Cow Bay is the picturesque centre for a lot of activity in this coastal town.
It’s a place where restored historic buildings house tour guides, artist collectives, shops, and offices. It’s where you’ll walk on boardwalks built over the water on pilings and smell the salty air from the harbour. And it’s the spot where you’ll experience a bustling mix of industrious and laid back daily life. (Just a block away from an impressive selection of funky shops and cool cafés you’ll find welders who can fix boats or fabricate anything you can think up, mechanics, marine suppliers, and the local building supplies centre.) The mix works well; a friendly feeling suffuses the whole area.
Cow Bay is the perfect spot to just wander around, poking your head into various shops, grabbing a drink here or a bite to eat there, stopping to watch some activity that’s going on—there’s always something happening, especially down on the docks or out in the harbour—before continuing your meandering.
Scope out some cool clothes and toys for your kids or pick up a new bag and acute dress. You’ll find just about anything you can think of, from teapots and tablecloths to bedding and boots. But this isn’t the only spot to shop; there are three main shopping districts in town…
Once you’re up the hill from Cow Bay, the blend between daily city life and tourism can be sometimes tricky to distinguish. Don’t worry, though, just have a wander and you’ll be fine: Prince Rupert is only about 6 km (4 miles) from one end to the other, with much of the shopping and restaurants located in less than half of that, so you really can’t go wrong. A wander up 2nd Avenue from Cow Bay and you’ll find all kinds of shops, ranging from grocery stores and purveyors of essentials to tackle shops, a tiny newspaper stand and bookshop, a pet store, and second-hand shops. There’s even a lock shop that’s worth wandering into—the owner has an impressive collection of curios and artifacts on display.
When you feel like you’ve hit the end of the road and are ready to turn back, wait a second. Do you need a new rain jacket? Any interest in taking home the ultimate Prince Rupert souvenir: a pair of lace-up gumboots? If the answer is yes to either of these, or you’re just curious, keep on walking. Up ahead, near the end of 2nd Ave. is a shop dedicated to making sure you’re ready for the wet weather Rupert is infamous for. And before you knock the rain, remember that it’s all that falling water that makes those hills look so unbelievably green and the landscape smell so fresh. This is the rainforest, after all. So before you turn back into town, make sure you grab some good quality gear. Even though it’s only a few blocks from the rest of the shops and restaurants, Rupert’s rain gear shop seems like it’s off the beaten path…which makes it all the more interesting to check out.
Skip up a block to 3rd Ave. and again you find yourself spoiled for shopping choices. Start at the very end (not too far from the rain gear warehouse) at an awesome little antique shop. Run by locals whose passion for Prince Rupert is evident by the smiles on their faces when you ask them for tips on where to go for a hike or a good spot to grab a bite to eat, the store sells all kinds of funky stuff, from glass fishing floats and other marine memorabilia to amazing antique furniture, old books, and objets d’art. Their stock changes all the time, so every visit is like stepping into a new place. Oh, and they also carry a selection of pieces made by local artists, including cool handmade tiles and pottery. In short, this is a spot you have to check out.
Heading up the hill, back towards Cow Bay, you’ll find yourself in the midst of a busy shopping district. Little restaurants half-hide themselves among the shops, banks, gift shops, and galleries. Like in Cow Bay, there’s a lot to see here. The odd historic building peeks out from between its more modern neighbours; beautiful old houses gaze down from the top of the hill; a small gallery sits next to a tanning salon, next to a clothing shop, across from City Hall. There’s jewellery, paintings, clothing, gifts and souvenirs, books, and lots more. Everywhere you look, there’s something interesting to see. Third Ave. is a great place for window-shopping—most of the stores are at street level and quirky window displays are commonplace.
The folks who work hard running local businesses here are proud of the place they call home, they love this landscape, and they are typically excited to share Prince Rupert with visitors. If there’s something in particular you’re hoping to check out, just ask—you’ll probably find more than you were looking for.
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