When I had to take a trip for work to the West Kootneys this year, a southeastern region of British Columbia, I really had no idea what to expect. I pictured a bunch of little towns and some mountains, not much else. Growing up pretty close by in the Okanagan, I never really drove East – it was more towards the West Coast/Vancouver, Vancouver Island and such. So I packed up my rental car, and started the 4 hour road trip with a work friend who I was going to drop off at her home in the Solcan Valley, outside of Nelson for the week.
During our four hour drive I got all of the insider information on the best places to go for good food, local culture, and good shopping! I loved the area so much that Jay and I decided to go back for his birthday over Remembrance Day weekend in November. My friend suggested we check out Rossland, a historic gold mining town now known for it’s ski hill.
We arrived in Rossland and LOVED the look of this place. Historic buildings from the late 1800s still stand in the original downtown core, now home of farm to table restaurants, artisan boutiques, and outerwear clothing shops. Looking out over the town, it really is nestled in the mountains and is magical in the snow. There is one main street with little shops spilling over into the side streets as well. We grabbed a cup of coffee and treats at Alpine Grind Coffee House, a cute and friendly coffee shop that seems to be the local neighborhood hang out.
Give yourself about 3 hours to browse the boutique shops in this area – all of them are great. A few that we really enjoyed were The Purist Pantry for homemade granola bars (YUM), and Cabine for all things art. There is a really interesting historic walk you can do around the downtown, with building markers telling you the history of the area.
That evening we were recommended to go to Idgies for diner, a casual fancy restaurant (this is the best way I can describe it!) with great food and service. In the morning we enjoyed grabbing coffees from Fuel, a new restaurant in a converted service station (best cup of coffee I’ve had in quite a while) before we headed off to explore the area.
We drove about 50 minutes through cute mountain towns to visit the famous-to-locals Frog Peak Cafe in Crescent Valley. This was our favourite stop of the whole weekend. Awesome all day breakfasts with top quality & local everything. I would describe the vibe as hippie mountain cafe. Not only is the food great and place totally charming, but they sell lovely local art and postcards. I bought two postcards from a local Nelson artist and love it so much I had to buy the print when I got home!
Just down the road from Frog Peak is the cutest natural food store/fruit stand called, the Evergreen. Stop here and take advantage of the locally made soap, lip balm, deodorant, fresh veggies and fruit, and locally made chocolates. They also have a super cute cafe in the upper portion of the store with colorful wellness lattes (mine was pink and blue!) made with herbs. Highly recommend!
From Crescent Valley you can drive up to New Denver the cutest little town on the most beautiful lake. From Crescent Valley the drive is about 40 minutes through the breathtaking Valhalla mountains. This town is pretty tiny with shops, but has a couple great coffee shops and sandwich shops, and the lake is breathtaking.
From Crescent Valley, you can also drive about 20 minutes to Nelson, a place that feels very much at home for me even though I’ve only spent a few weekends there. There is a TON of stuff to see in Nelson so I’ll just name a couple of my favorites.
Firstly, just walking around this funky town is fun. The boutiques, coffee shops, and restaurants are all unique. Our favorite coffee roasters, Oso Negro, are located in Nelson and have the most lovely coffee shop full of great food and wood everywhere! They also have a lovely garden patio. Stock up on coffee while you are here!
Another favorite shop is Cartolina, full of vintage prints as wall hangings, leather bags, and charming housewares. Across the street from them is the addictive Zinnia Textiles. Their dresses, tops, and underwear are unique, handmade, and beautiful.
Kootney Coop is another gem. This locally owned grocery store is stocked full of unique, handmade, local products. Their hot food section also blows Whole Foods out of the park. Highly recommend grabbing lunch or dinner here! Pick up the locally baked bagels as well to take home with you.
I think what I love most about the Kootneys is the beautiful way that the people live through their land, food, culture, and art. Everything supports each other and that is a gem to see.
One last tip if you are a hot spring addict like myself, check out Ainsworth Hot Springs and their natural caves! I hope you enjoy the Kootneys as much as I do 🙂