British Columbia Wildlife Watch - Vancouver Island Region (Port Hardy-Port McNeill Viewing Sites)
copyright © A.L. Mol  2003
Binoculars Seagull Flying

return to home page

Within the Port Hardy, Port McNeill and northern portion of the Vancouver Island Region, the following 12 viewing sites are identified.
    Detailed Location Map   (click here for a map showing the location of the following 12 viewing sites)
    WARNING - this will take some time to load!!

The northern end of Vancouver Island is accessible by two BC Ferries routes.


Line

   Alert Bay Ecological Park (Gator Gardens)

Alert Bay Ecological Park is a natural wetland fed by an underground spring. Originally, this site provided a water source for the Spenser and Huson's fish saltery, that later became a cannery. When a dam was built half way up the hill to store water for the cannery it caused the springs at the top of the hill to flood the surrounding area, thus killing the trees. However, these dead trees provide perches for Bald Eagle and Common Raven, and nesting cavities for Violet-green Swallow. A boardwalk snakes through the wetland and three nature trails provide access through the surrounding area.

Viewing Highlights - Bald Eagle and Common Raven may be observed throughout the year. Violet-green Swallow are present in late spring and early summer. The wetland is home to many dragonflies. In the forest areas you may see Downy Woodpecker, Varied Thrush and Song Sparrow. During spring Hooded Merganser frequent the wetland. Also look for Belted Kingfisher.

Directions - From Port McNeill take the 45 minute ferry ride to Alert Bay. Depart the ferry and turn right. At the RCMP Station turn left, right at the credit union and then left onto Maple Road. At Cedar Street turn right. Continue to the campgrounds, turn left and travel past the campground to the small picnic area on the right. The main trail is located at the back of the picnic area.

For more information contact -

Alert Bay InfoCentre
Bag Service 2800, Alert Bay, B.C. Canada V0N 1A0
phone: (250) 974-5024
fax:
e-mail

Line

   Broughton Strait

Broughton Strait is located between the western end of Malcolm Island and Telegraph Cove, and includes the waters offshore of Port McNeill, Sointula and Alert Bay. Portions of Broughton Strait are visible from these communities but the best way to observe wildlife is by boat. BC Ferries operates a ferry between Port McNeill, Sointula and Alert Bay.

Viewing Highlights - The Broughton Strait area is frequented by orcas and other marine mammals, including Pacific White-sided Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise, Dall's Porpoise and Harbour Seal. The best period for viewing these wildlife species is from July through the middle of October.

This area also offers good bird watching, especially during late summer and early fall. From the ferry or other boat look for Marbled Murrelet, Pigeon Guillemot, Common Murre, Oldsquaw, Western Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, cormorants, scoters and loons. Also look for Ring-billed, Glaucous-winged, California, Bonaparte's and Mew Gulls.

Directions - From Highway 19 (Vancouver Island Highway) take Campbell Way into the community of Port McNeill and follow the signs to the BC Ferries terminal.

For more information contact -

Port Hardy and District Chamber of Commerce
P.O. Box 249, Port Hardy, B.C. Canada V0N 2P0
phone: (250) 949-7622
fax: (250) 949-6653
e-mail

or

Port McNeill and District Chamber of Commerce
Box 129, Port McNeill, B.C. Canada V0N 2R0
phone: (250) 956-3131
fax: (250) 956-3132
e-mail

Line

   Cape Scott Provincial Park

This park is located on the northern end of Vancouver Island. The park area has considerable human history, including that of natives and early settlers. Beginning in 1897, Hansen Lagoon was home to a small Danish community. There was a store and post office. Some of the trails follow old wagon roads with the corduroy track still visible in places.

Viewing Highlights - The forests of the park are home to Pileated Woodpecker, Winter Wren, Pine Siskin, Chestnut-backed Chickadee and many other forest dwelling birds. The best time to see or hear these birds is from April to late September.

The marine coastline, bays and lagoons of the park offer good opportunities to view a variety of marine birds, including Black, Surf and White-winged Scoters. Marine birds are more common during from the middle of August through to late April. Trumpeter Swan have been observed during the winter months at San Josef Bay and Hansen Lagoon. Bald Eagle are often seen from April through September.

Many land mammals inhabit the park, but you are unlikely to see them. Included are deer, Cougar, Raccoon, River Otter, Mink and Black Bear.

Directions - From Port Hardy follow the signs directing you to Holberg and the park. It is approximately 60 km from Port Hardy to the park boundary and a parking lot. Most of the road is gravel. From the parking lot visitors must hike in. The shortest hike is the 2.5 km trail to San Josef Bay.

For more information contact -

BC Parks, Strathcona District
Box 1479, Parksville, B.C. Canada V9P 2H4
phone: (250) 954-4600
fax: (250) 248-8584
e-mail

Line

   Gwa'ni (Nimpkish) Hatchery

The Gwa'ni (Nimpkish) Hatchery is located just south of Port McNeill along the Nimpkish River. Chinook, Chum and Coho Salmon are raised at this large facility.

Viewing Highlights - Chum Salmon spawn near the hatchery from mid November to mid December. Chinook and Coho Salmon pass by the hatchery site from October to December to spawn further up the Nimpkish River. Thousands of fish fry are visible in the holding troughs and pens from October to July.

Directions - From Vancouver Island Highway (Highway 19) the access road into the hatchery is located 5.4 km south of the road into Port McNeill, just past the large green bridge over the Nimpkish River, and 3.0 km north of the road into Telegraph Cove. Watch for the hatchery signs.

For more information contact -

Gwa'ni (Nimpkish) Hatchery
c/o P.O. Box 210, Alert Bay, B.C. Canada V0N 1A0
phone: (250) 956-4712
fax: (250) 956-4733

Line

   Hardy Bay - Quatse River Estuary

The bay and estuary areas are visited by a wide range of wildlife. Bald Eagles and Great Blue Heron are common year round. Scan the mud flats during low tides for shorebirds. During fall and winter waterfowl are found. Cormorants and seabirds are also seen. During the fall, salmon travel through the bay and enter the Quatse River. This attracts many wildlife species who feed on the dead and dying fish carcasses.

Viewing Highlights - Bald Eagle and Great Blue Heron are common in this area throughout the year. The mud flats exposed at low tide are frequented by many species of shorebirds. During the fall and winter months Canada Goose, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Bufflehead and mergansers are common. Also look for cormorants and many sea bird species. During the fall salmon travel through the bay and estuary, and enter the Quatse River. This attracts many wildlife species.

Directions - From Highway 19 (Vancouver Island Highway), to access the end of Hardy Bay and the Quatse River estuary, take the access road to the BC Ferries terminal. Turn left onto a gravel road (Goodspeed Road) 1.2 km from the highway. Continue to the end of Hardy Bay.

For views along Hardy Bay take Hardy Bay Road from Highway 19 (Vancouver Island Highway). Hardy Bay Road is opposite Coal Harbour Road at the same highway intersection.

For more information contact -

BC Environment, Vancouver Island Region
2080 Labieux Road, Nanaimo, B.C. Canada V9T 6J9
phone: (250) 751-3100
fax: (250) 751-3103

Line

   Johnstone Straight and Blackfish Sound

Johnstone Strait, including Blackfish Sound and the world famous Robson Bight area, is one of the best places to watch whales and other marine mammals. Many commercial tour companies offer boat trips into these waters. Whale watching tour companies are located in Port Hardy, Port McNeill, Alert Bay, Telegraph Cove, Kelsey Bay (near Sayward) and Campbell River.

The Robson Bight (Michael Bigg Ecological Reserve) is world famous for its whale rubbing beaches. Please note that public access into the reserve is prohibited, but whale watching is permitted from outside the reserve's boundaries.

Be sure to tune in ORCA FM at 88.5 on the FM dial.

Viewing Highlights - The best period for watching orcas is from June through October. A variety of other marine mammals may also be seen, including Pacific white-sided Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise, Dall's Porpoise and Harbour Seal. The birdlife is also diverse, including Bald Eagle and many sea bird species.

Directions - By boat this area can be accessed from Port McNeill and Telegraph Cove. Please note that public access into the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve is prohibited.

For more information contact -

BC Parks, Strathcona District
Box 1479, Parksville, B.C. Canada V9P 2H4
phone: (250) 954-4600
fax: (250) 248-8584
e-mail

Line

   Marble River Hatchery

Established in 1981, the hatchery raises chinook and coho salmon and steelhead trout. From mid January to the end of July weekday hours are 8 am to 4:30 pm and 8 am to 2 pm on weekends. Other times call first.

Viewing Highlights - There is a new rearing channel for Chinook and Coho Salmon , and many troughs and tanks with young fish.

Directions - From Vancouver Island Highway (Highway 19) take the road towards Port Alice, located about half way between Port Hardy and Port McNeill. The access road to the hatchery is located on the left 13.9 km from the highway. If you reach the bridge over the Marble River, you just missed the hatchery road.

For more information contact -

Friends of the Marble River
Box 594, Port McNeill, B.C. Canada V0N 2R0
phone: (250) 956-3682
fax:

Line

   Marble River Provincial Park

The Marble River empties from the north end of Alice Lake. A series of waterfalls begin on the downstream side of the bridge. Some of the best fish viewing occurs from the bridge where you can look down into the clear water. A trail from the Western Forest Products managed recreation area leads to Marble River Provincial Park. A fishway at Bear Falls provides good viewing of chinook.

Viewing Highlights - Chinook and coho salmon migrating up the river from mid September through mid December. Look year round for American Dippers in, and around, the falls.

Directions - From Vancouver Island Highway (Highway 19) take the road towards Port Alice, located about half way between Port Hardy and Port McNeill. The bridge is located about 14 km from the highway. Ample parking near the bridge, including in the recreation site.

For more information contact -

BC Parks, Strathcona District
Box 1479, Parksville, B.C. Canada V9P 2H4
phone: (250) 954-4600
fax: (250) 248-8584
e-mail

Line

   Port Alice Hatchery

This facility is located at the southern end of Neroutos Inlet, near Colonial and Cayeaghle Creeks. There are no regular hatchery tours. There is a trail along Colonial Creek that leads to deeps pools and the confluence of the two creeks.

Viewing Highlights - Chum, Coho and Chinook Salmon may be observed in Colonial Creek and Cayeaghle Creek. Peak spawning occurs in October. Visitors to the area should take caution as Black Bears are often sighted.

Directions - From Vancouver Island Highway (Highway 19) take the road to Port Alice. This road is about half way between Port Hardy and Port McNeill. Travel through Port Alice and past the pulp mill. The hatchery is an 11 km, 15 minute, drive from Port Alice (or 6 km past the pulp mill). From the mill the road is gravel.

For more information contact -

Port Alice Fish and Wildlife Association
Box 666, Port Alice, B.C. Canada V0N 2N0
phone:
fax:

Line

   Quatse River Hatchery

The hatchery is open year round from 8 am to 4:30 pm daily. The best fish viewing occurs in October when salmon enter the river to spawn. There are also many troughs and tanks with young fish.

Viewing Highlights - The peak spawning period for Pink Salmon is early to mid October. The peak period for Coho Salmon is mid to late October. Some spawners may be seen outside the peak periods.

Directions - From Vancouver Island Highway (Highway 19) just south of Port Hardy take Coal Harbour Road. Watch for hatchery signs not far from the highway. Turn left onto Byne Road.

For more information contact -

Northern Vancouver Island Salmonid Enhancement Society
Box 1409, Port Hardy, B.C. Canada V0N 2P0
phone: (250) 949-9022
fax: (250) 949-5195
e-mail

Line

   Salmon River Estuary

The Salmon River estuary provides important fall and winter habitat for many waterfowl species and Trumpeter Swans.

Viewing Highlights - Trumpeter Swans are numerous here during the late fall and winter months. Also common are many species of waterfowl, including Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, Bufflehead, American Wigeon. Throughout the year you may see Bald Eagle, Belted Kingfisher and Great Blue Heron. Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk and other raptor species have been observed.

Harbour Seals frequent the outer estuary. Orcas are occasional observed offshore, especially from July to October.

Directions - From Highway 19 (Vancouver Island Highway) take the road into Sayward. At 9.5 km from the highway there is a large, wooden "Welcome to Sayward" sign on the left. Directly across from this sign on the right is access across the active logging road to the beginning of the trail into the estuary. It is about a 10 minute walk out to the Salmon River.

For more information contact -

BC Environment, Vancouver Island Region
2080 Labieux Road, Nanaimo, B.C. Canada V9T 6J9
phone: (250) 751-3100
fax: (250) 751-3103

Line

   Telegraph Cove

This small resort community is located southeast of Port McNeill. Telegraph Cove provides water access to the Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound areas. You may choose to participate in a commercial whale watching trip, or launch your own boat, kayak or canoe. Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve is an important and protected area for whales. Please note that public access and commercial tours are not permitted in the reserve.

Viewing Highlights - From Telegraph Cove there is limited view lines into Johnstone Strait, but on many occasions you may be able to see, from a distance with binoculars, orcas and other marine mammals out in the Strait. The best viewing period for orcas is from June through October. Other marine mammals may include Pacific White-sided Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise, Dall's Porpoise and Harbour Seal.

Directions - Telegraph Cove is located southeast of Port McNeill. From Highway 19 (Vancouver Island Highway) the access road into Telegraph Cove is located 7.0 km south of the road into Port McNeill. The road into Telegraph Cove is well marked and is a combination of paved road and dirt logging roads. It is 14.8 km from Highway 19 into Telegraph Cove.

For more information contact -

Port Hardy and District Chamber of Commerce
P.O. Box 249, Port Hardy, B.C. Canada V0N 2P0
phone: (250) 949-7622
fax: (250) 949-6653
e-mail

or

Port McNeill and District Chamber of Commerce
Box 129, Port McNeill, B.C. Canada V0N 2R0
phone: (250) 956-3131
fax: (250) 956-3132
e-mail

or

BC Parks, Strathcona District
Box 1479, Parksville, B.C. Canada V9P 2H4
phone: (250) 954-4600
fax: (250) 248-8584
e-mail