Exploring Vancouver Island North – Telegraph Cove to Cape Scott Provincial Park

The farther one gets into the wilderness, the greater is the attraction of it’s lonely freedom”

We spent 5 days in Northern Vancouver Island last weekend. I’ve created a tradition for my birthday to check off the places in our Pacific Northwest home that I want to see. Telegraph Cove and Cape Scott Provincial Park have been high on my list for years and they did not disappoint.

Getting to Telegraph Cove is relatively easy.  After arriving on the Ferry in Nanaimo we took the Island Highway due north.  There are stops along the way like Coombs Country Market or the town of Campbell River where we grabbed a quick lunch.  The drive takes about 4 hours.   Telegraph Cove is a great starting off point for visiting the Northern Island. 

Daily Whale Watching Tours with https://princeofwhales.com/telegraph-cove/

Telegraph Cove was established in 1912 and was an old sawmill town until it was restored into what it is today;  a quaint cozy village dotted with colourful cabins, 2 pubs, a general store, Hotel and Whale Museum. 

The General Store has souvenirs, T-shirts, candles and a selection of local liquors https://telegraphcoveresort.com/general-store/
The Killer Whale Centre houses the skeletons of Orca, Grey Whales, black bear and more http://www.killerwhalecentre.org/

The 800 ft boardwalk is one of the last remaining in British Columbia and winds along the marina where fishing boats, kayakers and Whale Watching & Grizzly tours depart each day. 

After settling into the lodge we took a walk at the marina. We could hear a bald eagle’s shrill cry and looked up just in time to see him open his wings and fly directly over us, wow! I’d seen eagles before but not that close.  His wingspan must have been at least 8 feet. 

After a long day of travel, a drink and meal at the Old Saltery Pub was a welcome way to relax.  We decided to spend the next day moving slowly and walked the boardwalk, visited the Whale Museum and packed for the next leg of our trip:  San Josef Bay at Cape Scott Provincial Park. 

We took a walk up to a lookout at sunset and came across these Inukshuk (figures created by piling stones).  

We awoke early Saturday ready to make our trip to the North Western tip of Vancouver Island.  Google maps says it’s a 4 hour drive from Telegraph Cove to the Cape Scott parking lot but we figure that must be based on driving at about 60 km/hr and is car dependent.  In our Toyota 4 Runner we were there in 2.5 hours and that included a stop to pick up breakfast and get gas in Port Hardy.  

Driving Holberg Road

The drive to Cape Scott is along Holberg road, a 67 km gravel road.   We found it to be in great condition and well graded.  There is no cel. reception but the signage all the way to the parking lot is clearly displayed.  The only other settlements in the area are Winter Harbour which has just 6 residents and Holberg with 35.  It’s remote so a good map book and a spare tire are a good idea.

The hike from the parking lot to San Josef Bay takes 45 minutes and winds through towering old grown Sitka Spruce, Western Cedar and Hemlock.  The forest floor is carpeted in moss and ferns.  There are a couple of wood bridges crossing over creeks as well as cedar plank boardwalks. It’s mostly level easy-to-maneuver ground. 

Stepping out of the forest and onto San Josef Bay feels like the scene where Dorothy steps out of her house into Oz.  The scenery opens to a vast beach, the wild roaring pacific ocean ahead and trees that stand on a slant from years of being windswept by powerful storms.  

This is wolf country and they certainly fit into the landscape better than we did. 

Walking out to the sea stacks and caves takes about 10 minutes along a long stretch of sand strewn with bull kelp and shells.

 We timed our trip for low tide so that we could explore the sea stacks and caves at our leisure. We even found a swing tied from a tree and took turns on it. Never lose your childlike enthusiasm.

The millions of barnacles and mussels stuck to the rocks are very much alive. They make clicking and crackling sounds and we stopped to listen.  Nature’s symphony. 

The wind constantly blows on these beaches,  I was grateful I’d brought a toque as I tend to get earaches from wind.  It wasn’t too chilly though but layering is a good idea as the weather changes quickly. We found a spot tucked in a cove away from the wind and had lunch on our blanket. 

The park is 223 square Kms. There are other trails to hike and camping means trekking all your gear in.  The first beach to camp at is Nissen Bight a 14.2 km hike from the parking lot.  The Lighthouse at Cape Scott Point is a 21.7 km hike.  Up until recently there was a keeper still living at the lighthouse with a small provision of snacks, candy bars and drinks for sale. 

Cape Scott Provincial Park is part of the West Coast Fog Zone so campfires are permitted most of the year.

  You may not see them but the energy of the wildlife that call this place home is tangible.  We came across bear tracks while fishing at the Emerald Pools at the Marble River one afternoon; you can be sure you’re being watched.  

Thank you for joining me on this magical journey.  We’re hoping to make our way into Wells Gray Park in late Summer.  I’ll be sure to share our trip if we do.

Until next time.



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