Vancouver Island


“Hands on is how you learn,” says artist Cecil Dawson, of the Kwakwaka'wakw First Nation, pulling out his knife kit and demonstrating his technique on a wood halibut carving. Stationed near the Port Alberni Maritime Discovery Centre for the rest of the summer, he will be working on a UNESCO project with Tim Paul, master carver, artist and Hesquiaht elder.

As I descended down the mountain pass into Port Alberni, I thought to myself, what exciting and stunning new aspect of the region will I fall in love with now. As a hiking enthusiast, I have previously explored many of the endless forests and alpine trails that Port Alberni has to offer, but on this visit, I would be trading the land for the water. I would be discovering why Port Alberni is the self-described Salmon Capital of Vancouver Island.

Have you thought about what life was like on Vancouver Island when things were a little more rugged, a little more remote and life moved at a slower pace? I recently experienced just that, and I didn’t have to time travel to do it.

“That used to be my hotspot over there,” said Captain Mike Halvorsen, pointing across the Alberni Inlet to a cove where Douglas Firs covered a mountainside and stood branch-to-branch at the edge of a pebble-covered beach.

The bulbs of market lights twinkling above were strung between cedar boughs, and Perry Como played on an outdoor loudspeaker.

“It’s 1953 Day at the Mill today!” said Deanna Beaudoin, executive director of McLean Mill Historic Park  as she walked up to me with root beer floats in hand.

#ExplorePortAlberni Want to get out and explore the beautiful Alberni Valley? Follow this one-day itinerary and be prepared to be amazed.

#ExplorePortAlberni Instead of counting highway lines – because there were none – I looked out the window as narrow rows of timber whisked by like larger-than-life barcodes. The forest services road from Port Alberni to Bamfield follows the ocean inlet from the Pacific flowing in from the west, which many people often forget since Port Alberni is so close to the east coast of Vancouver Island.

#ExplorePortAlberni “That’s a MacGillivray's warbler,” said our intrepid guide Sandy McRuer, pausing mid-sentence, looking up into the trees.

The project’s premise was simple: one tree equals one sea-worthy canoe built by many hands, some more experienced than others.