11 Things To Do in Port Hardy, British Columbia

Located at the northern tip of Vancouver Island, Port Hardy is a quaint coastal town that serves as a gateway to God’s Pocket Marine Provincial Park. It lies within the traditional territory of the Kwagu’ł First Nation, as well as being the homelands of the Quatsino and Gwa’Sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw people.

This little-visited corner of British Columbia is home to secluded beaches, rugged hiking trails, and marine life filled waters that attract adventure-seeking travelers from near and far. Either before or after you head out to explore this coastal wilderness, why not spend a few days discovering the sights and charms of Port Hardy?

Read on to learn about some of the top things to do in Port Hardy, from feasting on local seafood to discovering a little-known airplane crash site. Some of the experiences below will require a car or other transportation while other attractions are within walking distance from the center of town. No matter how you chose to explore the Northern Peninsula of Vancouver Island, there is something for everyone. 


Series of indigenous totem poles in a lush green forest in British Columbia near Vancouver Island


1. Learn about the area’s Indigenous history and culture

Port Hardy is the traditional homelands of the Kwagu’ł, Gwa’Sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw, and Quatsino people, with carved totems and elaborately painted big houses standing as a testament to their deeply rooted cultures. Join a Nakwakto Rapids & Cultural Tour to experience the traditional territory of the area’s First Nations peoples, including now-abandoned settlements and villages. At the Copper Maker, you can watch as cedar is transformed into Kwakwaka’wakw works of art, including canoes, paddles, and masks. Copper Maker is a studio and gallery run by local artist Calvin Hunt. Be sure to call his gallery at +1(250) 949-8491 to make sure its open before your arrival. If you are looking for something a little closer to town, be sure to stop by the Port Hardy Hertige Society Museum. The museum is home to many historical artifacts, newspapers, building materials, fossils, and more. They have a permanent exhibit of the First Nations that include artifacts over 8,000 years old. The Port Hardy Heritage Society Museum is open Tuesdays-Saturdays 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM and is well worth a visit.


2. Hike the Fort Rupert Trail

Dubbed the “Commuter Trail” by locals, the Fort Rupert Trail extends for around 2.5 miles through the territory of the Kwagu’ł. It takes around an hour to walk, taking in old-growth forests and a hidden lake as it winds its way between Bear Cove Highway and Storeys Beach. In addition to gravel and dirt, the Fort Rupert Trail also features sections of boardwalk and is dotted with benches where you can sit and soak up the views. Why not pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at Storeys Beach where you’ll find picnic tables, barbecue pits, and a covered pavilion?


Women hiking along the water on Vancouver Island


3. Explore the North Coast Trail

For a longer walk, you can challenge yourself on the 28-mile-long North Coast Trail, which connects Nissan Bight with Shushartie Bay in Cape Scott Provincial Park. The route takes in sections of the old Settler’s Trail, which was established almost a century ago, as well as newly built boardwalks, bridges, and open beaches. Along the way, there are environmentally-sensitive campgrounds run by BC Parks where you can spend the night. From Port Hardy, there is a water taxi shuttle service that accesses the eastern trailhead at Shushartie Bay, with the journey taking around 60 minutes.


Bowl of fresh caught crab on the dinner table in British Columbia


4. Try the local seafood

Port Hardy is renowned for its seafood, with fishing boats coming and going from the harbor almost every day. In addition to sockeye salmon and albacore tuna, the area has a long history of shellfish harvesting by First Nations communities. The Quatsino people have recently established a shellfish farming industry, with a new species of mussels as their focus. There are several restaurants in Port Hardy where you can try locally caught fish, prawns, and scallops, including Ha’me (located in Kwa'lilas Hotel), Macy’s Place (open everyday from 11:00 AM - 7:00 PM except Wednesday and Sunday), and Karai Sushi (open for lunch and dinner during the week and dinner only on the weekends, closed on Tuesdays). 


Welcome to Port Hardy sign along the Hardy Bay Seawall


5. Stroll along the Hardy Bay Seawall

Hugging the waterfront, the Hardy Bay Seawall is the perfect place for a stroll, either in the morning or the late afternoon. It connects to the bustling harbor where fishing boats can be seen coming and going, together with float planes transporting visitors and locals to and from Port Hardy. You can pay your respects at the war memorial in Carrot Park with its carved totems or continue on to Tsulquate Park to spot sea otters. In Kinsmen Park, there is a pavilion where you can relax over a picnic lunch.


6. Explore the Dakota 576 crash site

One of Port Hardy’s lesser-known attractions is the remains of a Dakota 576, a Royal Canadian Air Force plane that crashed here on April 19, 1944. It was on a navigation flight from Patricia Bay when bad weather hit and the pilot ran out of fuel as he attempted to land in Port Hardy. While two pilots died in the crash, the wireless air gunner managed to survive. A memorial plaque now marks the site’s location, which is located a short walk from the Port Hardy BC Ferries terminal.


People pointing at sealife below from a dock in British Columbia


7. Visit the Quatse Salmon Stewardship Center

If you’re interested in the local marine life, head to this interpretive center and salmon hatchery on the riverfront Quatse River Loop Trail. It’s home to numerous aquaria and habitat displays where you can learn about the lifecycle of salmon and how they survive in both freshwater and saltwater environments. In addition to offering tours of the hatchery, the center also runs regular workshops on fish culture and conserving the natural environment of salmon.


Whale tail sticking out of the water off the coast of Vancouver Island, BC


8. Go on a whale-watching tour

Northern Vancouver’s salmon population lures another marine creature to the area, the orca or killer whale. Sea kayaking tours offer a front-row seat for observing these magnificent marine mammals, together with Pacific white-sided dolphins and Steller sea lions. Not only that, but you can also spot humpback whales, minke whales, and Pacific harbor seals, together with a dizzying array of seabirds.


9. Go shopping along Market Street

Stretching north to south through Port Hardy is Market Street, which is lined with galleries and boutiques selling locally made handicrafts. At the West Coast Community Craft Shop, you’ll find handcrafted jewelry, clothing, and artworks, many of which reflect the area’s Indigenous cultural heritage. Several cafes also dot the route where you can relax over afternoon tea, as well as bookstores that invite you to lose yourself for an hour or so.


Three sea kayaks on the glassy waters of God's Pocket Provincial Park


10. Kayak through God’s Pocket Marine Provincial Park

Encompassing more than 2,000 hectares at the entrance to Queen Charlotte Strait, God’s Pocket Marine Provincial Park comprises several islands and islets that are ideally explored by kayak. Legendary diver Jacques Cousteau rated the area as one of the best cold-water diving spots in the world, largely due to its exceptional marine diversity. Join one of our lodge-based sea kayaking trips to explore this magnificent natural area, accompanied by superb food prepared by our talented chefs. In addition to the abundant underwater life, God’s Pocket Provincial Park is also renowned for its regular sightings of whales, bald eagles, and seabirds.


11. Check out Cafe Guido and Co.

Combining a cozy cafe with a well-stocked bookshop, Cafe Guido and Co. is one of the most popular places to get a caffeine fix in Port Hardy. Come for the artisan coffee and baked goods, then stay to browse the extensive library detailing the area’s history. You can pick up locally made artworks and gifts or head upstairs to browse the unique fashions at Drift. Cafe Guido and Co. also runs a drive-thru premise if you’re just after a quick coffee on the go. Be sure to stop by Tuesday-Sunday from 7:00 AM - 5:00 PM as they are closed on Mondays. 


Sea Kayak Adventures - BC Tours

More Posts

Person paddling in British Columbia

Evolution of the Sea Kayak Paddle 

Evolution of the Sea Kayak Paddle 

Kayakers without a sturdy paddle are essentially stranded, and the same holds true for our pioneering predecessors. For these seafaring hunters who relied on small, nimble boats to survive in the frigid Arctic, a broken paddle could mean the difference between life and death.

Four Beluga Whales swimming

Creature feature: Beluga whale

Creature feature: Beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas)

As the only member of the genus Delphinapterus, the beluga whale is a highly sociable cetacean that is truly one of a kind. It has been nicknamed the “sea canary” for its high-pitched squeaks and whistles, and is the only whale to regularly sport a stunning white coat.