Tucked away on the upper Sunshine Coast, Powell River is a city of 13,000 people (2016). It's not on many travel itineraries. Long dominated by the pulp and paper and forestry industries, it has started to become a centre for ecotourism with its abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities.
Prior to European settlement in the area, the area was inhabited by Coast Salish peoples, and was used as a landing spot for gold prospectors coming from Vancouver Island who were treading their way to the Fraser River to find quick fortune prior to the creation of the Cariboo Road.
The Powell River was named for Israel Wood Powell, who was at that time superintendent of Indian Affairs for BC. He was travelling up the coast of BC in the 1880s and the river and lake were named after him.
The pulp mill was started in 1908, with a corresponding townsite company town commenced in 1910: the first roll of paper was produced at Powell River Mill in 1912. Similarly, large logging companies had earlier moved in to take advantage of the huge timber. The Historic Townsite was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1995, recognizing the exceptionally well preserved early 20th-century planned community, rooted firmly in the Garden City Design Movement and the Arts and Crafts philosophy.
The mill in Powell River was at one time the largest pulp and paper mill in the world. In its prime, one in every 25 newspapers in the world was printed on paper from the Powell River mill. However, since then it has significantly cut back on production and now produces newsprint and specialty papers. The mill has down-sizing, and laid off hundreds of employees. The diversification of the local economy led to an increased focus on ecotourism and the arts, in addition to more traditional resources like mining, fishing, and general forestry. In recognition of its strong arts and cultural programs, Powell River was named a "Cultural Capital of Canada" in 2004.
The Powell River area is the traditional home to the Tla A'min Nation of the Mainland Comox branch of the Coast Salish peoples, who still reside there to this day, although having been forced to relocate from their original village site at the mouth of Powell River to make way for the construction of a power dam and paper mill. Their village is commonly referred to as Sliammon (the usual English adaptation of Tla'Amin).
Powell River is on Highway 101, about 4-5 hours north-west of Vancouver. Although the city is on the mainland and there are roads in the area, it will require a couple of ferry rides (Horseshoe Bay to Langdale and Earl's Cove to Saltery Bay) to get to it because it is not directly linked with the rest of the provincial road network.
BC Ferries runs a ferry service between Comox on Vancouver Island and Powell River. The ferry runs four times daily and takes 80 minutes. Cost is $11 per person and $34 for a normal passenger vehicle.
- 1 Powell River Airport (YPW IATA). A small airfield which has regular scheduled flights to and from Vancouver. Private chartered flights are also available.
A car is the best way to get around. The city sprawls out along Highway 101 and the local bus transit is fairly limited and taxis aren't cheap. Or, you could walk or hitchhike to get around.
- The SS Peralta, the last ship of the World War I fleet still afloat, is in Powell River. Its part of a semi-circle of concrete war ships, once used to protect a logging company's log pond.
- The Patricia Theatre is Canada's oldest continuously operating theatre. The theatre was built in 1913 and then rebuilt in 1928. The theatre was built in a Spanish renaissance-style which gave it good acoustics.
- Powell River Historical Museum depicts the interactions between the pioneers and First Nations as well as showing the tools and items that would have been used by those groups.
- The mountains of Vancouver Island towering over Georgia Strait.
- Powell River is a nature lovers paradise with a variety of hiking, scuba, snowshoeing and swimming opportunities.
- The Powell River Canoe Route links at least 5 lakes in succession with minimal portaging.
- Rock climbing can be found up the Eldred Valley behind Powell River, or overlooking the ocean at Stillwater.
- A tour of the Historic Townsite and the Pulp and Paper Mill will fill an afternoon, or just gazing at the Hulks- a giant breakwater consisting of retired war ships.
- Festivals: Powell River hosts a number of festivals that highlights local interest and culture these festivals include the Blackberry festival, Symphony Orchestra of the Pacific, and the Sunshine Music Festival.
- Powell River Bike and Skate Park, maintained by the Powell River Community Forest Foundation and the City of Powell River, has a beginner pump track (the first poured-in-place concrete pump track in North America), slope-style dirt jump trails, downhill flow trails, and a beginner flow line. It is open to the public year round and admission is free.
- The Sunshine Coast Trail: Canada’s longest hut-to-hut hiking trail. A fully free-access 180-kilometre long backcountry trail, which meanders through a wide variety of landscapes, including coastal shorelines, old-growth forest, panoramic mountaintops, pristine creeks and lakes and salmon streams.
- Willingdon Beach Trail: along the Salish sea, this trail is one of the more popular trail that acts as a trail and an educational platform. The trail is on an old rail bed which was used by the local pulp mill. along the trail are retired pieces of logging equip along with interpretive signs.
- Valentine Mountain Trail: behind the graveyard in cranberry, this short trail features a steady incline that meets with an immediate reward at the end with a vantage point that shows the surrounding areas.
Flower Rock earrings from Texada Island.
- Chiang Mai, 4463 Marine Ave, ☏ . Thai food.
- Eagle's Landing Bistro, 1929 Twin Eagles Rd (South of town), ☏ .
- Garden Court Restaurant, 4660 Joyce Ave (at the Town Centre Hotel), ☏ .
- Gourmet Canton, 7-7030 Glacier St, ☏ . Chinese food.
- [dead link] Manzanita, 6243 Walnut St (Townsite, in the Old Courthouse Inn), ☏ .
- Minato Sushi Restaurant, 4746 Joyce Ave, ☏ . Japanese food.
- Thaidal Zone, C-4454 Willingdon Ave, ☏ . Thai food.
- Costa del Sol, 4578 Marine Ave, ☏ .
- Laughing Oyster, 10052 Malaspina Rd, ☏ .
- TC's Pub, 4660 Joyce Ave (in the Town Centre Hotel), ☏ . Popular bar for pre-drinks.
- Westview Pub, 4463 Marine (in the Westview Hotel), ☏ . Popular spot among locals (who affectionately nicknamed it 'The Zoo') that boasts live cover bands on the weekends and karaoke during the week.
- White Jag Pub, 6251 Yew St (in the Rodmay Heritage Hotel), ☏ . Nice bar to play pool and relax.
There are a limited number of small hotels in Powell River plus some bed and breakfasts.
- [formerly dead link] Beacon Bed and Breakfast, 3750 Marine Ave, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ email@example.com. Clean, well-furnished rooms with terrific views over the water to Vancouver Island. There is also a library of DVD films that you can watch if you are bored with the numerous cable channels. $110-120 ($10 cheaper mid-Oct through April).
- Powell River Harbour Guesthouse, 4454 Willingdon Ave (at the Westview Ferry Terminal, just behind the Westview Pub), ☏ , toll-free: . The only hostel in town.
- Powell River Town Centre Hotel, 4660 Joyce Ave (corner Joyce and Barnett), ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Upscale accommodation in the heart of Powell River.
- [dead link] English Rose Bed & Breakfast (Glenys and Ian Basson), 6963 Surrey St (20 minutes from Saltery Bay Terminal and 5 minutes away from the Westview Terminal), ☏ . Private studio suites with queen-sized bed, wireless Internet access, and DVD. Start your day with an authentic English breakfast, complete with home-made bread and preserves. $85.
- Lund, a thirty minute drive north of Powell River on Highway 101, is a sleepy harbour town and gateway to Desolation Sound (a popular kayaking destination).
- Camping on Powell Lake or Texada Island, or swimming at any lake in the region is good fun.
|Routes through Powell River|
|END ← Lund ←||N S||→ ferry → Pender Harbour and Egmont → Gibsons|