1. Get on the water
Surrounded by salt water and detailed by inlets, lakes, and the mighty Skeena River, getting out on the water is an absolute must to truly experience the North Coast’s vibrant marine ecosystem. To sweeten the experience, the days are longer here, with light lingering well past 10pm, giving anglers and paddlers more daytime on the water. Rentals are available at Skeena Kayaking where they’ll share some of the local routes for varying skill levels. And for anglers, this is a fishing town, so find a charter boat and spend the day jigging for halibut and casting for salmon. Drop a trap on the way out of the harbour, and pick it up before the day’s end to discover a pot full of meaty sweet-tasting Dungeness crab.
2. See the wildlife
There is window mid-May until the end of July when sightseers are guaranteed to see a grizzly bear munching on sedge grass on the shore. Prince Rupert Adventure Tours offers day trips on its yellow catamaran, based at the Cow Bay Marina. Climb aboard and let the tour guides fill your head with marine facts and trivia as you sail into the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary. Along the way, it’s likely you’ll see eagles, sea lions, seals, humpback whales, harbour porpoises – and if you’re lucky – a pod of orcas. From inside the inlet, grizzly bears roam the shores alone or with their cubs to fatten up on grasses and cockles tucked under driftwood. If you miss the grizzly bear window, whale watching tours continue until the end of September.
3. Find a patio
When the sun burns through the fog, catch all the activity in the harbour from a patio. Waterfront patios can be found in Cow Bay at Breakers Pub, where you can watch seals and eagles scavenge for food near the charter boats as fishermen clean their catch. The Wheelhouse craft brewery has a patio with ocean views, and in the near future it’s moving to the historic CN railway building right next to the sea. Charlie’s Lounge at The Crest sits a little higher on a cliff facing the sea. Take in a bird’s eye view of all the vessels – cargo ships, ferries, gillnetters, crab boats, cruise ships, kayaks, and skiffs – navigating each other in the waters below.
4. Go for a hike
Prince Rupert is on the edge of the Great Bear Rainforest, blanketed by mosses, and sheltered by cedars, shore pines, and hemlocks. The lush, coastal, biodiversity can be found in the city itself if you walk through Rushbrook Trail or McClymont Park. Just outside the city, you can take a 5km hike around Butze Rapids, or a 9km grind up Tall Trees Trail. For the adventurous hikers, there are many more rustic trails maintained by passionate locals. Routes can be found in the “Outsider’s Guide to Prince Rupert” by Matt Simmons, a local Muskeg Press publication found at the library, Cow Bay shops, or Eddie’s News.
5. Travel back in time
For the days when it’s raining sideways, immerse yourself in history at the North Pacific Cannery, the oldest intact salmon cannery on the West Coast. Plan for a half day and take the scenic drive to Port Edward. Soak in the past by taking a guided tour through restored buildings raised on pilings at the mouth of the Skeena River where First Nations, Japanese, Chinese, and European settlers had lived and worked to pack the once abundant salmon into cans to share with the world. Have a home cooked meal at the Mess House Café and browse through the gift shop stocked with designs from local artisans. Or stay in town and visit the Museum of Northern BC, where you can learn about the Coast Ts’msyen people, who have lived here since time immemorial, and neighbouring First Nations. The museum carries the cultural history of the region and follows the economic rise of the fur trade to the fishing industry and how the community has transformed into the modern-day port city it is today.