Life up here on the north end of Vancouver Island runs at its own pace and under its own terms.  Just a few kilometers off the shores of Port McNeill, a quick ferry ride takes you to a place where life slows down and the epic beauty of the west coast of Canada takes on a whole new meaning.  A place full of history, surrounded by the mercury waters of the Pacific Ocean, and dotted with tiny islands full of lush forests that form the greenest carpets you’ve ever seen.  Alert Bay on Cormorant Island is a truly special place, and one that you simply have to see in person to fully appreciate.  Join us today as we take you on a tour of this magical place.

Mercury Waters - Alert Bay - Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

Mercury Waters – Alert Bay – Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

Looking out from the shores of Alert Bay, a whole new world emerges.  We are pretty much at the northern tip of Vancouver Island here, and due to the extreme remote nature of the community the island is home to people who chose to live here.  And for obvious reasons, we might add.  The scenery is absolutely breathtaking.

Alert Bay - Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

Alert Bay – Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

The homes and businesses that reside here all have ocean views, with a main road that creates a promenade right through town.  Amenities may not be abundant, but the avid traveler will find everything they need to enjoy a stay here, including restaurants and lodging.

Alert Bay - Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

Alert Bay – Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

As the ferry from Port McNeill docks, the quaint marina in the town comes into sharp relief.  Fishing boats and recreational vessels are moored here, with their masts reaching for the heavens, creating a landscape view that is so distinctly west coast.

Alert Bay - Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

Alert Bay – Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

Alert Bay - Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

Alert Bay – Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

Just down the main street we find the old cannery.  Full of texture and detail, this facility kept us and our camera amused for quite some time.  The entire area was founded and built to support an active fishing economy, and this cannery in the early days was a vibrant facility that provided a living to many of the locals.  Today it stands sentry, as a weathered reminder to the past that created the future.

Alert Bay - Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

Alert Bay – Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

The unusual becomes the usual here, just up the street from the cannery we find a row of old double-decker buses parked.  They add a wonderful dash of color and intrigue, leaving us all wondering about the story behind their unconventional choice of a parking spot.

Alert Bay - Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

Alert Bay – Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

As we made our way through town, we met local residents who were all too happy to share their experiences and stories with us.  This added a terrific ingredient to our experience, giving us some real insight into the area.  This building we were told was the original nurse’s residence, which later became the local hospital.  A new hospital facility was created near the U’mista Cultural Society which hosts a museum at the other end of town, replacing the original building.  If you do make it to Alert Bay, we simply cannot recommend highly enough that you leave plenty of time to visit the museum.  We came away with a much deeper understanding and appreciation of the region from our visit, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

Namgis Burial Grounds - Alert Bay - Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

Namgis Burial Grounds – Alert Bay – Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

Namgis Burial Grounds - Alert Bay - Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

Namgis Burial Grounds – Alert Bay – Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

Namgis Burial Grounds - Alert Bay - Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

Namgis Burial Grounds – Alert Bay – Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

Namgis Burial Grounds - Alert Bay - Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

Namgis Burial Grounds – Alert Bay – Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

Without a doubt, one of the most incredible sights to behold on Alert Bay is the Namgis Burial Grounds.  This centuries old site features totem poles that seem to have no end in their reach.  Many of the totem poles here hold the remains of the first inhabitants of Cormorant Island, each one having a family crest carved in it that typically features the local wildlife that play such an important role in the lives of those in the community.  It is widely believed that the totem poles that now lie prone on the ground are in process of returning to the earth from where they originally came.  This profound and poignant location will leave you forever changed as you take in the sights and ponder the meaning behind what you are witnessing.  It certainly changed us forever.

Bird On A Wire - Alert Bay - Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

Bird On A Wire – Alert Bay – Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

Bald Eagle - Alert Bay - Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

Bald Eagle – Alert Bay – Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada

Bald Eagle sightings are quite common here too, we were told.  We cannot even begin to describe the feeling you have while you stand on the shores looking outward only to see one or more of these absolutely incredible birds in their natural habitat.  In some ways, it feels like you’ve found something new in your very inner core, a new appreciation and understanding of the amazing things that can be discovered in nature.  Particularly in places like Alert Bay, where time literally stands still, leaving you no choice but to take it all in and experience it all on a very personal level.

As we wax poetic on our trip where the wonder and romance of the west coast of Canada is found with every turn, we plan our return trip.  This article concludes our visit to Alert Bay, but is only the beginning of what we have to share from the region.  Our next feature articles will be showcasing Telegraph Cove, another incredible location up in the northern region that is simply too amazing to describe, you’ve just got to see it in person.

Please feel free to visit our comprehensive Alert Bay Photo Gallery and explore all our feature posts from Alert Bay.  We’re heading back up north this summer of 2016, maybe we’ll see you there?

Thank you so much for visiting us here at The Hollow today.  As always, we love to hear from all our visitors, so please do feel free to leave us any comments you may have below.




  1. avatar ehpem says:

    Hi Toad – another great photo and essay! You have done a great job to catch the feeling of the place. I very much like your bird on a wire photo – all three birds are great, though one looks like it might be part of a tragic story.

    • Hi ehpem, thank you so much for taking the time to read our latest story and leave your great comments!! It’s always a highlight for me when you pop by, my friend! I know you appreciate that region on a personal level, so it means a lot to me to have you come by and share your thoughts like this. Cheers, good sir!

  2. avatar Don Barton says:

    To quote you, Toad, this is “so distinctly west coast”. Although I’ve never visited Alert Bay, your photos and my experience at similar west coast remote villages stir my imagination to create a virtual visit. Thanks for the photos and the vivid descriptions. Great work, Mate!

    Toad, I want to emphasise to your readers that they will miss the full impact of your journal if they fail to view your photos the at Alert Bay Photo Gallery http://www.toadhollowphotography.com/HDR-Imagery/Vancouver-Island-Destinations/Alert-Bay/

    • Don, I can’t even begin to tell you how much we appreciate your wonderful comments here, comments I am sure all our readers will enjoy! Thanks for your visit and for taking the time, it means a whole lot to us Toad types up here! Cheers my friend!!

  3. avatar Lisa Gordon says:

    What a beautiful place this is!
    While I realize that people live there, I am struck by the fact that it looks rather untouched by people. I love that. I love those ocean views too. There is something very special about being near the ocean.

    Thank you so very much for taking us along with you here. It really is wonderful.

  4. avatar Edith Levy says:

    That is a magical place. Beautiful images Toad.

  5. avatar Andy Hooker says:

    The name ‘Alert Bay’ doesn’t quite chime with the feel of a place that looks as if time has stood still. A great visual documentary of this unique place, Toad. I guess when a storm is blowing in this must feel like the end of the world, you need to be a certain type of person to choose to live in a place like this

    • Thank you so very much, Andy, we really appreciate you taking the time to pop by for a visit, and for leaving your terrific comments, my friend! We hope all is well for you!!

  6. avatar Frank King says:

    Great series! I especially love the bus photo. 🙂

  7. avatar LenSaltiel says:

    This is an amazing place that you have taken me through your words and images. You continue to paint such a wonderful picture of your island.

  8. avatar victor says:

    This place was booming with activity before the commercial fishery collapsed. We had the DOT DFO three grocery stores five pubs restaurants and held the world record for 11 taxi’s and a 173 foot totem pole. There used to be fuel docks cannaries etc etc Now it is like a ghost town trying to adapt after BC packers moved onto become involved in the fish farm industry which the community has set a zero tolerance for any net pen farming. They tried to build net lofts create partnerships etc but we know the damage they caused to the environment and wild salmon in other countries like Norway

    • avatar victor says:

      Alert Bay Air Service China Town and our Big House and Culture I Must be getting old too

    • Hi Victor, thank you so much for your kind visit and your wonderful comments!! I am quite sure all our readers will enjoy reading about your experience and perspective on Alert Bay. We are in absolute love with the region and are heading back in the next 6 weeks for a vacation. It sure is nice to connect with folks who are familiar with the area and can shed some further light on the overall story. Thank you so very much, cheers my friend!

  9. avatar Garry R Holland says:

    Hi “Toad”; yours is an excellent portrait of Alert Bay and the First Nations viewing opportunities available.
    Thank you VERY much.

  10. avatar Flora Cook says:

    One question, one comment. I was born and raised in Alert Bay and still live here. Why was the article entitled “The Mercury Waters of Alert Bay”? You have the information about the old hospital backwards. The building was first a hospital. When a new, and larger, hospital was built behind this one, it became the nurses’ residence. Some nice pictures of our community. Thanks for bringing my home to the attention of your readers. Gilakas’la!

    • Hi Flora!! We are so excited and delighted to meet you here today on our humble blog, thank you ever so kindly for taking the time to visit and for leaving these terrific comments!! What an amazing part of the world you live in, my wife and I are heading back up there in the next few weeks on a vacation and to celebrate my 50th birthday. It’s a trip of a lifetime for us as we absolutely love the entire northern area so very much, indeed.

      In terms of your question, the reason we called this article “The Mercury Waters Of Alert Bay” is due to the terrific silver color tone the ocean had on the day we visited. It reminded us of mercury so we titled the article from there. We love to wax poetic, especially about special areas on the coast of western Canada, and as such we tend to be a little poetic in our writing as most of our regular readers know. The entire west coast of Canada is truly unique and special, no other place on earth is quite like it and we love to show it off to our global audience as much as we can. 🙂

      Thank you, also, for your clarification on the old hospital. We had received our story via word of mouth on our visit when we bumped into a pair of local ladies who seemed to know a lot, so we were going by memory when we wrote our story here and obviously got that wrong. I am sure our readers will appreciate knowing the deeper story you have shared here, thank you ever so kindly for taking the time to do so.

      We love Alert Bay and the entire region, and we love to connect with local folks so your visit to our humble blog here really means a lot to us, Flora. We truly hope to see you here again soon!! Cheers for now!! 😀