Port McNeill (pop. 3,000) is a logging and mill town -- not particularly quaint -- that serves as an access point for whale-watching and other wildlife tours, numerous outdoor-recreation opportunities, and the ferry to Alert Bay. Alert Bay (pop. 1,000) is a fascinating destination for anyone interested in First Nations culture. It has a world-renowned collection of totem carvings and wall murals, as well as historic buildings.
During the second week of June, the Nimpkish Reserve hosts June Sports & Indian Celebrations (tel. 250/974-5556, the 'Namgis First Nation office) on the soccer field in Alert Bay. Traditional tests of strength and agility are demonstrated by the island's tribal members.
BC Ferries (tel. 888/BC-FERRY [223-3779] or 250/386-3431; www.bcferries.com) runs daily service between Port McNeill and Alert Bay. The crossing takes about 45 minutes; peak fares are C$9.20 per passenger, C$22 per vehicle. If you're going to Alert Bay mostly to visit the U'mista Cultural Centre, you can easily leave your vehicle at Port McNeill. It's about a half-hour walk from the ferry dock to the center.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.