Story by Miguel Strother
Vacay.ca Sports Editor, Western Canada
SICAMOUS, BRITISH COLUMBIA — One of the best things about travelling through the vast expanse of Canada by car is that you just never know when you are going to run into a little piece of road-trip gold.
About halfway between Kamloops and Revelstoke is Sicamous (pronounced Sick-a-moose). This oddly named spot in British Columbia sits along the Shuswap Lake and is one of Canada’s houseboat hotbeds. We’d just spent a couple of fantastic nights at Sun Peaks Resort, in the mountains of Kamloops. Faced with temperatures at 36 Celsius degrees, we decided to stop and jump into the lake because, well, everybody should at least dip in one of Canada’s largest lakes when given the chance, and this was the first time doing so for some of us. It was right about here, on the gold-flecked sand beaches, swimming with my children, doing back flips off the dock to their squeals of delight, freshly out of the blazing colours of the mountain meadows at Sun Peaks, that I realized I might just be on the perfect family road trip in southern British Columbia. Maybe the perfect road trip anywhere, ever.
“Remember that awesome road trip?” comes the call from the back of the car. “The one where we saw the black fox?”
“Oh, yeah,” chimes another. “And where we jumped in the hot springs?”
“And cold springs!”
To repeat, our family trip in Canada went something like this: The Comox Valley on Vancouver Island to Victoria. Victoria to Vancouver. Vancouver to Kamloops. Kamloops to Revelstoke. Revelstoke to Crawford Bay (Kokanee Springs). Return trip from Crawford Bay to Osoyoos in the Okanagan Valley. Osoyoos to Vancouver. Below, are the two best legs of that great Canadian road trip.
Our family had a perfect time on the snowless slopes of Sun Peaks in July. The last time we were here it was the Fireman’s Ball and one of us was eight months pregnant. We dipped in the same tubs, only in the dead of winter, in a yellow bikini, knee boots, and a belly button pointing us the right direction through the snickers and the snow.
Seven years later, Sun Peaks has come a long way as a summer destination (everybody should already know about the radical winters, its long easy slopes of dry powder). Among the activities are mountain biking and hiking in meadows pasted with more alpine flowers than the happiest child’s painting. As a family we enjoyed the golf course instruction almost as much as the Delta Sun Peaks Resort’s three swimming pools and large hot tubs, all within walking distance of our hotel room. Although bugs are an issue this high up, the walkable streets and reasonable restaurants make the high alpine insects more than tolerable at this grown-up, family-friendly resort. We especially enjoyed the golf practice facility beside the hotel and the putting greens on the immaculate mountain-side, 18-hole resort course across the street.
Family Fun in the British Columbia Summer
While it seems to me that you could have fun no matter where you stayed at Sun Peaks, it was definitely worth taking the upgrade at the Delta and moving our room from the village to a spot with mountain views. On the first night in fact we saw foxes darting in and around the abandoned slopes, including an apparently rare black fox. The steady course of banger rock beside the pool left a little bit to be desired as a soundtrack, but then honestly, that’s kind of Kamloops (and many parts of rural Canada) for you!
(Note: they happily changed the music when we phoned the front desk and asked.)
After two very well filled days and nights at Sun Peaks it was back to the road. And an incredible road it is out of the mountains and into the desert valley, red and yellow alien sand hills rising out of the river, geography almost entirely unique to this part of Canada. It is a miraculous landscape, especially for those surveying the terrain for the first time, and could easily occupy the senses of an interested traveller for an entire vacation. For us, however, after a short period the desert gave way to the Shuswap, the rich orchard fields lining this enormous Canadian lake.
We were on our way to Revelstoke and one of the biggest road-trip treats I’ve experienced in some time. But first, Sicamous to cool in the lake and dry quickly in the hot sun, a beautiful, near perfect, stop in the run.
I’ve been to the high Rocky railroad town of Revelstoke many times on my way between BC and Alberta, usually only for a few minutes or an hour to grab gas and food before the push to Banff. It used to have a reputation as a bit of a rough hideaway for people in want of hard work and hard winters, and the isolation that comes with both. Make no mistake, there is great history in Revelstoke, perhaps some of Canada’s most significant, and it has always been on display to a degree, but a billion-dollar boost in the form of Revelstoke Mountain Resort has turned this town into a full-fledged rock resort legend in the making.
The snow, to my understanding, has always been sick and there is no way to keep deranged powder hounds from that, including some of the biggest names in the business. However, this is now an absolute must stop summer spot in the Canadian Rockies for everybody from foodies to folk singers, mountain bikers to climbers. It is the perfect pivot point between British Columbia and Alberta and within easy reach of Lake Louise, Banff, Kamloops, Nelson, and Kelowna, all worthwhile summer vacation spots of their own. The town has all the feel of a badass adolescent Whistler or Canmore, with people making lives, businesses and an exceptionally wonderful, family-friendly community. Perhaps the biggest benefactor? Travellers.
Revelstoke Mountain Resort itself is impeccable. It is right at the base of the ski lift, at the foot of Mount MacKenzie and has access to every amenity somebody on vacation could ever want, including a gourmet breakfast buffet a short gondola ride away with about as good a view as any in the entire Rocky Mountains. Perhaps our favourite feature was the pool and its mix of private luxury and, once again, spectacular views. Fully stocked suites will wow, the warm wind rolls off the huge peaks, across big balconies, high-end designer furnishings, and parallel views of Mount Begbie, perhaps the town’s most famous landmark.
Although there is obviously plenty of big Alberta oil money spilling all the way up hill from Calgary to Revelstoke, we found everybody to be fun and friendly, especially in town where a marvellous mix of mountain lifers have set up shops in the charming, early Canadian heritage buildings for everything ranging from alpine gear to alpine bread. Be sure to try the gelato and Americano at La Baguette. The shop has all the sophistication of a Parisian café and the polite service of a small Canadian town.
We found ourselves in a perfect state of relaxation, almost stopped in hot time, but there is plenty to do in Revelstoke in the summer for the active traveller, including mountain biking, river rafting, heli-fishing, heli-biking, trekking, mountaineering, and even a very well developed golf course (Revelstoke Golf Club). That says nothing of how absolutely incredible the place must be for adrenaline junkies in winter.
It was hard to leave but even the route out of town — down Highway 23 to Shelter Bay and the Arrow Lake ferry, Galena Bay and the plentiful natural hot (and cold) springs on the way to Nelson — was incredible. This little mountain town, which used to be the height of nowhere, was definitely the apex of an incredible family journey, and foreshadowed the rest of the trip that took place on the spectacular diamond road spreading out in front of us.
MORE ABOUT REVELSTOKE MOUNTAIN RESORT
Location: 2950 Camozzi Rd, Revelstoke, BC
Reservations: Telephone 1-866-373-4754 (toll free)
Nightly Rates: The resort has two main hotels — the Sandman and the Sutton — and nightly rates for summer start at $109, but may vary depending on the time of your visit. There are numerous packages available, including Golf & Stay deals and Breakfast in the Mountains offers. Visit the Deals and Packages page on the resort town’s website for details.
MORE ABOUT DELTA SUN PEAKS
Location: 3240 Village Way, Sun Peaks, BC
Reservations: Telephone 1-800-807-3257 (toll free)
Nightly Rates: A recent search for an August weekend showed rates starting at $159 per night. Rates will vary depending on the date of arrival. There are Golf & Stay and Hike & Stay packages available, among other deals. Visit the Vacation Package Deals page on the hotel’s website for more info.
MORE OF MIGUEL STROTHER’S BRITISH COLUMBIA ROAD TRIP
MAP SHOWING SUN PEAKS, SICAMOUS AND REVELSTOKE MOUNTAIN RESORT