How to Get to Cape Scott Park & The North Coast Trail (& where to stop along the way!)

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North Coast Trail directions

We did a quick search to find out what most people are looking for when it comes to visiting our park. Overwhelmingly, your questions revolve around something we’ve taken pretty for granted, how to get to Cape Scott Park. We forget how far away we really are from almost everything and despite having a little teeny tiny section on our website with instructions how to get here- it seems you still have questions.

The drive to Cape Scott Park is actually an adventure on its own. There are plenty of awe-inspiring lookouts, unique towns and fun roadside attractions along the way if you decide to drive. It’s a great excuse to get out there and see some new places on Vancouver Island you otherwise may never visit. If you are short on time, taking a plane is an easy option. For those of you arriving without a car, jumping on the water taxi as part of your trip is something you will never forget. Believe us, the panoramic views of the rugged west coast wilderness are something you will remember for the rest of your life. 


This is definitely a trip that is about both the journey AND the destination.


If you are planning a trip to Cape Scott Park or the North Coast Trail, and are not yet sure how you want to get there, this article is for you. Read on as we break down the different ways to get to Cape Scott Park. 


Driving to Cape Scott Park:

Okay, so you’ve decided to drive to the very northwestern point of Vancouver Island, Cape Scott Park. You are in for an awesome road trip! If you are coming from mainland British Columbia, take the Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay (Vancouver to Nanaimo) ferry. Then, drive up the beautiful, meandering island highway (Highway 19) for about 4 hours. The turn off for Cape Scott Park is just before you reach Port Hardy. Once you reach Port McNeill, you have two choices. You can stock up in Port McNeill or wait until you reach Port Hardy. 
Before you head out, you can check road conditions of the highway here. Port Hardy is the closest “large” municipality to Cape Scott Park and the North Coast Trail. It has a population of around 4,000 people, but more importantly for you, a Save on Foods to stock up on food, a BC Liquor Store to stock up on campfire beers (if that’s your thing) and a hardware store to grab any forgotten supplies and camping essentials like fuel. If you want a pre-hike indulgence, this is the last place to grab a good coffee, ice cream or baked good before you head off the beaten path. If you are doing the North Coast Trail, Port Hardy is also where you will be catching the North Coast Trail Shuttle, but we’ll be talking more about that below.

Driving to Cape Scott Part 2: Getting off the beaten path 


Once you leave Port Hardy it’s about an hour drive to the next town, Holberg. Don’t expect to stock up on groceries, make any last phone calls or surf the net. Reception is spotty and there is only one small convenience store and a pretty epic pub, the Scarlett Ibis. If it is open, it is worth a visit for both a cold Lucky lager (maybe not for the driver!) and the informal museum of logging of the North Island. During your hour drive to get to Holberg, you will be travelling on logging roads. Be aware that you may encounter big logging trucks that are hauling while using the roads. 

You may want to carry a radio and scan the channel listed below to listen for drivers who will be calling out their location. Remember, you are smaller than them, and much more agile, so it is your responsibility to drive slowly, stay on your side of the road, turn on your headlights, move out of the way and into a pull off if necessary. From Holberg, follow signs to Cape Scott Park, which is about a 30-45 minute drive depending on conditions. You can monitor Western Forest Products Twitter account if there is any work or important notices in relation to conditions during the summer season. Parking is available and plentiful at the parking lot, which is the only way to enter the park by vehicle. Make sure to not leave any valuables or food in your vehicle, as there have been a few break ins over the years, including hungry wildlife. 

How to Get to Cape Scott Park by Plane:

If driving isn’t in your itinerary, there are easy flights to Cape Scott Park via Vancouver. Pacific Coastal Airlines has non-stop, 1 hour flights that depart from Vancouver daily. From Port Hardy, you then book a shuttle with North Coast Trail Shuttle or a tour with Cove Adventure Tours in order to arrive at Cape Scott Park.


How to Get to Cape Scott Park by Bus or Shuttle:

If you are hiking the North Coast Trail, we’re over 99% sure that you are going to need the assistance of the North Coast Trail Shuttle. We say 99% because there is less than 10 people we have encountered in our whole time as Park Operators that have decided to hike the trail east and west back to their car. For most people, one time is enough! The North Coast Trail Shuttle service takes you from Port Hardy via boat to Shushartie Bay. It is a 60 minute ride that leaves at 7 am during the April 15- September 30 season. Days of departure depend on booking numbers. The water taxi is awesome and is a big part of the experience. You can see whales, dolphins, seals and orcas. They’ll pick you up at the San Josef Bay parking lot after your trek in a small shuttle bus. Make sure to coordinate the day you will be coming out with their team. 


Most likely, you will be arriving in Port Hardy the day before your shuttle departs for the North Coast Trail or you head in for the Cape Scott Trail. There are several accommodation options in Port Hardy, the North Coast Trail Backpackers Hostel being a popular choice. There are several other more upmarket choices in the area such as the Ecoscape Cabins and Glen Lyon Inn. 


While you are in the area there is plenty to check out on the North Island. The Vancouver Island North Tourism Centre has plenty of great resources for water activities to check out, unique small communities to visit, cultural experiences to take in and dining options

If you have any other questions about how to get here and how to best plan your trip, hit us up with a message on Facebook. We can’t wait to see you next season!  


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