It felt strange to find a seaport in the middle of Vancouver Island. Our original goal had been to visit the Pacific Rim National Park but time and weather discouraged the trip. So we stopped half way at Port Alberni.
The town has a different feel to it than the Vancouver Island BC communities we visited on the east coast, more down to earth and less resort like. Saw and pulp mills once dominated the city’s economy but today the timber industry prefers to ship its logs off to China.
The good news here is that with the demise of the pulp mill the salmon returned and today, Port Alberni is the center of a major sports fishing industry. Like Campbell River, it bills itself the ‘Salmon Capitol of the World.” I suspect there are some interesting politics at work here.
The surrounding mountains, lakes and wilderness have also made the Alberni Valley a growing center of ecotourism.
We stopped at the visitor’s bureau to pick up tips on what we should see. And here it is time for an editorial comment. Canada’s neighbor to the south could really learn something from British Columbia about the promotion of tourism. Not only do most communities have information centers, they are normally very attractive, staffed with friendly, knowledgeable staff, and filled with information.
“You have to visit Harbor Quay,” was the recommendation for the short time we had. So we did. The Quay provided a beautiful view of the Alberni Inlet that makes its way out to the Pacific Ocean and provides Port Alberni with its seaport status. The presence of fishing boats reminded us of another major Vancouver Island industry.
After lunch, Peggy and Ken took advantage of a carved Thunderbird and eagle for photo ops. We visited small shops and downed some of the best cake donuts we’ve ever eaten. It was then time to head back to Parksville. Port Alberni and the Alberni Valley definitely deserved more time.