British Columbia travel guide
Our personal tips for a perfect vacation in BC
Where to go and what to do and see
Canada is a dream destination. It makes you think of endless forests, crystal clear lakes, diverse wild life and impressive mountains. It is the perfect place for outdoor adventurers and wilderness lovers.
Canada has so much to offer and it can be quite the challenge to choose THE place for your vacation. Having been to Alberta (long ago, though) and British Columbia and with Yukon high on our wish list, we have to admit that for us, the western part is the most interesting. In August 2018 we spent a few days in BC - it was such a beautiful trip which is why we decided to pick the cherries from that trip and create a ‘British Columbia travel guide’. We will introduce our favorite places, hotels, food spots to you and suggest outdoor activities in the Kootenai area. So if you plan on spending your vacation in BC, here is our itinerary suggestion based on our trip from Vancouver to Nelson to Whistler and back to Vancouver:
We started the vacation in Vancouver where we flew in from Keflavík with Air Canada Rouge. We wouldn’t recommend that airline, though and would rather opt for Icelandair next time. They have good offers on flights from Europe to Vancouver and flying with them is just so comfortable. Good food plus great in-board entertainment. Anyways, after landing in Vancouver it took us about ten minutes to walk from the baggage belt to our accommodation for the night - the luxurious Fairmont Vancouver Airport – a hotel we highly recommend because of its location and the overall perfect stay we had. The rooms are really cozy, the beds unbelievably comfortable, the bathroom had a shower AND a bathtub and you don’t hear a thing from the airplanes leaving the airport as the hotel is soundproofed. Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner are served in the award-winning hotel restaurant called Globe @ YVR.
There is a big buffet in the morning but also a menu that offers all kinds of eggs, coffee, pancakes, waffles and much more. The dinner menu contains high-class dishes. The ingredients they use are locally sourced and sustainably grown and there was not a single thing we ate that didn’t taste awesome (24-hour in-room dining is also available in case you don’t want to leave your cozy room and the deserts are heavenly ;)). You can visit the Jetside Bar for a nice drink in the evening while listening to some live music. The Fairmont Airport Hotel comes with a spa offering more than 120 treatments. Furthermore, there is a pool, a whirlpool, several saunas and a gym. All in all one of our greatest hotel experiences, ever. It’s so absolutely convenient to spend the night directly at the airport, especially when you have an early morning connecting flight.
Next morning we took a domestic flight to Castlegar (approx. 1 hour 10 minutes) winging over the green Rocky Mountains, a beautiful view - we can tell you that. The drive to Nelson, the so-called ‘Queen City’ located at the West Kootenay Rockies and the first ‘real’ stop on our trip took us about 40 minutes. Nelson is a beautiful, old, Victorian village, situated on a hill, home of about 10.000 people. The inviting and compact downtown is perfectly explorable by foot. In unique boutiques, antique stores and bookshops you can get everything from clothes, art, outdoor equipment to home-made, fair-trade and local produce. You will also find the craziest houses there - Anthroposophist and hippy heaven, obviously. Wild growing backyards, hammocks, wide open doors, overgrown gates - everything rather unkempt. Lots of the buildings in town are remains from the Silver Rush and were beautifully restored.
It is a colorful town filled with art, music (there’s live music somewhere almost every single night), hippies, libertines and all those whose job is either free-lance journalist, painter, musician, sculptor or alike. People know each other - and obviously also really like one another. A town, which community has no equal and which inhabitants seem to leave the house radiant with joy, every single morning. Residents so relaxed and friendly that you might ask yourself where the plantation with the green leaves might be that you can smoke so merrily… // Fun fact: the police officers of Nelson tend to stretch the law a little in that matter, just like in Vancouver the regulations are rather chill and/or vague. Policies are quite liberal and the authorities tolerate the selling of Marijuana in local coffee shops. // The municipal of Nelson is open-minded, eccentric, friendly, green, easy breezy and all of that isn’t even superficial or faked. If you live in Nelson, then you do so because of an active decision and you can’t imagine it any other way.
The community is being nourished and cherished, the wildest projects are being turned into reality, together - like the incredible grocery store Kootenay Coop which is a cooperative of local consumers financing the supermarket and therefore freeing themselves from the big chains - the store offers local produce, healthy and organic, vegan and fair trade, wellness products and loads and loads of fresh and seasonal fruit and vegetables. Nelson also has such a great scene of restaurants and cafés - more than 70 places (including Indian, Mexican, Greek, Thai and Japanese food) in this small town. Everything is locally produced and fresh, as well. In addition, it’s an absolute paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.
Where to stay
The Hume Hotel
422 Vernon Street, Nelson, B.C.
We slept at the Hume Hotel during our stay, one of the best hotels in British Columbia, so they say (definitely one of the most expensive ones, though). It was built in 1898 and everything is restored stunningly, the balance between old and new is a perfect success. A lot of original pieces have been preserved and incorporated in the interior. So much history, so many actual vintage pieces, wood, brass and velvet drapes. The hotel itself is conveniently located in downtown Nelson.
To check out other accommodations click here: CLICK!
Where to eat
Sanderella’s Starbird Teahouse
464 Baker St., Nelson, B.C.
Incredibly cute tea store on the main street of Nelson selling perfect cupcakes, macarons, homemade ice-tea and other bits and bobs. But not only the sweet tooth will get his money’s worth, they also serve delicious snacks like filled Crêpe.
Oso Negro Café and Roastery
604 Ward Street, Nelson, B.C.
John Meyer, unofficial mayor of Nelson who everybody knows and loves, is supplying half the town with fresh and fair trade coffee from his roast house and associated cafe, every single morning. The panini we had on the beautiful terrace of his cafe was freaking heavenly. Everything you get is local, fresh, eco-friendly, organic, fair and veggie.
All Seasons Café
620 Herridge Lane, Nelson, B.C.
Situated hillsides with a beautiful patio and chains of lights in the treetops. Offering bestest wine and local ingredients in a relaxed and cozy atmosphere.
What to do
- Go for a hike, there are tons of trails.
- Go on a rafting adventure.
- Play Golf.
- Strolling through town, trying out cafes and visiting the small and unique shops.
- Enjoy the diverse art and culture scene.
- Walk to the border of the town, through a green park, past hundreds of geese and a tiny narrow-gauge railway along the Kootenay Lake.
- Stand Up Paddling or kayaking on the Kootenay Lake.
- Rent (e-) bikes and explore the area with its beautiful lake and mountains.
- Kokanee Mountain Zipline. Six massive steel ropes are leading through the area, 300 meters above the ground with one of them leading over the 2400-foot deep canyon of Kokanee Creek. It’s two hours filled with adrenaline and only a twenty minutes drive away from Nelson.
Kokanee Mountain Zipline
Kokanee Glacier Park Rd between Kokanee Marina and Kokanee Creek Provincial Park
- Skiing, snowboarding, heli-skiing, ski-touring, and cat-skiing in winter (Alpine, Nordic, and Cat)
Find an overview of all the activities (outdoor and indoor / summer and winter) Nelson has to offer here: CLICK!
Seeking more in-depth information about traveling Nelson?
...then you might wanna check out our extensive 'Nelson Travel Itinerary – how to spend a perfect day (and night) in Nelson, BC', right over here:
After exploring colorful Nelson for a couple of days, we took the Hwy/BC-3 E to Fernie, the next stop on our itinerary. Since it is a 3 hours and 45 minutes drive we suggest stopping in Creston for a second breakfast and to stretch your legs. We had THE most amazing mint brownie and some caramel Frappuccino at the Buffalo Trails Coffee House. When you walk through town you will find some interesting wall paintings of the First Nations. A bit further there also is an amazing Farmer’s Markets on the side of the road where you get fresh fruits.
Fernie is Postcard-Canada, flagship-residence and –community and comes with tons of possibilities concerning great food, outdoor activities and all the other things that make for a perfect holiday. It is located south-east in the district of East-Kootenay where the Rockies of British Columbia, Alberta, and Montana meet. It's one of the oldest towns in that region situated at the Elk River, close to Cranbrook. The town is surrounded by two to three thousand meter high mountains (like the famous ‘Three Sisters’) which creates a microclimate with steady weather and a lot of snowfalls during winter. It is one of the most diverse and intact ecosystems on planet Earth. The geographic character of this place is almost unique – environment, culture, aesthetics and historical inherit are unaltered. The land was once populated by the First Nations – the Kutenai still live in the area.
Due to its historical houses, the small town reminds of a movie set. Downtown you find unique stores and great sweet shops where you can watch people producing them sweets with fresh ingredients. In Fernie, you find decorated restaurant terraces and beautiful flowers all over the place. Everything looks so colorful and happy. Besides many restaurants and bars, there is a town brewery and the coffee you get in a lot of places comes from Oso Negro (a roast house in Nelson we fell in love with). Fernie is a popular skiing (especially Catskiing) area but also known for its Poplars and red Cedars – a few of them are the oldest ones on this planet being more than 400 years old. Only 5200 people live in the town and everyone we met loved living there. The inhabitants of Fernie love to chat with people traveling by, they are open, welcoming and very friendly. The area offers 375 km of hiking and biking paths.
Where to stay
Island Lake Lodge
Cedar Valley Rd, Fernie, V0B 1M0, B.C.
Our top recommendation concerning accommodation is the Island Lake Lodge. Located on a hill it consists of three big wooden huts surrounded by nothing but green meadows with flowers in between, the lake that gives the Lodge its name and of course, the mountains. It is a bit hard to reach in winter but the Lodge offers a pick-up with a Cat-Mobile. The Island Lake Lodge restaurant offers gourmet standard, and we can't stress enough how GOOD the food was. Not only the Lodge itself is great from food to appearance to rooms to service etc. but also the surroundings with all the possibilities for outdoor activities are just amazing. There are three canoes lying close to the lake which you can use at any time.
Where to eat
Cirque Restaurant and Ice Bar @ Lizard Creek Lodge
5346 Highline Drive, Fernie, B.C.
Have a delicious snack on the beautiful terrace and a refreshing cocktail with the Rockies right in front of you. The place itself is beautifully furnished (inside and outside) with a cozy restaurant and a nice fireplace. Also, part of the restaurant is an Ice-Bar. Everything there is made of ice (even the shot glasses) and the ice is illuminated with blue and pink lights. At the bar, you find local and international liquors as well as some specialties.
The Bridge Bistro
301 Hwy 3, Fernie, B.C.
A simple place with awesome Poke Bowls and great Fish and Chips. We recommend the 5-layer-dip (consisting of Salsa, cream cheese and guacamole amongst other ingredients) as a starter and the locally produced Cider.
561 BC-3, Fernie, V0B 1M0, B.C.
A small place where you get self-made ice cream from only the best and local ingredients (some of them self-produced). No artificial additives and flavors. The honey ice cream is seriously the best ice cream we’ve EVER had in our entire freaking lives!
What to do
Walks along the Elk River – you might spot eagles, elks or even black bears.
Stand up paddling, rafting (in the so-called ‘White Water’), floating or even surfing is all possible on the river.
The Chairlift of the Resort brings you to the top of the mountains and the ‘Lost Boys Café’ offers a great view up there.
You will find hiking paths (like Polar Peek, Three Sisters, Castle Mountain) with different levels of difficulty all around. The so-called ‘Heiko’s Trail’ is one of the more difficult day hikes going over three mountain paths including caves and waterfalls.
You can have a bath in the river or the Maiden and Surveyors Lake, there also is a water park.
Gaze at some of the oldest Poplars and Red Cedars in the world on the "Nature Walk" at the Island Lake Lodge.
There is a skate park, a mountain bike dirt park, and a disc golf course.
- Fernie is one of THE best places for fly-fishing in North America (especially for trouts).
- Find jogging routes, family hikes (like the Fair Creek Falls), picnic areas and photo spots all over the place
More than 100 biking routes from cross-country to downhill are available – you can rent a bike in one of the many bike rentals
Explore the Areal Park at the Alpine Resort. Climb from one tree to another over car tires, thin wooden beams, and coarse-meshed nets.
Fernie Alpine Resort
5339 Ski Hill Road, Fernie, V0B 1M6, B.C.
Skiing season in Fernie starts mid of November and ends mid of April. The skiing area is one of the world's most famous, especially known for cat-skiing. You will also find tons of slopes with all kinds of difficulty levels.
Cross country skiing and snowshoe hiking are also very popular in winter. You can book an instructor if you are new to skiing. Same goes for snowboarding.
If you are more into motorsports you can try riding a snowmobile.
Of course, you can also go ice-skating, curling or play hockey.
Find an overview of all the winter activities (outdoor and indoor) Fernie has to offer here: CLICK!
Seeking more in-depth information about traveling Fernie?
...then you might wanna check out our extensive 'Fernie Travel Itinerary – perfect 48 hours in the Kootenay Rockies', right over here:
After some great experiences in Fernie, we flew back to Vancouver. We took a flight from Cranbrook (a one hour drive from Fernie) that brought us the ‘City of Glass’ within one and a half hour. This time we got to spend some time to explore Vancouver a bit more before we flew back home from there. We spend half a day scouting the Vintage stores, which are absolutely awesome. There is the so-called ‘Vintage Walk’ with 7 shops being part of it. Vancouver is full of life, has a vibrant restaurant scene and is rich in cultural events, it absolutely is worth an own trip. What makes it such a perfect spot for one, is the city, of course, located at the water and surrounded by mountains but also how close it is to so many amazing outdoor destinations. Whistler is within reach, so is Nelson, Fernie and countless other getaways in the Rockies. No better place to be located for a few weeks filled with amazing views, sights and activities and perfect for those that just can’t decide between a city trip and an outdoor adventure for their holidays.
Where to stay
Fairmont Hotel Vancouver
900 W Georgia St, Vancouver, V6C 2W6, B.C.
As we already had such a great stay at the Fairmont Hotel at the airport, we were so happy we got to sleep in yet another one – this time in downtown Vancouver. Royal Halls are greeting you, the incredibly friendly staff welcomes you and you might get the feeling you’ve jumped straight back into old times when the Pacific Railway Company built such châteauesque beauty all over the country. The suites are huge, come with modern, yet incredibly classy and elegant interior, a fantastic view over downtown Vancouver, serious bathroom goals and (again) the comfiest beds we’ve most likely ever slept in. The perfect mix between the now and back in the day. The breakfast hall is beautiful, as well and comes with such amazing historic decor - nostalgic glamour and elegance. If you dine in a 5* luxury hotel you do certainly expect good food – it exceeded our expectations by far, though. This surely all sounds like a hymn of praise, but we are not exaggerating, at all. The french toast is still remembered as the best one ever eaten.
Where to eat
What to do
Go on a whale watching tour and spot orcas, humpback whales, grey whales, minkes but also seals, sea lions, porpoises, and bald eagles.
Relax on the beach.
See Eagles, herons, snow geese, owls, gulls, jays, and sandpipers while bird watching.
Go boating and fishing.
Vancouver has a lot of cycle paths and bike routes in the area, ranging from easy flat terrain around Stanley Park to mountain biking on the famous North Shore.
In a short distance of downtown, you find numerous hiking paths.
Strolling through downtown. Find out what neighborhood is the most interesting one for you to see, right here: CLICK!
... and so much more. Find everything you might possibly be interested in doing and seeing when in Vancouver here: CLICK!
Seeking more in-depth information about traveling Vancouver?
...then you might wanna check out our extensive 'Whistler, British Columbia – a Vancouver adventure', right over here: