With more than 26 years of fishing under his belt, Randy MacKinnon has a stockpile of fish tales to tell. And when one enters 'the salmon capital of the world' as Campbell River, BC is known, fishing and listening to tales is what one does. I learn that Chinook can weigh in around 25 kilogram (55 pounds) but most are in the 4.5-11 kilogram (10-24 pound) category. And while Chinook are the fish of desire, Randy says the Chum are "highly under-rated in sports fishing" as they are fighters and a thrill to catch. Sadly, a hefty Chinook did not find its way to my line during three hours in Deep Water Bay, but thanks to our guide and the island-spangled setting, it was a spectacular day
Fishing is only one of many activities available at April Point Resort on Quadra Island. We explored this eastern shoreline of Vancouver Island, starting in Campbell River and then south to the Comox Valley. Defined in the tourism world as the 'north central island' it is a pleasure playground for outdoor enthusiasts. We kicked off the trip with a stay at the renowned lodge, a short water-taxi ride from Campbell River.
Much zestier than fishing, a speedy zodiac tour covered 70 km, whipped us over the Yuculta Rapids, explored pristine inlets, and carried us by Ripple Rock. Peaceful enough today, the underwater monolith of rock sunk many dozens of ships before it was ultimately destroyed itself in 1958 by the largest manmade explosion at the time. We slowed down to admire curious sea lions that surfaced beside the zodiac, no doubt wondering what this colourful strange species was, bundled up in orange, Michelin-Man type gear.
Kayaking from the lodge was more of a serene time. We paddled a dense shoreline of craggy evergreens draped in moss. However, there were moments of excitement as we watched for wild things and spotted eagles, mergansers, seals, sea lions and deer. No black bear showed up as it had earlier for one startled guest.
It's a hoot to zoom around Quadra Island by scooter, enjoying the fact that traffic is sparse and trees and beaches are numerous. Don't miss Rebecca Spit Provincial Park, arguably one of the province's most scenic beaches. For exercise, cycle into Quathiaski Cove or follow the numerous, inviting hiking trails. However, save time for what islands are truly meant for - sit on the deck of your cabin and absorb the ever-changing marine traffic.
In contrast, there are a couple of welcome touches of urban bliss available at this island retreat. Head into the dining room, and pull up at the sushi bar; with freshly-caught seafood, the sushi is superb. Don't miss the Aveda Spa at April Point Resort where you will be instantly converted to 'island time' as you relieve all of your stresses on the massage table.
If you visit this region June through October, book a tour to see Orca whales in Johnstone Strait. There are also bear-watching tours, aerial flights, biking trails and the unique opportunity to snorkel among teeming salmon.
Take a break from the great outdoors to explore the waterfront town of Campbell River: sweet little galleries and shops, pubs and restaurants overlooking the water. What's not to like? If time allows, dine at Painter's Lodge, April Point Resort's sister lodge, also run by Oak Bay Marine Group. Don't bypass The Campbell River Museum, the First Nations Gallery is a must-visit.
Heading south, to the Comox Valley, we visited with friends in Courtenay. Along with Comox and Cumberland, these are the main communities in the Valley. There are plenty of urban delights - restaurants, shops and galleries along with Crown Isle Resort and Golf Course - but our focus was to explore British Columbia's oldest park, Vancouver Island's largest.
Strathcona Provincial Park encompasses more than 245,000 hectares (500,000 acres) of sublime wilderness, designated a park in 1911, but don't let that moniker fool you. There are excellent day-hikes and great mountain-biking trails, but most of the park is reserved for delicious wilderness. Only well-experienced back country buffs should consider a multi-day backpack excursion. One of the attractions is Della Falls. At 440 metres high, it constitutes one of Canada's highest waterfalls.
The ruggedness of Strathcona embodies its appeal. Strathcona Park Lodge and Outdoor Education Centre is one of the few visitor facilities; it offers accommodation and wilderness skills training. The two areas for day use are Buttle Lake and Forbidden Plateau; they are easily reached, but you experience the joy of the landscape where mountain peaks tower, wild rivers race and tranquil lakes are tucked into absorbent greenery.
Buttle Lake is a favourite with anglers (terrific for Cutthroat). Forbidden Plateau is accessed through Mount Washington Alpine Resort - a snow-heaped ski and snowboard haven during winter. The rest of the year, hikers and mountain bikers savour its trails and astounding ocean-to-mountain views. There are more than 35 kilometres of single-track trails for the mountain-bike crowd. We found plenty of opportunities for workouts here with trails stretching above the tree line and dipping down into lush meadows. Rock climbers revere the park; Crest Creek Craggs boasts more than 100 climbing routes.
The Comox Valley is aptly named 'The Land of Plenty' by local aboriginals, thanks to its abundance of flora and fauna. We found it the land of plenty also for a plethora of vigorous and engaging outdoor activities.
Judi Lees is 2002 winner of Choice Hotels Award of Excellence for Best International (Travel) Article and Thailand Award for International Media. She has written for The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, many magazines and
Vancouver Island Tourism
Strathcona Park, Fly-fishing on the Cowichan: Boomer Jerritt
Qualicum Beach Memorial Golf Course, Whale Watching, Boogie Boarding at Clayoquot: ChrisCheadle.com
April Point Resort & Spa