Prince Rupert is the main transportation hub for northern British Columbia. The small city is located on Kaien Island, about 50 miles east of Graham Island (one of the two major Queen Charlotte Islands) and about 480 miles north of Vancouver. While Vancouver in the south is located almost on the border with Washington State, Prince Rupert is located almost on the Alaska border.
The attractions within the city of Prince Rupert include two major museums. One is the Museum of Northern British Columbia, which contains art and artifacts of the Tshimshian, Nisga'a, and Haida First Nations who have lived and flourished in this area for more than 10,000 years. The woodcarving art of these people is legendary and the gift shop here is an excellent place to purchase Native American art and handcrafts. Many of the finest First Nation artists live in this area, and you can see their work in monumental totem poles, superb abstract art, traditional masks, and baskets. The other museum is the North Pacific Historic Fishing Village and Cannery, established in 1889 and operative until 1980. The historic site is open to the public offering guided tours from May through September.
Fishing and Prince Rupert fishing charters provide one of the most important attractions of the area. The First Nation people of the region are legendary mariners and fishermen, as are the hardy and independent newer residents of the area. While many fishing enthusiasts arrive here and head directly to their remote lodge or camps, others have the choice of several Prince Rupert hotels and some charming bed and breakfasts for their first night or two. Then they head out on boats or seaplanes for the most pristine wilderness areas in all of Canada. There are several operators of Prince Rupert fishing charters in town that seek out halibut, snapper, lingcod, and salmon (the crown jewel of Northwest species).
Other things to do in Prince Rupert include wildlife viewing, which often involves camping and hiking in the wilderness. There are dense populations of grizzly bears, magnificent bald eagles, and wolves. On the water you will find sea lions, dolphins, sea otters, and whales galore. This is one of the best whale watching spots in the Northwest, with humpbacks, minkes, orcas, and even the rare giant blue whale.
There is no main coastal road from Vancouver, and driving on the Yellowhead Highway (Route 16) that runs inland covers a distance of nearly 1,000 miles and can take from 15 to 24 hours. There is an airport with daily scheduled flights to and from Vancouver. The airport is on Digby Island, and the 30-minute "airport shuttle" consists of a coach ride to a ferry to a coach ride to the city.
There is also the Seal Cove Aerodrome with seaplane service to Sandspit on Moresby Island and Masset on Graham Island (both part of the Queen Charlotte Islands). There are also seaplane charter flights available to nearby villages and remote locations. Prince Rupert fishing charters often use these as a means of transportation to get visitors to remote wilderness fishing lodges.
There is good Prince Rupert train service on CN Rail that runs to Valemont in east central British Columbia. From here, connections are possible to Vancouver, Prince George, Jasper (in Alberta) and then to other provinces in Canada all the way to Toronto. Simply getting to Jasper is a two-day excursion requiring an overnight in one of the Prince George hotels.
As you can see, it is quite possibly water that provides the most frequent and most convenient transportation. The harbor is the deepest ice-free natural harbor in North America, and third deepest in the world. Even the harbor links to both the highway system and the rail network. Some of the routes for Prince Rupert ferries are actually called Yellowhead Highway routes, meaning you can take your car on them and begin driving again once you get to your destination. The harbor is a major international cargo port for ships going to and from Asia, as well as passenger ships on cruises through the Inside Passage of Alaska.
The Prince Rupert ferry terminal is located in the same place as the rail terminal. BC Ferries has service on fairly large ships with vehicle holds. Certain scenic routes are on ships with passenger staterooms sleeping as many as four people with a private bathroom. Many visitors use the Prince Rupert ferries as an alternative to the large (and more expensive) passenger cruise ships for scenic trips up and down the coast, to various offshore islands, Alaska's magnificent Inside Passage to Skagway, to destinations on British Columbia's beautiful Sunshine Coast, to and from Vancouver Island, and up the Powell River.