700,000 tons of rock explode
MUST DO: Take a walk along the Seawall; Experience the rich First Nations' Heritage Sites
The north end of Hwy. 19, Port Hardy - also a major ferry terminal for mainland British Columbia - offers a jumping off point to the wilds of North Vancouver Island.
Named for Sir Thomas Hardy, captain of the HMS Victoria during the Battle of Trafalgar, Port Hardy's 4,000 people enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery in all British Columbia.
Primarily dependent on logging and fishing, Port Hardy is also becoming a first-rate destination for anyone with a yen for the outdoors. From diving to kayaking, hiking to fishing, Port Hardy has services for all types of eco-adventure and outdoor recreation.
If you're after salmon, try Dillon Point, Daphne Point, Duval Point, Gordon Island and Hardy Bay itself. All five species of west coast salmon (chinook, chum, sockeye, coho and pink) can be caught in the Port Hardy area. Freshwater anglers should try Kains Lake. On the road to the tiny village of Holberg, Kains Lake has a good number of small cutthroat. Nearby Georgia Lake has cutthroat, a recreation site and launch for small boats.
The Quatse River has a good steelhead run from February to April and some sea-run cutthroat. While you're there, check out the salmon hatchery or the bird sanctuary, home to several species including eagles and kingfishers.
Hikers will want to check out Tex Lyon Trail. Starting at the boat launch at Beaver Harbor Park, this seven-kilometer (one way) coastal trail goes through both forests and rocky shorelines. The trail ends at Dillon Point, a great place for a picnic. At Georgie Lake, the Songhees Trail is an easy three-kilometer (one way) hike.
If you're fished out, check out Port Hardy's scenic 18-hole golf course. Or stroll along the oceanside nature path and watch for seals, sea lions and otters. At the local museum, you can delve into the history of the area.
Port Hardy is a convenient jumping off point for other wilderness spots on North Vancouver Island, particularly Cape Scott Provincial Park. A 21,800-hectare area of rugged coastal wilderness, Cape Scott is 67 kilometers west of Port Hardy via a logging road that passes through the tiny community of Holberg.
First peopled by the three native Indian bands, it was not until 1897 that the first white settlement attempt was made. Danes set up a community, but most left by 1907 after a promised road never materialized. Another wave of settlers arrived in 1913, and the population rose to over 1,000. By 1917, however, the hardships encountered lead to abandonment. Some remnants of these settlements remain, mostly rotting buildings.
The area remained virtually uninhabited, except for three years during the Second World War when a radar station was in operation. Now the park is quickly becoming the 'in' destination for both amateur and the serious hiker. Cape Scott Provincial Park has both forests, cleared lands and 64 kilometers of ocean frontage, including 23 kilometers of beaches. The most impressive beach is Nels Bight, a 2,400 meter long by 210-meter wide white-sand paradise. Inland areas of the park feature forests of red and yellow cedar, lodgepole pine, hemlock and fir. Deer, elk, bear, otter, cougar and wolves inhabit the forests and open uplands, while seals and sea lions live on the offshore islands.
Cape Scott is known for its incredibly heavy rainfall - between 375 and 500 centimeters annually. Storms can happen at any time of year, so go in prepared. Many trails are extremely muddy and difficult.
The less adventurous may want to do a day-hike into San Josef Bay, a 2 1/2-kilometer, one-hour hike from the parking lot. An eight-hour, 24-kilometer hike (plan to spend the night) will take you from the parking lot to Cape Scott Lighthouse. NOTE: Fresh water is available only at San Josef Bay, Nels Bight, Nissen Bight and Guise Bay. There is no drinking water at Cape Scott Lighthouse.
If you are planning to visit Port Hardy and Cape Scott, reservations in Port Hardy should be made well in advance due to passenger loads on ferries heading to the mainland.
BY ROAD: Port Hardy is 240 kilometers north of Campbell River. The drive, on Hwy. 19, takes about 2 1/2 hours.
BY AIR: Scheduled airline connections are out of Vancouver to Port Hardy Airport.
BY FERRY: BC Ferries operates an overnight sailing out of Prince Rupert on the mainland from id October through mid May. In the summer, sailings are every other day.
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