North Vancouver Island is known for its rugged and wild beauty, tiny towns, and plentiful wildlife. It’s a picturesque playground for travellers, explorers, and wanderers—especially those who love the outdoors. Most people tend to stick to the south end of Vancouver Island, not knowing what they’re missing in the North Island! Literally from A to Z, all the stops to make on a Vancouver Island North road trip and all the cool spots on Vancouver Island. Whether you visit Cape Scott Provincial Park or Telegraph Cove, or are looking for a Port Hardy travel guide, it is all here!
Welcome to North Vancouver Island
Anyway, if you’re taking a Vancouver Island North road trip, you’ll probably be wondering about the best things to see and do while you’re travelling through. Luckily for you, this North Vancouver Island travel guide has everything in it that you need to know.
In it, you’ll find the best locations to visit in North Vancouver Island, where to eat and stay while in the North Island, and some great tours to do in the area. You’ll also learn some interesting facts about the indigenous culture of North Vancouver Island, which is what makes its history so rich. Overall, you’ll soon understand what makes this place so magical for locals and tourists alike.
I moved to Port Hardy in the fall of 2020 and have been exploring the area every chance I get. I will add more details and information about the North Island area when I can.
A special thanks for Kimberly Kufaas who is an amazing North Vancouver Island photographer for helping with imagery for this blog. If you are looking for a photographer while you are in the area, definitely connect with Kim!
How to Get to North Vancouver Island
Highway 19 connects the communities of Vancouver Island North with Campbell River (along with Nanaimo and Victoria). The paved, double lane section of Highway 19 that extends from Campbell River to Port Hardy is called the North Island Route.
Pacific Coastal Airlines
You can also take a flight via Pacific Coastal Airlines from a variety of places. They have amazing customer service and they fly to more than 65 British Columbia destinations! See more information on the routes they serve. I regularly take flights from the Vancouver South Terminal (YVR) to Port Hardy (YZT).
BC Ferries provides regular vehicle and passenger ferry service between Vancouver and Vancouver Island. The main routes are Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay in Nanaimo, Tsawwassen to Duke Point, south of Nanaimo and Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay in Saanich which is north of Victoria.
You can also take BC Ferries between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert which is on the northern BC coast. This ferry trip takes 15 hours with cabins on board the M. V. Northern Expedition. This route only operates from mid-May to the end of September. This is a very popular route because of how scenic it is and reservations are a must.
Which Locations in North Vancouver Island are Worth Visiting?
First, let start off by talking about some locations you should be visiting while in North Vancouver Island. I’ve made an alphabetically-ordered list of some of these best-known—and some lesser-known—spots you should try and hit while you’re in this stunning British Columbia destination! All the cool spots on Vancouver Island North are here from A to Z.
- Welcome to North Vancouver Island
- Alert Bay
- Beaver Lake Trail
- Cape Scott Provincial Park
- Coal Harbour
- Echo Bay Marine Provincial Park
- God’s Pocket Marine Provincial Park
- Grant Bay
- Little Huson Caves
- Lawn Point Provincial Park
- Malcolm Island | Sointula
- Marble River Provincial Park
- Mount Cain
- Nimmo Bay
- Port Alice
- Port Hardy
- Port McNeill
- Quatse River Regional Park
- Quatsino Provincial Park
- Raft Cove Provincial Park
- Suquash Coal Mine Ruins
- Telegraph Cove
- Winter Harbour
- Watch my North Vancouver Island Weekend Adventure Vlog
- Where to Eat and Stay in the North Island?
Indigenous Tourism in North Vancouver Island
North Vancouver Island is rich in the tradition and culture of the Kwakwakaʼwakw people where Kwagu’ł, Gwa’Sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw, and Quatsino First Nations have called this area home for thousands of years. The spirit of Vancouver Island North is reflected in the culture, history and traditions of First Nation people. Indigenous Tourism BC is a great resource for finding experiences to connect with Indigenous cultures in BC as you plan your travels.
Many of the best activities to do in Alert Bay revolve around water. Some of these include ocean fishing, boating and sailing, and even scuba diving! Yep, there are actually some impressive coral formations off the coast of Cormorant and Malcolm Islands. Alert Bay is also rich in indigenous culture, with a ‘forest’ of over 30 totem poles spread around this area!
Indigenous Heritage Sites in Alert Bay
When it comes to sites, make sure you stop at the World’s Largest Totem Pole carved by Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation people. Some of the carved figures featured on the totem pole are the Sun Man, which is the crest of the Quatsino Tribe, Kolus (a Thunderbird cousin) which represents the Kwagul Tribe; a whale representing the Gwa’sala’Nakwaxda’xw and others like a bear holding a salmon, a wolf, and a raven.
You could also check out the Na̱mg̱is Traditional Big House, which is a large building that is used for potlatches among the Kwakwaka’wakw. A potlatch is a big ceremonial feast where people basically gave away or destroyed things they owned to portray their wealth. The word “potlatch” means “to give”.
Looking for more indigenous culture? Another notable spot to learn about the indigenous heritage of the area is Alert Bay U’mista Cultural Centre and Museum. You can see thousands of photos depicting the history of Alert Bay, and of the Kwakwaka’wakw. Some of the photos go all the way back to the 1800’s! It also hosts traditional dance masks and other cultural memorabilia. You will also find an extensive art gallery, a gift shop, group tours and presentations by dance troupes.
What Tours can you do in Alert Bay?
While in Alert Bay, you can also do tours if you’d rather be guided in a group. Sometimes this makes things a lot more stress-free, since everything is planned for you. Additionally, the guides can point out the best spots for catching glimpses of wildlife, or catching fish. Enjoy tours such as whale-watching, fishing charters and tours, and snorkeling tours. There are also tours for grizzly and black bear-viewing! Destination BC has a good list of the various excursions and experiences available in the area.
How do you Get to Alert Bay?
BC Ferries (Island Aurora) is the eco-conscious ferry between Port McNeill to Alert Bay, Malcom Island. These ferries have a hybrid engine, making them much quieter for both passengers and the local whales! The ferry ride to Cormorant Island, home of Alert Bay, is only 35 minutes long. Additionally, the ferry ride alone can be a great way to see your surroundings. There is also a small air strip and a boat harbour in Cormorant Island.
Beaver Lake Trail
Beaver Lake Trail and Recreation site in North Vancouver Island is a picnic and day use site close to Port McNeill. It is located along the highway leading to Port Alice. You can find the access to the Beaver Lake Interpretive Forest trail across the highway.
On summer days, the dock is a popular location for swimming to beat the heat. The lake is also a great place to try fishing, especially with the family.
Cape Scott Provincial Park
Located at the northwestern tip of the North Island, Cape Scott Provincial Park is rugged and wild, with plenty to discover. It has sea stacks, old-growth forests, and tons of coastline. There are also estuaries to the eastern side of the park that are only accessible by boat. Sounds like a great time to take a boat tour, no? There are also hiking tours and van tours that will take you through some of the best spots in Cape Scott Provincial Park.
Some of the most notable places you should stop and see in Cape Scott Provincial Park are Nels Bright Beach, which is white-sand, picturesque and great for camping; Cape Scott Lighthouse; and San Josef Bay, which is a nice, easy hike on which you can spot a few of the famously large old-growth Sitka Spruce trees!
San Josef Bay in Cape Scott Provincial Park
With over 100 kilometers of scenic ocean shoreline, Cape Scott Provincial Park is definitely impressive in its views. This area spoils you with beautiful rainforests and stunning beaches. You’ll also have lots of hiking options. The trails to San Josef Bay are are much more family-friendly than those in other areas of Cape Scott Provincial Park. They’re great for beginners, too. However, you still get all the visual perks you would want. It is an easy 2.5 kilometre hike from the trailhead and takes about 45 minutes on way.
Cultural Heritage of Cape Scott Provincial Park
According to BC Parks, Prior to white settlement, the Tlatlasikwala, Nakumgilisala and Yutlinuk shared the Cape Scott area. Today the people are known collectively as the Nahwitti and three of their six reserves are located within the boundaries of Cape Scott Provincial Park. You might learn some more indigenous cultural facts via an adventure tour in the area, which is another great way to explore Cape Scott Provincial Park on a North Vancouver Island road trip.
Coal Harbour, is about a 20 minutes drive on a paved road from Port Hardy. The marine town of Coal Harbour is hub for access to fishing in Quatsino Sound, Holberg Inlet, Rupert Arm, Neroutsos Inlet, Port Alice, Quatsino, and Winter Harbour.
It was once a whaling station (the last one on the North American coast when it closed in 1967) and a copper mining town. During World War II, the Coal Harbour was a base for the Royal Canadian Air Force. Coal Harbour is on the Traditional Territory of the Quatsino First Nation and as you can expect there is a lot of history in this small town.
Coal Harbour History Museum
The Coal Harbour History Museum is a private collection of items relating to the community’s history and is a great stop while you are in the area. The museum has a large collection of interesting items including telephones, vintage equipment, and the famous a 6 metre jawbone from a blue whale.
Echo Bay Marine Provincial Park
Echo Bay Marine Provincial Park is located between North Vancouver Island and the mainland, approximately 48 km northeast of Port McNeill. The Echo Bay Marine Provincial Park is often visited by kayakers traveling the popular Broughton Archipelago kayak circuit. This area is accessible only by boat.
The Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations have lived in the Echo Bay area for thousands of years giving it a history rich in native culture and heritage. Pictographs and shell middens (the remains of meals of shellfish once gathered and eaten) provide a glimpse into Kwakwaka’wakw and Coast Salish culture and history.
Echo Bay was originally called Echo Cove because of the reverberations of sound from the cliff on one side of the bay.
Where Can I Stay in Echo Bay?
While visiting Echo Bay or exploring the beauty of the Broughton Archipelago, you can stay at the Echo Bay Marina & Lodge at Ḵ̓wax̱wa̱lawadi Village or The Paddlers Inn. Both have various accommodation types and offer kayaking, boating, fishing, and adventure tours.
God’s Pocket Marine Provincial Park
God’s Pocket Marine Provincial Park is made up of a number of small islands at the entrance to Queen Charlotte Strait, where you’ll enjoy stunning coastal mountain views and picture-perfect scenery all over. It’s also known as one of the best places to scuba dive on the Pacific Coast, since the water is crystal clear! Most diving is done near Browning Pass because it’s been rated so highly. Additionally, you can go on boating, fishing, and kayaking tours.
This park is a great place to spot a lot of the wildlife you’d hope to (safely) see while touring the North Vancouver Island. You can mostly see bald eagles and whales here. Believe it or not, Sasquatch people are said to live in this area as well. According to Vancouver Island, “They are respectfully known by the First Nations as the Sasquatch People. This entire group of islands is considered to be haunted by spirits, and is truly an enchanting place to visit.”
My first camping trip of the season was to Grant Bay and it is a great destination to add to your North Vancouver Island road trip. Grant Bay is on the north side of Quatsino Sound and is known for its long, remote, and white sandy beach.
Some would say it is the Hawaii of North Vancouver Island and one of the nicest beaches on all of Vancouver Island.
How do you Get to Grant Bay?
Grant Bay is a 1.5 to 2 hour drive from Port Hardy along a rough gravel forest service road. Make a stop in Winter Harbour on your North Vancouver island road trip. The beach area is accessed by an easy 10 minute walk from the trailhead.
You will also find adventure tours that you can take from Port Hardy to Grant Bay.
There are no services available at the Grant Bay Recreation Area and there are no formal campsites so choose a spot along the long sandy beach in the driftwood grassy area up near the edge of the forest.
Always practice proper hiking etiquette and pack out what you pack in. Leave this Vancouver Island paradise for others to enjoy after you. This is one of the cool spots on Vancouver Island that you must add to your list to visit one day.
This quaint village will be en route from Port Hardy to Cape Scott Provincial Park on your North Vancouver Island road trip. Make sure to stop at the Shoe Tree, which is dressed with hundreds of pairs of shoes from past travellers. This will be a sight for your Instagram!
The Scarlet Ibis Pub is a great pub to stop, rest, and eat. Scarlet Ibis has new waterfront adventure huts overlooking the Holberg Inlet. These adventure huts are perfectly located for outdoor adventures planned on the Cape Scott Trail.
Your next stop may be Ronning’s Garden. The Ronning homestead is centuries old, and filled with lots of exotic flora. The imported trees and plants were Bernt Ronning’s idea—apparently to create a haven from the otherwise dense coastal rainforest. Let your eyes enjoy it all.
Little Huson Caves
So much adventure and natural beauty awaits within these caves situated in Nimpkish Valley. Upon approaching the entrance to Little Huson Cave Regional Park, you’ll see clear green-blue water from the Little Huson Lake. By walking the trail, you can find amazing limestone arches and rock formations.
Little Huson Cave Regional Park is a great stop on any North Vancouver Island road trip and is one of the cool spots on Vancouver Island to visit.
There are camping facilities outside of the park at Anutz and Atluck Lake. The town of Zeballos is not far away, which offers a glimpse into BC’s gold mining history.
The caves are versatile—you can kayak around them, go cave diving through them, and even fishing in the outer waters. You can also take a cave tour if you feel more comfortable exploring the Huson Caves with a guide.
How do You get to Little Huson Caves?
Little Huson Cave Regional Park is about 9 km off of Highway 19 and not much of a detour off the main route on your North Vancouver Island road trip. It is about 75 minutes north of Campbell River and close to the village of Woss. Turn towards Zeballos, but follow signs on the gravel logging road to Little Huson Caves almost immediately after turning off the highway.
The 1.5 km walk to the Little Huson Caves is a little steep in areas but well worth it for this Vancouver Island hidden gem. The park contains 15 different caves which are all accessible from the main trail. Little Huson Caves Regional Park is a great for inexperienced cavers to explore.
Lawn Point Provincial Park
Lawn Point Provincial Park is located on the remote west coastline between Brooks Peninsula and Quatsino Sound. It’s beautiful just like the rest of the North Vancouver Island, and people usually come here to kayak before or after having stopped to camp in the wilderness. If you’re a kayaker, this stop is a must! You can launch your kayak or canoe from the side bay, which is just east of the park.
You’ll enjoy old growth forest, rocky shoreline, pristine water, and an inter-tidal beach as you explore Lawn Point. Overall, this will be a stop to remember on your Vancouver Island North road trip. Add this to the list of other cool spots on Vancouver Island.
Malcolm Island | Sointula
Malcolm Island is a hidden gem and situated on the northeastern shore of North Vancouver Island at Port McNeill and not far from Alert Bay. It’s a place for spotting whales, taking in amazing scenery, and learning about the North Island’s rich cultural heritage. Sointula, the seaport and main town of the Island, was founded in 1901 by Finnish immigrants who dreamed of creating the ideal community.
As a matter of fact, Sointula literally means “a place of harmony” in Finnish. The Finnish language and culture are still quite intertwined in the town’s signage, the food, and in some of the locals’ speaking, today. Speaking of food, you should make sure to stop at the town’s bakery while in Sointula!
Wandering around Sointula, you’ll see colorful houses with fenced-in gardens, a few shops, the shoreline, and the harbour. Here, you’ll find a historic anchor and a “Lost at Sea” memorial. Kaliva Road runs alongside the beach, and is a great spot to peer across the water for lovely views of Vancouver Island and Cormorant Island (a.k.a. Alert Bay). In the summer, you can also spot lots of marine mammals in this area.
What Places Should you See on Malcolm Island?
While in Malcolm Island, you should also check out Sointula Museum, Dunroven Farm & Forge, and Bere Point Regional Park. Dunroven is on the eastern part of the island, in Mitchell Bay and is a bed and breakfast where you can learn a little about blacksmithing! You get to take an item you’ve made home, as well.
Bere Point is the only public campground and is where you can access the Beautiful Bay hiking trail. This 4.5 km round trip out-and-back trail is the closest access to the orca rubbing beach! Near the start, you will find a viewing platform set over a smooth-pebbled beach. This is where you might be lucky enough to see the orcas come to rub their bellies along the pebbles.
Other wildlife you can hope to see while on Malcolm Island are seals, dolphins, porpoises, otters, Humpback Whales, bald eagles, and lots of different types of seabirds. On land, you might catch glimpses of a few deer and mink.
How do you Get to Malcolm Island?
BC Ferries Island Aurora ferries runs to Malcom Island from Port McNeill Harbour (and Alert Bay). The ferry ride is about 25 minutes. Here’s a little tip: you can simply tell the ferry attendant that you’d like to see Alert Bay while you’re in the area as well, and you won’t have to buy another ferry ride. They’ll give you a special pass, so you can make the loop!
Marble River Provincial Park
Marble River Provincial Park lies within the traditional territory of the Quatsino First Nations. This is yet another area that yields opportunities to kayak, hike, bike, and see a variety of wildlife. Specifically, the Marble River Trail is a popular route to take to see the the sights in Marble River Provincial Park. Tourists often take the trail to see salmon dart out of the river during autumn. This is especially prevalent in Bear Falls—this area is rightly named, too, as the salmon spawning does attract black bears quite often.
The Marble River area is also a great spot for those wanting to go fishing in a few different ways, including fly fishing and tidal water fishing. The trail has a few angler access routes toward the river, but Emerald Pools is the best-known spot for fly fishing. The park protects its fish and wildlife, including a Bald eagle nesting habitat near the Quatsino Narrows.
Outside of fishing, you can go canoeing, hiking, and cycling through the Marble River Provincial Park. Add this North Island hidden gem to your list of cool spots on Vancouver Island for your next North Vancouver Island road trip.
Mount Cain is on the far north end of Vancouver Island, and is an alpine ski resort destination during the winter. It also offers a special experience for snowboarders and backpackers, and the snow is always powdery and seemingly untouched. The Mount Cain resort is welcoming and family-oriented. You might be wondering though—what can you do in Mount Cain during the summer time? The good news is, plenty!
In the summer, the Mount Cain ski trails become wonderful access points for views of the beautiful alpine backcountry. The rugged peaks, high alpine meadows, and deep valleys draw in hikers and those wishing to view wildlife. It’s truly an area that caters to visitors in all seasons of the year.
How do you get to Mount Cain?
Mount Cain is accessed from Highway 19 and is 8 km south of the Woss turn-off. It is a 16 km ride on a gravel road from the highway to the Mount Cain day lodge area. The driving time from Port Hardy to Mount Cain is 1 hour and 45 minutes if coming from the north. The drive is 1 hour and 45 minutes from Campbell River.
Nimmo Bay is known as an angler’s paradise within the wilderness. With access to some of the world’s best trout and salmon fishing, it’s easy to see why! The Nimmo Bay area is also incredibly beautiful. Nimmo Bay Resort pioneered helicopter fishing and helicopter adventures. Helicopters take guests at the Nimmo Bay Resort to remote coastal rivers for fabulous catch and release salmon and trout fly fishing.
If you’re into fishing—or helicopters—this would be an amazing tour to do! Some of the other once in a lifetime adventures that wait for you in Nimmo Bay are river rafting, whale watching, ocean kayaking, spelunking in karst caves, and heli-hiking on mountain alpines and glaciers. Of course, there are also many opportunities for viewing the resident wildlife.
When it comes to tours, the heli tour is definitely the best thing to do while in Nimmo Bay. Forbes Traveler named Nimmo Bay Resort the world’s top helicopter tour of a scenic destination beating out many iconic international destinations.
It’s safe to say this place is impressive—particularly this helicopter tour! Add it into your Port Hardy travel guide, and check it out for yourself.
How do you Get to Nimmo Bay?
Nimmo Bay is actually located on the BC mainland and the nearest community is Port Hardy on North Vancouver Island. There is no road access to Nimmo Bay. The easiest way to get to Nimmo Bay is by air from the South Terminal of Vancouver Airport (YVR) on Pacific Coastal Airlines to Port Hardy which is a 1 hour flight. The flight time from Port Hardy to Nimmo Bay is 25 minutes.
Port Alice is situated on a picturesque mountainside, and offers unbeatable views of Neroutsos Inlet from every direction. Fun fact: Port Alice is known as the sea otter capital of Canada! It’s also considered the gateway to the rugged west coast of the North Island. From here, you can keep wandering further and boat to areas such as: Harvey Cove, Side Bay, Gooding Cove, Klaskino Inlet, and Brooks Peninsula.
While in Port Alice, you can see sites such as the Heritage Center, a 9-hole golf course, a Seawalk, outdoor activities galore, and the Alice Lake Loop Tour. The Seawalk is a trail that follows the coastline, allowing visitors to view wildlife, picnic, visit Walk-out island when the tide is low, and more. There are fishing and wildlife tours if you’d rather dive even deeper.
The Alice Lake Loop Tour is a chance to see ancient Quatsino karst and limestone formations, the Vanishing River, Eternal Fountain, Devil’s Bath and the Reappearing River. These look even more interesting than they sound, so don’t miss this loop around Alice Lake. If you are looking for cool spots on Vancouver Island, this is one to consider. You can also camp in this area, too.
There’s a lot to do in Port Hardy, but I’ll give you the absolute best things to do. In fact, this whole North Vancouver Island list of things to do can be considered a Port Hardy travel guide as it is a great base for all these destinations.
Port Hardy is a true gateway to unspoiled nature and adventure. As I mentioned above, I moved to Port Hardy in the fall of 2020 and absolutely love it.
Port Hardy is the largest community in Vancouver Island North. It is the northern point of Highway 19, has a regional airport and it is the starting point for the BC Ferries Inside Passage route to Prince Rupert which is a once in a lifetime journey along the Discovery Coast Passage to the north coast and the Haida Gwaii.
This can be especially helpful if you’re a little short on time in your Vancouver Island North road trip. You’ll want to explore the Hardy Bay Seawall, and the docks and marina. Hit up the local beaches and relax a little, and check out Carrot Park.
You can also take a scenic boat ride with Coastal Rain Forest Safaris, but you’re likely to see wildlife whether you’re on land or in the sea! Finally, soak in all the rich First Nations heritage within Port Hardy, as there is plenty of it.
Cultural Heritage of Port Hardy
Port Hardy is home to the Kwagu’ł, Gwa’Sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw, and Quatsino First Nations. You will find totems and big houses in Port Hardy and the neighbouring community of Fort Rupert (known as Tsaxis by the Kwagu’ł people).
These sites mark the indigenous history that spans thousands of years in North Vancouver Island. Check out k’awat’si Tours to connect to Indigenous culture and outdoor adventure experiences in Port Hardy.
The Port Hardy area is a long time paradise for boaters and every traveller should plan some on water adventures when making a Port Hardy travel guide. Anglers set out on charter fishing boats to catch salmon and halibut.
Port Hardy is also known for its scuba-diving. Over the years, Jacques Cousteau and other experts have stated the waters in this area have some of the finest cold water diving in the world.
Below is a sunset view from the top of Goletas Way in Port Hardy. A great spot to add to your Port Hardy travel guide to watch sunset on a clear evening.
Storey’s Beach (aka Beaver Harbour Park)
Storey’s Beach in Port Hardy is a great place to spend a good chunk of time relaxing. You can simply hang out on the beach, watch the boats nearby, play in the water, and have a nice family day. You can also bring your kayak and paddle to Shell Island! Beaver Harbour Park is close by as well, where you can have a picturesque family picnic.
Commuter Trail (aka Fort Rupert Trail)
The Commuter Trail, also known as The Fort Rupert Trail, is a hike through traditional Kwagu’ł territory. For thousands of years this route has been used to commute between villages at Tayaguł and Bear Cove. Today it is a scenic trek through first and second growth forests.
The Commuter Trail has two trail heads, located off Beaver Harbour Road and Bear Cove Highway. The 3.7 km trail includes boardwalk and gravel walkways. There is a lake about halfway from either direction.
This is another notable place to add to your Port Hardy travel guide. The beach has a swing ideal for fun photos and the beach is accessible from the Airport Inn parking lot via a short trail.
If you head to Thomas Point during a storm, the rocky structures create a blow hole spray with stormy seas similar to the blow of a whale.
Port McNeill, which is a half hour drive south of Port Hardy, is a gateway to the amazing scenic lands that make up the Broughton Archipelago. It has so many outdoor recreational activities and eco-tourism, ready for its visitors to enjoy. The main site there is the Broughton Archipelago Provincial Marine Park, which consists of dozens of undeveloped islands (and islets) on the western side of Queen Charlotte Straight.
To the east, you can see stunning Coastal Mountains as a backdrop. This park is filled with the opportunities to kayak to your heart’s content, go boating, and catch glimpses of the local wildlife. It should certainly belong in your Port McNeill travel guide if it isn’t there already. Check out Sea Wolf Adventures, guided by aboriginal experts to experience the beautiful Broughton Archipelago and the Great Bear Rainforest in Northern Vancouver Island.
You can also visit Nimpkish Lake Provincial Park, just south of Port McNeill, which provides an untouched, remote feel at the south end of Nimpkish Lake. This rugged wilderness means the chance for lots of outdoor activities! These include skiing, windsurfing, kayaking, mountaineering; in the town itself, you can enjoy perusing the galleries, museum, and shops.
Quatse River Regional Park
This is an area near Port Hardy that is also great for camping. It’s in a heavily forested area, with trees that are hundreds of years old! You can also take an interesting tour at the Quatse Salmon Centre and Hatchery. According to Hello BC, all proceeds fund salmon conservation efforts on Northern Vancouver Island.
The park is also the perfect spot for swimming, hiking, and fishing. Basically, it’s the ideal spot to have a rugged night or two out on the wilderness. Although it feels pretty “away from it all,” it’s actually not too far from the airport and ferry port.
Quatsino Provincial Park
There are tons of activities you can enjoy at Quatsino Provincial Park, such as kayaking, canoeing, fishing, hiking, swimming, and cycling. The park has some of the most stunning protected coastline in all of Quatsino Sound. It’s especially popular for kayaking, but many people choose to stay overnight when they visit.
The wildlife you might encounter within Quatsino Provincial Park are coastal deer, black bears, and even cougars. Make sure to research best safety practices for encountering these animals, just in case!
Raft Cove Provincial Park
Raft Cove Provincial Park is yet another wild, beautiful park in North Vancouver Island, which mainly brings in those looking to spot wildlife, and those wanting to camp overnight in sand of the crescent-shaped beach. Surfing, hiking, and fishing are also common activities for visitors to the park.
You can expect to see wild coastline, rocky headlands and a river estuary, plus Sitka spruces and cedars among the forested areas. Because of how undeveloped the area is, it can get super muddy in some parts. Make sure to bring the right equipment and shoes!
When it comes to the kind of wildlife you could see in Raft Cove Provincial Park, wolves, raccoons, cougars, Black-tailed deer, red squirrels, river otters, and a variety of bird species could all make a debut during your time in the park.
Suquash Coal Mine Ruins
Hidden in the woods near Fort Rupert (Tsax̱is) is a collection of mining ruins. In the 1840’s the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) began to explore for coal (for their steam ships), and the first mine developed on Vancouver Island was at Suquash.
Initally surface coal was collected by the Kwakwaka’wakw people and brought out to HBC ships by the canoe full.
By 1849 the HBC’s Fort Rupert had been constructed in what is today known as Beaver Harbour and the ultimately the Suquash Mine was abandoned in 1932.
The Suquash mine ruins are scattered throughout the forest trail. You see rusted equipment, large chimneys and a building foundation amongst the trees. As you walk the short trail through the woods, you see the historical remains through the old trees. The walk leads to a rocky beach with views of Malcolm Island and the Queen Charlotte Strait.
You might also like A Weekend in Victoria, A Weekend Getaway to Sooke on Vancouver Island, 10 Vancouver Area Hikes to do this Summer, or Road Trips in Canada.
Telegraph Cove in the North Island is such a picture-perfect village, and one of those that demand multiple returns. You will agree with me that Telegraph Cove is an absolute North Vancouver Island hidden gem and one of the cool spots on Vancouver Island you need to visit.
This is because of the many things to do in the area, but also because it’s so beautiful and addicting spending time here! A few of the main attractions of Telegraph Cove include Grizzly bear tours, whale watching, and guided fishing trips.
You can also do exciting ocean kayaking trips, either in half a day or full day lengths. You might also want to check out the Telegraph Cove Art Gallery, where you can find unique sculptures, furniture, carvings, and pottery, all of which someone actually hand makes on site!
Telegraph Cove is know widely for its ecotourism and the postcard perfect waterfront with multi-coloured buildings on the shoreline
How do you Get to Telegraph Cove?
Telegraph Cove is easy to find and accessible by a paved road. If you are heading north on Highway 19 towards Port McNeill and Port Hardy., turn right at the Telegraph Cove turn off (approximately 10 km before the turn to Port McNeill) and then drive 15 km to Telegraph Cove.
Located off Quatsino Sound on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, this lovely waterfront area has lots to see and do. The harbour is the perfect base for hiking and exploring Cape Scott Provincial Park, and surrounding beaches. While there, make sure to stop by a few locations that will surely catch your eye, like the Scenic Boardwalk, the Botel Park Trail, Kwaksistah Regional Park, and Grant Bay Trail. While you’re adventuring around Winter Harbour, you’re also likely to catch glimpses of some of the local wildlife.
Woss is in the center of North Vancouver Island’s Nimpkish Valley, and provides plenty of hiking and camping opportunities for keen adventurers. They can also take a unique train ride on Locomotive 113, which is an old restored steam train that makes its way through the valley. There are also picnic sites, skiing, and caving. For hiking, more experienced people can trek the trail on Mount Schoen.
Woss Fire Lookout
Woss Fire Lookout is a short 1.4 km out and back trail in North Vancouver Island, British Columbia. It is recommended that you use a 4×4 to get to the trailhead to get to the lookout.
The trail is very steep with rope sections and strenuous. It is not recommended for beginners and has a 223 meter elevation gain.
You are rewarded with spectacular views of Woss Lake, the Nimpkish Valley and Bonanza range. There is a breathtaking (almost) 360 degree view from the fire lookout.
Zeballos has a ton of outdoor activities available to visitors, such as water sports galore, nature tours, and lots of hiking and trail options. There are also fishing spots ready for those avid fisherman touring the area.
Watch my North Vancouver Island Weekend Adventure Vlog
A weekend vlogs with stops in San Josef Bay, Thomas Point and also Little Huson Caves. Lots to do!
Where to Eat and Stay in the North Island?
Places to Stay in North Vancouver Island
You might reach a few points in your Vancouver Island North road trip where you just aren’t ready to leave yet. That, or you might need a break from camping and are longing for a clean and comfy bed to sleep in tonight.
On the other hand, you might be dying to pitch that tent, but need to know the best spots to do so. Either way, there are multiple areas in the North Island with the perfect spots where you can spend the night.
The Nimpkish Hotel is quaint enough to feel like a bed and breakfast, and sits nicely just along the shoreline in Alert Bay. It’s bright blue, and has a huge deck and plenty of windows, providing wonderful views of the harbour.
There are a few places you can stay on the island. You can stay in Bere Point Campground, as mentioned earlier. This is a wonderful place to lose yourself in nature for a night, and hopefully spot some orcas at the shoreline! There’s also a private campground in Sointula called Harmony Shores. You can also opt for the Oceanfront Hotel, or a variety of cottages, guesthouses, and bed and breakfasts.
The Kwa’lilas Hotel is indigenous-run, and has beautiful First Nations art in each of the rooms. It’s nice and newly renovated, but isn’t too pricey! Definitely consider this place for a comfortable stay while in the area, and keep it noted in your Port Hardy travel guide.
In Port Hardy you will find the cozy Ecoscape Cabins. There are several different sized cabines to choose from making them a great choice for families, singles or a group of friends. Ecoscape takes pride in keeping the cabins environmentally friendly and naturally beautiful.
Scotia Bay Resort Campground
The Scotia Bay Resort Campground is located in picture perfect Scotia Bay just outside of Port Hardy.
If you are looking for some AirBNB recommendations in Port Hardy, I would suggest the Cozy Forest Trail Suite, this Mid-Century Cozy Home, the Hunt Street House, this Penthouse Suite with Ocean View or this Ocean View Character Home.
Telegraph Cove Resort
The Telegraph Cove Lodge is the perfect place to stay while in Telegraph Cove Resort, whether you’re gearing up for your kayak trip down the Johnstone Straight, or you just would love to enjoy great views of the cove for a night!
Cluxewe Resort Campground
The Cluxewe Resort Campground is owned and operated by the Kwakiutl First Nation and located in Port McNeill where the Cluxewe River meets the Broughton Straight. Cluxewe has cabins, RV sites and camping options available.
Places to Eat While in Northern Vancouver Island
No travel is complete without at least a mention of the local delicacies. Seriously—have you actually been to a place if you haven’t tried their food? Below are some of the most tasty and notable spots where you should indulge your cravings. Many of them are indigenous-owned and run, which makes these food stops feel even more special.
Keep in mind that some of the towns in North Vancouver Island may not have any restaurants at all, so it’s important to plan ahead so you know you’ll be stopping somewhere that does when you’re ready to eat. It’s also advisable to bring plenty of snacks in the car/camper van, just in case!
Devil’s Bath Brewing
Devil’s Bath Brewing is named after Canada’s largest cenote and is a favourite spot for drinks and lunch or dinner in Port McNeill. It has an industrial feel with a warm wood interior plus water views. On summer days, there is a large patio that will have you wishing you lived closer.
Duchess’ Bannock is a popular spot in Alert Bay that you really shouldn’t miss. Bannock, by the way, is an indigenous fried bread. It’s a traditional dish for the local indigenous people, and it can be made a variety of ways. You can get it sweet, with berries and cream, or you can order savoury plates of it as well. Make sure to reach out to make sure they are currently open before heading there.
Pass ‘n Thyme
The Pass ‘n Thyme is a bistro in Alert Bay that overlooks the boat-filled Broughton Straight. Get ready to indulge in delicious halibut and chips, burgers, soups made from scratch, and deep-fried ice cream in this lovely establishment. This might be a great spot to stop for food before catching your ferry!
ha’me’ Restaurant and nax’id’ Pub
This is a two-in-one spot inside the newly renovated Kwa’lilas Hotel in Port Hardy. They serve indigenous food with a west coast vibe. The restaurant, the name of which translates to ‘food,’ in Kwakwaka’wakw, (while nax’id’ means ‘drink’) is a little more upscale. Meanwhile, the pub is more of a chill atmosphere.
Cafe Guido is another great spot in Port Hardy. It serves typical café foods and beverages, like bakery items, sandwiches, and coffee. The coffee is apparently amazing and the flaky scones, to die for. A bookstore called Book Nook and Drift takes up the other part of the building, so this would be a nice place to stop and wander a little after enjoying your coffee. On top of that—literally—it has a craft shop upstairs!
Sporty Bar & Grill
Sporty’s, as locals call it, has the best pub grub in the Port Hardy area. If you’re in need of a filling meal, this is the place to stop. It also has great service, which can often make the experience! While there, you can also try some of the local lagers.
Killer Whale Café
The Killer Whale Café is another spot where you want to try and grab a window table. The café is Telegraph Cove’s best eatery, according to Lonely Planet. It specializes in seafood and features an amazing view of the marina.
North Vancouver Island is the side of the island that’s more “off the beaten path,” but that’s exactly what makes it so special, and so easy to fall in love with. With its lush rainforest, quaint towns, and abundant wildlife, this is a bucket list destination for all the nature enthusiasts out there.
There are so many cool spots on Vancouver Island that many people still don’t know about, which is what makes this place is ripe for exploring and making unforgettable memories. The kind of adventures you get travelling to the North Island are the kind that will stay with you forever.
Such a beautiful place, I’d love to visit
I’ve heard that Vancouver is absolutely beautiful. I would love to visit one day.
Gorgeous! I’d love to visit one day. I so enjoy relaxing by the water.
I’ve wanted to visit North Vancouver and this really is such a great guide. Such a gorgeous place to visit.
Vancouver is one of the destinations in my list. Hope we are allowed to travel soon…..
Wow! Best blog I’ve read so far about Northern Vancouver Island. Visiting in June and ready to see what this Island has to offer!!
You will really love it!