North Vancouver Island Region
The remote North Island is a step further beyond for travellers seeking a go-anywhere license to roam the West Coast wilderness. That step proves to be a remarkably easy one thanks to a modern highway system that zips drivers from Nanaimo’s ferry terminals to the region’s heartland in four hours. Beginning just past Campbell River, the area extends north to the Island’s windswept tip at Cape Scott, west to the jagged Pacific coast and east across whale-rich waters to include the Great Bear Rainforest and sections of the BC mainland. Peaceful, lightly populated and famously scenic, the North Island is about as far away from it all as one can get within a day’s travel of Victoria, Vancouver and Seattle.
Accommodations, shops, galleries, restaurants and museums documenting pioneer life make Port McNeill and Port Hardy the prime bases for visitors. Along with Telegraph Cove, these relaxed, come-as-you-are centres have birthed a blooming North Island eco-tourism industry. Scuba divers, kayakers, wildlife enthusiasts and sports fisherman are particularly well served by guides, tour operators and suppliers here.
Whale and bear sightings top everyone’s wish list. Group outings in comfortable cabin cruisers depart in search of orcas, humpback whales, porpoises, Steller sea lions, Minke whales and harbour seals. The May to October season is also primetime for nautical trips from Northern Vancouver Island to the mainland’s grizzly bear habitats.
Take an hour-long walk to San Josef Bay’s beaches or embark on an epic, multi-night trek along the North Coast Trail. Scuba divers explore the rainbow coalition of cold-water marine life at favourite spots like Quatsino Narrows and God’s Pocket Marine Provincial Park. Cavers visit the subterranean depths while pleasure boaters and kayakers edge along the eastern shoreline or strike out for the west coast along deep inlets and fjords. There’s no end of adventure here at Vancouver Island’s last frontier.
First Nations peoples have resided here at least 8,000 years (according to the oldest archeological finds at Port Hardy’s Bear Cove). The traditions of the Kwakwaka’wakw live on in Alert Bay, home to the world’s tallest totem pole, the U’mista Cultural Centre’s potlatch collection and the dancers of the T’sasala Cultural Group. First Nation guides lead ocean rapids tours from Port Hardy and the master carvers of nearby Fort Rupert showcase are internationally renowned.
Rocky forested islands and islets dot the Broughton Archipelago and the Johnstone and Queen Charlotte straits. Echo Bay on Gilford Island welcomes boaters and kayakers with its marina, gallery, artist studio and museum. Island-hopping here invites meditative contemplation of a dramatic yet peaceful seascape, its serenity broken only by whales, cavorting seals and the wake of passing cruise ships. Boats and floatplanes take long-stay visitors to wilderness lodges renowned for their hospitality, gourmet meals and ready access to nature at its grizzly best.
Things to do in the North Island region
- Just say “awe” on whale-watching expeditions. Bring cameras, binoculars and a keen appreciation for the denizens of the deep, then put yourself in the capable hands of professional guides leading full-service tours from Telegraph Cove, Port McNeill, Alert Bay and Port Hardy.
- Join a guided sea kayaking tour, head out with friends or go solo on daytrips and multi-night adventures through waters that earned superlatives from the late Jacques Cousteau. Lonely Planet rates a kayak encounter with whales in the Johnstone Strait #2 among Canada’s Top-10 Amazing Adventures.
- First Nation and pioneer cultures live harmoniously side by side in Alert Bay, the historic village on Cormorant Island. Highlights here include the world’s tallest totem pole, the internationally renowned U’mista Cultural Centre, the Alert Bay Library and Museum, and invigorating hikes on Island-spanning trails or along the town’s harbour seawall (a great spot for chance sightings of whales).
- Drop into Telegraph Cove’s Whale Interpretive Centre for the fascinating scoop on the marine mammals that inhabit local waters in remarkable numbers.
- Trek by boat to the BC mainland, then take an estuary tour or overland excursion in search of the Great Bear Rainforest’s grizzliest inhabitants.
- Mount Cain was voted one of the nation’s best community ski hills by Ski Canada Magazine. Enjoy the low-key, family oriented fun from December to April.
- Tour a working hatchery and enjoy the interactive learning experience at Port Hardy’s Quatse Salmon Stewardship Centre.
- Watch for black bears drawn by salmon at the edge of the Quatse River.
Stubbs Island Whale Watching
EXPERIENCE STUBBS ISLAND WHALE WATCHING ADVENTURE!
We think this is the best place in the world to see the incredible Orcas (Killer whales)!
You’ll love our location, the magnificent mammals and bird species you’ll see, and the friendly people you’ll meet.
At Stubbs we are proud to be BC’s first whale watching company (est. in 1980) and we set the standard for marine adventures and ethical whale watching. Our trained marine naturalists share fascinating insights about Orca (Killer), Humpback Whales and many other marine mammals which frequent the Johnstone Strait and Robson Bight area.
Join us for an exciting sea adventure from Telegraph Cove, the Whale Watching Capital of British Columbia! Our 60 foot (17 metre) vessel MV Lukwa and the 40 foot (12 metre) MV Kuluta are comfortable and perfect to take fabulous pictures! Both have heated cabins with toilets and hydrophones (underwater microphone) so you can hear the Orca vocalizations throughout the vessel.
Historic Telegraph Cove is British Columbia’s last boardwalk community. Nature’s abundance is everywhere with eagles soaring overhead, river otters playing on the docks and deer and bears roaming nearby. The Johnstone Strait and Broughton Archipelago are home to a bounty of nature’s magnificence including Humpback Whales, Steller Sea Lions, Dolphins, Porpoises, Bald Eagles and so much more. Every trip from our base in Telegraph Cove on Vancouver Island, is an adventure of a lifetime.
Depending on the time of year in British Columbia, you may see Minke whales, Harbour Porpoises, Dall’s Porpoise, Humpback Whales, Bears, Steller Sea Lions, various birds, Pacific White-sided Dolphins, and of course, our famous Orca (killer whale).
Once you board our custom built whale watching boats we will guide you through the passages and around the islands that are teeming with wildlife in one of the most breathtakingly beautiful locations on British Columbia’s coast.
Our boats are equipped with underwater microphones (hydrophones) so we can listen in on the squeaks, whistles and echolocation that allow orcas and dolphins the ability to communicate and locate their food. Our captain and naturalists are always happy to answer your questions and we provide a short on-board presentation about the whales and other marine mammals.
At Stubbs Island Whale Watching, we are dedicated to ethical wildlife viewing, education and conservation. We are very concerned about the environment and do everything we can to reuse, recycle and reduce.
Join us for our 35th season in 2014 on one or more of our tours that run daily from early May to October.
Vancouver Island North Tourism
Vancouver Island North exerts a magnetic pull on easygoing adventurers seeking authentic experiences in a spectacularly panoramic natural setting – largely undiscovered yet just a day’s travel from Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle. The variety of things to do here is remarkably diverse.
Spot black bears on the north Island, and depart from here on a grizzly bear viewing tour to the adjacent mainland coast. Fish some of the richest waters around Vancouver Island. Take a day hike or a multi-day backcountry adventure on the North Coast Trail in Cape Scott Provincial Park. Shop local for smoked salmon, funky folk art, and exquisite First Nations masterpieces. Get to know some of the colorful individuals who call the area home at lively seasonal festivals, coffee shops, waterfront eateries and on the main streets of friendly north Island towns.
The region is a tempting retreat for independent travelers craving unstructured holidays that can be shaped according to their own passions, interests and energy levels. The people here are down-to-earth and rooted in a sense of place and you will find the businesses here providing a full range of creature comforts with a personal touch.
Nothing says summer like tent camping, and Vancouver Island North caters to those who enjoy sleeping under the stars with options ranging from full-service family friendly spots to basic wilderness sites. There is also plenty of choice for those who prefer a roof overhead with cozy B&B, cabin, and cottage options, to hostels, hotels and resorts.
Discover timeless First Nations traditions flourishing in Alert Bay, Fort Rupert, an other Vancouver Island North communities as you meet artists, watch carvers in action, participate in guided canoe and marine expeditions, and step into a Big House to witness traditional dance performances. The region’s legacy of European settlement, logging, fishing and mining is well represented in local museums.
The towns and villages here are bastions of civilization in the midst of a wild landscape populated by bears, wolves, cougars and bald eagles. To the west is the open Pacific, with miles of ruggedly beautiful coastline and access to secluded wilderness beaches. To the east are the more protected waters around the islands of the Broughton Archipelago and Johnstone Strait, an area internationally renowned as one of the world’s very best whale-watching environments.
It’s easy to find yourself off the beaten track and immersed in the surrounding nature. Explore with friends and family while following your own internal compass and Visitor Centre maps and guidebooks. Or enlist one of the area’s knowledgeable guides for direct access to the region’s very best fishing, diving and wildlife-watching spots.
Gaze in awe as black bears snack on roadside grass. Take road trips deep into the Island’s interior. Hike for as little or as long as you like on wilderness trails to lakes, mountain peaks and beach fronts unsullied by a single footprint. Chill out by swinging a golf club, getting pampered with a spa treatment or while wading in rivers, lakes and the ocean.
Plan ahead or write each day’s agenda hour-by-hour. The scenery is breathtaking and the picture-perfect moments seem endless. Welcome to Vancouver Island North. Your first trip here won’t be the last.
Enjoy the majesty of the coastal mountains as we explore spectacular Knight Inlet to find grizzly bears. As the snows melt, both black and grizzly bears emerge from their hibernation dens on the mountain slopes. Late May to mid June is the mating season with lots of interesting interaction. The big grizzly bears chase the not-too-interested females, displacing other bears along the beach. Certainly this is our favourite time of the viewing season.
Tide Rip Grizzly Adventures offers day trips to view grizzly bears in majestic Knight Inlet. Tours depart early each day May 15 to Sept 30 via covered tour boat with onboard washroom. Often we see dolphins, black bears, seals and eagles. Lunch included.
Knight Inlet Wilderness
Knight Inlet is a place where the spectacular snow-capped Pacific Coastal Range comes together with the lush temperate rainforest and the mighty Pacific Ocean. It is a pristine wilderness and home to an amazing variety of wildlife.
Knight Inlet’s abundant salmon run, ideal habitat and the safety afforded by the creation of a Special Management Zone (i.e. no hunting), provides exemplary grizzly bear viewing potential. This is why we offer our grizzly tours in Knight Inlet.
National Car & Truck Rental
- Discounts on Golf, Mount Washington Winter Lift Tickets and Summer Scenic Chairlift Ride & Butchart Gardens
- Low daily, weekly & monthly rates
- Special weekend packages
- Entertainment & AAA rates
- One way drop off on Vancouver Island & Vancouver
- Cars, mini-vans & 4×4’s
- Free local pickup & drop off
British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. (BC Ferries) is one of the largest ferry operators in the world, providing year-round vehicle and passenger service on 25 routes to 47 terminals, with a fleet of 35 vessels. The company provides an essential transportation link that connects coastal communities and facilitates the movement of people, goods and services throughout coastal British Columbia. BC Ferries has a several appetizing dining options available onboard that vary from one vessel to the next.
BC Ferries’ diverse service area includes connections between the Vancouver Mainland and Vancouver Island; from Vancouver Island or the Vancouver Mainland to many small island communities; from Prince Rupert on the province’s north coast to Haidai Gwaii and to Port Hardy.
Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures
Imagine waking one morning to the sound of a humpback whale's blow as it swims past your ocean side tent. Later that same day watch in awe as a pod of orcas swim past your kayak as a bald eagle swoops down to catch a salmon. Join us at our Orca Waters Base Camp, located in the heart of northern Vancouver Island's wildlife rich waters on an island covered in old growth rainforest, for a trip of a lifetime. Five to fifteen day expedition style kayak tours are also available to Vancouver Island, the Great Bear Rainforest, and Haida Gwaii.
Grizzly Bear Lodge and Safari
Grizzly Bear Tours, Lodge and Safari offers grizzly tours and grizzly bear watching from viewing stands and wildlife tours for grizzly bears, killer whales (orca) humpback whales, dolphins, stellar seals, sea lions, black bears and eagles. Our grizzly bear tours are conducted on Canada's famous natural fjord known as 'Knight Inlet BC' and on the salmon rivers that flow into Knight Inlet. For more information about grizzly bear tours and viewing, how to see lots of bears, whales, dolphins, eagles and all the other animals of the GREAT BEAR RAINFOREST in British Columbia.
Nakwakto Rapids Tours
White water like nowhere else on Earth!
Guided by storytellers and a seasoned skipper, visit fascinating traditional waters and listen to ancient tales on a native cultural tour in rugged and beautiful coastal wilderness.
Great Bear Nature Tours
From early May through October, Great Bear Nature Tours offers grizzly bear viewing tours from Port Hardy to our floating lodge in a remote wilderness valley. The ecotourism lodge is the ideal base for photography and wildlife viewing tours, nestled at the mouth of a pristine salmon river. Wilderness-gourmet meals await you upon your return from the two guided viewing sessions per day. Great Bear Nature Tours is rated by National Geographic Adventure as one of the Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth. With a maximum of ten guests, you are assured of a personalised wilderness adventure in this very special area.
Quatse River Regional Park and Campground
62 tenting or RV sites situated within a richly forested regional park. All sites near river, firewood, washrooms and host. Power, water, sani-dump, free showers, coin laundry, WIFI, firewood, wheelchair accessible, leashed pets welcome. Next to the Quatse Salmon Stewarship Centre. All proceeds fund salmon conservation on Northern Vancouver Island.
Sea Wolf Adventures
Grizzly Bear Viewing Safari: An Authentic Indigenous Interpretation of Local Traditional History and Wildlife
This is a low volume and intimate trip that will include at the most 6 total travellers. We travel through the Broughton Archipelago toward the mainland fjords, abundant with opportunities to see other wildlife that reside on BC’s coast, such as humpback whales, orcas, dolphins, sea lions, eagles and wolves. You will see and hear about our ancient village sites as we chart out way to and from our destinations!
Quarterdeck Inn & Marina Resort
Let us package your experience of a Lifetime! Sport fishing • Deluxe facilities 40 oceanview rooms• Full service marina Shower & laundry • Complete marine store Pub & restaurant • Liquor Store
Alert Bay Cabins
All our 14 cabins are built for privacy, include a kitchen and provide a truly west coast ambiance with breathtaking ocean view.
When you check into Alert Bay Resort you can relax on your private patio, watch the eagles and listen to the whales in the distance or take a kayak out and explore the coast; you never know what you may see!
Only steps from your cabin is one of Alert Bay’s most historic nature trails, where you can walk the the famous boardwalk and experience the mystical surroundings.