Sunday, July 7, 2013

Travel ideas from Destination British Columbia

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Grand Forks: Two Rivers Converge for a Grand Fork: Named for the confluence of the Kettle and Granby rivers, Grand Forks is a community of warm smiles, natural, untamed settings and a storied Doukhobor heritage. And while its roots are planted firmly in mining and agriculture, this tiny southern BC town, set between the Okanagan Valley and the Kootenay Rockies, is arts-minded, adventure-driven and, with its tidy offering of early 1900s architecture and historical settings, wholly charming.
See: View notable works and local history exhibitions at the historic Court House, a.k.a. the Gallery 2: Grand Forks Art & Heritage Centre, or catch alfresco musical performances every Wednesday, July through August, in Gyro Park. For a glimpse into early Doukhobor life, visit Boundary Museum; here, artifacts, literature and more from the religious Russian sect are preserved in the former Doukhobor Fructova School. Once you've roamed the school's halls, take a Doukhobor Heritage Drive (you'll find a map at the Visitor Centre), for views of old communal villages and the town's former cannery.

For a change in scenery, head to Jerseyland Organics, where you'll find happy cows — not to mention tasty nibbles of cheddar, Gouda, feta and Parmesan. Meet members of the DeVries family at their organic dairy and learn why their dry curd cottage cheese is a favourite in local Russian specialities that include pyrahi (tarts filled with veggies and cheese) and vareniki (Russian dumplings).

For a taste of something entirely different, check out sweet beats and more during the Kettle River Festival of the Arts, an annual fête, slated for July 26 – August 11, that promises a spirited showcase of theatre, music, dance and art.

Do: Love crystals? Then rock out during an off-the-beaten-path treasure hunt, northwest of town. Rock Candy Mine Safari Tours will help you unearth some beauties at, you guessed it, Rock Candy Mine — an early 1900s quarry so named for the multi-hued fluorite, barite and quartz crystals found there. Be sure to fill your boots: you can walk out with all the highly prized crystals you can carry.

Lace up for a leisurely self-guided tour through the town's historic centre (the Visitor Centre has guides) or throw on the backpack for a longer trek along the Trans Canada Trail, one of the world's longest network of trails that, conveniently, winds its way through town. Should you prefer an afternoon of leisurely pursuits, you can shine your line during a fly-fishing outing to Jewel Lake or grab your favourite inflatable and go for a long, lazy summer-day float along the Granby or Kettle rivers.

Eat: Early birds will start their day with steaming mugs and sweet treats at Kokomo's Coffee House. Keep it simple and ask for a dark roast, with its rich, full-bodied flavour, courtesy of the crew from homegrown Hardy Mountain Roasters.

Bring on the borscht, and indulge in a heaping bowl of this classic Russian staple at the aptly named Borscht Bowl and Omega Restaurant (tip: thick slabs of homemade bread will sop up the remnants). Here, specialities of pyrahi, vareniki and blintsi (thin pancakes) mingle happily with Greek and western dishes. Still peckish? Make yours an edible journey, and stock your canvas bags, beginning in May, with fruits, vegetables and tasty treats at the local Farmer's Market in Gyro Park.

Sleep: Post pyrahi, count sheep at Johnny's Motel, set, fittingly, at the confluence of the Granby and Kettle rivers, just a short walk from town.

At Luna Grand Forks Bed and Breakfast, Gabriela and Bujor Tanasescu will make you feel like one of the family in their cedar home that dates back to 1913. (Bujor's breakfasts of quiche with homemade bread and smoked meats will provide the necessary fuel for the day.) A delectable, home-cooked breakfast is also sure to tempt at Maples Bed & Breakfast, a quaint 1900s heritage property that offers a quiet escape amid neatly manicured gardens.

If you're eager to saddle up, then join the crew at PV Ranch. Here, roundups and trail rides are part of the daily routine, and hearty, country-style meals and cosy cabins or campsites by the river ensure you'll be dreaming of your time in Grand Forks for weeks to come.

For more information, or to find out what other festivities are in store in Grand Forks, visit or

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Vancouver Island: Along Vancouver Island's Northern Coast, Kayaks are King: For 15 years, Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures has been dipping their paddles along Vancouver Island's northernmost reaches — leading small, adventure-minded groups on sea kayaking excursions that explore temperate rainforests, intricate island archipelagos and vast wilderness expanses. And it's not just the landscape that attracts adventurers; a fascinating community of wildlife can be spotted from the comfort of a kayak, including Orcas, humpback whales, sea lions, bears, eagles and more. Based in Port McNeill, on the Island's northeastern coast, Kingfisher offers its signature four-day Orca Waters Base Camp Kayak Tour, from mid-June to late September, in the protected waters of Johnstone Strait and the Broughton Archipelago, an intriguing maze of islands, complete with remnants of ancient village sites of the local Kwakwaka'wakw First Nation. Launching from base camp on Hanson Island, a tiny isle just off the coast, daily kayaking explorations will showcase wildlife galore, both in the water and on land. And thanks to a team that's passionate about this wild landscape — not to mention certified by the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of British Columbia — it won't be difficult to see why, off Vancouver Island's northern coast, kayaks are king.

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Vancouver, Coast & Mountains: Freefall with Skydive Vancouver: Looking to elevate your adventure? Suit up with the team at Skydive Vancouver, and you're guaranteed one wild ride. Situated at the Abbotsford Drop Zone, 45 minutes east of Vancouver's city centre, this high-flying crew makes their base at their very own airfield: here, an on-the-ground team calls the shots along the runway, while four planes ferry passengers up and up for the big plunge. First time? Then tandem is for you. This intro to the sport will pair you with a professional, and after a 20-minute flight up to 3,658 metres (12,000 feet), there's nothing but the Fraser Valley, and views of Mt. Baker, the Gulf Islands and the North Shore Mountains, below as you tumble a heart-thumping 200 kilometres (124 miles) per hour. (With a yank of the cord, a short float follows as you steer your way towards a soft drop-zone landing.) To take it up a notch, those with the desire — and the skill — can make a solo jump; Skydive Vancouver's gung-ho videographers can even catch you in the act. And once you're on the ground, this professional jumping crew, with more than 40 years of experience in the skies, will ensure that you're well taken care of, with everything from onsite kitchen facilities and showers. So, freshen up. It's time to grab your gear for another tumble in the sky.

To read more story ideas from the Vancouver, Coast & Mountains region, visit

Northern BC: Discover Ancient First Nations Culture in BC's North: For centuries, the Nisga'a people have made their home in BC's Nass Valley — a mountain-peaked landscape north of Terrace where traditions are both honoured and preserved. One such place: in Laxgalts'ap, one of four Nisga'a villages within the valley, you'll wander within the Nisga'a Museum's decidedly modern setting for views of the Ancestors' Collection; this preeminent compilation of Northwest Coast Aboriginal art and culture showcases priceless artifacts recently returned to the Nisga'a people. Think all treasures are found indoors? Think again. Sign on with Terrace's Split Mountain Adventures for on-the-ground exploration of ancient lands, and a day's journey may take you on a Tall Totems Tour, which traces historical roots at Kitselas Canyon, 'Ksan Historical Village and the Gitxsan communities at Kitwanga, near Hazelton (in Kispiox, you'll view totems depicted in Emily Carr's early 20th century paintings). The Split Mountain Adventure crew's Nisga'a Valley Tour takes a slightly different tack, with a focus on pioneer history, abundant wildlife, geology and cultural importance of the Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Park (you'll meet artisans, explore the stunning lava beds and traverse a 122-metre, or 400-foot, suspension bridge along the way). Tip: book the extended tour, and you'll journey to Laxgalts'ap for views of a sacred area revered as the birthplace of the Nisga'a Nation.;

To read more story ideas from the Northern British Columbia region, visit

Kootenay Rockies: New Sacred Rides Excursion Pairs Single-Track with Downward-Facing Dog: An adrenalin-thumping mountain bike pedal along a rocky, rooted pathway and a balanced, half-moon pose on a yoga mat have one thing in common: concentration. And when you combine the two during the new Sacred Rides Rocky Mountain Yoga/MTB Retreat in BC's Kootenay Rockies region, you'll see that this unlikely pair shares more in common than one might think. Indeed, biking and back bends make a like-minded match, with days spent in Mother Nature's backyard during the outdoor adventure crew's seven-day retreat, July through September. You'll spin your wheels through incredible Rocky Mountain terrain in and around Fernie and the remote Nipika Mountain Resort, further to the north, while morning and afternoon yoga sessions in the wild aim to tap into your inner om. Overnights at the eco-friendly Nipika Mountain Resort, complete with hearty breakfasts and lunches, may just inspire you to stay indoors — that is, until your mountain bike guides map out the day's play (one of which will include, for a change of pace, a paddle down a wonderfully remote section of the Kootenay River). Deep breath in, hold that pose … and contemplate what the folks at Sacred Rides already know: this is a match made in heaven. Or, in the Kootenay Rockies, at least.

To read more story ideas from the Kootenay Rockies region, visit:

Cariboo Chilcotin Coast: New Lodge. All-Inclusive Fishing Charters. Welcome to BC's Central Coast: In Shearwater, set on Denny Island along the province's central coast, adventurists partial to the rod and reel will be spoilt for choice, thanks to enviable access to revered fishing grounds that include Seaforth Channel, Milbanke Sound, Hakai Pass and Cultus Sound. All that's required is a guide with a little local know-how. Enter Central Coast Adventures, a team with over eight years behind the rudder that specializes in multi-day, fully guided casting adventures of the saltwater variety. You pack your fishing licence, they'll provide top-of-the-line gear — not to mention the skill required to reel in trophy catches of Pacific salmon and halibut. As an added bonus, you can customize your casting: make it two days or 10, the choice is yours. Out of the boat, overnights will be spent at Central Coast's new ocean-front property, a comfy former B&B that has been transformed into a fishing lodge, mere steps from the boats. With room for 12, this newly acquired space, with private rooms in the main lodge and a self-contained cabin, is sure to provide a relaxing escape following a day fighting fish.

To read more story ideas from the Cariboo Chilcotin region, visit

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