The North’s coastal charms await mature explorers longing for adventures in wild open spaces on Vancouver Island

See Vancouver Island North

There’s no better place to spend quality vacation time than northern Vancouver Island—especially if you have a deep love of the great outdoors.

With its breathtaking views and remote charm, the north side of the island is the perfect destination for your next B.C. adventure, as it offers many opportunities to immerse yourself in the wilderness and gain a deeper appreciation for nature.

While seen as remote, the island’s northern region is still reachable from Vancouver and Kelowna. You can fly by air with direct one-hour flight connections from Kelowna International Airport to Port Hardy Airport via Pacific Coastal Airlines. If you plan to arrive at Vancouver Island by ferry, Port McNeill—often referred to as the gateway hub to the North Island—is a roughly five-hour drive from Victoria or a three-hour and 45-minute drive from Nanaimo.

For those looking for something a bit more adventurous, the Inside Passage tours from BC Ferries offer a wonderfully West Coast experience, including ferries, accommodation, whale-watching and grizzly bear tours.

Once you reach northern Vancouver Island, it’s time to start exploring. Here are some ideas for how you can have a relaxing retreat in this remarkable region.

Scenic strolls and nature trails

Many of the seaside communities along the North Island are lined with accessible seawalls, boardwalks and paved pathways, allowing for people of all abilities to enjoy daytime and sunset strolls.

The Port Alice Seawalk along the coastline of Neroutsos Inlet runs for three kilometres, and at low tide you can continue onward to Walkout Island and search for starfish. The picturesque boardwalk at Alert Bay, which stretches out from the harbourfront to the village, allows for sightings of wildlife and Indigenous artwork. Over in Port Hardy, you can stroll along an endless stretch of sand at Storey’s Beach.

Located in Hardy Bay off of Highway 19, the Estuary and Quatse River Nature Trails allow for up close encounters with ecolife. Cross over the bridge to get to the estuary viewing pavilion for encounters with marshland plants, sea birds, rabbits, deer and other small animals. Or walk under the bridge to access the Quatse loop, where you may see bears, salmon, steelhead and trout.

First place for fishing

Swarms of salmon migrate down the coast each year, making the northern reaches of Vancouver Island a must-visit fishing destination.

Perched on the edge of the Queen Charlotte Strait, Port Hardy yields some of B.C.’s best angling opportunities, where all species of migrating salmon, including the sought-after mature trophy chinook and coho, can be found and caught. There are a number of fishing charter companies along the coast of this fishing village, such as Codfather Charters, which offers both charter boats and gear for fishing expeditions.

Marble River Park in Port Alice is a popular destination for recreational angling in northern Vancouver Island, and its river is considered to be one of the best spots for steelhead fishing. Fishers can try fly fishing at the Emerald Pools, located at the end of the Marble River Trail, and tidal water fishing in the marine portion of the park.

Best of birding in B.C.

From the songbirds of the rainforest to the seabirds of the coast, northern Vancouver Island’s diverse habitats are a haven for birdlife—along with bird-watchers. The region is home to several unique bird species, including the marbled murrelet, harlequin duck and northern pygmy owl.

On the northwest side of Vancouver Island, San Josef Bay is a prime location for spotting shorebirds, including western sandpipers and whimbrels, along the beach. Over on the northeast coast, Telegraph Cove offers numerous wildlife tours to encounter a variety of seabirds, including rhinoceros auklets and tufted puffins.

Guided wildlife experiences

Through guided wildlife tours, you can get up close and personal with the wild species that call the oceans and forests that surround Vancouver Island home. At the same time, you can also connect with the region's Indigenous culture.

Departing from Port Hardy and sailing into the waters of the Kwakwaka?wakw First Nations, the Indigenous owned-and-operated Coastal Rainforest Safaris offers day trips that take guests out on wildlife viewing boats and into the heart of popular feeding grounds for orcas, humpback whales, sea lions and other sea creatures. These whale watching tours are led by an interpretive guide that can speak to the role every species plays in the ecosystems of northern Vancouver Island, as well as share valuable insights of the land from an Indigenous perspective.

With Sea Wolf Adventures, you can embark on an unforgettable, Indigenous-led grizzly bear viewing experience, where you can observe bears in their natural habitats in the Great Bear Rainforest and Broughton Archipelago while learning more about their important role in First Nations history.

Plan your trip to northern Vancouver Island at www.vancouverislandnorth.ca.

This article is written by or on behalf of the sponsoring client and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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