Where the Highway Ends, Adventure Begins

A small town in B.C. known for more than just its scenery

Laina Southgate  CONTRIBUTOR

Photo: Port Hardy, British Columbia (Laina Southgate / THE MIKE).

I grew up in a little coastal town called Port Hardy, British Columbia. It is a sleepy fishing village and resource town that primarily depends on fishing and logging, and it is isolated and far away from anything else on the north end of Vancouver Island. In order to get to Port Hardy from Vancouver, one must take the ferry to Victoria or Nanaimo and then drive four hours up the island on a road that shrinks to two lanes with lots of curves after Campbell River. Don’t worry, there is no risk that you will miss it: Port Hardy is the end of the road. In fact, our slogan celebrates this by stating: “Where the Highway Ends and Adventure Begins.” The only way north from here is by ferry.

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Laina with a ling cod fish, caught in Port Hardy, B.C. (Laina Southgate / THE MIKE).

The town is on Hardy Bay which makes a safe harbour for commercial fishing boats. The commercial docks are busy all year and there are several fish-packing plants on pilings, receiving their fish from the big trawlers and smaller trawlers. A path runs along the shore of the bay on the west side and people walk, jog, and ride the path every day. The beach has sand in places with cobbles and blocky sandstone outcrops everywhere else. Eagles sit in many trees and whistle at passersby. The town is sleepy with a clutch of businesses on Market Street and a loop of municipal road with clusters of small residential neighbourhoods. There is no stoplight in Port Hardy and the population is stable at around four thousand people. The east side of the bay is a rugged peninsula covered in trees and framed by the massive coastal mountains far in the distance on the other side of Queen Charlotte Sound. It is a beautiful place haunted by the shrouds of mist that are omnipresent on the west coast in winter.

  Port Hardy  (Laina Southgate / THE MIKE).   Port Hardy (Laina Southgate / THE MIKE).

Growing up in a place such as Port Hardy has its perks, mostly in that we have access to some of the best fishing, hiking, wildlife, and scenery around. As a university student in a big city, I have become a visitor here, so I hike and fish as much as I can when I am home for winter and summer holidays. Fishing is my favourite activity, and for good reason: Port Hardy has spectacular fishing. If there is one cliché that is painfully true for fishing, it is that the early bird really does get the worm. Regardless of whether I am fishing in a lake, river, or the ocean, a successful day hinges on getting up before daybreak, rain or shine. Fishing depends on the season, and considering that I am usually home during the summer I usually fish on the ocean for spring salmon, sockeye salmon, and pink salmon if they are running that year. It is a rare treat if I can go fishing for steelhead, which is what I (luckily) got to do this holiday break. Fishing for steelhead can be an ordeal if I am fishing in a river such as this Christmas in the Nahwitti River. It is gorgeous but cold, and during winter, fast and deep at times. I wear waders to fish the Nahwitti, and I enjoy crossing the river to get to the best fishing holes. It is always a long day, but the strike on the line after a solid cast is very exciting, particularly if I land the fish. Then, if I am lucky, we rewind the tape and play it again tomorrow. I love fishing. Hopefully I can do it again soon and visit the little town I love so dearly.