POPULATION: 155 (2011 Census)
MUST DO: Marine Biology Station, Cape Beale Lighthouse, Village Boardwalk Stroll
Located in the heart of beautiful Barkley Sound on southeast Vancouver Island, Bamfield has long been the base for a large commercial fishing fleet.
Called Keeshan by the Ohiaht Indians, Bamfield was named for William Eddy Banfield, who arrived in Victoria in the 1840s as a carpenter on the Constance. Banfield, (for some reason, the town’s name is spelled differently), explored the west coast of the island, writing articles for a Victoria newspaper. Taken with the Barkley Sound area, he eventually settled there and began trading with the Indians.
In 1902, Bamfield became one of the most important spots on the island as the terminus for a trans-Pacific telegraph cable reaching to a south-Pacific atoll called Fanning Island. From there, a cable was connected to Australia, and a large cable station was built at Bamfield to relay messages to North America.
The cable station was manned for the next half century, closing down once the cable was extended further inland to Port Alberni. The station still exists, now a marine sciences facility run by a number of universities. Tours of the Marine Biology Station are conducted during summer weekends.
Bamfield, a charming village, is one of the top saltwater fishing destinations on Vancouver Island. Dotted with shops catering to fishermen and tourists, it also boasts accommodations ranging from bed and breakfasts to luxurious resorts. Fishing charters and adventure tours are available and can be easily booked by yourself or through your tour or hotel operator.
Barkley Sound also draws kayakers, particularly to the nearby Broken Islands Group at the mouth of the sound. The Broken Islands, part of Pacific Rim National Park, comprise nearly 100 scattered islands, rocks and reefs, home to thousands of sea birds and sea lions. Scuba divers love the clear ocean waters and the chance to see a number of shipwrecks.
Bamfield is also the northern terminus of the famed West Coast Trail. You can hike the last three miles of the trail at Pachena Bay, or arrange for guided nature walks along the ocean or surrounding forest.
If you Go to Bamfield
BY ROAD: If you’re coming from the south, take Hwy. 19 or the new Inland Island Highway north from Nanaimo to the Port Alberni turnoff (Hwy. 4) near Parksville. Highway 4 is a two-lane, twisting road that should be driven with caution. Port Alberni is 50 kilometers from Parksville. Once in Port Alberni, it’s 95 kilometers of active gravel logging road to Bamfield. Bamfield is also accessible from Lake Cowichan. If your coming from Victoria, take the Trans Canada Hwy. (No. 1) north to Hwy. 18 (just north of Duncan). Once in Lake Cowichan, head to Youbou. There, the pavement ends and you are on 250 kilometers of active gravel logging road. (When traveling on logging roads, be extremely cautious and follow all road signs.)
Travelers from the north should take Hwy. 19 to the Hwy. 4A turnoff at Qualicum Beach. Follow the signs to Hwy. 4, then head west to Port Alberni.
BY AIR: Scheduled airline connections are out of Vancouver to Nanaimo or Victoria. Floatplane service is available from Vancouver, Nanaimo, Victoria and Port Alberni. Check with your airline or travel agent for schedules.
BY WATER: Probably the most enjoyable way to get to Bamfield is to sail down Barkley Sound aboard the M.V. Lady Rose from Port Alberni. The ship runs year round, with extra sailings during the summer.