Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada
Just 40 mi (66 km) south of the Alaskan border, Prince Rupert is the largest community on British Columbia's north coast. Set on Kaien Island at the mouth of the Skeena River and surrounded by deep green fjords and coastal rain forest, Prince Rupert is rich in the culture of the Tsimshian, people who have been in the area for thousands of years. As the western terminus of Canada's second transcontinental railroad and blessed with a deep natural harbor, Prince Rupert was, at the time of its incorporation in 1910, poised to rival Vancouver as a center for trans-Pacific trade. This didn't happen, partly because the main visionary behind the scheme, Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad president Charles Hays, went down with the Titanic on his way back from a financing trip to England. Prince Rupert turned instead to fishing and forestry. A port of call for both BC and Alaska ferries, but relatively new to cruise ships, this community of 15,000 retains a laid-back, small-town air.
Large cruise ships calling at Prince Rupert dock at the Northland Cruise Terminal, while smaller ships tie up at Atlin Terminal next door. Both terminals are in the city's historic Cow Bay district, steps from the Museum of Northern British Columbia and about five blocks from the central business district. The terminals for both British Columbia and Alaska ferries as well as the VIA Rail station are grouped together about 2 km (1 mi) from town. Most points of interest are within walking distance of the cruise-ship terminals.
Cow Bay. Home to both of Prince Rupert's cruise-ship terminals, Cow Bay is a historic waterfront area of shops, galleries, seafood restaurants, yachts, and fishing boats. Cow Bay takes its name seriously; lampposts, benches, and anything else stationary is painted Holstein-style. While here, you can stop for a coffee or seafood lunch, or shop for local crafts.
Museum of Northern British Columbia. In a longhouse-style facility overlooking the waterfront, the museum has one of the province's finest collections of coastal First Nations art, with artifacts portraying 10,000 years of Northwest Coast history. You may also have a chance to see artisans working in a nearby carving shed. Between June and August, museum staff also operate the Kwinitsa Railway Museum, a five-minute walk away on the waterfront. 100 1st Ave. W. Admission charged.
Fishing. The waters surrounding Prince Rupert are famous for yielding enormous halibut and Spring "Tyee" salmon. Half-day charters are a popular way to dip your line into the waters.
Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Viewing. Travel by boat to see one of North America's highest concentrations of grizzly bears, passing stunning scenery and two First Nations villages en route. Eagles, porpoises, and whales may also be spotted. Since boats are not permitted to land at the sanctuary, you'll watch the bears from a safe distance offshore. Viewing is best between mid-May and late July; trips may not be offered in August and September.
Prince Rupert has a great selection of locally made crafts and First Nations artwork. Look for items carved in argillite, a kind of slate unique to this region.
The Cow Bay Gift Galley (24 Cow Bay Rd.) has gifts, souvenirs, and local art.
The North Coast Artists' Cooperative Ice House Gallery (At Atlin Cruise Ship Terminal) has paintings, jewelry, weaving, pottery, and more, all by local artists.