humpback whale tail coming out of water -whale fest

Pacific Rim Whale Festival: An Event Guide

From March 17th to the 25th, the Pacific Rim Whale Festival is back and we’ve got your 2023 event guide! This annual celebration of the return of the migratory Pacific grey Whales is celebrated along the West Coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada with events in Tofino, Ucluelet and the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. It’s a great time to book one of the EMR properties on Vancouver Island and join the festivities! 

How The Pacific Rim Whale Fest Began

Thirty years ago, at a Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce meeting, Brian Congdon, a local whale watching guide and business owner, suggested creating a whale festival like the one in California. The aim of the festival would be to bring awareness to the importance, beauty, and fragility of the ocean ecosystem off the West Coast of Vancouver Island and aid the long-term protection of the endangered grey whale population that feeds here on their annual migration. A like-minded group of concerned citizens joined Brian and gave their time and skills to organize the first Pacific Rim Whale Festival. 

How the Pacific Rim Whale Fest is Going 

What began as a passionate group of volunteers, grew into a registered non-profit society who today, have a dedicated board of directors, many volunteers, and an enthusiastic festival organizer. The annual Pacific Rim Whale Festival is visited by thousands of people with events held in the Pacific Rim National Park, Tofino and Ucluelet. While the events and competitions might have changed and grown through the years, focus remains on bringing awareness to the necessary protection of the thousands of grey whales that pass through the waters off the West Coast. 

About the Grey Whales

Each year, nearly 17,000 grey whales make the journey from the breeding and calving lagoons near Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula toward their summer feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi Seas near the Arctic. On the journey north, these whales join resident grey whales, orcas, humpbacks and the occasional minke in the Clayoquot sound to feed and can be seen from the shores and on the water during this time. 

PRWF Calendar of Events – 2023

Between March 17th to the 23rd, the Pacific Rim Whale Festival is in full swing! With an incredible line-up of events and competitions you can be sure that you’ll have a great time celebrating the beauty of the West Coast and the grey whales that swim through these waters! Most events are perfect for all ages, with kids’ activities, entertainment, a market, parade, and the much-anticipated Chowder Chowdown! Many events are by donation with a few ticketed events happening – be sure to check the calendar to plan your visit! 

For an interactive calendar, visit

Get Involved! 

Want to get involved in this awesome festival? Check out the roles that need volunteers and sign up here

Volunteer Roles:

Button Greeter: This position is a chance to participate and enjoy any Button Event during the festival by selling attendees buttons and welcoming guests who have previously purchased buttons to the event.

Decorator: Feeling artistic? Join us to help create and set up decorations at various events throughout the festival.

Doors & Concessions: Assist at our Ticketed Events to greet guests and sell tickets at the door and sell merchandise at both Ticketed and Button Events.

Set-Up & Tear-Down: Each Ticketed & Button Event requires various levels of set-up and tear-down at a variety of indoor and outdoor venues throughout the festival. 

Parade: As many volunteers as possible are needed before, during, and after the parade helping in various capacities for this longstanding festival highlight. 

Other: Have another special talent, or interested in helping with something outside of these roles? Let us know in the form below!

Don’t have time to dedicate to the festival but want to show your support! Donations are welcome! Donate now!

Getting to the Pacific Rim Whale Fest

By Land

Tofino and Ucluelet are located on the far west coast of Vancouver Island, approximately 4 hours from Victoria, 3 hours from Nanaimo, and 2 hours from the closest city of Port Alberni. Please note that all season or winter tires are required when driving Highway 4 to Ucluelet from October 1st to March 31st each year. You can visit Drive BC for real-time highway conditions and webcams at the Port Alberni Summit and Sutton Pass.

By Sea

From Vancouver, BC: Coming to Tofino or Ucluelet via the mainland? No problem! Simply drive onto one of the ferries from Vancouver to Victoria or Nanaimo and make the trip across Vancouver Island. With multiple daily departures, you can choose the best time to travel and book your ticket online here.

From Washington State, USA: From Seattle, you’ll want to take The Clipper Ferry. This luxurious fast ferry is a great way to get to Vancouver Island and explore the waters of the Puget Sound! From Port Angeles, the Black Ball Ferry Line is your best bet! This is the most direct ferry crossing with daily, year-round service.