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Outdoor Adventure Tourism in Port Hardy

tex lyon trail

Descend into cold depths of the emerald sea, explore in and around tall trees, and expect the unexpected from Port Hardy. Whether you enjoy diving in world renowned cold waters, catching salmon of a lifetime, or hiking amongst various terrains –– Port Hardy has many outdoor adventure tourism experiences readily available.

Hikes and Walks

Follow the footsteps of the Kwagu’ł ancestors on the Commuter Trail (also known as Fort Rupert Trail), which takes you through first and second growth forests. Take a leisurely stroll through the Quatse River Nature Trail, along the Hardy Bay Seawall, or Storey’s Beach. If you’re feeling ambitious, then challenging the Tex Lyon Trail would be a great option. Learn more about these hikes and trails on our previous blog post.

Diving

The Queen Charlotte Straits is known as the best cold water diving in the world. This was proclaimed by underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau, who said, “the best temperate water diving in the world and second only to the Red Sea”, while talking about Vancouver Island, including Port Hardy. The only way to understand Cousteau’s bold claim is to experience it for yourself with a diving charter or lodge. For it is a whole different world, under the dark blue ink of the Pacific Ocean, and into what is known as the Emerald Sea.

Fishing

Port Hardy was recently titled as the best place to fish in Canada by Expedia. This is rightfully so because there’s a lot of fishing opportunities, fresh water and tidal, within the nearby Port Hardy waters. From salmon, halibut, and other bottom fish, such as red snapper and lingcod in the open water. Also, various trout within nearby rivers and lakes surrounding town. Our local sport fishing charters know all the gems

Learn more about water adventures on this page.

Port Hardy Walks and Trails

Port Hardy has a few lovely walks and trails to offer, within town, for those of all experiences! From leisurely paced walks of Hardy Bay Seawall or the Quatse River Nature Trail; easy hikes like the Commuter Trail; challenging all day hike of the Tex Lyon Trail. There’s an adventure awaiting for everyone!

Hardy Bay Seawall
Difficulty: Easy
Length: less than 0.25km

This leisurely, yet scenic waterfront walk starts in the heart of downtown Port Hardy. Not only does it provide scenic views, but various park options such as Rotary Park, Carrot Park, and Tsulquate Park. Along the route are interpretive signs of local wildlife, the Japanese Garden for our sister city Numata, the cenotaph in honour of those who served our country, and entrances to the rocky beach. This seawall walk has perfect photo opportunities, such as the giant ‘Welcome to Port Hardy’ sign, giant wooden carrot, and various bird life.

Quatse River Nature Trail & Estuary Trail Loop
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 2.5km Loop

Another leisurely stroll in Port Hardy is the Quatse River Loop. This nature trail is easy terrain with a mixture of gravel and boardwalk surfaces. You can extend this walk by going under the bridge and continuing with the Estuary Trail. During the spring and summer months this area is a haven for various birds, such as ducks, geese, ravens, great blue heron, eagles, etc. When the salmon run occurs, the estuary and river area becomes abundant with wildlife.

Commuter Trail (also known as Fort Rupert Trail)
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 3.7 km

The Commuter Trail, also known as The Fort Rupert Trail, is a historic walk through Kwagu’ł territory. This route was used to commute between villages at Tayaguł and Bear Cove. Nowadays it is a beautiful hike through first and second growth forests; keep an eye out for culturally modified trees. The Commuter Trail has two trailheads, located off Beaver Harbour Road and Bear Cove Highway –– both have local First Nations artwork at each entrance. The trail includes boardwalk and a gravel type surfaces, and some uphill terrain.

Tex Lyon Trail
Difficulty: Difficult
Length: 12km

The Tex Lyon Trail is most difficult trail within Port Hardy. So, if you’re looking for a challenge and have the time –– this trail is for you! The trailhead starts at the north end of Storey’s Beach and goes out to Dillion Point. While a round trip can be done in eight hours, it is recommend to allow 12 hours for a return trip, and to watch the tides. Along with this timeframe, it is recommended to be well prepared with proper attire, food, water, first aid kit, and knowledge of tide charts. Although, the Tex Lyon Trail can be challenging, it does have rewarding views of Beaver Harbour and the Queen Charlotte Straits.

We have more resources, on these trails, available at the Port Hardy Visitor Information Centre. Lastly, it is not uncommon to encounter wildlife on these trails. While adventuring make sure to have your presence known – either talking with your hiking buddy, humming a song, or take a bear bell with you.

Here are some online resources on how to be bear aware and safe. Also, about Leave No Trail practices.

Bear Smart – British Columbia

Staying Safe in Bear Country

Black Bears – Wild Safe BC

Leave No Trace

 

Article written and photographed by Sarah Étoile. First Nations Storyteller and Steward based on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

First Nations History and Culture

Gilakas’la,

The community of Port Hardy is situated within traditional Kwagu’ł First Nation territory. It is also recent home to the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nation. In 1964 this amalgamated tribe was forced to relocate from their traditional territories by the federal government, for ‘administrative’ reasons. The tribes were told that it would cost less for education, easier for medical help, and the government would help with housing, but it turned out to be a hidden agenda designed to assimilate the two tribes into Canadian society. Several years of threats and promises later, the Gwa’sala and ‘Nakwaxda’xw reluctantly gave in to the relocation, but the government didn’t keep their promise for adequate housing. There were five homes for over 200 people on Tsulquate Reservation. The Gwa’sala traditional territory is Smith Inlet and surrounding islands. ‘Nakwaxda’xw traditional territory is Seymour Inlet, the Deserter’s Group, Blunden Harbour, and surrounding islands.

Every corner of the Port Hardy region is enriched with culture and history. Starting with the two totem poles in Carrot Park, both carved and replicated by Calvin Hunt, a Kwagu’ł artist who is based in Tsax̱is. From here and along the seawall are interpretive signs with Kwak’wala words for various wildlife, such as salmon, bear, wolf, and orca. At the end of this walk is Tsulquate Park. From here you can see across the Queen Charlotte Strait; the ocean highway and lands of the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw.

After the end of the seawall walk, you can backtrack and head into the museum, which has exhibits on local First Nations history and art. Including 8,000-year-old artifacts found at Bear Cove, near the present day ferry terminal. This is the oldest archaeological find of human habitation on Vancouver Island (circa 5850 Before Common Era.) Along with the museum exhibits, there are books regarding the history, arts, and local plant life of the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw and surrounding nations.

A ten minute drive from downtown Port Hardy, in the neighbouring community of Fort Rupert, is the village of Tsax̱is. This is the current home of the Kwagu’ł First Nation. Here lies elaborated totem poles and the big house; a venue where First Nations ceremonies take place, such as the potlatch. The potlatch is a First Nations constitution that determines our politics, our government, our education, our medicine, our territory, and our jurisdiction. Potlatch is a complex event with several ceremonies, which are still practiced in buildings like the Tsax̱is big house.

On the front porch of the village of Tsax̱is is Tayaguł (Storey’s Beach). Along this waterfront were several villages, which are depicted on map (pictured below) by Mervyn Child, a Kwagu’ł artist. Across the way and middle of K’ak’a (Beaver Harbour) are Atłanudzi (Cattle Island), Ḵ’ut’sa̱dze (Peel Island), Ḵ’a̱msa̱x̱tłe (Shell Island), and Uxwiwe’ (Deer Island). Once the words are broken down and translated; the names of these islands are unique to their environment, as they’re part of a story which belong to the Kwagu’ł.

Despite the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw being the most studied ethnic group in the world, those research papers use past tense descriptive words. The Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw people, culture, and traditions are very much alive. Very little has changed since Captain George Vancouver ran aground on Map’eg̱a̱m (Deserters Island.) Perhaps a few place names have changed & villages (now called reservations) relocated, but the stewardship, culture, and people are still thriving.

“The ‘Kwakiutl’ are one of the most described and, hence, most widely known ethnic groups in the world. Yet, increasingly, people write about us and, apparently, think about us in the past tense. We are told that the Kwakiutl ritual art, technology, and religion were colourful and complex. It is as if our culture were gone. But we Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw are very much alive, and we abide in our traditional lands. Our culture retains many aspects of the ‘old ways.’ Because research should lead into understanding as well as to knowledge, we feel it is important, at the outset, to provide readers with our own perspective on our lands.” – Gloria Cranmer Webster.

About the author and photographer:
Gilakas’la. Nugwa’am Sarah. Gayutłan lax Dzawada’enuxw glu ‘Nakwaxda’xw. I’m a First Nations Storyteller and Steward, based on Vancouver Island. I take pride in being both Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw and Nuučaan̓uł. Website.