Quirky Attractions in the Kootenays
Unique, historic, and cultural gems to visit.
Make it, bake it, grow it. That is the universal mantra of farmers’ markets- a burgeoning trend that offers the freshest foodstuffs and some of the most unique artisan work to be found. Farmers’ markets are particularly popular on Vancouver Island, popping up right, left and center in communities large and small. While it would be impossible to list them all in a single post, I’m offering up five of my favourites, along with a link to a more comprehensive list at the end of the post.
Hours: Every Saturday from 9:00 am-1:00 pm
Highlights: This market was founded in 1992 and has grown over the years to include 65 local vendors. There are no artisans at this one, so it is probably the truest representation of a farmers’ market on Vancouver Island. You can find everything from water buffalo meat to superb pasta, fresh produce and baking. The country ambiance, complete with live music and a spot to rest and enjoy locally-roasted coffee, makes this market a charmer.
Insider’s Tip: The market moves indoors during the winter months to the Native Sons Hall in downtown Courtenay.
Location: 200 Craig Street
Hours: Every Saturday from 9:00 am-2:00 pm (summer) and 10:00 am–2:00 pm (winter)
Highlights: This year-round outdoor market is one of the granddaddies of them all on Vancouver Island. It’s located in the heart of the historic downtown area of Duncan and stretches for many blocks. 89 vendors offer a cornucopia of produce, meat, cheeses, ethnic specialties and spirits. Talented artisans sell everything from jewellery to clothing to ceramics, garden décor, plants, wood working, and original art. I never go to this market without coming away with a beautiful piece, and I often find myself doing Christmas shopping here, secure in the knowledge that the gifts I choose will likely never be duplicated.
Location: Community Park (1390 Errington Road)
Hours: Every Saturday from 10:00 am–1:00 pm from May 7th to September 24th
Highlights: Tucked away in a woodland glade in the funky community of Errington, between Parksville and Port Alberni, this market has been running since 1973. It’s a great event for all ages, with live music, special celebrations (The Great Errington Zuchinni Race comes to mind) and lots of family-oriented activities. You don’t find the hustle and bustle at Errington that you do at many other markets– people go to relax over a cup of coffee with friends and neighbours and pick up their week’s provisions. People travel from far and wide for the famous sticky buns, which come fresh out of the oven in the kitchen at the park.
Location: Craig Heritage Park (1245 E. Island Highway)
Hours: Every Friday from 5:00-8:00 pm from May 13th to September 23rd
Highlights: This market is one of the newer ones on the island. Vintage heritage buildings surround the small site, and are open for the public to explore during their visit. Many families take advantage of the market’s pizza wagon for a simple picnic dinner. This is another pretty laid-back event, and the venue adds a one-of-a-kind atmosphere.
Location: Centennial Park
Hours: Every Saturday from 9:00 am-4:00 pm from March 26th–October 29th.
Highlights: Although technically not on Vancouver Island, Salt Spring Island is just a short, scenic ferry ride away, making a day trip to this gem of a market a worthwhile endeavour. It’s home is pretty Centennial Park, located right on the waterfront in downtown Ganges, the main business centre on the island. 40 artisans and food producers display their wares, which range from felted slippers to authentic French pastries, delicious island-produced cheeses, ethnic foods and locally grown veggies.
Insider’s Tip: The vendors often start setting up around 8:00 am during the summer, so get there early. Also, dogs are not allowed at the market, so plan accordingly.
Regardless of where you decide to go, there is one guarantee: the farmers and artisans of Vancouver Island are some of the best, and you are bound to find something that tickles your fancy as well as your palate.
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