The Getaway
14 Things to Do in Campbell River

Borrowing its name from the river that runs through it, the city of Campbell River does not disappoint. This dynamic locale lies on the east coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, one of the most gorgeous regions of the world. Travelers will discover a land bursting with unique cultural experiences, stunning natural wonders, and more outdoor adventures than they could ever imagine. On top of it all, Campbell River's location makes it perfect for salmon fishing, which has earned it the title of "Salmon Capital of the World." Escape to this wonderland of an island and make memories you'll cherish for the rest of your life.

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01 Exploring Elk Falls Provincial Park

Provincial park Elk lakes near Campbell River on Vancouver Island

Anyone with a bit of a daredevil streak needs to stop by the Elk Falls Provincial Park, if only to discover the terrifying—but spectacular—suspension bridge that crosses the 25-meter-deep canyon at Elk Falls. The best part? It's completely free. If you don't think you could stomach something quite so overwhelming, the area also has plenty of trails that are suitable for people of various fitness levels. Some of the more popular options are the Canyon View trail, which leads to the suspension bridge, and the easygoing Millenium Trail which is perfect for children and families.

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02 Wildlife watching adventures

Grizzly Bear(s) at Orford River, Campbell River, British Columbia Canada

Aspiring zoologist or just an avid animal lover? Campbell River is the perfect place to set eyes on creatures big and small. Grizzly and black bears are particularly bountiful, especially during the salmon run in the fall. Hop on a combo bus/boat excursion to Bute Inlet to see families of bears fishing and hunting. The waters surrounding Campbell River are also teeming with life, making it one of Canada's premier whale-watching destinations. But with the right tour, you can also find sea lions, porpoises, seals, and dolphins. Homalco Wildlife and Cultural Tours is an Indigenous-owned business that offers half-day whale-watching tours and trips to Bute Inlet to view the bears.

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03 Fishing in the Salmon Capital

Two fishing rods held in fishing rod holders, attached to a back of a boat. The rods are bent from the weight of the down riggers. People are trolling for salmon of the coast of British Columbia.

Fishing is a core part of life in Campbell River, especially among the First Nations communities. As you might expect from the "Salmon Capital of the World," various species of salmon are the primary targets. Get out on the water and pull up some Pacific salmon, like Chinook, Chum, Coho, Pink, and Sockeye. Some boats also offer prawn and crab catching. Coastal Wilderness Adventures or Penluk's Sportfishing Adventures are particularly popular. If you're interested in some self-guided fishing, try the Quinsam River or the Campbell River. Just make sure you have a valid fishing license and follow the local catch limits.

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04 Outdoor activities galore

Travelers looking to get their hearts racing can go mountain biking in the Snowden Demonstration Forest, which has several beautiful Blue and Black trails. Expect both great technical climbing and descending, as well as plenty of variety. If you'd rather enjoy the forest a bit more peacefully, you can also hike the trails and just take in the sights. For the more water-inclined, the Campbell River itself is the perfect place to go kayaking or enjoy some paddleboarding. Buttle Lake in Strathcona Park is also great for some paddling.

05 Cultural and historical insights

For centuries, First Nations of the coast have known about the legendary salmon fishing in this region. As a result, every aspect of Campbell River is steeped in the culture of the Ligwiłda'xw First Nation. Take some time to visit the Maritime Heritage Centre and the Museum at Campbell River to learn just how important fishing was to the region and its people. Spend time aboard the historic BCP45 seine fishing boat and find many marine-related artifacts. There are also numerous exhibits showing cultural works from the Ligwiłda'xw First Nation and other First Nations, including pottery, rare masks, and so much more.

06 Culinary delights

Campbell River isn't just an explorer's dream destination—it's also perfect for foodies. Savor the impossibly fresh seafood at restaurants like Crabby Bob's on Fisherman's Wharf. Anglers Dining and Harbour Grill also offer some mouth-watering delights, so make some time to swing by. Adults looking to sample some local libations should visit Beach Fire Brewing, a trendy bar and brewery with many delicious beers and spirits. They also have some great bar food.

07 Art and creativity

Salmon isn't Campbell River's only bountiful resource. The city is practically overflowing with creativity and the evidence is visible throughout its streets. Wander over to the Weiwaikum House of Treasures to observe some unforgettable First Nations pieces or find one of the many Drifted Creations public art pieces around the city—all of which are made entirely from driftwood. If you'd like to take home some art from one of the incredible talents that live here, there are many local markets with offerings of handmade crafts and one-of-a-kind souvenirs.

08 Adventures on Quadra Island

Vancouver Island, Canada, Quadra Island old historical lighthouse at Cape Mudge.

Just off the coast of Campbell River is the idyllic Quadra Island, perfect for those wanting a day trip or overnight stay. All it takes is a 10-minute ferry ride from the city. Here, visitors can find several provincial parks, which are ideal places for a picnic or casual stroll. If you have even the slightest interest in the island's cultural significance, visit the Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre. This society has been caring for and preserving priceless First Nations treasures and regalia for several decades. They are also committed to revitalizing the Kwakwaka'wakw language, as well as its associated culture and traditions.

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09 Discovering local parks and trails

November 17,2020: View of sign 50th Parallel with Campbell River in the background

Many locales and destinations like to boast about their legendary mountains, but Campbell River has something truly special: an underwater mountain. In the narrows between Vancouver Island and Quadra Island lies what remains of Ripple Rock, an underwater mountain. This landmark was once a marine hazard, but one of the largest non-nuclear planned explosions in history reduced its size. Hike through Ripple Rock Trail to get the best view of the mountain, as well as many other scenic ocean vistas. And, if scenic vistas are your thing, stroll or cycle the Rotary Sea Walk. This leisurely point of interest is a great place to spot seals, eagles, orcas, and salmon while still keeping it easy.

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10 Seasonal activities

Aerial image of Mt. Washington, alpine ski resort, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Beyond the typical entertainment options that are available year-round, Campbell River also hosts a massive range of seasonal activities. During winter, the Mount Washington Alpine Resort is the island's premier choice for skiing and snowboarding—and it's less than an hour away from the city. If you're not a skilled skier, don't worry. The resort's "Easy Acres" learning area is extremely accessible. When summer comes, enjoy some STEM camps like LEGO Robotics and Science or 3D Animation. CR Live Streets hosts a series of downtown events ranging from music nights to art competitions.

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11 Exploring Strathcona Provincial Park

Twilight on Buttle Lake in Strathcona Provincial Park

Not far from Campbell River lies BC's oldest provincial park, Strathcona Provincial Park. It's also the largest provincial park on Vancouver Island. Delve into its vast wilderness and come across the island's highest peak, Golden Hinde, or Canada's tallest waterfall, Della Falls. Easy nature walks will take you to other beautiful locations, like Lower Myra Falls. The park is also home to many animals that don't exist elsewhere on the island, like the Roosevelt elk or the endangered Vancouver Island marmot. The park has a massive deer population and, if you're lucky, you might also spot a wolf or a cougar.

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12 Beaches and coastal experiences

Person on a paddle board paddles through the Salish Sea with the North Shore and Mainland Mountains at background. Ramon Cliff / Shutterstock.com

Once your daytime activities tire you out, head down to the beaches for some of the most relaxing evenings of your life. You'll find many people lighting beach fires or you can light one yourself. Just make sure to follow local rules and fully extinguish it before you leave. For individuals craving some sightseeing, Saratoga Beach is full of gorgeous white sand, while Miracle Beach provides a much more natural backdrop free of houses and other buildings.

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13 Campbell River's craft and coffee scene

It wouldn't be a Canadian destination guide without a coffee recommendation. Campbell River has fantastic local coffee shops that are perfect for a morning brew with a view. But ask anyone which cafe you absolutely need to try and they'll answer FoggDukkers Coffee. This rustic coffee shop is perfect whether you need a drink on a windy day or a cold one when the sun is beating down. Once you're caffeinated, visit the Crow's Nest Gallery and Art Studio to see jaw-dropping local pottery—or even make some yourself.

14 Eco-Tourism and conservation efforts

Tall Tail - An orca doing a tail slap, also known as lobtailing. Johnstone Strait, Campbell River, Vancouver Island, Canada

One of the biggest concerns of modern life is how we're affecting the environment. Campbell River is committed to eco-tourism, like the Strathcona Park Lodge which educates visitors about conservation and utilizes hydro-electric and solar power. Businesses like Campbell River Whale Watching partner with Wilderness International to support carbon off-sets that protect the old-growth rainforests on Vancouver Island and the entirety of British Columbia.

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