Coastal Communities, Pacific Northwest
The Coal Harbor Village is located on the Holberg Inlet, just a short drive on a paved road from Port Hardy. It was a coal mining town, then a military base during the second world war, a whaling station, then back to mining, only this time copper, now this community is a jumping off point for Quatsino sound and all the wonders of the north Island. Tourism is driving the economy now.
On any given day, you can see plenty of fish boats coming and leaving the harbor. This 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 bird life and very untouched wilderness. You can visit the village and wander around for the whole day, just enjoying yourself, you can take to the beach at low tide and look for wildlife or hike one of the many trails in the area.
The name Coal Harbor tells you about how this village got started. Coal brought the Northwest Coal Company to the shores of Stephens Bay in 1883. Coal seams seemed very promising but the coal proved to be poor quality and the mine died out in the early years of the 1900’s, 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 fellows 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 murdered John Sharp.
The Coal Harbor Village 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 were 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.
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 all areas of the Island and the whales are back in big numbers now.
Mining once again was a major player in the history of Coal Harbor in 1970, this time it was copper that was being mined. The Island Copper Mine brought even more men to the community, and mining, in what would eventually be the deepest open pit mine in the world. The opening of the mine resulted in the paving of the road from Port Hardy and the expansion of the town to its present day state. The mine pit has been reclaimed and is now filled with water.
Though mining and whaling no longer happen here, Coal Harbor is still a sustaining community of about 175 people. Logging still happens here and opportunities for outdoor recreation including guided fishing, kayak trips, and wildlife viewing. Coal Harbor is accessible from Port Hardy on the coal harbor road, this road is now paved.