Arts & Culture 3-5 days

Vancouver Island North boasts rich and colourful culture & history. Its various museums and cultural and interpretive centres chronicle a saga of human habitation dating back at thousands of years. Alert Bay’s priceless U’mista Cultural Centre is internationally renowned for its collection of potlatch artifacts. The community museums in Port Hardy, Port McNeill, Port Alice, Sointula, Quatsino and Alert Bay all do their vital part in keeping the history and traditions of the region alive with displays, rotating exhibits and extensive archives.

Vancouver Island North exerts a magnetic pull on easygoing adventurers seeking authentic tours and experiences in a spectacularly panoramic natural setting. The variety of things to do here is remarkably diverse, especially when exploring the outdoors by land, sea and, when floatplanes and flight seeing trips are factored in, air as well.

Travel to Vancouver Island North
Day 01
Day 02
Day 03
Day 04
Day 05
Additional Activities
Day 01
The Vancouver Island North region is rich with talented artists. Local creations are diverse in medium and inspiration. Tour the town to view displays in the Port Hardy Museum gift shop, at the West Coast Community Craft Shop and the Copper Maker Gallery. Taste a Port Hardy’s all natural local specialty, Hardy Buoys Smoked Fish. Pure alder chips are used for enhanced flavour during the smoking process.
Check out Day 02
Day 02
Connect with the Kwakwaka’wakw culture through an experience lead by First Nations guides in Port Hardy or Alert Bay. Weave sacred cedar bark, prepare salmon for barbequing in the traditional fashion, learn the spirituality of drums and join in the process of making one of your own, or get lost in the legends told through story, song and dance.
Check out Day 03
Day 03
Many artists have chosen to make their home in Port Alice. The spectacular views of Neroutsos Inlet, the peace and the quiet make it the perfect place to work as artists and be inspired by the natural surroundings.
The Marble River Trail, located just off of Highway 30, branches part way with routes to Bear Falls and Emerald Pool. The Marble River is salmon bearing and during the fall spawning season, salmon can be seen leaping up the falls on their journey upstream. This is exactly the type of place that provides artistic inspiration.
Check out Day 04
Day 04
History and culture are alive in Sointula on Malcolm Island. Visit the local museum to learn about the island’s unique history. Or get a present-tense taste of idealism in action by visiting BC’s longest running cooperative general store, formed as the Sointula Co-operative Store Association in 1909. There is also a vibrant arts scene thanks to the many artists and musicians who call Malcolm Island home. Discover this wealth of original talent while browsing through shops, galleries and studios. The Sointula Resource Centre Society’s visitor information staff can point the way.
**Travel by ferry required.
Travel to Alert Bay from Sointula without paying an additional far by asking for a Turn Around Pass when you board the ferry in Sointula – you will be instructed to show the pass at the toll booth and be directed into the line for the immediate next sailing to Alert Bay.
Check out Day 05
Day 05
The U’mista Cultural Centre Gift Shop in Alert Bay on Cormorant Island is internationally known for its wide selection of authentic Kwakwaka’wakw fine art, crafts and souvenirs. The gift shop includes original masks, carvings, paintings and prints from Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation artists. View locally created pieces by First Nation artists at select galleries through the community. The Alert Bay Artists Society also runs a public gallery, the ArtLoft, at 60 Fir Street.
See the next generation of Kwakwaka’wakw share their culture to educate the world about their ancient songs, dances, teachings and values. Witness traditional dances that connect their culture to the land, sky, and sea. The T’sasala Cultural Group holds performances in the ‘Namgis gukwdzi (big house). During the T’sasala Cultural Group performances is the only time that the Big House in Alert Bay is open to the public.
Performances held Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays in July and August.
**Travel by ferry required.
Check out Day 01
Additional Activities
  • It’s all about salmon at the Quatse Salmon Centre in Port Hardy, learn about the important role salmon play in the life of whales
  • Dig your toes into the sand at Storey’s Beach, at low tide this wide, sandy beach is a prime location for picnics and beachcombing, or an evening beach fire (check seasonal restrictions), Tide Guides available at the Port Hardy Visitor Centre
  • Hike the Beautiful Bay trail, the Mateoja Heritage Trail or to Pulteney Point Lighthouse, maps available at Visitor Centres
  • Borrow a bike and cruise Kaleva Road, the bikes are free to borrow, just sign one out at the Sointula Resource Centre
  • Self-guided tour of Memorial and other Totem Poles in Alert Bay, including the world’s tallest totem pole, brochure available at the Alert Bay Visitor Centre
  • Walk the network of trails in the Alert Bay Ecological Park and 20 km of trails throughout the Island, pick up a map and a brochure at the Alert that identifies the plants found in the park
The North Island may feel like a remote destination, but it’s certainly not a challenge to get here. With a fully paved highway leading you North, to daily flights and multiple ferry options, you have your pick of ways to travel! Visit the Getting Here page to learn more.
Waivin’ Flags Taxi & Bus Service
Town Taxi
Pacific Coastal Airlines
National Car and Truck Rentals
Mount Waddington Regional Transit
Drive BC – Provincial Highway Information
Cape Scott Water Taxi
Budget Rent-a-Car
BC Ferries
View On Google Maps
Explore Vancouver Island North
Sign up for travel tips & deals straight to your inbox!