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.
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.
The city of Port Alberni is about an hour's drive west of Nanaimo on Highway 4. Those who do not have vehicles can use Tofino Bus to get to the community from Victoria, Nanaimo, and Vancouver. 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, and Pacific Seaplanes will soon be providing flights to and from Vancouver daily.
BC Transit operates three day-time routes and one evening route in Port Alberni (M-Sa, $2 cash fare, free for children under 6).
- Salmon Festival (at Thee Landing), ✉ email@example.com. first weekend in September. Prizes for largest Salmon caught. Salmon barbecues, beer garden, entertainment, karaoke contest. $50 per rod.
- The Thunder in the Valley, 4000 Stamp Ave. second weekend in August. Old cars and street legal drag racing.
- Alberni District Fall Fair, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Second weekend in September. Entertainment, arts and crafts, vendors, photography, logger sports, motocross, midway, agricultural and horse show.
- 1 Alberni Valley Museum, 4255 Wallace Street, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 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.
- Maritime Discovery Centre, 2750 Harbour Rd (at the waterfront beside the Harbour Quay), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
- 2 Alberni Pacific Steam Railway, Alberni Pacific Railway Station, 3100 Kingsway, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 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.
- 3 McLean Sawmill National Heritage Museum, 5633 Smith Road, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
- Watch salmon jumping at Stamp Falls Provincial Park.
- Taste wine at either of the two wineries in the valley.
- Take a day-long cruise down the inlet to see the stunning scenery of Barkley Sound aboard the M.V. Frances Barkley.
- Check out the galleries in the Arts District, or shop at Harbour Quay.
- Biking: some excellent mountain biking circuits, including winding, ultra-challenging routes. Ask at the Visitor Centre about trails and maps. Alien Sports offers bike rentals and repairs. Ozzie’s Cycle offers bike repairs and sales.
- Golfing: The Alberni Golf Club is an 18-hole PGA course at the foot of the Beaufort Mountains. The 9-hole Hollies Executive Golf Course is an easier course, great for those new to the game.
- Sproat Lake Provincial Park: swimming and camping.
- Canal Beach, 2120 Plywood Dr, offers windsurfing, kite surfing and kayaking.
- Diving: the Alberni Valley has two amazing shore dive spots near Port Alberni: China Creek Wall Dive and 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.
- West Coast Wild river kayaking, zip-lining,, toll-free: . 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: . West Coast Edge offers half-day and full-day tours ($500 and $700 respectively) of the Nahmint Valley.
Hike one of the many trails around the town and in the mountains.
- The Alberni Lookout for a magnificent view of the entire valley.
- Log Train Trail – 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.
- Stamp River Long Trail – 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.
- Rogers Creek Nature Trail – Great for beginning hikers, this 3-km riverside path is five minutes south of the Visitor Centre off the Port Alberni Highway (#4).
- 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.
- 1 Alberni Mall, 3550 Johnston Rd, ☏ . Canadian Tire, Mark's Work Wearhouse, Home Hardware, The Brick, Aaron's Furniture, Dollar Tree, and Boston Pizza.
- 2 Pacific Rim Shopping Centre, 3555 Johnston Rd (at the intersection with Cherry Creek Road). Walmart, No Frills (supermarket) and Staples.
- Ahtsik Native Art Gallery, 7133A Pacific Rim Hwy, ☏ . 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.
- Blue Fish Gallery, 2907 2nd Ave, ☏ . 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.
- 1 Granny's Chicken and Grill/3-for-1 Pizza, 3675 3rd Ave, ☏ . 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, ☏ . M-F 11AM-10PM; Sa Su 4PM-10PM.
- Pescadores Bistro, 5093 Johnston Rd, ☏ . 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.
- Boomerangs Cafe, 4833 Johnston Rd, ☏ . Su-Th 6:30AM-8PM; F Sa 6AM-9PM. Australian food. Mains $10-20.
- J & L Drive-In, 4422 Gertrude St, ☏ . 1950s-style drive-in restaurant. Super friendly fast service at your car window. Burgers, fries, onion rings and shakes.
- Bare Bones Fish and Chips, 4824 Johnston Rd, ☏ . Daily 11:30AM-7:30PM. It used to be a United Church, now it unites people through fried fish. 3 types of fish, 3 batters (or grilled).
- 1 Best Western Plus Barclay Hotel, 4277 Stamp Ave, ☏ . Fitness facility, steam bath, hot tub, heated pool, King Suite, Honeymoon Suite. On-site ports bar and grill, sauna and pool. From $144.
- The Hospitality Inn, 3835 Redford St, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. In the heart of Port Alberni. Boutique style inn. Covered, outdoor, salt water, heated pool and hot tub. Fitness facility, hotel dining room, pub, and private liquor store. Complimentary coffee/tea, outdoor parking, and high speed wireless internet access. From $120.
- Riverside Motel, 5065 Roger St, ☏ , toll-free: . Quiet location, wireless Internet, air conditioning, kitchen suites, coin laundry, wheelchair access, BBQ facilities. From $129.
- Cedar Wood Lodge Bed & Breakfast Inn & Conference Center, 5895 River Rd, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 8 guestroom suites featuring either 1 or 2 deluxe queen beds adorned in plush goose-down duvets. Private en-suite bathrooms with Ultra-Spa jetted tubs. From $109.
|Routes through Port Alberni|
|Tofino ← Ucluelet ←||W E||→ Coombs → Parksville-Qualicum Beach|