Story by Sarah Deveau
KAMLOOPS, BRITISH COLUMBIA — “I’m not sure this is a good idea,” I muttered to myself as I strapped on my cycling helmet and prepared to mount a loaner bike in Riverside Park in Kamloops, British Columbia. I had once taken a header off my road bike on my daily commute to work, and have been distrustful of my ability to stay mounted ever since.
And now I was about to not only ride a mountain bike through the streets and river pathways of an unfamiliar city — I was going to do it while tipsy.
I was participating in the bike crawl portion of Brewloops, a beer-and-bike festival held just as the colours begin to turn in the gorgeous city surrounded by mountains and shot through with the North and South Thompson rivers. Nearly 100 participants had signed up, and we would proceed to invade downtown, stealing the road from cars (whose drivers good-naturedly honked and cheered us) as we biked from park to pub to pub to the block party. Having remained upright for the duration of the trip, I attempted to remedy that situation by sampling many of the offerings on tap at the more than 20 local breweries featured at the outdoor event. The evening ended with a Ferris wheel ride at the party before heading back to the rooftop hot tub for a poolside drink — at which point I decided my trip to Kamloops had been a very good idea indeed.
Given the city’s proximity to Vancouver (just three hours west on the Trans-Canada Highway), Kamloops is often just a pit stop for travellers heading to British Columbia’s largest city. That is a shame, given the incredible variety of activities offered in the region, whether you’re a foodie, adrenaline junkie or nature lover.
Want to thrill your taste buds? Popular breakfast spot Hello Toast is an unpretentious café serving delicious casual fare for breakfast and lunch that’s worth the wait, even if the line stretches far out the door. I won’t judge you if you choose to hit up this cozy little joint every morning of your visit. If you’re in town in spring, summer or fall, check out the Kamloops Farmer’s Market. It’s an authentic harvest-style market, with dozens of varieties of fruits and vegetables piled to dizzying heights on folding tables. Selecting a few items of the gloriously colourful produce is an easy and inexpensive way to snack healthfully during your visit — at least, it will help you justify the divine deep-fried pickles at the Noble Pig gastro pub. This local hot spot features an outdoor patio set into a former splash park, sheltered by a gazebo covered in hops.
If you have a few hours to spare, any of the four wineries on the Kamloops Wine Trail will delight. Each has a distinctive style. My favourite was Monte Creek Ranch Winery, where you can take a vineyard tour, sample a few wines or enjoy a decadent gourmet meal on the open-air terrace restaurant.
Looking to burn off a few of those calories and take in the vistas at the same time? Head up to Kenna Cartwright Nature Park, the province’s largest municipal park. Encompassing nearly 800 hectares of Mount Dufferin, there are more than 40 kilometres (25 miles) of trails of varying difficulty levels. Even the easier walks offer impressive views of downtown Kamloops and the joining of the two branches of the Thompson River. My friends and I had picked up bagged lunches from local café The Art We Are, and enjoyed a lovely view for our mid-afternoon nosh.
If you’d like to venture a little farther afield, SunPeaks Resort is the perfect day trip. Fall is a transition season for the alpine resort, and everything slows down as it changes from mountain biking to skiing and snowboarding. A cross-country trail winds its way throughout the picturesque village and up to McGillvray Lake, and is open to hikers and bikers. Other SunPeaks’ adventures include off-road Segway tours, a Voyager canoe ride, and mountain cross carts. A few of the restaurants do close during the transition season, but Voyager Bistro, Vertical Café and Mantles are usually open, and won’t disappoint.
The morning before I left, I took a quick one-hour stand-up paddle around Heffley Lake with a rental from Paddle Surfit. Though a little chilly in the woods at the edge of the lake, paddling in the warm sun surrounded by the changing colours of the alpine woods was the perfect end to a Kamloops getaway.
MORE ABOUT VISITING KAMLOOPS
Getting There: WestJet and Air Canada both offer service into the small ground loading airport, while nearby Vancouverites usually opt to make the three-hour trek by car.
Where to Stay: Enjoy the heated rooftop pool at Hotel 540 (540 Victoria Street), a centrally located hotel in downtown Kamloops. Reservations: Visit the property’s website or telephone 1-800-663-2837. Room Rates: A recent search for a weekend night in November returned a rate of $118 per night.
Where to Dine: In addition to the pubs and casual dining choices mentioned above, Terra (326 Victoria Street) and Brownstone (118 Victoria Street) offer fine dining. Menu Price Range: $21-$47 for dinner entrees.