What’s Open in Telegraph Cove During Covid
As of mid-July, British Columbia is in Phase 3 of our Provincial Restart Plan and things are slowly beginning to open up as we adjust to this ‘new normal’. Travel within BC is now allowed for both BC residents and Canadians from other provinces. For those planning a kayaking trip to Johnstone Strait and Telegraph Cove, and who want to explore other activities on the North Island, we’ve got some tips and suggestions that can keep you busy for an extra day or a week.
Whale Watching Tours in Telegraph Cove
Johnstone Strait is world renowned as a place to kayak with orcas and humpback whales, and as of this writing, the northern resident killer whales are starting to enter the Strait. Visitors to Telegraph Cove, who don’t have the time to do a paddling excursion (or want to see even more whales), may want to book with a commercial whale watching operator. Many tour companies are now running trips, and some even have steep discounts for local guests.
The Whale Interpretive Centre
Many paddlers and whale watchers to Telegraph Cove add a visit to the Centre to learn more about the majestic cetaceans they’ve come to see. Interpretive displays, scientific research and giant skeletons will impress visitors young and old.
The Centre was founded in 2002 to provide a venue in which to increase public awareness about the biology of marine mammals and the threats facing their populations. The Whale Interpretive Centre is home to one of the best collections of marine mammal skeletons in British Columbia.
Where to Get Groceries and Supplies
As of early August, Telegraph Cove’s only grocery store was still not open. The nearest place to buy any supplies is Port McNeill’s IGA, approximately 25mins drive from Telegraph cove. We suggest buying most groceries and supplies in Campbell River on the way up island.
Where to Eat in Telegraph Cove
As of this writing, The Killer Whale Cafe, (and adjoining pub which share the same menu and kitchen) is currently the only dining option in Telegraph Cove. The Cafe offers decent pub-style fare (at inflated tourist prices) such as seafood linguini, a fisherman’s platter, fish & chips and seafood chowder. Built over the water, with an interesting mix of yellow cedar, copper tables and one-of-a-kind stained glass windows and doors, it is worth a visit simply to enjoy the atmosphere of the Cove from the sheltered deck.
Where to Stay in Telegraph Cove
Telegraph Cove Resort offers a wide variety of accommodation choices. Take a step back in time and reside in one of the many Historic Homes, some dating back more than a century, or rent a Dockside Suite, a modern condominium complex with apartments overlooking the water and boardwalk.
For kayakers with motorhomes, vans or trailers, Telegraph Cove Marina and RV Park has 48 sites on the waterfront, each with full hookup. Some sites even have views over the water. Launch your kayak right from the marina.
First Nations Sites (Not Open)
Currently many of the First Nations communities and sites on the North Island remain closed, due to COVID, and may not be open for this season. Always check before visiting any cultural sites. Be respectful of their wishes and do not visit until after the pandemic. Here is a joint message from the Village of Alert Bay, ‘Namgis First Nation and the Whe-la-la-U Area Council Society and a message from the Da’naxda’xw First Nation.
Cape Scott Provincial Park
The Cape Scott Trail makes for a lovely three-day trek out to Nels Bight, a two kilometre stretch of white sand beach butting the rugged North Pacific. There are plenty of options for backcountry camping here with outhouses, bear caches and clean water sources nearby. The trail is a moderate 17 kilometre trek, with little elevation gain, that meanders through dense old growth forest, upland bog and across rivers. It is scattered with historical remains of the many settlements that have been attempted in the area. From Nels Bight, hikers can make a day trip out to the Cape Scott Lighthouse at Guise Bay, the sand neck, or one of the many pocket beaches brimming with intertidal marine life.
A Scenic Day Trip
San Josef Bay is another destination in the Park that is a wonderful day-trip option for those new to hiking or young families. The trailhead is a two-hour drive from Telegraph Cove and the easy 45-minute trail, to the stunning white sand beach, is wheelchair accessible. Camping is permitted on the beach and surrounding forest and there are outhouses, bear caches and a water source. San Josef Bay is home to the iconic sea stacks that you see so frequently in Instagram photos of Cape Scott Park. Visitors can also make a hike up Mount Saint Patrick, the highest peak in the Park, for panoramic views of the Pacific.
The Dave Farrant (Blinkhorn) Trail is a scenic 7.7 kilometer out and back trek located just east of the township of Telegraph Cove. It offers some of the best views of Johnstone Strait and the chance to spot whales and dolphins from shore. It is steep in sections and is rated as difficult. Begin the hike from the Forest Campground in Telegraph Cove. The trail ends at the Blinkhorn Peninsula, which becomes an island at tides above about 13’, so always check the tides before you go.
Huson Caves and Little Huson Park
Nestled in the Nimpkish Valley, just a 20 minute drive off the Island Highway, and less than an hour from Telegraph Cove, Little Huson Cave Park features many interesting limestone and rock arch formations. View the spectacular karst caves by the lake or walk the trail to see even more hiking and spelunking options.
Arguably the best surfing on the North Island, remote Raft Cove Provincial Park, on the northwest coast, is a wonderfully scenic spot, attracting wilderness adventurers for day hikes and backpackers with overnight gear to set up camp on the long crescent beach.
Accessed through Holberg, on the same road to Cape Scott, the west facing, white sand beach is a 90-minute hike in from the trailhead. This undeveloped park features a long spit and sandy bay at the mouth of the meandering Macjack River, rocky headlands and a wild coastal environment. Visitors should dress warmly and bring good rain gear at any time of the year, as Raft Cove is extremely exposed to the Pacific weather systems that pound this rugged coastline.
Take the ferry from nearby Port McNeill across to Sointula on Malcolm Island, for a day exploring a picturesque coastal community. Sointula has free bike rentals to explore the island and its cafes, art galleries and secluded coves. Bere Point is a beautiful beach offering camping and whale watching, and is a known ‘rubbing beach’ for the northern resident killer whales.
Sointula means ‘place of harmony’ in Finnish and was established as a community in the late 19th century when a colony of Finnish settlers arrived with utopian dreams. While that vision was derailed within a decade, there’s no question they chose a special place.
For those looking for off-the-beaten-track camping and wildlife viewing, a few days at Marble River could be a great excursion. Located on the road to Port Alice, Marble River offers camping, fishing, hiking, paddling, trail running and biking. Salmon can be seen spawning in the river in August and September
The 4.2-km Marble River Trail provides access to the river for visitors, and has interpretive signs along the way about the forest environment. Salmon spawning viewing areas are located near the trailhead and at Bear Falls, approximately two-thirds of the way down the trail. An interpretive sign and fish ladder are also located at Bear Falls. Visitors should be aware that black bears frequent the park, especially during salmon spawning season.
Located 15 kms up a logging road off of Beaver Cove Road (the road into Telegraph Cove), this beautiful forest campground has eight tent sites and overlooks a warm water lake that is great for swimming. Bring your paddle boards or canoes and set up a hammock in the forest. Canyoneering is also possible in the nearby Kokish River.
Northern Vancouver Island is a big area, with wide open spaces, pristine wilderness and delightful coastal communities. Go slow and experience the North Island on island time. Whatever your interests, you’ll find much to do and explore in and around Telegraph Cove before or after your kayaking trip.
For the most up to date list of what’s open, check the Vancouver Island North website.