Campbell River: Gateway to Wilderness
By: Amanda Brown, @hervanislelife
Have you ever had one of those life experiences where even weeks later, when you’re back at home, you think “Wow, was that even real? Was I dreaming?” I’ve been experiencing that pretty much every day since returning from the gateway to wilderness; Campbell River. Even with being born and raised on Vancouver Island, I never dreamed of the adventures I could experience so close to home – they’re infinite. Let me take you on a journey from city to wilderness.
We stopped here for some fresh coffee and breakfast to start our first day. The great atmosphere and very friendly service gave us the kick start we needed. As we took our goodies to go, we watched the locals pour through the door for their morning fix, which was a sure sign this place was a hot spot.
Guided Fishing Tour
I don’t fancy myself much of a fisher-(wo)man, but the guides from Coastal Wilderness Adventures and Tall Tale Charters were professional and supportive, with clear and concise direction. One of the members of our group landed a 12 pound salmon, and we even got to enjoy the fresh catch for dinner at the Riptide Pub that evening; what they call a “hook and cook” meal, served family-style.
If you’re interested in anything maritime, this is a highly recommended stop. Guided by a knowledgeable local, we learned about the immaculately refurbished historical fishing vessel, BCP45 – which you may recognize from a former Canadian five dollar bill. For those not familiar, this is an incredible piece of Canadian history.
Now this is a true local gem. This beachside coffee house boasts a comfortable outdoor oceanside seating area with a beachfront fire pit – perfect for relaxing at the end of a long day. This is one of my personal favourites, I will admit, with special coffees for special occasions, sandwiches, soup, and much more. Who can argue with an outdoor oceanside fire pit? I forgot to mention the uninterrupted views of Quadra Island with frequent sea otter and whale sightings!
Ideal retro furnishings, the food, the milkshakes… an 11 out of 10. Campbell River just isn’t Campbell River without a stop at this authentic diner.
Elk Falls Provincial Park
When visiting Campbell River, a trip to Elk Falls Provincial Park is a staple. Nestled away in beautiful old growth forests and only a ten minute drive from the city, this incredible waterfall is a sight to be seen. In 2015, a suspension bridge was constructed by local partners – the Campbell River Rotary Club, BC Hydro and BC Parks – to provide a bird’s eye view of the falls that you won’t want to miss.
Haig-Brown Heritage House
For the history junkies and curious alike, the Haig-Brown Heritage House is a beautiful historic property situated right along the Campbell River. The venue is picture perfect for weddings, family picnics or social gatherings. Rich with community history and beautiful gardens, it truly is a must see for a relaxing tranquil experience.
Ken Forde Beach
One of the best things about Campbell River is that you can have beach fires almost year round. Ken Forde Beach just south of the city offers the most incredible views of the mountains and lingering clouds across the water. More often than not, the sky in Campbell River appears on fire – so we had a fire, roasted some marshmallows with good company, and took in the view – just as the locals do.
I may be a little biased, being an islander, but I always tell everyone I know, “When in Campbell River, go to Daves’!” With daily bread specials, unreal selections of sweet treats, delicious coffee, and incredibly friendly staff, there is something for everyone here. Each of us chose a sandwich to-go for our next adventure off the grid. I personally chose the bread of the day, with a classic ham and cheese sandwich (which was out of this world, I later learned).
Myra Falls, Strathcona Provincial Park
This wasn’t the original adventure for our itinerary, but due to technical difficulties we had to improvise. Knowing the immense beauty that is Strathcona Provincial Park, we took an impromptu trip to Myra Falls. Even in March, some (very brave) people in our group just could not resist jumping into the icy waters off the falls! The rest of us decided to stay warm and explore the falls while dry and cozy, enjoying our packed lunch from Daves’.
This was definitely a highlight of the trip for me. This incredible, beautifully built distillery sits on some of the most stunning property you’ll find on the east coast of Vancouver Island. We sipped on some delicious whiskey and vodkas, and some couldn’t resist purchasing a bottle or two to take home. We followed the tastings with a tour of the property on side by side ATVs. After the fun of seeing the property, we were taken to the warehouse where the whiskey sits in barrels aging to perfection. Next door, we met with local entrepreneurs and learned about the tiny houses being built right in the warehouse space. Just when you think there couldn’t possibly be more exciting things on this property, we walked to yet another building to meet with Andrew of Vancouver Island Salt Co. and learned about the process that goes into creating some of the most pristine salts in the world. I could have easily spent all day at Shelter Point with all the neat things to see and do!
Salmon Point Restaurant & Pub
After all the excitement at Shelter Point, we were accompanied by one of the tiny house builders, James of Stillinmotion Media, to Salmon Point Pub for some relaxing dinner and drinks with an ocean view. No menu choice will leave you disappointed; we all ordered our own plates but found ourselves sharing with one another because everything looked so good. I know I will definitely be back to sit on their patio this summer.
This new cafe offered fantastic options for grab & go breakfast before our next adventure. We enjoyed our coffees and snacks while admiring the local art on display in a relaxing atmosphere.
Mount Washington Alpine Resort
Just a 40 minute drive from Campbell River, Mount Washington Alpine Resort offers year-round activities for visitors of all ages – from snowboarding, skiing, tubing and snowshoeing in the winter, to mountain biking and hiking in the summer (just to name a few). For our adventure, we chose snowshoeing guided by a Mount Washington staff member. Fun and friendly company, light snow, beautiful views and even more laughs were enjoyed. After frolicking in the snow, we ventured up to Ted’s Bar and Grill for a delicious lunch before we made our way back to Campbell River.
Henderson Carving Shed
Being from Vancouver Island I grew up learning about Indigenous culture, but nothing prepared me for the powerful words of Junior, Bill Henderson’s nephew, who left me speechless. He painted a picture of local First Nations history, illustrating the rich culture, the hardships they had to overcome, and traditions of his people. Visitors come from all over to see the incredible totem poles of Indigenous people, and visiting the Henderson’s Shed really taught us about how their traditions live on.
Anchor Waterfront Restaurant & Lounge
We didn’t have to travel far for dinner on this night, just downstairs from the comfort of our rooms at the Anchor Inn. Situated right on the water, every room has an ocean view, and this stands true for the restaurant as well – beautifully decorated, fantastic service, and a very luxurious atmosphere. I ordered what I thought would be a simple Caesar salad with grilled chicken breast, and what I received was hands down the most delicious, well-made chicken Caesar salad I have ever had. Perched on the side of my plate was fresh, house made focaccia bread. My personal favourite.
Anglers Dining Room at Dolphins Resort
My friends and I are always on an endless journey to find the best breakfast spots up and down Vancouver Island, and Anglers has landed itself high up on my list. A cozy rustic feel to the restaurant complimented the ocean views perfectly. After filling up on an unreal breakfast, we were invited on a tour of the resort itself. I have one word: WOW! Weddings, family reunions, social gatherings, or just a weekend away, Dolphins Resort is perfect for any occasion.
Big Animal Encounters
Whales, sea lions, and eagles, oh my! Big Animal Encounters stayed true to its name. We took a leisurely cruise through Desolation Sound and came across so much exciting wildlife. Our guide, Bill was knowledgeable and most importantly, a lot of fun!
Now THIS was the highlight of my entire year! Very high on my bucket list for many years has been a helicopter ride to view Vancouver Island from above. This day, my dreams came true. After only a quick introduction, the pilots Bastian and Dirk projected an air of safety and relaxation. Professional and personable, we all knew we were in good hands. From lift-off to landing we were completely awe-struck with the panoramic views of this gorgeous landscape. Once we landed on the Downie Range, the strangest sensation vibrated my very soul: silence. This is the epitome of peace, yet it still energizes your very being.
There isn’t a time when I go to Campbell River and don’t stop in at the Beach Fire Brewery. The staff treat you like you’re an old friend, their menu is to die for, and their beers are some of the best crafted on the island. Don’t forget to grab a growler on your way out to enjoy on your next Campbell River adventure!
A Final Word
With outdoor adventures, comfortable accommodations, incredible food and wonderful people, Campbell River will forever hold a special place in my heart. From city to wilderness in a blink of an eye, Campbell River is sure to capture your mind, heart, and soul. #DiscoverCampbellRiver