Soothing hot springs, farm-to-table flavours and real-life Sasquatch sightings: the Fraser Valley offers plenty of ways to relax, refuel, and renew your sense of wonder
By CHLOË LAI
Seeking a restorative side trip? You don’t have to go far. Just an hour’s drive from Vancouver, warm community vibes welcome world-weary visitors to Abbotsford, affectionately known as the “city in the country.” Bonus for foodies: many local eateries source their ingredients directly from Fraser Valley growers. Explore the historic downtown area’s charming shops, then settle in at Duft & Co Bakehouse to reconnect with your travel companions over homemade sandwiches, or pastries such as cinnamon buns and twice-baked almond croissants. Everything is made fresh daily, using recipes developed by husband-and-wife team Tyler Duft and Cassandra Crocco. Right around the corner, gluten-free cafe The Polly Fox beckons with cheesy pizza buns, I-can’t-believe-they’re-vegan apple fritters and (on Saturdays only) vegan waffles served sandwich-style or with tasty toppings. Even delicious sips such as cappuccino and hot chocolate can be made vegan thanks to tasty nut mylks provided by next-door-neighbour The Habit Project.
Craft beer connoisseurs congregate at Field House Brewing, aka The Growler’s 2019 Brewery of the Year. This homegrown hotspot has both an indoor fireplace and a covered outdoor firepit, so you can stay toasty while bonding over brews and bites made with ingredients grown on the brewery’s own farm. (Bring us back some pickles, would you?) Once your belly is full, drive over to The Reach Gallery Museum to feast your eyes on soul-stirring Canadian art. From Jan. 23 to Apr. 26, exhibits include a soul is not made of atoms, featuring dreamy explorations of time by Trevor Van den Eijnden, and Glimmers of the Radiant Real, a dazzling multimedia group exhibit.
For a taste of movie magic, spend a night at the award-winning Brookside Inn Boutique Hotel. Each of its six luxurious suites pays tribute to an iconic film such as Roman Holiday and Midnight in Paris. The delight is in the details: in The Secret Garden suite, a live tree stands over a decorative birdbath complete with a birdhouse and adorable ceramic bird. After a gourmet breakfast in the Breakfast at Tiffany’s dining lounge, bird-watchers explore the vineyard to find non-ceramic species such as hermit thrushes and Cooper’s hawks.
Take the scenic route northeast from Abbotsford to picturesque Harrison Hot Springs, a charming lakeside town with a unique mascot: an affable sasquatch named Hot Springs Harry. Stop in at the visitor centre to check out the Sasquatch Museum’s impressive collection of artifacts and dig into this shaggy character’s role in local Sts’ailes First Nations culture. Keep your eyes peeled for larger-than-life carvings and paintings of sasquatches scattered throughout Harrison—you’ll need photographic evidence to show the non-believers back home. Sasquatch-spotting is hungry work: fuel up with farm-to-table fare at Muddy Waters Cafe or upscale local flavours at Morgan’s Bistro, then pop into the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory next door for sweet treats. Bundle up for scenic selfies with stunning lake-and-mountain backdrops, then stroll over to the public poolfor a long, rejuvenating soak. Piped straight from the local hot springs and cooled to a stress-melting 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit), these mineral-rich waters are a natural remedy for arthritis, rheumatism, and family-vacation-related tension. Once you’ve attained maximum zen, towel off and head to the nearby Sandpiper Resort for spectacular eagle-viewing. You don’t have to be a guest: a clearly marked trail leads ornithological enthusiasts to a covered gazebo overlooking Harrison River, where thousands of the majestic birds gather to feast on wild salmon. If it’s too chilly outside, take a seat by the fireplace at The Clubhouse, where—thanks to a live camera feed—you can watch the eagles in action while sipping BC wines and enjoying your own plate of perfectly cooked salmon.
Not ready to head back to the city just yet? Get cozy in one of the resort’s cabins. These riverfront retreats are more royal than rustic, which is perfect for those of us who prefer to enjoy the great outdoors in comfort. (Nothing beats finding wine in the fridge and heated floors in the bathroom.) Gather around the fireplace—there’s no such thing as too many fireplaces in the winter—to relive the day’s adventures and plan a return trip.
Our thanks to the Brookside Inn Boutique Hotel in Abbotsford and the Sandpiper Resort (home to Rowena’s Inn on the River) in Harrison Mills for their hospitality.