Nestled in Chatham Sound on the secluded Kaien Island, the small city of Prince Rupert is a lovely place to visit. Surrounded by water and lush rainforest, it has a rich history and offers a variety of activities, attractions and sights, whether you are passing through or staying for a while.
The main downtown area of Cow Bay is a pretty place to wander, with colourful heritage buildings housing cafés, studios and local stores, as well as a pub and a busy marina where the cruise ships dock. Along the coast, the downtown district continues with more shops, museums, galleries, a mall and a waterfront park. The city’s early history is in evidence here with many totem poles sprinkled between the pioneer buildings.
Prince Rupert has an interesting past as the most easterly point on the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway which stretched 4800km across the country from Winnipeg. The President and founder of the railway, Charles Hays, had grand plans for Prince Rupert, picturing it as an important port for trading across the Pacific with Asia. Sadly this never came to light, partly because he was lost in the Titanic tragedy on a trip back from England. Vancouver instead developed into the west coast’s main port, and to the delight of many travellers, Prince Rupert kept its laid-back small-town feel.
The First Nations heritage is also an important part of the city and many traditional communities still exist along the coastline. You can discover more about the Tsimshian people who first inhabited the land in the fascinating Museum of Northern BC and the Carving Shed next door, where you can watch local artists creating beautiful pieces of art work.
A visit to Prince Rupert would not be complete without a trip out into the islands. Hire a boat or kayak to explore the many surrounding islands yourself, or head out to the Northern Inside Passage on a stunning wildlife watching tour boat to view all kinds of whales, seals and dolphins as well as many magnificent sea birds. And for those who enjoy fishing, or fancy having a go, the landscape couldn’t be more perfect. With endless serene spots to choose from, the fish are plentiful and the scenery soothing. From the crabs and halibut of the ocean to the wild salmon of the Skeena River and the rainbow trout of the local lakes and streams, you are sure to return home with a fresh catch for dinner.
Away from the water there are a handful of walks and trails near the city. Try the popular Butze Rapids trail which winds through forest and coast with great views of the tidal rapids, or there are many longer and more strenuous hikes just a short distance away.
Prince Rupert is also just a short boat or plane ride from the stunning Khutzeymateen Sanctuary, the protected park which is home to about fifty grizzlies, as well as black bear and other wildlife. Bear viewing here is fantastic during the summer months, cruising through the beautiful scenery on a catamaran to watch the magnificent wild creatures close up as they forage for food on the shoreline. You may even be lucky enough to see whales and seals on your way in.
With a varied culture, plentiful wildlife and unspoilt landscapes, Prince Rupert is a delightful place to visit whatever your interests. And with a charming downtown to explore, your holiday is complete.
Things to do
Top tips for visiting Prince Rupert
Top Tip 1
• The downtown shopping village of Cow Bay is a lovely place to stroll, with many colourful buildings, galleries and restaurants. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you start spotting cow-patterned bollards, and cafés with names like ‘Cowpuccinos’!
Top Tip 2
• Don’t miss a visit to the grizzly bear sanctuary during the summer months. With the only permissible access by guide boat, the landscapes are serene and undisturbed and the thrill of watching families of bears pottering on the shores is unrivalled.
Top Tip 3
• The railway was a principle feature in the settlement of the town and represented the end of a huge project. A visit to the Kwinitsa Station Railway Museum on the waterfront is a fascinating look into this history.
Top Tip 4
• The city gets a lot of rain (so make sure you pack a jacket!) but as a result its surrounding forests and mountains are green and lush. One of the most scenic and natural local hikes is the 10km Metlakatla Wilderness Trail which runs along the coast of the Tsimshian Peninsular. Catch a ferry from Prince Rupert and follow the trail through the small village community along the forested shoreline, across suspension bridges through the treetops and over shingly beaches, to lookout towers with stunning views.
Top Tip 5
• For a trip out of town, head to the North Pacific Fishing Village and take a tour around the cannery to get a real sense of how it was to live and work on the site. For a quirky pit-stop en route visit the ‘Tree of Soles’ just off the highway, where travellers have nailed shoes of all shapes and sizes to the trunk of a huge red cedar.
Top Tip 6
• The town holds a Farmers’ Market during the summer months every Thursday, where you can pick up some delicious fresh local produce as well as arts, crafts and gifts.
Top Tip 7
• A great way to explore the town is on the walking tour of the totem poles which are dotted around the streets. Pick up a tour book from the Museum of Northern BC and find out all about the history of these beautiful poles.
Top Tip 8
• For a great way to see Prince Rupert’s stunning surrounding landscapes, hop in a floatplane and enjoy amazing views of the coastline, islands and mountains as well as the local First Nations villages.