Two Completely Different Dog-friendly Destinations

From mountain town to island city, B.C. getaways fetch good times for families with furry ones

Photo credit: Dan Toulgoet 

From mountain town to island city, B.C. getaways fetch good times for families with furry ones

Welcoming home a mini Australian shepherd called Pearl this spring, we officially became pandemic pet owners. Walks around the block, hikes up local haunts and the all-consuming company of a sweet-faced blue-eyed pupper fully immersed us in life with a dog. By early fall though, we were ready to take our newly expanded family on the road.

Looking to explore a couple of B.C.’s many pet-friendly communities, I and my husband Dan, son Thomas and pup Pearl first headed east to the mountain town of Rossland, then west to the island city of Victoria. A bit nervous at first, as newbie “pawrents” can be, we were soon whooping, er, woofing it up. Here’s a peek at what floofers and their families can look forward to.


Trails, tees and treats in Rossland

An eight-hour drive east of Vancouver takes us high in the Monashee Mountains of the Kootenay Rockies region. Checking into the chic and canine-cordial Josie Hotel at RED Mountain Resort in Rossland, we make tracks to our one-bedroom suite on the fourth floor.

Named after one of the town’s famous gold mines (which in turn may have been named after gunslinger Wyatt Earp’s wife), the award-winning Josie salutes nature, mountain life and local mining history throughout. We first spy twiggy chandeliers and reimagined chairlift seats in the lobby, and hanging wooden wheels and quartz table lamps in the hallways. Then floor-to-ceiling window views of the Rossland Valley greet us in our earth-toned room, also home to living, office and dining spaces, and a marble-tiled bathroom big enough for a small party.

Oblivious to her stylish surrounds, Pearl happily crunches on doggie biscuits from the House of Paws Pet Boutique downtown while sporting a bright red Josie bandanaall part of the hotel’s Ruff’n It package.

Heading out to explore some of that nature, mountain life and mining history ourselves, we’re soon surrounded by swaths of pink fireweed and yellow goldenrod on the gentle Redtop hike just beyond our door. The intermediate Kootenay Columbia trek rewards with a town-and-peak panorama, while the 100 Acre Wood‘s leisurely 1.5-km loop, just a short drive north of Rossland, winds past old-growth cedar, spruce and white pineeach worth a stop-and-sniff in Pearl’s world.

More forest and mountain vistas await at dog-friendly Redstone Resort. Touring the pretty course by golf cart, we’re struck by how the open rolling front nine holes contrast with the narrow back nine tucked among trees (the latter designed by Les Furber). A wooden bridge, ponds, ravines and classic old-school cabin for a clubhouse, complete with log beams and blackened stone fireplace, round out the sights on this course dating back to 1927.

Open to dogs on leash on the westside of town, the impressive Rossland Museum & Discovery Centre takes a deep dive into the area’s mining, skiing and social roots. Lingering in the Ski History Wing, I spot suits and numbers worn by homegrown Olympic gold medallists Nancy Greene Raine and Kerrin Lee-Gartner. Outside, an aerial mining tram, locomotives and more recall a different type of gold. There’ll be even more to see – an above-ground mine tunnel and airy atriumwhen the Renewal Project wraps next year.

Glimpses of a gold-rich past dot the downtown too. Among the 31 heritage buildings still standing, there’s the handsome brick Bank of Montreal (now home to a variety of businesses), the western-style Bodega Hotel (occupied by the Rossland Light Opera Players today) and the striking St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church with its tall steeple and red metal-clad roof.

Strolling the storied streets with an enthusiastic Pearl in the lead, we pass dog parking stations and patios open to four-legged friends. The Alpine Grind beckons with espresso drinks and a secluded new deck out back, and the Mountain Nugget Chocolate Company tempts with handcrafted truffles and in-house ice creamour honeycomb and lemon curd scoops go down fast at a picnic table in the grassy yard.

Dinner with a dog in tow finds us at the casual Rock Cut Pub, just off the highway between town and RED Mountain Resort. Settled on the pet-friendly deck, we dig into hearty burgers and local brews while Pearl keeps occupied with a chew.

Another night we nibble our way through executive chef Derek Bendig’s tasting menu at the Josie’s Velvet Restaurant and Lounge. Melding fresh, local and seasonal ingredients, plates like Kootenay bison carpaccio, Okanagan nectarine-and-burrata salad and duck breast with beets and cherries arrive one by one at our slopeside patio table. Perfect wine pairings top off the feast, highlighted by varietals from Roche Wines of Penticton.

But not before we each indulge in a handcrafted cocktail or mocktail, mine a zesty concoction of gin, wild ginger and lemon called Nancy’s. “I picked the wild ginger right over there,” says our server and Velvet beverage manager Patrick Heywood, pointing to a copse of trees just beyond. Fresh, local and seasonal, indeed.

As for Pearl, she’s happy to just lounge beside us on yet another pooch-friendly patio.


Paws up in Victoria

Stretching our legs on an open B.C. Ferries car deck, we take in blue-sky-and-ocean views on Pearl’s first ever sailing. (Though pets aren’t permitted on passenger decks, they can remain in vehicles or hang out in the small heated Pet Area.) After 1.5 hours on the water and another 40 minutes on the road, we pull up to the pillared porte cochère of the fabled Fairmont Empress in downtown Victoria on southern Vancouver Island.

Named for Queen Victoria, Empress of India, the 1908 chateau-style hotel now sparkles with modern touches thanks to a $60-million renovation a few years ago.

Stepping into the lobby, we look up, wide eyed with wonder, at the 250,000-crystal, floral-themed chandelier seemingly floating above us. Off to the right, royal purple hues and pop art portraits of Queen Victoria meet cherry wood ceilings at Q at the Empress restaurant and Q Bar. And just a scone’s throw away, the lobby lounge’s marble-topped tables, soft sofas and wingback chairs ante up the hotel’s longstanding afternoon tea service.

But what’s more, almost all of the National Historic Site‘s 464 updated guest rooms are pet friendly. (Only those on the fourth floor remain fur-free, for visitors with allergies.) Surrounded by canine companions her entire life, Queen Victoria would surely, and royally, approve. Settling into our comfortable sixth-floor room with city view, Pearl lolls about on the plush dog bed while bone-shaped treats, feeding dishes and toy stuffy stand by (all provided by the hotel).

Come morning, we return to the bright lobby for a playdate with Winston. The hotel’s canine ambassador, a Labrador golden retriever cross, is to show us some of his favourite spots around town. We soon learn though the poor boy has an ear infection and will spend the weekend at home. Sending along our get well wishes, and armed with suggestions from the friendly staff (who’ll lavish Pearl with pats and praise throughout our stay), we wander out into the sunny fall day.

First up, a stroll along Victoria’s flower-basket-fringed Inner Harbour, past docked boats and buzzing float planes on one side and the sprawling B.C. Parliament Buildings on the other. A short walk through the heritage-home-lined James Bay neighbourhood pops us out at dog-friendly Fisherman’s Wharfthe colourful collection of eateries, shops and floating homes makes for the perfect fish ‘n’ chips pitstop.

Winding our way along waterfront Dallas Road, we lap up sun-dappled-ocean views stretching into the hazy horizon. Below us, foliage-dotted bluffs give way to log-strewn sandy beaches, a couple of which are off leash year-round. Still just a pup, Pearl starts to tucker out on the return stretch through Beacon Hill Park, a verdant oasis of footpaths and flowerbeds frequented by deer, squirrels and peacocks.

A quick rest at the hotel later, we set out to sample some dog-friendly dining downtown. Flights of West Coast craft beer go down easy on the laidback Drake Eatery‘s second-level deck. As do plates of seafood fettuccine and Salt Spring Island mussels on the Bard & Banker‘s streetside patio. (I sneak a peek inside the restaurant’s 1885 brick building, once a bank where Yukon poet Robert Service worked but now an inviting space with leather snugs, brass railings and globe lamps.)

On the way back to the Empress, we waddle past the up-cycled shipping container that is Red Fish Blue Fish, where we’ll later order tacones on our last day in town. (Stuffed with tempura cod, jerk fish or curry halibut, the hand-roll-style tacos are best devoured on the outdoor diner’s dockside seating.)

While dogs aren’t allowed inside Q at the Empress, we still tuck into the restaurant’s PNW Benedictthink warm crab and lemon-chive hollandaisein our room the next morning. After, we walk it off on a tour of the Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse, a half-hour drive north on the Saanichton Peninsula.

Opened in 2007, the pet-friendly cidery harvests 60 varieties of apples from more than 1,300 organically grown trees. Meandering past rows of rosy fruit, Mariel Belmont, sales and marketing specialist, tells me I likely won’t recognize any names. “These are heritage apples, they’re for cider making. If you tried one, it actually wouldn’t be tasty.”

Minutes later we’re sipping flights and savouring artisan meats and cheeses on the Ciderhouse sunlit deck, overlooking the orchard and Haro Strait beyond. I favour the fall seasonal Witch’s Broom, which tickles the tongue with notes of cinnamon, orange, nutmeg and ginger. Dan prefers the award-winning off-dry Pippins and Thomas leans toward the bubbly Eden, part of Sea Cider’s new non-alcoholic Temperance series. Meanwhile, Pearl noshes on dried apple treats at our feet. 

Come afternoon, fall’s frilly cloak of red, yellow and russet leads us along the pathways of the 107-year-old Butchart Gardens. (Dogs are welcome year-round, just not during the winter holiday season.) The Japanese Garden in particular puts on a glorious show this time of year, with some 74 changing maple trees framing the bridges, streams and ponds of this lush sanctuary.

Padding over the stepping stones, it’s clear Pearl doesn’t want to leaveand neither do we.

For more dog-friendly getaway ideas, visit Hello BC.