For kayakers, backpackers and campers choose your destination, explore some territory, then reboard the ferry on a subsequent day. Planning your trip, which involves detailed study of the ferry schedule, is half the fun. As yet, the Discovery Coast Passage remains largely undiscovered. Book soon.
When European explorers arrived along this coast in the 18th century, it was inhabited by Natives from several cultural groups. Although hunters and gatherers like the tribes of the Interior, the coastal natives, due to their abundant food supply, were able to establish permanent villages. Their complex cultures were distinguished by an emphasis on wealth, a refined artistic tradition, and a rich spirit life. Travel along the coast was accomplished via cedar dugout canoes that could be impressive in their length. Although there’s nothing more inspiring than to see one of these massive canoes in action, they are only brought out for ceremonial occasions, such as a paddle trip to Vancouver or the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. These days, aluminum-hulled, high-speed boats are the vessels of choice among all inhabitants of the coast.
Explorers from Russia, Britain, France, and Spain converged on this coastline in the last quarter of the 18th century, motivated by trade possibilities or – in the case of Spain – a desire to protect territorial waters. Two British explorers, Captain James Cook in 1778-79 and Captain George Vancouver in 1792-93, did the most systematic charting of the coast. After an international tussle, the British eventually gained control of what would later become the coast of British Columbia. Colonization and settlement began in the 19th century, although British Columbia’s Central and Northern Coast is still not heavily populated. Logging, fishing, and tourism are the primary industries, though with the decline in stocks and automation in the forest, fewer people live here now than in previous decades. After a disastrous decline in Native populations (by as much as 90 percent in some nations) that began over a century ago due to infectious diseases such as smallpox and tuberculosis, today’s numbers match those of precontact times.
The Queen of Chilliwack, 377 feet (115 m) long, carrying 115 vehicles and 375 passengers, sails from its southern terminus in Port Hardy, 250 miles (400 km) north of Nanaimo on Highway 19. The drive from Nanaimo to Port Hardy takes four to five hours. Bella Coola, the ferry’s main northern terminus, is 283 miles (456 km) west of Williams Lake on Highway 20. There are scheduled flights to Bella Bella and Bella Coola (airport at Hagensborg) from Vancouver Airport. Pacific Coastal Airlines in Vancouver offers a scheduled service into both Port Hardy and Bella Bella.
As cruises go, the Discovery Coast Passage is hardly lavish. The Queen of Chilliwack is a working freight boat, serving the needs of the local communities. It’s just as well that luxuries aboard this refurbished Norwegian vessel don’t distract from the scenery, which is spectacular, with long fjords and narrow channels forming the backdrop to the Inside Passage. The roughest portion of the trip is just out of Port Hardy, as the ferry navigates the unprotected waters of Queen Charlotte Sound. This is a good time for a nap. The most stunning scenery is between Bella Bella and Bella Coola.
With the setting sun behind you, the monolithic rock formations looming over the narrow Burke Channel give the cruise a European flavour. You’ll get an even better look at the scenic Dean Channel during daylight hours if you board the ferry in Bella Coola for the southbound sailing. Weather permitting, the ship’s two upper decks are an excellent vantage point from which to watch for the logging camps, barge houses, and abandoned settlements that indicate a human presence on this rugged coastline. Although Natives have inhabited the area for thousands of years, the inhospitable terrain has limited development and exploration by European settlers until comparatively recently. Wildlife viewing – the ferry slows for orcas – is another bonus of this trip. Don’t forget your binoculars.
Facilities aboard the Queen of Chilliwack include reclining sleeper seats, a cafeteria, and small licenced lounge, a gift shop and – a boon for kayakers – pay showers. Service is friendly, the food is better-than-average for BC Ferries, and there is a staff member dedicated to customer service who can assist you with your onboard needs or travel plans.
Location: The Discovery Coast is the southern section of the Inside Passage that stretches from Port Hardy (on Vancouver Island) to Prince Rupert (mainland) through the protected waters of British Columbia’s central and northern coastline. Access is via B.C. Ferries from Prince Rupert and Bella Coola and Port Hardy on Vancouver Island.
BC Ferry: Port Hardy/Bella Coola – Discovery Coast.
BC Ferry: Port Hardy/Prince Rupert – Inside Passage.
The following towns are located on or near the Discovery Coast (South to North):
Port Hardy, Rivers Inlet, Hakai Pass, Namu, Bella Coola, Denny Island (Shearwater), Bella Bella, Ocean Falls, and Klemtu. Information on the last seven locations is available on our sister site, BritishColumbia.com, under Coastal British Columbia.
Ocean Light Adventures with the vessel Afterglow
Ocean Light Adventures introduces their new vessel for summer 2021. The powerboat Afterglow is a 60ft Monk designed Gulf Commander with 5 staterooms and 3 heads, offering amazing wildlife viewing from all windows and from the spacious top deck. Her crew has 34 years of experience offering natural history and photography tours on the BC Coast, including Haida Gwaii, and specializing in grizzly viewing tours in the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, and spirit bear and grizzly tours in the Great Bear Rainforest. We also offer whale watching and eco tours, from totems to intertidal treasures, rocky shores to sandy beaches, and spawning salmon to towering trees. We offer five spectacular adventure trips between May and October, each to a different region and each highlighting the awe-inspiring beauty of the beautiful BC coast.
Spirit of the West Kayaking
Kayaking British Columbia is the ultimate way to view BC’s abundant wildlife.
We want you to fall in love with kayaking and our unique coast, and our passion shows in everything we do. Choose among several professionally-guided 4-8 day trips for all experience levels around Vancouver Island. ‘Glamping’ basecamp-style with wood-fired hot tub overlooking the Pacific Ocean, or expedition-style paddling from camp to camp and paddling between 100s of islands through the Broughton Archipelago, famous Desolation Sound and the wild Great Bear Rainforest on the Central Coast. Savouring a fresh salmon BBQ in the open air, explore and view fascinating wildlife and wilderness and wake up on remote islands with the sound of the whales. Unique and breathtaking.
Our adventures are for everyone and are designed to cater to all levels of experience and abilities. We take care to introduce you to the sport in a fun and safe manner. All that we ask is that you welcome adventure with an open mind and are able to laugh and have fun when encountering the unexpected. Our groups are small, ranging from 8 to 13 people, depending on the trip, in order to provide you with the best experience possible. We provide everything you need for a once in a lifetime kayaking adventure. We provide high-quality fiberglass kayaks, paddling equipment, camp cookware, eating utensils, and camping gear.
Our guides take care of you for the entire duration of your tour, prepare delicious, organic and local meals, and have extensive training and experience in sea kayaking and in sharing the natural and cultural history of the area.
During the Northern Hemisphere winter, we also offer kayaking trips to the glacier-fed South American wildlife paradise, the Chilean Patagonia Archipelago, and multi-day escapes to sun, sand, remote beaches and the warm crystal clear waters of the Bahamas. Please contact us for all details of these amazing winter getaways!
Explore BC and Southeast Alaska with Bluewater Adventures aboard our 70′ yachts sailing the BC Inside Passage, the Queen Charlotte Islands, Gwaii Haanas National Park, the Great Bear Rainforest, and Vancouver Island. You’ll see whales, Grizzly, Black and Kermode bears, and experience ancient native villages and Haida culture, primeval forests, wilderness, and amazing coastal wildlife.
The BC Oceanfront Real Estate Team Shelley McKay Personal Real Estate Corporation and Ed Handja Personal Real Estate Corporation
ROYAL LEPAGE Advance Realty Campbell River 972 Shoppers Row Campbell River BC V9W 2C5 Phone: 250-286-3293Fax: 250-286-1932Toll Free: 1-888-286-1932Cell Phone: 1-250-830-4435 Shelley CellCell Phone: 1-250-287-0011 Ed Celltheteam@bcoceanfront.comVisit Website
It’s a Coastal Lifestyle … Live It!
Specializing in marketing and selling local residential, recreational, unique oceanfront and commercial real estate throughout Campbell River, northern Vancouver Island, Discovery Islands, the Outer Islands and the BC Mainland Coast. Our real estate listings include homes to small oceanfront and lakefront recreational lots, private islands, remote island acreages, fishing lodges, wilderness / adventure resorts and vacation homes, oceanfront / lakefront cabins, marinas, remote & timbered acreages, and development investment properties on the west coast of BC and Vancouver Island – BCO has the Coast covered!
The BC Oceanfront Real Estate Team loves to bring people to the coast and introduce people to the coastal lifestyle. All members of the team live an active coastal lifestyle, and they bring that passion for the coast to all that they do. Shelley and Ed both have their own boats and are very familiar with the many different regions surrounding central and northern Vancouver Island. With a team behind you, you can be sure that someone is always at hand to answer questions and lend assistance.
The diversity of wildlife and awe-inspiring scenery that exists so close to Campbell River is unparalleled. Ideally located near the south end of Discovery Passage, the area is critically important habitat for Killer Whales, Humpback Whales, and so much more. Travel along stunning shorelines and inlets in search of Killer Whales, Pacific White-Sided Dolphins, Dall’s Porpoises, Seals, and magnificent Bald Eagles. Embark on our Grizzly Bear Expedition and observe these incredible creatures feasting on salmon in their natural habitat far away from human civilization. Our tour boats feature an enclosed and heated cabin, two outdoor viewing decks, and an onboard washroom.