Take a hike

Whether arriving by air, land or sea, one of the most popular activities among visitors is getting out to stretch their legs, according to Elizabeth Arman-Hume, executive director of the Port Hardy Chamber of Commerce. “People love to go hiking, and we’ve got all sorts of different trails for everyone,” she says. The walk along the Hardy Bay Seawall reveals a vast expanse of deep blue ocean set before the mainland’s majestic Coastal Mountain Range. The paved walkway passes Indigenous totem poles, interpretive signage about the area’s wildlife and two playgrounds. The 500-metre pathway starts at the Visitor Centre, where guests can access up-to-date schedules and information about just about everything that’s going on in town.

For people who really want a more strenuous outing, Elizabeth suggests the 12-kilometre Tex Lyon Trail. The trail begins at the scenic Storey’s Beach (a great spot to have a picnic or explore at low tide) and winds along the coast to Dillon Point. Hikers are advised to wear proper hiking boots, consult a tide chart and let someone know their plans prior to setting out on this demanding eight hour journey. “It’s absolutely challenging, but the reward is a stunning view of Beaver Harbour and the Queen Charlotte Strait,” Elizabeth says.  Alternatively, the Fort Rupert Trail offers a significantly less-demanding 3.7-kilometre jaunt between Storey’s Beach and Bear Cove Road. This path was used historically by members of the Kwakiutl First Nation. The trail includes many boardwalk sections with some uphill segments. It offers a great opportunity to spot wildlife and culturally modifed trees.

Hit the town

Downtown Port Hardy offers an assortment of shops and restaurants with something for all tastes and budgets. A walk along Market Street gives newcomers a chance to mingle with the locals and catch some of the friendly, laid-back North Island vibe. For a taste of Port Hardy’s history, be sure to stop in at the Port Hardy Museum & Archives (7110 Market Street). Open year round, the volunteer-run museum offers a glimpse of the region’s past with displays of aboriginal artifacts, early settlers’ effects, natural history materials and local industrial equipment.

The town is also home to a scenic nine-hole golf course, motorsports speedway and motocross track. The Port Hardy Recreation Centre (7440 Columbia Street) offers an indoor pool, skating rink, tennis courts and a skatepark.

Experience the salmonids

A great way to learn about the area’s flora and fauna is to drop by the Quatse Salmon Stewardship Centre. “It’s pretty much a cool place to go with kids or without,” Elizabeth says. “It’s very educational and also offers a great walk past the salmon runs along the Quatse River in the fall.” Owned and operated by the Northern Vancouver Island Salmonid Enhancement Association, the centre’s world-class interpretive gallery features exhibits and displays showing guests how salmon undertake their remarkable journey from sheltered streams to the open ocean. Every year, the hatchery’s staff raise and release nearly three million salmon and steelhead into the region’s streams and rivers. The centre offers visitors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get “hands-on with salmon” daily between 10 am and 4:30 pm all summer long. For more
information, call 250-902-0336 or visit here.

Drive from “coast to coast”

It’s only about a two-hour drive from downtown Port Hardy to Vancouver Island’s rugged northern coastline, making this an ideal day trip for anyone eager to see the local landscape. Asphalt roadways soon become gravel logging roads that wind through the thick north island forests, past the Nahwitti Lake Recreation Site, an iconic shoe tree and the logging community of Holberg (pop.: 35), with its local pub. The San Josef Main road winds westward from Holberg to the open Pacific, passing the popular Ronning’s Garden, Vancouver Island’s northern-most show garden and the site of a pioneer homestead dating to 1910.

A little further down the road marks the gateway to Cape Scott Provincial Park. The park covers the island’s northern tip and includes a historic lighthouse, excellent multi-day hiking trails and the 2.5-kilometre trail to San Josef Bay, where visitors can take in the spectacular sandy shore, beachcomb at low tide or marvel at the dramatic cliff-lined shore. Drivers should be aware of logging trucks along the route and keep in mind that they have the right of way. Elizabeth recommends drivers leave Port Hardy with a full tank of gas and extra food and water. More details about hiking and camping opportunities in the park are available at BC Parks.

Getting There

Pacific Coastal Airlines offers several daily flights between YVR South Terminal and Port Hardy Airport.
Learn More> Vancouver to Port Hardy
Learn More> Port Hardy to Vancouver

Story Sean McIntyre, courtesy of Black Press
Photo Credit, left to right, Sarah Etoile, Sarah Etoile (Fort Rupert Kwakiutl Big House), & latter two images courtesy of Destination BC