Quadra Island sits right across Discovery Channel from Campbell River, and a visit to the island should definitely be part of your itinerary when you're in the area. The main reason to make the ferry crossing is to visit the excellent Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre (formerly the Kwakiutl Museum and Cultural Center), Wei Wai Road in Cape Mudge Village (tel. 250/285-3733; http://nuyumbalees.com). It has one of the world's best collections of artifacts, ceremonial masks, and tribal costumes once used by the Cape Mudge Band in elaborate potlatch ceremonies conducted to celebrate births, deaths, tribal unity, the installment of a new chief, marriages, and other important occasions. Bands and villages spent months, even years, planning feasts and performances, carving totem poles, and amassing literally tons of gifts for their guests. The Canadian government outlawed the potlatch in 1922 as part of an enforced-assimilation policy, then lifted the ban in 1951. During the time potlatches were outlawed, the artifacts in the Kwakiutl Museum were removed to museums and private collections in eastern Canada and England, where they were preserved and cataloged. The collection was repatriated to the Cape Mudge Band beginning in 1979; the current cultural center and museum was built in the early 1990s.
The Ah-Wa-Qwa-Dzas (a place to relax and tell stories) is across the street from the cultural center and serves as a venue for salmon barbecues, storytelling, and traditional dance performances. The museum's gift gallery has a good selection of artwork, prints, and carvings of many talented local artists, as well as books and cards, jewelry, and clothing. Behind the museum is K'Ik'Ik G'Illas, or "The House of Eagles," a longhouse-like structure used to teach carving, dancing, and other traditional ways of life. Ask at the museum to tour the building, which has two carved house posts and an especially impressive totem pole in addition to colorful carvings and wall murals. In the lobby of the museum, you can make petroglyph rubbings from fiberglass castings of ancient stone carvings. Across from the museum is a park where a series of petroglyphs document a few of the island's ancient legends.
The cultural center is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm from May through September. Admission is C$15 for adults, C$5 for children under 12, and C$10 for seniors. Family admission is C$30.