North Vancouver Island is the more remote, northern part of Vancouver Island. Explore it by booking a tour to see orcas or grizzlies, learning about local First Nations or doing a rugged hike through old-growth forest.
- 1 Port Hardy — Small logging town on the north tip of the island, gateway to Cape Scott Provincial Park and BC's central coast. As the largest town in the region it has the most accommodation options and services. There are also some small museums focusing on the local area and First Nations.
- 2 Alert Bay — A village occupying a third of Cormorant Island, it's a historical centre of First Nations culture. Visit the traditional longhouse and U'mista Cultural Society to learn more about Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw culture and history.
- 3 Sointula — An old Finnish settlement with some good wildlife viewing.
- 4 Telegraph Cove — A former fishing and cannery village that has become a launch point for ecotourism. Rent a kayak to explore the nearby waters or take a grizzly viewing tour. Business is seasonal though, with many places only open May-Oct. Voted one of the ten best "towns" in Canada to visit by travel writers (as published in Harrowsmith Magazine).
- 5 Zeballos —
- 1 Cape Scott Provincial Park — Rugged and often wet remote park known for its old growth forest and sandy beaches. It has two notable hiking trails — the 1-2 day Cape Scott Trail and the multi-day North Coast Trail.
Northern Vancouver Island is a resource- and tourism-based economy that has large portions of wilderness. The people of the northern Vancouver Island are friendly and welcoming, but, just like most people in the world, it does help to be respectful of local customs.
The only highway in and out of North Vancouver Island is BC Highway 19. It runs roughly 400 km from Port Hardy, at its northern end, south through Campbell River to Nanaimo. Travel time between Port Hardy and Nanaimo is roughly 4.5-5 hours and 6-6.5 hours to Victoria.
BC Ferries operates ferries through the beautiful Inside Passage that connect the Central and North Coasts with the Port Hardy ferry terminal, including Prince Rupert, Bella Bella and some of the small communities of the Central Coast. The number of sailings per week varies by season and, if travelling to/from Prince Rupert, there is often a transfer in Bella Bella. Sailing time is 15-20 hours to Prince Rupert and 5-6 hours to Bella Bella.
There is a regional airport in Port Hardy with daily flights to Vancouver.
There is some bus service.
Hitchhiking happens, but it's better if you organize a ride at a coffee house or on the internet.
- See the vast wilderness of the north
- Learn about Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw culture at the Umista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay and at Fort Rupert near Port Hardy
- Leap into the salmon’s world at the Quatse Salmon Stewardship Centre in Port Hardy to learn about all things salmon
- Go fishing. Some of the best fishing in the world is on the northern Island. If you are invited (not chartered) to go fishing on someone's boat, bring beer and offer to chip in for gas, as even a generous contribution for fuel is still a lot cheaper than going on a charter fishing trip
- Go camping or hunting, or do both. Make sure you get your license before you go
- Go hiking through old growth forest and across beaches at Cape Scott Provincial Park
- Whale watching for orcas and humpback whales is very popular out of Telegraph Cove and Port McNeil
- Go kayaking for a few hours or a few days among the archipelago of islands that dot the eastern shore of the island. Kayaks can be rented or tours booked from Telegraph Cove
- Launch off on a tour to see grizzly bears from Telegraph Cove
Make sure you do not have anything of value in your vehicle if you park it for the night away from you.
Most of the Northern Island is without cell service, so make sure your vehicle is in good order and fueled up. Pay attention to the road warning signs; they are not there for the scenery enhancement. Don't drink and drive – not even with the excuse that "it's just one beer" or "I had two, but that was two hours ago". BC has the most stringent DUI laws in Canada, and the laws of physics on mountain terrain are enforced without mercy.
Just like all responsible hikers do everywhere in the world, if you go hiking, leave a written trip plan that tells people where you will go and when you are expected to return.
- Central Vancouver Island – With beaches and big trees, hikes and kayaking, whale watching and salmon fishing, caves and surfing, the central part of Vancouver Island is a haven for outdoor recreation. Nanaimo, the largest city, is a 4.5 hour drive from Port Hardy on BC Highway 19.
- North Coast – Untouched wilderness and native culture, and famous for fishing. Head north into the waters of the Inside Passage on BC Ferries to Prince Rupert.