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24 Things to do in Campbell River, Vancouver Island

24 Things to do in Campbell River, Vancouver Island

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Campbell River is located on the east coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. This gorgeous coastal city is an international tourist destination thanks to everything from skiing and salmon fishing to its cute downtown area, craft beer tastings, and resort experiences.  

Your visit to Campbell River will make you feel like you’ve found an escape from hectic city life and a hub for outdoor adventures that can leave you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated! Explore Elk Falls, go bear watching, visit the Discovery Passage aquarium, indulge at Freya Croissants, and enjoy all of the other gems this city offers. 

This city is one of the best places to visit on Vancouver Island, hands down. We love visiting Campbell River as tourists, and I”m sure after reading this blog you’ll understand why!

With so many options available, finding just the right Vancouver Island itinerary for you can be difficult, which is why we have put together 24 of our favorite things to do in Campbell River. You deserve a fun, stress-free adventure, and we’re here to help! 

About Campbell River, Vancouver Island

Scenic views of the wharf in Campbell River, BC
Campbell River is stunning!

Campbell River is one of the best places to visit in British Columbia. It’s just over 4 hours from the bustling city of Vancouver via road and ferry, but it is so worth the trip. Its location on Vancouver Island makes it the perfect place to enjoy all the nature of the region, from beaches and forests to waterfalls and more.  

Vancouver Island is about half the size of Ireland, at over 31,000 square kilometers (over 12,000 square miles), with Campbell River being the 3rd largest city on the island. But despite its small-town charm, the city has so much to do and is near plenty of eco-adventures and cultural treasures.  

The river, and village, which was originally founded in 1904, were named after Samuel Campbell, a British naval surgeon that used to be stationed in the area. Campbell River has since developed into a proper city.  

It was also named one of the top five ‘quality of life’ destinations in North America by Foreign Direct Investment magazine.  This makes sense since you can find the perfect balance of adventure and relaxation here. The place has plenty of sports, nature, culture, education, and fine dining. 

Things to do in Campbell River

1. Explore Elk Falls Provincial Park and Protected Area

Elk Falls in Elk Falls Provincial Park and Protected Area near Campbell River, BC
Elk Falls is the main attraction!
Views of the cliffs and waterfall at Elk Falls Provincial Park and Protected Area, Vancouver Island
The entire area is stunning!

Elk Falls Provincial Park and Protected Area is one of the top natural attractions in the area. In the park, you’ll find a huge waterfall (Elk Falls), hiking trails, a newly built suspension bridge, as well as a campground. It also has excellent facilities including well-kept trails, campgrounds, flush toilets, and running water. 

The day-use area’s parking lot leads into multiple trails which take you directly to viewpoints and the suspension bridge that offers incredible views of Elk Falls – a towering 25-meter-tall waterfall! This is definitely the highlight of the park and the reason most people visit.

The walk to Elk Falls is easy at 1.4 km (0.9 mi) long. Everything but the stairs and bridge itself are extremely accessible and great for those who want to get out into nature without worrying about mobility concerns.  When we did it, we saw plenty of families with young children on the trail, so we’d say it is a family-friendly activity. It only took us about an hour to walk to Elk Falls and back – and that’s with taking plenty of photos on the bridge and at the falls!

But besides the short trail to Elk Falls, the park has an extensive 6 km (3.7 mi) trail system and a wide variety of hiking, with most individual trails clocking in at 1 to 4 km (.6 to 2.5 mi). You can combine hikes, do multiple in one day, or try to complete all the hikes during your stay here. 

On top of the amazing hikes, you have the chance to go cycling, fishing, swimming, wildlife viewing, and even bring the dogs along…just be sure to keep them on a leash! 

If you want to stay longer (and you probably will!), you can camp overnight at one of 122 campsites. 70 of the sites are reservable, and the rest operate on a first-come, first-served basis. To make sure you get a campsite, make a reservation online – that’s what we did! Peak season camping goes for $22 CAD a night per spot, but it’s half off in the winter at just $11 CAD a night, and RV dump stations cost $5 CAD per discharge. 

Of course, just visiting for the day is completely free!

No matter what you choose to do at this provincial park, it should take you no more than 5 minutes to get there by car from Campbell River, making it one of the top attractions in the area.

During the operating seasons, park gates are opened at 7 am and closed again at 11 pm unless any signage tells you otherwise.  

Related Read: Vancouver Island has plenty of parks and hiking trails. Check out the beautiful trees and hiking opportunities at Cathedral Grove.

2. Go whale watching

An Orca off the coast of Vancouver Island
One of the coolest experiences on Vancouver Island!

One of the top BC activities to do here is whale watching. It’s a wonderful way to see nature in this area and get up close and personal with one of the great animals that inhabits its waters. It should come as no surprise that whale watching on Vancouver Island is super popular!

We did this whale watching tour and it was absolutely amazing! We got to enjoy 4 hours in Desolation Sound and the Salish Sea. Of course, we spent our time watching whales, but we also got to enjoy snacks and beverages and meet the people in our group, which was capped at 10 people to make it a more personalized, less ‘touristy’ tour. 

The tour is $225 CAD, which includes safety gear and a remote boat journey that you wouldn’t be able to do on your own. The fuel surcharge and taxes are included, too, so there aren’t any surprises later. It was well worth it for such a unique experience, in my opinion! 

If you prefer a longer excursion on the water, I recommend this 7 hour big animal encounter. On this tour, whales aren’t the only star of the show. Also located in the Desolation Sound area, this longer tour gives you a chance to see dolphins, sea lions, harbor seals, bald eagles, and a bunch of colorful seabirds up close! 

The trip (with taxes and fees) comes to $350 CAD and includes breaks to see shops and historical sites, lunch, snacks, drinks, and a maximum of 12 people in your group. 

Both tours are so much fun, and the longer one offers such a different experience that you could do both, if boat tours and marine life are your thing. You can book the shorter, 4-hour whale watching tour here or secure your spot on the 7-hour big animal encounter online here.

3. Swim at the Oyster River Potholes

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie at Oyster River Potholes in Campbell River, BC
This place is so cool!
Bailey relaxes in the Oyster River Potholes  in Campbell River, BC
If you can brave the cold!

The natural potholes and crystal clear water at Oyster River create a neat natural attraction located just outside of Campbell River.

Hang out on the rocks, find yourself a private spa (and by “spa” I mean ice-cold plunge pool!), and take a dip in the river on a hot day. Though you should be warned, the water is extremely cold as the river comes from glacier runoffs. However, that makes it super refreshing!

The natural pools only appear in summer and fall as spring runoff from the mountains raises the river level above the pools.

How to get to the potholes:

The Oyster River potholes are located just off Highway 19.

From Campbell River, head south on Hwy 19 (Inland Island Highway). When you get to the bridge that crosses over the Oyster River, park on the side of the road and go through the fence, which will take you to a path leading down to the river.

From Campbell River, it’s only a 15-minute drive. If you’re coming from Saratoga Beach in the east, it’s approximately a 5-minute drive.

And if you’re traveling from Courtenay to Campbell River, it makes a perfect stop en route!

Parking at the potholes is a little dangerous because it’s on the highway. However, there is room to pull right over, giving you around 2 to 4 meters (2 to 4 yards) of clearance from the highway. You can park on either side of the road but we found the right side (coming southbound from Campbell River) to be the best. Of course, be very careful and only do so at your own risk!

4. Quinsam River Hatchery

Fish swim at Quinsam River Hatchery  
There are so many salmon!
Salmon swim at Quinsam River Hatchery on Vancouver Island
It’s also a great place to see bears!

The rivers of Vancouver Island, including where the Quinsam River Hatchery is located, are wonderful spots to view returning salmon. However, you must go during the right season – from the end of July until mid-November. Watching this seasonal event, along with salmon fishing, are internationally renowned activities that people travel quite far for.  

Quinsam River is one of the largest salmon rearing hatcheries in all of Canada. In fact, you can see juvenile salmon here all year long, from 8 am until 3:30 pm daily.  

As much fun as it is to see the salmon and enjoy this free area, it’s also possible you’ll see bears drawn to the river for the same reason you are…the fish! So, keep an eye out, respect their space, and bring bear spray. Hopefully you won’t need this, but it’s good to be prepared just in case. We did see a couple of bears, but kept our distance and we were fine.

You can easily access the hatchery just off Highway 28, a 5-minute drive from the city center.  

I recommend this stop not only because it’s cool to see, but because the local Fisheries and Ocean department do so much great work with the community and truly support the ecosystems around them. 

5. Go bear watching

A black bear in Campbell River during a bear watching tour
Seeing bears is still memorizing even after all these years traveling Canada!

Speaking of bears, it’s good to be safe, but you also don’t have to fear them. Instead, add them to the itinerary! 

There is a great full-day bear watching tour from Campbell River that gives you a truly immersive experience. It’s the only bear tour from Campbell River that is indigenous-owned, and the tour reflects those values.  

In the same way that the hatchery contributes to the wildlife and people of Vancouver Island, this bear tour contributes to the economy and cultural recovery initiatives of the Homalco First Nation people.  

It’s great to see that tours can be so much fun but also benefit local organizations and needs.  

For $503 CAD, you get an 8-hour tour that includes bear viewing, whale watching, and a chance to learn about the local culture. You’ll explore the area from the Salish Sea to Orford Bay and finally back to Campbell River. Since this is a long tour, you get snacks and drinks throughout, as well as a lunch with your group (which is capped at 12 people). 

It’s a very well-rounded tour that opens your eyes in many ways! To reserve your spot, book this tour online here.

6. Visit the Museum at Campbell River

Bailey looks at machinery at the museum of Campbell River 
Learn some history!
An old car at the museum of Campbell River, Vancouver Island
And see some old stuff!

The Museum at Campbell River is a great way to get a peek into Northern Vancouver Island history and often hosts local events and family activities.  

Not only did I learn about the community’s history, but I also got the chance to interact with passionate locals who love sharing their knowledge. It gave me a better understanding of this region and how special it truly is.  

You can get in with general access for $5-8 CAD (~$3-6 USD) depending on age. If you have a family with 2 adults and any kids under 19, though, you can pay $20 CAD (~$15 USD) for the entire group.  

Some permanent exhibits include the Transitions gallery, First Nations collections, and Sportfishing, among others.  

The museum is located by Sequoia Park just off the coast. During the summer months they are open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. In winter, they’re closed on Mondays, but open Tuesdays through Sundays from noon to 5 pm.

7. Visit Miracle Beach

A man kayaks at Miracle Beach near Campbell River, BC
It’s a beautiful beach!

This is another great attraction not far from Campbell River. Miracle Bay Provincial Park is located halfway between Campbell River and Courtenay.

This is a beautiful stretch of beach to explore during the summer, and there is even a Miracle Beach Campground located within the park if you want to stay overnight. Sites are $33 CAD per night in the summer and $13 CAD in the winter. It’s best to book ahead online. Otherwise the sites are first-come, first-serve.

There is a 2 km (1.2 mi) trail system starting at the day-use area and taking you out into the old-growth forest. You can also check out the Nature House and an Amphitheatre where educational talks, activities, and movie nights are hosted through the summertime. 

Related Read: Qualicum Beach is another coastal spot on Vancouver Island with small-town charm, museums, and nature activities. If you’re heading further South along Highway 19, check out all the best things to do in Qualicum Beach.

8. Drink delicious craft beer

Daniel and Bailey at Beach Fire Brewing Company, Campbell River, BC
Beer tasting paddle at Beach Fire Brewing Company
So delicious!

Not to play favorites, but when it comes to craft beer in Campbell River, we really loved Beach Fire Brewing Company.  

If you like a pale ale, High Tide was my favorite choice, but Beach Fire Brewing also has a variety of house ales, lagers, and IPAs to choose from. 

Plus, they have tasty food options to go with their craft beer. Their parmesan bites are super yummy, especially because of the béchamel sauce and various chutneys that come with it. When it comes to their meal and dessert menu, you have quite the selection, but I must say – the carrot cake is my top choice.  

They’re open Tuesday-Saturday from noon until 9 pm and then on Sundays from noon to 5 pm and are the perfect spot to kick back with some food and drinks after a tour, or as a refueling break while checking out the downtown.  

9. Go fishing

A man fishing in Stamp River Provincial Park
With so many salmon around, how hard can it be?

As you might have gathered, fishing is a huge part of local life on Vancouver Island. But you can also enjoy it as a visitor! It’s a relaxing way to get outdoors and enjoy the river.

Coastal Wilderness Adventures is a great company that takes you to one of the best places to fish on the island. You can head over to a tour with one of their many fishing charters to see why Campbell River is referred to as the ‘Salmon Capital of the World.’ 

You can experience saltwater and freshwater fishing excursions, and the more that you want to do, the more that you can sign up for. Salmon fishing, flyfishing, heli fishing, and steelhead fishing are all options and are offered at different trip lengths to fit around your scheduled time on Vancouver Island.  

There’s even one trip that is a women’s only flyfishing adventure, so that you can learn to flyfish with no pressure…and you can choose to stay at an oceanfront retreat while you’re at it. The weekend retreat includes a day of flyfishing followed by a rejuvenating day at the spa.

Their rates vary depending on the number of people and season, and start at $170 CAD per hour for saltwater fishing, $900 CAD per day for freshwater fishing, and $7,100 CAD for a day of heli fishing. For packages and customized trips, you’ll need to contact the company directly.

Related Read: If you’re a fishing enthusiast, you might also enjoy these activities in Lake Cowichan on Vancouver Island.

10. Fill your belly at Dave’s Bakery

Bailey enjoys a meal at Dave’s Bakery in Campbell River, BC
Dave’s is a local favorite!
A huge sandwich at Dave’s Bakery in Campbell River, BC
The best sandwiches are found at Dave’s!

If you love good food (and who doesn’t?!), then I have a treat for you!

Everything at Dave’s Bakery is fantastic, but we especially loved the sandwiches. You can’t go wrong with the Rueban. There are so many croissants and sweet baked goods to choose from, and I noticed they have a variety of vegetarian options, too. 

Like any good local bakery, they keep things fresh and change their menu every day. They have a rotating schedule of fresh breads, homemade soups of the day, mini pizzas, salads, and sandwiches that frequent the menu. 

There are also lots of great drinks that can help kickstart your morning before you head out to enjoy your adventures around the island. I liked their Colombian coffee and their European style espresso drinks the most!

The bakery is open Tuesday- Friday from 9 am – 5 pm, and  Saturday from 9 am – 4 pm. It’s conveniently located just off the South Island Highway that runs along the coast.  

11. Go skiing

view from the top of Mount Washington Alpine Resort in the winter
The views are my favorite part about skiing.

Skiing is an essential activity if you’re spending the winter months near Vancouver. The scenery is so beautiful on Vancouver Island this time of year and snow sports are the best way to take it all in. Even if skiing isn’t your thing, but you want to learn, there are always lessons to take!

Mount Washington is without a doubt the best ski resort on Vancouver Island and will have you ready to make the trip back for winter seasons to come. They have a wide variety of paths to ski on, ranging from beginner hills to cross country trails and everything in between. 

Lessons range from $45 CAD to $104 CAD and you can buy everything from day passes to season passes, rent equipment when needed, or bring your own. Alpine day passes are sold for half-day, full-day, or nighttime skiing, and range from $44-130 CAD. The Nordic trail day passes, for cross country skiing, average about $30 CAD..

The Alpine resort also has a dedicated Nordic Lodge and Centre surrounded by well-maintained cross-country ski trails, saunas, and family-friendly activities including fat biking, snowshoeing, and even the occasional Saturday night snowshoe fondue!  

Occasionally, the resort has ‘Discovery Days’ where they open the slopes for free to those who haven’t skied, snowboarded, or cross-country skied before. This isn’t offered every season so you’ll need to check their events page for updates and be there at the right time to take advantage of this. However, it really shows the love that this resort has for sharing skiing with everyone. 

Located inland from Campbell River, Mount Washington is a 40–50-minute drive from town. However, you get to drive through beautiful mountains and see lots of sights on your way.

If you’re staying overnight here, Mount Washington offers accommodations in the village, slopeside, or the valley. Lodges tend to be $220-$330 CAD and there are private accommodations in the village that are often less expensive per night and may even have more space.

I’d recommend heading over in time to check into your hotel and spend the first night enjoying dinner and getting settled before a skiing weekend. This way, you’ll get to spend some time in town, enjoy the sights along your drive, and not have to worry about storing your luggage until a room is ready for you.  

Alternatively, you can always head down to the mountain for the day, but you might have quite a tiring drive back to Campbell River at the end of it.

Parking is free and close if you’re driving yourself, and if you’re ready to rough it, there are also plenty of free campsites in this area. All of this is first-come, first-serve. 

12. Shop at Wei Wai Kum House of Treasures

Wei Wai Kum House of Treasures mask
Photo credit: Wei Wai Kum House of Treasures 
A mask at Wei Wai Kum House of Treasures 
Photo credit: Wei Wai Kum House of Treasures 

This First Nation art gallery showcases incredible works from dishware to jewelry, clothing to home accessories, and more. There are so many amazing works at Wei Wai Kum House of Treasures, which are made by local artists and are available in all price ranges in case you want to take something home!

You can visit daily from 10 am to 5 pm, so that you don’t have to go out of your way to make the stop. Just head over while you are in the Discovery Harbour Shopping Center, which is up toward the north part of Campbell River.  

Another reason to visit is to check out the architecture. The House of Treasures is built in a style that is based on the look of traditional Big Houses, so that visitors can get a feel for the traditional architectural styles of the First Nations. 

13. Explore Strathcona Provincial Park

Buttle Lake in Strathcona Provincial Park, Vancouver Island
Buttle Lake in Strathcona Provincial Park, Vancouver Island

One of the best, yet simplest, things to do in this area is to explore the provincial parks and just enjoy the nature of the island. Strathcona Provincial Park is the oldest provincial park in British Columbia, designated in 1911. 

The park is about 40 minutes from Campbell River and is primarily underdeveloped. If you appreciate untamed wilderness settings, you’ll love hiking and backpacking in the alpine regions here. However, you can also enjoy a few areas around Buttle Lake and Forbidden Plateau that are more developed and visitor oriented. 

Trails in Strathcona Provincial Park range from 3 to 11 km (1.8 to 6.8 mi) in the Buttle Lake area and 1.5 to 14 km (.9 – 8.7 mi) in Forbidden Plateau, but there are also trails that are as short as 400 m (.25 mi) or as long as a 32 km (20 mi) loop. You can find something for every level of hiker and won’t have a hard time doing so. 

Buttle Lake is the park’s main body of water and offers amazing fishing and canoeing. There are many nature conservation areas, along with activities like climbing, cycling, hiking, horseback riding, and even hunting. We enjoyed some interpretive programs put on by the Strathcona Wilderness Institute, which is a non-profit, volunteer-run society.  

You can take some time to learn about the geology of your park, which will undoubtedly make your visit better, because it boasts a history spanning back 380 million years. From volcanic eruptions to ancient seafloors and ice ages of the past, Strathcona is spectacular, and its constructive history is hard to overlook. 

The park is open to the public all year round, though you can reserve certain campgrounds or sites during different times of the year. Camping fees are most often based on the number of people in your party, but this also changes based on the campground. At Ralph River and Buttle Lake, prices per party are $20 CAD in summer and $11 CAD in winter.

Backcountry camping, vehicle-accessible camping, and standard campsites are available though some are open to reserve or walk-in, so do your research and decide which type of camping you’d prefer. It could save you a headache at the park itself to already have your accommodation planned, if not fully reserved ahead of time

14. Walk the Fisherman’s Wharf

Bailey walks the wharf in Campbell River, BC
The best views are found along the wharf!

The main wharf in town is huge, and a beautiful way to get out and enjoy the sights of Campbell River. You’ll see lots of people fishing from here, but the walk is nice in and of itself. 

You’ll pass by the Discovery Passage Aquarium and even a food spot on your walk around the wharf. We had a lovely unplanned day at the wharf and ended up strolling for hours, enjoying the view and eating some food.

This is a great way to kill some time before a tour, or to keep from spending money on the tail end of your trip. Enjoy looking at all the boats and access the wharf itself from 8 am to 4 pm daily, though you’ll really spend most of your time in the surrounding area.  

15. Get underground at the Horn Lake Caves

Horn Lake Caves and Outdoor Center
Photo credit: Horn Lake Caves and Outdoor Center

The Horn Lake Caves are an ancient gem of this area and must if you enjoy caving or have never tried it!

This Riverbend Cave tour is just under 2 hours long but takes you through the best fossils and swooping rock formations you can see.  

It’s also a great way to experience caving without committing to a full-day experience, especially if you’re nervous about being underground for a longer period. For $54 CAD, you get a professional guide, a helmet, and a light. You also won’t have to crawl through any extremely tight spaces, but you still get to see the cave up close regardless of experience level. 

If you have an extra hour to spend and want to get a little more intensive in your caving, there is a multi-cave experience. It’s not much more expensive at $90 CAD, but it offers more extensive climbing. 

This one is so cool because you get to go through a wider variety of terrains, with steeper descents that will include some lessons on technique. We thought it was exciting to do the climbing portion of this tour, but then we went down the natural cave slide, which is the only one of its type in all of Canada! 

For the shorter tour (which is best if you’re a bit apprehensive about caving), you can book online here. If you prefer the longer tour with more adventure, choose your date and book it online.

16. Visit the Discovery Passage Aquarium

Discovery Passage Aquarium  Campbell River
Photo credit: Discovery Passage Aquarium
A starfish at Discovery Passage Aquarium  
Photo credit: Discovery Passage Aquarium

This aquarium is a fun, hands-on educational experience, and we might have enjoyed it just as much as any kids did. Specimens represent many of the local species and have a lot to teach you about the marine environment that surrounds Vancouver Island. 

The Discovery Passage Aquarium is temporarily closed, as it is every winter, but it should be open again in the spring of 2023. So, keep it on your list if you’re visiting from spring through fall. It’s located on the Fisherman’s Wharf so you can also walk along this pier and enjoy the water on your way to the aquarium.

Related Read: If you enjoy Campbell River’s aquarium, there’s also larger one in Vancouver with over 65,000 animals! Read everything you need to know about the Vancouver Aquarium here.

17. Explore Mt Washington Alpine Resort in summer

Mt Washington Alpine Resort in summer
Photo credit: Mt Washington Alpine Resort
Ziptour at Mt Washington Alpine Resort
Photo credit: Mt Washington Alpine Resort

Mt Washington might be a hub for the best winter skiing, but don’t overlook its summer offerings, either! After all, the mountains and ski resorts are also stunning in the summer! 

You can ride in the chairlift for a scenic tour of the mountain, utilize the many biking trails that are converted over from the winter ski trails, and soar through the sky with the island’s longest zip line tour.  

ZipTour is open on select September and October weekends from 10 am to 5 pm, but hours vary during the week. I recommend calling ahead (at 1-250-338-1386) to secure a spot. This is one of my favorite summer activities in the area. Aside from the unreal views, it’s a completely free feeling as your flying down the mountain with the fresh air hitting your face.

Since the bike trails are converted ski trails, there are so many different lengths meant for all levels of ability and everyone can find at least one or two paths that they enjoy. 

You can get a day pass for the scenic chairlift for under $20 CAD and use the drop-off as a starting point to embark on one of many hiking trails around the mountain. The hard part is getting up, so once you’re already at the top you can enjoy a much more leisurely hike down. 

Related Read: If you love zip lining as much as I do, there are other places to enjoy it in British Columbia, Canada! Check out the 5 best zip lining tours in Whistler with pros and cons for each.

18. Freyja Croissants

Croissants at Freyja Croissants in Campbell River, BC
So good!
A croissant at Freyja Croissants in Campbell River
Don’t leave without trying one!

We swear we found the best croissant place in all of Canada right here in Campbell River – Freyja Croissants. They utilize Scandinavian, specifically Danish, traditions of minimalism but certainly don’t skimp on the fillings and flavor options. In particular, their raspberry-filled croissant is to die for. Dan loves the pistachio one.  

With seasonal and daily specials, I can’t tell you what your favorite croissant might be, but even their most basic option, the butter croissant is truly an experience you’ll remember. I could have eaten breakfast here every day, to tell you the truth. 

Its location is also very central to the rest of Campbell River, which makes it that much easier to keep popping in for another pastry. 

19. Explore Downtown

Bailey walks the coast in Campbell River
Take a stroll, you’ll find friendly locals and stunning views!
Daniel walks downtown Campbell River, BC

Downtown has no shortage of places to pop into, or walk through. It’s a nice area to spend time after a hiking excursion or if you’re waiting for a dinner reservation. 

Shoppers Row is a favorite of many tourists and locals alike, because of the various large retail shops that sit next to smaller, local boutiques that really are one-of-a-kind. Grab some gifts for friends or just wander around for a while, but you have to stop by this area while you’re in town. 

If you don’t want to spend money shopping, Robert V. Ostler Park is the place to be. It’s near the southern part of downtown and is a great place to explore if you want to see some totems and enjoy the cultural elements of Northern Vancouver Island. You can even bring some food and have a picnic by the water.  

20. Day trip to Courtenay

A beer at Ace Brewing in Courtney, BC
A sandwich at The Yellow Deli in Courtenay, BC
The Yellow Deli in Courtenay

The beautiful small city of Courtenay on Vancouver Island is full of fun things to do. The city is located in the heart of the Comox Valley, an area known to native First Nations people as “Komoux” which means ‘Land of Plenty’. This region is home to waterfalls, lakes, beaches, and hikes. It truly is an outdoor-lovers paradise here!

In downtown Courtenay, 5th Street is where everything happens and it has several great restaurants, cafes, and boutique stores. There are also heaps of colorful murals dotted throughout 5th Street you can enjoy as you wander around. Be sure to pop into Bigfoot Donuts for a delicious donut – I love the Original Glazed or the Big Foot, which is a chocolate-flavored donut. They also serve coffee and Chai!

A 5-minute walk from 5th Street is the Old Church Theater which is a significant heritage building in the town. Built back in 1938, once used as a church, today it’s a musical and performing arts venue. It’s a gorgeous building and even if you can’t catch a performance here, be sure to take some photos outside of it.

One of the best things to do in Courtenay during the summer is to relax in a tube and float down the Puntledge River. If you have your own tubes, this activity is completely free, otherwise, you can rent a tube from Blue Toque Sports downtown. Definitely rent a lifejacket if you don’t have your own as the water is pretty fast-moving!

Whether you decide to rent tubes or purchase your own, you will still need to arrange your own rides. I found it works the best if you have two vehicles. This way, you can leave one car at the end of your river float route, and park the other one at Puntledge River Fish Hatchery on Powerhouse Road; this is the starting point!

A popular hike in the area is the forest hike to Nymph Falls and Barber’s Hole. This is an easy nature walk that’s short and sweet, it’s just 500 meters down to the powerful cascading falls. Along the trail, you will come to Barber’s Hole which is a great place for a swim thanks to the calm waters here. In October and November, you can witness the spawning salmon leap up the falls on their way home – and, as a result, this hike can get very busy during these months.

As for places to eat in Courtenay – my recommendations are Javier’s Latin Cuisine on 14th Street and Il Falcone, a delicious Italian eatery on 6th Street. Oh, and for lunch, you can’t pass up the sandwiches at Yellow Deli Cafe, this cute little restaurant has incredible food and the decor inside is pretty special as well.

Related Read: Why not city-hop across the east coast of Vancouver Island? If you enjoyed Campbell River and Courtenay, check out everything you can do in Parksville, BC as well!

21. Check out the Campbell River Art Gallery

Daniel at the Campbell River Art Gallery 
it’s a cool gallery!

The Campbell River Art Gallery is a beautiful art gallery that acknowledges the local First Nation tribes and the history of this land.

It’s a great way to get a deeper feel for the area during your stay here. Plus, it’s located right near the visitor center downtown, and just across the square from Freyja, so you can grab yet another croissant afterward!  

The gallery is open Thursday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm. Although the gallery is small and free to visit, this makes it must-see. Free, local art can never be a bad thing! 

This might also be a great stop on your tour of the downtown area. Since you don’t have to pay to enter, there is no pressure to stay for longer than you want to. You can also stay as long as you like, if you find that the art draws you in. 

22. Walk the coastline at Willow Point

Daniel walks at Willow Point, Vancouver Island
The coastline is tunning here!

Just over a 10-minute drive from Campbell River is the pleasant small town of Willow River. It’s home to Willow Point Park, which is a great spot to spend a few hours on a nice day. Here, there’s a playground, tennis courts, a skate park as well as several hiking trails.

As well as that, it’s worth checking out the Rotary Seawalk here, which is an 8-kilometer (5-mile) paved track that runs along the shoreline of the Discovery Passage. It’s popular with cyclists, runners, as well as walkers. Along the way, check out the wood carvings at Frank James Park. It’s a great place for wildlife-spotting with seals, herons, and eagles all to be seen if you keep your eyes peeled on the water.

Willow Point Estuary is a great place for storm-watching, something that Vancouver Island is renowned for. If you’re visiting between November to late February, be sure to come down with a camera to watch a storm come rolling in. There’s a beach here too, which is popular with locals who collect driftwood. In the summer evenings, you are likely to see small groups of people huddled around a makeshift driftwood fire watching the sunset.

23. Shelter Point Distillery

the inside of Shelter Point Distillery
This is an interesting place to stop for a tour. Photo Credit: Shelter Point Distillery

Shelter Point Distillery is an artisanal distillery just a short drive from Campbell River off South Island Highway. It’s a must-visit for whisky, vodka, or gin lovers – or anyone with an interest in distilling.

They have a pretty unique method here in that they use only barley to create their whisky and vodka varieties. The barley is grown on their farm, and the spring water used in the process comes from a mountain-fed aquifer on the farm. Their botanical gin (my favorite!) is created using only hand-foraged local ingredients!

You can book a guided tour of the distillery, where your guide will take you through the entire process from mashing, fermenting, distilling, barreling, and finally the bottling of the spirits – as well as getting to see some of the 400-acre farm. It costs $20 CAD and lasts an hour and at the end, you will get to sample some of the spirits. For true whisky-lovers, there’s an in-depth two-hour tour available too.

If you’re short on time, just stop into their retail shop and purchase a bottle to go – this makes for a great souvenir!

24. Take the ferry to Quadra Island

Quadra Island in Campbell River
Quadra Island in Campbell River

Wanting to head over to Quadra Island (aka Quathiaski Cove) during your time in British Columbia? It’s super easy to get there from Campbell River and will give you a relaxing day filled with nature and delicious food!

Catch the ferry over, with more than 30 daily trips back and forth between 6 am and 10 pm. The ride only lasts 10 minutes, and the short trip can only be paid for at the terminal. Children between 4-12 cost roughly $5 CAD, and adults cost about $9 CAD. Sadly, you can’t book the route ahead. It’s so short and runs so often that this wasn’t really an issue, and you can still make your way back to Campbell River before the day is over. 

On Quadra Island, you can walk around and explore before grabbing some food. I loved Island Farm to Table which serves delicious meals and fresh baked goods, and even has a store with organic groceries. Their hours change seasonally, so check the website before heading in.

Café Aroma serves tasty pastries and drinks. Try their hot chocolate or chai latte on a cold day. They’re open daily from 7:30 am – 2 pm.

Our last (but not least!) recommendation is Coveside Seafood Eatery serving up tasty seafood dishes. It’s open Thursday through Saturday from 12 pm – 7 pm, and Sundays from 12 pm – 5:30 pm. It really depends on how early you get to the island and how late you leave, but you could manage to hit all three spots for your meals if you really want to!

You’ll be supposed how quickly time passes here, and if you intend to enjoy the views and really explore, this is going to be more of a full-day trip.  

Related Read: For another island adventure off the coast of Vancouver Island, read all about visiting Salt Spring Island. This place has a vibrant art scene and is full of tasty locally-grown food you’ll love.

Where to Stay in Campbell River

view of the outside of a three storey hote, Chateau Riverside, on the edge of a river
Imagine the river views from your room! Photo Credit: Chateau Riverside

To fully relax and enjoy everything Campbell River has to offer, I recommend staying right in town. Hotels and B&Bs in this area are mostly casual but comfortable and are fairly well-priced for what they offer.

If you want the comfort of a home away from home or are traveling with family, this Stunning 3-bedroom Suite has views of the mountains and the ocean. With prices starting at $116 CAD, this place has all the luxuries of a home including a full kitchen, living area, garden, private parking, and even a massage chair. It’s spacious, clean, and the hosts live in the unit upstairs, so while they give you privacy, they’re only a short distance away if you need any help.

The Chateau Riverside is surprisingly affordable for its location and quality! Situated close to where Highway 19 meets the Island Highway, it’s super easy to access all the sights in the city and the national park. All units come with desks, coffee machines, a fridge, and comfy beds. Rooms start at $120 CAD and have terraces with river views and some also have a city view so you can enjoy both during your stay.

Painter’s Lodge is 4 km (2.5 mi) from downtown Campbell River but has many amenities you won’t find elsewhere in the city. The hotel is on a large property surrounded by nature and looks quite grand as you approach it. Rooms start at $209 CAD and the hotel has its own garden, tennis courts, gym, swimming pool, and four on-site dining facilities (with one specializing in seafood). The golf course is only 10 minutes away and the hotel staff is happy to arrange some activities for you like whale watching or fishing.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie in Campbell River, BC
Thanks for reading!

I hope you enjoyed my blog and discovered some fun things to do in Campbell River! This destination is such a relaxing getaway yet there’s so many activities to fill your time. It’s the best of both worlds.

And if you want to read more about my home country, check out my other blogs about Canada. I’ve lived and traveled all over and love sharing my experiences (and loads of useful info) with others! Here are few more articles that might come in handy when visiting Vancouver Island.

COMPLETE Guide to Visiting Nanaimo, BC + 25 Fun Things to do!

33 FUN Things to do in Victoria, BC

COMPLETE Guide to Visiting Duncan, BC + 15 Fun Things to do

10 BEST Stops Between Victoria and Parksville