Largest of the Discovery Islands group, Quadra was named after an eighteenth century Spanish Naval officer and close friend to Captain George Vancouver. Today, it provides home to 3000 full-time residents growing in numbers each summer. Interesting and serene, the island has been featured in many of today's popular magazines including Country Living and Westworld both highlighting the island's insatiable charm. Quadra is perfect for bicycles but one shouldn't underestimate distances between points. Maps are readily available at the Visitor Info Centre or during summer months at a small kiosk near the Credit Union at the top of the hill as you debark the ferry.
Quathiaski Cove is your port of call and a former home to a large salmon cannery. You will still see many of the resident's commercial fishing vessels and much activity in preparation for the summer and fall openings.
From here head south to the village of Cape Mudge which is home to the impressive Kwagiulth Museum and Cultural Centre (Ph. 250-285-3733). The museum houses an impressive collection of masks, crafts and potlatch artifacts. Further south is the Cape Mudge Lighthouse which has provided mariners with safe passage through the current swift waters of Discovery Passage since 1898. Along this stretch of beach you will enjoy excellent views back to Campbell River and can look for ancient petroglyphs visible at low tide. A healthy walk will take you as far as Tsa-Kwa-Luten Lodge built by the Cape Mudge Indian Band where Captain George Vancouver first came ashore to be greeted by the band's ancestors. Driving back towards Heriot Bay stop by Drahanchuk Studios and take time to stroll through the gardens while viewing one of B.C.'s most highly decorated studios. Continue on to Rebecca Spit Provincial Park with it's pleasant walking trails, open fields and excellent swimming and beach side play for those of all ages. The northern part of the island is more remote but you will be rewarded with excellent trout fishing, fresh water canoeing and hiking trails.
Only forty five minutes by ferry from Heriot Bay on Cortes Island you'll discover charming local resorts, bed and breakfasts and lodges all in close proximity to the island's splendid lagoons, bays and beaches. A charming country road through fruit orchards leads to Smelt Bay Provincial Park, a popular camping spot. Visit the beach near Manson's Landing and admire the beautiful lagoon as the tide goes out. Moments away, the white, sandy beaches of spring-fed Hague Lake await. SpectacularGorge Harbour is popular with boaters and worth a visit as is Squirrel Cove. Await the ferry back at Whaletown as you enjoy an obligatory ice cream cone and learn about the history of its namesake.
Neighbouring world famous Desolation Sound, the remainder of the Discovery Islands group is home to a number of small resorts, marinas and retreats. Service to the islands is usually by water taxi or private boats but seaplane operators from Vancouver and Seattle service the area daily throughout the summer. There are several small, but well established ecotourism operators offering everything from sea kayaking to mainland hiking trips here and in many of the bays you will come across sea farming operations as well as private oyster leases. A good majority of the area is marine parkland with magnificent vistas of the neighbouring fjords and you will likely consider a zodiac tour that visits the area a very worthwhile experience.
A trip to Campbell River would not be complete without a visit to British Columbia's oldest provincial park, Strathcona. The two most popular access areas to the park include Highway 28 west which leads into the majority of the park's hiking trails and provincial campsites or Highway 19 south which leads to the alpine terrain of Paradise Meadows. Both are worthwhile and an informative map of the park available at the Visitor Info Centre is to be considered a pre-requisite. Proceeding west of town on Highway 28 towards Gold River you will drive along the banks of Upper Campbell Lake. Stop in at rustic Strathcona Park Lodge for refreshments, canoe and kayak rentals or for up-to-date information on park conditions before venturing further. The road forks a few miles further along with the majority of day and short hike areas along the road that proceeds to Boliden Westmin Mine. Stop for a picture break at Lupin Falls or launch a small boat at the boat ramp and try some fishing near Ralph River. Continuing along to the end of the road you will pass several signs for short hikes culminating in the 3 km hike which brings you to the spectacular sight of Upper Myra Falls. Nearby, you may want to take in a pre-arranged tour offered at Boliden Westmin Mines. Towards Gold River the popular Elk River Trail (22 km return) can be done in a day for expert hikers and takes you to Mt. Colonel Foster and Landslide Lake.
The Paradise Meadows area is located south of Campbell River by taking the Howard Road turnoff and following the signs to Mount Washington. Although you will encounter a short stretch of gravel road the majority of the trip is paved. Here, well maintained hiking trails lead you through meadows of ancient dwarf fir trees and the always inquisitive Whisky Jacks. Several of the small alpine lakes are stocked with rainbow trout for fishers. The year-round Mount Washington Alpine Resort recreation area is also worthy a visit. Each summer the island's most popular ski resort transforms itself and offers chair lift rides to the top and back of the mile high mountain offering spectacular vistas of Georgia Strait and the neighbouring Coastal Mountain Range. You may also choose to bike or hike down the trails that criss-cross the mountain.
Just to the south of Campbell River the beaches of upper Georgia Strait await and provide the perfect outlet for beach-side play. Visits are most enjoyable during low tides which expose the sand and allows the trapped tidal pools to warm inviting safe play for those of all ages. Heading south past the turn-off for Storey Creek Golf Course you will come to a straight stretch which spans the length of Storries Beach. A convenient stop particularly if time is a consideration. Further along, the Oyster Bay Park offers convenient parking and there are several picnic tables for a quick bite of lunch as you marvel at the panoramic view of the mainland coast and the barren island in the strait, Mitlenatch Island, which is a provincial bird sanctuary. Hidden behind the Discovery Foods building near the Oyster River is the beginning of the Oyster River Nature Trail. It winds along the Oyster River and for those desiring a walk spans the shores along the perimeter of the UBC Experimental Farm where you will come across herons, eagles, ducks and gulls culminating at Salmon Point -a popular R.V. and marina area. Crossing the Oyster River Bridge your first left will take you past Pacific Playgrounds Golf Course and towards the Saratoga Beach area with its many small resorts and R.V. Parks dotting the sandy beaches. Access for the public is at the end of Eyre Rd. Driving a few minutes further along the main highway watch for signage for Miracle Beach, the largest of the beaches and offering a full-service provincial park with excellent camping facilities and summer entertainment programs for the entire family. For a change of the beach scene the Oyster River area contains a myriad of activities for the family including mini-golf, go-cart rentals, a golf course, practice range, horseback riding, country markets and on Saturday evenings enjoy the roaring excitement of Saratoga Speedway.
Just north of Campbell River you'll pass by the site of the mill. Keep your eye open for the Seymour Narrows lookout on your right with its breathtaking views of the swift currents that pass over what remains of Ripple Rock. The perilous navigation hazard was finally tamed on April 5, 1958 in what was the world's largest non-nuclear explosion moving some 370,000 tons of rock. Further along, the Ripple Rock Trail (8km return) is popular and will take you to the high bluffs overlooking this amazing spectacle of tidal power. Try to plan your trip to coincide with the mid-point of the tides for the best display. Visit Brown's Bay (19 km north of Campbell River) by turning off at the large burl beyond the long straight stretch. The bay is popular with R.V.'ers and boaters and the well-equipped marina includes boat rentals and fishing charters. There is also a processing plant for farmed salmon in the bay. A few minutes further on is the turn-off for Twin Lake which is one of the access points for the Sayward Forest Canoe Route which connects numerous lakes via portages in a circuit designed for 3-4 days of leisurely paddling. Back on your journey stop in at Roberts Lake for supplies, a swim or picnic. Afternoon breezes can also keep windsurfers amused. There is the Dalrymple Creek Nature Trail just before you get to Sayward which is a self-guided forest interpretation trail. Upon entering the rural community of Sayward (turn-off 49 km. north of C.R.) you'll pass by artisans and honey bee farmers. There are several restaurants worthy of a stop including one made entirely of used logging cable. All restaurants serve home-made food and portions are generous. Sayward/Kelsey Bay is also a popular departure point for whale watching charters to Robson Bight and the surrounding White River Forest area hosts abundant recreational pursuits. In the springtime there can be very productive halibut fishing in the area and the Salmon River is known to produce a large strain of Steelhead.
Only minutes from Campbell River on Highway 28 you will come to the turnoff for Elk Falls Provincial Park. The day-use park is home to Elk Falls, an impressive set of falls culminating in the 90 foot vertical drop into a steep-walled canyon that marks the beginning of the Campbell River. You'll find well-marked trails set amidst giant stands of old-growth timber and several natural clay outcroppings. For those interested in some sun or a swim visit McIvor Lake only a few minutes west along the highway. The lake is popular with locals and offers a variety of activities including areas for swimming, canoeing, water and jet skiing. On your drive home head west for a minute and keep your eye open for Argonaut Road to the left. Driving this road leads back to Campbell River and you can take in the Quinsam Hatchery.
Past Elk Falls Park is the Snowden Demonstration Forest, (map A) an "active" forest where silviculture systems are integrated with environmental concerns, recreation, education, research and wildlife management. The forest contains recreation and interpretive trails with an informative brochure produced by the Ministry of Forests available at the Visitor Info Centre. Here you'll find numerous trails varying in length from several hundred metres to many kilometres and serious mountain bikers should be kept amused for several days. Located within Campbell River, the Beaver Lodge Lands (Map B) comprise 1028 acres of reforested land preserved in trust as a gift of the Elk River Timber Company. The area contains douglas fir, big leaf maple, red alder, red cedar, grand fir and sitka spruce as well as a variety of marsh and bird-life. Well-marked trails on level terrain allow a myriad of activities for all ages including mountain biking, horseback riding, walking, jogging, wildlife viewing and nature appreciation. A map is also available at the V.I.C.
Historic Nootka Sound first welcomed famed British explorer Captain James Cook at Yuquot in 1778 commonly referred to today as Friendly Cove. The natives at Nootka led by Maquinna, Chief of the Mowachaht, were a friendly people and traded freely with the crew. Unknown to the crew, their Sea Otter pelts were to command incredible prices upon their return to Europe and thus plans for a return visit to the area began at once. However, when the English returned the Spanish had already begun colonization and a confrontation occurred coming dangerously close to the declaration of war between the otherwise friendly nations. Following lengthy negotiations the Spanish agreed to vacate the area. The final agreement years later provided that the Sound would be open to traders of both nations but neither would maintain a permanent base nor allow any other country to establish sovereignty. Today, you can visit Friendly Cove by pre-arrangements with the working coastal vessel the M.V. Uchuk III on Wednesdays & Saturdays during summer months or by water taxi or private charter from Gold River (Visitor Info Centre - seasonal 250-283-2418). The service also includes ports of call to the communities of Tahsis (Tuesdays) and Kyuquot (Thursdays /overnight). All three communities are gaining popularity as sport fishing destinations and are also known for good sea kayaking and hiking. Gold River is only 75 minutes west of Campbell River and boasts a nice, 9 hole golf course, aquatic centre and some excellent caving. Tahsis, flanked by the Rugged Mountain Range, is also reachable by car but drivers should be prepared for unpaved and steep road travel.
Beautiful Telegraph Cove is one of the most popular destinations in the world for Killer Whale (Orca) watching and is located only a few miles from the Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Ecological Preserve, Canada's only killer whale sanctuary. Although you are not allowed to enter the sanctuary by land or water the Killer Whales move throughout the area and afford excellent viewing opportunities. Once a commercial salmon cannery, the picturesque community of 12 supported by a boardwalk on stilts swells each summer as up to 50,000 people a year come here to watch the whales from aboard one of a dozen charter vessels in the surrounding area. Encouraging is the recent sightings of Humpback Whales seen in their ancestral waters and the appearance of large schools of Pacific white-sided dolphins. Plan on 2 1/2 hours one way to Telegraph Cove.
North of Campbell River, there are several small to moderate sized communities each worthy of a mention. North of Sayward is Zeballos (pop. 265). A popular gateway to Esperanza Inlet and it's west coast fishing and kayaking opportunities as well as superb caving. Near Woss (pop.400) you will find Schoen Lake Provincial Park and nearby Mt. Cain which is popular with skiers and snowboarders for its bowl and backcountry skiing. Visit Port McNeil (pop. 3000) and visit the Forestry Information Centre where tours leave to experience B.C.'s most important industry. From here, take the ferry to Alert Bay (pop. 1,800) to photograph the totem poles and walk through the historic town, the oldest on the north island. Visit Sointula (pop. 1,000) founded by Finnish settlers at the turn of the century as a utopian colony and browse through the local art gallery. Drive to Port Alice (pop. 1,371) and see the eroded limestone formations such as Devil's Bath and the Eternal Fountain or wet a fly-line in the Marble River. At the northern end of Highway 19, Port Hardy (pop.5,500) is an important B.C. Ferries connection for the spectacular Inside Passage trip to Prince Rupert and a recently opened link into Bella Coola which connects you to the Cariboo region. The area is also famed for its fishing and diving and is the last place to stock up on supplies for those headed to Cape Scott Provincial Park. The park offers challenging overnight hikes to abandoned settlements and surf-swept beaches.