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The town (or should I say village?) of Port Hardy plays host to a bombardment of tourists who are awaiting the early morning departure of the ferry to begin the famous Inside Passage trip to Prince Rupert. Every other day, coach loads of tourists arrive and fill the sleepy town's hotels to the point of bursting--and then all is calm for another day! Book your hotel well in advance as it won't be easy to simply arrive and expect to find a room the night before a ferry departure!
The town is very quiet generally, with next to nothing to do except call into a local bar or restaurant and drink and eat till you drop. The scenery is fantastic, as is the scenery in most of this area, with small coves, beaches, forests and open sea. If you're lucky you will see whales, seals, bald eagles and the occasional bear crossing the road.
A nature lover's paradise without a doubt, but with little to do except do a spot of walking or fishing. If you have the time, hire a boat for a couple of hours to see the islands around the small bay or go whale watching. The hotels and boat hire in the area are expensive, due to the heavy tourist traffic, but the folk in the township are friendly and hospitable.
The Quarterdeck Hotel. Comfortable but poor value for money; within easy reach of the ferry terminal at 4 in the morning!! And the hotel staff were helpful, though a bit stressed with an incoming coach of visitors late in the evening. A shuttle service is always available for getting from airport to hotel or vice versa, and for the early morning drive to the ferry! Not cheap, but essential.
Have a little walk down the town while you're there, check out the local steak house on the left of the main road opposite the information centre. Good food, we recommend their fresh clam chowder, but a bit pricey. There's about 6 or 7 bars/restaurants to choose from and this seemed to be the most inviting to us.
Small, friendly but terribly quiet. Great as a starting point, giving you a day or half day to relax before your long journey begins. The flight from Vancouver is expensive but comfortable and on time from the south terminal at Richmond. Don't make the mistake of confusing the domestic flight departures area at North Terminal... it's about 6 miles due south and you need to get a taxi or shuttle (runs hourly!). You can check in your luggage up to 10 mins before flight time.
Have a good trip... by the way, the ferry on the Inside Passage is magnificent especially the last 6 hours of the trip and around sunset, that's about 11:30 pm in May! Book a cabin, it's a long journey and you really will need your privacy and somewhere to get your head down, if only for several hours.
With the sinking of the ferry Queen of the North on this route on 22 March 2006, there is now only a single ferry doing the Inside Passage route until further notice. So make very sure of your pre-trip planning, especially your ferry reservations.