Prince Rupert (250)624-6357
PRINCE RUPERT (population: 12,815) is located at the mouth of the Skeena River, on BC’s north coast. Lakes, mountains, islands and fjords contribute to the texture and drama of the scenery in the area, which is the ancestral homeland of the Tsimshian Nation. The city is actually located on Kaien Island, which is connected to the mainland by a small bridge. The climate is temperate and moist. Prince Rupert is best known as a fishing centre and a gateway city: it’s a terminus for rail, marine, air and highway travel. It is also the arrival and departure point for BC Ferries sailings from and to Port Hardy (on Vancouver Island) and the Queen Charlotte Islands, as well as for the Alaska Marine Highway’s ferry service to various Alaskan communities.
THINGS TO DO
Prince Rupert is a premier salmon fishing, kayaking, whale watching and bear viewing destination. It’s also rich in First Nations culture and history. Around the city you’ll find lots of beautiful shoreline to explore, opportunities for wilderness camping on uninhabited islands, Tsimshian archaeological sites, the most complete pioneer-era canning village on the west coast, hiking trails and natural wonders such as reversing tidal rapids.
When you’re in Prince Rupert proper, set aside some time for shopping in Cow Bay as well as for a totem pole tour, a live stage performance and a visit to the Museum of Northern BC.
The first people in the Prince Rupert area were the Tsimshian, who still thrive in numerous island and mainland villages. There are five significant Tsimshian archaeological sites on Laxspa’aws (Pike Island), including village sites that date back 1,800 years. Access to the island is only possible via a guided tour. The Tsimshian were, and are, master carvers; a collection of their totem poles, one of the best on the west coast, is located in Prince Rupert. The Museum of Northern BC offers guided walking tours of the totem poles and other heritage sites, as well as exceptional exhibits chronicling thousands of years of north coast history.
After Prince Rupert was incorporated in 1910, first railroading and then fishing became the city’s major economic drivers. Visit the Kwinitsa Railway Station Museum for a look at the history of railroading in the area and the North Pacific Historic Fishing Village (a National Historic Site) for a taste of life in a cannery village. At the latter, you can take a guided tour of displays and exhibits housed in period buildings, watch a play about the north coast fishery, shop at the gift shop, dine and even stay overnight on the site.
Some of Prince Rupert’s most exciting attractions focus on its rich Aboriginal heritage. The Museum of Northern BC, itself a major attraction, offers guided tours of a number of cultural sites in the summer months. One of the best collections of standing totem poles on the west coast is located in Prince Rupert. Important archaeological sites on nearby Laxspa’aws (Pike Island) include village sites that date back 1,800 years. Southeast of Prince Rupert, in Port Edward, is the most complete, pioneer-era cannery village on the west coast. Built in 1889, the North Pacific Historic Fishing Village, a National Historic Site, comprises 28 buildings scattered over 18 ha (45 ac). You can take a guided tour of displays and exhibits housed in original cannery buildings, watch a play about the north coast fishery, shop the gift shop, dine and even spend the night.
Other Prince Rupert attractions include the Kwinitsa Railway Station Museum; Cow Bay, a historic commercial district on the city’s waterfront; and Butze Rapids, a reversing, tidal rapid.
NATURAL SIGHTS PARKS AND WILDLIFE
One of the best ways to enjoy the scenery around Prince Rupert is to take a scenic drive to Terrace along Highway 16. The roadway has many rest stops for enjoying views that include mountain, river and lake scenery. In springtime, bald eagles and seals can be seen in and around the Skeena River fishing for Eulachons. In early summer, mountain goats can be seen on the cliffs south of the Skeena.
Just east of Prince Rupert, the Butze Rapids are a set of reversing tidal rapids best viewed an hour after high tide. The viewpoint for the rapids is accessed by a 4.8-km (3-mi) hiking loop through old-growth forest.
The north coast is one of the best places in North America to view bears and whales, but you do have to get off the beaten track to see them. Most of the best wildlife viewing opportunities around Prince Rupert are air or water access-only. Grizzlies and black bears can be seen around Khutzeymateen Inlet and other inlets north of Prince Rupert. Humpbacks and other whales are also to be found in waters north of the city.