As autumn sets in, the Alberni Valley grows a little quieter. This turn of the seasons is marked by the rich, golden leaves that blanket the intricate trail system at the base of the Beaufort Range, along with the jumping salmon who have made their way back to the Stamp River to spawn.
While the air is a little cooler and mistier at this time of year, local resident and owner of Walk the Coast, Anita Sutherland said November is one of the best months to experience the richness the Alberni Valley holds.
Born and raised in Port Alberni, Sutherland is no stranger to the valley and describes it as one of the “most beautiful places on the planet.”
WATCH: Shop and Stroll
To experience it from the lens of a local, follow Sutherland’s guide on how best to spend 48 hours in her hometown.
Shop, stroll Port Alberni #ExplorePortAlberni
Locals’ suggested fall itineraries
Day One: Salmon, history and a treat
Begin your day at Stamp River Provincial Park, where you can access viewing platforms to watch the sockeye salmon as they return to their natal river to spawn. If you’re lucky, Sutherland said you might even spot a black bear on the other side of the river looking for its next meal.
Next, head to the McLean Mill National Historic Site for a self-guided tour. Maps are available at the Mill Store and will guide you on a journey back in time. The historic site contains 35 intact buildings and structures that gives viewers a glimpse of what life looked like when the sawmill and logging operation was still running during the first half of the 20th century.
From there, make your way to Coombs Country Candy for a tasty treat. Filled with artisan chocolates, an array of ice cream and sorbet options, along with gourmet popcorn, there is something to satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth.
Day Two: Lunch, shopping and craft beer
Start your day with an early lunch at Bare Bones Fish House & Smokery. Sutherland’s personal favourite is their crispy tempura-style batter fish and chips.
Then, walk around town to visit the variety of independent local shops that supply one-of-a-kind items unique to the west coast. You can’t miss McLellan & Co., a newly opened home goods store that offers expert decor and styling service, or The Blue Fish Gallery, which has a lovely selection of locally made pottery, jewelry, paintings and textiles.
Finish your day at Twin City Brewing Company, a local watering hole that serves up award-winning locally-crafted beer.
Chances are once you’ve spent a couple days here, you’ll want to spend a couple more.
Billy Leach is the owner of Totally Board Surf Shop and has been keeping the stoke on all things west coast since he first moved to the Alberni Valley 12 years ago.
For Leach, November is the perfect time of year to visit the valley because Stamp Falls is alive with sockeye salmon who have returned to spawn. “There’s lots of water and rain now so the waterfalls are really amazing,”
Leach chooses to make Port Alberni home because of its centrality. “It’s accessible to everything,” he said. “There’s [Sproat] Lake, the river, bicycling, it’s close to the coast, it’s close to Nanaimo, there’s just so much to do here all of the time.”
But in the end, “I love the Alberni Valley because of the people,” he said. “It’s the people that make the place and that’s truly why I love being here.”
To discover his favourite hotspots, follow Leach’s 48-hour guide of Port Alberni.
Day One: Hiking, waterfalls, live music
Wake up with the sun by hiking up Gracie’s Lookout. This out-and-back trail can be accessed from behind Coombs Country Candy and boasts panoramic views of the Alberni Valley.
From there, make your way to Weiner Falls. With the surge of rain at this time of year, go chase some waterfalls.
Find cover from the rain at Rainbow Room, a live music venue with a top-notch sound system and bowling alley.
Day Two: Biking, Log Train Trail, dinner
Get your body moving by biking the Fir Baby Trail, an intermediate level flow trail that boasts a number of natural features.
Slow things down by going for a stroll along the Log Train Trail, which winds along the foot of the Beaufort Range through second-growth forest filled with Douglas Fir and Hemlock trees.
End your day at Little Bavaria, an authentic German restaurant featuring schnitzel and Hungarian goulash.
More #ExplorePortAlberni goods
This is the second in the “Love for the Alberni Valley” series featuring local tips from Alberni residents and creatives. Check out the first in the series here, featuring tips and itineraries from Nilo DuPlessis of Antidote Distilling, and Celia Auclair of Forest for Dinner.
For more ways to #ExplorePortAlberni, be sure to check out the stories on ZenSeekers.com, covering hiking, waterfalls, food and more.