Pretty Coal Harbour has been a mining town, military base and whaling station at various times over the past century.
Today it’s a quiet and convenient (20 minutes from Port Hardy) departure point for boaters, kayakers and charter fishing expeditions destined for the calm waters of Quatsino Sound and the wilder open Pacific beyond.
An inviting waterfront is one of the upsides of this small community, as is the lovely, winding drive. Not to be missed (and impossible to do so) is the reminder of Coal Harbour’s claim to fame as North America’s last-ever whaling station – namely a mammoth (6m/20 ft) jawbone of a blue whale, the largest of the ocean’s behemoths. Times have changed, and whales are now revered here – sometimes in the form of artwork created by local artisans based in home studios.
Fishing guides are available to track down the best spots for salmon and halibut, and outings are as much about wildlife watching (orcas and humpback whales included) as reeling in the big one. The Koprino River Estuary is known for its bald eagles, herons, gulls and other birds of a feather.
The historic hamlet of Quatsino is a quick water-taxi ride away from Coal Harbour and is otherwise only accessible by boat or floatplane. St. Olaf’s Anglican Church, built in 1897 as a one-room schoolhouse, is one point of interest. The quaint local museum and archives is located across from the government dock and offers Internet service during its early afternoon operating hours. Quatsino is a great R&R stopover for kayakers and fishing groups, and home to several lodges and sport fishing charter companies.