Discover Campbell River: Vancouver Island’s Hidden Gem
By: Luke Konarzewski, @luke.konarzewski
When I was approached by Destination Campbell River to visit Vancouver Island from Washington, quite frankly I didn’t know what to expect. I never thought about visiting the island or knew much about it. This aspect was incredibly intriguing to me. After spending five days in the area, I realized just how naive I had been. Vancouver Island is stocked with incredible scenery. From various remote coastal islands and channels to towering inland mountains, Campbell River truly is an outdoorsman’s PARADISE!
Something that really surprised me was how accessible Vancouver Island is. Only a short drive up to Vancouver from Washington, followed by a short ferry ride, and you’ll find yourself on the island. The ferry ride really blew me away! A crystal clear day quickly turned to rain as we pulled into our port at Nanaimo. An incredible show of light rays and rainbows set the stage for what would be a incredible week in a truly unforgettable place. Let’s dive into it and look at what exactly Campbell River has to offer.
When all is said and done I must say that, for me, this was the highlight of the entire trip. A typical day on the water includes fishing for salmon, hunting for oysters, and setting prawn traps. The best part is, everything that you work hard to catch is yours at the end of the day! Here’s a little secret, although the underlying purpose of your trip is to catch yourself a salmon, there are never ending possibilities both on and off the boat. Part of our time was spent exploring a secret waterfall. Steve and Curtis were the best guides we could’ve asked for, and certainly felt more like friends than tour guides. This was the absolute best way to kick off this unforgettable week.
Elk Falls Provincial Park is another absolute gem of Campbell River, featuring a giant cascading waterfall, suspension bridge, and old growth forest. Whether your visit is a day or a week, Elk Falls should be on the top of everyone’s list. With a well connected trail system, Elk Falls is perfect for literally anyone. Just a short half mile walk from the parking lot, you instantly feel immersed in the wild. This will not be the last time I stand on the suspension bridge, hundreds of feet above the cascading waterfall and raging river – taking it all in, if only for a few minutes.
Towards the end of our trip, we had another opportunity to search for something we had all looked forward to seeing – whales! Out of season, we unfortunately didn’t come across any on this particular day, although this just gives myself a pretty darn good reason to come back. Instead of whales we were treated to seeing plenty of other wildlife that call Campbell River’s region home. Seals, sea lions, and great bald eagles were the highlights for me. One thing that really impressed me was the boat we took out on this excursion. Stocked with freshly baked cookies (my favorite) and coffee we were definitely living in luxury on the water. Most of the time, everyone would be hanging out inside enjoying themselves while the boat was moving, and as soon as our captain Bill spotted any wildlife, we would race out onto the stern with cameras in hand to capture any seals or sea lions before they disappeared under the water. An incredibly fun and challenging experience, no doubt!
Along with our various adventures exploring the wild outdoors of the Campbell River area, we also had the awesome opportunity to check out incredible cultural and dining experiences. Shelter Point Distillery was the most impressive! Shelter Point offers original and pure whiskey and vodka made simply, right on the shores of Vancouver Island. The incredible farm has several hundred acres, and provides the distillery with all of the grain used in the products. The true definition of farm to table, even if it comes in a whisky glass.
Snowshoeing at Mount Washington Alpine Resort
During some downtime, we packed day packs and head into the mountains! Something I really didn’t expect was that Campbell River as towering mountains, found deep in Strathcona Provincial Park. We headed to Myra Falls at the end of the highway and were fully immersed in the park. Driving mostly on the edge of huge cliffs, overlooking colossal lakes which sit at the base of towering mountains, you’ll certainly be glued to the window. Once at Myra Falls, we took a short walk to a multi-tiered waterfall, perfect for swimming (if you’re as daring as I was!).
This was something I had been looking forward to the whole week, and it did not disappoint. Flying in two helicopters side by side, we made our way across the inlet and over various islands, all the way to the mainland. This was where our guide Bastian scanned the never ending landscape of snowy mountains searching for a place to land, and carefully set us down on the very top of a perfectly shaped peak. Instantly I got a sense that we may just be the very first people to ever put feet on the top of this mountain. That’s a very special feeling, one that can’t be replicated in any other way. Ending our trip with this very special moment was something I’ll never forget.