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Home / Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands / North Vancouver Island / Port Hardy

Port Hardy

Located on the northern end of Vancouver Island, Port Hardy is built along the shores of a natural deep water harbour. Hardy Bay overlooks the Queen Charlotte Straits and across to the mainland where the snow capped peaks of the B.C. Coastal Mountain Range loom in breathtaking splendor. Bordered on the east by water and on the west by the foothills of the Vancouver Island Mountain Range, Port Hardy is in the heart of an area renowned for its natural beauty and rich in opportunity. The mountains, rivers and lakes, the forests, and the marine environment all make for an ideal natural setting. The natural natural beauty of Port Hardy is accessible via major transportation networks of road, air and water.

History

Port Hardy, the largest community in the North Island region, was named for Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy who, as captain of the H.M.S. Victory, held the dying Lord Nelson in his arms at the end of the Battle of Trafalgar.

Archaeological studies carried out in 1978 by the B.C. Provincial Heritage Conservation Branch indicate the site was first occupied some 8,000 years ago. Samples of tools provide evidence that the area's early residents made good use of the land and resources in this region.

Settlers first came to the Port Hardy area at the turn of the century when Alec and Sarah Lyon opened a store and post office on the east side of Hardy Bay in 1904, not far from the existing settlement of Fort Rupert on the shores of nearby Beaver Harbour. The stark isolation of the area discouraged further settlement in those times, but a 1912 land deal promoted by the Hardy Bay Land Co. ultimately put the area on the map and increased its population. Enticing advertisements promising a prosperous port town, complete with rail yards and grain elevators, drew settlers from the United States and England, but when they arrived they found dense green forests and black rock, in place of the farms and conveniences they had been promised. Many packed up and left, but others had invested everything they had to make the move. These people remained and by 1914, 12 families had settled, built a school, sawmill, church and hotel. By 1916, a trail connected Port Hardy to Coal Harbour and the community was on its way to becoming the central North Island supply centre it is now.

Today, Port Hardy has a strong cultural leaning, attracting visitors from around the world. It is also the starting point for northern adventures by plane, boat, and ferry with ferry sailings through the Inside Passage to Prince Rupert, Bella Coola and Haida Gwaii. 

Location

Port Hardy is located on the north eastern shores of Vancouver Island, 232 km (145 mi) north of Campbell River and 43 km (27 mi) north of Port McNeill on Highway 19.

Places to See
  • Cape Scott Provincial Park

Cape Scott Provincial Park is a truly magnificent area of rugged coastal wilderness that is located at the northwestern tip of Vancouver Island, 43 km ( 27 mi) northwest of Port Hardy. Established in 1973 and named after the site of a lighthouse that has guided mariners since 1960, Cape Scott is characterized by more than 115 km (70 mi) of scenic ocean frontage, including 30 km (19 mi) of spectacular remote beaches. The park stretches from Shushartie Bay in the east, then westward around Cape Scott and south to San Josef Bay. Rocky promontories, salt marshes and jagged headlands punctuate the fine-textured, white-sand beaches. The most impressive of these beaches, Nels Bight, stretches more than 2,400 m (2,600 yds) long and 210 m (690 ft) wide at low tide, and is one of the Park's most popular camping destinations. Other significant beaches include San Josef Bay, Guise Bay, Experiment Bight, Lowrie Bay and Nissen Bight. Visitors can choose between a day hike or a backpacking excursion to explore the sandy beaches, rainforests and lowland bogs and muskeg of this wilderness park. Anyone contemplating a visit to Cape Scott Provincial Park should be prepared for such adverse weather conditions as high winds and heavy rain, which are common at all times of the year.

  • Seven Hills Golf & Country Club

Seven Hills Golf & Country Club is the only championship golf course north of Campbell River. Noted for its superb setting and peaceful atmosphere, the course features a variety of challenges and opportunities to satisfy golfers of all levels. Conveniently located in the center of the Port Hardy, Port McNeill and Port Alice triangle.  

Things to Do
  • Quatse Salmon Stewardship Centre

Explore, play and learn in this unique interpretive gQuatse Salmon Stewardship Centreallery and take a guided tour of a working salmon hatchery. A visit to the Salmon Centre is a fun and educational experience for all ages! All proceeds support salmon conservation in Northern Vancouver Island streams.

  • Diving

The Queen Charlotte Strait, just off the north-eastern tip of Vancouver Island has long been known for its hotbed of natural and artificial diving locales. Ancient ships that succumbed to their watery fates have created magnificent artificial reefs, which attract divers to the area for the diversity of species and clarity of the water. Explore such sites as Hunt Rock, Browning Wall, Five Fathom Rock and the wreck of the Themes. Scuba diving excursions allow visitors to see the diverse marine life firsthand, and marvel at species such as Metridium anemones, clusters of pink-mouthed hydroids, Basket stars and giant barnacles; the vibrant colours are astounding. If you are not Scuba certified, snorkelling in the shallow lagoons and tidal pools offer remarkable experiences viewing sea urchins and starfish. There are several dive charters and Scuba rentals available in Port Hardy if you don't have your own vessel or gear.

  • Wildlife Viewing & Whale Watching

Spectacular encounters with wildlife such as bears happen regularly in the area. Watch for black bears along the highway in spring and summer, or feeding along river banks during the salmon run in the fall. Grizzly bear viewing excursions take Port Hardy - Two Eagles - Donna Truemanyou by floatplane to nearby mainland inlet shores May through October as grizzly bears do not inhabit Vancouver Island. On a guided tour, you can view the bears safely from a watching post or boat. Watch from a distance as a Blue Herons wade into the sparkling blue estuary in search of food and eagles soar, swooping down to catch the salmon. Cape Scott Provincial Park, on the north-western tip of Vancouver Island, comes alive with species that range from Black, Surf and White-winged Scoters, to migrating Trumpeter Swans. The nearby Scott Islands are a breeding ground to the unusual Puffin species, where more than 70,000 birds reside. San Josef Bay and Hansen Lagoon are also great spots for viewing, and are a favourite resting place for some of the Island's Bald Eagles particularly from April to September. Every year, orcas, also known as killer whales, travel in Blackfish Sound and Johnstone Strait. The excitement of seeing one of these immense mammals is a favourite of many visitors to the region. With several companies offering whale watching trips from late June through early October, you can have the experience of a lifetime with opportunities to view humpback, grey, and Minke whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins, Dall's and harbour porpoises, seals and sea lions.

  • Fishing

The North Island is well known for its saltwater fishing, and the waters of the Queen Charlotte Strait are so plentiful, limiting out isn't uncommon. Head to Port Hardy for a sport fishing vacation and catch record-breaking salmon from April to September and halibut from April to October. If freshwater fishing is more your style, make a trip to one of the Hatchery-stocked rivers for excellent winter steelhead and trout fly fishing.

  • Arts & Culture

Known for its artistic community, galleries and museum, Port Hardy allows visitors to see how masterpieces are created and how artists interpret the splendour and beauty of the area. Travel down Market Street, and view several of the popular galleries in town, or head to the Port Hardy Museum and see rare and traditional works of art, from folk art to aboriginal pieces. You can also check out the Fort Rupert Village and visit the First Nation Copper Maker Gallery to see master carvers at work.

  • Hiking

The area in and around Port Hardy has short, easy trails and challenging multi-day backpacking treks that reward hikers with spectacular views. Some popular hikes include: The rugged and challenging Cape Scott Trail and North Coast Trail that are the ultimate test of skill, endurance and exploration; San Josef Bay Trail is a meandering 45-minute walk that leads hikers to a beautiful sandy beach where they can take in spectacular ocean views and view birds, such as eagles and herons; The Quatse River Trail begins at the seaplane base and follows the estuary shorefront to a quiet trail along the scenic Quatse River; The challenging Tex Lyon Trail is a five-hour trek that starts at Storey's Beach and follows the rocky coastline surrounding the bay. Pack a picnic lunch and stop on the precipice of Dillon Point, allowing the cool, salty breeze to refresh you.

  • Caving

Port Hardy has some of the most exciting caving adventures in the world. Due to the unique geography of Vancouver Island, and its location within a series of Karst systems, the region is ripe for exploring. Cavers can discover both surface and underground geological formations such as, stalactites and stalagmites, sink holes, disappearing and reappearing rivers and, of course, caves. Some caves in the area cater to the inexperienced, including Little Huson Cave Regional Park. For the more experienced spelunker only, there are the Artlish River Caves, Eternal Fountain and Devil's Bath. Information and guides are available at the Visitor Centre.

  • Boating

Turn off the engine and anchor off the shore of Port Hardy, catching a glimpse of an orca or humpback whale in the distance. Lounge on the deck of your vessel and watch spotted seals sprawled on a nearby rock. Or drop anchor and go kayaking through the tepid inlets and fjords that dot the mainland coastline. Off the eastern shore of Port Hardy, the Queen Charlotte Strait is known for its sheltered tranquility and serene beauty; the perfect spot for anchorage. As you travel from Port Hardy and round the northern tip of Vancouver Island you enter Cape Scott Provincial Park. These tumultuous waters are for the experienced boater only. As you surround yourself with cobalt skies and the indigo ocean around British Columbia's Vancouver Island, it's hard to tell where the sky ends and the sea begins. The coastal waters off Port Hardy provide great sailing and boating vacations for the adventurous at heart.

Nearby Communities
Contact Information

Tourism Port Hardy
7250 Market Street
Port Hardy, BC V0N 2P0
Tel: 250-949-7622
Toll Free: 1-866-427-3901
Fax: 250-949-6653
E-mail: info@porthardy.travel
Web: http://www.porthardy.travel/

Vancouver Island North Tourism
E-mail: info@vancouverislandnorth.ca
Web: www.vancouverislandnorth.ca

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Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia

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