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A 35-minute ferry ride brings us to Cormorant Island, known to the locals as Alert Bay.

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Three minutes by car and we’ve already arrived for an overnight stay at the Nimpkish Hotel.

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The bright turquoise Nimpkish has a colourful history to match its exterior and has just celebrated a centennial birthday too. Originally built at the mouth of the Nimpkish River on ‘Na̱mg̱is First Nation land in 1920, the hotel was owned by two ‘Na̱mg̱is men who, in order to get a hotel and liquor licence, would be forced to leave their reservation.

The property was then purchased by Moses Alfred who later sold his shares to non-Indigenous businessmen who secured the proper licences. Five years later, it was barged to its current Fir Street location.

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The main floor hallway houses a miniature history via hotel relics and photos of the changing hotel over the decades.

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At the end of that hallway is a sun room where daily continental breakfast is served to guests.

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There’s dishes and cutlery available so we enjoyed our sandwiches and salad here as well.

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The room also contains a self-service coffee station, water kettle, toaster and mini fridge. The main feature though is the commanding location right on the water, with a deck and pier facing the Broughton Straight.

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Whether it’s a family of harbour seals, the gentle movement of Bull kelp or seagulls diving into the water, there’s a never-ending scene unfolding here. We keep our eyes peeled for transient Orcas as Cormorant Island is known as killer whale territory.

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There are nine cozy and comfortable rooms on three floors, all uniquely decorated and cared for by owners Brent and Jan Hauser, who were surprised a handful of years ago to learn that the property was part of the estate in their inheritance.

World travellers themselves, the Hausers aim to offer travellers a home away from home. Rooms include a mini fridge, cable tv, free wifi and in our case, a fireplace, soaker tub and sweet little deck with two chairs.

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What’s Nearby

Everything you want to experience and explore on the north island is available in Alert Bay! Several local operators offer seasonal kayaking, whale watching and grizzly bear tours. This outdoor haven has plenty of hiking trails and fishing spots and caters to beachcombers, bird watchers and photographers alike.

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The most sought-after attraction here – and our first stop during our stay – is the U’mista Cultural Centre, a world-class museum launched in November 1980, with a opening night party that was attended by all the local tribes of Alert Bay.

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This unique community-minded museum provides an in-depth view of the First Nations potlatch tradition that was prohibited in 1883.

In the 1970’s, many of the incredible masks now displayed in the main hall were discovered in museums around the world, after having been confiscated by the government. As a result, in 1979, construction began on the centre; museums would not release the masks unless there was a proper venue to display them in. The main hall contains an ever-growing collection with new additions added regularly.

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Save time to visit U’mista’s gift shop, filled with colorful masks, souvenirs and textiles, designed and carved by local First Nations artists and jewellers. A percentage of the sales from these products are given back to the artisans.

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Nearby, visit the world’s largest totem pole as well as a gallery displaying the work of local artists. Along Fir Street are several totem poles at one of two First Nations’ burial grounds on the island.

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[‘Na̱mg̱is Traditional Big House]

Though many of the shops and galleries are currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Alert Bay is definitely worth planning a future trip to. From Port McNeill, BC Ferries departs several times daily.

The Nimpkish Hotel is located at 318 Fir Street in Alert Bay on Cormorant Island, BC.

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We were graciously hosted by the Nimpkish Hotel for the purpose of this feature. Opinions, as always, remain our own.

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