Download GPX file for this article
49.2339-124.805Full screen dynamic map

From Wikivoyage
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Port Alberni is a city of about 18,000 people (2011) in British Columbia. It is at the base of Mount Arrowsmith and is practically surrounded by mountains.


Gorge of Stamp Falls in Stamp River Provincial Park

The town is a major service centre for local, regional, and provincial governments, and a supply centre and hospital for west coast communities like Bamfield, Tofino, and Ucluelet. The natural resources of the area are taking centre stage again, as Port Alberni re-orients itself from logging to tourism. The area's amenities, such as the natural beauty of the area, the opportunities for fishing (marine and freshwater), its convenience as a jumping-off point for new outdoor recreation and ecotourism activities such as hiking, kayaking, and mountain-biking, lend themselves to these activities very well.


Port Alberni and the West Coast of Vancouver Island is the traditional territory of the Tseshaht and Hupacasath First Nations of the Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council. The Nuu-chah-nulth were previously called the Nootka. Many place names in Port Alberni have a Nuu-chah-nulth origin, such as Somass (washing), Kitsuksis (log across mouth of creek), Pacheena (foamy), and Nootka (go around). Ancient petroglyph carvings can be found at Sproat Lake.

In March 1787, Captain Charles William Barkley of the Imperial Eagle, explored Barkley Sound, which now bears his name. Barkley travelled with his 17-year-old bride, Frances Barkley, the first European woman to visit what is now British Columbia.

McLean Mill

In 1860, the Anderson company from England set up a sawmill operation. This was the first mill in B.C. built to export lumber. The mill failed, but several others were established in the 1880s. In 1862, small-scale placer gold mining took place on China Creek; in the 1890s more gold mining took place along the Alberni Inlet at China Creek and Mineral Creek. Several gold veins were found. Exploration for gold continued over the years with peaks in the 1930s and 1960s.

With ample western red cedar and Douglas fir forests surrounding the valley, the forest industry became the dominant economic force. Large logging operators moved in. Sawmills were built at Alberni, Great Central Lake, and the McLean Mill. By the Second World War, plywood mills and a nascent pulp industry had started. For the next forty years, the forest industry reigned supreme.


Although the summer months do see a relatively small amount of precipitation, the vast majority of it comes during the winter months as cool, moist air flows from the Pacific Ocean over the much colder B.C. coast. Despite its location on the relatively dryer east side of Vancouver Island, the resulting weak rain shadow is not enough to keep the city dry.

Get in[edit]

By car[edit]

The city of Port Alberni is about an hour's drive west of Nanaimo on Highway 4.

By bus[edit]

  • IslandLink Bus, . Operates a hub and spoke bus service with hubs in Nanaimo and Buckley Bay. Trips run non-stop from the hub to the destination area. This system works well if direct travel would run by a hub anyway, but can result in significant detours if direct travel would not pass by either hub. Using this service, the hubs connect to Campbell River, Oyster River, Comox, Courtenay, Cumberland, Bowser, Parksville, Nanaimo, Duncan, and Mill Bay, and Victoria. As of January 30, 2023, service is also available to Port Alberni, Tofino, and Ucluelet with trip frequency ranging from 3 days per week in the winter to daily in the summer.
  • Tofino Bus (Vancouver Island Connector). Service to Tofino, Nanaimo, and Victoria, summer months only.

By plane[edit]

An airport exists, about 20 minutes from the city. However, there is no regular year-round service, because it is not certified for instrument landings, and fog is so prevalent in the winter.


Chartered float planes can land in the harbour.

By boat[edit]

  • 1 Lady Rose Marine Services, 5425 Argyle St, +1-250-723-8313, toll-free: +1-800-663-7192. Provides ferry service along the scenic Alberni inlet from Bamfield three times weekly on Tu, Tu and Sa. Trips from Bamfield to Port Alberni depart 1:30 PM and take 3.5 hours. Trips from Port Alberni to Bamfield take 4.5 hours.

Get around[edit]

By public transit[edit]

By taxi[edit]


  • 1 Alberni Valley Museum, 4255 Wallace Street, +1 250 720-2863, . Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM; Th 10AM-8PM. Nuu Chah Nulth art and culture and Port Alberni's industrial roots from logging to fishing and farming. Unique folk art. The Alberni Valley Museum presents the cultural heritage of the community through its collections of artifacts and historic photographs.
  • 2 Maritime Discovery Centre, 2750 Harbour Rd (at the waterfront beside the Harbour Quay), +1 250-723-6164, . Summer: M-F 10AM-4PM, Sa Su 9:30AM-4:30PM; winter: M W 11AM-4PM, Tu noon-4PM, Su 1PM-4PM. Constructed from a coastal lighthouse, this is a unique maritime museum. With its companion Hutcheson Gallery this museum is dedicated to exhibiting and interpreting cultural, environmental and industrial maritime history. Admission by donation.
  • 3 Alberni Pacific Steam Railway, Alberni Pacific Railway Station, 3100 Kingsway, +1 250-723-4285, . May-Sep certain days departs from Port Alberni 11AM and from McLean Mill at 2:30PM or 3PM. Some special runs Oct-Dec. You can board the train pulled by a completely restored 1929 Baldwin ex-logging locomotive at the 1912 CPR Station and ride out to the McLean Mill National Historic Site. The track winds through the City of Port Alberni and then the surrounding forests for 35 minutes each way. Round-trip/one-way tickets: adult $36/26, student (1218) $25/15, child (0-11) 1 free per paid adult (extras are $20), family (2 adults & 2 youth 12-18) $95/n.a. All fares include entry to the McLean Sawmill, and are subject to 5% tax and a processing fee. Alberni Pacific Railway (Q4709551) on Wikidata Alberni Pacific Railway on Wikipedia
  • 4 McLean Sawmill National Heritage Museum, 5633 Smith Road, +1 250-723-1376, . Daily 10AM-dusk. The only commercial steam-operated sawmill in Canada. The sawmill cuts wood for demonstration and sale. Original buildings and lots of restored logging equipment around the site including a steam donkey, logging trucks, graders, and lumber carriers. Cafe and gift shop. Adults $0, youth (ages 11-18) $5, child (ages 1-10) free, plus 5% tax. McLean Mill National Historic Site (Q14874683) on Wikidata McLean Mill National Historic Site on Wikipedia
  • 5 Stamp River Provincial Park (north of town, accessed from Beaver Creek Rd). Watch salmon jumping and circling below Stamp Falls on their way to spawning beds from late August to December. Stamp River Provincial Park (Q7597452) on Wikidata Stamp River Provincial Park on Wikipedia



  • Biking: some excellent mountain biking circuits, including winding, ultra-challenging routes. Ask at the Visitor Centre about trails and maps.
  • 1 Sproat Lake Provincial Park (west end of town, along Highway 4, turn at Central Lake Rd). Swimming and camping. Sproat Lake Provincial Park (Q2314135) on Wikidata Sproat Lake Provincial Park on Wikipedia
  • 2 Canal Beach, 2120 Plywood Dr. Offers windsurfing, kite surfing and kayaking.
  • 3 China Creek Wall Dive and Ship Wreck (head 11 km south from Ship Creek Rd and Anderson Ave, then turn right and travel 1.5 km along China Creek Marina Rd). The Alberni Valley has two amazing shore dive spots near Port Alberni, both near the China Creek Campground and Marina. One is the China Creek Wall Dive and the other is the Ship Wreck (Chinese Immigrant Ship Wreck).
  • Fishing: Port Alberni, also known as the Salmon Capital of the World, was designated as the World Fishing Network’s first “Ultimate Fishing Town 2010.” Anglers can find an abundance of both river and ocean fishing in the Alberni Valley because the port is at the end of a long arm of the ocean with many rivers flowing in to it.
  • 4 West Coast Wild (Hwy 4 approximately 56 km west of Port Alberni), toll-free: +1-877-992-9453. Kayaking in the Kennedy River (2 hr, mid-May to Sep, $57). Ride a thrilling series of ziplines through the canopy of an old growth rain forest then thread through the wild Kennedy River Canyon (mid-Mar to Oct, $106).
  • ATV tours, toll-free: +1-855-666-3343. West Coast Edge offers half-day and full-day tours ($500 and $700 respectively) of the Nahmint Valley.


  • 5 Alberni Golf Club, 6449 Cherry Creek Rd (+1 250-723-7111). Is an 18-hole PGA course at the foot of the Beaufort Mountains.
  • 6 Hollies Executive Golf Course, 3133 Alberni Hwy, +1 250-724-5333. This 9-hole is great for those new to the game.


Hike one of the many trails around the town and in the mountains.

  • 7 The Alberni Lookout (Lacy Lake Rd at the east end of town, accessed from near Highway 4). For a magnificent view of the entire valley. About 4 km roundtrip.
  • 8 Log Train Trail (access from east of the intersection of Mozart Rd and Maebelle Rd). A flat and scenic 25-km trail for hiking, cycling and horseback riding that follows an abandoned 1920s-era railway branch line at the foot of the Beaufort Range. It once linked a sawmill to Port Alberni’s waterfront. Access is via the equestrian trail at Mozart Road north of town.
  • 9 Stamp River Long Trail (south end of trail in Stamp River Provincial Park). This 7.5-km trail follows the east bank of the Stamp River, and is marked by stretches of moss-covered old-growth firs and cedars.
  • 10 Rogers Creek Nature Trail (access from Redford St). Great for beginning hikers, this 3-km riverside path is five minutes south of the Visitor Centre off the Port Alberni Highway (#4).
  • 11 Mount Arrowsmith. This is one of the most popular mountains on Vancouver Island to climb. Although it is a challenging hike, it is not technical – that is, you don’t need ropes and climbing gear. The mountain has a variety of routes for serious hikers, including the historic 1912 Canadian Pacific Railways trail, a challenging, eight-hour hike. Other routes are shorter and take you higher. The trailheads are reached by following a logging road. Be careful driving it. Mount Arrowsmith (Q1950351) on Wikidata Mount Arrowsmith on Wikipedia


  • North Island College (NIC). Publicly funded college. North Island College (Q7055721) on Wikidata North Island College on Wikipedia
    • 1 North Island College (NIC) - Rogers Street campus, 3699 Roger Street, +1 250-724-8711. Health and service programs, university studies, and culinary training are amongst the programs covered at this campus. North Island College (Q7055721) on Wikidata North Island College on Wikipedia
    • 2 North Island College (NIC) - Tebo Vocational Centre, 4751 Tebo Avenue, +1 250-724-8738. Trades programs are at this campus. North Island College (Q7055721) on Wikidata North Island College on Wikipedia


  • 1 Alberni Mall, 3550 Johnston Rd, +1 250-724-5449. Canadian Tire, Mark's Work Wearhouse, Home Hardware, The Brick, Aaron's Furniture, Dollar Tree, and Boston Pizza. Alberni Mall (Q4709550) on Wikidata Alberni Mall on Wikipedia
  • 2 Pacific Rim Shopping Centre, 3555 Johnston Rd (at the intersection with Cherry Creek Road). Walmart, No Frills (supermarket) and Staples. Pacific Rim Shopping Centre (Q7122665) on Wikidata Pacific Rim Shopping Centre on Wikipedia
  • 3 Ahtsik Native Art Gallery, 7133A Pacific Rim Hwy, +1 250-723-3425. M-F 10:30AM-5PM, Sa noon-5PM (call to confirm). A beautiful cedar gallery on the Pacific Rim highway heading out of Port Alberni towards Tofino (Hwy 4). Original Northwest Coast Art inside the gallery. In warmer months, you can come and see larger Wood projects being carved just outside the gallery, such as a totem pole.
  • 4 Blue Fish Gallery, 2907 2nd Ave, +1 778-419-3474. Tu-Sa 11AM-5PM; Jun Jul Aug Dec also M 11AM-5PM. Gift and speciality shop. High quality handcrafted items, pottery, paintings, glass, jewellery, leather bags, locally made soaps, clothing, and global Fair Trade items.
  • 5 Alberni Harbour Quay, 5440 Argyle St. Has waterfront shops, galleries, and eateries.


  • 1 Granny's Chicken and Grill/3-for-1 Pizza, 3675 3rd Ave, +1 250-723-6111. Su-Th 11AM-2AM; F Sa 11AM-4AM. They have the heaviest pizzas in town, plus selections from Mexican to East Indian. They also have delivery. Chicken, pizza, barbeque, burgers, seafood.
  • 2 Beijing Grand Restaurant, 3274 3rd Ave, +1 250-723-8928. M-F 11AM-10PM; Sa Su 4PM-10PM.
  • 3 Pescadores Bistro, 5093 Johnston Rd, +1 250-736-1100. Daily 8AM-3PM. Fresh, seasonal ingredients sourced locally from the Alberni Valley. Farm fresh veggies, local meats and Pacific Rim seafood are all on the menu when the season allows for it. Healthy, low-fat, vegan and gluten-free options available. Breakfast or lunch $10-15.
  • 4 Boomerangs Cafe, 4833 Johnston Rd, +1 250-724-5794. Su-Th 6:30AM-8PM; F Sa 6AM-9PM. It serves Australian food and is busiest at breakfast. Mains $10-20.
  • 5 J & L Drive-In, 4422 Gertrude St, +1 250-723-6331. 1950s-style drive-in restaurant. Super friendly fast service at your car window. Burgers, fries, onion rings and shakes.
  • 6 Bare Bones Fish and Chips, 4824 Johnston Rd, +1 250-720-0900. Daily 11:30AM-7:30PM. It used to be a United Church, now it unites people through fried fish. 3 types of fish, fish and chips or fish burgers. Everything is gluten-free.






Go next[edit]

Routes through Port Alberni
TofinoUcluelet  W  E  CoombsParksville/Qualicum Beach

This city travel guide to Port Alberni is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.