Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet – Canada chapter British Columbia has to say about Port Alberni:
“With resource jobs declining, Alberni – located on Hwy 4 between the island’s east and west coasts – has been dipping its toe into tourism in recent years. And while the downtown core is a little run-down, there are some good historical attractions and outdoorsy activities to consider before you drive through.
Between Parksville and Port Alberni, this spiritual home of tree huggers is the mystical highlight of MacMillan Provincial Park. It’s often overrun with summer visitors – try not to knock them down as they scamper across the highway in front of you.
The accessible forest trails wind through a dense, breathtaking canopy of vegetation, offering glimpses of some of BC’s oldest trees, including centuries-old Douglas firs more than 3m in diameter. Try hugging that.”
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
Adia drove the second leg of our trip, and suggested we stop at the iconic J & L Drive In for burgers and onion rings when passing through Port Alberni. It had been a long time since breakfast, and we had added the extra two hours to our trip by dropping Geoff in Cumberland. We were hungry, George is ALWAYS hungry!
I couldn’t believe my eyes when we pulled into the J & L Drive In – it was like we stepped back 50 years – to my high school days when I used to hang out with my friends at the A&W (The Dub). The servers still come to your car to take your order, and serve your meal on a try perched on the driver’s side window.
The burgers were delicious, but the onion rings were rather greasy. That’s probably why I haven’t had any onion rings in at least the past 49 years. We didn’t order any beverages, so I’m not sure if they serve root beer or not – though that’s been the specialty of the A&W for as long as they’ve existed. Every decade or so, Anil and I stop in for a teen burger and a root beer, just for old times sake.
With our bellies full to bursting and the gas tank replenished, we set off for the last leg of the drive to Ucluelet. I took over the driving at this point, as I remembered the stomach-churning winding road ahead and knew that I could probably keep my meal down more easily if I was at the wheel.
Before long we reached the famous Cathedral Grove. We had thought we might stop there and give George a chance to stretch his little legs a bit, but the highway had turned into an overflow parking lot. It was the Friday of a long weekend after all, and any first-time visitor to the region would be sure to take in the sights of the towering old-growth forest.