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On the rugged west coast of Northern British Columbia, surrounded by the Great Bear Rainforest, you’ll find the quaint coastal town of Prince Rupert. It’s home to just under 12,000 locals but is a true hidden gem for adventurous travelers. With its rich history and breathtaking natural beauty, visitors will fall in love with all it offers. In this complete guide to visiting Prince Rupert in Northern BC, I will share a bit about its history, the best things to do, where to stay, and some insider tips I picked up during my recent visit.

Two women sitting outside the Cassiar Cannery cabins in Prince Rupert, BC.

Prince Rupert, BC is a charming coastal city in northwest British Columbia. Known for its stunning natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and delicious seafood, it is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the best of Canada’s west coast.

Photo credits to my road trip buddies, Geoff Heith and Kimberley Kufaas. Thank you to the Northern BC Tourism Association for inviting us on an Inside Passage Ferry and Northwest BC road trip adventure to visit Prince Rupert, Terrace, Nass Valley, Kitimat, and Stewart.

A woman standing by the water in Prince Rupert.

Northern BC Road Trip: Follow along with our Northern BC road trip with all my comprehensive travel guides! After making our way to Prince Rupert on the Inside Passage Ferry, we road-tripped through Northeast British Columbia to Terrace and the Nass Valley, Stewart and Kitimat. See the road trip itinerary for all the details.

About Prince Rupert

Prince Rupert boasts a fascinating history that weaves together Indigenous traditions and European influence. What started as a fishing village for the Coast Ts’msyen People (since time immemorial) has turned into a thriving and bustling port with an emphasis on commercial fishing and the historic canning industries.

An old boast on the grass.

While visiting Prince Rupert, you’ll still witness the town’s deep appreciation for its indigenous heritage through the many museums, architecture, and cultural events.

Getting to Prince Rupert, British Columbia

Prince Rupert, BC, is a beautiful coastal city in the northwest region of British Columbia, Canada located on Kaien Island. Although it may seem remote, there are several ways to reach this charming destination.

Two women hiking in Prince Rupert.

By Air

You can fly into Prince Rupert Airport (YPR) from major Canadian cities such as Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton. The airport is just 10 minutes from the city center, making it a convenient choice for travelers. Flights are operated by several airlines, including Air Canada, Central Mountain Air, and Pacific Coastal Airlines.

By Car

Another way to reach Prince Rupert is by taking a scenic drive along the Yellowhead Highway (Highway 16). The drive takes you through stunning mountain ranges, past sparkling lakes and rivers, and through charming small towns. However, it is important to note that the drive can take several hours, so break up your drive with stops along the way.

By Ferry

For those looking for a unique and adventurous journey, taking a ferry to Prince Rupert is a great option. BC Ferries operates a route from Port Hardy on Northern Vancouver Island to Prince Rupert, which takes over 16 hours. The route takes you through the Inside Passage, offering breathtaking coast views and the opportunity to spot wildlife such as whales and dolphins.

We brought our car on the Inside Passage ferry, and Prince Rupert was the first stop on our northern British Columbia road trip.

Two women on the Northern Expediton BC Ferry.

By Rail

If you’re looking for a more leisurely and scenic option, taking the train to Prince Rupert is an excellent choice. Via Rail operates a route called The Skeena (or The Rupert Rocket) from Jasper, Alberta, to Prince Rupert, BC. The journey takes approximately 20 hours over two days and offers incredible views of the Canadian Rockies, lush forests, and the Skeena River.

The train makes an overnight stop in Prince George with passengers finding a motel for the night before re-boarding the train in time for breakfast the following morning.

The Best Time to Visit Prince Rupert

The best time to visit Prince Rupert is during the summer months from May to September. During these months, you’ll be able to enjoy all the outdoor activities like fishing, hiking, and wildlife viewing. We visited in late August and had great weather.

A woman kayaking in Prince Rupert.

Grizzly bear tours take place in the early summer months (May to July), while whale-watching tours take place in the latter months (July to September).

Summer is also peak tourist season, so if you want to avoid the crowds, you may consider traveling during the chilly winter months. You may even be able to spot the northern lights during these months! But, it is important to note that many businesses and tours will be closed during the winter.

Aerial view of a boat in the ocean.

Fun Fact: Prince Rupert, nicknamed the City of Rainbows, is the #1 city in Canada for annual rainfall, the greatest number of days with rain, and the most days of more than 25 mm rain in a single day. With 259.4 cm of rainfall annually, it gets twice as much as Vancouver or Seattle!

Things To Do in Prince Rupert

There is no shortage of exciting things to do in Prince Rupert. From walking along the quaint streets of downtown Prince Rupert to immersing yourself in the city’s history, the options are truly endless. Below are some of my favourite things to do in this coastal gem!

Explore the History of the Area With a Salmon Cannery Tour 

A salmon cannery tour at the North Pacific Cannery National Historic Site is a must-do experience for anyone visiting this charming coastal city. The salmon cannery tour takes you back to the early 1900s when the salmon canning industry was booming in the Pacific Northwest. It was in operation from 1889 to 1968.

Outside of the North Pacific Cannery National historic site.

The salmon processing plant provided canned salmon for customers worldwide for nearly a century. The tour is led by knowledgeable guides who take you through the historic cannery, showing you the various stages of the canning process and providing fascinating insights into the workers’ lives who made it all happen.

The fishing industry was an integral part of life along British Columbia’s coastline in the 19th and 20th centuries. Quickly preserving the day’s catch was essential, but distance and isolation in northern BC presented problems. Canneries had to be constructed close to the fishing grounds.

Touring the cannery in Prince Rupert.

The cannery accounted for more than one-quarter of British Columbia’s total salmon pack and was the foremost packer of sockeye salmon in the world.

Initially, the processes at the North Pacific Cannery were all done manually. Fishermen caught the salmon with nets, and workers cleaned and butchered the fish. Cans were made for preserving the food and they were sealed by hand.

Machinery inside the North Pacific Cannery.

Mechanization was introduced in the early 1900s. One of the tour’s highlights is the massive machinery used to process the salmon, including the iconic salmon butcher (Iron Chink) machine.

You’ll also get to explore the clapboard bunkhouses and living quarters where the workers (primarily Japanese, Chinese, First Nations, and Europeans) lived during the season, giving you a glimpse into what life was like in the cannery town.

Building on stilts in Prince Rupert.

And, of course, no visit to the cannery is complete without a visit to the café where you can sample some local-inspired cuisine and snacks brought in daily from Yaga Cafe Garden.

It is the oldest surviving cannery in BC and was saved from demolition and transformed into a museum to share the region’s industrial history. In June 1985, the cannery was designated a National Historic Site of Canada. The cannery tour is a unique and educational experience not to be missed when visiting Prince Rupert.

View of the Prince Rupert cannery from the water.

Insider Tip: The cannery is 22 kilometers south of Prince Rupert, with no cell service. You can do a self-guided tour of the cannery or take one of the group tours. Allow about two to three hours for a docent’s tour of the facility, buildings, and boats.

Cow Bay and Harbour Area 

Cameron Cove got the name Cow Bay in the early 1900s when the first herds of dairy cows arrived and swam ashore because there was no dock.

Two women having coffee in Cow Bay, Prince Rupert, BC.

Cow Bay Marina is a blend of its industrial and commercial past mixed with recreation, retail, cafés, and restaurants. Cow Bay is a quirky, colourful shopping district with restored historic buildings. Visitors can book area tours, visit a variety of boutiques, including souvenir and gift shops, or relax in one of several restaurants and coffee shops.

In addition to being an area for locals and tourists to visit, it is also a supply stop for boats travelling to and from Haida Gwaii (colonial-era name was Queen Charlotte Islands) and Alaska

Prince Rupert is a popular destination for cruise ships, with several major lines stopping in the city each year. The Northland Cruise terminal at Cow Bay Marina was built in 2004, allowing cruise ship passengers to get off at Cow Bay for their day excursions in Prince Rupert.

Visit the Museum of Northern British Columbia

The Museum of Northern British Columbia is a great place to learn more about the rich culture and history of Prince Rupert and the Pacific Coast. Throughout the museum, which is housed in a magnificent Northwest Coast-style longhouse, is a must-see. You can wander through the different rooms of art and artifacts exhibits.

Fog in the trees.

Each room has a different theme where you’ll learn about the Tsimshian history as salmon people, the industries, and social change, all while marveling at the intricate art. Don’t miss the Monumental Gallery, a tribute to great works of Tsimshian, Haida and Nisga’a’ art.

There is a First Nations carving shed where you may see carvers at work on totem poles and other art pieces.

The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and closed daily for a one-hour lunch break from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.

Tour the Kwintsa Railway Station Museum

There are two Prince Rupert museums for history lovers. If the Museum of Northern British Columbia piqued your interest, you may also enjoy a visit to the Kwintsa Railway Station Museum. Although small, this museum is chalked full of interesting information focused on the history of Canada’s northern railway.

Visit Local Businesses

Supporting local small businesses is a great way to make your travels sustainable. Some shops and restaurants we visited at Cow Bay were Cowpuccino’s Coffee House, Dolly’s Fish Market, Ice House Gallery, and Homework Boutique. We also visited Arabisk restaurant and Yaga Cafe Garden, which are downtown.

Getting coffee at a cafe.

Outdoor Things To Do in Prince Rupert

Adventurous travelers to the northwest coast of BC will appreciate the plethora of outdoor activities scattered throughout the area. Whether you are seeking a relaxing day on the water or an exhilarating wildlife tour, there will surely be something for everyone. You may have to extend your trip!

Kayaking in Prince Rupert.

Kayaking Tour with Skeena Kayaking 

When visiting Prince Rupert, a kayaking tour is a must! During my visit, we took a guided tour with Steve at Skeena Kayaking and had the best time. There are several tours, ranging from 1 to 6 hours, each offering a slightly different experience.

Kayaking with Skeena Kayaking.

We were on the water for about 4 hours. We were treated to calm waters and plenty of wildlife sightings. It was quite the workout!

Kayaking in Northern British Columbia.

Insider Tip: I recommend you dress for the weather and bring sunscreen, sunglasses, a dry bag for personal items, a camera, water, snacks, and sandals.

Northern BC Jet Boat Tour

If paddling is not your thing (or maybe you want to explore more of Prince Rupert’s waterways), then be sure to book a jet boat tour! Northern BC Jet Boat Tours offers a range of tours from as short as one hour all the way up to multi-day trips.

On a tour with Northern BC Jet Boat Tours.

During my trip, we spent a half-day tour with our tour guide, Rob. We were able to see the canneries from the water as well as spend some time soaking in Frizzell Hot Springs.

Rob also leads a tour in Kitimat that stops at four different hot springs in one day. It’s next on my list!

Boating in Prince Rupert, BC.

Insider Tip: I recommend wearing shorts or pants that roll up easily as you get in and out of the water as the boat makes different stops along the tour. Pack water, lunch, snacks, and warm clothes depending on the weather. 

Two women on a jet boat.

Stroll Around Sunken Gardens Park

For those looking for a relaxing way to spend an afternoon, head to Sunken Gardens Park. This picturesque park is home to colorful flowers and lush greenery and is the perfect place for a peaceful picnic.

Forest tree with mushrooms.

If the name didn’t give it away, this garden is, in fact, sunk. It’s within walking distance of the Visitor Centre (just behind the courthouse) and can be accessed with a short walk through a tunnel.

Take a Hike

There are several hiking trails to choose from in Prince Rupert, each with its own unique features and views. For those looking for a popular and scenic day hike, check out the Butze Rapids trail. It’s an easy 6.2 kilometer trail with beach and forest views. If you plan this hike during low tide, you’ll likely be able to see sea creatures such as starfish and sea cucumbers!

Hiking in the forest.

If you are up for more of a challenge, the Tall Trees Trail will bring you to a beautiful overlook. Although relatively short (7.8 kilometers), be prepared for a steep and steady incline!

Go Fishing

No trip to Prince Rupert is complete without testing your luck at some fishing! Known for its diverse marine life, healthy salmon migrations, and pristine waters, it’s truly a fisherman’s paradise.

Catching crabs from a kayak.

You’ll find many different fishing charters to choose from depending on your level of interest. From salmon to halibut, you may be able to catch tonight’s dinner!

A crab caught in Prince Rupert.

Observe a Grizzly Bear at Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary

Perhaps the most exhilarating thing to do near Prince Rupert is to take a trip to the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary. The Khutzeymateen Valley, otherwise known as the Valley of the Grizzly, is the first and only grizzly bear sanctuary in Canada.

View kayaking from water.

The park is located about 45 kilometers northeast of Prince Rupert and is accessible on a guided tour via boat or floatplane.

Prince Rupert Adventure Tours offers 7 to 8 hour grizzly bear tours from May to July. On board a 100-passenger catamaran, you’ll be able to view the grizzlies safely in their natural habitat. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Go Whale Watching

In addition to the grizzly tours, Prince Rupert Adventure Tours also offers exciting whale-watching tours. If you find yourself visiting between the months of July and September, then you won’t want to miss this experience.

Harbour in Prince Rupert.

The North Coast is actually one of the most reliable places to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures in all of North America. During your 4-hour tour, you’ll have a chance to observe grey whales, humpback whales, and even orcas.

As with any wildlife tour, you have to stay optimistic and remember that you are, in fact observing ‘wild’ life. This means sightings of all animals are never guaranteed – it is all about the the adventure.

Where to Stay in Prince Rupert

Although small, Prince Rupert actually has a plethora of choices as to where to stay. From luxurious waterfront hotels to quaint B&Bs and rustic cabins, there’s something for everyone’s taste!

Aerial view of the Cassiar Cannery.

Cassiar Cannery

We stayed at the Cassiar Cannery In the Halibut and Sockeye guest houses at both ends of our Northern British Columbia road trip. The Cassiar Cannery is located at the mouth of the Skeena River, about 25 minutes from Prince Rupert.

View of Cassiar Cannery from the sky.

The restored waterfront heritage guest houses offer a unique and charming lodging option perfect for anyone looking for an authentic coastal experience.

The cabins are located in a historic cannery that has been beautifully restored and renovated, offering guests a glimpse into the area’s rich cultural heritage. The cabins themselves are cozy and comfortable, with all the amenities needed for a relaxing stay.

Living room in guest house at the Cassiar Cannery.

One of the highlights of staying at Cassiar Cannery is the chance to explore the surrounding area. Guests can stroll along the boardwalk, go fishing in the nearby river, or take a boat tour to see the stunning coastal scenery.

Two women having coffee outside.

After a day of local adventures, guests can relax by the water and fire pit. The guest houses have kitchens, so bring food for meals.

Insider Tip: There is no cell service at the Cassiar Cannery, but Wi-Fi is provided on the property. 

Khutzeymateen Wildnerness Lodge

Located right inside the Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, this floating lodge promises an unforgettable experience. It’s only accessible by boat or seaplane and allows visitors to observe the bears from their floating bedroom safely.

Looking out window from guest house.

The lodge has eight guest rooms and a sauna onsite. Guests can also use the stand-up paddleboards and sea kayaks to look closer to shore.

How cool would it be to watch the grizzly bears catch their breakfast while you sit on the deck enjoying yours?

Tall Trees Bed and Breakfast

This quaint B&B offers visitors the chance to relax and recharge during their Prince Rupert vacation. There are four available rooms with a strong emphasis on providing a luxurious stay focusing on Canadian wines and foods.

Where to Eat in Prince Rupert

Although you may have initially visited Prince Rupert for the adventurous things to do, you will quickly fall in love with the food scene.

Having a drink at the Wheelhouse Brewery in Prince Rupert.

The restaurants in Prince Rupert pride themselves on using the best local and fresh ingredients to create dishes that will leave you wanting more. From indulging in fresh seafood while overlooking the Prince Rupert harbour to relaxing with a delicious craft beer, you will definitely not leave hungry.

Wheelhouse Brewing Company

The Wheelhouse Brewing Company is in Prince Rupert on British Columbia’s north coast. The brewery is in a charming historic area, once a fish cannery, adding to the unique and authentic atmosphere.

Dinner at the Wheelhouse Brewing Company.

The brewery is known for its high-quality craft beers, brewed on-site using locally sourced ingredients. With cozy decor, it is the perfect place to relax and enjoy a pint and meal with friends.

A glass of beer from Wheelhouse Brewing.

The Wheelhouse has typical pub food on the menu, with gluten-free options. I had the gluten-free burrata pizza and a cider. The crust was crispy and cooked to perfection!

Fukusaku 

Fukusaku is a beloved local institution that has been serving up delicious Japanese cuisine for over 80 years. The restaurant is located in a charming historic building in Cow Bay that has been beautifully preserved, adding to the authentic atmosphere.

Meal being prepared at Fukusaku  in Prince Rupert.

The menu features a variety of traditional Japanese dishes, including sushi, sashimi, and tempura, all made with fresh and high-quality ingredients.

Fukusaku offers a unique dining experience with the famous daily tasting menu. The menu will change daily based on what fish and vegetables are available. This was our menu:

  • Course 1 – Tuna tataki salad  
  • Course 2 – The Skeena gome-ae, pink salmon escabeche, chili spot prawns 
  • Course 3 – Northwest dungeness crab osuimono  
  • Course 4 – Chinook salmon mushroom teriyaki  
  • Course 5 – Rupert sushi platter  
  • Course 6 – Spruce tip mini ginger crème brulee  
Dinner in bowl at Fukusaku .

Insider Tip: If you want to eat at Fukusaku, book in advance, especially if you want a tasting menu. It’s a small space, and they only serve so many people per day. 

Woman showing dinner served at Fukusaku.

Dolly’s Fish Market

Dolly’s Fish Market is also located in Cow Bay. Dolly’s is a local gem that offers some of the freshest and most delicious seafood in the area. The market is located right on the harbor, ensuring the seafood is always fresh and of the highest quality.

Visitors can browse the wide selection of fish, crab, shrimp, and other seafood, all caught locally and sustainably. And for those who want to enjoy a meal on the spot, Dolly’s also offers a variety of prepared seafood dishes, including fish and chips, chowder, and sushi.

For those of us who are gluten-free, Dolly’s has a dedicated gluten-free fryer and has the most delicious fish and chips.

Ocean view in Prince Rupert.

Arabisk

Arabisk is a delicious restaurant with Mediterranean cuisine. We had an amazing meal that was crafted with the freshest ingredients. Definitely recommend!

Breakers Pub

This pub is home to some of the very best views in the city. With a balcony directly over Prince Rupert’s waterfront, you can enjoy a delicious meal while watching the sunset. If you are lucky, you might even spot some wildlife!

Yaga Cafe Garden Co.

Yaga is a cafe located in a local garden center in Seal Cove. They serve coffee, snacks, sandwiches and salads, which are all delicious!

Lunch to go from Yaga in Prince Rupert.

The Crest

Dubbed by locals as the very best place to eat in Prince Rupert, The Crest has perfectly curated menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In addition to the tasty food, you’ll also be met with beautiful waterfront views.

Sign inside building.

Smilies

For a more laid-back vibe, head to Smilies. Locals rave about the fish and chips!  

Stardust

Stardust is a great option for those looking for a quick yet delicious meal after a long day of adventures. There’s a mix of classic and western Chinese food on the menu, so there’s something for everyone!

Beach with tide out.

FAQs

Is Prince Rupert the rainiest place in the world?

No, but Prince Rupert is the rainiest place in Canada. It has an average of 166 rainy days per year.

Is there a ferry from Vancouver to Prince Rupert?

No, there is no direct ferry from the Vancouver area. You need to take the BC Ferries sailing from Port Hardy at the north tip of Vancouver Island to Prince Rupert. The ferry ride is over 16 hours long and navigates through the Inside Passage.

Do cruise ships stop in Prince Rupert?

Yes, Prince Rupert is a cruise ship port for many cruises heading to Alaska.

Woman showing beach glass found in Prince Rupert.

Plan a Trip To Prince Rupert Soon!

From adventurous things to do to breathtaking views to delicious dining options, your time in the Prince Rupert area will leave you wanting more. You can extend this rugged vacation by venturing up the inside passage to southeast Alaska or heading south to other Pacific Northwest gems in British Columbia. No matter how you spend your time, you will surely want to visit Prince Rupert again.

Dog at the Casssiar Cannery.

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Bella Bucchiotti

Bella Bucchiotti is a Canadian-based syndicated food, travel, and lifestyle writer, photographer, and creator at xoxoBella. She founded xoxoBella in 2015, where she shares her love for food, dogs, sustainability, fitness, crafts, outdoor adventures, travel, and philanthropy to encourage others to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places, and stand for a cause. Bella creates stress-free and family-friendly recipes for weeknight dinners and festive feasts.

 

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