Nelson Getaway Guide: Morning, Noon and Night in the West Kootenays

Nelson, BC, offers an eclectic mix of quirky shops, challenging trails, and family-run gems where you can put up your feet after a perfect day

Credit: Susan Hollis

Oso Negro Café in Nelson is surrounded by sculpted gardens

Nelson, BC, might just be the perfect small town for an eclectic weekend getaway

Its quaint streets lined with well-preserved heritage buildings, friendly locals and a forested lake offer a picturesque backdrop for great skiing in winter and endless mountain biking and river rafting in summer. Eight leisurely hours by car from Vancouver, or a one-hour flight to neighbouring Castlegar, the daydream turns to reality in the West Kootenay town of Nelson, BC.

Situated on a hillside above the glacial-fed Kootenay Lake, Nelson is a town of 10,000 filled with quirky, artistic folks who colour its memorable demographic. A place of refuge for troop deserters during the Vietnam War, today Nelson is filled with aging draft-dodgers, new age hippies, musicians, hipsters, metrosexuals, and hard-core outdoor enthusiasts.

Best Places for Breakfast in Nelson

Before tackling Baker Street, Nelson’s main drag, it’s best to caffeinate at one of the city’s finest coffee houses. Located at 604 Ward St., Oso Negro Café is set in a restored heritage house and surrounded by sculpted gardens trimmed by wrought iron fencing and benches designed by local artists. Choose from one of their 20 blends of in-house roasted beans and nosh on one of their lip-smacking breakfast buns while soaking up the town’s gossip.

If you’re on the other side of town, a traditional breakfast at the family-run Corner House Café (318 Anderson Street) is a given for those who need serious fuel to start the day.

Daytime Activities – Craft Hunting, Golf, Hiking and Biking

Further down Ward St. at Kolmel Jewelery, a whimsical variety of well-priced silver and gold pieces are displayed in a narrow storefront owned by charismatic jeweler Chris Kolmel. If a necklace or bracelet isn’t fitting well, Kolmel will customize it to your preference.

Continue the hunt for handcrafted fare at the Craft Connection Cooperative, where a number of local artists share the floor. The distinct pottery, tableware, tapestries, sculptures and clothing fully capture the essence of the Kootenays.

If long days on the greens are preferred, tee up at the 89-year-old Granite Pointe Golf Club without leaving city limits, or catch the longest free ferry ride in the world across Kootenay Lake to Crawford Bay, where Kokanee Springs Golf Resort will test your mettle on the lushest of glacial-fed greens.

Take your après game scotch with a chunk of glacier ice at Bunker’s Grill, the antithesis of the traditional club restaurant with a no-frills motif that allows nature to do the decorating.

A number of hiking and biking trails for all levels can be found within a five-minute drive from Nelson. If your feet are barely wet but your courage huge, test your mettle at Sproule Creek or the Kootenay Canal, where a number of beginner and intermediate trails can be found just west of the city.

For more biking pointers and trail suggestions, stop by Gericks Cycle and Sport or The Sacred Ride, where the cooler-than-thou pro-rider employees will share their knowledge on the best places to peddle.

Best Dinner and Drinks Spots in Nelson

Though the city is overflowing with good eats, an evening at the All Seasons Café is non-negotiable. Its oft-awarded wine list is the best in the region, and it never gets old watching the servers retrieve wine through a cellar door in the middle of the dining room floor.

Tucked away from the main thoroughfare and surrounded by stone houses and wild herb gardens, this is the place where perfect days come to rest in a candlelit haze of conversation.

Bibo, which opened its doors in Herridge Lane a few years back, is a fine dining alternative if you’re looking for rustic euro-eats with an Italian twist.

Where to Stay – Nelson Accommodations

The digs at The Hume Hotel are as famous for their ghosts as they are for their comfort. Owned by the hands-on and magnetic Martin family, The Hume is Nelson’s oldest (1898), most established hotel. Clairvoyants will tell you the place is home to spirits of days gone by and the hotel offers Sunday ghost tours for those with a soft spot for Ghostbusters.

For a streamlined, modern alternative, drop your bags at The Mountain Hound Inn on Baker Street, an affordable, family-run (as most things are in Nelson) lodging where a generous thread count and simple esthetic take the fuss out of travelling.

See more photos of Nelson in our Weekend Getaway Guide photo gallery.