A truly great Prince Rupert experience combines many different kinds of activities.
To help you get some ideas for your trip, here are a few suggestions for great excursions, activities, and attractions to sample all that the city has to offer.
Get on the water.
Renting a kayak is a sublime way to experience why people have called this place home for thousands of years, and continue to do so today. The north coast is bursting with aquatic life and viewing the coastline from the vantage point of the ocean is by far the best way to see it. If the thought of being in a small boat by yourself is daunting, hop on one of the many tour boats that run around the area and check out whales and bears and birds and other wildlife while you’re at it. The locals who run these tours know and love this landscape and its animal residents, so you’re guaranteed to have a great time with them in their backyard. If catching a fish is on the menu, book yourself a spot with one of the sport-fishing guides and get out there to hook the big one.
Take to the air.
Flightseeing tours give you an opportunity to see not only Prince Rupert, but also its place among the many islands, streams, rivers, lakes, and mountains that make this landscape unique and captivating. Seal Cove is where most of these small airlines operate, but call first to make sure tours are running while you’re in town. Another great way to get a good aerial view of the city and its staggeringly beautiful surroundings, is to hike up Mt. Hays or one of the peaks further afield. Ask for maps or a guide to make sure you make it safely up to a good view and, once you’ve drank your fill of the scenery, safely back down again.
Prowl the streets.
Prince Rupert has plenty to offer right in the city itself. A walking tour guide of historic buildings was published a few years ago and highlights interesting architectural sites. The shopping around town is great—Cow Bay is full of fun little shops and a stroll up 2nd or 3rd works well for window-shopping and more. While walking, be sure to look for the murals that adorn building walls, as well as the many beautifully carved totem poles around town. The best thing about wandering around Rupert is the numerous options for refuelling with a tasty drink, a quick bite to eat, or a meal you’ll never forget.
Take a tour.
Exploring on your own is always a rich, rewarding experience. There’s no better way to get to know a city than to put the map away and get lost. But sometimes, local knowledge and expertise is the only way to truly understand what makes a place tick. From watching grizzly bears lazily munch the sedge grass of a scenic estuary to gasping as the mist expelled from a whale’s blowhole dissipates in the air in front of your face, guided tours out of Prince Rupert are unforgettable. For marine wildlife, join a tour that will explore nearby stomping grounds for humpback whales, getting you up close and personal with some of the planet’s largest and most mysterious creatures. For the big ticket land mammals, you’ll want to get up to the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary where you’ll have an intimate glimpse of Ursus arctos, better known as the grizzly, or brown bear. Several tour operators offer short daytrip excursions into the spectacular protected area; many combine whale watching en route. And for bird watchers, well, you’ll have a great time on both these tours, or you can arrange something uniquely avian focussed. Even just walking around town will give you a good view of eagles, ravens, and shorebirds.
Home to the Tsimshian First Nations since time immemorial, Prince Rupert and its surrounding villages and communities are rich in culture and heritage. The Museum of Northern BC is a perfect starting point for learning about this long history. From there, you may be inspired to check out local galleries, book a tour with the Metlakatla First Nation, or head out to the North Pacific Cannery National Historic Site to further immerse yourself in the history of the north. Here, you’ll get a deeper understanding of the resource boom that took place here in the late 19th century through to modern times. It’s a short drive (or bus ride) from downtown Prince Rupert and you’ll easily spend a few hours out there, if not a full day. The site operates from May 1 until the end of September and features either self-guided tours or—a great option—guided tours with guides well versed in the long history of Canada’s longest operating cannery. They also serve local food and snacks (including homemade seafood chowder) and hot drinks, as well as operate a gift shop. Bring your camera: you are allowed and encouraged to take pictures and the old, restored buildings are very photogenic.
Take a hike.
The coastal rainforest is a place bursting with life and lush with green. The smells are rich and earthy, the sounds of birds are everywhere, and every twist and turn in the trail reveals something new. Old-growth cedars tower above, blocking the sky from view, thousands of different plants burst from the forest floor, and the birds that call this rugged northern coastline home are so numerous that birders here often end up with whiplash (just kidding). Find yourself a suitable guide and hit the trails. Don’t forget to wear weather-appropriate clothing and never head out hiking unless you are confident you’ll be able to get back safely. Some of Rupert’s trails are more rough routes than well-trodden paths and in the ubiquitous muskeg landscape, it can be easy to get turned around. Check out the Metlakatla Wilderness Trail for an epic trek or Butze Rapids for a shorter hike close to town. Butze is a 5.4 km trail suitable for all ages and abilities (but is not wheelchair accessible) and features some great interpretive signs highlighting local flora and fauna and excellent views of the unique North Coast forest and craggy coastline.
Every good trip needs some downtime and Prince Rupert is a great place to kick back with a delicious beer or a glass of wine and watch the sunset. There are loads of great restaurants here—allow yourself some time in your travel plans to sample the wares of our local cuisine. Hit the swimming pool for a family-friendly Sunday activity or a soothing soak in the hot tub. Walk down to the waterfront to watch the endless hustle and bustle of boats small and large. Drop by the library to spend an hour reading or pick up a book in one of the bookshops. Take your time with that cup of coffee. Visitors to northern BC often comment that life here seems to take place at a slower pace, and the best way to experience this culture is to relax and slow down with it.