Port Alberni

20 Reviews

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September, 2017

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It is when you have a moment to yourself and stop to reflect on life, the universe and such things, that you realise that when you are travelling you rarely find those little interesting places on the outbound journey, only the return. Perhaps you are less open to the possibilities and more focused on reaching that predetermined goal. Such was the situation on our recent foray into Vancouver Island.

On the face of it, Port Alberni is a rather non-descript little town, straddling highway 4 on the downward western slope from Mount Arrowsmith, roughly a third of the way between the east and west coasts. A scattering of low rise housing, a gas station, and some varied small shops offer nothing to spark your interest as you hurry to the bottom of the hill and turn right to head for Tofino. A couple of days later, however, we are not in such a hurry and are in need of a break, so instead of turning left at the junction to go up and over the hill, we carry straight on wondering what delights the town centre has to offer.

As it is Sunday, the roads are quite quiet and we progress with little interruption, past a large factory which we later found to be a paper mill. On into the town and the road doubles in width to become a four-lane highway, which is just as well because the buildings remained as unimposing as the outskirts. After about ½ Km the road returned to normal, so we turned around and headed back wondering if this had been but an echo of a more prosperous past. Noticing a sign directing us to the Quayside, we gladly turned hoping that there may be something of interest there.

Obeying the sign to turn left, we headed for the quayside and parked up by the waterfront. The immediate reaction is one of disbelief, because the water in front of us is not fresh lake water, but salty sea water. We are back at sea level and not in a mountain valley as we, and our senses, expected. A quick look at a nearby map confirms that we have been hoodwinked and are at the head of the Alberni Inlet some 40Km from the coast. To recover from this shock, we take coffee and donuts at a small café by the waterfront to take stock. The quayside hosts a commercial harbour for freighters, a ferry dock and one for private and pleasure boats, and some rather nice large stylised carvings of eagles, salmon and even an Octopus. It is amazing what can be achieved with a chain saw in the right hands. There is also a small aquarium and a couple of cafes and gift shops and because it is Sunday there is a small craft fair set up in a small square offering the usual trinkets.

We find out that these days the main attractions for tourists in the Port Alberni area are salmon fishing and outdoor activities: hiking; mountain biking etc. I may be wrong, but unless you have come here to partake in any of these activities there seemed little to offer the traveller, except for a pleasant short refreshment break on the way to somewhere else. However, it was Sunday after all and maybe things will look better tomorrow, but tomorrow we will be in Victoria.


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