Vancouver Island North is open for hikers (Vancouver Island North Tourism/Steven Fines)

Tourism bursting back to life on northern Vancouver Island

North Island buzzing the first weekend of July after Phase 3 allowed in-province travel

Cape Scott Provincial Park’s parking lot was bursting at the barriers the first weekend of July, stuffed with thru-hikers and day-trippers.

San Josef Bay and Second Beach were polka-dotted with colourful tents in outdoor-chic shades of green, orange and blue.

Port Hardy eateries were buzzing with out-of-towners rewarding themselves with hearty pub meals after finishing the gruelling North Coast Trail.

British Columbians are itching to escape their isolation bubbles, and Vancouver Island North is ready to accommodate.

RELATED: B.C. accommodators need phone lines to light up as in-province travel given green light

Vancouver Island North Tourism has a new “what’s open” website section with up-to-date information, encouraging visitors to “know before you go.”

The majority of tourism business are reopen, with modifications for safety. Many are restricted to B.C.-ers or Canadians. Capacity is somewhat reduced because of WorkSafe BC policy adjustments. The North Coast Trail Backpackers Hostel in Port Hardy has closed its dorms, for example.

Normally, the hostel gets a lot of business from ferry traffic — BC Ferries’ Inside Passage route from Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert and the central coast docks in Port Hardy — but that source of guests remains severely restricted on BC Ferries’ sparse winter schedule.

The obvious lack of international travel is also affecting the hostel. However, B.C. travellers are picking up at least some of the slack – the hostel still has a steady supply of hikers and kayakers.

RELATED: B.C. reopening but tourism facing long-term recovery, say Vancouver Island MLAs

Prince of Whales owner Alan McGillivray, who recently expanded his whale-watching outfit to Telegraph Cove, expects to end the year with 20 per cent of normal revenue. By the time Phase 3 opened, the industry had already missed out on the first quarter of sales, and volume will surely be less this year.

If down-Island ferry waits are any indication — two-to-three sailing waits over the weekend — it will be a steady, if skinny, tourism season.

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