Welcome to both regular readers and those joining for the first time. If we're just meeting for the first time, allow me to introduce myself: I'm Lyn, a retired globetrotter who travels solo and, at times, with my trusty Approved Travel Buddy (ATB). While I love international travel, there's something equally enchanting about my annual summer van life road trip adventures right here in my breathtaking home province of British Columbia, Canada. It all began in the heart of June, and ever since, I've been weaving my way through the wonders of British Columbia's Interior. I spent most of my time in the Kootenays with some stops in the Okanagan. I've enjoyed waterfalls and hot springs, historic forts and villages, lingered alongside beautiful beaches, and gathered stories along the way. My faithful companion in this adventure is "Wanda," my beloved converted Sprinter van. If you're curious about Wanda's transformation and the tales she holds, be sure to take a peek at how our story began here.
However, the wildfire situation surged at the end of July, nudging me to pivot my course toward a new adventure. And so, I found myself on Vancouver Island, a haven of lush landscapes and coastal magic. My northern starting point was the captivating Port Hardy, a place where estuaries, herons, and more dance in harmony. I spent an incredible week on Malcolm Island soaking up the unique culture of this remote island community
Today is all about a great stop along the highway between Port McNeill and Campbell River, the entrancing Telegraph Cove. Telegraph Cove was first established as an isolated telegraph station in the early 1900s. The community grew into a logging and fishing hub before being virtually abandoned. It is now a thriving resort community specializing in eco-tourism.
Getting to Telegraph Cove
Getting to Telegraph Cove requires a combination of transportation options, including having a vehicle. It is fairly easy to travel to Vancouver Island without a vehicle but to explore outside of the cities is next to impossible. From end to end, the drive from Victoria to Port Hardy will take about 5.5 hours of driving time on smooth, well-maintained roads. Be aware that there are stretches along the road without cell service, so make sure to download any navigation instructions.
Rent a Vehicle
Spend some time researching costs to determine if it is less expensive to rent the vehicle on the island rather than on the mainland -- don't forget to factor in the cost of a vehicle on the ferry.
The major rental companies can be found at the three major Vancouver Island airports (Victoria, Nanaimo, Comox) as well as in the larger cities. If you are interested in trying out van life, there are also some small camper van rental companies. I haven't used any of the local campervan rental companies but a friend was very happy with his rental from Just Go Vans. Farout Wilderness is another company that rents out adventure trucks with roof-top tents. I also saw several of the wildly (and sometimes inappropriately decorated) Wicked Campers as I travelled on the Island. I have used Wicked Camper rentals in the UK and had no complaints with the company but the paint job of the vehicle I was assigned was fairly tame.
Wicked Camper rental
A Walk Down Memory Lane
Growing up, I had the privilege of visiting this enchanting cove many times, aboard my dad's small sailboat. Those were the days when the Salish Sea was known as the Gulf of Georgia, and Dad was determined that we would love boating as he did. In those days, Telegraph Cove was a humble stop along our maritime expeditions. The shoreline was a tapestry of ruins and decayed buildings, remnants of a past that seemed both distant and vibrant. The few souls who called this place home were individuals with deep ties to the community or squatters.
Fast forward to the present day, and the transformation is nothing short of remarkable. Telegraph Cove has risen from the vestiges of time, rescued and lovingly restored by a sprawling resort that now spills across the landscape.
The village's historic charm has been meticulously preserved, with informative signage and a seamless blend of empty display buildings and vibrant establishments. There are restaurants, pubs, and cafés; adventure tour operators and those once crumbling shacks are now available as quaint holiday rentals overlooking the cove. Other accommodations include hotel rooms, marina moorage, and fully-serviced campgrounds. The general store and bakery are well-stocked with groceries, necessities, local art, and goodies of all types.
The restoration of Telegraph Cove's village was a joy to behold, as it transported me back in time and kindled a sense of nostalgia. The attention to detail and the dedication to preserving its heritage were evident in every corner.
History of Telegraph Cove
Since the beginning of human history in this area, the Kwakwaka'wakw (kwa kwa kay wok) and Nuu-chah-nulth (new chaw noolth) First Nations have shared an intimate connection with these lands and waters, highlighted in their traditional stories and spirituality. While this particular cove was not the site of a First Nations' village and no artifacts have been found, it was likely visited by groups in the area.
Telegraph Cove began as a one-room telegraph station built by the federal government in 1911–12. The first major landowner purchased most of the land surrounding the cove and together with Japanese investors, he built a salmon saltery and sawmill. The original and transient workers often began life in the cove by staying in a bunkhouse.
With towering trees surrounding the cove, it quickly became an important mill town and attracted families. As the community grew it became a tight-knit village of deeply connected families. Unfortunately, the boom times did not last and the community lost much of its population when the sawmill closed and the fishing industry hit hard times.
Telegraph Cove Today
Today, Telegraph Cove's economy is based primarily on tourism due to its prime location near the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve. A huge attraction along this coast is the resident orca whales who make these waters their summer home, the abundant salmon, the ancient forests, and the stunning coastline.
The entire cove is privately owned by two different operators: The Telegraph Cove Marina & RV Park (the Marina) and the Telegraph Cove Resort (the Resort). Both have a campground, a marina, hotel space, and retail areas. Both operators have deep ties to the community and are dedicated to eco-tourism. The Resort, on the south side of the cove, is the older section and includes the historic village and most of the retail and food establishments. The Marina is newer and is located on the north side of the cove.
The Resort began restoring buildings and structures in the late 1970s but began to take off when Stubbs Island Whale Watching, the first whale-watching company was established in Telegraph Cove in 1980. When the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve was created in 1982, tourism exploded. By the end of the 1990s, the resort built a restaurant, pub, general store, small hotel, and a sewage treatment plant. The outstanding Whale Interpretive Centre opened the museum in 1993 where stunning marine skeletons can be seen. The Resort campground is located about 1km from the town and is known as the "Forest" campground.
The Marina began to be developed at the end of the 1990s. Its campground is known as the "sunny" campground and features a great view of the harbour and, from some of the sites, the Johnstone Strait. It is located about a minute's walk from the historic village. The Marina also has hotel rooms and a modern marina. Prices vary considerably between all the various choices.
Historic Village of Telegraph Cove
The historic village, with its charming streets and timeworn buildings, presents a layout that reflects the community's roots. The residences and businesses in the historic village of Telegraph Cove are clustered on the waterfront, along the boardwalk. All the structures next to the water are built on stilts allowing the tide to rise and fall beneath the floors.
Over the years, as the timber industry waned and Telegraph Cove evolved into a destination for travellers seeking history and natural beauty, these historic residences have been lovingly preserved and now house businesses or serve as cozy accommodations.
Eco Travel Adventures in Telegraph Harbour
Telegraph Cove isn't just a place frozen in history; it's a portal to a world of thrilling experiences that beckon the adventurous soul. From embracing the great outdoors to encountering mesmerizing marine life, the activities around Telegraph Cove promise to leave you awe-inspired.
Beyond the boardwalk, Telegraph Cove is surrounded by breathtaking natural wonders. Hiking trails meander through ancient forests, revealing vistas that stretch from lush woodlands to expansive seascapes. The Blinkhorn Trail starts in the Marina campground and leads up through the forest to a fabulous outlook. Some sections are challenging and rope assists are provided. I didn't do the entire 4-hour hike. I hiked for about an hour in and another hour out.
For those wanting to get out on the water, kayaking is highly recommended. Kayaks can be rented at the general store, so you don't need to bring your own.
As a coast-dweller, I have been blessed by seeing orcas swimming in the wild multiple times and it never fails to thrill. The waters of Johnstone Strait attract many other species of marine mammals too, including dolphins, porpoises, humpback whales, seals, and otters. I didn't see any orcas here but I did see one humpback pass by. I was so excited, that I fumbled with my camera and getting my big lens out that I almost missed the shot!
Telegraph Cove has two of the top ecotour companies in the country. These experts not only offer unforgettable experiences but also contribute to conservation and education efforts.
Stubbs Island Whale Watching: Headquartered in the heart of Telegraph Cove, the crew at Stubbs Island Whale Watching has perfected the art of marine encounters. Their extensive knowledge of local marine life, coupled with their commitment to responsible tourism, ensures a meaningful and educational experience. Learn more
Tide Rip Grizzly Tours: is another adventure tour company with an office in Telegraph Cove. Their tours are marine adventures, from kayaking, whale watching and sport fishing to grizzly bear & wildlife viewing. The descriptions and photos are breathtaking. Learn more
These tours are expensive but they are worth every penny and will be the highlight of your trip. These are worthy of a splurge. I know I will be back in the area next summer and will build a Grizzly Tour to my budget. If you are unlikely to return, take a tour -- take all the tours!
For a more budget-friendly wildlife viewing, keep an eye out for deer in the area. This one was just outside the village.
Tips for Visitors to Telegraph Cove
Telegraph Cove's allure shifts with the seasons, each one bringing its unique charm to this coastal gem. From my past visits, I can tell you that summer is a burst of activity and ideal for those seeking warmer temperatures and vibrant marine life encounters. However, if you're like me and appreciate a quieter atmosphere to soak in the serenity, the shoulder seasons might be more to your liking.
Be sure to keep an eye out for local events as well. Telegraph Cove hosts festivals, celebrations, and gatherings that truly capture the spirit of the village. Reservations during peak season are recommended, especially for tours which are often sold out weeks in advance.
Coastal weather is unpredictable, at best. It is noticeably cooler in northern Vancouver Island compared to the Victoria area. Pack layers and rain gear.
Telegraph Cove is a small historic mill town and fishing village that has been lovingly restored and turned into an eco-tourism resort by dedicated long-time residents. Visitors will enjoy a short stop on a longer road with a wander through the historic village and perhaps enjoy a meal and cold beverage on the boardwalk. Those with more time will want to linger and enjoy a whale-watching or grizzly tour, kayaking in the Strait, or going on a fishing excursion.
Thank you for joining me on this chapter of my Summer Van Life Road Trip. Your support, engagement, and curiosity mean the world to me. I invite you to follow the rest of my journey by subscribing to this blog. You'll receive notifications whenever new content is posted. You can also stay connected through my Facebook page, Facebook Group, Twitter, and Instagram, where I'll be sharing more snippets, photos, and stories from my ongoing road trip
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