(Updated March 2022) 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 Chocolate, Coffee and Gelato. 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.
We just put Fernie on our list! Looks like a great place to spend a week, Sue!
Wonderful to hear! As places like Banff overflow it’s wonderful to know there are still places in the mountains to visit that have retained their small ton feel. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
Looks and sounds like my kind of place…. during the summer that is. I think I’d stick to smooth water paddle boarding. Yep, I’d definitely like that campground. Flagstaff AZ has an Aerial park that my daughter and I have been wanting to do. Looks like fun! I’ll be pinning this post to my Canada board 😊
Ingrid I think you would love the area. The hiking is tremendous and we definitely need to get back to do more of that. My guess is that as the summer goes on the river becomes slower following the spring run off. The aerial park is great fun. Prompted me to begin core strengthening that’s for sure! Thanks for pinning the post. Much appreciated.
There is always so much more to do in these smaller places than meets the eye. A great list!
So true Darlene. Such fun to explore these lesser known towns free of stream of tourist buses.
Fernie is my kind of place. It looks super cute, lots of fun activities and I would particularly like the trails. Although not sure how I could ever be bear prepared? It would just terrify me to have such an encounter. I love the idea of a zero waste coffee shop, brilliant! I like your lodgings, probably a lot more spacious than our current home on wheels lodgings.
Gilda before setting off hiking the best thing to do would be to stop at the Visitor Centre where you will be given all the information you need on bears and wildlife in the area. Big Bang Bagels is really walking the talk when it comes to reducing waste even when it likely isn’t the easiest thing for them to do. As to the tiny home I agree it is pretty spacious compared to a lot of camping options. We loved it!
Another town that I frequently drive through but never stop (except for a quick coffee!). Looks like a great spot to spend a bit more time! Thanks for the post.
Phil there are quite a few towns like this that we have often thought of as rest stops on a road trip. Fun to see what is beyond the coffee shop and gas station. Thanks for reading and hope you are having a n excellent summer!
Sounds like a great place to visit, Sue. And I would definitely be a summer visitor. Hooray for the Bagel place! –Curt
Curt I think you would enjoy Fernie very much. The hiking is endless. We are with you in cheering on Big Bang Bagels. Bravo we say!
Wow, we could easily spend a week or more in Fernie and I would have a go at all of these activities. I think my favourite would be the treetop adventure. I love doing things like that in gorgeous surroundings.
The aerial park was definitely a favourite of ours too! More of a workout then I had expected but it truly made me feel like a kid again. Glad to show you this lesser known Canadian gem.
There are so many treasures on the west coast that I would love to explore and you just added Fernie to the list. Absolutely the aerial park would be top of my list … shaking knees and all 🙂
Joanne perhaps a half year sabbatical out here will be required for your visit. I thought you would be up in those trees straight away. I’ve never done anything like that. Very cool.
What a jam packed place full of interesting activities!! The tree tops looks like something I would love to try, but with my fear of sheer drops, not sure I could muster up the courage. Perhaps having the harness makes all the difference, as there is no danger to stress over.
KUDOS to the bagel place focusing on eco solutions to plastic, with their mug deposit program. If only all bagel and coffee places were to catch on, we could start to make a difference here. But one has to start somewhere. I love it. Good for them! I would go there just to support their efforts (contrary to the ones that walked out haha).
Wonderful post of a place I had never heard of…
Peta we concur that this little bagel shop is leading the way through its example. I love the idea of people going there to support them for their efforts. Makes me want to shout it from the rooftops.
The aerial park is great fun. Some of the obstacles are more fear inducing than others but yes being secured in makes a big difference.
Fernie’s historic downtown looks adorable indeed! Where is all the traffic? Looks like you have the place all to yourselves.
LOVED the video. What an inviting taste of Fernie that has me wanting to visit. I got a great feel for what paddleboarding in that rapid river must have felt like (scary) and waltzing through that aerial park (worth facing my height fears for). And oh those gorgeous views. The abodes at the RV Resort are totally charming!
Lisa thanks for that lovely feedback. All video credit to Dave. Glad that it gave you a good perspective.
I was surprised that the paddle boarding was so fun. I do think the lesson prior made all the difference.
The photo of the Main Street was taken about 8:30 on a weekday morning in June. Fernie does come to life but nothing like the tourist throngs of nearby Banff.
I fell in love with the paddle-board on the river….that looks like fun! Such a beautiful town and your pics do it justice….like the flowers in the foreground on some of the pics….so artistic:)
Kirt Many thanks for that generous feedback. Fernie looks like it belongs on a postcard at every turn. Such a sweet place. I think you would love the paddle boarding. Even I was was scared to start, had a wonderful time.
Adding this to my next summer’s wish list for your part of the world! We just talked about heading that way in summer 2020, and this cute little place will make the list. The aerial park is right up my alley, and I will top that and the other activities off with one of those great-looking bagels and a beer!
So exciting that you are planning a trip our way. Do keep in touch and if I can be helpful in planning let me know. If you are coming through Calgary please consider staying with us. We’d love to have you. We would certainly recommend Fernie for your itinerary. Truly such a sweet town.
I promise to let you know! I would love to meet you guys!
Please do! We don’t have a boat off the shores of Madagascar to offer but we do have a guest room 45 minutes from the Rockies. 🙂
Fernie is our kind of place! You really brought it to life in your pictures and writing, as well as the video! We rent paddle boards here and I’ve been tempted to try it. LOVE the waterfall! I think Waldo would be very happy at Fernie RV Resort! Hmmmm, I wonder if they hire workampers?!?!
Now that is a good question Laura. I think it never hurts to ask. Thank you for the kind feedback. I’ll be watching to see if you give paddle boarding a go. I think a lesson makes the experience much better especially if you are planning on a river outing.
enjoyed your video, Sue! what a charming place with lots of fun things to do. and oh, your rental home, so charming and it comes with a view! thanks for sharing 🙂 🙂
Lola thank you for taking the time to watch the video and have a virtual tour of Fernie. It’s such a charming town and yest that mountain backdrop is gorgeous.
Wow! Looks like a beautiful place to visit. I’m a big fan of the smaller, less popular towns. So much to see and always so beautiful, but with less stress! Sounds like a great place to visit, will have to keep this in mind!
Like you we love finding these lesser known gems. We are happy we could introduce you to Fernie and whether you are planning a visit in summer or winter such a super spot to explore.
Great post. I’ve heard of Fernie though never visited. This is enough to make me want to go! It sounds great.
Alison it’s such a friendly town besides all of the things one can do in Fernie. Another lesser known gem in the Rockies.
Now you’re making me want to come back to Alberta! What a great adventure – the paddleboarding and tree-climbing sounds like a blast. And what fun to try out a Tiny Home! I don’t think I could live in one full-time, but it’s a perfect vacation rental. 🙂
Diane this would be your kind of place. Not so touristy and with that small town charm. We loved staying in the tiny home but could see one would have to be very orderly and put things away. As you say perfect for vacation.
Sadly, I’d never heard of Fernie. But thanks to this post, I know all about it now (or at least all the magnificent parts of it). Adventure! River rafting – standing UP, Mountain climbing, on ROPES! Walking tours that show the resilience of this adorable community. And then, BAGELS (yay on their environmentalism) and CHOCOLATE (if you started the post on the chocolate, I admit, I may never have needed to read on.) 🙂 Beautiful spot.
Btw, my son and his family (who have a small place at Squaw Valley in Tahoe for weekends and vacations) skied during the entire 4th of July week in the mornings, then swam in Lake Tahoe in the afternoons. Unusual, but a huge bonus for skiers.
Wonderful information…… will enjoy reading.
I’m delighted Victoria. Thank you for taking the time to let me know.
I want to go there! Seeing those beautiful buildings reminds me that we don’t make things like we used to. No one will be photographing the modern buildings we have in small towns in the future.
That paddleboarding looks fun. Was it much of a workout? Did you ever fall in?
Jeff that is a very good point. It really did feel like Fernie was an old time movie set. A determined population not to let fire be the end of their vision.
I found doing the paddle boarding on moving water really was a core workout. The guide makes you fall in practice but I did not fall on the river. Likely because if it got too rough I just knelt down. I had expected it all to be scary but in reality you can make it as challenging as you want.
Fernie is a fabulous location. Thank you!
You are welcome 🙏
I would so do the tree top walk. That looks awesome. And the tiny house is just where I’d love to stay 🙂 I would like one of those in the back yard 🙂
Annie I can just see you in those tree tops. We loved the tiny home experience and yes it would be a perfect guest house.