The early settlement history of Vancouver Island North is born out of resourcefulness and perseverance. This was a remote and untamed frontier where only the hardiest thrived. Natural resources, establishment of a western colony, the dream of a utopian society – each community has its own story to tell. Most communities remain today, but some have left only remnants of the past.

  • 1-2 Day Adventures

    Itinerary

    TRAVEL TO VANCOUVER ISLAND NORTH

    DAY 1

    RONNING’S GARDEN & SAN JOSEF BAY

    A vast collection of exotic plants sits in stark contrast to the classic BC rainforest that surrounds it at Ronning’s Garden near the community of Holberg, west of Port Hardy. This homestead was founded in 1910 on the old San Josef Wagon Road. This unique garden almost disappeared when founder Bernt Ronning left his homestead, but many of his original plantings have now been rediscovered.

    Follow the signs to Cape Scott Provincial Park, a bit further west from Ronning’s Garden. A well-groomed path from the Cape Scott Provincial Park trailhead leads you 2.5 km, on a relatively easy gravel surface, out to the wide, sandy beach of San Josef Bay. Along the trail, look for interpretive signs that tell the story of Danish pioneers settled the northern tip of Vancouver Island over 100 years ago.

    Travel on logging road required.

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    DAY 2

    HORNSBY STEAM CRAWLER & MUSEUMS

    The Hornsby Steam Crawler is a one-of-a-kind, custom-built steam crawler tractor that has been returned to the community of Coal Harbour for public display. This unique piece of machinery was inspired by the Yukon Gold Rush and customized for use in the forest industry on the BC coast.

    Local museums and historic collections in Coal Harbour, Port Hardy, and Port McNeill tell the tales of the early settlement and beginnings of these communities as development began to grow around the natural resource industries of fishing, logging and mining at the beginning of the 1900’s.

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    1-2 Day Adventures - Heritage

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    • If you’re heading west, be sure to stop at the Shoe Tree on the eastern end of Kains Lake, this old cedar snag is covered with hundreds of shoes contributed by visitors
    • North Island residents today honour and respect whales, but in earlier days, Coal Harbour was home to Canada’s last whaling station, a 20 foot long jawbone of a blue whale stands as evidence of this
    • From war to whaling, see the private collection of Coal Harbour community artifacts on public display at the Aircab Float Plane hangar
    • It’s all about salmon at the Quatse Salmon Centre in Port Hardy, learn about the important role salmon play in the life of whales
      Glimpse into the early settlement days on the North Island at the Port Hardy Museum & Archives
    • Take an educational waterfront stroll along the Port Hardy Seawalk, with interpretive signs dotted along the path
  • 3-5 Day Adventures

    Itinerary

    TRAVEL TO VANCOUVER ISLAND NORTH

    DAY 1

    TELEGRAPH COVE BOARDWALK & MUSEUMS

    Telegraph Cove is something straight out of a storybook. The community, and its historic boardwalk, pay homage to the original settlers. Each building along the boardwalk has a history. Their stories are told on interpretive plaques displayed as you make your way to the Whale Museum.

    Continue your historic discovery of Vancouver Island North through local museums and historic collections in Coal Harbour, Port Hardy, and Port McNeill. These centres tell the tales of the early settlement and the industry that developed the communities of today.

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    DAY 2

    RONNINGS GARDEN & SAN JOSEF BAY

    A vast collection of exotic plants sits in stark contrast to the classic BC rainforest that surrounds it at Ronning’s Garden near the community of Holberg, west of Port Hardy. This homestead was founded in 1910 on the old San Josef Wagon Road. This unique garden almost disappeared when founder Bernt Ronning left his homestead, but many of his original plantings have now been rediscovered.

    Follow the signs to Cape Scott Provincial Park, a bit further west from Ronning’s Garden. A well-groomed path from the Cape Scott Provincial Park trailhead leads you 2.5 km, on a relatively easy gravel surface, out to the wide, sandy beach of San Josef Bay. Along the trail, look for interpretive signs that tell the story of Danish pioneers settled the northern tip of Vancouver Island over 100 years ago.

    Travel on logging road required.

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    DAY 3

    SOINTULA MUSEUM & HERITAGE TRAIL

    Sointula translates to “place of harmony”, and was to be an escape for the Finns who rowed to Malcolm Island in 1901 with the aim of creating a utopian society where artists and free-thinkers would find a home. Hardships derailed their plans and ownership of the land went back to the province, but the unique settlement of homes remains as a reminder of the Island’s rich heritage. This history is celebrated at the Sointula Museum.

    Wander through the site of an early 1900’s homestead along the 6km Mateoja Heritage Trail. The trailhead is on Third Street above the town site. Your exploration of Malcolm Island will reveal colourful remnants of the early Finnish settlers.

    Travel by ferry required.

    Travel to Alert Bay from Sointula without paying an additional fare by asking for a Turn Around Pass when you board the ferry in Sointula – you will be instructed to show the pass at the toll booth and be directed into the line for the immediate next sailing to Alert Bay.

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    DAY 4

    HISTORIC ALERT BAY SELF-GUIDED WALKING TOUR

    First stop when you arrive on Cormorant Island is the Alert Bay Visitor Centre at 118 Fir Street. Get an introduction to the community courtesy of the staff at the Centre and pick up your Guide to Historic Alert Bay. This booklet will lead you from site to site and provide a historical description of the Island’s features and buildings, dating back to the early 1900’s.

    Travel by ferry required.

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    DAY 5

    WOSS FIRELOOK OUT & HERITAGE PARK

    Logging has been a mainstay occupation in the Nimpkish Valley since European settlers first arrived. Woss is the site of the only operational railroad logging enterprise in Canada. Steam Locomotive 113, built in 1920 for rail logging, is a historic local treasure that honours the community’s heritage and is now a registered Heritage Site along with the Woss Fire Lookout located just north of the community. Head down to the railroad tracks to view the 113 Locomotive at the Woss Heritage Park, or if you are feeling adventurous follow the signs to the Woss Lookout Trail. This is a fairly short, 1.8 km, fairly steep, with rope assisted sections, trail that will reward hikers with a birds-eye view of the rugged peaks and deep valley from the recently restored fire lookout tower.

    Travel on logging road required.

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    3-5 Day Adventures - Heritage

    EQ Traveller Type

    EQ Traveller Type Quiz

    Additional Activities