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Posted: Oct 25 2022

A fall road trip through Vancouver Island North is a sight to be seen. The highway on route to the North from Campbell River to Port Hardy is coloured in autumnal hues of burnt orange, smouldering amber, and deep yellows that welcome you to this breathtaking part of Vancouver Island. When the temperature becomes crisp, the cozy call of a warm cabin, foggy morning, and quiet trails call us North to explore deeper into the wild beauty of this region. Fall truly is the best time to visit Vancouver Island North. The flora and fauna shine brilliantly in fall hues, the wildlife bursts with renewed energy, and the cabin getaways beckon us to settle down by the fire after a long day exploring.

Travellers tip: Be sure to check the hours of local businesses as hours may change in the off season!

Here are some of our favorite ways to visit Vancouver Island North in the fall, and how to plan a trip North during the autumn season.

Plan Your Trip in Advance

As you immerse yourself in planning your trip to this wild destination, remember to plan your trip in advance of arrival. Vancouver Island North slows down in the fall, and some accommodations and activities have limited hours or stop service in the fall season. Do your research in advance, and book your accommodation before you arrive so that you have no stress on arrival.

Adventure Smart

Part of the beauty of Vancouver Island North is the rugged beauty of it all- but this also means you need to adventure safe. Always ensure you have a plan of where you’re hiking or exploring, that someone knows where you are and when to expect your return, and that you pack the appropriate gear and clothing. The weather on Vancouver Island North in the fall can be wet and unpredictable, as can the oceans tides and storms, so plan accordingly to explore safely.

The Wild Pledge Principles

Vancouver Island North is a remarkable destination, speckled with stunning scenery, deeply rooted with Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations traditions and culture, and supported by small local businesses that call Vancouver Island North home. Before you arrive here, take the Wild Pledge to ensure that you're travelling with the respect and knowledge of someone who deeply cares for this place and the mark you leave on it as a traveller. Discover and take the Vancouver Island North Wild Pledge.

Where to Stay in Vancouver Island North in the Fall

Autumn is the perfect time for an intimate and quiet getaway to Vancouver Island North, where you can cozy up in your accommodations while taking in the wild of the region around you. Book your accommodation in advance, as this is a popular time to visit for wildlife enthusiasts and off-season explorers seeking a private getaway amidst the beauty of the rainforest and its trails. Here are a few of our favorite places to stay during a fall getaway to Vancouver Island North.

Kwa’lilas Hotel: Port Hardy

Located in the traditional territories of the Kwakiutl, Kwa’lilas Hotel in its entirety is a celebration of Indigenous arts, culture, and food. On arrival at this luxurious hotel, you’ll be in awe of their stunning copper lobby art by Wayne Walkus of the Gwa’sala Nakwaxda’xw territories. The hotel features an onsite restaurant, nax’id’, where you can experience local food and Indigenous-inspired cuisine.

Port Hardy RV Resort & Log Cabins: Port Hardy

These private and individual log cabins located just outside Port Hardy’s core is the perfect spot for a cozy and intimate getaway. Featuring a kitchenette and an accessible drive-up location, the cabins are located off the 138-acre estuary and Quatse River, a perfect spot to take your morning coffee and watch the various birds and other wildlife of the area.

Cluxewe Resort: Port McNeill

Cluxewe Resort is a First Nations-owned campground, RV park, and resort. There are several beachfront cottages that are our top pick for the fall, where you can take in the crashing waves and tides from the comfort of your patio. Each cottage features a fully-equipped kitchen, so you can cook up your fresh catch in your home away from home. The resort is conveniently located just outside Port McNeil, making it a great spot to escape to the wild while being close to all the amenities of town.

The Cabins at Alert Bay

An Indigenous-owned set of cabins located at the out-of-this-world Alert Bay on Cormorant Island, the cabins all feature ocean-view decks to enjoy a morning cup of coffee, electric fireplaces for evening relaxation, and are a great launching point for exploring the rest of the island. Simply take the ferry from Port McNeil and you’ll arrive at Alert Bay, where you can explore this dramatic destination out of the comfort of your cabin getaway.

Outdoor Adventure in the Fall on Vancouver Island North

While Vancouver Island North sees a plethora of visitors in the summer, few know that fall is actually one of the most spectacular times to experience this destination. The beauty of this vast region is host to several ecotourism, outdoor, and wildlife experiences that are best experienced in the fall. Here are a few of our favorite ways to enjoy the outdoors in the fall on Vancouver Island North.

Bear Watching

As the salmon arrive in plenty in the riverways and oceans that surround this region, bears can often be seen from the roadways or rivers throughout Vancouver Island North. But for the best experience to see bears- you need to book a tour with one of the area’s expert wildlife guides. Not only is a safe way to experience bears and have the best opportunity to see bears, it’s also a fantastic way to learn about the local environment, Indigenous cultural traditions, and is a great way to encounter other forms of marine and coastal life including the potential to see whales, wolves, eagles, and more. Sea Wolf Adventures in Port McNeil and Tide Rip Grizzly Tours in Telegraph Cove both offer excellent tours for visitors to the area.

Black bear with salmon in mouth

Salmon Spawning

In Vancouver Island North, the Quatse and Marble Rivers are excellent viewing points during the salmon spawning season, which spans from August to November in the fall in the region. The Quatse Salmon Stewardship Centre in Port Hardy is an interpretive gallery dedicated to salmon conservation and education, with a hatchery that’s not to be missed on a trip to the region.

Hiking and Exploring the Trails

The Vancouver Island North Trail Guide is an excellent resource to find a full list of trails, recreation sites, and parks to explore in the region. In the North, the weather can be unpredictable in the fall so ensure you are planning accordingly and prepared with gear and clothing for all types of outdoor adventures. In the fall, Schoolhouse Creek Trail in Port McNeil is an awesome spot for viewing the salmon as the trail runs alongside a protected salmon spawning habitat.

What to Do Inside in the Fall on Vancouver Island North

While you definitely need to plan for rainy day adventures in the fall on Vancouver Island North, sometimes you just need a break from the outdoors, even when you’re in a place of remarkable natural beauty. Here are a few of our top ways to spend a rainy day in the fall on Vancouver Island North, and escape inside for a break from outdoor exploring.

Shopping in Vancouver Island North

You may not be expecting to shop much on a trip to the North Island, however there are some hidden gems that are an absolute must to check-out. The Book Nook in Port Hardy is filled to the brim with local books, children's books, knick-knacks, pottery, and apothecary items. Drift Clothing above the Book Nook in Port Hardy features a stunning array of stylish clothing for all genders and ages, including a childrens and baby clothing section. Copper and Kelp Market and Fort Rupert General Store are two great places to gather locally-made goods, snacks for adventures, and even a souvenir or two.

Woman shopping at market

Museums and Art Galleries in Vancouver Island North

There are several museums and art galleries to explore on a trip to Vancouver Island North. These are a few of our favorites.

Port Hardy Museum in Port Hardy: Operated by the Port Hardy Heritage Society, the museum is a great way to learn about the history of the area. Exhibits include Indigenous artifacts and stories, early settlers to the area, and natural history materials.

U’Mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay: One of the most dynamic and thorough Indigenous cultural centres on Vancouver Island, there is a significant amount of First Nations pieces and stories passed on through generations for visitors to learn about the rich history and cultural traditions of the Indigenous peoples of the region.

Whale Interpretive Centre in Telegraph Cove: A beautiful educational centre with knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff members who share their passion for whales with visiting guests of all ages. Its main feature is a remarkable collection of whale bones and full skeletons that will leave your jaw dropped.

Restaurants, Breweries and Cafes in Vancouver Island North

While some restaurants operate seasonally in Vancouver Island North, there are plenty of local restaurants and places to escape for a warm meal or delicious brew. Here are a few of our top spots to get a bite to eat in the fall while exploring Vancouver Island North.

Devils’ Bath Brewing Co: A craft brewery located in Port McNeil, the brewery offers stunning views of the Port McNeill Harbour. They feature an extensive food menu, including handcrafted pizzas, and an array of delicious beer that rotates seasonally.

Cafe Guido & Co: Cafe Guido is a staple in Port Hardy, and is one of our favorite stops to grab a sandwich and coffee to go. A fun bonus is that it’s located in the same building as Drift and The Book Nook, so you can check out these other Vancouver Island North favorites while you wait for your food.

Nax’id’ Pub: Located in the Kwa’lilas Hotel, Nax’id’ Pub features locally-minded and Indigenous-minded food that celebrates the coast around here. They often have daily specials featuring fresh catches, and is a great place to relax with the whole family.

The Killer Whale Cafe: Located in Telegraph Cove, the Killer Whale Cafe closes at the end of September, so it’s best for an early fall adventure. With a great menu, and convenient location on the famous Telegraph Cove Boardwalk, it’s a great place to add to any Vancouver Island North itinerary in the fall season.