alert bay, bc, bc ferries, british columbia, cape scott, ferry, grizzly bears, inside passage, Khutzeymateen, Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Park, nisgaa, port hardy, prince rupert, Prince Rupert Adventure Tours, san josef bay, sayward, terrace, vancouver island, Vetter Falls Lodge
BC is a huge province, but I can now say I’ve seen some of its more rugged coastline. At the end of June, Emily and I traveled up Vancouver Island and took the ferry in the Inside Passage to Prince Rupert. We were traveling with Emily’s mom Mairy, and her partner Martha who were taking a tall ship from Prince Rupert to Alaska on an adventure cruise. Our journey was full of spectacular scenery, wild and beautiful animals, and miserably cold and wet weather.
Some of the highlights:
- Hiking in Cape Scott Provincial Park
- Grizzly Bear Watching in the Khutzeymateen
- Exploring the Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park
Pictures of our Journey to Prince Rupert
Day 1: Traveling Up Vancouver Island
After taking the ferry to Nanaimo, we rented a car and took our time driving up the coast of Vancouver Island. We stopped in Coombs to have lunch with the goats, explored some beaches, had a second a lunch in Courtney at Delicado’s and a raw food bar, had dinner in Campbell River, did some hiking at Elk Falls Provincial Park, and then spent the night in Sayward. We stayed at a bed and breakfast that was surrounded by Victorian gardens.
Day 2: Telegraph Cove and Alert Bay
On our second day traveling up Vancouver Island, we had a quick stop in Telegraph Cove (somewhere I’d like to come back to during nicer weather to do some kayaking) and took a ferry over to Alert Bay. Alert Bay has an amazing collection of totem poles and an excellent cultural centre, next to an old residential school.
We stayed the night in Port Hardy at a B&B run by a very helpful couple. They had lots of tips on what to do, they made us gluten-free vegan breakfasts, and even woke up at 5:00 am to see us off to the ferry terminal with brown-bagged breakfasts.
Day 3: Hiking in Cape Scott Provincial Park
The route from Port Hardy to Cape Scott Provincial Park is all on gravel logging roads that get increasingly bumpy as you go. The logging trucks don’t slow down for anyone, so its an adventurous ride. We did the short (45 min) hike from the parking lot to San Josef Bay. Luckily the rain stopped just after we reached the beach, so we could explore without getting soaked. We timed our hike so that we arrived at the beach as close to low tide as possible. There are some really neat rock formations along the beach.
On the way back from Cape Scott, we stopped at the shoe tree – a highly recommended tourist attraction. It was … different and unique (or so we thought until we saw another, lesser shoe tree in Prince Rupert).
Day 4: Ferry up the Inside Passage
The ferry up the Inside Passage is more of a mini-cruise than a normal BC Ferry ride. The ship has cabins with beds and a buffet restaurant, the scenery is stunning, and the passengers are mostly international tourists. Our day on the ferry had the worst weather of the whole trip. The rain poured the whole time and it was cold outside, so we spent most of our time hunkered inside playing games and reading. We did see a pod of dolphins jumping next to the boat, a humpback whale, and countless waterfalls on our 15 hour journey.
We had seats booked in the first-class Aurora Lounge. I’m not sure it was worth the extra $35. It was nice having a quiet and secure space to hang out and leave our stuff, but with all of its windows it was colder than the rest of the ship and the slanted glass in the front was impossible to see out of with all of the rain.
Day 5: Grizzly Bear Tours in the Khutzeymateen
Emily and I went on a grizzly bear tour of the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary from Prince Rupert Adventure Tours. I was really impressed with the boat, the guide, and the tour. It helped that we saw 9 grizzly bears – including 2 mothers and 4 cubs. According to the guide, they usually see at least one or two bears, but nine was more than they had seen in previous weeks.
On the way back from the grizzly bear sanctuary, the boat stopped to throw some meat scraps into the water and the bald eagles descended en masse. They were swooping within a couple of feet of our heads.
Day 6: Cannery Tour and Driving along the Skeena
On our second day in Prince Rupert, we rented a car and drove out to see the North Pacific Cannery Museum and then continued along the mighty Skeena River to Terrace. Car rentals in Prince Rupert are not cheap, but we wanted a chance to explore inland. The cannery tour was interesting, and I learned all there is to know about salmon fishing and canning. Our guide, Spider, was a super knowledgeable old gillnet fisherman. It was interesting to hear how the cannery included Japanese, Chinese, First Nations, and European workers that were racially segregated in their living quarters and jobs. It was also fascinating to hear about how the war changed Prince Rupert, when the Americans took over the port during World War II and built a highway to Terrace.
Day 7: Exploring Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park
Just north of Terrace there is a lava field from an eruption 250 years ago. The area is Nisga’a land, and has been turned into a memorial park. It was interesting to explore the lava fields and see the Nisga’a culture. We were invited to the smokehouses to see salmon being prepared.
We stayed at a swanky B&B in the park, Vetter Falls, that is run by Siggi a funny German fellow who built the lodge himself. It is an impressive cabin, and they even cooked us an excellent vegetarian dinner. Sadly, the Nisga’a bought the lodge and Siggi is leaving soon and they don’t know who will manage the lodge, so I’m not sure what will happen to this gem.