British Columbia Marinas

Destination: Kitimat

Tuesday, September 16, 2014S.V. CAMBRIA

Chief Sammy Robinson's home in Kitimaat Village.
Marina:  53°58.882’N, 128°39.141’W

I don’t think anyone was more surprised than us that Kitimat turned out to be a destination.  To start, we hate tying up.  We spend six months trapped in a marina during the winter and the last thing we want to do in the summer is spend the night in one.  And none of us were too excited that the only grocery store is 11 kilometres (7 miles) from the marina, especially when we were looking at a CA$25 taxi ride . . . each way.  But we were low on fresh provisions and it was our best option. So, we went. 

And we’re really glad that we did.

The marina, MK Bay Marina, is located on the east side of Kitimat Arm (Navionics places it on the west) and is open year round.  Guest moorage is located on the seaward side of D dock (the outermost finger), but boats under 45’ can tie up on the inside near the office building if space is available.  It’s a good idea to call ahead on VHF channel 68 for a berth assignment and check for availability – it can get surprisingly busy during the height of the summer.  

The facilities themselves are first-rate.  The dock is starting to show its age in places but is concrete and (for the most part) sits level.  Moorage is a little on the high side at CA$1.25 a foot, but water and power are available (30 and 50 amp) at no additional charge.  The marina has a security gate (there’s a refundable CA$20 deposit for the key) and a large garbage bin is located at the end of the gangway (no sorting!) with a smaller bin for recyclables.  The laundromat is located at the end of the marina office building and reasonably priced at CA$2 per load.  The showers, opposite the office, are among the best we’ve seen but are on the expensive side at CA$3 for 5 minutes (you can add a loonie while the water’s running to extend your time).  There was internet access available in the office, but no Wi-Fi.  We did, however, have a weak cellular signal through Bell Canada

A fuel dock is located at the southern end of the marina near the office building and sells diesel and petrol at a much lower rate than Shearwater or Klemtu – it was CA$1.28 when we were there compared to a hefty CA$1.70.  A small store inside the marina building sells a good selection of marine and fishing supplies (no groceries).  And a cafĂ© sells coffee, drinks, sandwiches and baked goods. 

When it comes to Kitimat, cruising guides for the area fall short on details but you can find all the information you need in the office . . . including a bus schedule into town.  Service runs regularly Monday through Friday and the fare is only CA$2 per person, a much cheaper option than calling a taxi.  You can also find maps and visitor guides with lists of local businesses and attractions.  The marina staff is incredibly friendly and will help you with any questions you may have, so don’t hesitate to ask.  If they don’t know the answer, they’ll find someone who does. 

The bus stops along the main road opposite the marina parking lot and takes 15 to 20 minutes to drive to Kitimat.  Local residents are very friendly as well (even carrying our groceries aboard) and help pass the time with good conversation.  We didn’t try it ourselves but the chances of hitching a ride with someone leaving the marina seemed like a good option as well.  But if you prefer to bike (or even walk) the road is only one lane each way with no shoulder. 

The town itself only has a population of around 10,000 people but offers all of the amenities of a larger city – a hospital, library, airport, visitors centre, post office, mall, grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, restaurants, parks, hotels, churches, and museums.  There are two grocery stores – SuperValu and Overwaitea.  But SuperValu is starting to show its age while Overwaitea is a modern, clean grocery story with an excellent selection and, in our opinion, the better option of the two.

The region has a long history starting with the Haisla Nation who has occupied the land for hundreds of years.  European explorers arrived in the 1800s but it wasn’t until 1950 that a western town was built around what was called the Kitimat Project – a dam, two 12-mile long tunnels through the coastal mountain range, a powerhouse that’s 1400 feet inside a mountain (all located in Kemano Bay, Gardner Canal), an aluminum smelter and a town.  The company, Alcan, continues to operate and is the main employer for the city.  You can learn more about the history of the area and the building of the Alcan facilities at the KitimatMuseum & Archives, which is located in the city centre.  

If you stop at MK Bay Marina, visiting with Chief Sammy Robinson, master carver, in nearby Kitimaat Village is a must.  He’s a charming man with many interesting stories to tell.  In 2013 he was named British Columbia’s best carver and his work is exceptional.  If you have deep pockets, you can own a piece for yourself.  There’s also a small band store in the village; it’s more of a convenience shop and wouldn’t do for major provisioning . . . but the ice cream is good!

We only spent 24 hours in Kitimat and used it primarily as a working stop, but there’s clearly more to it than that and we wouldn’t hesitate to make a return trip.  If you happen to find yourself there one day as well, whether for work or pleasure, one thing’s for sure – you’ll be glad you did. 

Things to Do:
  • Farmers Market – Sundays 10 am to 3 pm (no bus service) from May through October in the parking lot behind Mountainview Square, City Centre.
  • Heritage Walkway – interpretive signs lead the way through the history of Kitimat.  There are four but the easiest to find from the bus stop is across from the SuperValu. 
  • Hirsch Creek Golf & Winter Club – 18 hole golf course and a bar & grill.
  • Kitimaat Village – Master Carver, Chief Sammy Robinson
  • Kitimat Museum & Archives – community history, First Nation displays, flora and fauna displays, wildlife displays and gift shop. 
  • Sam Lindsay Aquatic Centre – 25 metre lap pool, sauna, hot tub, water slide, kid’s pool, changing rooms, racquetball court and weight room.

  • Car Rental – Budget, Hertz and National (all out of the airport)
  • Coastal Taxi – (250) 632-7250
  • Kitimat Transit System (250) 632-4444
  • Northwest Regional Airport – servicing Terrace and Kitmat with flights from WestJet, Hawkair, CMA and Jazz
  • Valley Taxi – (250) 639-6464

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