Port Alice is North Islands best-kept secret. One of those places that has the label of being a company town, it has a stigma attached to it that is hard to shake, even for North Islanders. Most folks see a company town as a closed community, hard to break into and hard to get to know. That may be so for some but nothing could be farther from the truth for this town, filled with friendly people with a community spirit that extends far beyond its borders.
Most North Islanders see Port Alice during the winter when curling and hockey bring people together. Other than that, once every three or four years the Mt. Waddington Regional Fall Fair is held there and, later in early December, a well attended craft fair takes place. Except for the Rumble Mountain Bicycle race, held this year on June 10th and Canada Day celebrations, local folks mostly see this picturesque little town during the worst weather of the year.
True enough, it lies on an inlet connected to the rainy west coast of the island and thus gets its abundant share of moisture. Port Alicians will tell you that it is nevertheless well worth bearing the winter storms for the idyllic conditions the rest of the year. I will attest to this because Ive been there on summer days when it was so warm that being hit by a dropping coconut would have been no surprise.
We miss the point, however, in paying attention to Port Alices weather. As the visitor comes down out of the mountains, winding his way beside an alder-covered creek and eventually coming to this very sheltered inlet, there is a feeling of arriving. You may not have been there before but there is a sensation of completeness that has something to do with a community that is snuggled against a mountainside in this wonderfully narrow inlet. The stunning beauty of the place defies description. Nearly every home in town has a view that rivals anything our National Parks have to offer.
The next time that you and your friends or family are looking for a great picnic spot, wend your way along the scenic drive that leads to this neat community. Stop at the Marble River on the way and check out the ladders to see if the salmon are spawning. In summer, look down-river from the bridge and you may see some of the local kids diving from the huge timber hanging on the rocks to the pool far below. Acapulco has nothing on these kids!
Do save your picnic lunch for the great little park near the marina in Port Alice. Spread it out beneath the huge old trees on this slope facing the ocean and watch the kids on the swings nearby. After lunch take a stroll on the sea-walk that follows the shoreline to see some of the best scenery North Island has to offer.
I did the accompanying painting near the end of the walk using the picnic table as my easel. I painted looking westward, back toward the town, while a steady array of people sauntered by, stopping to check out my progress.
This walk has become a feature of the town, very popular with tourists as well as providing an enjoyable daily workout for locals. Built by volunteers, it stands as a fitting example of what a community spirit can achieve. Good on ya, Port Alice!