Whales & Bears 3-5 days

It’s not so much wildlife viewing. Viewing implies observation over participation, like looking through a window; watching over a fence, or through a pair of binoculars. Safe and separate. It’s common, but it’s not how we do things here. On Vancouver Island North, a better phrase is Wildlife Immersion. Every inch of Vancouver Island North is teeming with wildlife, creatures great and small; the land up here still belongs to the wild things.

Your Itinerary

Travel to Vancouver Island North, overnight in Telegraph Cove, Port McNeill or Port Hardy.

Day 01
Day 02
Day 03
Day 04
Day 05
Day 01
Bear Viewing Day Tour

Bear viewing day tours have early-morning daily departures from Telegraph Cove, Port McNeill, or Alert Bay returning in the afternoon. Day tours are full-day experiences, typically 9 hours in duration.

Mammoth grizzly bears thrive just a short distance from the north island in the Great Bear Rainforest, the largest intact coastal temperate rainforest in the world. Tours depart from Telegraph Cove in cabin cruisers accompanied by naturalist guides, touring across Johnstone Strait, and through the Broughton Archipelago to Knight Inlet on the mainland coast of BC. Cute cubs and towering adult bears spend the May to October season feeding on sedge grasses, seaweed, shellfish and salmon at the edges of the inlet and in the surrounding river systems. Let the natural environment speak to you while you find yourself getting lost with wildlife.

Additional Activities

The bear viewing day-tour will keep you busy from the early morning departure until the afternoon return trip, but if you’re up for an evening activity, here’s a few to consider.

  • You will be struck immediately by Telegraph Cove’s charm, dig into the roots of this place by touring historic boardwalk
  • Find the perfect Island-inspired gift item to remember your trip by, shop in Telegraph Cove or Port McNeill
  • Stretch your legs with a stroll along the Port McNeill harbourfront walkway or Rotary Trail, or head inland for a forested hiking trail or recreation site
Overnight in Port McNeill or Telegraph Cove.
Check out Day 02
Day 02
Whale Watching Day Tour

Whale watching day tour duration ranges from 2 – 5 hours. Daily scheduled departures from Telegraph Cove, Port McNeill, Alder Bay, or Port Hardy.

Members of a population of some 285 fish-eating orcas known as the “Northern Residents” are often in the area in pursuit of salmon. The more stealthy marine mammal-eating population of killer whales known as “Transients” are also often hunting in the area. Humpback whales are back from the brink of extinction and are spotted frequently in the area.

Additional Activities

Whale watching day tours will typically be a morning, or afternoon activity, leaving you some time before or after to lose yourself in another Vancouver Island North experience.

  • It doesn’t get fresher than catching your own dinner, head out on a guided half-day fishing charter
  • 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
  • Learn about biology, habitat needs and threats to local marine mammals at the Whale Interpretive Centre in Telegraph Cove
  • Shake out your sea legs and head inland for a forested hiking trail or recreation site

Overnight in Port McNeill or Telegraph Cove.

Check out Day 03
Day 03
Wildlife & Culture
Choose to spend your day in Port Hardy for Ha’matla Lel’gwatla’tle, or Elder’s Story. Port Hardy has three Nations in the region; the Quatsino Nation, Fort Rupert (Kwakiutl) Nation, and the Gwa’sala Nakwaxda’xw Nation. An Elder from one of the three Nations that will share their story of legends of their people and their family. These captivating stories typically emphasize man’s connections with animals and nature and often involve anthropomorphism of the main characters.
Or make your way over to the U’mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay, or ‘Yalis as the community is traditionally known by the people of the ‘Namgis First Nation, to view the Potlatch Collection and learn about legends of Maxinuxw “Killer Whale”.
Travel by BC Ferries from Port McNeill to Alert Bay.
Additional Activities
  • Find the perfect Island-inspired gift item to remember your trip by, shop in Telegraph Cove or Port McNeill
  • 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
  • Hit the trails – Quatse Loop & Estuary Trail in Port Hardy, Beaver Lake Interpretive Trail, Fort Rupert Trail – Bear Cove Road to Storey’s Beach, or the Alert Bay Ecological Park

If you chose to spend the day in Port Hardy, travel by BC Ferries from Port McNeill to Alert Bay, and overnight in Alert Bay.

Check out Day 04
Day 04
Whale Watching Day Tour
This whale watching day tour departs daily directly from Alert Bay and will last 4 – 5 hours. This eco-friendly tour intentionally keeps group sizes small in order to provide an experience unique to the other tours in the region. See whales from a different vessel, and a different perspective.
Additional Activities
  • If you didn’t visit the U’mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay on Day 3, make sure to stop in
  • 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 Bay Visitor Centre that identifies the plants found in the park
  • 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
  • Visit Alert Bay art galleries, gift shops and other services
  • If you are visiting during July and August see traditional dance performance in Big House or take a guided Circle Tour of Cormorant Island
  • Beachcombing
Check out Day 05
Day 05
Visit Bere Point Killer Whale Rubbing Beach

Local whale researchers say that the Northern Residents are the only Killer Whales of BC’s four distinct populations that rub on smooth pebble beaches. The accepted hypothesis as to why these whales rub on these beaches is that it’s a cultural tradition for the Northern Resident community of orca to indulge in this behaviour.

Bere Point is one beach with this unique make up with millions of small smooth pebbles covering a long, wide gradual slope. Perfect conditions for orca to rub themselves up against without harm. It’s one of, if not the only, orca rubbing beach readily accessible to humans, with a regional park adjacent to it, and a trail to the rubbing beach. You will also find a viewing platform and educational signage with information about killer whales seen at Bere Point and on the BC coast.

* Travel on logging road required for this activity

Additional Activities

Unwind on Malcolm Island and adjust to the relaxed pace by exploring this quirky place.

  • Hike the Beautiful Bay trail, the Mateoja Heritage Trail or to Pulteney Point Lighthouse, maps available at Visitor Centres
  • Visit the Sointula Museum
  • Visit Sointula art galleries
  • Borrow a bike and cruise Kaleva Road, the bikes are free to borrow, just sign one out at the Sointula Resource Centre
Travel by ferry from Sointula to Port McNeill.
Check out Day 01
Getting here & Getting around

Port McNeill is located 5 hours and 15 minutes from Victoria, 3 hours and 40 minutes from Nanaimo, and 2 hours from Campbell River.

For information on Vancouver Island North see Drive BC provincial highway information.

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
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