Fernie Travel Itinerary – perfect 48 hours in the Kootenay Rockies

Jul 18, 2018

Photographed in and surrounding areas

Kindly supported by the province of British Columbia

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We can’t actually say that there was one place that was more beautiful than the others on our trip through British Columbia, all of them had their charms. Still, we have to admit that Fernie was our favorite stop. We were blown away by everything it has to offer and we might have left a piece of our hearts at the Island Lake Lodge, the most breathtaking place we'ver spend a night at. Every time we talk about those 48 hours we explored Fernie and the surrounding areas we feel slightly melancholic – the kind of melancholia you feel when you deeply miss a place. For us, 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.

Fernie is one of the most popular places for Catskiing in the world but since we had never even heard of that sports before, we didn’t have the little town on our radar, at all. We had no image in our heads, no desires for our stay, we just let the 48 hours come to us. Truth be told, we weren’t in love from the first second we arrived, it happened later. After we left Nelson (the first stop of our trip) and passed some serious wads of smoke (as there were a lot of forest fires going on during our stay) we arrived at that hazy village called Fernie. Luckily, at that point, the wind turned and the sky finally cleared up. So this is our story about Fernie, our ultimate Fernie travel itinerary for 48 summery hours in a little town in the Rocky Mountains:

This is the first time during our trip we actually see the Canadian mountains.

The first adventure on our list brings us to the Fernie Alpine Resort where we have a quick lunch to fuel up for what's to come. Italian for Linda (some sort of Pizza with Feta, Tomatoes, and Pesto) and Mexican for Caro (Quesadilla). Both taste really good but there is not much time to sit back and relay as we have to be at the equipment station for the Areal Park in 20 minutes. We get helmets, climbing harnesses, all the information we need about safety and then find ourselves walking through the heat of the day towards the woods. The park is just a short walk behind the Resort. Actually, we are not big fans of heights and even if we love zip-lining, climbing and hiking, we get scared by only looking up and seeing other people climb from one tree to another over car tires, thin wooden beams, and coarse-meshed nets. We still want to give it a try but after the beginner's route, we decide to head back to the save ground.

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Fernie Alpine Resort
5339 Ski Hill Road
Fernie, V0B 1M6, B.C.
Canada

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Next stop is the Cirque Restaurant & Ice Bar at the Lizard Creek Lodge. On the beautiful terrace, we indulge in a delicious snack (that cheese platter dear friends, so yum!) and a refreshing cocktail. With the Rockies right in front of us, the sun shining down on our shoulders and the smell of the forest in our noses, we feel happy. The place itself is beautifully furnished (inside and outside) and we immediately start dreaming about being here in winter, having dinner in the cozy restaurant and afterward sitting in front of the nice fireplace, drinking hot chocolate. If you ever get the chance, we would highly recommend eating at the Cirque.

Also part of the restaurant is an Ice-Bar – another thing we never tried before. Fitted with warm winter parkas we enter the chilly room. Everything here is made of ice and the ice itself is illuminated with blue and pink lights.

What can we say, it looks just gorgeous. On the bar, we find local and international liquors as well as some specialties. We have a little Vodka tasting in this unique place and find our favorite in a Vodka called ‘Vagabond’ (of course :D) and another one made of Lavender. It is such a unique experience to stand in this cold place, drinking from shot glasses made of ice and being warmed up from the inside. Unfortunately, it is too cold to stay longer than about 15 minutes so we take a few shots (Vodka and with our camera ;)) before we leave for our accommodation for the night.

 

Cirque Restaurant and Ice Bar @ Lizard Creek Lodge
5346 Highline Drive
Fernie, B.C., 
Canada

We are driving up a mountain and have no clue what to expect – and then there it is - "Postcard-Canada". The Island Lake Lodge consists of three big wooden huts surrounded by nothing but green meadows with flowers in between 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 place looks perfect, like in a dream. We are blown away and can’t believe how lucky we are to spend the night out here. After bringing our suitcases to our room, raving about its coziness, the view from our balcony and the fireplace in the lobby of the hut we’re staying in, we can’t wait to go out and explore the area, especially the lake that gives the Lodge its name. While the sun slowly paints the sky red we are basically running down the path to the lake only to stand as if rooted as soon as we arrive at the water. With a long sigh, we inhale the fresh air into our lungs and realize that this moment, this time, this place - is perfection. The water reflects the mountaintops and the firs standing at the lake front. There are three canoes lying close to the water and also two big wooden chairs, where we immediately take a seat.

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Our hearts are telling us that we will stay here forever and for a second, we believe them

20 Minutes later dinner is calling. We meet with Mike (Marketing Manager of the Lodge) and when he shows up at the restaurant we both have the same thought: he MUST be Icelandic. We talk about this and that during dinner until we finally find the courage to ask him about his whereabouts. “You don’t happen to have Icelandic roots?” He is laughing “I AM Icelandic”. We start talking about his and our home of choice and the conversation becomes more and more personal, more open. It is a great evening with fantastic food and nice company. We can't stress enough how GOOD the food was. The Island Lake Lodge restaurant offers gourmet standard and is very proud of that. With every passing minute, we are falling more and more in love with this place - it represents our personal Canadian Dream. After sitting in front of the fireplace for a bit we decide to go to bed to get up early and catch the sunrise at the lake. It is our only chance to go on a canoe ride this trip and we REALLY want to take one for a spin. When we fall asleep we don’t have the slightest clue that the following morning will be one to remember, forever.

We get up at dawn, put on some clothes, grab a coffee to go and walk down to the lake. The whole area is incredibly quiet, nothing moves in the woods, nobody else is up, yet. We’re looking for the moose that we were told is having a sip at the lake every morning but not even the animals are fully awake by now. The lake is as smooth as a mirror, and we pull one of the canoes into the water. Slowly, we paddle around the small island in the middle of the lake. It is quiet, so unbelievable quiet. We can hear ourselves breathing while the sun is showing up behind the mountains, covering everything around us in liquid gold. We spend half an hour in the canoe, all by ourselves in that beautiful place that looks just like a painting. A feeling of unreality strikes us - this might as well be a dream. When we put the canoe back to its place, the first sunbeams are shining through the trees and right into our faces. The trees and their reflection in the water look like an audio track and we start wondering what the song might sound like. At this moment it must be our favorite song in the world.

It takes quite a while until the sun is above the trees and the mountains, we are watching every minute of it before we decide to go for a little walk in the surrounding forest. It is one of the most breathtaking morning walks we’ve ever been on. The sun is shining through the branch wood of Cedars and Poplars and a bit later we learn that those trees are some of the oldest of their kind in the whole wide world (a few are more than 400 years old). In the forest we find a bench with a stunning view – the trees reveal the impressive mountains afar and for the second time we’re thinking: this could very well be a painting. We are almost losing track of time but breakfast has already started a while ago and if it is only half as good as dinner the night before, we don’t want to miss it. And it IS just as good. Pancakes and Avocado toast – we are in heaven. Unfortunately, we have to say goodbye to this magical place after breakfast and the only thing that makes us less sad to leave is making the decision to definitely come back one day. We’re staring out of the car to get a good last look while leaving for downtown Fernie.

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Due to its historical houses, the small town at the Elk river reminds us of a movie set. We watch how they make chocolate fresh from beans at ‘Beanpod’, buy maple fudge at the other Chocolaterie in town to bring back home with us, eat delicious fresh mint ice cream, get lost in two interior stores and stroll through the streets. We also buy some small stuff in one of the interior stores as a memorabilia for this amazing trip and could have bought a lot more - unfortunately, our suitcases don’t have any space left. One thing is for sure if we would live here our interior would be full on Canadian style – lumberjack pattern, maple and elk prints and a lot of wood. Our minds go crazy for a second, and we start furnishing our cabin in the Canadian woods (that we don't own, yet). So back to Fernie with its decorated restaurant terraces and beautiful flowers all over the place. Everything looks so colorful and happy while the sun is shining, the Elk River is flowing in the distance and the mountains of the ‘Three Sisters’ showing up on the horizon. This is where the Rockies of British Columbia, Alberta, and Montana meet – what a nice way to be nestled in, right? Besides many restaurants and bars, there is a town brewery and the coffee you get in a lot of places comes from Oso Negro (the roast house in Nelson that deeply impressed us, just the other day). The cinema is placed in a historic building, and we wish we had enough time to watch a movie there. Fernie and surroundings are not only nice to look at, though - it also 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.

We get to see much more of the majestic surrounding of Fernie while floating down the Elk River in an inflatable dinghy for three hours. Passing by wooden dream-huts, fly fishing locals and idyllic camp sides. The guy leading the boat tells us that he lives in a bus on one of those camping grounds. He is an interesting person, living quite the Gypsy life – works the whole summer to save money only for food and gas to spend the winter on his Snow-Board. The cap he is wearing was lost by someone and found by him and underneath that cap, he is wearing a gnarly mullet. A mustache and huge glasses complete his look. As funny as he might look he obviously is living his dream. He doesn’t know that people in Berlin would celebrate him as the ultimate Hipster, and he probably wouldn’t even care. We have a lot of respect for him for caring so little about what other people do or think. He entertains us with some funny stories from his everyday life like how he built his own outdoor shower with a garden hose and a few planks or how he lost the front part of his hair. It is stories and people like that, people like Mike (the Marketing manager of the Island Lake Lodge) that turn a great trip into a fantastic one.

Mountain High Adventures @ Stanford Resort
100 Riverside Way, Suite 2
Fernie, V0B 1M1, B.C., Canada

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Meanwhile, it is early in the afternoon and time for one last snack in this little town in the Kootenay Rockies we became so fond of. We visit the ‘Bridge Bistro’, a simple place with awesome Poke Bowls and great Fish and Chips. It is so hot outside that we decide to take a seat inside even though the restaurant has a nice terrace close by the river. As a starter we share a 5-layer-dip (a Canadian specialty as we are told) consisting of Salsa, cream cheese and guacamole amongst other ingredients and it tastes just as good as it sounds. With it, we drink a big Cider that was produced in the area. With us this afternoon is Karen, she lives in Fernie, and she LOVES her town and community. It was a conscious decision of her moving to a small village so close to nature. What she likes most about this place (besides the breathtaking nature) is the people and the possibilities this small town has to offer. There are ‘Classic Car Shows’ and ‘Weekend Mountain Markets’ in summer for example. Then there is a ‘Winterfestival’ in the cold season and of course, there are tons of possibilities for outdoor sports, all year around. She also loves how much people care about their environment and that a lot of the things you can buy are locally produced. She tells us that her six-year-old son rather spends his time on a bike than in front of a TV and that the children meet on the weekends to have races. 50 children that grow up as friends with everyone spending more time outside than inside. Karen herself gets on her skies whenever she can and in summer she hikes a lot. She likes Folk Music and the fact that there are so many outdoor concerts during the warm months of the year- We’ve rarely ever seen a person with eyes as sparkling as Karen’s. She laughs almost the entire time and tells us how much she appreciates her work-life balance, her life in general, her family and her home.

Her happiness is contagious

The Bridge Bistro
301 Hwy 3
Fernie,
B.C.
Canada

We step into 30 degrees after having finished lunch. And what better to cool down a little than ice cream. Karen recommends the ‘Happy Cow’, a small place where we get self-made ice cream from only the best and local ingredients (some of them they even produce themselves). No artificial additives and flavors. We each have two scoops and the honey ice cream is seriously the best ice cream we EVER had in our entire freaking lives! After this delicious ending of our stay in Fernie, we are just as happy as the cow. 😉

In retrospective, we realized that we have never eaten so much amazing food like we did in Canada. It might have been the season that provided tons of fresh fruits and vegetables or it might have been luck OR the food is just this great in Canada. Seriously, EVERY breakfast, lunch, and dinner was perfect. This is something we sometimes miss living out here in Iceland – fresh and really good food.

We sit on the ‘Happy Cow’ bench a little while before we start our ride to Cranbrook to catch our flight back to Vancouver. At the airport, we watch the sun go down behind the Rockies and our hearts suddenly feel heavy. Saying goodbye to Fernie isn’t easy, thinking about all the people we met, about the way this town and the area made us feel, about all the great opportunities it has to offer...

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We definitely have to come back, we just have to!

Further travel information

Location

Fernie, BC is located south-east in the district of East-Kootenay and is one of the oldest towns in that region. The small village is situated at the Elk River, close to Cranbrook and to the border of the state of Alberta. It is fully surrounded by two to three thousand meter high mountains which creates a microclimate with steady weather and a lot of snowfall during winter. Therefore, Fernie is not just a popular skiing area but also known for its Poplars and red Cedars – a few of them are the oldest ones on this planet. Only 5200 people live in the town and everyone we met loved living there. The area offers 375 km of hiking and biking paths. The land was once populated by the First Nations – the Kutenai still live in the area. // The hashtag the community uses - #ferniestoke - is completely justified. 🙂

Journey There

By plane: You can fly to Calgary (approx. 300 km away, about 3 hours travel time to Fernie, there is a shuttle service available), to the Canadian Rockies Airport (approx. 115 km away, we would recommend renting a car) or to Vancouver. In Vancouver, there are connecting flights to Cranbrook and Calgary (both approx. 1,5 hours of flight time). Travel time from Cranbrook to Fernie is about one hour. Another possibility would be flying to Kalispell, Montana (about two hours of driving to Fernie, crossing the border to the US).

By car: Fernie is close to Highway 3 (the safest Highway going through the Rockies). Still, make sure to check the street conditions, especially in winter (www.drivebc.ca). If you are coming from Calgary you can include the Hwy 22 on your drive – there you will get an even more beautiful view.

Other:
If you want to travel cheap, check out the website fernierideboard.com to get a ride. Also, Greyhound is driving to Fernie.

Accommodation

You can find great authentic Canadian resorts in Fernie and mountain ranges like Alpine Lodge, Lizard Creek Lodge or Twisted Timber B&B. As you might have gotten from the text above our hearts beat for the Island Lake Lodge. 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 is just amazing. Be it canoeing, hiking, easy walks, Stand-Up paddling or all the winter sports you can imagine - it's all close-by. Peace and quiet, breathtaking nature plus tons of outdoor activities – sounds like the perfect vacation to us.

Island Lake Lodge
Cedar Valley Rd
V0B 1M0, Fernie, B.C.
Canada

www.islandlakeresort.com

Fernie and the Great Trail

Since a bit more than a year Fernie is part of the ‘Trans Canada Trail’, the longest hiking trail in the world (24.000 km) that leads from one coast to the other. It was financed by its community. Along with nearby municipalities, the citizens of Fernie call "their"  approx. 135 km long part of the trail ‘Elk Valley Trail’ - the route leads along the Elk River for quite a while. This part of the trail is especially interesting for hikers and bikers, some parts of it are also great for cross-country biking. The inhabitants of Fernie are grateful for being a part of this trail and love to chat with people traveling by. They are open, welcoming and very friendly.

Summer Activities

- 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 Aerial Park of the Alpine Resort offers zip-lining and climbing during summer

- The Chairlift of the Resort brings you to the top of the mountains and the ‘Lost Boys Café’ offers a great view up there

- All around the Island Lake Lodge you will find hiking paths (like Polar Peek, Three Sisters, Castle Mountain) with different levels of difficulty. 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

Find an overview of all the activities (outdoor and indoor) Fernie has to offer right here: http://tourismfernie.com/activities

Winter Activities

- 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. Again, we have to say a few words about the Island Lake Lodge - it has it's own cats and provides one of the best cat-skiing experiences in the world. The accommodation is only available for a few people at a time in winter and therefore quite expensive.

- Cross country skiing and snowshoe hiking are also very popular in winter. Of course, 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

- Because of its microclimate, the area around Fernie is provided with lots of snow every winter

Find an overview of all the activities (outdoor and indoor) Fernie has to offer here: http://tourismfernie.com/activities

Fernie Travel Itinerary, Fernie BC Travel Guide, Fernie British Columbia Travel Guide, Fernie 48h Itinerary, Fernie Kootenay Itinerary, Outdoor Activities Fernie BC, British Columbia Travel Guide, Dear Heima, Outdoor Blog for Women

You want to read more about our trip to British Columbia?

Then check out our travel diary and 48-hour Itinerary for Whistler (and Vancouver), right over here:

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Fernie Travel Itinerary, Fernie BC Travel Guide, Fernie British Columbia Travel Guide, Fernie 48h Itinerary, Fernie Kootenay Itinerary, Outdoor Activities Fernie BC, British Columbia Travel Guide, Dear Heima, Outdoor Blog for Women
Fernie Travel Itinerary, Fernie BC Travel Guide, Fernie British Columbia Travel Guide, Fernie 48h Itinerary, Fernie Kootenay Itinerary, Outdoor Activities Fernie BC, British Columbia Travel Guide, Dear Heima, Outdoor Blog for Women

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