An Adventure Lady’s Guide to Campbell River: Sass, Class, and Kicking Ass
Updated: May 30, 2020
Campbell River is most commonly known for sport fishing. Fishy people come from around the world to dive into this sport fishing mecca. However, if you're more into eating fish than catching it (or you just can't catch it like me), there is still a load of adventurous activities to do here. We visited the River (this is me trying to be hip) in May with Holly and Miranda to shoot some videos for Destination Campbell River and what we ended up with was the ultimate ladies weekend.
Elk Falls Provincial Park is an easy adventure with big payoffs. Located just 2-kilometres from downtown Campbell River, the park offers six kilometres of trails. The Millennium Trail is a quick 2.4-kilometre direct hike to the fall viewing areas.
I like a painful multi-day hike as much as the next outdoor sadist, but I'm also a fan of a good effort-to-view ratio when hiking. Not only are the falls an incredible sight, but they can be viewed from multiple viewing platforms and from a wicked suspension bridge. The bridge is a destination on its own, but it also offers mesmerizing views of the cascading waters of the Elk River.
Northern Resident Orcas, as well as Humpback whales, frequent the Salish Sea around Campbell River, making it an ideal place to go whale watching.
Campbell River Whale Watching offers a team of excellent guides and the smoothest whale watching vessels I have ever experienced. On our tour, we cruised past Mitlenatch Island Nature Provincial Park, which is home to the largest seabird colony in the Strait of Georgia. This island is a protected area that houses Glaucous-winged Gulls, Pelagic Cormorants, Pigeon Guillemots, Black Oystercatchers, and the largest (loudest) pack of sea lions I have ever seen.
The Campbell River Golf and Country Club is home to the Velocity Lounge and Toptracer Range. Now, you don't have to be a fancy golfer with flashy slacks to have a good time here. At Toptracer Ranges the balls have tracking chips in them, so after every drive, you can see stats on how you did. They also have games like Longest Drive and Closest to the Pin. And if you're classy like us, you can put in whatever name you like into the system, like Hobag for example — then you can laugh like children when Hobag wins the longest drive. Just a suggestion.
The Velocity Lounge also has great food and beverages. It's kind of like bowling, except better in every way.
There is so much great biking to be had in Campbell River. But if you're a beginner or a cruiser, or maybe out with kids, the Beaver Lodge Lands is a great place to soak in some nature while hitting the trails.
These lands were donated to the Province in 1931 by the Elk River Timber Company for experimental work with forest management, making it a pristine and diverse forest today. With dozens of trails weaving throughout the park, an app like Trailforks is a must.
A great trek just 16-kilometres drive outside of Campbell River is the Ripple Rock hiking trail. This 7.7-kilometre, out-and-back hike takes about four hours to complete. There are beaches, stairs, ropes and lookouts, everything you could want in an afternoon mini-adventure.
The greatest part of this hike is the main lookout over the Seymour Narrows. This is the site of the spectacular Ripple Rock explosion. Today, the water swirls in the narrows, but before 1958, this passage was a significant shipping hazard. Ripple Rock was hidden just three metres below the water's surface (at low tide). The expedition to remove the rock is a fascinating piece of local history, for more information check out my full trail report here.
I think I didn't get enough (or any) exposure to go-karts as a kid, and it makes me really want to go to them every time I get a chance. Luckily, Campbell River can fulfil your go-karting needs at the Saratoga Speedway (such a great name for go-karts).
Saratoga doesn't just do the go-karting thing, they also have Monster Trucks, race nights and (my favourite) demolition derbies. When you're in the area, check out their racing schedule for some good clean fun.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding
We rented SUP boards from Island Joy Rides and took them out to McIvor Lake. McIvor is just a quick 20-minute rip from downtown Campbell River. It's a great paddling lake and swimming hole (for the summer months).
We just picked up paddleboards and took off, but Island Joy Rides offers some incredible tour options for paddling and peddling. They offer pizza and paddling, wine and chocolate and cycling, nature trips and more— there are amazing combinations to satisfy your appetite for adventure and for food.
For some indoor fun or strength training, or to prove to your friends that you have absolutely no upper body strength, climbing gyms are great. On the Rocks Climbing Gym offers a vast range in technical runs and bouldering options. The gym's climbing area has 35-foot walls with 18 "top rope" stations. If you're there solo, five auto-belay stations allow you to climb without a partner.
I'm terribly afraid of heights and ridiculously weak, so after doing a tall route to the ceiling, I opted for bouldering (which is so much more fun and you can touch your friends' butts when their hands are busy — consensually, don't be a butt toucher).
From farm to flask, Shelter Point Distillery will change your standards for local distilling. With a 380-acre seaside farm property, Shelter Point is one of the very few distilleries that grow their barley and distill in the same location, making their product truly local.
The whiskey ages within a few hundred metres from the ocean, which contributes to the flavour of the finished products. During our tour, we had a close look at the Willy-Wonka-Esq stills and got a good sense of the pride they put into all their spirits. We learned a lot about distilling from Brian, like this fun fact, "Yeast is a living breathing thing, it eats sugar and pees alcohol."
Brown's Bay Resort
Brown's Bay Resort offers camping, a marina, cabins and luxury tents. This was my first experience glamping -- I was a little skeptical because when I'm camping, I like things to be kind of hard and uncomfortable, but these luxury tents were terrific. With a full-blown kitchen, private bathroom with shower, and bunk beds, we were in full "treat yo' self" mode and in glamping heaven. I'm now a believer. Our tents were located right on the water where we were treated to a glorious sunrise in the morning. We could have spent the entire weekend at Brown's Bay and would have been perfectly happy.
You've been in one hotel room you've been in them all, right? Hold onto your hats, because the Anchor Inn has theme suites. We stayed in the Western Room that was complete with bunkbeds in a jailhouse, an old-time bar and a wagon for a bed. Other theme suites include the Arabian, Arctic, Safari, and English Suites. I don't think I can go back to regular hotel rooms, it's theme suites or nothing for me from now on.
Beach Fire Brewing/Nosh House
Beach Fire Brewing is the only local brewery in Campbell River, making it the prime spot to get a pint of craft beer. With high ceilings and long tables, it has a great loungey atmosphere for just hanging out.
Activity Pairing: Stay right downtown Campbell River and literally hang out at the On the Rocks Climbing gym then treat yourself to a pint (and nachos).
Dockside Fish & Chips
Dockside is the ultimate fish and chips place. Not only is it right down on the water, but they also are committed to locally and sustainably caught fish. If you're lucky, you'll even catch a glimpse of Richard the one-eyed seal.
Activity Pairing: Combined Whale Watching with fish and chips, I guess we have kind of a sick sense of humour, but it makes for a fun ocean-themed day.
Anglers at Dolphins Resort
Anglers at Dolphins Resort offers a more elegant dining experience with what they call "west coast dining with a pacific rim flair." Their meals are as delicious as they are beautiful, and the views from their patio definitely tie right into their coastal vibes. After dinner, take a walk down to their private beach.
Activity Pairing: Tap into your classy lady, and swing by the Shelter Point Distillery for a tour and tasting before dinner.
The Ideal Cafe is the classic diner experience with the best milkshakes. There's a special place in my heart for restaurants that give you the normal glass and the metal blender cup when you order a milkshake. It's just so much milkshake.
Activity pairing: work up an appetite with the Ripple Rock hike in the morning, then eat all the things at the Ideal Cafe for lunch.
SoCal is where you want to go for caesars. Their classic caesar is voted the best in Campbell River, but why go for classic when you can go super? Their Super Caesar comes with a prawn and thick-cut bacon. Enjoy caesars in their natural habitat, on the patio.
Activity Pairing: After biking through the Beaver Lodge Lands stop in for a super caesar, it's basically lunch in a glass.
These are just a few adventures we had. Get more details and plan your trip to the River with Destination Campbell River.