See What Tofino and Ucluelet Was Like in the 1960s

Have you ever wondered what it was like in Tofino and Ucluelet 50 years ago? If you’re already familiar with our photolog video series, you know how fascinating it is to tour British Columbia as it once was, frozen in the 1960s. (And if this is your first photolog… well, get your popcorn, because you’ve got some catching up to do!)

(If you do not see the video above, view it on YouTube.)

Our latest BC Time Machine takes our intrepid viewers on a journey to the West Coast of Vancouver Island during a time of significant transition for the area – 1966. Highway 4 from Port Alberni to the coast, also known as the Pacific Rim Highway, had been built just a few years prior, in 1959, as a logging access road. You’ll notice in the video that the highway was still dirt and gravel back in 1966, although the road between Ucluelet and Tofino is paved. It wasn’t until 1972 that Highway 4 was fully paved, making it Canada’s first paved road to the open waters of the Pacific Ocean.

This winding road takes you past many landmarks of the west coast of Vancouver Island. Bonus points for getting us a final count on how many Volkswagons you spot!

The “Junction” – 0:50

Long Beach – 1:18-2:28

Defunct entrance to 1993 Clayoquot Peace Camp – 4:51

Kennedy Lake – 5:16 – 7:00

Vintage West Coast Rain/Roadkill?/Stop the car/Clear the camera lens – 9:13-9:16

Port Alberni (Highway 4)– 14:22 – 15:15

Old Alberni Highway 15:14 – 15:50

Coombs (Sorry, no goats on the roof just yet!) – 19:35

Parksville – 20:30

The highway continues to change more than 50 years later. Highway 4 will experience a modern transition starting in 2018, with plans set to widen and straighten the 1.5-kilometre stretch at Kennedy Lake, located 14 kilometres east of the Ucluelet-Tofino junction. This section is known for its sharp curves and poor sight lines, which you can experience in the photolog starting at around 5:32.

What are Photologs?

“Photologs” were created to capture road condition information across the province and give our engineers the ability to study a particular stretch of road without having to travel into the field. The original photologs were collected by rigging a camera onto the dash of a car that took still images every 80 feet or so and then running them all together as a single film.

Looking back on these old reels reveals a lot more than just pavement condition. The camera installed onto the dash of a car and driven over 9,000 km of BC highways captured some incredible glimpses of our province during the heyday that was the 60’s. So sit back, relax and watch this glimpse of a world long gone by in the rear view mirror.

Are you patiently waiting to see footage of a particular BC highway that we haven’t shared yet? Let us know in the comments below.

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Page 1 of 39 comments on “See What Tofino and Ucluelet Was Like in the 1960s”

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  1. Learned to drive logging truck at Kennedy Lake Div. in the ’50s…Ed Easton Trucking…I was only 16 but Ed gave me a break. No road to Alberni then but we hauled timber over much of its beginnings.

  2. Fond memories. I, my wife, 4 kids and a big white boxer bitch emigrated England in 1966 to Alberni and drove this road several times.
    Does anyone have a photo of the old Uclulet greetings sign at the entrance? I was short of film and never took one. It was an arch stating, No parking,
    No stopping, No smoking and every other no-no you can imagine. Below was a Welcome to Uclulet sign!

  3. My dad was a logger at Kennedy lake division. We lived in Campbell River. He must have worked 10 on and 4 off cause we drove over with friends of the family to pick him up. You think the road switchbacks were bad….I was just a kid riding it with a bunch of drunks! I tell my friends I fertilized the hwy. from one end to the other. Carsick. However I survived and am glad to call Tofino home now!

  4. 1969 in my old Volkswagen bug that was gas fuelled from under the hood. It was a treasure with floor ‘boards,’ …literally boards, because the actual floor was mostly rusted and eaten away. Three high school chums we were off to Tofino to camp on the Long Beach. Half way up that long hill on the gravel road to Tofino my wee’ VW got a flat tire. Kind people stopped to help and very soon we were again on our way. What a glorious memorable weekend with two dear high school friends, neither of which had been to the wild west coast before. The heavy mysterious summer fog, the forever sandy beach, wonderful campfire cooking, salty salty sea air, it was all completely glorious. We had just graduated high school, grade 12, without any idea of what we would be doing for our future, but, that weekend our hearts were filled with passion for our magnificent west coast Vancouver Island. That was 53 years ago, and my heart remains completely in love with our little island on the westcoast

  5. Love it! I drove my Camaro Z28 to Ucluelet in July 1972 and there were several miles of gravel still left,mostly on the portion over/around Sproat Lake.I would NEVER do that now with that car.Young and foolish.

  6. I came to Vancouver from Bellingham, WA to attend school in 1970. I with a group of girls drove over to Long Beach to camp one weekend. Five of us plus gear in a tiny Honda. The road to the West coast out of Port Alberti was just gravel and the trip was long. The first morning we went into Ucluelet to dry our sleeping bags. That afternoon we went into Tofino. That road was paved. The Queen had come with Prince Philip for the opening of Long Beach area park and campgrounds. We found a pub, a rustic log cabin with a porch. I recall a tall very nice looking First Nations fellow who had the most incredible smile. He had a toothbrush in his mouth……lots of beer flowing. An older guy took up a conversation with our group and suddenly we were on our way to his float plane for a spin along the coast. Saw whales off the coast, gorgeous scenery. The sun was just setting. There were lots of surfers in wet suits and cars on the beach. A distant memory, over fifty years ago.

  7. Wreck Bay was a major counterculture hangout during the summer of 1969. There were more than a few driftwood dwellings constructed on the beach (and in the forest above) to accommodate those who remained for an extended time.

    • and 1970 & ’71. I was there in ’71. hundreds if not a few thousand young folks from all over the world camped on Wreck Beach and all the other beaches in the area. many US men came here instead of to war. I left when the area became a park.

  8. Tofino Highway is one of the prettiest you will find anywhere in the World. I was born in Tofino in 1955 to Doug and Florence Busswood. My Mom and Dad moved to Tofino after my Dad returned home from World War 2 and there were no jobs in Vancouver. The trip in those days was typically one full day to get to Port Alberni, stay overnight, then the Lady Rose or Uchuck to Ucluelet, and finally the dirt road to Tofino.

    My Father, together with some of the others in Tofino, saw the need for a road/highway from Port Alberni to Tofino and Ucluelet. At the time there was a Provincial Meeting planned for the BC Chambers of Commerce in Nanaimo. It was decided that for a publicity stunt, my father Doug Busswood and Walter Guppy would hike from Kennedy Lake to Port Alberni. They overnighted in Linesman cabins along the way and were picked up at Sproat Lake and driven to Nanaimo so they could make their appeal to the Chamber of Commerce for the road to the West Coast.

    Their appeal opened up enough interest that “the powers that be” authorized some further study. My Dad and Walter Guppy made 2 more return hikes from Tofino to Port Alberni taking government surveyors through the route that would eventually become today’s highway to the West Coast.

    My Dad had the original blueprints for today’s highway in our home for the 46 years that they lived in Tofino. When my Mom (Tofino and Western Canada’s 1st female Hospital Administrator) and my Dad moved to Vancouver they donated the blueprints to the Village of Tofino where they lay today.

    I was always proud of my Fathers contribution to open up the West Coast to better commerce, safety, and security. And… I was always proud that when the Tofino General Hospital burned down and there was talk of rebuilding it in Ucluelet, that is was my Mom and Dad who lead the charge to have it rebuilt in Tofino not only to serve Tofino, but also but also to serve the various First Nations Communities along the West Coast.

    The contributions of some of the early pioneers on the West Coast have left a lasting impression that many people today take for granted. Although I have made my adult home Vancouver I return often to Tofino. As the saying goes… you can take the boy out of Tofino, but you can’t take Tofino out of the boy.

    • Thanks so much for this wonderful bit of history John! You should be very proud of your family’s history in the area – it is a special place and one countless people are grateful to visit every year. We appreciate you taking the time to share this with us – these are the stories that we love to hear and we hope that the folks reading this will learn from. BC is an amazing place and one we are proud to call home. 🙂

      • Thank you tranbceditor… yes, initially when they opened up the logging roads to public traffic we were only allowed to use them after M&B’s operating hours. This was due to safety issues with the massive logging trucks and narrow mountainous gravel roadways. Still, deaths did occur. There used to be a gas station/restaurant at about the mid point of the highway but when the proprietors entire family was killed it broke his heart and he eventually abandoned the property never to be replaced. It took many, many years to upgrade safety issues, widening, and eventually paving the road. We always celebrated every extra mile of paved road over the years.

        I also remember as a child that the streets of Tofino were all dirt and gravel. It was exciting when they paved the main streets of town, but the road to Ucluelet was gravel and many times washed out with West Coast storms. This made it very difficult for the school bus taking Secondary School students to Ucluelet as Tofino had no High School. It was very rural but also some of the most beautiful you would find anywhere.

        • How sad to hear that story of the store owner John, so heartbreaking. I have taken stills from this video and collected them on our Flickr site here:

          There are a few amazing shots – my favourite being the little girl riding her bike at the government dock in town. It was the last shot taken on the film and really captures the end of the line. Thanks again for sharing your memories with us here, we love hearing them.

          • Just stumbled upon this while looking for memories of our youth. I was born in Tofino in 1961, my brothers in 63’ and 67’. Traveled that road many times to the get groceries etc at the Coop.. We lived in the old apartments at the airport as dad worked for Transport Canada. Communication was mostly with weather ships i believe. I remember many days on Long Beach hunting glass balls from Japanese fishing boats. We were always successful after big storms! We loved going to work with dad though as all that communication gear was pretty cool. I still recall all the kids that I grew up with there as well and there were quite a few of us! We travelled that old switchback road several times while it was being constructed. First in the 58’ Bug that dad had to chain up some times to get through, then in the new 65’ Falcon we got as the family was growing. Fond memories. Thank you for this.

  9. The experience in Tofino and the park are totally different today then our experiences in the 1960’s. I was not a hippie but always enjoyed the trip to Long Beach with friends. The road was very slow and difficult, but well worth the experience, once you arrived! I agree that things really changed with the formation of the national park. Thousands of visitors may now experience the coast, which I guess is progress. While still a magnificent place to visit, the wonder and magic of the old the old days has disappeared.
    I never imagine in tthen, that I would years later, develop and own Long Beach Lodge Resort!

  10. I was shop Forman .Dept. of Highways (Alberni ) 56-67 and was involved in the maintenance of the equipment when the logging roads from Alberni and Kennedy Lake where joined to create the now Highway no.4 Alb. Tofino. Traveled it many times, winter &summer. Best time 2hr. 20min. Including switchbacks and at night. It was only open from 6pm. till 7:am day time it was only for logging trucks.
    Many stories of happenings in. the early days. ( grader &. truck rollovers driving on
    Long beach from end to end. Great memories.

  11. I lived in Port Sept .1966 to Dec 1968 worked on a survey crew for Ministry of Highways surveying from there to Tofino .It is sure a different looking road today .Great memories to be able to look back on keep op the good work .Thank you.

  12. Long Beach was more than an annual holiday…most exciting to drive in the convoy with ambulances, food trucks and fire engines at both ends of the long queue of vehicles when the horrible fire occurred on the MacBoe property. Great memories, super flick!

  13. Great memories; remember driving on the gravel for what seemed to be an never ending day early 60s when I was a kid from Nanaimo. We could actually drive on long beach in those days.

    • Summer of 69; 59 Volkswagen, surfboard on the roof and three guys lookin for adventure. Meet up wth the locals living in driftwood and plastic shelters on the beach (surf all summer and work cutting cedar shakes all winter). Switchbacks, I remember the switchbacks. Did I miss them in the video?

        • Yes… the original Highway was a knitting together of the many logging roads between the West Coast and Port Alberni. The “Switchbacks” were above Sproat Lake and took you back and forth high up the mountain… then back and forth all the way back down to lake level again.
          It was not for many years that they cut the highway through along the lake and made going up and down the mountain unnecessary.