Getting to Port McNeill, British Columbia
Overlooking Queen Charlotte Strait, Port McNeill is a picturesque harbor town on the north coast of Vancouver Island. It has a permanent population of around 2,500 people but this number swells considerably during the summer months when adventure-seeking travelers arrive to explore this stunning corner of the world.
If you’re starting or ending your BC kayaking tour in Port McNeill, you might be wondering what is the best way to get to and from Port McNeill. In this article, we’ll introduce the most convenient options that are available, whether you’re traveling from Vancouver, Victoria or Seattle.
Vancouver to Port McNeill
There are no direct ferries from the city of Vancouver to Vancouver Island. To cross the strait, you need to travel north to Horseshoe Bay (35 minutes drive from Vancouver) and catch the ferry that connects to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. From here, it’s around a four hour drive to Port McNeill. Campbell River lies at around the halfway point along the drive and is a good spot to stop and rest or refuel.
If you prefer to travel by air, there are regular flights with Air Canada, WestJet, and Pacific Coastal Airlines from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) to Comox Valley Airport (YQQ) on the east coast of Vancouver Island. From here, it’s around a three hour drive to Port McNeill. There is also a small airport in Port Hardy (YZT), which receives regular flights from Vancouver with Pacific Coastal Airlines. This is the most convenient option if you don't plan to rent a car. Port McNeill is a 35-minute drive from the airport, with the journey costing around CAD 95-120 by taxi.
If you’re flying in from outside of Canada, make sure you allow at least 1.5 to 2 hours between the arrival of your international flight and the departure of your flight to Port Hardy. You will need to transfer from the International Terminal to the South Terminal using the complimentary shuttle bus.
Victoria to Port McNeill
If you’re traveling from Victoria, it’s around five hours’ drive to Port McNeill. The journey takes you along the east coast of Vancouver Island, passing through Nanaimo, Courtenay, and Campbell River before heading inland and skirting Schoen Lake Provincial Park en route to Port McNeill. Alternatively, you can catch the Island Link bus from Victoria to Courtenay or Campbell River and rent a car in one of these towns before continuing your journey to Port McNeill.
Seattle to Port McNeill
By car, Port McNeill is around a nine hour drive from Seattle, with the option to either drive through Vancouver (and catch the ferries as detailed above) or drive to Port Angeles (around 2.5 hours away) and board a ferry to Victoria. The journey can be done in a single day, although it’s recommended to overnight somewhere along the way to avoid fatigue.
Alternatively, there are charter flights available with Northwest Seaplanes from the Seattle area direct to Port McNeill (YMP) during the summer months. It’s important to be aware that floatplanes generally have limited baggage allowances, so check ahead of time to ensure you aren’t faced with excess baggage fees at the terminal. The Port McNeill Airport is an eight-minute drive from the downtown area.