The tiny and picturesque hamlet of Quatsino is one of the earliest settlements on north Vancouver Island. The off-the-beaten-track community was first built in the late 1800s, when the B.C. government issued crown grants to attract new settlers to the Quatsino Sound wilderness area.
Quatsino Sound is a huge sound that leads in from the Pacific Ocean, almost separating the north island region. Quatsino was once the hub of Quatsino Sound, when all travel was by boat.
Schooling in Quatsino is provided in a 70-year-old school that is an integral part of the community, and the hub of many local events. The one-room school is one of only a handful of single-room schools left in British Columbia, three of which are located on North Vancouver Island. High School students take a 15-minute boat ride to Coal Harbour from where they are bussed to secondary school in Port Hardy, a daily round trip of 100 kilometres.
Quatsino is known for fishing and eco-tourism, but employment is scarce in a community so small, and many of the residents commute daily or weekly to nearby Port Hardy and Port McNeill to work. Facilities include a school, a general store and a marine boat works.
The Quatsino Forestry Company operates a stump-to-truck timber operation and a small wood lot license on the east side of Holberg Inlet, which allows them to employ First Nations people of the Quatsino Band. All shares in the company are held in trust for the people of the Quatsino First Nation, the traditional inhabitants of the area who have a very close relationship with the forest. Members of the Quatsino First Nation include the Klaskino, the Gopino, the Koskino, the Ho-yalas and the Quatsino peoples.
Location: Located in Quatsino Sound on North Vancouver Island, approximately an hour south of Port Hardy, Quatsino is accessible only by water or floatplane. You can use your own boat to get there, or take a convenient water taxi from Coal Harbour (5 miles/15 minutes). The popular Backroad Mapbook edition for Vancouver Island shows logging roads connecting all the way from Holberg to Quatsino, but there is no connection, so don’t be tempted to give it a try unless you enjoy exploring the remote logging roads and the wilderness north of Quatsino.
St. Olaf’s Anglican Church in Quatsino, built in 1896 as the community’s first school house, is one of the oldest buildings still in use on the North Island.
Pioneers: Visitors can stroll through the old graveyard, and learn a bit about the early pioneers who first settled in Quatsino.
The Quatsino Light Station, first established in 1907, is located on the southeast end of Kains Island at the mouth of Quatsino Sound. In days gone by, the light station guided passenger steamers that travelled to Quatsino Sound and Quatsino village, loading pulp at the mill near Port Alice. Totally exposed to the elements, the wind-swept rocky island is home to sea lions and an abundance of bird life.
Caving: Some of this landscape’s mysteries lie tucked away inside the vaulted domes of underground caverns. Afloat in a sea kayak on an open sound, or deep inside the Quatsino cave system, be prepared to experience a blend of connectedness and jubilation, isolation and terror, when adventuring here. One thing is guaranteed: at the end of the day, you’ll sleep well.
Fishing: There’s a good salmon run on the Marble River to the south of Quatsino Sound, which lies 8 miles (13 km) west of Highway 19 on the road to Port Alice, and good fishing for trout and Steelhead. This logging road also provides access to Alice, Victoria, and Kathleen Lakes, which offer good cutthroat trout and dolly varden fishing.
Campsites and a boat launch are located in the mill town of Port Alice, on Neroutsos Inlet, where you’ll find full facilities for exploring the profusion of sheltered inlets in Quatsino Sound. The Spencer Cove Recreation Site is situated in Koprino Harbour on the north shore of Quatsino Sound, and has 11 campsites, a boat launch and a boat dock.
Outdoor Adventure: Kayaking, canoeing, fishing and wildlife viewing are popular activities in the sheltered waters of Neroutsos, Holberg and Rupert inlets that surround Quatsino. Quatsino Sound is a very popular sea kayaking route, served by a campground in the estuary. Go hiking, beachcombing or berry picking – this may be the perfect place to get away from it all!
Golf: Golfers will have to boat over to Port Alice for a game. The 9-hole public golf course at Port Alice Golf & Country Club offers a good challenge by virtue of its setting on the side of a mountain, with narrow, tree-lined fairways and small greens. Before you tee off on hole number three, remember to climb the tower to see if the green is clear! Vancouver Island Golf Vacations.
Quatsino Provincial Park is located southwest of Quatsino, and includes the Crown land on the east side of Koprino Harbour and the adjacent peninsula to the east, as far as Shapland Cove. This 654-hectare undeveloped park contains known archaeological sites and protects a mature forest, some small lakes and the sheltered inlet of Koprino Harbour. The Koprino River estuary is noted for its critical fish rearing and waterfowl habitat, and is a popular eagle viewing area. Quatsino Provincial Park can be reached by logging roads from Holberg or by boat from Winter Harbour, Coal Harbour or Port Alice.
Lawn Point Provincial Park is located south of Quatsino Sound, which is only accessible by boat from Winter Harbour, Quatsino and Coal Harbour farther to the east. The 560-hectare wilderness park has no facilities, and protects unique archaeological sites and protects a mature forest, some small lakes and the sheltered inlet of Koprino Harbour
North of Quatsino is Coal Harbour, a hub for marine traffic and Quatsino’s link to the rest of Vancouver Island. Coal Harbour was once a thriving whaling station, the last one on the North American coast when it closed in 1967.
South of Quatsino is the attractive and well-planned village of Port Alice, located on beautiful Neroutsos Inlet, one of Vancouver Island’s gateways to Quatsino Sound and the wild and wonderful west coast.