Coal Harbor

Coal Harbor was used as a coal mining port, then a military base during the second world war, then a whaling station, then back to mining, only this time copper, now it is a jumping-off point for Quatsino sound and all the wonders of the North Island.

On any given day, you can see plenty of fish boats, tour boats, canoes, and kayaks coming and going from the harbor. This is a great place to put in your kayaks or canoes to head out on a sea adventure, Quatsino sound offers so much for eco-tourist, magical and hidden bays, great wildlife viewing, incredible birdlife, and very untouched wilderness. Coal Harbor is a perfect jumping-off point for adventure.

Coal Harbor, Vancouver Island, BC
Coal Harbor, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan

The name Coal Harbor tells you about how this village got started. Coal brought the Northwest Coal Company to the shores of Stephen’s Bay in 1883. Coal seams seemed very promising, but the coal proved to be of poor quality and the mine died out in the early years of the 1900s, by 1907 there was only a caretaker left to watch the mine. There are rumors about this caretaker that still are talked about to this day, this fellow’s name was John Sharp….or was it. They say he was really a member of the Jesse James Gang, hiding out in Coal Harbor. In 1907, two strangers came to town and shot John Sharp down, makes one think.

Coal Harbor played a role in coastal defense during the Second World War. The R.C.A.F had a seaplane base and reconnaissance station built-in 1940, and it was in operation until just after the war ended in 1945, there was over 250 personnel stationed in the community. The base used long-range flying boats to patrol up and down the coast. When the war ended in 1945, the base closed, leaving behind empty buildings and quiet streets.

Coal Harbor, Vancouver Island, BC
Coal Harbor, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan

In front of the Moby Dick store, you will see the jawbones of a blue whale, this is the largest of the whale family. The bones are a reminder of this community’s whaling past. From 1947 to 1967, Coal Harbor was the site of a commercial whaling community, closing by 1967. Today, the whales are again bringing in much-needed money into the economies of the north island, this time as objects to be photographed during whale watching tours. Tours head out from the harbor and the whales are back in big numbers now.

Though mining and whaling no longer happen here, the Harbor is still a sustaining community of about 175 people. Logging still happens here and opportunities for outdoor recreation include guided fishing, kayak trips, and wildlife viewing. Coal Harbor is accessible from Port Hardy on the coal harbor road, this road is now paved.

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