There is an absolute treasure trove of activities along with spectacular scenery worth boasting about on Vancouver Island North. Here are 40 awesome things to do but not the complete list by a long shot. Consider this just a starter list of possible memory makers.
1. Find a bench to watch truly spectacular sunrises and sunsets unfold.
2. Stand in awe at the largest burl in the world. You’ll find the 30 plus ton tree growth, taken from a Sitka Spruce, near the Community Hall in Port McNeill.
3. Visit a heritage lighthouse at Pulteney Point on Malcolm Island.
4. Treat yourself to salmon tacos at Straits View Cafe at the Sayward harbour. Save room for fresh baked pie or an ooey, gooey cinnamon bun.
5. Borrow a bike from the Resource Centre in Sointula and peddle the main road stopping often to enjoy the mountain and ocean views.
6. Discover the fascinating world below the surface. There are serious world class scuba diving opportunities in our cold, clear waters.
7. Stop and visit the shoe tree on the Holberg Road. Started as a lark more than 40 years ago the old cedar snag wears hundreds of previously loved shoes and boots.
9. Settle in with some hot buttered popcorn and catch a Friday night movie at Gate House Theatre in Port McNeill.
10. Be dazzled by rainbows. Our drizzly wet weather creates the perfect conditions for your gold at the end of the rainbow photos.
11. Build a sand castle at Storey’s Beach in Port Hardy. Kilometres and kilometres….and kilometres of sand.
12. Watch boats come in with their catch of the day in any one of our harbours.
13. Dip your toes in Woss Lake. Permanent snowfields from some of the largest remaining glaciers on Vancouver Island keep the lake chilled year round.
14. View the gigantic jaw bone of a blue whale, just one of the historic items in Coal Harbour, formerly known to be Canada’s last whaling station.
15. Try the bannock special of the day at Duchess’s Bannock & Desserts in Alert Bay. For newbies bannock is a flat quick bread that is baked or deep fried and a staple of First Nations food. Used for meals and desserts depending on the toppings, bring your appetite. It’s filling !!
16. Play a round of golf at one of three Vancouver Island North courses. Bonus points if you visit more than one.
17. Visit St. Olaf’s Anglican Church in Quatsino. Built in 1896 it’s the oldest building in the area and still used for weddings and special occasions. Accessible by water taxi or float plane.
18. Search for shells on the beach at Cluxewe, a natural wonder in the land of the Kwakiutl people. Or wander the shore of the river while salmon make their way back to their spawning ground late in the summer.
19. Satisfy your inner speed demon by attending “Rumble on the Runway” drag races at the Port McNeill airport in June, July and August.
20. Wear a piece of white clothing and glow in the retro disco lights while “cosmic” bowling on the weekend in Port Hardy.
21. Feast on a salmon burger or halibut wrap and fresh cut french fries while sitting at an oceanfront picnic table at Burger Barn in Sointula.
22. ”Are You Tough Enough?” That’s the slogan of the Kusam Klimb, a gruelling 23 kilometre race in Sayward every June that starts at sea level and up and over the back of Mount H’Kusam.
23. Experience Vancouver Island North from a birds-eye view on a flight-seeing adventure by helicopter or float plane.
24. Learn more about First Nations culture at world renowned U’Mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay. In July & August visit the Big House to watch the the T’Sasala Dancers in their traditional regalia.
25. Check out community craft fairs and farmer’s markets. We don’t mind bragging that we are home to many incredible artisans.
26. Marvel at unusual and odd land formations including sink holes, canyons and a swiftly flowing river that disappears into rock at Devil’s Bath and Eternal Fountain near Port Alice.
27. Lace up your walking shoes and go. No matter your ability or schedule, walking and hiking opportunities abound. Gentle oceanfront strolls to expert multi-day expeditions can be self directed or guided. Tip: Get the lay of the land in advance with the Vancouver Island North Recreation Map and online Trail Guide, then download the GPS enabled mobile app for while you’re on the trails.
28. Grab an ice-cream cone (do try the waffle cone) at the General Store and stroll the historic boardwalk at Telegraph Cove.
29. Get up close and personal to halibut, salmon or steelhead on a local fishing charter. We all need a story about “the big one that got away.”
30. Cheer on the hundreds of kayakers who paddle around Cormorant Island in the annual Alert Bay 360 the first weekend in August.
31. Join in on the Christmas Bird Count on Malcolm Island every December 30th. Last year almost 5,000 birds were spotted including eagles, loons, buffleheads and brants.
32. Hunt for buried treasure by geocaching. All you need is a GPS device and a sense of adventure. A great activity for all ages.
33. Wander off the beaten track to Ronning’s Garden established in 1910 by Norwegian settler Bernt Ronning who planted five acres of plant & tree seeds from around the world. You’ll see one of the largest and oldest Monkey Puzzle trees in BC. Follow the signs to Holberg.
34. Walk, run or bike the 5km and 10 km “Rugged and Wild Race” in Port McNeill each May. The race route includes forest, mountain and ocean views.
35. Just breathe. No smog alerts here. Nothing but sweet, fresh, make-you-want-to-breathe-as-deeply-as-possible air.
36. Visit Billy’s Museum in Echo Bay. A true North Islander Billy Proctor has accumulated an impressive collection of relics and artifacts over a lifetime as a fisherman, logger and beachcomber. He’s also co-authored two books about coastal life. Definitely worth reading.
37. Our roads score top points with motorcyclists who love winding secondary roads and straight stretches of highway with no traffic jams. Stop at viewpoints and rest areas to marvel at the view.
38. On clear nights look up to star gaze. An entire ocean of twinkling lights and sometimes when conditions are just right we catch a glimpse of aurora borealis – Northern Lights.
39. Take the time to visit the Whale Interpretive Centre in Telegraph Cove. An incredible collection of skeletons including orca, humpback and fin whales. Learn more about local marine mammals and the incredible research and conservation underway.
40. Browse the Explorer Guide and add more awesome things to do on your visit to Vancouver Island North.
Karen Stewart – Freelance Writer
Karen is the author of a blog titled This is Port McNeill