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ALERT BAY, BC | Visiting the World's Tallest Totem Pole on Cormorant Island

Come join us as we continue our Vancouver Island road trip adventures by taking a day trip to Alert Bay, BC to visit the world's biggest totem pole on Cormorant Island.

In today’s video, we continue our road trip across Vancouver Island, this time ditching the car and hopping on a ferry. Our destination: Alert Bay on Cormorant Island to explore the town, see totem poles and learn about the Namgis First Nation. So come along and let’s kick off this adventure!

We arrived in Port McNeill and were able to book tickets for the ferry right on the spot! It was the end of the tourist season, plus it was also a rainy day, so there weren’t too many day-trippers. Now as a travel tip: there are 6 sailings a day from Port McNeill to Alert Bay.

After visiting the Namgis Original Burial Grounds, we walked back across town and over to the Umista Cultural Centre. It’s impossible to get lost because you’re basically just following the boardwalk along the waterfront the whole way.

The Umista Cultural Centre operates as a museum and a cultural education facility in Alert Bay. It was founded in 1980 as a project to house potlatch artefacts which had been confiscated by the Canadian government during a period of cultural repression in the 1920s, but first, we need to explain the potlatch.

Potlatch means to give, and for the Kwakwaka’wakw peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast, the richest and most powerful person was the one who gave away the most. The potlatch is a gift-giving feast held on the occasion of births, deaths, adoptions, weddings, and other major life events.

Today the Umista Cultural Centre houses many of the repatriated artefacts and ceremonial regalia associated with the potlatch. It was the return of these items that gave the centre its name since U'mista's means 'the return of something important’.

No filming or photography is allowed in the hall that houses the potlatch items, but trust us, this is the one place you have to visit if you come to Alert Bay.

Another site we couldn’t miss is the biggest totem pole in the world! The totem stands 173 feet tall and is located directly in front of the Big House, where visitors can watch traditional dances and performances on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays during the months of July and August. We weren’t there at the right time of year, but if you are, you can contact the U'mista Cultural Centre for details on attending.

And that’s pretty much a wrap for our day trip to Alert Bay. It was a short visit, but with a few more hours and better weather, you could plan to do some hiking and explore the town a bit more thoroughly.

A special thanks to our partner TROVER for making this trip possible.

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ALERT BAY, BC | Visiting the World's Tallest Totem Pole on Cormorant Island:

Come join us for an epic road trip to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada where we partner with Trover to cover the island from the south all the way up to the north.

Our trip to Vancouver Island starts off with a flight from Toronto to Vancouver, followed by the shortest flight of our lives from Vancouver to Victoria.

Our journey then continues to Gold River, Sam's hometown, where we board the Uchuck III en route to Friendly Cove. We also go to nearby Campbell River where we walk along a beautiful fishing dock, tour a hatchery and come across a black bear, and hike in Elk Falls which was our favourite hike on this entire journey.

Heading to northern Vancouver Island, we base ourselves in Port Alice and visit the nearby towns of Port McNeill, Port Hardy and Telegraph Cove. For separate day trips, we take the ferry to Malcolm Island where we visit the former Finnish Community of Sointula and take another ferry to Alert Bay where we have the opportunity to appreciate First Nations totem poles, artwork and museums.

If you are thinking of doing a Canada road trip, Vancouver Island should be at the top of your list. For more information and tips on all the places we visited on Vancouver Island, you can check out this Trover list: https://www.trover.com/l/6aKkU

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