Leisure activities in the Northwest let you slow down—and travel deeper. Pace yourself on golf courses framed by soaring mountains or find space to roam in public parks and gardens. Binoculars—and patience—are good companions for any wildlife tour. Challenge yourself to move through museums and cultural sites with intention, or let loose at grassroots music venues. In this corner of the North, meals aren’t rushed, connections are nurtured, and detours are encouraged.
Plan Your Trip
Leisurely pursuits here range from golfing to museums to live music and more. To help you plan your ideal trip, we’ve organized this article into sections grouped by activity. Jump ahead based on your interest or read on.
Golf Great Greens
Tee times in the Northwest deliver more than just a round. Battle the elements and a challenging layout at the Prince Rupert Golf Course. Rain or shine, it offers incredible views and fun holes throughout. The sprawling Skeena Valley Golf & Country Club in Terrace is home to forgiving fairways, while the par-57 Hirsch Creek Golf & Winter Club in nearby Kitimat provides a fast playing course over lush, tree-lined greens. Further inland, the Smithers Golf Club takes the definition of picturesque to a new level, with an 18-hole course framed by spectacular mountains. The quiet greens of the Stuart Lake Golf Club in Fort St. James adds to the course’s tranquil setting.
In Prince George, you’re spoiled for choice. Prince George Golf and Curling Club is known for its water hazards and strategic bunkering, while the Pine Valley Golf Centre appeals to beginners looking for a relaxed game. Tucked away in a wilderness setting, Aspen Grove Golf Course prides itself on being walkable—ideal for catching a glimpse of wildlife between holes. The challenging par-73 Aberdeen Glen Golf Course is laid out over dramatic elevation changes sure to test golfers of all skill levels.
Arts & Culture
Small communities are havens of artistic expression and the Northwest is no exception.
From local pubs to sports arenas to rodeo grounds, live music venues span the region. Kick back with a beer and catch local bands at the Skeena Bar in Terrace or Wheelhouse Brewing in Prince Rupert. The CN Centre in Prince George is a major draw for touring Canadian and international artists, as well as the home of the Prince George Cougars, the city’s WHL league team. Community theatre takes centre stage at Mount Elizabeth Theatre in Kitimat in between playing host to touring musicians, comedians and other talent. The Midsummer Music Festival in Smithers and the Kispiox Music Festival both provide an unforgettable weekend of music, camping and culture in a spectacular natural setting.
The community-oriented Kispiox Rodeo, dubbed “The Biggest Little Rodeo in the West,” draws families, locals and rodeo fans from across the north. For a different kind of rodeo, head to Fort St. James National Historic Site. Here chicken races pit one fowl competitor against another in a friendly rivalry. Cheer on your favourite feathered friend, bet “chicken bucks,” and earn bragging rights—only if your pick wins, of course. At the Burns Lake Annual Show ‘N Shine, classic cars no longer race but they’re no less exciting to the vintage enthusiast.
The beauty and wildlife of the region has served as inspiration for artists of all mediums. In Kitimat, visit carver Sammy Robinson’s eponymous gallery for a glimpse of Haisla art, then wander over to the Blackfish Gallery for more Indigenous art. At the annual Skeena Salmon Arts Festival buildings and public spaces are swapped for canvases with the resulting murals showcasing the city’s connection to salmon throughout. Celebrate local artists at the Smithers Art Gallery and the co-op run Artisan Centre in Burns Lake. In Witset, art takes on a different form. Watch skilled fishermen fluidly dip-net for salmon along the river bank, a living practice they’ve been perfecting for centuries.
Dive Into the Past
Museums and historical sites help you connect the dots between past and presence. Immerse yourself in ten thousand years of Tsimshian history through art and artifacts at the Museum of Northern BC, or wander up-close a replica Gitxsan village site at ‘Ksan Historical Village in Old Hazelton. The stunning architecture of the Nisga’a Museum in Laxgalts’ap houses important repatriated Nisga’a artifacts and tells the story of their people.
The North Pacific Cannery National Historic Site celebrates the legacy of salmon in the area while the Fort St. James National Historic Site is a look at the fur trade of 18th-century Canada. The Exploration Place in Prince George merges natural history with hands-on science through kid-friendly exhibits that delight and educate. Community museums across the region provide a window into the living culture and natural history of the area. Check out the Prince Rupert Fire Museum, the Kitimat Museum, the Heritage Park Museum and George Little House in Terrace, the Bulkley Valley Museum in Smithers, the Lakes District Museum in Burns Lake, and the Museum & Visitor Centre in Vanderhoof.
Savour the Moment
From same-day caught fish to fresh bread made using slow-milled grains, food in the Northwest is worth savouring. In Prince Rupert, seafood abounds. Try it rolled and topped at Fukasaku—the only certified Oceanwise sushi restaurant in BC—then fried at Bobs on the Rocks, a quaint outdoor fish n’ chips stand located at Rushbrook Floats. Seared, poached, or slow-braised—fine dining seafood preparation awaits at the Crest Hotel’s Waterfront Restaurant while Breakers Pub is the spot for casual seafood appies. At Yaga Cafe, get your leafy greens—grown in an on-site hydroponics greenhouse—along with other fresh, made-to-order options. Start your day at Cowpuccinos with a cup of coffee and end it at Wheelhouse Brewing with a pint in hand.
In Terrace, load up on fresh produce at Skeena Valley Farmers Market and cook a camp meal that will make your neighbouring campers envious. Light snacks and craft beer make Sherwood Brewing a great spot for happy hour. U See Food U Eat It is a worthy destination for food lovers road tripping through Nisga’a territory. Located in Gingolx, at the mouth of the Portland Canal, this charming eatery serves up some of the freshest seafood around.
Outdoor recreation usually begets post-adventure meals and in Smithers you’ll find plenty. Fuel up—or refuel—at places like The Road House, Alpenhorn Bistro + Bar, Two Sisters Cafe and the Mulligan’s Restaurant and Bar, all local favourites for casual dining. Separated by a mere block, craft beer fans can find cold, tasty pints at Smithers Brewing and Bulkley Valley Brewery. Rustica is an organic bakery with a devoted following. Everything is slow-milled, shaped by hand, and fired in a wood oven. Down the road in The Hazeltons, start things off right with a cup of locally-roasted coffee from Mercedes Beans.
In Prince George, seasonal and from scratch are hallmarks of North 54, an upscale restaurant, and Betulla Burning, which serves Neapolitan-style pizza. Looking for casual fare? Head to Nancy O’s for good food any time of day. Pints and patios can be found at Crossroads Craft and Trench Brewing. Northern Lights Estate Winery is the only winery in Northern BC and offers quality fruit wines in a tasting room overlooking the Nechako River.
Space to Roam
A region as vast as the Northwest offers space to breathe. A tour through Nisga’a territory uncovers otherworldly landscapes, moss-shrouded forests, hot springs, waterfalls and quiet lakes and rivers. See it all on the Nisga’a Auto Tour, a self-guided route that showcases the area’s natural wonders. In Prince Rupert, the Sunken Gardens provide a tranquil oasis of colourful flowers and pathways in the heart of the city. Kitimat’s Coho Flats offers a leisurely stroll through lush greenery with views of the Kitimat River. Giant Spruce Park is an accessible-friendly trail that leads to one of the largest living spruce trees in BC.
In Terrace, Ferry Island offers walking trails and picnic areas for a scenic riverside lunch. Look for carvings etched into the cottonwood trees along the trails here. In New Hazelton, cross the towering Hagwilgwet Canyon Bridge for an exhilarating experience. For a different kind of rush, there’s the Hazleton Waterfall. The path to the base of the falls is short but the reward is high. From here, you can climb the more moderate trail to Hazelton Lookout for a great view of the town and the surrounding valley. In Prince George, Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park offers a beautiful green space with walking trails, floral displays, picnic areas, and a playground and seasonal water park for kids.
Meet the Locals
Wildlife tours let you meet neighbours of all flock and feather. Prince Rupert’s waterfront provides ample opportunities to spot seals, eagles and otters, but venture further and the wildlife only gets bigger and even more impressive. At the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, Canada’s only natural grizzly bear protected area, you can spend hours watching these legendary giants interact in their natural environment, all viewed from the comfort of a boat, zodiac or floatplane. Keep your eyes peeled en route—you’re bound to spot whales and porpoises too. Operators that can get you there include Prince Rupert-based Adventure Tours and Khutzeymateen Wilderness Lodge. Bluewater Adventures offers sailings charters and an onboard naturalist through coastal British Columbia, including the Northwest.
Explore the Skeena and and the wildlife that inhabit these waters with Skeena Wilderness Safaris and Northern BC Jet Boat Tours. In Smithers, horseback rides and retreats at MV Trail Riding help you make the most of the rolling hills and plains of the Bulkley Valley, while Tyee Lake offers excellent birdwatching opportunities in the area. When in Stewart, be sure to book a harbour tour with Wild North Adventures. Flightseeing tours by Alpine Lakes Air and Lakes District Air offer a bird’s eye view of the Lakes District. The Nechako White Sturgeon Sanctuary in Vanderhoof is a good reminder that long before we were around creatures like the White Sturgeon—the largest freshwater fish in Canada—have existed here for millions of years. Learn how the area is rebuilding the sturgeon population through conservation and education.
A quick tour of the area is possible, but why rush? Spend a week—or longer—and relax into the rhythm of the Northwest. Stay in the heart of Nisga’a territory at Vetter Falls Lodge and soak in the magic of the area over multiple days. In Smithers, Frontier Experience’s 100-acre ranch provides easy access to the outdoors with all the comforts of home included.
Tucked away in the heart of the Kispiox Valley, Bear Claw Lodge is an all-inclusive lodge of different proportions. The 15,000-square foot timber lodge is set along the banks of the Kispiox River and provides access to 700,000 acres of natural wonder. Stay in simple comfort along the Skeena River at Hidden Acres Treehouse Resort in Terrace, or where the river meets the ocean in an historic converted cannery, Cassiar Cannery in Port Edward. Nechako Lodge offers no-frills cozy cabins plus scenic flights in which to explore the surrounding wilderness and Fraser Lake. At nearby Stellako Lodge take your pick of leisurely pursuits, from fly fishing along quiet rivers to lakeside golfing. Step back in time—and wake up at—at Fort St. James National Historic Site where you’ll overnight in a reconstructed Hudson’s Bay Company fort.