North Island tourism staff got to play tourist Monday, May 9th in Port Alice. Resident Susan Mohler coordinated the “fam” (familiarization) tour to highlight Port Alice tourist attractions and facilitate cross-promotion between North Island communities.
“The tour is an opportunity to build our identity as a viable community with a lot to offer visitors, and build our relationships within the Tri-port communities in order to promote the North Vancouver Island region as a compelling and engaging tourism destination,” said Mohler.
Although some North Island communities have annual fam tours, it is Port Alice’s first in several years, and new attractions are available.The day’s itinerary included tours of two waterfront artist galleries, a boating eco-tour of Neroutsos Inlet, lunch at a B&B, and a short hike for Visitor Services and Marketing Manager Louisa Bates, Visitor Information Counsellor Claire Jones, both from the Port Hardy Information Centre, and Harbour Assistant Chad Bell from the Port McNeil Harbour.Starting with Mohler’s own Seaside Studio and Gallery, the group viewed her one-of-a-kind stained glass art in the working studio.
She explained her materials, process, and how she gets her inspiration from everyday items, using mainly natural motifs and abstract designs framed in antique wood window and door frames. A few doors down on Marine Drive, the group visited Dan Nordin Artist’s Studio, where Dan and his wife Claudia gave them a tour of the lower level gallery and of the back yard garden facing the inlet.
Nordin’s gallery displays more than a dozen original impressionist ocean view and marine-life acrylic paintings on canvas, and his unique 360 degree art – painted hanging fish net floats. Next, the group left Rumble Beach Marina for an eco-tour of Neroutsos Inlet/Quatsino Sound with Rumble Beach Fishing Charters and Sight Seeing. Captain Regan Hickling, a lifelong North Island resident with over 40 years of boating and fishing experience, showed them huge eagles’ nests, Drake Island, a group of Harbour Seals lounging on a kelp bed, Quatsino Village and First Nations burial grounds, and the secret location of one of the Alone survivalist television series contestants, filmed last fall.
“I will definitely recommend Rumble Beach fishing charters,” said Bates. “Regan was knowledgeable and friendly. His background as a long-time resident enabled him to share a lot of information and history on the Neroutsos Inlet and Quatsino Sound area.”
Inlet Haven B&B hosted the group for lunch and tour of the accommodation, a two-bedroom suite with living area, kitchenette, and bathroom. Each room has its own sliding doors to a patio with a beautiful garden and ocean views. Operators Jim and Bonnie Overland explained that they give guests as much privacy as they need, and provide a unique breakfast that allows them to eat on their own schedule.
They have also been known to treat guests to dinner occasionally!At the end of the day, the group took the short hike up the land dike on Rumble Mountain, built behind Port Alice as protection from landslides, for a view of the inlet and Walkout Island.
“Spending time with tourism stakeholders like artists, charter operators and B&B owners gives tourism promoters a chance to build good relationships with service providers and people in the communities that they are recommending to tourists,” said Mohler. “First-hand experience makes their recommendations more authentic.”
Other Port Alice attractions include the Port Alice Golf Course & Country Club, the Sea Walk to Walkout Island, sheltered inlet kayaking, the Alice Lake Loop driving tour of Eternal Fountain and Devil’s Bath, and access to prime remote fishing areas and the wild West coast beaches of Raft Cove and Side Bay.
“I hope we can continue to do these fam tours, I didn’t realize there were art galleries in Port Alice,” said Bates. “We’re happy to help promote Port Alice and what it has to offer.”