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Opening the Alberni-Tofino Road, British Columbia

Long Beach, Vancouver Island, 1960

Dateline: January 21, 2024.

    Today, the central part of the west coast of Vancouver Island is easily accessed by vehicle on BC Highway 4, the Pacific Rim Highway, a paved 2-lane highway that stretches 161 km from Qualicum Beach to Tofino. The star of that section of the west coast for most people has always been Long Beach, a spectacular 16-km-long stretch of sand and rocky outcrops.

    The first summer that Long Beach was available to visitors travelling by car, though, was the summer of 1960, following the opening of the Alberni-Tofino Road the previous September. The BC government created Wickaninnish Beach Provincial Park but the rapidly-increasing number of visitors led to it being transferred to the federal government and it became the start of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, which opened in 1971. The park now draws 1.2 million people each year.

    Reproduced below are 4 articles about the Alberni-Tofino Road, published by the Victoria Daily Times between August 22nd and September 5th, 1959.

Click on the map to open an interactive version in a new window.

Victoria Daily Times, Victoria, British Columbia - Saturday, August 22, 1959

Long Beach, Vancouver Island, 1959

ACCESSIBLE FOR FIRST TIME to holidaying motorists will be Long Beach, 12-mile stretch of sand between Tofino and Ucluelet, on west coast of Vancouver Island. New road opening Sept. 4 will make vast vacation area out of hitherto isolated beauty spots.

Headline: Wide Scenic Vistas Opened With New West Coast Road, 1959

Headline: Public Use of Road Restricted Temporarily, 1959

    Some of Vancouver Island's most spectacular scenery will come within reach of private motorists on the Labor Day weekend with the opening to the public - with certain restrictions - of the Alberni-Tofino road.

    Highways Minister P. A Gaglardi has announced the road will be open for public use Sept. 4 at 5 p.m. It will then be open to the public from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily, and continuously on weekends and holidays.

    Tofino and Ucluelet residents likely will cheer the opening of the road more than others on the Island. For years they have agitated for a land connection with the rest of the Island, and they actually put it to use today with a 50-car caravan run to Nanaimo.


    This was a special concession to the area, since the road is still officially closed, and will remain so for the next two weeks.

    The road has a gravel surface of from 18 to 20 feet in width.

    Restrictions are imposed to permit free use by logging trucks in regular working hours.

    The 62-mile route follows nine miles of public road to Sproat Lake then uses 25 miles of MacMillan and Bloedel Ltd. forest access road. B.C. government built a nine-mile link to connect with six miles of B.C. Forest Products Ltd. road and the public highways joining Tofino and Ucluelet.


    Kennedy River and the spectacular sections along the sheer rocky shores of Kennedy Lake will be among the highlights of the route.

    But the "pot of gold" at the end of the drive will be Long Beach, the 12-mile stretch of sand facing the open Pacific, and for years the most tantalizing tourist objective on Vancouver Island.

    Recreation and conservation department has established several undeveloped park reserves along the route for the benefit of campers.

Victoria Daily Times, Victoria, British Columbia - Monday, August 24, 1959

Headline: 73-Car Caravan Links Nanaimo With Ucluelet, 1959

    NANAIMO - Although the new road from Ucluelet, Tofino, and Long Beach will not be officially open to the public until Sept. 4, history was made Saturday when 73 cars bearing 300 people arrived at Exhibition Park, Nanaimo from the west coast of Vancouver Island.

    The cavalcade, sponsored by chambers of commerce of Ucluelet and Tofino, was greeted at Vancouver Island Exhibition by Ald. Jack Parker, representing Mayor P. Maffeo.

    Exhibition president Frank Wilfert, Jr., and manager Eric Stafford were on hand at exhibition headquarters, where a large welcome sign was displayed. Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Matterson of Ucluelet arrived two days earlier to set up an attractive display booth in Centennial Centre, where maps, pictures and stories were handed to the public.

    The cavaleade ieft Ucluelet at 6:15 aim. and arrived at Nanaimo Exhibition grounds at noon. Several stops were made en route and actual driving time for the 115-mile trip was 3½ hours. No accidents were reported, but two flat tires took drivers out of the caravan for a few minutes each.

    Tom Gibson, president of Tofino Chamber of Commerce, led the triumphant drivers into the fair grounds.

Great Benefit to Whole of B.C.

    Stan Holmes, head of Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce, told The Times, "Everyone enjoyed the trip immensely. There was no trouble and we made a real picnic day out of it."

    In greeting the pioneers Ald. Parker said: "This is the realization of a long dream for us all, and opening of this link to the west will greatly benefit the whole of British Columlbia."

    Passengers of the 73-car motorcade were completely representative of the west coast villages, fron, babes-in-arms to old-timers past 80.

    All expressed amazement at magnificent stands of timber en route, which some described as "more breath-taking than those in MacMillan Park."

    The road, described as "rough in spots," is bad only in that portion above Sproat Lake for somewhat less than a mile.

    Saturday's cavalcade travelled the road through special permission of contractors and logging operators presently rushing the road to completion. Mr. Gibson stressed a warning that the public will not be permitted to pass over the road until the official opening day, Sept. 4.

    A return visit is being organized by directors of the Nanaimo Exhibition to leave Nanaimo on opening day and head for Long Beach.

Victoria Daily Times, Victoria, British Columbia - Thursday, September 3, 1959

Opening the Alberni-Tofino Road, British Columbia, 1959
Alberni-Tofino Road winds around miles of logged-off hills on 63-mile route.

Opening the Alberni-Tofino Road, British Columbia, 1959
Smoke from Port Alberni is visible in distance from viewpoint overlooking Sproat Lake.
Photos by Irving Wilson, Jr., Port Alberni

Opening the Alberni-Tofino Road, British Columbia, 1959

Opening the Alberni-Tofino Road, British Columbia, 1959

    The most exciting camping and touring opportunities in the history of Vancouver Island will become available to the general public Friday at 4 p.m. with the official opening of the long-awaited Alberni-Tofino Road.

    It was christened Aug. 22 by a cavalcade of 76 cars driven by members of Tofino and Ucluelet Chambers of Commerce, who drove the route to attend the Vancouver Island Exhibition in Nanaimo.

    But they had special permission from the contractors for the trip. Regular hours for the public will be between 5 p.m. and 7 a.m. weekdays, and all day on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

    This will give logging companies exclusive use of the road between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. on working days.

    (At present this stipulation is under review because of the current IWA strike which is keeping all logging traffic off the road, but it is not likely to be changed until the contractors have finished their work.)

    MacMillan and Bloedel Ltd. and B.C. Forest Proaucts Lid. built portions of the road. B.C. government built the remainder.

    The new road passes on the north side of Sproat Lake, then turns to travel along the south shore of Kennedy Lake. It joins the 25-mile highway between Tofino and Ucluelet at a point about seven miles north of Ucluelet.

12-Mile Strip of Glistening Sand

    There is a 20-room hotel at Ucluelet, two hotels at Tofino of 30 and 12 rooms, and four bungalow camps along famous Long Beach, with its 12-mile strip of glistening sand. Considering the amount of traffic expected, most travellers would be wiser to take their own camping gear.

    The provincial government has made several campsites available between Smith's Landing on Sproat Lake, where the road starts officially, and the coast. Three are on Long Beach, two are on salt water near Tofino, and three are along Kennedy River and Kennedy Lake, all available to the public.

    Between Smith's Landing and the coast the road crosses a 1,600-foot summit overlooking Sproat Lake, follows the Kennedy River to Kennedy Lake, then skirts the spectacular shore of the lake to within about five miles of the Tofino-Ucluelet Road.

    The road is no highway yet. It is reported to have good grades and a hard gravel surface, but it is not yet marked. A sharp lookout is needed for tight curves and steep banks, and care must be taken not to wander off down a logging spur.

    It traverses both forest land and logged areas.

    Those who have made the trip advise others to fill gas tanks at both Alberni and at the west coast end of the road, since there are no gas stations along the way.

Absolutely Nothing Along the Way

    There also are no habitations, no telephones, no roadside hamburger stands, no directional signs, and no advertising.

    The road is narrow in spots, but passing stations are provided. Over most of the route the width is ample.

    It is said that the six miles along the shore of Kennedy Lake, reputed to be the largest lake on Vancouver Island, is the most spectacular of the whole drive.

    Tofino and Ucluelet are fishing and logging centres, with permanent populations of about 600 each. Both are centres for large fishing fleets in the salmon season, and it is expected refrigerated trucks will haul fresh fish between the two ports and Vancouver. At present the quickest means of taking fish to market is a two-day trip by boat.

    It is a hunting. swimming, fishing and camping paradise. Anticipating considerable travel to this area, Barkley Sound Transportation Co. is considering running a ferry northward from Tofino to Housat, Hot Springs Cove, Nootka, and other scenic spots. At present the ferry provides the only freight and passenger link between the two towns\ and Port Alberni.

    Dozens of people are considering making the trip Friday. It could turn into hundreds and thousands by next summer.

Victoria Daily Times, Victoria, British Columbia - Saturday, September 5, 1959

Opening the Alberni-Tofino Road, British Columbia, 1959

NEW ALBERNI TO TOFINO ROAD is shown on map from western end of Sproat Lake, upper right, to public road connecting Ucluelet and Tofino. Distance from Alberni to intersection is 40 miles. New road was built in almost equal portions by provincial government, MacMillan & Bloedel Ltd. and B.C. Forest Products. BCFB portion beside Kennedy Lake is said to be most spectacular. (Map prepared by B.C. Forest Products.)

Headline: Cavalcade of IOO Heads West As Gateway to Tofino Opened, 1959

    An estimated 70 cars started off along the Alberni-Tofino Road at 4:50 p.m. Friday, when the gate opened to permit the public on the road for the first time, and by nightfall at least 30 more were on their way to the west coast.

    At the same time from 20 to 30 cars from Ucluelet and Tofino headed toward Alberni for the weekend.

    In the west-bound line was Ray Smith, 23, of Cowichan Station, who took his car over the incomplete road in July, then claimed he was fired because of publicity given the exploit. He was employed by contractors working for the provincial government and logging companies.

    Average time for the trip was between two and 2½ hours. The road was reported as muddy in spots, with a few potholes and some fallen rock, but otherwise passable.

    Highways department crews rushed their work to have the road ready in time, and blasting was still going on Friday morning.

    Warning signs had been erected on curves and grades, and others at beauty spots along the road announced camping was banned.

    The road will be open continuously on the long weekend until 7 a.m. Tuesday. It will be closed to the public on working days between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. to give logging companies free use with their heavy trucks.