Head to Port Alberni for an easy Vancouver Island getaway

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With warm friendly lakes, an ocean inlet, easy hikes and waterfalls, leaning into Port Alberni as a destination - instead of just a pit stop en route to the beaches on Vancouver Island’s West Coast - feels good, especially on the wallet. At just over one hour inland from Nanaimo, it’s an easy, accessible Island getaway. Just ask the locals.

Newcomers to the Alberni Valley (on unceded Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation lands), Sara Weaver and Laurah-Lee Christie both made the move to the area less than a year ago because it was an affordable housing option and a basecamp for adventures. Shortly after setting up camp in Port Alberni, they met and became friends through Alberni’s outdoor scene. 

“We sold our house in Nanaimo and bought a house in Port, a boat and a truck,” said Christie, the founder of LL Yoga & Wellness.

“Now we spend a lot of time in the Alberni Inlet and at Great Central Lake. One of my favourite hikes is right up the street from our house, Maquinna Trail by China Creek,” she said.


Port Alberni is an adventure basecamp!

Check out these itineraries to get started on your next Alberni adventure:

Port Alberni Hikes 
Paddling and water sports in the Alberni Valley
Port Alberni's local food and scene


Weaver moved from Yellowknife.

“There is no winter here,” she chuckles. 

From her first hike in the Alberni Valley, she was smitten, and she’s been regularly ticking off her local trails bucket list since. 

Enjoying alpine views in Port Alberni, BC.
Photographer: Rebecca Bollwitt
Enjoying alpine views in Port Alberni, BC.

“I really like the Lookout, the hike behind the candy shop. You get the whole panoramic view of the inlet. It’s short, but sweet and a big payoff at the end,” Weaver said, adding that she’s on the hunt for a canoe or kayak.

And that is just a taste of the adventure that awaits when you basecamp in Port Alberni. Read on for tips and itineraries that will have you hiking, paddling or just chilling oceanside in your new favourite Island getaway.

HIKING IN THE ALBERNI VALLEY

Avid hiking buddies and longtime Port Alberni residents Annette Clement and Vicki Fadar fawn over their local index of waterfall hikes and day trips like giddy school girls. 

“Stamp River, Wiener Falls (pronounced whiner), Stoke Falls, Dyke Walk, Roger Creek Nature Trails, Anglers Trails, Fossli Park Trail… There are so many hidden gems,” they chime. 

China Creek Falls near Port Alberni, BC.
Photographer: Chris Istace
China Creek Falls is an easy one hour hike.

Clement, the general manager of the Barclay Hotel, and Fadar, Barclay’s marketing manager, say savvy hikers will bookend a trip to Della Falls, Vancouver Island’s tallest waterfall, or the West Coast Trail, with a stay at the hotel. 

Check out this itinerary full of Port Alberni hikes you can do in under three hours.

“We are selling out pretty fast, but there are still openings. The pool is open until October and so is our patio,” said Fadar.

“We have a fantastic hospitable community,” said Clement. She pauses for a moment before committing to a favourite trail:

“China Creek Falls takes an hour to get in, and the waterfalls there are gorgeous.”

Alberni Valley water activities

Water play options abound in the Alberni Valley. From fishing, kayaking, and scenic stand up paddleboarding to windsurfing, kiteboarding, and wakeboarding, there is a reason why the region has been dubbed the “Okanagan of the Island.” 

Boaters will want to make a beeline for Sproat Lake Provincial Park (or Kleecoot, which means "wide open” in Nuu-cha-nulth language), about 15-minutes west of Port Alberni

Sproat Lake Port Alberni Paddleboarding Kayaking summer activities
Photographer: Nora O'Malley
Sproat Lake is wide open for paddleboarding or kayaking.

Sproat is famous for its clear, pristine waters, and on a hot summer day, holds its own against the salty sea. Check out the water sport school Sproat Wake to book a lesson or coach.

Make a splash in the Alberni Valley with this itinerary.

For wind enthusiasts, Nitinaht Lake on the traditional territory of the Ditidaht First Nation is a world-class summer windsurfing and kiteboarding spot thanks to consistent thermal wind. For the 2022 season, the Nitinaht Campsite is fully open and the Ditidaht Chief and Council have approved the campsite to allow day visits with no advance booking ($20 per vehicle per day), so if you get skunked on a campsite reservation, Port Alberni is the closest launch pad at 80km away.

 

Port Alberni's chill scene, tasty dining and hip hangouts

Port Alberni today looks much different than it did a decade ago.

“More and more people are staying in Port and doing a day trip to Tofino. The food scene has changed quite a lot since I’ve been here. The breweries are a big one,” said Brad DeClercq, owner/operator at the Starboard Grill in the Harbour Quay.

Donut Shop, Harbour Quay, Port Alberni, BC.
Photographer: Chris Istace
Like the sign says, Port Alberni claims the best donut shop on Vancouver Island.

DeClerq's award-winning candied salmon chowder is a big draw to the Harbour Quay, next to sipping a coffee and devouring a donut from the Donut Shop, arguably the best donuts on Vancouver Island. 

The Spirit Square Farmers’ Market every Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to 12 noon and it’s right beside a playground and picnic area. There is loads of free parking, walking distance to the waterfront.

Use this itinerary to immerse yourself in local hot spots.

All told, there’s far more than meets the eye in Port Alberni, with hiking, water sports and a local scene that will have you wondering why drive farther when you can stay here? Perched on one of the world’s longest ocean inlets, Port Alberni is the easy, carefree Vancouver Island getaway you’ve been looking for.

Hike view of Port Alberni Chris Istace ZenSeekers
Photographer: Chris Istace

When You Go

Where to stay in Port Alberni
From waterside stays on the lake to cozy spots in town, Port Alberni and the Alberni Valley can set you up with a perfect basecamp.

Visit Alberni Valley Tourism for the full list of local accommodations.

For local camping options, check out BC Parks or Nitinaht Lake

Learn wakeboarding
Check out Sproat Wake for lessons, charters and sightseeing tours on Sproat Lake. 

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