Quirky Attractions in the Kootenays
Unique, historic, and cultural gems to visit.
For your next BC escape, consider jetting off for a weekend a little farther afield. Here’s a sample of getaways just an hour or two by air from Vancouver.
British Columbia’s mid-coast is home to one of the last pristine temperate rainforests on the planet. This landscape of wooded islands and deep fjords, evocatively called the Great Bear Rainforest, is inaccessible by road, but easy—and thrilling—to reach by seaplane. Wilderness Seaplanes, operated by Pacific Coastal Airlines, touch down in the village of Klemtu, where the Spirit Bear Lodge is run by the local Kitasoo/Xaixais First Nation.
Your mission? Join guides from the lodge to explore remote channels and beaches, seek out ancient village sites, and spot wildlife, including grizzly and black bears, wolves, whales, dolphins, and possibly even one of the rare white Spirit bears found only in this part of the world.
Getting there: It’s a two-hour flight from Vancouver South Terminal to Bella Bella with Pacific Coastal Airlines followed by a short and scenic seaplane ride to Klemtu.
If you haven’t been to Salt Spring Island for a while, you may be due for a reboot—and this time, bring an appetite. Start with a browse through the Saturday Market in Ganges where “make it, bake it, or grow it” is the rule for the dozens of vendors. And, whether you pick up gluten-free treats, handmade toys, or a one-of-a-kind crystal necklace, don’t leave town without a copy of the Salt Spring Guide and Adventure Map. It’s your key to the island’s growing array of tasting options, from the fruity tipples at Salt Spring Wild Cider to the craft vodka at the brand new Salt Spring Shine distillery.
Pace yourself: there’s also the Champagne-style Karma at Salt Spring Vineyards, the estate-grown Pinot Noir at Garry Oaks Winery, the bergamot-infused Earl Grey IPA at Salt Spring Island Ales, and the flower-bedecked chevre at Salt Spring Island Cheese. Dining and sleeping options abound.
Getting there: Harbour Air Seaplanes make the half-hour flight to Salt Spring from both Vancouver Harbour and Vancouver South Terminal several times a day.Salt Spring Car Rental has wheels, while Tour Salt Spring can take you tasting in style.
The storied islands of Haida Gwaii are on many Canadians’ some-day lists. Seeing as this far-flung archipelago is just a few hours from Vancouver by air, maybe someday can be next weekend. It’s a big place, so choose your landing spot.
From Masset, on the north coast, you can comb miles of deserted beach at Naikoon Provincial Park, browse the studios and craft shops of Old Masset and Tlell, and overnight within earshot of the surf at Alaska View Lodge.
Alternatively, fly into Sandspit on Moresby Island and discover the islands’ southern reaches, including the fascinating Haida Heritage Centre at Kaay Llnagaay and the ancient water-access-only village sites of Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve.
If your idea of downtime involves 19 holes and plenty of scenery, check into the St. Eugene Golf Resort & Casino, near the Canadian Rockies International Airport in Cranbrook. This historic mission building in BC’s Kootenay Rockies region comes complete with a spa, a First Nations Interpretive Centre, and a Les Furber-designed riverside golf course.
A room at the mission also puts you within a nine iron of four more championship mountainside courses, including Shadow Mountain Golf Course and Wildstone Golf Course in Cranbrook, plus two Les Furber designs—Trickle Creek Golf Resort and the 27-hole Bootleg Gap Golf—in nearby Kimberley.
There’s plenty to do off the links too: hike through alpine meadows; raft, fish, or kayak in fast moving rivers; relax in the rustic Dewar Creek or Lussier Hot Springs, or check out the historic re-enactments at nearby Fort Steele Heritage Town.
Getting there: Pacific Coastal Airlines and Air Canada fly from Vancouver to the Canadian Rockies International Airport in Cranbrook; the flight time is about 90 minutes. Car rental is available at the airport.
Featured Image: Secret path to the beach at All the Beach You Can Eat oceanside cabins between Masset and Tow Hill. Photo: Grant Harder
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