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Prince Rupert

Prince Rupert

In a couple of earlier posts I talked about our scenic trip Smithers-Prince Rupert on Via Rail and our incredible Bear Watching Trip in Prince Rupert. Apart from these obvious highlights how was our stay in Northern BC?

Our flights Vancouver to Smithers and then Prince Rupert to Vancouver were on Hawkair. We really enjoyed the flights and the customer service was excellent, particularly in Prince Rupert where the staff were very friendly.

Fun fact: Prince Rupert airport is located on Digby Island which is only accessible by ferry. Hawkair provided a shuttle bus from their Prince Rupert office which included the ferry so we had no problem getting there but we highly recommend you factor travel time into your itinerary.

Travel hack: like many small airlines Hawkair charges you for every checked bag, small or large. Susannah and I each packed a small suitcase but as we were charged by the bag it would have been more economical to pack together in one larger suitcase. Overall, Hawkair was awesome and I’d totally fly with them again.

Hawkair Office
Susie waiting for the shuttle

While in Prince Rupert we stayed for two nights at the Eagle Bluff B&B which is a great looking, very popular, quirky little B&B, centrally located and right on the water. We did have the top floor Lighthouse room booked but there was a booking mix-up and we were put in a much lower value room with two single beds for the first night. The room itself was a bit cramped. For a solo business traveler or two close friends it’s ok but it is a bit pricey for what you get. Susannah’s sister Liz, who joined us from Smithers, stayed at the Crest Hotel which was within walking distance. We went there in the evening and shared a bottle of wine and some delicious appies at Charley’s Lounge, the in-house bar.

Eagle Bluff B&B
Taken on iphone

The next morning we were up early and had a delicious home cooked breakfast before heading off on our incredible bear watching trip. When we returned we were able to move into the Lighthouse room for our second night. Was it worth it? Yes. Here’s a timelapse of the sunset view which we enjoyed over a glass of wine.


The next morning’s breakfast was again abundant and fresh.  From conversations at the breakfast table it seems that this B&B gets a lot of regular customers.  The host seemed to know our two breakfast companions quite well.

Overall I’d say that The Eagle Bluff B&B has a great location and the views are awesome. Be sure to get the Lighthouse room though as it is the bee’s knees of B&B rooms and, in my opinion, worthy of the price tag.

Other things that were cool about Prince Rupert:

Smile’s Cafe had really really good fish and chips. I’d  recommend it but be patient, the service is a little slow. The food was absolutely worth the wait.

Smile's Seafood Cafe

Cowpuccino’s Coffee House serves really good coffee. We didn’t eat there but the food looked pretty good also and the service was friendly.

Outside Cowpuccino's Cafe, Prince Rupert
Susannah cow and Liz cow

Prince Rupert seemed to have a cow theme going on.

The girls
Liz, Susannah and me on a ‘cowch’

I have to say, I really enjoyed our time up North. If you are looking for an escape from the city and a little adventure, Prince Rupert should be on your list.  I know would definitely visit again.

Thanks to Hawkair, Prince Rupert Adventure Tours, and Liz and Bill for making this trip possible.

Bear Watching in Prince Rupert

Bear Watching in Prince Rupert

Ok I won’t lie. When we decided to go up North I knew that  for me this bear watching excursion was going to be the highlight of my trip. Being from New Zealand where there are NO BEARS (actually there are no predatory animals PERIOD), even the thought of encountering a bear scares the bejeezes out of me. Yet as a photographer I am fascinated by them and definitely wanted to see them in their natural environment.

On our trip to Prince Rupert we were fortunate enough to be hosted by Prince Rupert Adventure Tours for our June bear watching tour. We were staying very near the dock at an awesome B&B so after breakfast were able to walk down to check in and board. The vessel is able to accommodate 100 passengers and although the tour was fully booked I have to say that it did not seem too crowded and everyone was able to get a good viewing spot. On our tour passengers were very accommodating and looked out for each other despite language and age barriers so that was pretty cool.

The Grizzly Bear Tour motors through the Chatham Sound for about 1.5 hours in order to reach the Khutzeymateen Valley, which is not reachable by land. On the way there is some fantastic scenery and plenty of wild life to look for. We saw lots of seabirds and a cluster of seals sunning themselves on some rocks.

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Once in the Khutzeymateen area the Captain and crew use binoculars to look out for bears. Patience and complete silence is the key to good viewing as the Captain will pilot the vessel up as close as he/she can without disturbing the animals. I have to say I was a little concerned when we first arrived at the dock and saw that the majority of the passengers were a school group. On boarding the kids were very noisy and I thought their volume would be a problem. It wasn’t and everyone was very respectful. There were about 3-4 kids who stayed out on deck the entire time, pointing out wildlife and speaking in whispers. Can anyone say “Future Marine Scientists”?

I loved that this was an ecotour and that the impact on the bears was minimal. There was one occasion on our trip where we saw a young bear and approached but the Captain chose to pull away and move on as the bear seemed agitated, perhaps sensing our presence. As much as I wanted some bear shots, I am happy that the correct ethical decision was made for the animal. We remained a reasonable distance from the shore at all times – all of the shots here are taken with a telephoto lens.

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We saw several bears were able to observe them for some time. They were much skinnier than I had imagined they would be. As it was June they would have only recently woken from hibernation. Once awake they move down to the coastline to feast on the lush green grasses that grow near the water’s edge, giving them the vitamins and nutrients they need to kick-start their metabolisms.

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Check out the claws on this one! Very glad I was on a boat and well off shore.

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Bears don’t actually see very well so perhaps he could smell us….

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To be able to view an animal in nature without negatively impacting on it’s environment is simply awesome! This was, as expected, an amazing highlight of our trip and an adventure that I would totally recommend. It was also a very long day (6 hours) and many of us were dozing inside on the way back to Prince Rupert, myself included. Once we neared the port the Captain and crew had another treat for us. They threw animal fat high into the air at each side of the boat and within minutes we were surrounded by about 30 eagles diving and grabbing the food with their talons. They were fantastic to watch and an exciting end to a great day.

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Many thanks to Prince Rupert Adventure Tours for such a wonderful trip. It was awesome. We’ll be back 🙂

So that my bear story, tell me yours!

Travelling Smithers to Prince Rupert by Train

Travelling Smithers to Prince Rupert by Train

In June we were lucky enough to spend a few days touring part of Northern BC. Our plan was to fly into Smithers, spend a few days catching up with Susie’s awesome sister Liz and her husband Bill, then take a train to Prince Rupert, enjoy some activities there and fly back to Vancouver.  In this post I’ll talk about the middle part of our trip –  from Smithers to Prince Rupert on the ‘Skeena’ train.

The Skeena Train
The Skeena

The train runs from Jasper to Prince Rupert and back 3 times a week, stopping overnight in Prince George. From Smithers it’s a scenic 6 hour ride to Prince Rupert. The route runs alongside the Skeena river through glacier capped Coast Mountains and it is very picturesque. We opted for a “touring class” tickets which enabled us to sit in the Panorama car where we had sweeping views on both sides. We could also sit in the Park Car which is raised up higher and has a glass domed roof for even more expansive views.

Panorama windows in our car
Panorama windows the Park Car
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View over top of the train from the Park Car with it’s Panorama Dome

As part of the touring class ticket we were served a complimentary meal. We chose the salmon and the halibut. The salmon was a bit dry so the halibut was the winner with the tomato sauce to keep it moist. Neither meal would be considered high end, but compared to most airplane meals I’ve had they were ok.

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Salmon Dinner
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Halibut Dinner

Dinner also came with a glass of wine which made everything ok 😉 Cheers.

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Our two very funny and knowledgeable guides/servers kept most of the passengers well-informed and entertained. They showed us points of local interest which we may otherwise have missed like this miniature town at the side of the tracks.

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And this petroglyph on the cliff face.

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We sat on the left side of the train to get access to the riverside views but the train was not very full so we were easily able to move around and check out both sides. There are windows between the cars that can be opened right up. We leaned out for a few unique shots but I’d recommend being very careful doing it. It got pretty windy as well.

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There were some long tunnels along the way.

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Trains are fun and a bit of a different perspective than you’ll get from a car. You can see from the next photo how much higher up than the road we were. This was great for taking photos along the way to capture some of the views.

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As we were moving through the Coastal Mountains towards the Ocean the weather was quite changeable, making the skies and light quite varied and interesting.

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As we finally drew into Prince Rupert we were welcomed by an amazing sunset to end our long day of travel. So pretty!

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Overall I’d say the price of the touring class ticket is a bit steep for many people, but if you were only going to do the trip once, it’s a very comfortable way to travel and the bonus is most definitely the panoramic windows and the spectacular BC scenery which is not to be missed.