Situated on the shores of the Queen Charlotte Straight, nestled between the slopes of the Vancouver Island Range and the Coastal Mountain Range, Port Hardy is Vancouver Island’s largest northern community.
Some eight thousand years ago, the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation settled what is now called Hardy Bay, named after the famed sea captain Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy. The sheltered location, deep-water harbour and wealth of natural resources that attracted the community’s first settlers continues to attract tourists annually.
As the “end of the line”, Port Hardy is the terminus of the BC Ferry service to Prince Rupert and the Central Coast, and is the last community with paved road access in the north island. Port Hardy is connected to the Queen Charlotte Islands and Alaska by ferry.
Port Hardy’s fully serviced, all-weather airport (run by Transport Canada) provides regular service to Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and smaller stops along the Central Coast including Bella Bella, Prince Rupert and Klemtu.
Port Hardy’s inner harbor shelters its state-of-the-art Seaplane Base, offering service from Pacific Coastal Airlines and Vancouver Island Helicopters.
As a juncture between civilization and immediate wilderness Port Hardy is rich with emerging sectors, natural beauty, cultural diversity and community spirit
The Cape Scott Trail, in Cape Scott Provincial Park, is a classic trek for beginner and intermediate hikers on Vancouver Island. This hike takes you through different landscapes of lush old growth into marshlands and open areas featuring boardwalks and points of historical interest. There are many trails in the park, but at Nels Bight you can set up camp and explore the surrounding areas. Astounding white sandy beaches surround the shorelines and the lighthouse is only 1-2 hours away by foot. In total, this hike can take anywhere from 4-7 hours, so be prepared for a full day of adventure.
If you’re looking for a shorter and equally gorgeous hike, be sure to check out San Josef Bay Trail, an easy 35-45 min walk from the Cape Scott parking lot.
Looking for more easygoing day hikes? Port Hardy has a diverse trail system for all ages and abilities. Carrot Park and Rotary Park offer leisurely strolls, while the more rugged Fort Rupert Trail (Commuter Trail) delivers a short dose of what you might get on the longer Cape Scott and North Coast Trails. Port Hardy’s enchanting Hardy Bay Seawall Walk starts in downtown Port Hardy, takes you by several parks, and even delivers you to beach entrances.
An easygoing trail, the Quatse River Nature Trail is a scenic gravel path that includes boardwalks. This loop explores the banks of the Quatse River, and is a terrific spot for wildlife viewing. Continue the trail under the bridge where you’ll access the Estuary Loop. Don’t miss these trails and during the salmon run!
More challenging day hikes include the 4.2 km Dakota 576 Crash Site Trail, which brings visitors to the site of the 1944 plane crash, with some impressive viewpoints of Port Hardy along the way. The most difficult day trail in Port Hardy, the 12 km Tex Lyon Trailhead, can take 8-12 hours round-trip. Be well prepared with clothing, food, and a strong understanding of the tides. Bring Stop and enjoy the views of Beaver Harbour and the Queen Charlotte Sraights.
Port Hardy offers protected water sport fishing opportunities that include salmon, cod and halibut and an abundance of shellfish. Local guides offer their professional services to fish local rivers, streams, and both (east and west) coasts.
If you are sailing by a private vessel to Port Hardy, Quarterdeck Resort & Marina provides excellent moorage, offering 1150 metres of floats and 195 slips. There is new moorage for vessels up to a 150 with amp power, water hookups, and free Wi-Fi. Freshen up and refuel in the adjacent hotel and restaurant.
From bald eagles, to humpback whales and orcas, to grizzly bears, and beyond, you are truly in wild country on northern Vancouver Island. With plenty of tour companies to choose from, you are sure to have the experience of a lifetime as you explore the diverse wildlife and unforgettable landscapes on a guided tour. Whether you’re a tourist hoping to see some incredible sights, or a professional looking to photograph once-in-a-lifetime moments, there’s something for everyone in this breathtaking location.
Only a 50 minute drive North of Port Hardy, you can find the unique boardwalk town of Telegraph Cove.
Telegraph Cove grew from a fishing and canning village into an eco-tourism hub attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Visit the historic Whale Museum, go kayaking, take out a boat and fish the stunning waters, or check out the impressive wildlife. This scenic area of the island offers incredible beauty everywhere you look, and there’s something for everyone.
Along the Quatse River Trail, you’ll pass by the Salmon Stewardship Centre. Operating since 2010, this centre is dedicated to supporting the enhancement, conservation, and education about salmon on northern Vancouver Island. Take in the world-class experience here at the Stewardship Centre as you explore the journey of millions of salmon making their way to the open ocean. This is a must-see for families and anyone searching for a hands-on educational experience.
The Port Hardy Heritage Society operates the Port Hardy Museum & Archives. Step in to take in aboriginal artifacts, remnants from early settlers, natural history materials, and local industrial equipment. Pop into the gift shop to pick up locally made crafts and unique souvenirs.
Port Hardy is home to the oldest known site of human habitation on Vancouver Island, at Bear Cove (near the BC Terries Terminal) around 5850 BCE. First contact with Europeans in the early 19th century led to the discovery of coal deposits, then the establishment of a fortified trading post.
At the end of the 19th century, Alex and Sarah Lyon began operating a store and post office in Port Hardy’s current location. When the Hardy Bay Land Company began aggressively promoting land sales to settlers, the community grew, and built a school, sawmill, church, and hotel. The newly established community had limited access from the rest of Vancouver Island until a logging road was paved in 1979, connecting Port Hardy to Campbell River.
Operation of a copper mine swelled Port Hardy’s population to over 5,000 between the 1970s to the mid-90s, when the mine closed its doors. Today Port Hardy’s population is just over 4 thousand and growing again as industry diversifies.