Reserve}

Halfmoon Bay and Florencia Bay {Pacific Rim National Park Reserve}

Halfmoon Bay and Florencia Bay

  • Distance – 3.9 km roundtrip + distance for exploring on the beaches
  • Elevation – 100 meters
  • Difficulty – Medium (due to slippery stairs)
  • TrailheadWillowbrae Trail
  • Logistics – none, but be prepared for some slippery stairs

The west coast of Vancouver Island is a wild, rocky and rugged place worthy of exploring. Something that I love about the Ucluelet and Tofino area is that the beaches are plentiful and easy to access. Once you are on the beach, you can do as much or as little exploring as you want. The low tide gives way to hopping down the coastline from beach to beach, as well as clambering over rocks and exploring tide pools.

Having grown up on the west coast and then transplanted to the subarctic as an adult, there is always something about visiting the coast that makes my heart warm even though the rest of me is rather cold and wet.

This fall, we decided to visit Vancouver Island for the Canadian Thanksgiving week. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic travel, even within Canada continues to be quite limited. First on my list was to go to Quebec City, the Eastern Townships, and Montreal to explore the fall colours and hike as many places and mountains as possible in the span of 9 days. Fall colours were quickly shelved when all of Eastern Canada went back into the red zone and everything was shut down due to a significant rise in COVID numbers.

After spending most of our summer in Rockies, we were ready to do something new. Now don’t get me wrong, gems like Iceline, Verdant Pass, and Burstall Pass are worth doing, but the snow was coming and we needed a change of scenery.

Vancouver Island to the rescue!

With just a few weeks until our holidays and nowhere left to go, we opted for a quick change of plans and decided to go to Vancouver Island. After all, who doesn’t love rainforests, beaches, and the ocean?

Within Tofino and Ucluelet, there are enough beaches, trails, and things to do to keep you busy for days on end.

Florencia Bay
Florencia Bay – a lovely stretch of sand to explore on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

One of the trails in the Pacific Rim National Park that ends in two, not just one beautiful beach, is the Willowbrae Trail. This short trail forks off to Halfmoon Bay and Florencia Bay, giving you two amazing coves to explore without much work.

Hiking Details

The trailhead is easy to find and is just a few minutes north of Ucluelet and close to the junction on Highway 4 where you have to choose to go north to Tofino or south to Ucluelet. This is a great hike to do on the way to Tofino if you are tired of being in the car after the winding drive across the island.

Simply go south from the junction of Highway 4 and the Tofino Ucluelet Highway for 2.0 km and look for Willowbrae Road and turn right (west). The road is narrow and looks like a private road, but in 250 meters, there is a small parking lot and the trail starts here.

If the parking lot is full, you can park on the street on the other side of the Tofino Ucluelet Highway. The parking lot is small and has room for about 7 cars, so don’t be surprised if there isn’t room for your car.

From the parking lot, follow the trail for 1.25 km until you reach a fork. At the fork, you can go left (south) for 500 meters to Halfmoon Bay. Expect raised boardwalks and stairs down the cliffside. They are wooden and usually wet, which means they are slippery – take your time here.

Trail to Halfmoon bay
It seems they are never dry, which means they are incredibly slippery!

Halfmoon Bay

Halfmoon Bay is a beautiful cove with a lot of rocks and tidepools to explore. If you come here at low tide, you can find your way to Wya point and beyond. There are options to explore and bushwhack to the south overland as well, but we didn’t take them when we were there as Florencia Bay still hadn’t been explored.

Florencia Bay

Go back up the stairs and follow the boardwalks back to the junction and head down the stairs to Florencia Bay.

There are many sets of stairs that lead down to the beach. They are easy to navigate and obviously taken care of, but also extremely slippery due to the amount of rain the area gets. It seems the wood never fully dries.

trail on florencia bay
Did I mention that the trees are rather amazing?

Florencia Bay is a much larger cove, but still quiet and most likely you might have the beach to yourself.

Explore the tide pools, craggy rocks, and stretches of sand until your heart is content and then head back the way you came.

florencia bay
Having the beach all to yourself is quite the treat!

As always, be cognizant of the tides while exploring and ensure that you are watching for rogue waves.

I give this hike 7 out of 10 stars. It is worth doing and nice that you get to explore two places with one hike. The two coves are lovely and worth your time. I am a bit hard to please though. I mean, once you’ve been to Cathedral Cove, it is hard to be impressed!

What are your favourite beaches to explore in the Ucluelet and Tofino area?

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