I spent two days in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, a small city of some 12,000 located on BC’s north coast. And I think I got to see the best of it.
It’s close to nature with both the ocean and rainforest to enjoy. It has great hiking and wonderful food. (I was really surprised by all the restaurant options.) There is a bit of shopping as well with local artisans to visit. And being only 6 km from one end to the other, it’s easy to get around.
But, best of all, it has friendly people like no other place I’ve experienced before.
That's where I'll start this report on Prince Rupert, with the people I met.
And then, thanks in large part to how they shared their town, I'll give you my top tips for Prince Rupert further on.
The People of Prince Rupert
I'm hard-pressed to say why Prince Rupert is so friendly. The size of the town certainly has something to do with it. Is it also the culture of the north? A sense of interdependence? The fact that it is truly at the end of the road? How does the ocean figure in? And what about the economy? It's been experiencing hard times for a while. Perhaps the people who choose to stay do so for the essence of the town rather than money. Whatever the reason, I met wonderful locals and expats eager for me to appreciate their city.
I started experiencing the town's hospitality before I got off the plane. It began with Ed, my seatmate, who commutes to Prince Rupert from Toronto for work! We chatted most of the way between Vancouver and Prince Rupert. He gave me the lowdown on the town and also his business card in case I needed any help.
Then, in their small island terminal, I met Claudia. We communed over curly hair at first and then she invited me for a hike. It turned out we not only went for a hike on my first day in Prince Rupert but had dinner together too and, the following day, met for a cup of tea!
But I'm jumping ahead. After leaving Claudia at the terminal (you take a bus from the island airport into town), I walked a block and was stopped by a woman looking for a specific restaurant. Dina was from Vancouver and visits Prince Rupert a few times a month. I found the restaurant on Google Maps. It was only 100 meters away. We went and had dinner together. She is a fascinating woman who does a lot of volunteer work.
I met with Caitlin Birdsall, coordinator of the North Coast Cetacean Research Initiative, simply by following the #PrinceRupert hashtag on Twitter. From her, I learned about their citizen-scientist program for whale sightings. (Prince Rupert is on the West Coast Whale Trail).
And, finally, I met Larry on my last night in Prince Rupert. He's from Portland, Oregon and on a 3,000-mile solo sailing adventure. I stopped into Cow Bay Cafe for dinner only to discover that there were no tables available. He invited me to join him.
In addition, I met April from Outer Coast Outfitters. I also met Jenny and her Mom at the Cannery and spent time with them on the train between Prince Rupert and Jasper. (See my complete itinerary for this trip here.)
My time in Prince Rupert was the most social, solo time I have ever spent. Quite extraordinary and wonderful!
Now, on to what to do in Prince Rupert.
Top 10 Picks for Prince Rupert
I'm providing you with my top 10 things to do in Prince Rupert. Please note that the downtown area is not that exciting. Hard times have resulted in quite a few shops closing. However, Cow Bay is alive with shops and restaurants.
- Walk along the waterfront to the Visitor Bureau in Cow Bay. A stop into the visitor center is always a good place to start in a small community. Pick up the schedule for the buses so that you can get to the Cannery and Butze Rapids Trail as well as their self-guided walking tour. In the same block, you can book a whale watching tour and other excursions.
- Visit the Harbour Interpretive Centre. The Interpretive Centre is in the same space as the visitor center. It doesn't require a lot of time, but spend twenty minutes and you'll get a good understanding of how this northern harbor city works.
- Relax with locals. Also located in Cow Bay is Cowpuccinos which seems to be the favorite coffee shop of the locals. Wonderful food. Great coffee, but don't ask for a decaf! Get something to take away for lunch as well.
- Explore the Cannery. The North Pacific Cannery National Historic Site is a gem. Located on the Skeena River near Port Edward, the Cannery offers guided tours covering the canning industry and cannery life. There are original artifacts and architecture and you can have lunch in the Mess House. It's easy to get there even if you don't have a car. I took the 12:05 pm bus from in front of the Museum of Northwestern British Columbia. It costs $2.75 and takes about 30 minutes to get there.
- Walk Butze Rapids Trail. If you go to the Cannery in the morning rather than the afternoon as I did, you could stop off at Butze Rapids on your way back. Alternatively, you can take a bus specifically to go to the Butze Rapids Trail. It's a 6 km, easy-hiking trail that takes about 90 minutes, though the sign says 2 hours. The trail is well-groomed with a combination of old-growth forest and coastal wetlands. The trail is well-marked and well-used, so it's great for solo travelers.
- Eat seafood! Oh my, yes! Take advantage of the fact that you're on the ocean and eat fresh seafood. Go to Opa Sushi or Fukasaku of Prince Rupert for Japanese fare, Dolly’s Fish Market for a casual meal, or Cow Bay Cafe for a more upscale dinner. All are located in Cow Bay.
- Hike or paddle. Unless you've done a lot of research, I suggest that you go with a guide for hiking and canoeing around Prince Rupert. April of Outer Coast Outfitters was my host. April was first interested in what I wanted to do. She wanted to know my skill level and the type of gear I had. Then she suggested what trail we should take. She's knowledgeable and, given that it was a private tour, we chatted as she shared her perspective on environmental issues and her hometown. She is also happy to give you a short tour of Prince Rupert after your excursion.
- Go whale watching. Now, this is one thing I didn't do. Whale watching is somewhat controversial. It disturbs the whale's natural habitat and their natural behavior. There are two companies that offer whale watching tours. Prince Rupert Adventure Company has a rather large boat for the tours. They also do grizzly bear tours. Green Island Coastal Charters offer a smaller boat experience and also have fishing tours.
- Visit the Museum of Northern British Columbia. Housed in a magnificent west coast long house, the Museum of North BC has an amazing display of artifacts from Northwest coast nations from ancient times to the 20th century.
- Follow the town’s self-guided walking tour. And as you do, don’t miss the Sunken Garden. It's a sweet little oasis.
With the participation of the Government of Canada
Avec la participation du gouvernement du Canada.