Considered to be the “Salmon Capital of the World”, Campbell River has quickly become one of Vancouver Island’s most well-reputed adventure and eco-tourism destinations. Cradled in the forests of the east coast of Vancouver Island and along the very south end of Discovery Passage, this is a community well known for its waterways, golf courses, and picturesque landscape.
Campbell River is situated on Provincial Route 19, about 196 km (122 mi) south of Port McNeill and 156 km (97 mi) north of Nanaimo. The town’s mild Pacific coast climate averages 21 degrees C (73 degrees F) in July and August and -2 degrees C (28 degrees F) in January.
The heart of Campbell River can be found in its coastal traditions. Like many towns in this area of Vancouver Island, its roots are in logging, mining, and fishing. While a relatively small town (its population is around 32,000), the namesake waterway and striking landscape offer a wide range of opportunities for outdoor adventure, fishing, and sightseeing.
Campbell River has proudly held the reputation of one of the top salmon fishing destinations in the world for more than a century. Over 100 years ago, British journalist Sir Richard Musgrave caught an enormous King Salmon at the mouth of the Campbell River. He subsequently wrote so persuasively about the area’s ample supply of salmon and other fish, as well as its natural beauty, that Campbell River quickly became known as the “Salmon Capital of the World”.
Understandably, sports fishing is huge here. There are numerous outfitters who offer a variety of fishing trips to the area’s rivers and open waters. Campbell River draws anglers from all across the globe for a wide range of purposes, and for good reason. The city is unique in that it is the location on a southern migration route for all five major species of Pacific Salmon, and it boasts a consistent, year-round fishery for Chinook salmon along the upper Georgia Strait.
Campbell River hosts experienced guides and a wide range of boat rental options and rates, as well as year-round fishing and easy accessibility. You can also buy your own recreational fishing license online here.
If you prefer to watch salmon instead of catch them, Campbell River offers some intriguing options. For instance, take a self-guided tour of the Quinsam River Hatchery, open year-round from 8am to 4pm.
Another option is to join a commercial rafting tour, which gives visitors the chance to snorkel with the spawning salmon. For those who prefer to study salmon from a distance through polarized sunglasses, rafts offer a fine, dry alternative.
Boating and Diving
The Campbell River area offers some of the region’s best kayaking and boating. The varied challenges of the oceans, inlets, and rivers means excitement tailored to every skill level. There are several different outfitters around here that offer kayaking and boating expeditions, including the following:
- Ecosummer Expeditions – Sea Kayaking and Adventure Tours. Located in Port McNeill.
- Mothership Adventures Columbia III – Based in Heriot Bay off Quadra Island.
- Spirit of the West Adventures – Located in Heriot Bay.
- Adventure Village Island – Located in Campbell River.
Additionally, Adventure Quest Canada Tours Inc. (also located in Campbell River) offers exciting eco-adventures that take you into the heart of Campbell River, Johnstone Strait, Discovery Island, and the Great Bear Rainforest. This is a great option if you are interested in exploring some of Vancouver Island’s most stunning wildlife, sea creatures, and natural landscape in the comfort of a cabin cruiser.
Finally, the bay has become a popular scuba diving site, too, thanks to three factors:
- Visibility is typically from 12 metres (40 feet) to more than 30 metres (100 feet).
- The tidal currents that flow through the narrow straits deliver rich nutrients to the colourful anemones, sponges, tube worms, and soft corals that line the steep channel walls.
- It is the final resting place of the former HMCS Columbia, the 111-metre (366 foot) naval destroyer that was sunk by the Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia in 1996.
Nestled between the Vancouver Island Ranges to the west and the snow-capped peaks of the Coast Mountains to the east, Campbell River boasts three exceptional golf courses that all offer inspiring views of the scenery and challenges for both the beginner and low handicapper.
Sequoia Springs Golf Course is an 18-hole course near downtown. Storey Creek Golf Course, an 18-hole championship course carved out of the dense, mixed-growth forest just south of Campbell River, received a four-star award from Golf Digest’s “Places to Play”. Last but certainly not least, Pacific Playgrounds is a nine-hole, par four executive course located at Saratoga Beach and offers a full-service pro shop, driving range, and modest green fees.
Camping and Hiking
If you truly want to experience Campbell River’s exceptional outdoor terrain, what better way than an overnight camping trip or day hike? There are several parks and campgrounds that are sure to satisfy the needs of any outdoor enthusiast. A few of the most popular spots are as follows:
- Parkside Campground and RV Park
- Loveland Bay Provincial Park
- Thunderbird RV Park and Campground
- Salmon Point Resort and RV Park
- Campbell River Fishing Village
- Ralph River Campground
Located just 53 km (33 mi) from Campbell River is Strathcona Provincial Park, which is the oldest provincial park in British Columbia. Strathcona encompasses more than 250 hectares, offering a vast network of backcountry hiking opportunities as well as numerous campgrounds.
Another popular hiking destination that is worth a visit is Elk Falls, located in Campbell River Provincial Park. The Snowden Demonstration Forest, just outside the town, continues to be a working forest, managed by BC Timber Sales. Its interpretive trails and campgrounds make it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.
If you bring your bicycle or mountain bike, don’t forget your helmet. Bicyclists have to keep to roadways and mountain bikers must use authorized trails or risk a fine.
The Snowden Demonstration Forest is well-known among serious dirt bike riders for its extensive dirt bike trails, some with steep inclines.
The well-rounded Campbell River Museum lets you see, hear, and touch the area’s history through exhibits that include the façade and lobby of a grand 1912 hotel. The museum also conducts programs at the Haig-Brown Heritage House, which it owns.
The 1923 homestead of Roderick Haig-Brown, a well-known conservationist, writer and magistrate, sits on the banks of the Campbell River and is surrounded by tranquil gardens.
On nearby Quadra Island, the Kwagiulth Museum & Cultural Centre is dedicated to the history and customs of First Nations people.
Annual Events and Festivals
The annual Haig-Brown Festival at the Haig-Brown Heritage House celebrates the family’s ideals of stewardship and community involvement with Haig-Brown readings, fly-tying, and fly-casting events, as well as numerous crafts and games for children. The Bald Eagle Festival honours the famous birds of prey as well as its relatives each February. The Kwagiulth Museum & Cultural Centre conducts an elaborate Salmon Ceremony each year when the first salmon runs begin, usually around June.
Summer visitors are likely to happen onto an assortment of weekly farmer’s markets and art fairs. You can check out the specifics online for more details.
Campbell River Awaits!
Campbell River is one of Vancouver Island’s most popular destinations, especially for those interested in salmon fishing or experiencing a taste of Canada’s impressive outdoors. We hope you visit and have a wonderful experience!