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Discovery Coast

Princess Royal Island, British Columbia
Home of the legendary Kermode or Spirit Bear
The Discovery Coast is the southern section of the Inside Passage that stretches from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert, through the protected waters of British Columbia's central and northern coastline.

The Discovery Coast extends from Port Hardy to Bella Coola on the Central Coast, and includes the communities of Namu, McLoughlin Bay, Bella Bella, Denny Island (Shearwater), Klemtu, Ocean Falls, and the Hakai Pass area.

There are some places, luckily, that are still inaccessible by road. British Columbia's Central Coast is one of them. Until BC Ferries launched its Discovery Coast Passage run in the summer of 1996, the Central Coast was also largely inaccessible by water. Now, to the delight of adventurers and locals alike, from June to September the Queen of Chilliwack connects the community of Port Hardy, at the northeastern end of Vancouver Island, with Bella Coola, at the head of the North Bentinck Arm, making regular stops along the way.

For cycle tourists and RVers, the Discovery Coast Passage service opens up a brand-new circle tour through some of the province's most beautiful terrain. From Bella Coola, Highway 20 leads across the Chilcotin Plateau to the Cariboo, from where any number of routes lead back to the Lower Mainland. But one of the bonuses of this trip is that you needn't take a (four-wheeled) vehicle at all.

For kayakers, backpackers and campers choose your destination, explore some territory, then reboard the ferry on a subsequent day. Planning your trip, which involves detailed study of the ferry schedule, is half the fun. As yet, the Discovery Coast Passage remains largely undiscovered. Book soon.

When European explorers arrived along this coast in the 18th century, it was inhabited by Natives from several cultural groups. Although hunters and gatherers like the tribes of the Interior, the coastal natives, due to their abundant food supply, were able to establish permanent villages. Their complex cultures were distinguished by an emphasis on wealth, a refined artistic tradition, and a rich spirit life. Travel along the coast was accomplished via cedar dugout canoes that could be impressive in their length. Although there's nothing more inspiring than to see one of these massive canoes in action, they are only brought out for ceremonial occasions, such as a paddle trip to Vancouver or the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. These days, aluminum-hulled, high-speed boats are the vessels of choice among all inhabitants of the coast.

Explorers from Russia, Britain, France, and Spain converged on this coastline in the last quarter of the 18th century, motivated by trade possibilities or - in the case of Spain - a desire to protect territorial waters. Two British explorers, Captain James Cook in 1778-79 and Captain George Vancouver in 1792-93, did the most systematic charting of the coast. After an international tussle, the British eventually gained control of what would later become the coast of British Columbia. Colonization and settlement began in the 19th century, although British Columbia's Central and Northern Coast is still not heavily populated. Logging, fishing, and tourism are the primary industries, though with the decline in stocks and automation in the forest, fewer people live here now than in previous decades. After a disastrous decline in Native populations (by as much as 90 percent in some nations) that began over a century ago due to infectious diseases such as smallpox and tuberculosis, today's numbers match those of precontact times.

The Queen of Chilliwack, 377 feet (115 m) long, carrying 115 vehicles and 375 passengers, sails from its southern terminus in Port Hardy, 250 miles (400 km) north of Nanaimo on Highway 19. The drive from Nanaimo to Port Hardy takes four to five hours. Bella Coola, the ferry's main northern terminus, is 283 miles (456 km) west of Williams Lake on Highway 20. There are scheduled flights to Bella Bella and Bella Coola (airport at Hagensborg) from Vancouver Airport. Pacific Coastal Airlines in Vancouver offers a scheduled service into both Port Hardy and Bella Bella.

As cruises go, the Discovery Coast Passage is hardly lavish. The Queen of Chilliwack is a working freight boat, serving the needs of the local communities. It's just as well that luxuries aboard this refurbished Norwegian vessel don't distract from the scenery, which is spectacular, with long fjords and narrow channels forming the backdrop to the Inside Passage. The roughest portion of the trip is just out of Port Hardy, as the ferry navigates the unprotected waters of Queen Charlotte Sound. This is a good time for a nap. The most stunning scenery is between Bella Bella and Bella Coola.

With the setting sun behind you, the monolithic rock formations looming over the narrow Burke Channel give the cruise a European flavour. You'll get an even better look at the scenic Dean Channel during daylight hours if you board the ferry in Bella Coola for the southbound sailing. Weather permitting, the ship's two upper decks are an excellent vantage point from which to watch for the logging camps, barge houses, and abandoned settlements that indicate a human presence on this rugged coastline. Although Natives have inhabited the area for thousands of years, the inhospitable terrain has limited development and exploration by European settlers until comparatively recently. Wildlife viewing - the ferry slows for orcas - is another bonus of this trip. Don't forget your binoculars.

Facilities aboard the Queen of Chilliwack include reclining sleeper seats, a cafeteria, and small licenced lounge, a gift shop and - a boon for kayakers - pay showers. Service is friendly, the food is better-than-average for BC Ferries, and there is a staff member dedicated to customer service who can assist you with your onboard needs or travel plans.

Location: The Discovery Coast is the southern section of the Inside Passage that stretches from Port Hardy (on Vancouver Island) to Prince Rupert (mainland) through the protected waters of British Columbia's central and northern coastline. Access is via B.C. Ferries from Prince Rupert and Bella Coola and Port Hardy on Vancouver Island.

Ferry information for the Discovery Coast.
Ferry information for the Inside Passage.

The following towns are located on or near the Discovery Coast (South to North):
Port Hardy, Rivers Inlet, Hakai Pass, Namu, Bella Coola, Denny Island (Shearwater), Bella Bella, Ocean Falls, and Klemtu.



Search Premier Listings
  Discovery Marine Safaris, Campbell River Listing Details 
Travel along stunning shorelines and inlets in search of killer whales, black bears, pacific white-sided dolphins, Dall’s porpoises, seals, and magnificent bald eagles. Our tour boats feature an enclosed and heated cabin, two outdoor viewing decks, and an onboard washroom. Enjoy a Romantic Sun Set Cruise, or embark on our Grizzly Bear Viewing Excursion and observe these incredible creatures in their natural habitat far away from human civilization.
 
  Ecosummer Expeditions, Clearwater Listing Details 
Ecosummer Expeditions is a world-class leader in Adventure Travel Tours and BC's original sea kayaking outfit since 1976. We specialize in sea kayaking wilderness expeditions, outdoor hiking and backpacking trips, coastal cruises, canoeing, and first nations native culture. We offer guided adventure travel tours and expeditions to Vancouver Island, Queen Charlotte Islands, Gulf Islands, the Interior BC, and the Great Bear Rainforest, including the Khutzeymateen Valley and Princess Royal Island. Wildlife viewing includes grey whales, orcas, grizzly bears, kermode spirit bears, marine mammals, and rainforest ecology.
 
  Go With The Flow Adventures, Quadra Island Listing Details 
Kayaking tours from Vancouver Island B.C. Canada with Go With The Flow Adventures. Our luxury kayaking tours offer the perfect blend of relaxation and adventure. We include gourmet meals with wine, cozy cabin accommodation, hot showers, wood fired cedar hot tub, kayaking equipment, instruction and guiding. No experience necessary. Join us on an journey that washes away the every day!
 
  Inside Passage Cottages, Denny Island Listing Details 
Inside Passage Cottages are located on pristine Denny Island on the beautiful Discovery Coast. We provide an eco-friendly, clean, quiet and safe base from which to experience the Great Bear Rainforest, one of the last unspoiled rainforests on the planet. Built in spring 2012, the self-contained cottage has a fantastic view of Whiskey Slough. The comfortable cottage features a fully-equipped kitchen, Bathroom with shower, queen-size bed, TV, and Wireless Internet. Enjoy the serenity of the Discovery Coast area and the spectacular scenery it boasts. Leave the stresses of the modern world behind you and find inner peace in this unspoiled, coastal paradise. Enjoy long, relaxing walks and explore the tide pools that team with colour and life. Adventures in the magnificent Great Bear Rain Forest area include salmon and sport fishing, kayaking and boating, eco-tours, diving, and hiking. Phone: 250-957-2298 (Denny Island) or 403-232-0228 (Calgary).
 
  Legacy Lodge, Rivers Inlet Listing Details 
Legacy Lodge offers a premier sportfishing experience found nowhere else, in harmony with the natural environment and in a world all its own. Here on the protected waters of Rivers Inlet, all the elements converge for epic fishing adventures with 50 pound Chinook, 20 pound Cohos and Halibut that await your challenge. Come experience the ultimate in fishing adventures, and renew your passion for the great outdoors.
 
  Mothership Adventures, Quadra Island Listing Details 
Explore our remote coastal wilderness aboard the heritage vessel Columbia III! Join us for exhilarating and unforgettable BC adventure tours that include sea kayaking, eco adventure, natural history, First Nations culture, extraordinary wildlife viewing, photography and painting. Experience sand beaches, stunning fjords, lush estuaries, and exceptional wildlife viewing of whales and bears. Travel in luxury with a certified hospitable crew, qualified guides, gourmet food and comfortable accommodation aboard the luxury Mothership.
 
  Ocean Light II Adventures, Vancouver Listing Details 
Ocean Light II is a beautiful and spacious 71ft sailboat offering comfort, a classic natural wood interior, 5 guest cabins, fishing gear, 7 seakayaks, and a 19ft hard-bottom inflatable. Her crew has 34 years of experience offering natural history and photography tours on the BC Coast, including Haida Gwaii, and specializing in grizzly viewing tours in the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, and spirit bear and grizzly tours in the Great Bear Rainforest. We also offer whale watching and eco tours, from totems to intertidal treasures, rocky shores to sandy beaches, and spawning salmon to towering trees. We offer five spectacular adventure trips between May and October, each to a different region and each highlighting the awe-inspiring beauty of the beautiful BC coast.
 
  Ole’s Hakai Pass Fishing Lodge, Hakai Pass Listing Details 
Experience exceptional fishing for Salmon, Halibut, Red Snapper and Ling Cod in our protected, un-crowded waters in Hakai Pass on the West Coast of BC. Fishing within 5 minutes of our comfortable, clean full-service floating Lodge, everything is taken care off by our experienced, enthusiastic young staff. Fabulous Food, private accommodation, world-class fishing and genuine hospitality are what you can expect from this family-run Fishing Lodge.
 
  Spirit of the West Kayaking, Quadra Island Listing Details 
Join our sea kayaking adventures around Vancouver Island, Canada's coastal kayaking paradise. Kayak with Killer Whales, paddle Desolation Sound, experience the remote north Nootka Sound, or kayak from the comfort of our 95 ft Mothership, the Songhee. Our sea kayaking trips depart from our base on Quadra Island in the BC Discovery Islands. No experience is required for our kayak tours! Our adventures are for everyone. Our trips are designed to cater to all levels of experience and abilities. Our groups are small, ranging from 8-13 people depending on the trip, in order to provide you with the best experience possible. we provide everything you need to have a great kayaking adventure.
 
  BC Oceanfront: Ed Handja & Shelley McKay, Campbell River Listing Details 
Live, Work & Play Coastal Style
“BC Oceanfront” - Coast Realty’s Residential and Coastal Experts specializing in selling local residential, recreational, unique oceanfront and commercial real estate throughout Vancouver Island, Discovery Islands, the Outer Islands and the BC Mainland Coast. From homes to small oceanfront recreational lots, lakefront, remote island acreages, private islands and resorts – BCO has the Coast covered!
 
  Bluewater Adventures, Vancouver Listing Details 
Explore BC and Southeast Alaska with Bluewater Adventures aboard our 70' yachts sailing the BC Inside Passage, the Queen Charlotte Islands, Gwaii Haanas National Park, the Great Bear Rainforest, and Vancouver Island. You'll see whales, Grizzly, Black and Kermode bears, and experience ancient native villages and Haida culture, primeval forests, wilderness, and amazing coastal wildlife.
 
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