A Favourite Camping Spot
Well, this was a no brainer. The good impression started when I got to the BC ferry terminal in Port McNeill, for the 6km ferry hop to Sointula on Malcolm Island. Not only did the ferry staff ask me how I was doing, but so did the other walk-on passengers. Then I got to Sointula and went for a coffee and asked about Bere Point Campground, with a little trepidation as it was February and sometimes folks say "it's closed - you can't camp there!". But this time the whole coffee house wanted to help out, and let me know I could just about camp anywhere (yay!). Then I started the 7km ride to Bere Point, and car drivers were waving, and I saw some Easter Island heads at the roadside ..... In other words, even before I got to the campsite it was already almost on my favourites list.
This is not a destination for a hard riding trip if, like me, you drove up with your bike on a rack, and left your car in Port McNeill. Malcolm Island is only about 15+km long and 3 kms wide. The island population is under 1,000. The ride to Bere Point on the north shores goes over a little island spine with an elevation of ~100m, so you get a bit of a workout and a little descent to finish.
That said, if you rode the North Island Highway 200km up from Campbell River (see fav ride), you'll have well earned some fine R & R.
Downtown Sointula architecture. I noted a number of examples of the whimsical as I made my way to Bere Point. One sees Easter Island heads every so often, but rarely do they seem to fit in quite as well as here on Malcolm Island. The ride starts by following the bay north through town and past the marina. Very scenic.
Here's a link to a north Vancouver Island regional website and here's how they intro this fabulous campground: There are 24 campsites nestled in the trees with the beach a stone’s throw away with views of the Queen Charlotte Strait and the nearby snow-capped coastal mountains..... There's a 3km hiking trail down the north island coast to Beautiful Bay, with a killer whale viewing platform on the way (though I was told by locals that the whales do not commonly oblige).
There are some day-use picnic areas. A number of the choice campsites are right along the seaside, or just across the beachside access track, with other sites set back a little. Reservations are accepted, and I was told $20 a night in season. There's outhouses, but no potable water.
Aside from the great beach and fine campsites, what made an impressions upon me was the number of spots with some local enhancements: mostly made with driftwood, there are benches, tables, fences, stairways, chessboards,,,, (I could go on). The impression is a place people want to stay a while and add their personal touch. I loved it. I was told that many of the campers have been coming back every year for long stretches.
Here's a little history:
"Sointula means “place of harmony” in Finnish.This charming seaside town on sprawling Malcolm Island was established as a community in the late 19th century when a colony of Finnish settlers arrived with utopian dreams of building the perfect community. While that vision was derailed within a decade ....." Many of the Finns stayed on, farming, fishing & logging, and helping give the island a distinctive character that lives on to this day.
Malcolm Island and nearby Comorant Island (Alert Bay the main town), are part of the ancestral lands of the Namgis First Nation.
The beach at Bere Point. This bay is famous as every once in a while, killer whales show up to cruise almost to shore and give themselves a good belly rub on the smooth pebbled ocean floor. In summertime, lots of humans have also been noted lolling about the smooth pebbled beach and swimming the shallow waters.
In the map below, the blue route track starts at the ferry terminal in Port McNeill. I drove up this time and left my car at the ferry parking lot ($5/night). Note also neighbouring Comorant Island, also connected by ferry from Port McNeil (historically and culturally, the two islands are linked). As you ride to Bere Point from Sointula, the road turns to dirt as it heads away from the coast. I had limited time this visit, but it looks like a nice 30-40kms round trip excursion to ride out to the east point and see a little more of the island.
If you have time, you can combine your visit to Malcolm with a trip out to Alert Bay and Telegraph Cove, several other north Island tourist gems (see fav ride).