Campbell River, or Wiwek̓a̱m, is a city of about 35,000 people (2016) on the east coast of Vancouver 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.
The 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 opened his Painter's Lodge in 1929. It 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. 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.
- 1 Campbell River Airport (YBL IATA) (located at the southwest edge of town off the Jubilee Parkway, exit 161 from the Inland Island Highway/Hwy 19). Served by Air Canada, Central Mountain Air and Pacific Coastal Airlines, primarily with connections to Vancouver.
Car rentals are available from the Arrivals area (Budget and National).
- Campbell River Airport Shuttle, ☏ . can take you into town.
Travelling 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.
- 1 Discovery Passage Aquarium, 705 Island Hwy, ☏ . mid-May to Sept: daily 10AM-5PM. Small aquarium that showcases local marine species. There are also touch tanks if you want to get hands-on with things like starfish. $8 (adult), $6 (senior), $5 (student).
- 2 Maritime Heritage Centre, 621 Island Hwy, ☏ . June-Aug: daily 10AM-4PM; Sept-May: M-F 10AM-4PM. Facility 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. $7 (adult), $5 (senior), $3.50 (child 6-18).
- 3 The Museum at Campbell River, 470 Island Highway, ☏ . Mid-May to Sept: 10AM-5PM; Oct to mid-May: Tu-Su noon-5PM. Museum 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. $8 (adult), $7 (senior), $5 (child 6-18); guided tours are an additional $4.
- Whale watching
- Grizzly Bear Tour
- Campbell River Whale Watching and Adventure Tours.
- Aboriginal Journeys.
- 1 Elk Falls Provincial Park, Hwy 28 (head west on Hwy 28 for 5-6 km; turn onto Brewster Lake Rd to access the day-use area for the falls). Just 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. Day use is free.
- Guided salmon fishing is also a very popular thing to do.
- Wei Wai Kum House Of Treasures Ltd, 1370 Island Highway (next to Moxie's Restaurant in the Discovery Harbour Shopping Centre), ☏ . This gallery features Northwest Coast First Nations art.
- Ridgerider Mens Wear, 920 Island Hwy, ☏ . Also sells Western apparel and gifts.
- Westcoastees, 910A Island Hwy, ☏ . West Coast-themed clothing and apparel.
- Caitlin's Kitchen, 2116 e S Island Highway Willow Point (opposite wood carvings on the island highway), ☏ . A relaxing cafe serving mostly breakfast and lunch
- Baan Thai Restaurant, 1090 Shoppers Row (Above Cheddar & Co.), ☏ . Baan Thai is downtown on Shopper's Row. It serves Thai cuisine and seems to be a local favourite.
- Best Wok, 936 Alder Street, ☏ . Chinese restaurant.
- San Marcos Steak House, 952 Shoppers Row, ☏ .
- White Tower Restaurant, 1920 Island Highway, ☏ . Steaks, pasta, pizza, Greek, Italian and Indian dishes.
- Dicks Fish And Chips, 1003B Island Hwy (On The Water), ☏ .
- Driftwood Restaurant, 4329 South Island Hwy (close to Oyster Bay), ☏ . 11:30AM-9PM. Chinese Smorgasboard, Western dishes also offered. Local favorite.
- Taste of Saigon, 969 Alder St, ☏ . Vietnamese restaurant.
- Ideal Cafe has seven types of hashbrowns.
- Painters Lodge has an amazing array of local food.
- Paramount Music Hall, 1140 Ironwood Road (Next to Popsey's Log Cabin Restaurant), ☏ . 10PM-2AM. Paramount 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.
- [dead link] Royal Coachman Neighbourhood Pub, 84 Dogwood Street, ☏ . Campbell River's only English-style pub.
- The Willow's Neighbourhood Pub, 521 Rockland Road, ☏ . 11:30AM-midnight. Great home made soups and pub food. Friendly atmosphere. Great prices
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.
|Routes through Campbell River|
|Port Hardy ← Telegraph Cove ←||N S||→ Courtenay/Comox → Nanaimo|
|Gold River ← Strathcona Provincial Park ←||W E||→ END|