I picked Sayward for my next glamping spot (full hookups) because it was in a good location for driving to several possible destinations beyond, and it was cheap. I wasn’t really expecting much in terms of sights to see or things to do and on that front I was correct. But it was a good place to recharge and catch up a few errands.
Sayward is a village that thrived on two things: logging and being a car ferry terminal. Up until the 1970’s, it was the terminus of highway 19. From here, you grabbed a ferry to points north, including the long ride to Prince Rupert. But the highway was extended north to Port Hardy, so now Sayward isn’t even on the highway – it’s about 10 minutes drive away.
Logging still goes on in the area – but at a much diminished rate. There are no more virgin forests to cut and what is available in second growth is not of the size or quantity to sustain the town the way it did in the old days. So Sayward has regressed, not to a ghost town, but to a village that might have one time been more of a small town.
You can see evidence of this in buildings that are vacant – like the strip mall that is completely vacant – not even a grocery store exists in town – you need to go back to the highway for that. Even there, the Coop gas station is convenience store level of grocery selection. The RV park down the way has a slightly better selection, but don’t expect more than the basics, mingled with the kind of stuff campers buy, like mouse traps! The one bright spot is the Coop gas station is building a new grocery store as of December 2021; looks like it should be open for tourist season next year.
Government services are stickier – the town still has an RCMP station, decent sized post office, big rec center, and larger than expected school for the population. I’m sure any hint of downsizing or closing one of these things leads to immediate pressure from the citizens to keep it open – they would like the town to grow again, or at least not shrink.
Tourism has some potential in the area. The “working harbor front” is a log sorting operation – not really much of a tourist draw. The remains of the WWII ships used to create a wave break are neat. There are a couple of trails I walked on. Nice, but not much to report on when it is in the estuary without much for views, although I imagine at certain times the bird watching could be quite good. Some more trails in the hills, or along the ocean with a view would help. Boat tours, launching from Sayward? You need to give the tourists lots to see/do.
There is a bit of tourist kitsch, but not enough critical mass to make a day of touring the stuff.
The village campground is nice – a circle of serviced lots overlooking a pond. There is a bit of road noise as the main town road is to one side, and the highway bypass is just to the other side of the pond. But that strip mall down the road needs a grocery store in it – that would help a lot in making camping more convenient rather than having to go back to the highway for a loaf of bread!
I don’t have the solutions for Sayward, or else I’d buy up property with every dollar I can scrape up and implement them! But it is a nice fairly quiet campground stop to spend a night or two. If you range further from town, it can be a base to see other sights in the area. Just make sure you come stocked with your groceries, as it is an hour back to Campbell River and some decent grocery selection! I’ll leave you with a few scenery pics from the estuary walk.