Photos and Story by: Leigh McAdam of HikeBikeTravel.com
For a small city of 10,000 perched on the side of mountain, Nelson, British Columbia delivers an amazing range of activities – from outdoor adventures through to the arts, galleries, culture and dining. Starting as a camp providing services to miners involved
in the silver rush, the city grew quickly and by the early 1900’s was home to several hotels, many beautiful public buildings, churches and homes – lots of which can be seen on a historical walking tour today.
On a recent visit I had just 24 hours to explore Nelson.
A view of Nelson built into the side of a mountain
Here’s what you can do in that time frame.
Check in at The Adventure Hotel where you’ll find modern rooms in a variety of configurations at a very good price. Another top choice is the historic Hume Hotel, built in 1898. Both locations are within a block or two of fabulous restaurants and the wonderful Baker Street.
Our room at The Adventure Hotel
Wander up the hill and have dinner the first night on the outdoor patio of BiBo Nelson. With white lights and flower filled planters, you can sit back with a drink and enjoy the view. Then order the buttermilk fried chicken (trust me!) with a spinach and green onion pancake, marinated carrots and Chengdu lime syrup. Then be enveloped in a state of bliss.
Dine outside on the patio at BiBO Nelson
The next morning head for Oso Negro Café, a fixture on the Nelson scene since 1993. Hopefully you’ll get a sunny day so you can sit outside with your coffee and homemade baked good, surrounded by flowers and listening to the water gurgle out of fountains. Timing is everything as its popular and so are lineups.
Don’t miss a morning stop for coffee at the Oso Negro Cafe
Then while it’s still cool, head for the Pulpit Rock trailhead on the other side of the lake. Do the steep 1.8 kilometre hike and you’ll really feel like you’ve earned the best view in town. Once at Pulpit Rock you also get a sense of how the town of Nelson is laid out – and there’s a great view of Kootenay Lake. For those wanting even more of a workout continue steeply up the Flagpole Trail and do a 2 kilometre loop. Still want more? Take the 3.3 kilometre one way CBC Tower Trail and then carefully retrace your steps all the way down. Expect the Pulpit Rock hike to take 60 – 90 minutes depending on how long you linger on top.
The hike starts up through huge trees on a well-defined trail
Superb views of Nelson from Pulpit Rock
Next head to Baker Street for lunch and choose of the many independent cafes or restaurants – preferably with an outdoor patio. Cantina del Centro, a Mexican restaurant was highly recommended to us but we decided on another caffeine hit, this time at Empire Coffee beside the Adventure Hotel. Both coffee and baked goods were first rate.
Plan to spend the next few hours doing the Heritage Walking Tour. Though there are over 350 heritage buildings in town, the map put out by theTouchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History (visit the museum if you have time) describes 33 buildings with the bulk of them located on Baker Street between Kootenay and Hall Streets. Most of the buildings hail from the early 1900’s. You’ll see architecture running the gamut from Edwardian Classical with Richardsonian Romanesque features (McCullough Building) to Beaux Art Classical Revival (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Bank of Montreal), Mission Revival (Wood Valance Building) to Queen Anne Commercial (Houston block) to Boomtown Wooden False Front (Bellamy’s Grocery). Combined they add a tremendous amount of colour and character to the city.
The Courthouse – built in 1908
The Hume Hotel
Shoppers will enjoy wandering through the diverse selection of boutiques found on Baker Street. Housewares, book, sport and clothing stores – most with an artistic bent will all vie for your shopping dollar.
Baker Street is home to loads of diverse boutiques
After the heritage tour we decided to tackle the Uphill neighbourhood running behind Nelson’s downtown core to see what we’d find. The overriding impression was one of awe. It’s incredibly steep. And in summer lots of colourful houses with flower gardens filled to the brim will stop you in your tracks. Looking at the streets made me wonder how anyone can get around in the winter after a snowstorm. I concluded that you skied or tobogganed into town!!
Not too many flat lots around in Nelson’s Uphill neighbourhood
Be prepared for a workout when you explore the Uphill neighbourhood
Our last stop before a short rest before dinner was a walk down to the waterfront. We’d contemplated renting kayaks but then a storm blew in so we gave it a pass and sprinted back to our rooms.
The Nelson waterfront
Dinner reservations had been made the night before for the All Seasons Cafe located just a few buildings down from BiBo Nelson on a quiet side street. Our table on a back patio made me feel like I’d been transported to Europe but my meal – a swoon-worthy piece of fresh halibut with Thai red curry carrot puree took me to BC’s west coast. Both my husband and I were in awe at the calibre and sophistication of the restaurants in Nelson. For a small town the locals are very lucky to have such quality – and variety.
All Seasons Cafe on a little side street has excellent food and a lovely patio
The halibut at All Seasons Cafe is memorable
Nelson offers both adventure loving and cultural travelers plenty of reasons to visit. When are you going?
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