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10 tips for your first trip to Campbell River, BC

Are you visiting for the first time? When visiting Campbell River, you can be spontaneous and still have a great trip (after all, some of the best moments are un planned). If you have some specific niche activities that are on your “must do” list however, it’s best to plan ahead. After all, whales and wildlife keep to their own schedules. 

These 10 all-season tips and trip ideas will help you visit like a local and make plenty of space for new memories involving salty sea breezes, the heart-pounding awe of a waterfall, or cozy hospitality with loved ones. 

So, whether you’re visiting Campbell River for the first time or need some quick ideas to guide your upcoming visit, this list is for you. 

Woman in red jacket in Strathcona Park

Tip #1 – Bring layers, because we’re outside 365 days a year. The temperature can change fast here on the coast, even on mild days. When the wind whips up, it’s easy to catch a chill. A quick burst of sunshine can make a rainy day suddenly feel hotter than you expected. The tried-and-true solution? Wear three layers, especially when you head to the shore in the fall, winter, or spring. Use a thin base layer like a t-shirt, a warmer middle layer like a long-sleeved flannel shirt, and top it off with a windbreaker. This way, you’ll stay comfy and maybe even look like a local.

Tip #2 – Explore the beaches. On this eastern stretch of Vancouver Island, the pebble beaches are ideal for curious learners. You’ll find abundant biodiversity in the intertidal zones.  Those interested in geology, marine biology, beachcombing, or local landmarks and legends like Big Rock will find plenty to explore. Do the sandy beaches call your name? Not to worry we have those too! Saratoga Beach is the most popular sandy beach in the area, so don’t forget to add it to you list. Here’s a full list of local beaches. 

Tip #3 – Enjoy local craft beverages. The city is lucky to have skilled artisan beverage makers and great places to take in the local atmosphere. Make note of Beach Fire Brewing as the place to fill your growler. You can BYO growler, buy one there, get some cans to go, or sit in and chill for a while. Then try out unique creations like the Campbell River Fog from Stonehouse Teas or the Campbell River Iced Tea cocktail at Velocity, located at Campbell River Golf & Country Club. For more information, here’s where to find local beer.

Man brewing local beer at Beach Fire Brewing

Tip #4 – Soak in the sights at Elk Falls Suspension Bridge. This is a must-see waterfall and walking trail! Everyone brings their visiting friends and family here because it’s spectacular, has many interesting features, and is quite physically accessible. The trail is solid, wide, and less than two kilometres out and back, with a viewing platform set up before the stairs and bridge. There is plenty of parking, no admission fee and plenty of opportunities for photo ops! Here are directions to Elk Falls.

Tip #5 – Get out on the ocean.  You’ll see many people on the water kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing, motor boating, swimming, fishing, diving, and snorkelling. Bring your own vessel or take a guided tour with one of many responsible guides that want to share this area and their expertise. Be safe and explore the vast and diverse ocean, rivers, and lakes here in the region (it’s what makes our home so special). Here is some more information about water sports and guides.

Tip #6 – Learn about local First Nations communities and culture. Campbell River is located on the unceded territory of the Ligʷiɫdaxʷ, which includes the We Wai Kai, We Wai Kum & Kwikiah Nations. Our community is home to many talented local Indigenous businesses and artists. If you’re  keen to do some shopping during your stay, be sure to check out these Indigenous-owned boutique businesses such as West Coast Wildflowers, RavenSong Soap & Candle, and Standing Spruce Farm & Apothecary. Wei Wai Kum House of Treasures is a Band-operated First Nations gallery and gift shop featuring First Nation artwork, First Nation home accessories, First Nation clothing and jewellery.  The Museum at Campbell River not only brings alive the rich traditions and heritage of this fascinating region and its peoples, but they also offer some beautiful artwork in their gift shop as well. There are other ways to learn about First Nations cultures respectfully in Campbell River, and you can find more information here.

First Nations culture

Tip #7 – Go to the Discovery Pier for ice cream, ocean observations, and the Discovery Passage Aquarium. Among locals, ice cream at the Discovery Pier Concession is a nostalgic summer treat (and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a whale swimming by). If you’re curious about undersea life, you can use the touch screen on the Pier, or take time to visit the Discovery Passage Aquarium, which collects and returns all of its sea-life from Discovery Passage each season. The ice cream and the Aquarium are only available in the summer season, so be sure to check the hours of operations

Tip # 8 – Spend some time with our namesake river – the Campbell River.  Our city’s namesake is a fascinating place in all seasons. You can walk the paths of Baikie Island and Canyon View Trail, kayak in the restored estuary (an ecological marvel), camp at Elk Falls Provincial Park, or do some fly fishing in the designated area. The Campbell River is a prime location to see salmon swim upstream to spawn, and you can learn more about visiting the river here. 

Tip #9 – Check out local shops & restaurants. Your choice to shop local makes a huge difference to Campbell River business owners, and it helps keep the city an exciting place to visit. Make a reservation at the diverse local restaurants featuring Vancouver Island seafood and produce. Enjoy small-batch beer and spirits retailers. Look for locally-made art, handcrafted soaps, furniture, clothing, and jewelry, and check out the Sunday farmers’ market (seasonal). These are all ways to make sure your dollars support the local community. See a list of local shops and specialties here. 

Woman ordering coffee at Island Grind Coffee

Tip #10 – Watch the shifting tides and maybe spot some wildlife too. Campbell River’s Seawalk is the place to ride, roll, or stroll along the shore. Watching the ebb and flow is endlessly fascinating. If you’re able, take extra time to find a bench, rock, or piece of driftwood where you can sit, clear your mind, and marvel at the stunning forces of nature. As you gaze across the Discovery Passage, you may meet some local wildlife, including eagles, seals, pacific white sided dolphins, orcas,  or humpback whales (it’s the Campbell River lottery if you see all of those at once). 

One last tip for you – is to check out our Visitor Info Centre, located in the Tyee Plaza at 1235 Shoppers Row. Our knowledgeable and passionate team will help you curate your perfect itinerary during your stay, and ensure you have enough physical maps to help you along the way (for those who are still into that kind of thing.). 

We can’t wait to welcome you to our growing city with a small town heart. Which of these activities will you add to your list? Tell us about your adventures using #TheRealCampbellRiver.