Hike to the highest waterfall in Canada, ride an old-fashioned steam train through a forested valley, cruise down a spectacular 40-kilometre fjord to the Pacific Ocean, see the only steam-operated sawmill in Canada, contemplate prehistoric petroglyphs these are just a few of the many attractions of the beautiful Alberni Valley.
The City of Port Alberni nestles at the end of the Alberni Inlet, at the mouth of the Somass River. To get there take scenic Highway 4 past Cameron Lake and through Cathedral Grove.
The area is named for Don Pedro de Alberni, commander of the Spanish fort at Nootka Island in the 1700s. Thriving logging, milling and fishing sectors once made Port Alberni a busy industrial centre with the highest per-capita income in Canada. As these industries decline, this friendly, high-spirited town is rapidly becoming an attractive tourist destination and retirement location.
Many attractions are available year-round. The Alberni Valley Museum has a superb collection of First Nations art, artifacts from the area's industrial past and rotating displays on historical and contemporary themes. The Rollin Art Centre, in a heritble building with a beautiful public garden, displays the work of local and regional artists. Eighteen murals around the city depict area history and landscapes. Welcoming figures created by local carvers of the Hupacasath First Nations greet visitors to the Victoria Quay area, at the bottom of Johnston Road (the main road through town on the way to Tofino and Ucluelet) which features boutiques, restaurants, coffee houses, and the Nuu-chah-nulth whaling monument.
Enjoy a minor league hockey game or a family skate at the Alberni Valley Multiplex. The city's excellent sports facilities have made it the only city in B.C. to host all four of the B.C. Games.
Another must-see is the Harbour Quay, with its boutiques, public sculptures, eateries, play structure and Clock Tower. The Lady Rose's all-day cruises down the Alberni Inlet to the Pacific Ocean depart from here.
The Valley's heritage springs to life in the summer months, when most historical attractions open. The Maritime Discovery Centre's displays and activities interpret the marine history of the Valley. Visitors to the McLean Mill National Historic Site travel back to the early 20th century. The Hupacasath First Nation offers cultural canoe tours of the area's waterways, and the Alberni Valley Heritage Network operates a steam train that runs from the old train station to the McLean Mill.
The Alberni Valley is an outdoor paradise, offering world-class sports fishing, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, diving, camping, water sports and other outdoor activities. View ancient First Nations petroglyphs and the Martin Mars water bombers at Sproat Lake Provincial Park while enjoying a day at the beach. At Great Central Lake, take a water taxi to the trailhead that leads to Della Falls, the highest waterfall in Canada, or visit the Robertson Creek Fish Hatchery. Camp and fish at China Creek Marina and Campground south of town on the Bamfield Road, which, of course, leads to the world-renowned West Coast Trail.
Maps and information on the many attractions available in the City of Port Alberni and surrounding areas are available at the Visitor Information Centre, at the eastern entrance to town. For more information, check out the Chamber of Commerce web site: http://www.avcoc.com/
This article was written by Florentia Scott.