It may be the northern end of Vancouver Island’s Highway 19, but Port Hardy, BC, is also a gateway to an exciting and enriching adventure. A town of over 5,000 people, it is the largest community in the region. It is located near some of the most stunning natural parks in British Columbia, plus a host of bays, coves, and islands.
Besides wilderness explorations, Port Hardy also reveals the story and the culture of the First Nations people who inhabit the region. If you’re seeking a fun and eye-opening experience, this destination has you covered with its line-up of must-try activities.
Dive In and Paddle Out
People who enjoy spending time on the water will love Port Hardy. The region offers world-class diving opportunities owing to the clarity of its cold waters and the diversity of the marine life it shelters.
Head for the dive site at the renowned God’s Pocket Marine Provincial Park or seek out the Browning Wall, Hunt Rock, and Five Fathom Rock for the most astonishing underwater scenes, especially during fall and spring.
Simply want to go for a swim? Drop by Storey’s Beach, a lovely sandy beach in Beaver Harbour.
Port Hardy is also known for its wide accessibility to kayaking and fishing routes. You can paddle around Hardy Bay, Telegraph Cove, the Quatsino Narrows, and Coal Harbour to get a feel of the region’s coastline. Or if you’d prefer, hop on a charter boat headed for Winter Harbour’s hamlet or the waters off the tip of Vancouver Island to fish for halibut and salmon.
Surfing and boogie-boarding enthusiasts are in for a treat, as well, with the huge waves at San Josef Bay and Raft Cove.
Set Foot and Explore
On land, the most popular pastime in Port Hardy is hiking, and the most accessible trails are in the provincial parks of Cape Scott, Raft Cove, and Marble River. You can choose to take it easy on a gentle and short route, or embark on an overnight or multi-day trek, setting up camp on the beach.
Another tourist favourite is spelunking, or caving. Port Hardy’s landscape sets you up for a particularly interesting and exhilarating adventure because of its surface and underground karst formations. Besides caves, brace yourself for sinkholes, limestone-walled passageways, plenty of stalactites and stalagmites, plus disappearing and reappearing streams. If you’re new to all this, the Little Huson Caves Regional Park is your safest bet; however, if you’re pretty experienced, explore the Devil’s Bath, Atlish River Caves, or the Eternal Fountain.
Tour and Learn
Visiting the downtown attractions of Port Hardy can be just as fascinating as exploring its natural wonders. Pop into the Port Hardy Museum and Archives for a glimpse of the First Nations artifacts and other historical items. See for yourself the ruins of a Hudson Bay Company fortress located in Fort Rupert, in the same area that the First Nations tribes, including but not limited to the Kwakiutl, call home. You can also learn more about their traditions from the tall and striking totem pole structures found in different locations around town, including the airport, the BC Ferry Terminal, Rotary Park, the secondary school, and the Thunderbird Mall.
Similarly displayed throughout Port Hardy are murals, petroglyphs, and chainsaw carvings. The murals illustrate the town’s history, and so you should be sure and stop by each one that you chance upon. The chainsaw carvings are actually wooden sculptures created by a former resident. Among these are bear and eagle sculptures depicting the area’s wildlife and the famous “Welcome to Port Hardy” sign at Carrot Park.
Interested in learning more? Check out the displays and hatchery at the Quatse Salmon Stewardship Centre, the fish and marine mammal skeletons at the Whale Interpretive Centre, and the historical exhibits at the Coal Harbour Museum.
From wilderness explorations to downtown attractions, Port Hardy has plenty in store for visitors. So, head out to this town and live the adventure that awaits you.
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