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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.