Port Alberni? That little town you sped through in your rush to get to surf mecca Tofino, BC? Of course you don't. You will now-because Port Alberni, the waterfront village 80 km (50 mi) west of
Vancouver Island's Nanaimo, is coming into its own. And there's plenty to do. The former logging town is groovy with a steam train, wine tasting, bear sighting and primo angling.
Riding a train that choo-choos and spouts steam from its shiny blank engine sure beats the subway. If this was the 1920s, and you worked at the
McLean Steam Sawmill-now a National Historic Site-this is how you'd get to work.
If sawmills don't turn your crank, get off the train at the
Chase and Warren Estate Winery and sample a glass or two of Alsatia from grapes grown right there. It's refreshing on a hot summer day, which is fitting, because Port Alberni is the hot spot on Vancouver Island, with summer temps in the high 20s (high 60s F).
You might notice that this town is still pretty wild, even after all the logging. In fact, you can see bears from the boardwalk! At low tide, they come out from the bush on the other side of the Somass River to fish and catch crabs.
You can fish, too. Port Alberni is not just the self-proclaimed "Salmon Capital of the World;" it's "Canada's Ultimate Fishing Town," according to the
World Fishing Network.
If you want to eat fish, head to Codfather (
5413 Argyle St., 250-723-7114) on the quay for nine kinds of smoked salmon (teriyaki is my fave) as well as fresh salmon and halibut. The bears will be jealous.
Courtesy of the Canadian Tourism Commission
Suzanne Morphet's travel stories have appeared in The Globe and Mail, up! magazine (West Jet's in-flight magazine), Homemakers and numerous other publications. Morphet recently co-authored The Vancouver Island Book of Everything. She is based in Victoria, BC.