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NW to Incredible Side Bay

Check out the pics below. Looking in opposite directions from my campsite at Side Bay, one of Vancouver Island's grand wilderness destinations, west from Port Alice in the far north of Vancouver Island.

Side Bay is a series of small oceanside bays south of mighty Quatsino Inlet, north of the Brooks Peninsula (see map below). You're on your own here, as there's no formal campsite or facilities. Word of mouth has been spreading and it's getting some visitors in summer. I visited in late September, and there was one other camper, so we each took our own bay.

There was a family of sea otters that swam by every day (see pic below). There were eagles circling. Walking the seaside, I saw tracks for deer and a bear along the sands.

Port Alice is roughly 150kms north of Campbell River, mostly along the fine North Island Highway, with the final ~40 kms branching west along paved, scenic Hwy30 (~50kms NW of Port McNeill). It's a modest village along the SE shores of awesome Neroustos Inlet, one of a string of mighty fjord-like inlets bringing the ocean deep into the heart of north Vancouver Island. The economic foundation has been forestry. Logging continues, but, like so many other forestry towns, Port Alice is struggling to overcome the closure of their mill (see pic below).

See the mill in the distance in the lower left along the SE shores of Neroustos Inlet. The pic was taken from a gravel pit for road maintenance a few kms south of the mill.

This area first caught my attention when I was scanning north Island maps, and noticed this huge hinterland with no communities about.

The route west from Port Alice to Side Bay is on logging roads, roughly 90kms, though I added a number of side trips. For a cycle tourist like myself, loaded up with heavy food, the burned in memory was climbing up and over the west shores of Neroustos Inlet. Teeta Hill, ~650m elevation, is incredibly steep (up to 19 degres in stretches), a notable Vancouver Island climb.

You'll see road signs to Mahatta River, a logging depot, with docks to ferry workers out to Port Alice or Coal Harbour. I also visited the rough campsite at O'Connell Lake, renowned for trout fishing, and seaside Gooding Cove, another remarkable wilderness campsite you're likely to have all to yourself (see pic below).

When the track in reaches Side Bay, there's a beach stretch to the west where my neighbours in a van camped. There's 3 or 4 choice bays strung out to the east, but you need to ford a small creek to reach these (I saw some quad tracks across). Pushing one's bike down the bays to get a more distant camp site is a tough slog, but very worthwhile if it's summer and there are other campers taking the near options.

Gooding Cove wilderness campsite. Another gorgeous bay all to myself.

This incredible NW coast has a string of islands, marine parks, hidden coves and tiny marine campsites, attracting adventure kayakers from around the world. My camping neighbour told me that late in the day it is common for kayakers to paddle in and beach at Side Bay to camp for the night.

The pic below is from down the beach at stunning Side Bay, now one of my favourite campsites anywhere.

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