While Forestry may have been the dominant economic force in the area, Port Alberni is emerging as a tourist destination for both scenery and sport fishing alike. One popular activity is to take a steam train tide from the railway museum to a steam operated mill where you can enjoy a historical walk through Alberni's past. Nearby Sprout Lake is home of the Mars Water Bombers, used mainly for fighting forest fires. You may see these 200 foot wing span behemoths here on their way to firefighting or at an occasional demonstration. Mount Arrowsmith is the iconic landmark above Port Alberni, and the Alberni Inlet is surrounded by a panorama of mountains with over 100 walking, hiking, and ATV trails suited to every fitness level. There is a good chance of spotting bald eagles, deer, black bears and cougars.
Port Alberni is the gateway and headwaters of the Barkley Sound. Thousands of salmon migrate up the Somas River on the way to spawning grounds through Great Central and Sproat Lake. With Chinook and coho, we have a fishery right in Port Alberni from early June to late September and sometimes even into November. Our Robertson Creek fish hatchery welcomes visitors and has underground glassed viewing ports of the spawning salmon as they pass through. The fall run of Chinook, coho, and chum bring fishermen from far and wide for our famous Salmon Festival. But most famous is our sockeye run, which has been increasing to record levels. The inlet gets filled with boats. People are netting fish everywhere and the taste of smoked, candied sockeye is a mouthwatering delight. After fishing in the Alberni Inlet you may take your catch to a waterside chef to be prepared and enjoyed in style.
At Alberni Charters, we think of the whole of the Alberni Valley as the gateway to a glorious Pacific marine playground. Port Alberni is the home port of the Oracle and where all the off-season preparations are done with you in mind. The people of Port Alberni have years of boat building expertise and all aspects of recreational and commercial fishing support work. As one walks down Fisherman's Wharf, one can see the evolution of marine technology. Wooden trollers and gill netters marry tried and true technology with the new – hydraulics, stabilizers, diesel cook stoves, stainless rigging and so much rope it could stretch across the Pacific. You can often buy fresh sea food directly from the fishermen on the wharf, or at the Codfather. Professional fish packing and smoking services are available nearby at St Jean's. The Marine Heritage Museum also displays and explains more of Port Alberni's rich maritime history. In 2010, the World Fishing Network crowned Port Alberni The Ultimate Fishing Town.
With an area population of 17,000, Port (as the locals like to call their town) is the hub for the west coast communities of Bamfield, Tofino, Ucluelet and surrounding First Nations reserves. It is the traditional territory of the Tseshaht and Hupacasath peoples. Many names around Port Alberni have Nootka origins: Somas (washing), Kitsuksis (log across mouth of creek), Pacheena (foamy) and Nootka (go around).