If you find yourself on the way up to the Cape Scott Trail on northern Vancouver Island, do not miss a chance to visit the Island’s most remote pub and restaurant, the Scarlet Ibis Pub.
The pub is located in Holberg, with a population of 35 people, and reachable by about 50 kilometres of unpaved road from Port Hardy.
That epic journey to Cape Scott is just how the new owners stumbled upon it. Roy McNair and seven of his friends from Nanaimo were on a motor-bike trip in 2020 when they stopped in and found out the Scarlet Ibis was for sale.
Patricia Gwynne had owned and operated the establishment for 40 years with her husband, and on her own after he died. She was ready to retire and had put the pub on the market a couple years ago.
Originally, The Scarlet Ibis was opened by a logger named Art Jones, and his wife Ruby, named the pub after a colourful bird of the Caribbean, where she was born.
Charmed by the place and its character, the biking crew later “sat around and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if…’ and that started the conversation,” Al Friesen, another owner, told the North Island Gazette.
They knew it was a big risk to purchase a remote restaurant, in a pandemic no less, but the business partners had faith that a gem like the Scarlet Ibis would pay off in the long-term.
They ended up investing money into widespread renovations and even installing new ‘adventure huts’ for overnight guests.
As a memento, the Nanaimo partners gave Gwynne a carving with the pub’s name, thanking her for her decades-long service to keep this local institution alive.
“God bless her. She kept this thing going for 40-some years and by herself after her husband passed, she kept it rocking,” Friesen shared.
If you can’t make it to the remote location, you can keep an eye out for their signature brew, the North Coast Trail Ale, available in Vancouver Island liquor stores. Cracking a cold one of these is for a good cause: 25 cents from every can sold is donated to maintaining the North Coast Trail.
Cheers to the good folks at the Scarlet Idris Pub, new and old!