British Columbia has many memorable places to stay, from top-end world-class luxury hotels to marvellously inexpensive hostels. However, there are also some cultural gems of Canadian heritage significance. Here are two of my favourites in British Columbia – Fort St James National Historic Site and Barkerville Historic Town and Park.
Fort St. James National Historic Site
Fort St. James, British Columbia
In remote British Columbia, be locked into (that is, stay inside) an 1884 historic Hudson Bay Company Trading Post where you sleep in a comfortable bed, snugly installed in a log building which served as the Factor’s home.
Parks Canada staff give you cotton gloves so that you can actually handle some of the artefacts in the Chief of the Fort’s former home.
I read some of the old books, for instance, and was thrilled to read stories of pioneers and early missionaries, travelling by canoes and dog sleds. Talk about a special, “historical” evening!
Situated on the Southeastern end bay of Stuart Lake, adjacent to Mount Pope Provincial Park, the fort contains the largest collection of restored wooden buildings in Canada, which recall the days of the fur trade.
Moreover, as we gaze out over the lake, we gain even more respect for the hardy First Nations’ traders, voyageurs and others.
That’s because the wind funnels down the lake, making any canoeing treacherous at worst, and challenging at best.
There are on-site modern toilets, a restaurant, and come evening, you magically discover home-made cookies and tea in the kitchen of the Factor’s house.
During the day, participate in the hilarious World-Class Chicken Racing, Take the “Escape the Fort” challenge, and explore all the buildings, where costumed interpreters explain life back in the day.
You can get to Fort Saint James by car, bus or private aircraft.
Barkerville Historic Town and Park
Barkerville, British Columbia
Another “locked in” lodging awaits you in Barkerville, a heritage gold mining town where costumed guides interpret days of the Gold Rush. Here in 1862, gold diggers hoped every shovel-full of gravelly soil would make their fortune. Suddenly at 52 feet, they discovered the largest creek-side gold deposit in the world.
Today, Barkerville historic town has more than 125 heritage structures and is a National Historic Site of Canada. It’s the largest living-history museum in western North America.
Come, take a stagecoach ride, dress up in old-time costumes and have your picture taken. And, of course, wander the streets and visit the grocery store, pharmacy, and learn about the Barkerville gold rush days.
Barkerville accommodation includes several B&B lodgings: the King and Kelly houses, and, where I stayed, the St. George Hotel, which has seven rooms and serves great breakfasts.
Each historical home is decorated with antiques, so like I did you’ll experience an 1890s stay. Again, what I personally think is magical is the fact you’re inside the historic town itself, on your own — with a few other guests.
Other Barkerville hotels are The Wells Hotel, Mount Thyme Getaway and The Hubs Motel. There are three Barkerville camping areas: Lowhee, Forest Rose and Government Hill.
Katharine Fletcher is an author, freelance writer and visual artist.
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