Telegraph Cove is a postcard-ready boardwalk community nestled at the northern end of Johnstone Strait. From its preserved historic multicoloured buildings on stilts to the picture-perfect ocean views, it remains an iconic eco-tourism destination on Vancouver Island. While twenty permanent residents call the Cove home, approximately 120,000 visitors flock to this destination each summer.
Here’s a glimpse into why you should be one of them!
*article updated July 2020
Telegraph Cove – A History
In 1912, the Superintendents of Telegraphs, Alfred Marmaduke “Duke” Wastell, was looking for a suitable destination for a lineman’s station, as well as a northern terminus for the telegraph line from Campbell River. The protected cove proved ideal and hence received the name Telegraph Cove.
The very first resident was a telegraph lineman named Bobby Cullerne. He lived in a one-room shed-like structure that still stands today.
A salmon saltery and a small sawmill were erected by “Duke’ and a group of Japanese workers in the mid-1920s. By the early 1930s the Telegraph Cove Mill was in full operation. Logs from the mill were used to build houses all over the North Island.
During World War II, the small village was used as a relay station. The RCAF took over the sawmill, installed servicemen to run the mill, and used the lumber for the war effort. After the war ended, the mill was returned to the Wastell family.
Many of the restored buildings that now form Telegraph Cove Resort were from that period of history.
In 1956 a rough road was pushed through to the rest of northern Vancouver Island (up until that point, Telegraph Cove was only accessible by boat). However, it was still not a direct route. From Campbell River north, visitors had to drive on logging roads to Gold River, through Woss, then back to Port McNeil and Port Hardy to get to the top of the Island.
With the completion of the northern section of the highway in 1978, visitors to Telegraph Cove finally had direct access to this beautiful piece of paradise. Around that same time the sawmill, salmon saltery, and fish storage warehouses had phased out. Instead, Telegraph Cove became a destination for vacationers, much like it is today.
Things to Do at Telegraph Cove
Today this tiny and picturesque village is a major destination during the summer months when this snug little community bustles with travellers, whale watchers, fishermen, boaters, campers and kayakers.
Telegraph Cove is the gateway to the Broughton Archipelago, the largest marine park in British Columbia. The multitude of islands provides guests with sheltered waters, secluded inlets, and breathtaking views. It also offers a great selection of truly magnificent adventures and activities one can partake in.
Whale watching helped establish Telegraph Cove’s reputation as a worldwide must-visit destination. So if your passions include experiencing orca whales in the wild, Telegraph Cove is the place for you!
Whale Watching Kayak Tours
For an even closer look, why not try kayaking alongside whales?
The great thing about these trips is not only the opportunity to see whales but other wildlife too. There’s a good chance you’ll see sea lions, porpoises, dolphins, bald eagles, black bears, numerous sea birds, and of course the spectacular rugged scenery.
- North Island Kayak – has been in operation since 1991 and is the largest sea kayaking tour provider permanently located on Vancouver Island.
- Discovery Expeditions – has been offering fully serviced sea kayaking expeditions and tours for more than 20 years.
Whale Interpretive Centre
For an educational and informative experience, head to the Whale Interpretive Centre.
This land-based interpretive centre is home to one of the best collections of marine mammal skeletons in British Columbia. Founded in 2002, the centre provides information to the public for increased awareness of the biology, habitat needs and threats to killer whales, fin whales, humpback whales and sea otters, as well as other local marine mammals.
Knight Inlet is one of the premier grizzly bear viewing spots in the world, and only a boat ride away from Telegraph Cove!
- Tide Rip Grizzly Adventures has been providing successful day-long grizzly bear watching tours for over 16 years. They know the area so well, they have a 95% sighting rate. The company is so confident you will see a grizzly, they provide a “rain check” guarantee.
Wildlife and Cultural Expedition
Book a Wildlife and Cultural Expedition with Sea Wolf Adventures to immerse yourself into the heart of traditional First Nations’ territory of the Kwakwaka’wakw: Vancouver Island North. This adventure combines cultural discoveries with world-class wildlife watching.
The protection of the many islands and bays that dot the area surrounding Telegraph Cove not only provide calmer seas but amazing fishing opportunities too. There are plenty of true tales of chartered fishing guests catching Chinook Salmon that are over 40 pounds, Lingcod over 70 pounds, and Halibut up to 234 pounds!
The Telegraph Cove Resort offers guided fishing tours for guests who don’t have their own boat and/or want expert advice. They have a few great experienced guides available, but I recommend going with Roy Graham. He is passionate about providing his guests with a spectacular experience.
And remember, while out fishing you not only get a chance to catch the BIG ONE, you also have a great opportunity to see other sea life, including whales, porpoises, sea lions, and sea otters. It’s truly a win-win!
Dave Farrant’s Blinkhorn Trail is named after its builder, who fell in love with the area some 50 years ago. You will find the start of the trail at the Forest Campground – campsite #94 – within Telegraph Cove Resort.
The trail leads through the mountains above Telegraph Cove and winds it way up through the impressive rain forest. You will cross log bridges and rope-assisted short passages, walkthrough beds of moss, and finally end up at the famous viewpoint overlooking Johnstone Strait, and the beautiful surrounding islands. If you wish to continue, the trail then winds itself down to the Blinkhorn Peninsula.
From the campground to the viewpoint, the hike takes approximately one hour of moderate to strenuous hiking. If heading down to the Peninsula, allow a good 4 hours for a round trip.
Self-Guided Walking Tour
But let’s not forget about the main reason we flock to Telegraph Cove – to say that you have been to one of the last boardwalk settlements left on Vancouver Island! Walk the boardwalk and read each plaque, dedicated to explaining the history of the area. Take in the sights, and let your mind wander, and wonder, what it was like to live during the period of time this community was erected. Your surroundings will make it easy to do so.
Places to Eat
While dining options are limited in Telegraph Cove, what they lack in quantity, they make up for in quality. However, if you do plan on dining out while in the area, make sure to plan ahead (especially if visiting during the summer months). Reservations are highly recommended!
The Killer Whale Cafe and Old Saltery Pub is Telegraph Coves most famous restaurant. It offers a West Coast cuisine featuring a variety of local seafood.
Fresh house-made specialities include seafood linguini, fisherman’s platter, fish & chips and a fan-favourite – the Cove Seafood Chowder. I definitely recommend trying their salmon, and the chowder – you won’t be disappointed!
The Seahorse Cafe and Gallery is another a great choice. This one is located in the middle of Telegraph Cove and offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner from the May long weekend until the end of September. Make sure to try one of their famous burgers.
Sunset view from our campsite at Telegraph Cove Marina & RV Park
Where to Stay
Telegraph Cove Resort
Telegraph Cove Resort offers a wide variety of accommodation options. Stay in one of their cozy handcrafted cabins, step back in time and rent one of the many historic homes within Telegraph Cove, or reside in a modern condominium-style apartment which looks directly over the water.
As mentioned above, the resort also offers camping in their Forest Campground. The campground is located 1 km from the village core and sits in a stand of old-growth trees.
Telegraph Cove Marina & RV Park
The Telegraph Cove RV Park has 48 fully serviced sites with marina and ocean views. Although privacy is lacking in this RV Park, the location is ideal! Each site is located just a moment’s walk to the boardwalk community.
This RV Park is open year-round, but please remember that many of the businesses within Telegraph Cove (including restaurants) are not.
Hidden Cove Lodge
Just a short 15 minutes away from Telegraph Cove you will find this semi-remote, oceanfront, lodge. The Hidden Cove Lodge has 9 fully accommodated rooms, as well as two oceanfront cottages.
So tell me, have you explored Telegraph Cove yet? We’d love to hear what your experience was like in the comments below!
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We were very fortunate to see three orcas this summer from Telegraph Cove itself, we were standing at the end of the boardwalk as they swam in the bay. We really loved Telegraph Cove and Vancouver Island, I would love to return one day, Anita from the U.K.
Oh, that is so wonderful, Anita! You are so lucky to have witnessed that. Thanks so much for letting us know.
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been there last Summer, and I fell so hard for the place that I’m sure I’ll be back pretty soon. I wish I could call it home! I slept at Hidden Cove lodge (absolute paradise!), ate at both the restaurants, and took part in the grizzly expedition. It’s no doubt one of my fav places on hearth. Mara from Milan, Italy
It sounds like you had the perfect trip, Mara! Did you get to see some grizzlies while on the expedition?
I do hope that you will be able to return to Vancouver Island, and more specifically, Telegraph Cove some day. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment!
Hi Kim, I don’t know if you have ever done an article on Bamfield but it also has a boardwalk. You can book passage on the MV Frances Barkley that sails out of Port Alberni and with many stops along the way (at logging camps, private residences etc.) and it’s final stop is in Bamfield. You can get off the boat there and take a walk along the boardwalk to check out the unique homes along the way.
No, I haven’t been there. Thank you, Lisa! You have not only shown me I am not correct in saying Telegraph Cove is the last boardwalk community on Vancouver Island (I will correct that), but I now have another place to add to my ever growing list of places to check out on Vancouver Island! Thank you!!