The town of Campbell River is really the heart of northern Vancouver Island. Historically, this was very much an industrial city, and in many ways it still is today. However, Campbell River has all the makings of a major tourism destination. It is an absolute outdoor playground and everything from fishing expeditions to scenic flights to beautiful nature trails are available. Although the face of Campbell River is still very much industrial, it would be an absolute shame to skip out on this great destination as a part of your British Columbia travel adventure.
Time Needed: 2-3 Days
Backpacker’s Budget: 70USD a Day
Things to do in Campbell River
Truth is that most of the really exciting things to do in Campbell River are quite expensive. If you’re like me and you’re on a budget there is plenty to do. However, a couple of these activities are more than worth blowing up your budget a little bit.
- Scenic Mail Run: A company called Corilair runs mail out to some of the more remote spots in the vicinity via their float plane. And since they have passenger seats, you can jump along for a ride. The price isn’t as obscene as you might imagine and it is really worthwhile. You’ll have some stunning views, some stops in remote areas, and you might even see bears, whales or porpoises from the air.
- Elk River Falls: Especially in the spring when the water is running really high, these are fantastic. When you make the trip you might also want to stop at John Hart Dam.
- Bear Watching: There are loads of bears in Northern British Columbia, both black and grizzly bears. Check out a company called Campbell River Whale Watching and Adventure Tours for tour options.
- Whale Watching: Depending on the month, there can be a very high level of whale activity in the area. You have the chance of seeing both orca (killer whales), humpback whales, and a few other more rare spotted whales. Again, Campbell River Whale Watching and Adventure Tours is likely your best bet in town.
- Kayaking: With all the incredible islands nearby, there is some great kayaking in the area. You might even find yourself meters from a huge whale while out on a paddle. Give the company Adventure Quest a call for paddling tours.
- Golfing: Although I’ve never played it, so I can’t exactly review it, Stoney Creek Golf Course is just north of town, and if it’s anything like the rest of the courses on the island you’re in for a treat.
Where to Eat in Campbell River
Campbell River will likely never be known as a culinary mecca, but that doesn’t mean that the food isn’t good. The eats are primarily of the hearty Canadian variety, meaning you’ll find plenty of salmon and steak and potatoes; but no one will hear me complaining about that. There is also a decent selection of Asian cuisine.
- Sesame Sushi: I’ll never forget this place, it was the best sushi I’ve had in my life outside of Japan. We laughed a bit because it looked far from a sushi joint, a bar near Mae Mae Hotel, and it was only because of laziness that I gave it a shot. I ate a lot of sushi in British Columbia, and this one was the best.
- Dick’s Fish and Chips: A must stop if you’re a fish and chips lover. It’s got all the great character of a fishing village diner and some great food to boot.
- Chains: Near the Supermarket there are plenty of chain restaurants like A&W and Boston Pizza. I never stopped at any, but they are there.
Where to Stay in Campbell River
At the time of writing, there is only one hostel in town, and the rest of the accommodation is either quite expensive or a little bit shady. However, I think that this will start to change as tourism grows here.
- Dog House Hostel: This is the only hostel in town. It has a decent location near the water but is a little far from downtown. It looked a little bit rough around the edges, but hey, you get what you pay for.
- Mae Mae Hotel: I stayed at Mae Mae and it was pretty fantastic. Don’t let the rough exterior or old furniture get you, the friendly staff will make you feel like members of the family right away. They also have a great dock on the water. You can’t beat that.
Getting Out of Town
Since Campbell River is a little bit remote, it takes a while to get anywhere. You can catch the Greyhound north to Port Hardy or southbound to Victoria everyday. If you want to get to Vancouver, the best thing to do is to book a charter flight with Corilair.
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