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7 reasons why the Alberni Valley should be your next road-trip vacation spot

You can climb the largest mountain on southern Vancouver Island AND stand next to Canada’s oldest and tallest trees during the same trip
L-R: Aaron Watts, Robert Watts, Cody Gus and Shane Sieber walk in front of a mural depicting Tseshaht First Nation’s history at the entrance of Port Alberni’s Harbour Quay. Photo via Melissa Renwick/ZenSeekers

Spring is finally here, which means it’s due time to go back on the road and explore some new places. 

If you want to stick closer to Vancouver with a local getaway that’s within reasonable driving distance, the Alberni Valley on Vancouver Island provides an escape that allows you to maximize your vacation time.

Surrounded by towering mountains, pristine lakes, and ancient forests, this picturesque destination offers endless opportunities for both outdoor and cultural exploration. During your trip, you can expect to hike through many lush trails and discover why Port Alberni is one of B.C.’s best waterfront communities.

Here’s why you should choose the Alberni Valley for your next road trip adventure. ​

Spend a day exploring Alberni Harbour Quay in Port Alberni, featuring boutiques, galleries, and eateries. Photo via Melissa Renwick/ZenSeekers

1. You can climb the highest mountain on southern Vancouver Island

At 1817 m, Mount Arrowsmith is southern Vancouver Island’s largest mountain. For the quickest and easiest trail up the mountain, take the Judges Route, which totals about 6 km round trip, for a five hour hike with an elevation gain of approximately 1000 m.

Mount Arrowsmith is home to several rare and endangered species, the most notable of which is Canada’s rarest mammal, the Vancouver Island Marmot. It is also one of Vancouver Island’s two designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserves.

2. You can stand next to Canada’s oldest trees

Go hiking through Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park to see some of the oldest and tallest trees in Canada. Along the walkable and well-maintained wooden path, you can find trees as old as 800-year-old in the old-growth forest. The sunlight filtering through the tree canopy emits the peaceful feel of a cathedral out in nature. 

(Fun fact: Scenes for Star Wars: Return of the Jedi were filmed here, as the towering trees made for the perfect background for the Ewok planet of Endor).

3. You can choose your own hiking adventure

When heading east along the Alberni Highway (or Hwy 4), you will immediately spot some trailheads to choose your own hiking adventure. First things first, park your vehicle at the parking lot across from Coombs Country Candy, where you can pick up some sweet and savoury treats – such as artisan chocolates and gourmet popcorn – for sustenance during your hike.

Try the Alberni Valley Lookout Trail for a 4 km hike that leads you to a viewpoint for sweeping panoramic views of the inlet, Port Alberni, and the surrounding mountains. The Stokes Creek Falls Trail is another easy hike that can be completed in 30 minutes to an hour, with a trail that meanders through the forest and culminates in a quick scramble up a steep hill to get to the wooden bridge in front of the gushing waterfalls. 

4. You can look up at Vancouver Island’s tallest waterfall

If you are looking for an unforgettable overnight hiking experience, head to Della Falls, which, at a towering 440 m, is Vancouver Island’s tallest waterfall and Canada’s 16th tallest waterfall. 

The falls are located in Strathcona Provincial Park, just north of Sproat Lake and Great Central Lake. Start by taking a boat ride on the water taxi across Great Central Lake, which drops you off at the trailhead for the 15 km trek to Della Falls.

5. You can discover fascinating ancient history

At Sproat Lake Provincial Park, voted BC’s Best Lake in 2023 by CBC, a top destination for freshwater adventures in the Alberni Valley, you can find an open-art rock art site that features a panel of some of the most well-preserved prehistoric petroglyphs in B.C. Follow the signage to the “K’ak’awin” petroglyphs and embark on a quick walk to the lakeshore rocks, upon which images that depict ancient mythological creatures are etched.

6. You can stay on a restored tugboat

Get swept away at Swept Away Inn and live like a seafarer by booking a floating stay aboard the MV Songhee. Once a U.S. Navy minesweeper, the restored vintage 1944 tugboat has been converted into a fully-licensed floating bed and breakfast, with a restaurant that serves the finest Moroccan-French cuisine in Port Alberni. 

Swept Away Inn is located in the Centennial Pier next to the Alberni Harbour Quay, making it an ultra convenient base for your exploration of the nearby shops, cafes and restaurants.

7. You can spend a day in the harbour

Take a stroll through the Alberni Harbour Quay on Port Alberni’s waterfront, where you will find a colourful collection of boutiques, art galleries, and eateries, along with a clock tower which grants panoramic views of the Alberni Inlet. 

You would be remiss not to try the local seafood fare at this renowned fishing village. Get the candied salmon chowder and halibut at the Starboard Grill, where you can dine at their on-the-water restaurant with a spot on the patio overlooking the harbour. Or, order huge portions of fish and chips from Turtle Island Fish and Chips to satisfy your appetite. End the day with a sunset view from the dog-friendly rooftop patio at Dog Mountain Brewing, with their signature West Coast donair and a craft brew on hand.

Plan your trip to Port Alberni and the Alberni Valley at