This East-Central fishing town marks the last stop before the long drive north to towns like Telegraph Cove, Port McNeill and Port Hardy. Campbell River’s history lies deep within the tales of mining, logging and fishing, and the city claims to be the “Salmon Capital of the World.” It is a stunning place sitting alongside the ocean, which is hugged by snowcapped mountains beyond. Sculptures and carvings are scattered throughout the city and dotted along the parks, with the long Discovery Fishing Pier enticing you for a walk. The city is beginning to leave its rugged past behind and has received recognition as a hotspot for embarking on a huge range of outdoor adventures. Its proximity to the Discover Islands, as well as its salmon fishing and central location have played a big part. Wondering what kind of activities you can get up to when visiting Campbell River? Check out some of the top things to do in Campbell River:
Campbell River is located along the Johnstone Strait, which has long been a hotspot for whale watching. This is because there is a hearty population of resident orcas (killer whales) in the area! They’re some of the best-studied whales in the world, with scientists flocking to the area to keep an eye on them. Besides orcas, you will have the chance to see plenty of dolphins, as well as seals, sea lions and other marine life.
Campbell River is also just a short hop away from grizzly bear territory, which makes it a great place to head out on a bear watching tour! Most involve a scenic boat ride to grizzly populated inlets where you’ll have the chance to watch these incredible creatures in their natural habitats from a safe distance.
True to their Salmon Capital name, all five types of Pacific Salmon can be caught out of Campbell River, and the flowing fresh water nearby is a popular place for fly fisherman to catch the returning salmon, too. During the summer, especially, is when most of the salmon fishing action is. Early season starts in April, and the Chum salmon stick around until about October. There’s even the Discovery Fishing Pier in town, where often see lines of fishing rods and eager anglers trying their luck. It’s a great place to catch sunset, too.
Speaking of the Salmon Capital of the world, there are even companies that do salmon snorkeling adventures, allowing visitors to see these keystone fish up close! You’ll hop into a wetsuit, put on your mask and snorkel and dive into the river with the spawning fish. They’re incredible up close. This is a unique, Vancouver Island experience that will leave you feeling a deep understanding and appreciation for these feisty fish!
Check out our blog post about it for a first-hand experience snorkeling with the salmon!
The nearby Discovery Islands make for the perfect kayaking destinations. For those wary of the ocean, there are plenty of calmer areas in Campbell River to enjoy a kayaking adventure, including some freshwater areas! Exploring the ocean by kayak is great exercise, and gets you up close and personal with the incredible sea life in the area.
So many great hikes find their beginning just outside of Campbell River. From easy strolls alongside the ocean, to 10-hour summit climbs, you can discover the perfect hike for your level and day’s ambition outside of Campbell River. Some are incredibly rewarding for little effort, and it’s a great way to get a feel for Vancouver Island’s unique ecosystem! Campbell River is also the closest city to Strathcona Park, which makes it a go-to for hikers headed to the area.
Campbell River is one of Vancouver Island’s ultimate waterfall-chasing destinations. It is the area you kick off the hike to Della Falls, B.C.’s tallest waterfall, and where a suspension bridge spans Elk Falls canyon. Myra is a tumbling cascade of several layers and swimmable pools, and Lady Falls takes just twenty minutes to walk to. There are almost too many options to count!
From logging and fishing, to the pulp mill days and now, a burgeoning tourist town, Campbell River has seen a lot! While the first Spanish and British explorers didn’t reach its shores until 1792, the First Nations of the coast have been present in Campbell River for thousands of years before. The influence on Campbell River’s underlying culture and lifestyle is very much present in the town, and gives you an appreciation for how the city must have been before the settlement and industry. All in all, Campbell River is a fantastic destination, especially for those outdoor adventurers. It’s the gateway to many hikes, cultural experiences, and expeditions of any kind.