On Vancouver Island, the road dribbles to an end in a gravelly dirt parking lot 350 miles northwest of the prim and dainty city of Victoria, the island destination most visitors know.
A trail disappears into the rain-forest gloom, where a sign helpfully posted by BC Parks warns: be aware this is a wilderness park and be prepared to handle emergencies unassisted.
Well, what would you expect? The end of the road is seldom accompanied by teeming civilization, which is the essence of its seduction. But it's also a truism that the end of the road usually turns out to be a disappointment.
Not on Vancouver Island.
(All prices are in U.S. dollars.)
You can fly to Victoria International Airport and rent a car, or take your own on the ferry from Tsawwassen (near Vancouver, B.C.) to Nanaimo ( BC Ferries; from $50; or 250/386-3431). From Victoria, it's a 310-mile drive to Port Hardy. From Nanaimo, it's 240 miles. Or take a ferry from -Seattle to Victoria (no cars permitted; from $79; Victoria Clipper; 800/888-2535). For information, visit or contact Vancouver Island Destinations in Port McNeill (866/956-8222) or the Port Hardy Visitor Information Centre (250/949-7622).
WHAT TO SEE
Ripple Rock Trail From the intersection with Provincial Hwy. 28 in Campbell River, drive north 10.7 miles on Provincial Hwy. 19A. Watch for trailhead parking on the east side of the road.
San Josef Bay Trail From Holbert Rd. in Port Hardy, drive 39 miles west on Holberg Rd. from Port Hardy to Cape Scott Provincial Park.
Tide Rip Grizzly Tours Grizzly bear tours from $212; Telegraph Cove; 888/643-9319.
U'mista Cultural Centre Stunning mask displays. (Visit nearby Alert Bay Ecological Park for nature trails through forests and marsh.) $4.30; Alert Bay; 250/974-5403.
Whale Interpretive Centre Run by a nonprofit killer-whale research group, this is a great place to learn about killer whales, fin whales, humpbacks, and other local marine mammals. View and handle whale bones, talk with interpreters, and watch videos on marine life. $1.70 donation; Telegraph Cove; 800/665-3066.
WHERE TO EAT AND SLEEP
Bear Cove Cottages Luxurious modern cabins high over Hardy Bay near Port Hardy. From $111; 877/949-7939.
Cape Scott Provincial Park Backcountry camping. No reservations; $4.30.
Fusilli Grill Pasta made daily on the premises. $$; 220 Dogwood St., Campbell River; 250/830-0090.
Glen Lyon Inn Waterfront rooms with view of Queen Charlotte Strait in Port Hardy. Pub and restaurant; $$. From $106; 250/949-7115.
Quarterdeck Inn & Marina Resort Modern waterfront rooms in Port Hardy. From $106; 877/902-0459.
Schoen Lake Provincial Park Eight first-come, first-served vehicle-accessible campsites. May 15?Sep 30, $8.55
Telegraph Cove Resort Simple food at Killer Whale Caf? and Old Saltery Pub; $$$. Lodging (from $84), campsites (from $19), and charter boats; Telegraph