Campbell River, a scenic resort town of 32,000, stretches along Discovery Passage, 260 kilometers (162 miles) north of Victoria  and 235 kilometers (146 miles) southeast of Port Hardy . Views from town—of tree-covered Quadra Island  and the magnificent white-topped mountains of mainland British Columbia—are superb, but most visitors come for the salmon fishing.
The best place to absorb some of the local atmosphere is Discovery Pier. The 180-meter (590-foot) long pier is fun to walk on whether you’re into fishing or not. Its benches and protected shelters allow proper appreciation of the marina, strait, mountains, and fishing action, even on wet and windy days. May through October is peak season for salmon fishing, but fishing is also good for steelhead (peak season is Jan.–Apr.) and cutthroat trout (Mar.–May).
The pier sports built-in rod holders, fish-cleaning stations, shelters for nonanglers, and colorful signs describing the fish you’re likely to catch. Anglers cast for salmon (May–Oct.) and the occasional steelhead (Jan.–Apr.), hauling them up in nets on long ropes. When the salmon are running, the pier gets extremely busy, and for good reason—chinook salmon over 14 kilograms (30 pounds) are not uncommon. Rod rentals are available on the pier ($4 per hour, $10 per half-day, $20 per day). Don’t forget, you also need a license.
The Museum at Campbell River (470 Oceanside Island Hwy., 250/287-3103, daily 10 a.m.–6 p.m. May–Sept., Tues.–Sun. noon–5 p.m. the rest of the year, adult $6, student $4), sits on four hectares (10 acres) overlooking Discovery Passage. First check out the photos and interesting written snippets that provide a look at Campbell River’s early beginnings. Then feast your eyes on mystical artifacts, a huge collection of masks, exciting artwork, baskets, woven articles, carved-wood boxes, colorful button blankets, petroglyphs, and totem poles. Finish up in the gift shop, where you can buy stunning native prints, masks, postcards, and other paraphernalia.
Along the highway south of town only the road separates several motels from Discovery Channel. If you want to save your money for a fishing charter, no worries—book a room at the Big Rock Motel (1020 Island Hwy., 250/923-4211 or 877/923-4211, www.bigrockmotel.com , $60 s, $70 d), your average two-story, cinder block motel.
Continuing north you’ll come to the Best Western Austrian Chalet (462 Island Hwy., 250/923-4231 or 800/667-7207, www.bwcampbellriver.com , $99 s, $109 d includes breakfast), with a wide range of facilities including an indoor pool, sauna, barbeque area, and even mini-golf. Right downtown, Coast Discovery Inn (975 Shopper’s Row, 250/287-7155 or 800/716-6199, www.coasthotels.com , $145 s, $155 d) is a full-service hotel with wireless Internet, a fitness room, restaurant and pub, and a private marina.
The 94-room Painters Lodge (1625 MacDonald Rd., 250/286-1102 or 800/663-7090, www.painterslodge.com , Mar.–Oct., $219–375 s or d) is one of the better value fishing lodges. It’s a grandly presented property that wouldn’t look out of place in the English countryside. It’s built right on Discovery Passage, with a private marina and every facility a serious angler could ask for. There’s also a pool, a restaurant, and free boat shuttles to a sister resort on nearby Quadra Island . Most guests stay as part of a package (for example, $680 for three days, inclusive of flights from Vancouver , accommodation, and fishing trips), or you can build a package that includes guided fishing and water-based nature tours.
Many campgrounds line the highway south of town, and although they’re close to the water, the surroundings are generally nothing special. One of the better choices is Campbell River Fishing Village and RV Park (260 South Island Hwy., 250/287-3630, www.fishingvillage.bc.ca , $21–25), two kilometers (1.2 miles) south of downtown. As the name suggests, it’s set up for anglers, with boat rentals, guided charters, rentals (everything from rods to depth sounders), a tackle shop, and fish-freezing facilities. Other amenities include a playground, laundry, and communal fire pit.
One of the best places to go for a meal is the two-story Lookout Seafood Bar & Grill (921 Island Hwy., 250/286-6812, daily 11 a.m.–10 p.m., $9–27), overlooking Discovery Pier and the marina from an absolute waterfront location. The house specialty is, of course, seafood, including a “pail” of clam chowder for $9, fish-and-chips for $11–14, and bouillabaisse for $27.
Continuing north along the harbor front is Riptide Pub (1340 Island Hwy., 250/830-0044, daily for lunch and dinner, $12.50–22), which is a good place for a full meal, although it doesn’t take full advantage of its waterfront location (unless you score a table on the glassed-in patio). The sleek interior is a little nicer than you may imagine while the food is exactly what you’d expect—fresh scallops, oysters, mussels, halibut and salmon.