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The port city of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada, is actually on an island at the mouth of the Skeena River, just 40 miles south of the Alaska border and 65 miles south of Ketchikan. Its name was decided in a nationwide contest at the time of its incorporation in 1910, but plans for the city to rival the Port of Vancouver, some 550 miles south, have never been realized.
 
Prince Rupert is at the center of an amazingly scenic area and has much to offer travelers. Ecotourism has taken off, sport fishing is excellent, and the town is a convenient hub for exploring the sights of the Pacific Northwest. There are many tours including the Museum of Northern British Columbia, Pike Island Archeological Tour, North Pacific Cannery, and a variety of harbor and other activities to keep you busy.
 
Arriving into port by ship is breathtaking, as you skirt hundreds of islands and make your way through narrow, mist-shrouded passageways to this town of 16,000 residents. And, because of its moderate climate and mists, it is not unusual to see several rainbows a day, including double and triple rainbows that span the entire horizon.
 
The natural landscape provides most of the draw for this locale, but it also has a history as one of the oldest continuously occupied regions in the world, with a First Nations culture that dates back over 10,000 years. In fact, the area surrounding Prince Rupert was at one time one of the most densely populated regions north of Mexico. The Tsimshian Nation's sites and archeological artifacts are available to visitors touring here, and there is a museum dedicated to the First Nations peoples.
 
If it's wildlife you seek, Prince Rupert is a dream location, home to Canada's only Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, the highest concentration of humpbacked whales in North America, white Kermode bears and soaring eagles. Your visit will leave you with a greater appreciation for the interaction between man and the natural world.
 
Any of the carvings or original jewelry created by the local First Nations artisans in the area, most especially an item carved from argillite, a slate-like stone indigenous to the Prince Rupert and Queen Charlotte Islands regions which -- by law -- can only be carved by the people of the Haida nation.
 
Where You're Docked
Cruise ships arrive at the new Northland Terminal in downtown Prince Rupert. There is a small customs and immigration center and an adjacent visitor's center. Many of the tours that require boats leave from the Atlin Terminal just adjacent to the cruise ship dock as well.
 
There are several coffee shops and cafes in the district around the cruise dock, and Cow Bay, an area of cute shops painted in black and white cow spots, is just a 10-minute walk away. The visitor's center has an array of guidebooks and tourist information. The walk up the hill to the downtown area takes approximately 10 minutes. Grocery and sundry stores are open seven days a week.
 
Getting Around
Those who choose to wander around Prince Rupert itself can do so on foot. There are several car rental agencies not far from the dock, and tour buses are available on the pier apron for those taking pre-arranged tours. There is also a municipal bus system which you can take for rides around the city. Those looking for a realtively cheap and versatile mode of transportation during the summer months can rent a scooter at the lot adjacent to the dock. Bicycle rentals are available from nearby Farwest Sports (212 Third Ave. W., 250-624-2568).
 
What you can do while in Prince Rupert usually comes down to your preference of activities, how much energy you want to exert and how much time you have on hand.
 
Things to See and Do
Cow Bay
Located just 10 minutes from downtown, this area features a walkway alongside the harbor. Unique stores and intimate cafes are housed in restored buildings dating back to the1930's. Savor fresh seafood, quaff an ale or sip tea at harbor side.

SeaFest
Held the second weekend in June, is Prince Rupert's major community " Blow-Out". Celebrating the end of winter, there are four days of parades, dances, flyovers, competitions and general fun and enjoyment. Party on!

Butze Rapids
Located about six km east of Prince Rupert on Highway 16. The Butze Rapids Trail is a 4.8 km easy going loop that takes hikers through old growth forests. View the Butze Rapids, Prince Rupert's very own reversing tidal rapids, from this trail. The Grassy Bay Trail ties into the Butze Rapids trail. Interpretive signs are along the trails and there are short steep sections, so children may need assistance. Parking lot on the highway. Please note that wolves are known to frequent the area, so please do not take you dog with you.
Oliver Lake
Oliver Lake, just outside Prince Rupert, is home to the exotic Bonsai trees reported to be over 125 years old. They have been bent and twisted into their gnarled shape by the soil and the seasons.

Roosevelt Park
The city's Roosevelt Park was named for the US president, in honor of the 73,000 American servicemen who were stationed in Prince Rupert during the course of the Second World War.

First Nations Carving Shed
See some of the finest carvers of northwest First Nations art working on copper, silver, gold, cedar and argillite. Argillite is carved exclusively by members of the Haida Nation.

Sports Fishing
The north coast is legendary for producing big salmon and truly is an angler's paradise. Ideally located at the mouth of the Skeena River and the beginning of Chatham Sound, Prince Rupert is the perfect jumping off spot to well known hotspots such as Chatham Sound and Work Channel.

The Skeena
Between the town of Terrace and Prince Rupert, the road is one of the most beautiful stretches of scenery in the world. Impossible to capture with the amateur's camera, it is magnificent in scale. The Skeena River is wide and mighty, and the mountains on either side rise abruptly from its banks, dizzying in height. Layers of mist often hang in this dramatic valley, adding to the atmosphere of mystery. At the end of the drive, you plunge like the Skeena itself into Prince Rupert.

Totem Park
Home to some, but not all, of Prince Rupert's totem poles; the city has one of the best collections of totem poles in coastal B.C.

Sunken Gardens
Originally excavated as the foundation of Court House and used for munitions storage during World War II, has been converted to lovely gardens.

Pacific Mariners Memorial Park
There are two focal points to this park: one being the mariner's statue and Memorial Walls, the other the Shinto Shrine which was built for the Kazu Maru, a Japanese fishing dingy that drifted across the Pacific Ocean after the disappearance of it's owner. The owner/skipper was from Prince Rupert's sister-city Owase in Japan.

Gateway
Prince Rupert is the gateway to Southeast Alaska and neighboring north coast villages of Port Edward, Lax Kw'alaams (Port Simpson), Metlakatla, Oona River, Gitkxaahla (Kitkatla), Gitga'ata (Hartley Bay), Kitasoo (Klemtu) and Gingolx (Kincolith). Prince Rupert is also a common jumping-off point for trips to Queen Charlotte Islands as well as to Alaska.

Prince Rupert Tours
Prince Rupert exudes a hard-working, good-natured vigor, and the population is a well-integrated mix of First Nations, Asian, and European-heritage Canadians. You'll experience the palpable sense of being on the northern edge of the world, which gives the city--situated on a series of rock ledges above the broad expanse of the Pacific--a sense of purpose and vitality.
 
There is float plane, helicopter, ferry and water taxi service between Prince Rupert and most of the smaller communities throughout the region.

North Pacific Cannery
Step back in time and enjoy the color and flavor of life at British Columbia's oldest surviving salmon cannery. Visit the old canning lines, then stroll the cedar boardwalks and docks along the river's edge to the messhouse, bunkhouses, cannery store, net loft and offices of the historical North Pacific Cannery in Port Edward. Built in 1889, it was a functioning cannery until 1968, and was declared a National Historic Site in 1985.

Kwinitsa Station
Built in 1911, Kwinitsa Station was one of 400 identical rail stations along the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway from Winnipeg to Prince Rupert. Today, this fascinating structure is one of only four surviving stations, and serves as the Kwinitsa Station Railway Museum, telling the story of early Prince Rupert and the role of the railway in its development. The Firehall Museum also awaits those wanting to learn about the past.

Archeological Harbour Tour
Sail through time on an Archaeological Harbour Tour and discover why Prince Rupert has the highest concentration of archaeological sites anywhere in North America. The voyage begins at the Museum for an introduction before setting sail for the First Nations village of Metlakatla, on the Tsimpsean Peninsula. Returning through Venn Passage to Dodge Cove, visitors will hear the incredible 10,000 year history of this engaging cove, from the earliest Tsimshian village to the establishment of a quarantine hospital.

Heritage Walking Tour
Explore the colorful history of BC's first planned city on a Heritage Walking Tour led by a personality from Prince Rupert's past. This walk, operated by the Museum of Northern BC, includes the telling of local tales and stops at historic points. Escorted bus tours and totem pole tours to see the wonderful examples of aboriginal art are also available.

Khutzeymateen Valley
Head out to the rugged beauty of the Khutzeymateen Valley, home to one of the largest concentration of Grizzly Bears on the north coast of British Columbia. The Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary is the only park in the world expressly preserved for the protection of grizzly bears. Eco-tours are available to the Khutzeymateen Valley, fifty miles by boat up a long inland fjord, which can truly be an experience of a lifetime. Visit Palmerville Adventures for more information.

Ocean Fishing/Tours
Ocean sport fishing is available most months of the year in the Prince Rupert area, with the season generally running from late April to late September. Anglers hook chinook salmon averaging 25 to 30 lbs, and some at 40 to 60 lbs, from mid-April to early August. Coho salmon, smaller than chinook but great fighters, come through from mid-July to mid-October. Pink salmon are caught from mid-July to late August and provide excellent angling in years of good returns. The world record chum salmon of 35 lbs was caught in the area in 1995. Halibut fishing is at its peak from May to September, with a complete closure in January. Rockfish are generally available year round, and crabbing for dungeoness crabs is also very popular.

Flightseeing
Aerial 'flight seeing' tours are available to Prince Rupert's coastal Ice fields, to the Khutzeymateen Valley of the great Grizzly Bear, to the Alaskan Great Cambria and Salmon Ice fields, and around Kaien Island.
Kayaking
Prince Rupert is establishing itself as a premier sea kayaking destination. Paddling spots include Porcher Island, the Mystery Islands, Melville Islands, Work Channel (paddle with whales), and Khutzeymateen Inlet for grizzly bear viewing. Special spring trips run to the Nass River to paddle with the Oolichan and eagles. Kayaks are a snap to learn and easy to paddle. Guided trips out of Prince Rupert last anywhere from 3 hours to 7 days. Rent a kayak from Cow Bay and explore nearby islands and the inner harbor. Experienced and novice paddlers are welcome, and lessons are available.

Pike Island
First Nations guides will lead you on the five-hour Pike Island/Laxspa'aws Archaeology Tour of the 1,800-year-old sites. The scenic, secluded, and forested Pike Island features three village sites and a petroglyph site on the beach.

Nature Walks
Nature walks and hiking trails are found through the area and within the city limits. City trails are one to two kilometers long, and range from gentle wooded strolls to vigorous hikes. The Butze Rapids Trail near the city features a view of reversing tidal rapids, and Kinsmen's Linear Park offers a system of 10 nature trails in and around the city. Hiking maps are available at the Visitor Info Center and the Forest Service office.

Cow Bay got its moniker as a result of dairy cattle brought to the region in 1906. At that time there were no docks built, so the cows had to swim ashore. What had been Cameron Cove became known as Cow Bay as a result, and this waterfront area is now a fun shopping district with historic buildings and unique architecture. Many of the shops and restaurants are built on pilings right on the water.
 
Museum of Northern British Columbia
View exhibits in the Great Hall of the Museum of Northern British Columbia; displays that portray Northwest Coast history and culture dating back to the last ice age. Witness the legacy of oral history, archaeological discoveries and unique artifacts that depict ten thousand years of ancient lifeways. Located on the oceanfront overlooking Prince Rupert Harbor, the museum also reveals the dramatic history of the more recent period, including the power of the fur trade and the heyday of railway construction.
The Museum of Northern British Columbia (100 1st Avenue West, www.museumofnorthernbc.com) features several exhibits that celebrate the area and the Haida, Tsimishian, Tlingit and Nisga'a cultures.
 
The First Nations Carving Shed (1-800-667-1994), located just a block from the Museum of Northern British Columbia, features artists and carvers of the region. Watch as they create everything from sculpture and totems to jewelry, working with silver, copper, cedarwood and gold; you can purchase items from these individual artists as well.
 
Whale Watching Tours are a major draw here because the Prince Rupert area is home to the largest concentration of humpbacked whales in North America. But that's not all you'll see on these tours. If you visit earlier in the season (May to July), it's likely that your excursions will find several pods of orcas, and at any time you are likely to see eagles, dolphins, sea lions and other marine life in close proximity. Information on several different tours can be found at www.cruisetoprincerupert.com.
 
The North Pacific Historic Fishing Village (1889 Skeena Drive, Port Edward, www.district.portedward.bc.ca), located 12 miles south of Prince Rupert, is a true "company town." That company is the oldest-standing salmon cannery in British Columbia, which illustrates life in the region for fishermen and the industry they created. There is also an artist colony with resident artists, a restaurant, a cafe, daily performances and guided tours.
 
Go kayaking or canoeing around Venn Island (Seashore Charters, 800-667-4393, www.seashorecharters.com). Led by First Nation guides, these three-hour excursions take visitors around Venn Island in either two-person kayaks or traditional 12-person ocean canoes, and include a traditional Tsimshian snack in the village of Metlakatla. Minimum age is 10.
 
Shore Excursions
New in 2008 is a Thshimshian Traditional Canoe Quest and Rainforest Hike expedition; you travel in a 31 ft. native-design canoe.
 
Accessible by water (or plane) only, the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary (250-798-2277, www.palmerville.bc.ca or 800-201-8377, http://www.westcoastlaunch.com) is the only grizzly bear sanctuary in Canada, and provides a unique opportunity to get "up close and personal" with the bears (you must go out with a guide). Most tours access the grizzly area via a 27-mile floatplane ride.
 
Pike Island Cultural Tour: This 3 1/2-hour tour includes visits to ancient Tsimshian villages that date back 1800 years, an overview of the First Nations culture and a walking tour of the rainforest.
 
Salmon Ocean Fishing: Navigate the waters of Dixon Entrance and Chatham Sound to try to land "the big one": a chinook, coho or king salmon, which can be cleaned, packed, and sent to your home. Five hours.
 
 
Eating Out
For an elegant outing, the Waterfront Restaurant in the Crest Hotel (222 West 1st Ave, 1-800-663-8150, www.cresthotel.bc.ca/waterfront.html) offers British Columbia cuisine on the waterfront.
 
Cow Bay Cafe (205 Cow Bay Rd., 250-627-1212) serves lunch and dinner in a casual waterfront location. The menu changes twice daily with a focus on international cuisine, including excellent seafood and vegetarian entrees (with delicious desserts). Dinner reservations recommended.
 
Cowpuccino's Coffee House (25 Cow Bay Road, 250-624-6090) is known for its homemade soups and sandwiches plus coffees, ice cream and muffins, all made on the premises.
 
If you've had it with cruise-ship cuisine and want something different, try the Vietnamese offerings at Herbie's Family Restaurant (679 2nd Ave. W., 250-624-3965). And if you are there early enough, try the $2.99 (CAD) breakfast special, which equates to about $2 USD.
 
Smiles Seafood Cafe (113 Cow Bay Road, 250-624-3072) started out as a taxi stand and became a restaurant in 1934 -- and it still serves great seafood at reasonable prices ... with a smile.
 
Shopping
 
Cow Bay Shopping District:
Cameron Cove acquired the name of “Cow Bay” in the early days of Prince Rupert, when the first herd of dairy cows arrived there and had to swim ashore because no dock had yet been built. A waterfront area of historic buildings, many of them built on pilings over the water, this area is today a funky shopping district where visitors can book area tours, visit a variety of boutiques, including souvenir and gift shops, or relax in one of several restaurants and coffee shops.
 
Historic Downtown Shopping District:
Prince Rupert developed as the terminus of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad, and retained the look of a thriving frontier community as the years went by. Many of these pioneer buildings still form the core of Historic Downtown Prince Rupert, which is today our general shopping district. Visitors will find grocery and department stores, and a wide variety of shops and galleries, in a scenic setting with fountains, gardens and totem poles sprinkled among the historic architecture.
 
Rupert Square Shopping Centre:
The Rupert Square shopping centre is located on 2nd Avenue in the heart of downtown Prince Rupert. It has been open to the public since 1974. The 20 businesses located in the mall offer a wide range of services and products.

 
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