(Updated June 2021) With morning sun twinkling on the Rocky Mountain backdrop, turn of the century red brick buildings line main street like a picture perfect film set. Rich aromas of brewing espresso escape over outdoor flower boxes. We decide sipping coffee at one of the quaint breakfast spots will be first on our list of things to do in Fernie BC (British Columbia). That and watching for potential film crews in what is surely one of the cutest towns in Canada.
Telling friends we are planning a visit to this mountain escape, they assume we are planning a winter trip.
“Oh you are going skiing in Fernie?” With an average snowfall of 39 feet, to ski Fernie is considered one of the musts for any downhill enthusiast.
We, however, are here to take advantage of the consistently warm Fernie weather in the summertime. Not to mention the lack of crowds, in comparison to nearby National Parks.
No time to read this right now? Click to watch our video of Fernie things to do. With thanks to Tourism Fernie for their contributions of photos at the aerial park.
10 Things to do in Fernie Canada in Summer
Ride the river – Stand up paddle boarding
I admit this time my adventure-loving self thinks, “Why did I believe this was a good idea?”
Open mouthed I gaze at the speed of the water of Elk River, winding through Fernie. The idea that I will actually stand on a paddleboard seems remote. Balance is not one of my strongest suits. I imagine I will spend a lot of time in the water rather than on the water.
Our guide is not to be deterred. After a one hour flat-water lesson, with Mountain High Adventures, where falling is one of the skills practiced, we head to the river.
With my wider and more stable paddleboard, selected for me likely due to my nervous chattering, I spend the first part of the float on my knees. With some encouragement and a great deal of coaching, I manage to stand up. And stay standing!
For those wanting a more relaxing float, rafting, kayaking or riding a 17 foot stand up paddleboard called the SupSquatch with your family or friends is also available.
Go climb a tree – Fernie Alpine Park
Did you like to climb trees as a kid? Growing up on a farm I loved scaling branches. I also recall a lot of tumbling out of those trees! Taking tree climbing to a whole new level, and a much safer one, Fernie Alpine Resort offers tree adventures on high. Known primarily as a downhill ski resort, from June to September, Fernie Alpine Resort provides aerial obstacles and mini zip lines.
Wearing harnesses, and attached to metal cables at all times, the guides keep a watchful eye on squealing participants in the treetops. Obstacles such as the Nitro Swing and Leap of Faith vary in difficulty and test upper body and core strength. I really should do more Pilates.
Looking 30 feet below, as one walks the plank or the tight rope wire, it’s a fun, adrenaline-inducing adventure from beginning to end. The Fernie Aerial Park brought back many long lost childhood memories of being in the trees. Thankfully without the pain of falling out of them.
Where to stay in Fernie
The thrill of sleeping on a one inch pad and hoping the pouring rain outside will not form a creek through our tent has worn off over the decades. The immaculate Fernie RV Resort, situated next to the Elk River, offers a smorgasbord of camping choices. From the basic tent sites, RV pull through spots and yurts, there is a multitude of Fernie accommodations to choose from.
The gem of a Fernie campground offers amazing family style private bathrooms with hot shower and toilets. Commercial laundry facilities are on site. A children’s playground and open green spaces provide space for recreational activities.
For Fernie lodging offering the adventure of camping without the hassle of gear, the forest side yurts are a great choice. Although there are multiple hotels in Fernie, the resort gives the feel of wilderness with the convenience of being close to town.
Hiking in mountain bliss
The problem with hiking in Fernie is trying to decide where to begin. As we often do when travelling, we ask locals for suggestions. With heads spinning at the multitude of Fernie hikes, we choose Fairy Creek Falls. With its easy access and parking at the Fernie Visitor Centre, the 4 km trail round trip is one we easily fit in before heading back to Calgary.
The short hike leads to a stop-in-your-tracks view of the falls. As a tiny statue of a fairy looks on, the mist swirls and sparkles in the sunshine. Although we didn’t see another soul on the hike, locals tell us it is a popular trail. Our advice is always to go early, be bear prepared as this is wilderness, and dogs must be kept on leash.
Walk back in time – Heritage Walking Tour
If one were to look for the definition of perseverance, the early settlers of Fernie are a fitting example. In 1904 when the town’s commercial district of blacksmith shops and retail stores, supporting the growing coal mining industry and the Canadian Pacific Railroad, burned to ashes, the town was rebuilt. In 1908, when virtually the entire town was destroyed in a firestorm, again Fernie was reconstructed. This time in brick and rubblestone from the nearby Elk River.
Today those turn of the century architectural marvels remain. A Heritage Walking Tour takes you to a dozen sites including the Fernie Courthouse, which still fulfills its original purpose. The Romanesque Revival style of the Fernie Post Office now houses the Fernie library.
The walking tour guide can be found at the Fernie Museum. There on the main floor, an impressive history of the town’s past is on display. Upstairs a gallery space houses ever changing exhibits and special events.
Big Bang Bagels – Environmentally friendly things to do in Fernie
With much talk and hand wringing about the tsunami of plastic waste, Big Bang Bagels is not only talking, but they are also making a bold move. Along with their reasonably priced, hand-rolled and boiled bagels, they offer NO disposable coffee cups. Their aim is ZERO waste. You can bring your own mug, buy one or rent one of theirs.
Yes, you can put a deposit on a mug and keep it for an hour, a day or a month. When the mug comes back you get your deposit back. One of the little places in Fernie to eat that is making a big statement on waste reduction.
While we munch our delicious bagel sandwiches, a couple leaves after learning they can’t have disposable cups. Clearly, the restaurant is making some financial sacrifices with their long term goal of educating patrons and helping planet earth. Bravo we say!
Dinner with a view – Bridge Bistro
Not being foodies, the eclectic and casual style of dining in Fernie suits us well. The diversity of international cuisine choices mirrors the early settlers. From sushi to South American tapas, pizzas to hamburgers. Locals support locals with featured British Columbia wines and beers, often at the top of menus.
On the deck of the Bridge Bistro, we gaze at the rushing waters of the Elk River. “I actually stood up on a paddleboard right there!” It may be possible I exclaimed that at a volume higher than necessary at my excitement of it all.
We toast the accomplishment as evening light on the mountains provides a magical, panoramic backdrop.
Delicious things to do in Fernie -Bean to Bar chocolate
The tantalizing aroma of chocolate lures us nose first into Beanpod. The family run business is the only Bean to Bar company in Canada where chocolate, taking an average of five days to reach perfection, is made in traditional methods.
Once inside, our noses press against the glass wall of the small factory. There, in a 100 year old ‘conche’, a batch of pure deliciousness is stirring.
The owner and master chocolate maker is adamant that quality will not be compromised. No preservatives, no additives and sustainable farming of the beans imported are mandatory at Beanpod. We join others at the counter attempting not to drool in the decision making process between gelato, hand made macaroons, truffles and chocolate bars.
No ordinary arts and crafts – Coal Town Goods
With adventure synonymous with the town, there is no shortage of stores to meet the clothing and gear needs of hikers, cyclists, skiers and snowboarders. Handcrafted goods from local artisans and makers line the walls of the tiny boutique Coal Town Goods.
The name, a tribute to the creative and hardworking beginnings of the area, is a community minded store celebrating the diversity of those who fill the small shop with unique finds.
Art can be found on almost every corner of this mountain gem town. I dare you to find a dumpster that has not been turned into a creative canvas. The self guided walking art tour feels to us more like a treasure hunt filled with outdoor murals, galleries and the Fernie Art Coop featuring over 50 local artists.
Stepping along the soft forest trail, bird choir practice is in full swing. Barely knowing a heron from a hummingbird, bird experts we are not. However one does not need to be knowledgeable on all things feather related to appreciate the treetop symphony going on near Fernie.
With five different ecosystems, the area is world renowned for its bird watching wonders. In a Fernie activities brochure, 29 bird species from bald eagles to yellow warblers are listed. If you are not a seasoned birdwatcher and want to see the birds rather than just hear them, we suggest booking a guided tour. More information can be obtained at the Fernie Visitor Information Centre.
Where is Fernie BC?
Nestled in the southeast corner of British Columbia Canada, Fernie is a 3 hour drive from Calgary. Situated on the Crowsnest Pass Highway or Highway 3, the mountain paradise is a half hour drive from the Alberta border and a 40 minute drive north of the US border. From Vancouver to Fernie the drive is approximately 11 hours. We have included a Fernie map below and more information on reaching this idyllic getaway can be found here.
What would be your top pick of things to do in Fernie?
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With thanks to Tourism Fernie for hosting our stay. Fernie in summer was a complete delight and surprise. All opinions are our own.