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.
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 killer whales, also known as orcas, swim past your kayak as a bald eagles swoops down to catch a salmon. This can all happen on a “Kayak With Whales – Orca Waters Base Camp” kayak tour with Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures.
There is no better place in the world to kayak with both killer whales and humpback whales than Johnstone Strait off the northeastern corner of Vancouver Island. This area is recognized as one of the most predictable places in the world to see these great marine mammals and Kingfisher’s Orca Waters Base Camp is located right in the heart of these wildlife-rich waters on an island covered in old growth rainforest.
During a four day and three night stay at the base camp you explore the variety of kayaking routes the area has to offer. Killer whales and humpback whales regularly pass by the camp, often while you are enjoying the morning’s first cup of French-pressed organic coffee or a dinner of locally caught salmon around the campfire. The nearby waters are home to harbour seals, porpoises, minke whales, and rich intertidal life. A number of bald eagle nests and a Steller sea lion haul out are all within easily paddling distance of camp and it is not uncommon to see humpback whales lunging through schools of small fish as they fatten up for their migration south.
The Orca Waters Base Camp offers a very comfortable camping experience and with Kingfisher’s knowledgeable kayak guides this tour is suitable for adventurous travellers even if they have little or no kayaking or camping experience. Roomy tents, each raised off the ground on wooden platforms, are situated throughout the forest with views of the ocean. The tents provide standing room for most guests and are outfitted with wooden beds with the thickest and widest Therm-a-rest mattresses available. Sheets, fleece blankets, full-size pillows, warm barrel-style sleeping bags, and hot water bottles are all provided to ensure a good night’s sleep. A recharging station for digital cameras, an extensive library of natural history books, a propane-heated shower, and a large covered kitchen and dining area made from locally milled red cedar make for a very comfortable camping experience.
In addition to the “Kayak With Whales” tours, Kingfisher offers a “Whales and Grizzly Bears” and “Family Kayak With Whales” tours from their base camps plus offer longer expedition style kayak tours of northern Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii, and the Great Bear Rainforest.
BC Ferries Vacations
BC Ferries Vacations™ connects you with Vancouver Island’s world-class destinations and provides unique vacation experiences to the avid traveller. Offering several packages for one and two-nights or longer, BC Ferries Vacations™ travel experts have hand-picked the best accommodations and activities and packaged them with the ferry travel to bring you all-in-one convenience, quality and value. The best way to experience the wonders of Vancouver Island is with one of BC Ferries Vacations’™ unique and unforgettable vacation packages.
If you’re seeking an urban getaway with renowned dining and shopping experiences, be sure to take some time to explore Victoria, the capital of B.C. and the largest city on Vancouver Island. Located on the charming harbour front, downtown Victoria boasts the second most restaurants per capita of any other city in North America, BC’s historic Parliament Buildings and the largest Chinatown in Canada. When planning your next visit, be sure to ask about our great offers at the Inn at Laurel Point – located minutes away from the Inner Harbour and downtown – memorable experiences are waiting around every corner in Victoria BC.
If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the west coast surf or just watch it crash onto the rocky shoreline from the comfort of your room, the coastal towns of Tofino and Ucluelet can’t be beat. During storm watching season, swells that travel across the Pacific and pound the shores of Tofino and Ucluelet reach up to 6 metres in height and an average of 10 – 15 storms hit per month. Located in the Pacific Rim National Park on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Tofino and Ucluelet are world-renowned by surfers, nature-lovers and storm watchers alike. If you are looking for great place to watch the wild west coast weather unfold, book a BC Ferries Vacations™ at the Cox Bay Beach Resort in Tofino or the Black Rock Oceanfront Resort in Ucluelet.
Family friendly activities abound in the seaside town of Parksville, centrally located on the East Coast of Vancouver Island. A beachcomber’s paradise, the sandy shore stretches as far as the eye can see and visitors can spend hours exploring Rathtrevor Beach. From Parksville’s annual sandcastle building competition to the Treasure Island themed 36-hole mini-golf course, there’s always something to keep kids (and parents) of all ages entertained. For the best family-friendly offer, ask about our packages at the Beach Club Resort, Parksville.
Vancouver Island is home to several award winning spas and boasts numerous spa getaways for those looking for a luxurious and relaxing weekend away. From the trendy, harbour city of Victoria to the relaxing island style of the Gulf Islands, a spa vacation with your friends couldn’t be easier to find. If you are looking to recharge with a laid back beach getaway, ask about our packages in Courtenay at the luxurious Kingfisher Oceanside Resort and Spa.
To stay up to date with BC Ferries news, promotions, contests and great deals, sign up for the BC Ferries OnBoard Newsletter or join us on Twitter to receive up to the minute notices on specials, deals and services.
To see what diverse and exciting packages BC Ferries Vacations™ has to offer across Vancouver Island, be sure to contact us and request a vacation package quote or a customized itinerary for the vacation of your choice.
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 37th season in 2016 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.
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.
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
Every experience starts with a story. Step into the timeless culture and living history of Vancouver Island’s Aboriginal peoples, and experience their stories, myths and legends through fascinating tours, adventures, art and much more.
Where to Stay
- WYA POINT RESORT
Luxurious oceanfront lodges, yurt glamping. tent and RV camping. Ucluelet.
- CLUXEWE RESORT
Oceanfront cabins in the land of the Kwakiutl people. Port Mcneill.
- TSA-KWA-LUTEN LODGE
Magical place offering ocean views and beachfront cottages. Quadra Island.
Where to Fish
- WALTER’S COVE RESORT
Known for a luxurious setting and incomparable fishing. Kyuquot.
- AUGUST POINT LODGE
Family business and B&B; the perfect gateway to west coast fishing. Zeballos.
What to See and Do
- NAKWAKTO RAPID TOURS
Experience boat tours to the world’s fastest navigable tidal rapids. Port Hardy.
- SEA WOLF ADVENTURES
Up close adventures with grizzlies, whales and Aboriginal culture. Telegraph Cove.
- U’MIST A CULTURAL CENTRE
Discover ancient artifacts in the “Potlatch Collection·. Alert Bay.
- ADVENTURE VILLAGE ISLAND
Experience authentic cultural kayak adventures around Village Island. Telegraph Cove.
- CULTURE SHOCK INTERACTIVE GALLERY
Explore traditional Nusa art forms and storytelling. Alert Bay.
- SIDNEY WHALE WATCHING
Experience Orcas and learn about the Salish Sea’s marine life. Sidney.
- T’ASHII PADDLE SCHOOL
Discover fascinating canoe or SUP tours in the Tla-o-qui-aht territory. Tofino.
- AHTSIK NATIVE ART GALLERY
Up close cultural experiences with First Nations artists. Port Alberni.
- ABORIGINAL JOURNEYS
Immerse yourself in exciting cultural and wildlife-viewing tours. Campbell River.
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.
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.
Reel Obsession Fishing Lodge and Charters
World-class BC fishing vacations at our lodge on Vancouver Island. Fishing the legendary waters of Nootka Sound and Esperanza for trophy salmon, halibut, tuna, lingcod, and more. Angling enthusiasts will experience the wild BC coastline in an oceanfront lodge with all the amenities of a large fishing resort. After a day battling fish after fish in beautiful Pacific waters you’ll enjoy west coast hospitality and delectable meals prepared by our chef. With a breathtaking view of the Zeballos inlet, unwind in the hot tub and sauna before a new day of BC’s best saltwater fishing. Our expert guides, consistently big catches, and resort accommodations are the perfect recipe for a Vancouver Island fishing trip that is second to none!
Operated by the Gwa’sala ‘Nakwaxda’xw people, the Kwa’lilas Hotel offers an unparalleled experience. Newly opened, the hotel offers exceptional rooms and immerses hotel guests in an aboriginal art and cultural experience, curated by local artists, designers & chefs.
Sea Wolf Adventures Wilderness Lodge
Culturally Immersive Experiences
Wilderness and Wildlife Experiences
Traditional and contemporary cuisine
All inclusive packages; including return airfare
First Nation family owned
Departure point: direct flights from Campbell River
to the lodge. Sea taxi from Port McNeill.