Campbell RiverVancouver Island. It is renowned as the "Salmon Capital of the World". Campbell River lies along the important coastal Inside Passage shipping route. The town has little to appeal to the average tourist, but is heaven for hikers, kayakers, fishers and naturists. Here you will find a slow, quiet island lifestyle and beautiful scenery.
Campbell River has a variety of growing industries including aquaculture, agrifoods, clean energy development, construction, creative industries, forestry, health care, international education, mining, technology and tourism. Since Elk Falls Mill, one of the largest employers in the area, shut down in 2009, many people have moved away to other places with higher demands for a similar labour force, particularly Fort McMurray, Alberta.
8.6% of the population is of First Nations (Aboriginal) origin.
HistoryThe first settlers known in the area were members of the Island Comox and related Coast Salish peoples. During the 18th century, a migration of Kwakwaka'wakw (Kwak'wala-speaking) people of the Wakashan cultural and linguistic group migrated south from the area of Fort Rupert and established themselves in the Campbell River area, at first enslaving and then absorbing the Comox. They became infamous as raiders of the Coast Salish peoples farther south, known to history as the Euclataws. Of this group, also known as the Southern Kwakiutl, there are two subdivisions, the Wekayi or Weiwaikai of the Cape Mudge Indian Band on Quadra Island and the Weiwaikum of the Campbell River Band located in and around the city of Campbell River.
Captain George Vancouver reached Campbell River in 1792 aboard the ships HMS Discovery and HMS Chatham. The channel between Quadra Island and Campbell River is named Discovery Passage after HMS Discovery. The captain and his botanist, Mr Archibald Menzies, discovered a small tribe of 350 natives who spoke the Salish language. A Lekwiltok war party, heavily armed with European rifles, paddled south from Johnstone Strait in the middle of the 19th century and were in control of the area when the HMS Plumper came through on a cartography mission under Captain George Henry Richards around 1859. Dr Samuel Campbell was the ship surgeon, and historians believe his name was given to the river by Richards. The community took the name of "Campbell River" when its post office was constructed in 1907. Likewise, the name of HMS Discovery’s First Lieutenant Zachary Mudge is preserved in the nearby Cape Mudge.
Sports fishermen travelled to the area as early as the 1880s, especially after the tales from noted anglers such as Sir Richard Musgrave and Sir John Rogers. E.P. Painter, for instance, moved to Campbell River the following year and opened his Painter's Lodge in 1929. Painter's Lodge attracted clientele from Hollywood and regular patrons included Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Commercial fishing was a large industry for many years. The town's magistrate Roderick Haig-Brown purchased a fishing cabin on Campbell River and wrote a number of books on fly fishing that are influential and well-loved around the world for both sport fishermen and conservationists.
Industrial logging took off in the 1920s with Merrill Ring and Company, Bloedel, Stewart and Welch and Comox Logging. A large forest fire started near Buttle Lake and burned much of the valley in 1938. Rock Bay, Menzies Bay, and Englewood all were big logging camps.
Campbell River prospered after 1912 and it became a supply point for northern Vancouver Island, Quadra Island and Cortes Island. After the Second World War, Campbell River became a boom town and industrial centre with the building of the John Hart Dam, Elk River pulp mill, and nearby mills in Tahsis and Gold River. Logging and mining in the area prospered. There is a lead zinc mine nearby, and coal mines, while a large copper mine operated to the north.
Car rentals are available from the Arrivals area (Budget and National). The Campbell River Airport Shuttle (+1 250-914-1010) can take you into town.
Kenmore Air offers regularly scheduled service to Campbell River from Seattle on seaplanes and land planes from May through September.
You can get to Campbell River by several bus routes too. Island Coach Lines (Laidlaw) serves Victoria to Port Hardy, and points in between, including Campbell River. Connect to Island Coach Lines from Vancouver aboard Pacific Coach Lines.
By carTravelling north from Nanaimo, there are two options: the Island Highway (Hwy 19A), which is the scenic old road with the beautiful ocean views, or the Inland Island Highway (Hwy 19), which is the faster expressway. The drive on the old Island Highway takes approximately 2 hours (153 km / 95 mi) from Nanaimo or 3.5 hours (264 km / 165 mi) from Victoria. The Inland Highway can reduce that time, potentially by up to an hour when driving from Victoria.
Campbell River does run a limited service local bus route, but a car would be an ideal form of transport to allow you to take advantage of the environment.
The city also boasts a robust cycling infrastructure including paved cycling paths, wooded commuting trails, and bike lanes. There is also an abundance of logging roads and mountain biking trails throughout the area.
Campbell River hosts a busy arts and culture scene with museums that cover local history.
address: 705 Island HwySmall aquarium that showcases local marine species. There are also touch tanks if you want to get hands-on with things like starfish.
address: 621 Island HwyFacility that showcases the restored fishing boat, BCP45, a wooden seiner that plied its trade for roughly 70 years in the Campbell River area and was featured on the $5 Canadian bill in the 1970s and 80s. There are also a number of collections on exhibit, including model ships, outboard motors and ship wheels, and activity centre where you can try your hand at tying knots.
address: 470 Island HighwayMuseum that focuses on the history and stories of Campbell River and the surrounding area. Galleries and exhibits include First Nations and the impact of European exploration and colonization, pioneer life, logging, the salmon fishing industry, local sport fishing and the Tyee Club, restored ships and equipment, and a native plant garden. There is also a theatre with footage of events in Campbell River’s past.
- Whale watching
- Grizzly Bear Tour
address: Hwy 28Just outside of Campbell River, this park has wonderful trails for hikers and bikers. The main attraction is the falls, which are surrounded by old growth trees and are 80 ft high. There is a suspension bridge and viewing platform that provide a great view of the falls. The bridge and viewing area are about a 1-km walk from the day-use area parking lot and the last section involves a number of stairs. There is also a popular campground with over 100 spaces.
- Guided salmon fishing is also a very popular thing to do.
Wei Wai Kum House Of Treasures Ltdaddress: 1370 Island HighwayThis gallery features Northwest Coast First Nations art.
Ridgerider Mens Wearaddress: 920 Island HwyAlso sells Western apparel and gifts.
Caitlin's Kitchenaddress: 2116 e S Island Highway Willow PointA relaxing cafe serving mostly breakfast and lunch
Baan Thai Restaurantaddress: 1090 Shoppers RowBaan Thai is downtown on Shopper's Row. It serves Thai cuisine and seems to be a local favourite.
Koto Japanese Restaurantaddress: 80 10 AvenueJapanese restaurant, popular with locals and travellers.
Best Wokaddress: 936 Alder StreetChinese restaurant.
San Marcos Steak Houseaddress: 952 Shoppers Row
address: 1920 Island HighwaySteaks, pasta, pizza, Greek, Italian and Indian dishes.
address: 1003B Island Hwy
address: 4329 South Island HwyChinese Smorgasboard, Western dishes also offered. Local favorite.
address: 969 Alder StVietnamese restaurant.
- Ideal Cafe has seven types of hashbrowns.
- Painters Lodge has an amazing array of local food.
Paramount Music Halladdress: 1140 Ironwood RoadParamount Music Hall (formerly The Voodoo Lounge) is Campbell River's only nightclub. It features Top 40 music and occasionally live bands. There are daily drink specials. If you get hungry, there's a concession stand called Dat'saLottaPerogeys, right outside the bar selling perogies, hot dogs, and other munchies. Open Tuesday to Saturday and occasionally Sundays. Cover charge varies, but is usually $5.
address: 84 Dogwood StreetCampbell River's only English-style pub.
The Willow's Neighbourhood Pubaddress: 521 Rockland RoadGreat home made soups and pub food. Friendly atmosphere. Great prices
address: 501 Trask RdThis home is on 5 acres at the entrance of the 1000-acre Beaver Lodge Forestry Park.
address: 462 South Island HighwayRanked in the top 20% of all North American Best Western properties.
There are options to move on in every direction from Campbell River.
- Quadra Island — Quadra Island is a ten minute ferry ride from Campbell River. It has kayaking, hiking and First Nations culture and history.
- Outer Islands and Mainland Inlets — Take a water taxi or float plane into the outer Discovery Islands. There are fishing lodges, grizzly bears, salmon fishing or you can just relax enjoy the peacefulness.
- Strathcona Provincial Park — West on Hwy 28, the park is a great place for outdoor-minded travellers, with world-class hiking and camping. Recommended hikes include Flower Ridge Trail, Crest Mountain Trail, and the Elk River Trail.
- Gold River — Head west on Hwy 28 until it ends and you come to Gold River. It has caves and is the gateway to Nootka Sound on the west coast and the Yuquot National Historic Site.