Stretch your legs, heart and mind in Port Alberni


Port Alberni, BC — At the head of Vancouver Island's longest Inlet, among sweeping mountainscapes and mossy forests, Port Alberni enjoys all the classic allure of Vancouver Island without the crowds. 

Not to be overlooked as a drive-through town by those headed to the west coast, it offers an array of cultural experiences, outdoor adventure and eateries worthy of an overnight or multi-day stay. If you've only got a few hours on your way to Tofino/Ucluelet or back, it also makes for a great spot to rest and refresh along your way.

Follow along for ways to stretch your legs, heart and mind on your stopover in Port Alberni.

WATCH > A Port Alberni stretch for your legs, heart and mind

Watch Stretch your Legs Mind & Heart in Port Alberni on YouTube.

Stretch your legs 

When on a Vancouver Island road trip, you need to budget time for frequent stops simply to enjoy the beauty of the place. A Port Alberni leg-stretcher delivers the ideal mid-point break between Victoria and Tofino. Here are a few ways to relieve your wanderlust along the way.

Port Alberni scenic walking trails

Meander along Port Alberni's Harbour Quay out to the pier, which offers scenic views of the Alberni Inlet (check out the banner image above). As eagles soar overhead and fishermen boat out to the open sea, it's easy to get lost in the sights and sounds of the valley. 

After your stroll, stop in at Salmonberry's Emporium, which offers a wide range of souvenirs and gifts, from jade carvings to Bigfoot plush toys and notebooks.

If you happen to visit on a Friday, you can also find the weekly Friday Night Market in swing, featuring various local arts and handmade goods.

Pop in to the Friday Night Market at Tseshaht Market to find local, handmade goods—like these cool stickers
Where to find an off-leash dog park in Port Alberni

Who needs a stretch more than your furry pal? If you're looking for a refreshing space to let your dog off-leash, head to the Victoria Quay where you'll find the Stirling Off Leash Dog Park.

Where to eat in Port Alberni 

Once you've worked up an appetite, sit down for some tasty nachos and tacos from Emilianos Authentic Mexican Food. This food truck at Clutesi Haven Marina is run by Liliana Jones, who moved to Port Alberni from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in 2020. 

Developing a passion for cooking from her mother and grandmother, she said launching Emilianos was her "dream come true."

Food trucks at Clutesi Haven Marina.
Emiliano's serves up tasty Mexican cuisine at Clutesi Haven Marina.
The Clam Bucket is where to find fresh seafood by the water in Port Alberni.

above: 1) food trucks at Clutesi Haven Marina  2) tasty fare from Emiliano's  3) The Clam Bucket patio
photos by Melissa Renwick

Alternatively, you can head to The Clam Bucket to get your fill of clams and fried oysters. This rustic, family-friendly Port Alberni staple is known for its seafood, but don't be fooled - their menu offers many seafood alternatives to suit everyone's appetite.

Shopping in Port Alberni

Before continuing your drive, pop into The Salty Woodsman, which opened at its current location on River Road last summer. Highlighting Vancouver Island's talent pool, most of the shop is stocked with locally made goods, such as a pottery, soap and candles. 

This one-stop-shop offers a variety of souvenirs from apparel, to tea, and everything in between.

Port Alberni British Columbia Stretch Melissa Renwick ZenSeekers
Photo: Melissa Renwick
The Salty Woodsman carries locally made goods and food from Port Alberni makers.

"We have very talented people on the island," Nadine said. "It's important to support local makers, to support each other." 

Don't forget to stock up on all of your fresh seafood needs, such as Ahi tuna steaks or poke cubes, which you can enjoy over a fire overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Stretch your mind in Port Alberni

Commonly known as a fishing and logging town, Port Alberni is a city steeped in Canadian history. With attractions like the McLean Mill National Historic Site, Port Alberni offers visitors a glimpse of what life looked like when the sawmill and logging outfit was operational during the first half of the 20th century. 

Maps are available at the Mill Store to help guide you on a journey back in time while exploring the 35 intact buildings and structures onsite.

Port Alberni British Columbia Stretch Melissa Renwick
Photo: Melissa Renwick
Kevin Hunter is a volunteer train conductor on Port Alberni's historic railway line.

In June, the city's beloved passenger train fired up its engine for the first time since 2018. Operated by the Western Vancouver Island Industrial Heritage Society (WVIIHS), this tourism experience is designed to sustain the "operation of the historic Alberni Pacific Railway line connecting the Port Alberni Train Station to the McLean Mill National Historic Site," according to the WVIIHS. 

Kevin Hunter has been a volunteer train conductor in Port Alberni for 30 years. The self-proclaimed "train fanatic" said that trains have captured his imagination since he was a little boy. 

"There is a huge mystic and love for trains," he said. "This is a part of our history."

After taking a train ride, visit the Alberni Valley Museum to delve further into the region’s past. Hosting a large collection of pioneer and industrial artifacts, around 22,000 historic photographs, as well as First Nations historical ethnographic material, present day art and basketry, the museum is an invitation to learn about the valley’s history.

Stretch your heart in Port Alberni

For those with mountain bikes loaded in their vehicles, Port Alberni hosts a web of trails such as the Fir Baby Trail, an intermediate level flow trail that weaves through mature forest and over a number of creeks. 

If you forgot your bikes at home, head over to the Jumping Slug Community Cyclery for all of your mountain bike rental needs.

Sproat Lake Port Alberni Paddleboarding Kayaking summer activities
Photo: Nora O'Malley
Paddlers on Sproat Lake.

Why wait to get to the coast before getting your feet wet? Experience the Alberni Valley's inlet or surrounding lakes, such as Sproat Lake, by paddle board, canoe, or whatever you're hauling with you to the coast. 

For those traveling light, rentals are available from the Fish & Duck Resort on Sproat Lake. 

Lastly, climb the Alberni Valley Lookout Trail to experience the region from above. This short, family-friendly hike offers sweeping views of the landscape that surrounds Port Alberni

Hike view of Port Alberni Chris Istace ZenSeekers
Photo: Chris Istace
Hike up to the Alberni Valley Lookout for a view of the coastal town from above.

After taking a stretch in Port Alberni, you will be set to continue your journey, winding along Highway 4 to your final destination in Tofino or Ucluelet.


The Alberni Valley lies within unceded territory of the Tseshaht First Nation (sis sha ahtah) and Hupačasath First Nation, two of the fourteen Nations of the Nuu-cha-nulth Peoples on western Vancouver Island.

Getting here   coming from Vancouver/mainland, the crossing through Georgia Strait with BC Ferries is always picturesque.

Driving from east or west (Victoria or Tofino), Port Alberni is a perfect mid-way point: 
2h 45min drive from Victoria to Port Alberni, via Trans-Canada to BC-4
1h 47min drive Tofino to Port Alberni, via BC-4

Check in with Alberni Valley Tourism for a wealth of local tips to explore the area. 

For more Zen inspiration, check out our #explorePortAlberni expedition, or any of the stories below!

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