Looking for an easy and fun getaway, with lots to do and see with very little work? Take a break and spend a couple of days away from your everyday life while you discover The Alberni Valley on Vancouver Island. A relaxing adventure with fun for all ages, this low maintenance getaway is packed with nature, culture and history, and some delicious dining!
NOTE: This is a small sampling of what the Alberni Valley has to offer. We’ve prepared a rather full itinerary (but it’s doable!), so feel free to pick and choose the things that appeal most to you!
Day 1: Start With a Quay, End With a Quay
Morning – Harbour Quay Waterfront + Spirit Square Farm Market
Start your day by getting your legs moving with a stroll through the Harbour Quay waterfront. Here you will find a colourful collection of shops, galleries, and eateries, and is also where you’ll find the clock tower, which grants panoramic views of the Alberni Inlet. Saturdays are the Spirit Square Farmers Market day where you will find plenty of fresh, locally grown produce as well as other goods made by local artisans. If you haven’t found a something to munch on yet, we suggest a stop for a quick and delicious breakfast wrap at the Homestead Cookhouse.
If you have younger kids, head over to the Waterfront Park for a ‘playground’ break. Afterwards (assuming you have any space left for a snack) we highly recommend the Donut Shop for a fresh, in-house made donut. The Best Donuts on Vancouver Island? We think so! We love the place so much we wrote an entire blog post about it!
Midday – Burde Pond + Lunch at Boomerangs Café
At this point you may have some excess energy to burn off (donuts will do that). No problem, try this short, easy hike – suitable for kids and dog friendly – to the picturesque Burde Pond. Takes about 22 minutes walking from the parking area on well-marked trail (trail head just off the Burde St.) A pretty walk through the forest up to the pond with very little elevation and well groomed trails. Known for being seldom busy, this quiet and serene trail is an excellent opportunity to try out forest bathing! BONUS – if you’re feeling like you need a longer stroll, there are many other trails in the vicinity.
“I love love the smell of nature and the absolute beauty of this walk. Definitely recommend for a morning stroll.” – Beth H, Google Reviews
With the hike completed you’re probably ready for lunch. Boomerangs Café is a favourite of locals and visitors alike. Offering a unique menu of Aussie-Canadian cuisine, it is loads of fun. Where else can you order a “Chook Philly Sanga” (A chicken philly cheesesteak sandwich) north of the 49th parallel?
Late Afternoon – Maritime Discovery Centre + Sunset Stroll on the Quay
Soak up some West Coast history at the Maritime Discovery Centre. Tour a selection of artifacts and photos, as well as some hands on activities to delight visitors of all ages. There is a lot to see and learn, including a completely restored Bamfield Lifeboat and a walk-through of the Lighthouse. If you don’t have time or happen to visit when the museum is closed, you can check out the virtual tour on their website.
Time to relax and let the day wind down. A short drive from the Maritime Museum, the Victoria Quay is a great place to enjoy the sunset and take in the view of Mt Arrowsmith. Upon arriving you will be greeted by two Welcome Figures. These towering giants were created by local Hupacasath First Nations carvers. You might notice that one of the figures’ faces the water while the other faces the land – this is to signify a welcoming to both visitors from the water and the land. Strolling along the boardwalk, keep your eyes open for wildlife across the bank of the Somass river. If you are lucky you may catch a glimpse of our resident black bear community!
Day 2: Culture and History
Morning – Brunch at Pescadores + Native Art Gallery + Petroglyphs
We hope you’ve enjoyed a good nights rest at your chosen accommodation. We suggest starting your morning with a hearty breakfast at an Alberni favourite, Pescadores’s Bistro. This delicious breakfast spot has an ample menu selection, and it also happens to be on the way to our next stop – the Ahtsik Native Art Gallery & Gordon Dick Studio.
The art gallery and woodcarving studio specializes in traditional art of the pacific northwest. They carry Nuu-chah-nulth art made at Gordon Dick Studio and the works of Kwakiutl and Coast Salish artists. The gallery is a unique opportunity to learn more about the art, culture and history of the local indigenous cultures that first settled the area.
Driving further down the Pacific Rim Highway towards Tofino/Ucluelet will take you to Sproat Lake Provincial Park. Once parked, head over to the day use area and follow the signage to the “K’ak’awin” petroglyphs, it is a lovely 5 minute walk along the beautiful lakeshore. Etched onto lakeshore rocks, these prehistoric images depict ancient mythological creatures and are some of the finest examples of petroglyphs found in British Columbia. Look for the interpretive signage as it will help explain the meaning of what the images are portraying.
Midday – Drive In Diner + Tressel Trail + Waterfall
Having worked up an appetite, we will head back to town for another Port Alberni local favourite and a nearly prehistorical landmark itself (we jest), the famous J&L Drive-In. This classic Drive In Diner has been serving the Alberni Valley faithfully for the past 53 years (continuing with our theme of Culture and History) we can’t think of a better place to stop for lunch. My favourite is the burger with a side of onion rings!
With a belly full of nostalgia and good food, you will want to get your legs moving again, and we have just the place. A short drive away is the beautiful Blair Park, this is one of our favourite parks in town because it offers plenty of green space and a fantastic playground for kids (bonus splash park for those warmer days!). You can also enjoy a lovely 15 minute walk along the Kitsuksis Dyke Trail up to the Kitsuksis Tressel and Waterfalls. Along the way, if the sky is clear, you will be able take in the view of Mt Arrowsmith. The Kitsuksis Tressel bridge and the peaceful Kitsuksis Creek falls are well worth the effort.
Late Afternoon – McLean Mill Self Guided Tour
Just a short drive 10 minute drive from Blair Park is the Mclean Mill National Historic Site, a former sawmill and logging operation located on 13 hectares of forested land in the Alberni Valley. A scenic walk through the site grounds is a great way to explore one of the major industries that was so influential in building many of the communities across Vancouver Island. Consider packing a lunch to enjoy at one of the many picnic tables set up all over the site. Open to visitors year round for self-guided tours. Stop in at the Store to get an interpretive map to guide you through the property, (plus sweet treats and souvenirs).
We hope you’ve enjoyed this post. As we mentioned at the beginning, it’s a full 2 days with plenty to eat, see and do! If you didn’t make it through everything, that’s OK – all the more reason to come back and visit us again.
Where to Stay
There are many choices for accommodation in the Alberni Valley! Here are two of our top choices that deliver convenience and comfort, great whether traveling solo, as a couple or a family.
A fantastic central location, useful amenities like on-site dining and an (outdoor) swimming pool, make the Best Western Plus Barclay Hotel hard to beat. Also worth checking out is the Hospitality Inn, offering a complimentary buffet breakfast and an indoor saltwater pool & hot tub. For those looking for something a little more adventurous (nothing too crazy, we promise) be sure to check out our “Unique Accommodations in the Alberni Valley” post for some more ideas.