Port Howard

The settlement, home to 30 people, is situated at the base of 2,400ft (660m) Mount Maria at the head of its own sheltered harbour. Although this is the largest settlement on West Falkland, you can still walk from one end to the other in 20 minutes and it is only a few hundred yards wide at its widest point because it runs alongside the harbour. It is one of the most picturesque settlements on the Falklands, especially when the gorse is in full bloom in springtime.

Port Howard is one of the few remaining large farming settlements in the islands. The farm is some 200,000 acres and supports 40,000 pure-bred Corriedale sheep. Outside of the shearing season of December, January and February, life can be very peaceful here but, when shearing is in full flow, Port Howard is a hub of activity, with the shearing shed the centre of operations.

What to see and do in Port Howard

The lodge

Staying at Port Howard gives you the opportunity to explore the area around the lodge. A gentle stroll along the main tracks takes in the sites and the settlement’s birdlife, but with a little more time you can walk further to Bull Cove or southwards along Port Howard Harbour. A 4×4 tour allows you to explore the rest of the island and, while the majority of people will visit the sites on West Falkland on a tour organised through their accommodation, Kelper Tours will organise self-catering accommodation and drive visitors on a guided tour around the various sites. Prices start from £150 per person per day for a full day tour.

Black-chinned siskins Port Howard
Black-chinned siskins often sing from the hedge tops of the lodge © Dick Culbert, Wikimedia Commons

The sheltered gardens of the lodge are a veritable suntrap, and a good place to look for some of the smaller birds – black-chinned siskins often sing from the hedge tops and Falkland thrushes feed on the open grass. On the lawn, beside the lodge is the small museum. Port Howard was occupied by approximately 1,000 troops during the 1982 war with Argentina and much of the equipment left behind after their departure is displayed here. The museum is always open, and the collection gives an idea of what life must have been like during the occupation.

The jetty

From the museum, the jetty is only a 10-minute direct walk through the settlement, along the track that follows the edge of the harbour. However, you can take your time and spend anything up to a couple of hours wandering around, watching wildlife or just admiring the view. The bridge and ford that cross Howard Stream, a few hundred yards along the track, are a good place to look for black-crowned night herons feeding in the stream. Small groups of black-chinned siskins can be seen in the low bushes on the slope above. Where the stream enters the nearby inlet, a flock of speckled teal are usually feeding in the shallows.

black-crowned night herons Port Howard
Black-crowned night herons can be seen feeding along Howard Stream © Manoj Karingamadathil, Wikimedia Commons

The track winds past the shearing sheds to the quay. The shearing sheds are used several times during the summer, so it is often possible to see how the wool is processed. The track then continues for another 100yds or so before reaching the jetty used by the ferry that links East and West Falkland. From here, it is possible to walk on a short higher track that loops back towards the lodge, passing some of the residential houses, before rejoining the main track before the bridge.

Towards Fox Bay

Another walk takes you northeast from the lodge, along the main road to Fox Bay and the rest of West Falkland. After 100yds, before the newer farm sheds, leave the road and bear right for another 200yds as the track you’re now following rises up towards the airstrip overlooking the settlement. Walk up over the airstrip and along the inlet on the far side of it and, after another 600yds or so, you will reach a small headland and the cemetery where the grave of Captain Hamilton, who lost his life during the Argentinian occupation in 1982, can be found. Bull Stream flows into the far side of this inlet, helping to make a very rich area botanically.

From here, you can retrace your steps or take the track that crosses Bull Stream and return to the main road before heading south back to the lodge, which will take another 15–20 minutes. Alternatively, you can also walk for another 10–15 minutes to overlook Bold Cove and then continue for a similar amount of time up the hill opposite Port Howard – one of the most scenic areas on West Falkland, where there is a cairn to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the first sighting of the Falkland Islands. West from here you can see Port Howard laid out before you and out over the Falkland Sound towards East Falkland on the other side. The highest point on the Falklands, Mount Usborne (705m), is visible on a very clear day.

Beyond the settlement

For those with a 4×4, there are several points of interest that can be reached beyond the settlement. These sites can also be walked, but bank on a full day of walking from the lodge and be sure to carry all supplies you will need with you. The main channel to the south, Port Howard Harbour, is reached by a short, easy walk along grassy tracks by the water or a drive from the settlement. The furthest reaches of the channel are five miles from the lodge. Magellanic oystercatchers and blackish oystercatchers feed along the shore, along with a scattering of two-banded plovers.

Magellanic oystercatchers feed along the shore © Giedriius, Shutterstock

Double River, just over halfway to the far end of Port Howard Harbour, enters the sound in a broad expanse of stone and mud. The views from here are fantastic, looking out from Port Howard Harbour into Falkland Sound. On the return trip, a detour up to Freezer Rocks on the side of Mount Maria is well worthwhile. This line of rocks jutting up through the diddle-dee and ferny vegetation is in a commanding position above the settlement. The views from here are superb – on a clear day you can see over the ridge that is the eastern boundary of Port Howard Harbour, out into Falkland Sound and beyond to East Falkland.

Travel to Port Howard

There are two airstrips serving Port Howard, the nearer of which is only a few minutes’ walk from the lodge, on the other side of the bay. The other, Purvis Pond Airstrip, is a 10-minute drive from the settlement. Both are used by FIGAS to get visitors to the settlement. The flight from Stanley takes approximately 30 minutes depending on wind strength and direction.

Visitors may also drive from one of the other settlements on West Falkland, the majority of which are serviced by their own airstrip or arrive by boat on the Concordia Bay ferry. This has been running since 2008 and links New Haven on East Falkland to the jetty in Port Howard, transporting vehicles and passengers between the two islands. As it can be busy at peak times it is advisable to book your journey before travelling and to check the website for the latest schedule.