Know Before You Go Camping in British Columbia.  Looking to find winter camping?

Cluxewe Resort north of Port McNeill

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.

Cluxewe Resort north of Port McNeill | C. Stathers

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.

Coal Harbour Mail Run | C. Stathers

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.

Coal Harbour Museum | C. Stathers

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.

Store in Holberg | C. Stathers

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.

Cape Scott Provincial Park, San Josef Bay | C. Stathers

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. 

Scarlet Ibis Pub, Holberg | C. Stathers

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.

TIP: If you find this blog interesting why not subscribe to the enewsletter and never miss another story!

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

Exploring North Vancouver Island, British Columbia – Sayward to Port McNeill

After years of camping on Vancouver Island, we decided this summer we would head to the north end of the island. The furthest north we had travelled was Campbell River and we really wanted to explore more remote locations.

In 8 days, we travelled north from Campbell River to Port Hardy and west from Port Hardy to Cape Scott Park. We explored communities such as Sayward, Telegraph Cove, Port McNeil, Port Alice and Port Hardy and many smaller communities in between. If you are looking for a camping trip filled with beaches, cooler temperatures, small remote communities and abundant wildlife then keep reading, we found it all.

Logging in Sayward | Carol Stathers

Our first stop was the Village of Sayward, located about an hour north of Campbell River. Sayward is home to about 350 people with logging being a very prominent industry. Locals describe Sayward as a remote hidden gem that stays green most of the year due to the high amounts of rain. Plan to spend some time at Kelsey Harbour watching the sea lions, kayakers launching their boats and the logging operations in the bay. Western Forest Products operates a dry land log sort; this was something new for me to see the logs being dumped into the bay and the tugboats moving them around. I was surprised to see how the tugboats lean way over in the water without tipping over.

Cable Cafe in Sayward | Carol Stathers

Before leaving Sayward, we made a quick stop at the unique Cable Café which was unfortunately closed at that time, but it is worth having a look at as its outside walls are covered with logging cable.

If you are interested in seeing the Dry Land Log Sort in action check out this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqkI-C82I1A 

Keta Lake Rest Stop | Carol Stathers

Moving north from Sayward, we stopped at the Keta Lake rest stop for a picnic lunch. It was a great shady place to stop with 4-5 picnic tables, outhouses and a couple of trails down to the lake.

Woss | Carol Stathers

Next stop was the community of Woss in the Nimpkish Valley (75km north of Sayward), home to the longest working railway in North America. We visited the Woss 113 Heritage Park celebrating 100 years of railway with interpretive signs describing the history of the town, the link to the logging industry and the railway. Locomotive 113 is on display, which is a steam engine that was built in 1920 in Portland and restored in 1988. The town has cell service, as well as two different types of electric-charging stations.

Alder Bay RV Park, Port McNeill | Carol Stathers

Next stop and our home for the next four nights was Alder Bay RV Park and Marina. Alder Bay is located just south of Port McNeill, open year-round with over 80 sites which are suitable for big RVs, as well as campervans and tents. Positives about this RV park include the super clean bathrooms, 8-minute showers for only $1 and the beautiful sunsets. 

Telegraph Cove General Store | Carol Stathers

We had four jam-packed days while we stayed at Alder Bay; we spent an evening walking the boardwalk at Telegraph Cove and enjoying the setting sun. It was the perfect time for us to avoid the daytime crowds of tourists and those arriving for whale-watching trips. The General Store (established in 1942) is a welcoming business by the boat launch with all kinds of amenities including local products and wine/beer. Along the boardwalk are many of the original cabins which have been restored and available for vacationers to rent through Telegraph Cove Resort. It was fun to walk along the boardwalk and read the historic stories in front of each of the cabins. The Whale Interpretive Centre is located at the end of the boardwalk, just past the pub and restaurant, a must see for our next visit as it had closed at 6:00 pm.

Devil’s Bath Cenote | Carol Stathers

The next day we headed over to Port Alice, about an hour’s drive (paved road) from our campsite. Port Alice was named after Alice Whalen, mother of the four Whalen Brothers who founded the Whalen Pulp and Paper Company which built a pulp mill in Port Alice in 1917. After exploring the town and the 3km Sea Walk along the water we headed inland on the Alice Lake Loop to the Devil’s Bath Cenote, Canada’s largest cenote (unfortunately, no swimming access) and the Eternal Fountain, a stream with a beautiful waterfall that disappears into an underground cave. Both were accessible by logging roads and have short walks through the forest (pick up a map at the Port Alice Visitor Centre or use Backroad Maps).

Sointula | Carol Stathers

After a rest day, we took the ferry from Port McNeill to Alert Bay (Cormorant Island) and Sointula (Malcolm Island). Check out the blogs written about Alert Bay – Island Hopping on Northern Vancouver Island, BC: Port McNeill to Alert Bay and Island Hopping on Northern Vancouver Island, BC: Port McNeill to Sointula.

U’Mista Cultural Centre, Alert Bay | Carol Stathers

Highlights at Alert Bay were the indigenous masks and beautiful drums at the U’mista Cultural Centre and at Sointula, the old buildings and the Beautiful Bay Trail at Bere Point Park. A little tip – you can visit both islands on the same day if you let the terminal attendant know, without double the fares!

Overall, an excellent first four days into our North Vancouver Island camping adventure!

For the second half of our trip see Port McNeill & Port Hardy to Coal Harbour & Cape Scott.

TIP: If you find this blog interesting why not subscribe to the enewsletter and never miss another story!

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.

Published: August 3rd, 2023

Connect With Us