While summertime in Port Hardy has its allure, the quieter months offer a unique opportunity to discover a side of this small coastal town that is often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of prime tourist season. Here are 6 places you go/activities you can do in Port Hardy and the surrounding area during the off-season:
1. Hike the Quatse River Trail and Estuary Loop
The Quatse River Loop is a leisurely stroll, sure to soothe away your cares while you wind your way through the loop. The nature trail is easy terrain with a mixture of gravel and boardwalk surfaces, and you can extend this walk by going under the bridge and continuing with the Estuary Trail. While there may be more activity from local wildlife in the summer months, the trail itself is worth the walk all year round. The peaceful ambiance of the Quatse River Loop invites introspection and serenity.
2. Watch Sunrise/Sunset at the Hardy Bay Seawall
This scenic waterfront trail starts at the Visitor’s Center in the heart of downtown Port Hardy. Benches along the route offer the perfect place to sit and watch the sunrise or sunset over the ocean. This is a great place to relax and unwind, especially during the off-season when the boardwalk isn’t crowded. Grab a hot beverage from Guido’s and settle in to watch boats and marine life pass by in the water. You never know what you might see!
3. Visit Storey's Beach and Copper & Kelp
A thirteen-minute drive from the downtown core, Storey’s Beach is a Port Hardy gem. When the tide is out (low) the sandy beach stretches on for what seems like forever. An ideal place to spend the afternoon walking along the waterfront, having a picnic, swimming in the ocean, or even kayaking across the way to Shell Island. After, be sure to make a pit stop at Copper & Kelp, a cute little corner-store-inspired market, to browse through local products, foods, and handmade clay cups and trinkets. If your walk by the beach was a little chilly make sure you warm up with a hot cup of tea or coffee at their self-serve coffee bar before you leave!
4. Try Local Indigenous Cuisine
The culinary journey at Kwa’lilas Hotel celebrates the vibrant flavours of the Gwa’sala- ‘Nakwaxda’wx First Nations. Savour the tastes of Indigenous-inspired cuisine at one or both hotel’s dining spots: Ha’me Restaurant and Nax’id’ Pub. From Bannock tacos to classic burgers to seared halibut and salmon, these dishes offer an explosion of taste across your tongue that’s not only delicious but is also part of a legacy stepped in tradition.
5. Go to the Alice Lake Loop + Devil's Bath Brewery
Depending on the route you take, the Alice Lake Loop Tour is about 100km and takes approximately 2.5 hours to complete. This is a great local adventure if you have access to a vehicle. You can take the tour at your own pace and spend as much or as little time at each stop as you desire. The most popular sites on this tour are the Eternal Fountain (a gorgeous waterfall that flows down into a separate cave), and Devil’s Bath (one of Canada’s largest flooded sinkholes, also known as a “cenote,” that measures in at 359m around and 44m deep). Regardless of the time of year, the Alice Lake Loop is a must-do adventure!
Named after the Devil’s Bath sinkhole, the Devil’s Bath Brewery is the perfect stop to end your exploration of the Alice Lake Loop. Indulge in locally crafted beers, house-made kombucha, wood-oven pizzas, and more at this beloved brewery and family-owned restaurant in Port McNeil.
6. Explore Grant Bay
A hidden gem of the North Island, Grant Bay is the perfect beach for surfing, paddle-boarding, and leisure. Located on the north side of Quatsino Sound about 2 hours from Port Hardy, Grant Bay is a long, remote, and sandy beach that sees more otters than humans. Venture out for the day, or plan to stay overnight for some rustic beach camping. Just remember to always pack out what you pack in– clean up after yourselves!
Creating a Genuine Connection
Despite it being the off-season, there are still many adventures to be had, places to be seen, and memories to be made in Port Hardy and the surrounding areas. Travelling during the off-season can be a highly rewarding and immersive experience, allowing you to explore a destination like a local rather than a tourist. With fewer crowds, you have the opportunity to interact more authentically with the local culture, discovering hidden gems like Grant Bay and experiencing daily life without the craziness of peak tourist season.