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Posted: Jan 19 2020

Whether you’re planning a short staycation or once in a lifetime trip, a great way to welcome the New Year is by planning a holiday.  If your budget includes airfare, hotel rooms and wilderness tours, the costs can quickly add up.  Here are a few ideas for activities for those who believe that some of the best things in life are free.

Geocaching promises to take you on off-the-beaten-track authentic experiences.  There are oodles of treasures with over 400 geocaches in Port McNeill alone just waiting for discovery.  Download a free or inexpensive app available on IOS or android devices and let the adventure begin.

Ocean, river or lake.  Pick a beach any beach, go for a leisurely stroll and look down. You never know what you may find while beachcombing.  Look there’s a shell, a pretty piece of sea glass, unusual rocks or interesting bits of driftwood.  Small mementos that will help tell incredible stories when you’re back home again.

Travel by 2-wheels on Malcolm Island.  Sign up and borrow one of the free peddle bikes from the Sointula Resource Centre across the road from the ferry terminal.  The name Sointula means “a place of harmony” in Finnish.  Cycle the rugged shoreline of Sointula past weathered cottages and hobby farms and you’re sure to feel it too.

Speaking of Sointula some might find this strange but cemeteries are full of culture and history.  Grave markers honour the brave and hardy Finnish settlers who founded the community in the early 1900’s.  In Alert Bay on Cormorant Island the century old burial ground holds memorial totem poles, some painted, some beautifully weathered commemorating ancestors of the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation people.

Visit a local libraryTake advantage of free Wi-Fi, sign up for free computer time or sit for a spell and read a local newspaper.   Check the bulletin board for upcoming author readings and fun summer programs for kids.

Visit the world’s largest burl.  This 30-ton tree growth from a Sitka Spruce sits in the parking lot of the Community Hall in Port McNeill.  Extra points if you visit the second largest burl ­­ just off Highway 19 just outside of town.

Learn more about humpback whales.  The Marine Education and Research Society has a storefront downtown Port McNeill where you can ask questions and learn more about local marine mammals.  Browse the selection of local, sustainable and marine themed books, pottery and clothing.

Lace up your footwear and go for a hike. Download the free North Island Trail Guide App for iOS and Android and start exploring.  All skill levels are welcome and there is no cost to enjoy the region’s spectacular viewscapes.

Whether you’re a performer in search of an audience or simply looking for a free concert Gate House Theatre in Port McNeill hosts an open microphone night the last Sunday of the month starting at 6:30pm.  Entry is by donation for an evening of homespun musical and theatrical talent.

Connect with nature by practicing what the Japanese refer to as “shinrin-yoku” which loosely translates as “forest bathing.”  Spending mindful time in the forest has proven to be beneficial to body and soul.

Allow your senses to guide you while immersing yourself in the wild air of some of the most biodiverse forests in the world.

Engaging with locals is a great way to learn more about a community.  North Islanders are a friendly bunch so strike up a conversation to get inside knowledge of favourite eateries, best places to fish, hidden scenic gems and local activities.

Before your come check out each community’s website to find out more about upcoming parades, festivals, markets and sports events.  And while you’re here visit local Tourist Information Centres.  There is a wide range of all-are-welcome activities happening every month of the year.

Whether you’re happy doing lots of advance research or have more of a go with the flow attitude you’ll never run out of things to do.   It’s all waiting for you here on Vancouver Island North.

Karen Stewart – Freelance Writer

Karen is the author of This is Port McNeill

And At Water’s Edge Ventures