Daytripping: Grant Bay

Aidan O'Toole describes his trip to the west coast.

The west coast is one thing a newcomer to the North Island is guaranteed to hear about. People rave about it. For some reason though, in my two-odd years up here, I’d never been before last week.

San Jo and the like are summer staples for many locals, and after my trip to Grant Bay I can see why. Mine was, like most good adventures, an unplanned, spur-of-the-moment affair. I’d heard from a friend during the week that he was planning a camping trip to the west coast that weekend, and that another few friends were planning a day trip to meet the campers on Sunday.

Nice, I thought, then promptly forgot about it. When I remembered on Sunday morning, I fired off a few shameless texts and more or less invited myself and my girlfriend Jenn along for the ride. It was well worth it.

Like most good things in life, however, you have to work for it. The beautiful Grant Bay lies about a two hour drive away down logging roads. It being the weekend, we didn’t come across any logging traffic, but I’m reliably informed that during the week it’s a whole other story.

I was lucky enough to be chauffeured by someone familiar with the drive, but if you’re thinking about heading out for the first time you would do well to invest in the Backroad Mapbook. These aren’t exactly cheap — around $25 or so — but are well worth it in the long run. Definitely an example of the old adage that it’s better to have and not need than to need and not have.

In theory, the route is fairly straightforward. Out of Holberg take the SE Main, then South Main toward Winter Harbour. At the fork before Winter Harbour take the right onto West Main and follow the signs to the W300 and the trailhead.

In practice, there are quite a few routes that will take you to the trail, but there are many, many more that will take you off to the middle of nowhere, and some of the turns were pretty easy to miss. A map is definitely your friend. As is a pickup. It probably goes without saying that you don’t really want to take the family sedan down a bunch of logging roads. With a little patience you could do it, but neither the passengers nor the suspension will thank you.

Pulling up to the trailhead there is a sign proclaiming “5 km to the beach” but don’t panic; it’s just missing the decimal point that makes it a much more sedate 500-metre stroll through the woods. Then, wow.

It’s almost like Parks Canada installed a handy portal to Jamaica. Beautiful white sands stretch left and right, framing clear blue water. I realize now why people are so stoked on the west coast.

The morning mist still lingered when we arrived and found friends around a fire. We pulled up a log and sat looking out on the bay and chatting. Hard auld life as my Dad would put it.

Someone had brought a volleyball so we headed over to the fairly substantially built net that stands on the beach. Constructed from what looks like two hefty pieces of driftwood, strands from fishing nets or crab traps and several buckets of sweat, the volleyball net is clearly a permanent fixture here.

After a quick game the mist started burning off and the sun really started to blaze. Being Irish, a race not exactly world-renowned for their tanning prowess, I grabbed a sweater and removed any doubt about the garment’s etymology. It gets hot there, in other words.

We spent the rest of the afternoon playing volleyball and bocce, exploring the length of the bay, paddling in the ocean and watching the sea lion that was putting on a show for the kayakers out on the water. It’s a pretty stunning part of the island.

There were a few other groups sharing the beach with us but there was plenty of room for everyone. I’d say we had about a 200-metre stretch of gorgeous white sand to ourselves. Where else can you get that? Not only that, but it’s just two hours from home. The North Island is pretty lucky.

As the afternoon headed toward evening we packed up our rubbish and headed back to the truck and then on to home. We decided to break up the return leg with a stop at the Scarlet Ibis for a bite to eat, and before we knew it we were back in Hardy.

One more place ticked off my must-see list, but one I’ll definitely return to. It seems beautiful stops such as Georgie Lake are just the amuse-bouche for the west coast itself. With so much still out there to see, it was enough to make me want to take one more step towards true North-Islandism: trading the car for a pickup.

Just Posted

Ma Murrays 2021 virtual ceremony screenshot
North Island Gazette wins big at 2021 Ma Murray Newspaper Awards

Zoe Ducklow and Bill McQuarrie both won gold at the online ceremony

Port Hardy council has agreed to cancel Canada Day celebrations in wake of the discovery of the remains of 215 children being found on the grounds of a former residential school. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Council votes to cancel Canada Day celebrations in wake of mass grave sites being found

Coun. Treena Smith made the motion for the chamber to not host Canada Day celebrations this year

Port Hardy Fire Rescue responded to an early morning fire around 3:50 a.m. on Sunday, June 13. Two porta-potties were on fire at the Visitor’s Centre on Hastings Street. Anyone with information is asked to contact the RCMP at 250-949-6335. (Port Hardy Fire Rescue photo)
Firefighters respond to early morning fire near visitor centre in Port Hardy

Two porta-potties were on fire at the Visitor’s Centre on Hastings Street

North Island MLA Michele Babchuk. Photo contributed
COMMENTARY: MLA Michele Babchuk talks the future of forestry

‘These forests are important to every single one of us, myself included’

Dr. Prean Armogam hands over a cheque for $10,000 to Hardy Bay Senior Citizens Society president Rosaline Glynn. The money will be going towards a new roof for the Port Hardy seniors centre. This is the second donation Dr. Armogam has made to the society, giving them $5,000 a little over a year ago. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)
Doctor donates $10k to Hardy Bay Senior Citizens Society for new roof

This was the second donation Armogam has given to the society

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

CVSAR search the Puntledge River following a report of an abandoned kayak. Photo, CVSAR Facebook page
Comox Valley Search and Rescue spends four hours searching for no one

Overturned kayak a reminder for public to contact officials if they have to abandon a watercraft

Most Read