It is the northernmost point of the Island Highway (Hwy 19), site of the regional airport and the starting point for the BC Ferries Inside Passage route to Prince Rupert, an epic ocean journey along the Discovery Coast Passage to the mid and north coast and Haida Gwaii.
Ripe with opportunities for outdoor adventure, this is a town that offers it all: kayaking, marine activities, Indigenous culture in nearby Fort Rupert, numerous west coast artists and phenomenal, abundant wildlife. Black bears are a common sight along the highway as they feast on sweet grass in the summer months. In spring, summer and fall, grizzly bear viewing tours depart from Port Hardy to mainland regions of the Great Bear Rainforest. That’s also the extended season for whale-watching outings to Johnstone Strait.
Hikers utilize a land shuttle service that leaves Port Hardy for the trailhead of Cape Scott Provincial Park. From there, the acclaimed multi-day North Coast Trail is within striking distance or, at the other end, a water taxi service drops off backpackers at the trail’s Shushartie Bay trailhead. The region has long been a paradise for boaters and Port Hardy offers marinas, moorage, safe harbours and repair facilities.
Anglers set out on charter fishing boats from the marina in Hardy Bay in pursuit of prize salmon and halibut or cast for their catch from the edge of the Quatse River. Port Hardy is also a renowned headquarters for scuba-diving – no surprise given that Jacques Cousteau and other experts have famously stated these waters deliver some of the finest cold-water diving in the world. Rent equipment or book a dive charter in Port Hardy to explore one of the very best this area has to offer including Browning Wall, Hunt Rock, Five Fathom Rock and God’s Pocket Provincial Park. Surf lessons and rentals are also available to visitors looking to ride the waves at secluded, Vancouver Island North beaches like Raft Cove, Grant Bay and San Josef Bay.
Closer to town, play the Island’s northernmost golf course, rev up your motor at the stock car races, picnic at nearby Storey’s Beach or spot bald eagles feasting on salmon along the riverside Quatse Loop Trail. Shop for art, books and local crafts on Market Street. Check out colourful murals painted on downtown buildings. Snap pictures of the chainsaw art at Carrot Park. And be sure to drop into the Port Hardy Museum & Archives, which houses 8,000 year-old Indigenous artifacts local to the area, and a robust gift shop.
Another must visit: The brand new interpretive gallery at the Quatse River Salmon Stewardship Centre (open mid-May to the end of September). Experience fun-filled habitat displays and educational tours within steps of a salmon spawning river and hatchery. At Fort Rupert, the site of a former Hudson’s Bay Company fort, see carvers at work in a First Nations gallery. The staff at the Visitor Centre, open year-round in the heart of town, are happy to assist visitors with more information on local attractions and activities. Make your choice from a diverse slate of accommodations ranging from hotels to B&Bs to campgrounds that are a short walk from downtown.
Port Hardy is the northernmost town on Vancouver Island. Accessible by car via Highway 19, it is a 5.5 hour drive from Victoria, and 4 hours from Nanaimo. Flying in? The Port Hardy Airport offers flights with Pacific Coastal Airlines and Wilderness Seaplanes. Click here for more information.
For information on Vancouver Island North see Drive BC provincial highway information.