Vancouver Island North is a four season destination. Sure, winters can be chilly here but they still offer endless opportunities for fun. Choices run the gamut from enjoying gentle pursuits indoors to bundling up for wild crisp air adventures. The region is brimming with seasonal activities, events and festivals. Let us help you fall in love with winter.
One of our star winter attractions is Mount Cain Ski Hill. Such a closely guarded gem that they don’t even make the list of “best kept secret ski resorts.” Mount Cain is open 3 days a week, weekends and select Mondays to allow what is known as the best snow powder on Vancouver Island to accumulate. Choose from 21 runs and an impressive 1499 vertical feet of terrain for unforgettable skiing and snowshoeing opportunities.
Explore one of our many hiking trails for dazzling mountain, forest and seascape views. Get the lay of the land in advance with the Vancouver Island North Recreation Map and online Trail Guide, then download the GPS enabled mobile app.
Try winter camping. Nothing but serenity and silence as you experience star choked night skies. Options range from primitive unmarked sites with no amenities to fully serviced campgrounds with hot showers and laundry facilities. Not all parks & campsites are open year round so do plan ahead.
How about a frigid dip in the Pacific Ocean to talk about when you get home? Join locals for the annual Polar Bear Swim at Noon on New Year’s Day. Be one of the brave souls to jump into the water off Seagate Park in Port Hardy
Calling all birders. The Annual Malcolm Island Christmas Bird Count takes place every December. Despite high tides and storm force winds last year, the teams counted an impressive 2500 birds of 60 different species. Bring your binoculars !!
Visit one of our local museums each sharing fascinating culture and history from First Nations to logging, fishing and mining.
Just because its winter doesn’t mean you can’t go swimming. Dive into the indoor pool at the Port Hardy Recreation Centre where you can swim a few lengths, take lessons or attend an Aquafit class.
Join locals in cheering on local men’s, women’s and youth hockey teams at scheduled tournaments. NHL regulation sized arenas in Port McNeill and Port Hardy are the perfect venue for local and visiting players to show their skills on the ice.
Sit back with a bucket of hot buttered popcorn Fridays nights and Saturday afternoons to watch a movie on the big screen at Gate House Theatre in Port McNeill.
For the next few months all Vancouver Island North communities will be showcasing their artistic talents. This is not a comprehensive list of all activities but a brief snapshot. Check with each community’s website and calendar for holiday craft fairs, concerts, plays and events.
Christmas Creations Craft Fair is this small but spirited community’s kick off to the holidays. Sunday November 17th from 11am-3pm at the Community Centre. Admission is free with balloons for the littles. December events include Christmas tree light up, wreath making, family crafts and cookie workshops as well as breakfast with Santa.
On Sunday December 1st Santa is the star of the parade that starts at Thunderbird Mall winding through town ending at Carrot Park. Enjoy the colourful floats and displays and wander the decorated downtown.
Get a head start on your Christmas shopping or treat yourself to homemade treasures at the Christmas Showcase of Arts and Crafts Saturday November 30th from 11am-4pm. Original art, jewelry, soaps & candles, clothing, paper crafts and edible delights by more than 50 vendors will be on display at The Old School and Community Hall. Never let anyone ever tell you you’re too old to have your picture taken with Santa who will be at the Scout Hall from noon to 3pm.
Kids of all ages line the streets for the First Responder’s Santa Parade. Starting at 6pm on December brightly decorated vehicles from the ambulance, fire and police departments will make their way through Port McNeill ending at the IGA parking lot. Warm up with a cup of hot chocolate, sing along with Christmas carollers and have a chat with the jolly old elf.
This year marks Sointula’s 42nd Winterfest November 15-16. The eclectic two day festival includes a homemade, handmade, self-designed or locally produced arts & crafts fair as well as night of comedy, an original performance by the local theatre troupe Stagehogs followed by live music concert by Groove Kitchen.
At the end of every high octane day of activity there is always a warm pub or restaurant serving warms drinks and food and plenty of options for cozy accommodations. Whatever you choose to do, make sure to dress for the elements and enjoy.
Come embrace winter with us on Vancouver Island North. Your only wish will be that you had more time to experience the magic and wonder of the season.
Karen Stewart – Freelance Writer
Karen is the author of the blog This is Port McNeill