Port Alberni is on the way to the West Coast and is the last stop for gas and other facilities before tackling the very scenic Highway 4. Cathedral Grove is the first must see on your drive westward towards Port Alberni. A beautiful stand of old and very large Cedars and Douglas Fir trees awaits you. There are trails on both sides of the highway, but please obey the signs as all traffic headed in and out of Port Alberni use this highway, traffic can be quite heavy. MacMillan Provincial Park is where Cathedral Grove is located, a great place to see an assortment of birds and plant species so bring your camera along. Get out of your car and stretch your legs.
The Alberni area is home to McLean’s Mill National Historic Site and the Alberni Pacific Railway. The steam train is a 1929 Baldwin logging locomotive, something that will interest train spotters. The train takes riders from the depot at the foot of Argyle Street in the heart of Port Alberni out to the old mill site and back. The old mill is still in operation, producing specialty orders for its customers. The trip to and from the mill is very scenic and you may run across the Beaufort Gang, which robs the train. At Christmas Santa makes special trips on the train, attracting visitors from all over Port Alberni, Parksville, Tofino and Ucluelet. A well attended special event. Once back at the train depot take the time to wander down to the Harbour Quay. There are shops and restaurants available, as well as a wonderful viewing platform, overlooking the Alberni Canal. Saturday mornings there is a Farmer’s Market that is well worth the time to see. If it’s more shopping you want, just walk up Argyle Street, yes there is a hill so you could drive, to Third Avenue and you have reached a great area to explore.
If you are in the Johnston Road area on you way to or from the west coast there is more to explore. While there is a lovely, new mall at the top end of Johnston it is not the only shopping area. The lower portion of Johnston just before River Road has a wonderful variety of stores and coffee shops, worth more than just a few minutes of your time. The bus depot is also located in this area, if you arriving or departing without the use of a vehicle.
As you head west and out of Port Alberni you will pass Sproat Lake and the home of the Martin Mars Water Bombers. They were built to fight forest fires and still get used today, fighting fires locally and most recently in the fires that plagued California during fire season. These planes are huge and often on display to the public during the summer months. Sproat Lake also offers a lovely park and facilities, as well as boating and fishing opportunities.
Add some time to your trip through the area, check out the Information Centre for more details, directions and a list of special events.