Prince Rupert (population 15,000), on hilly Kaien Island 726 kilometers (451 miles) west of Prince George, is busy with travelers throughout the summer. The city itself holds an odd but intriguing mixture of cultural icons—totem poles, old English coats of arms and street names, high-rise hotels and civic buildings—all crammed together on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.
Plan to spend at least a day in the area, visiting the excellent museum, exploring an old cannery village, or maybe taking a harbor tour. Prince Rupert is also a gateway to the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, but even from town, you’re likely to spot bald eagles, seals, and even black bears.
The Prince Rupert Visitor Centre (215 Cow Bay Rd., 250/624-5637 or 800/667-1994, www.tourismprincerupert.com, Mon.–Sat. 9 a.m.–8 p.m. and Sun. 9 a.m.–5 p.m. early June–early Sept., Mon.–Sat. 9 a.m.–5 p.m. the rest of the year) is in a converted fish plant along the Cow Bay waterfront. It’s one of the best information centers around, with a knowledgeable staff and lots of printed material on Prince Rupert sights, walking tours, restaurants, services, and ferry schedules.
Getting to Prince Rupert
By Air: Prince Rupert Airport (www.ypr.ca) is west of town on Digby Island. It is linked to the city by a ferry that takes buses and foot passengers only—no vehicles. Airlines provide free bus transportation between the airport and downtown, via the ferry, but passengers must pay the ferry fare of $12 per person each way.
The largest operator is North Pacific Seaplanes (250/627-1341 or 800/689-4234), which offers a 20-minute flight over the city for $130 per person, an hour-long trip to the Khutzeymateen Valley grizzly bear sanctuary for $310 per person, and a trip to Ketchikan for $550 per person including two hours in that Alaskan town.
Prince Rupert is the western terminus of Canada’s transcontinental rail system. To get to the VIA Rail station (250/627-7589) take 2nd Street north over the rail line.
By Bus: From the local Greyhound bus depot (112 6th St., 250/624-5090), buses travel east along the Yellowhead Highway to Terrace and Prince George. The run between Prince George and Prince Rupert leaves twice daily. Reservations are not taken—just turn up and buy your ticket on the day you want to go.
By Train: Prince Rupert is the northern terminus of the BC Ferries network and the only Canadian stop on the Alaska Marine Highway. The two terminals sit side by side two kilometers (1.2 miles) from downtown.
All ferries are modern vessels with day rooms, sleeping cabins, shower facilities, food service, and plenty of room to sit back and relax. Summer demand means you should book as far in advance as possible if you’re transporting a vehicle or would like a cabin.
By Ferry: BC Ferries (250/386-3431 or 888/223-3779, www.bcferries.com) offers thrice-weekly (once a week outside summer) service between Port Hardy (Vancouver Island) and Prince Rupert. The 440-kilometer (273-mile) journey takes 15 hours. Sample one-way fares are: adult $125, child 5–11 $62.50, vehicle $410, cabin $75–85.
The Alaska Marine Highway (907/465-3941 or 800/642-0066, www.alaska.gov/ferry) operates an extensive network of ferries through southeastern Alaska, with Prince Rupert as a major stop. The first port north from Prince Rupert is Ketchikan (adult US$61, child 5–11 US$30.50, vehicle up to 15 feet US$98), six hours away, with vessels continuing north to Juneau and Skagway (adult US$192, child 5–11 US$94, vehicle up to 15 feet US$374). Renting a cabin for the Prince Rupert–Skagway trip, with for example, an en suite bathroom, costs US$152. Check-in time is three hours ahead of sailing time — it takes up to two hours to go through customs and one hour to load up. Foot passengers must be there one hour ahead of sailing.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition