Exploring North Vancouver Island, British Columbia – Port McNeill & Port Hardy to Coal Harbour & Cape Scott
After a busy first-four days we moved campsites from Alder Bay RV Park and Marina to Cluxewe Resort, located just 15 minutes north of Port McNeill. Cluxewe Resort is centred on the ancestral land of the Kwakiutl First Nation and is indigenous owned and operated by the friendliest helpful staff. This resort is open year-round with lots of camping options (ocean front, full service, no service etc.) and cottages available for rent. We walked for hours on the rocky beach in each direction of the resort, enjoyed beautiful sunsets and watched campers fishing for salmon off the shore.
From our new homebase, we headed over to Coal Harbour (no, not the one in Vancouver). It was a short 30-minute drive from the campsite on paved roads. Coal Harbour is located on Quatsino Sound which provides boat access to communities such as Holberg and Port Alice. It is a busy harbour with float plane and boat traffic.
We took the mail boat over to Quatsino from the dock in Coal Harbour, a small boat-access-only community with a population of only 43. The “mail boat run” delivers mail on Mondays and Thursdays, costs $25pp, and is about a one-hour trip.
After our boat ride to Quatsino, we visited the museum in the Float Plane Hanger by the dock. We learned all about its whaling history; the industry closed in 1967 due to declining stock. It also has a history of being an air force base during World War 2, a mining town (it had a 350 metre deep open-pit copper mine which closed in 1996) and now focusing on logging, tourism and fishing. The museum has a huge 6 metre jawbone of a blue whale, apparently the largest in the world! We also checked out the chain saw display, old engines and a 1917 Ford Model T and a 1928 Ford Model A.
The next morning, at about 10:00 am, we headed off on our day-long trip to Cape Scott Park on the northern tip of the Island. Be prepared for 65km each way on a dusty, bumpy logging road. We have a 4-wheel drive truck which handled the roads well, but also passed a number of low-clearance cars which also seemed to be safely navigating the road. The road was in fairly good condition as much of it had been recently graded; but from what I had read, conditions are constantly changing. There are also lots of warning signs as this is an active logging road, and the logging trucks have the right-of-way. We were incredibly impressed by the accurate signage all the way to the parking lot at Cape Scott Park.
First stop on our trip was the small village of Holberg (population of 35), about 50km along the road. At one time Holberg was a floating logging camp; now, just the remnants of the old wood pilings can be seen on the inlet. A must-stop is the Holberg Pitstop; it is a general store and features lodging. You can stock up on everything from sunscreen to beer and stay overnight in one of the newly-renovated rooms. Next trip we will definitely stay overnight, so we can explore more of the west coast area.
After the “pitstop” we continued on our way to Cape Scott Provincial Park; we were impressed with the road improvement after Holberg (or maybe we were just getting used to the bumps). We arrived at the parking lot around noon with a few spots left and headed off on the trail to San Josef Bay, a 45-minute one-way hike along a well maintained crushed-gravel trail. There are pit toilets at the trail head, as well as, at San Josef Bay. There are also bear caches at the bay and a number of beach-side campsites. We planned ahead so we arrived at low tide, so we could walk from San Josef Bay to Second Beach. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and we loved walking in the shallow surf on the beautiful, soft, sand. Beach features included caves, sea stacks, and wildlife. Other hikers continued along the full 26km Cape Scott Trail.
After our visit to San Josef Bay, we returned to Holberg and the Scarlet Ibis Pub for nachos and a nice, cold drink on the patio overlooking Holberg Inlet. Known for being Vancouver Island’s Most Remote Pub, we found the staff incredibly friendly and the food, good. It was great to sit on the patio with the locals and learn more about the area.
Last stop before heading back to our campsite was the car wash just south of Port McNeill to get our dusty truck cleaned up and ready for our last adventure day before heading home.
The next morning, we went to Storey’s Beach on Beaver Harbour Road just south of Port Hardy. The tide was out, and we felt like we could walk for miles on the blackish sandy beach. This is a beautiful stretch of sand that I would highly recommend. It is good for kayaking too.
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We spent the rest of the day enjoying the beach and sunset back at Cluxewe Resort and some barbequed salmon from Scarlet Point Seafoods in Port Hardy. A great way to finish off our North Vancouver Island trip!
To read about the first half our trip go to Sayward to Port McNeill.
For camping accommodations in this area and elsewhere in British Columbia check out the Camping Map.
Share your BC travel and camping photos using hashtag #campinbc #explorebc
It’s always a great day to #campinbc
Published: August 17th, 2023
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