Looking for a beautiful town to explore the Canadian Rockies from? Look no further. In fact, Fernie is the only town in BC that’s fully encircled by the Rocky Mountains.
Located in the East Kootenay region of Southern British Columbia, Fernie is a paradise for outdoor adventurers at any time of year. At the same time, there’s much more to Fernie than outdoor adventure. Thanks to their history of being an important coal-mining town, as well as two fires that ripped through the city in the early 1900s, Fernie is home to quite a few beautiful historic buildings in their downtown core. There’s also a vibrant art scene and a variety of restaurants, shops, and cafes. Plus, when you’re done with Fernie, you can explore the neighbouring historic coal mining towns of Crowsnest Pass or head north and explore the Kootenays for even more mountain paradise.
In this travel guide, we’re going to help you explore Fernie by telling you the best things to do, where to eat, where to stay, and more.
Fernie Travel Video
In this video, we show you what to do during both the fall and summer in Fernie, including hiking Mt. Fernie, canoeing on Island Lake, taking a historic walking tour, and more!
How to Get to Fernie
Fernie is a city in the Elk Valley area of the East Kootenay region of southeastern British Columbia, Canada. It is located on BC Highway 3, just 40 kilometres east of the Crownest Pass. As the largest and longest-established community between Cranbrook and Lethbridge, Fernie serves as a minor regional centre.
Driving from Calgary to Fernie: The closest major city to Fernie is Calgary, Alberta. The drive takes approximately three hours if you travel south along highway 2 towards Crowsnest Pass. You can also add 30 minutes and take scenic Highway 22 from Black Diamond, otherwise known as Cowboy Trail.
Driving from Banff to Fernie: If you’re up for a longer, more scenic route, you can also take Highway 93 near Lake Louise, heading south towards Radium Hot Springs. From there, you’ll continue south to Fernie, cutting through some of the most scenic mountain backdrops in the country.
Driving from Montana to Fernie: Fernie is only a 1-hour drive from Eureka, Montana. It’s an easy cross-border road trip from Washington, Idaho, or Montana.
Flying to Fernie: While there are no airports in Fernie, the closest airport can be found in Cranbrook, which is a 70-minute 115-km drive from Fernie. Canadian Rockies International Airport (YXC) usually has daily flights from Vancouver, Calgary, and Kelowna. Rental cars and/or shuttles can be found at the airport.
What to Do in Fernie in the Summer
Now for the fun part. These are some of the best things to do in Fernie.
Historic Self-Guided Walking Tour
One of our favourite activities is simply walking around and exploring the various cities and towns we visit. It’s a great way to get a feel for a place, to see things you may otherwise miss, and to get some exercise at the same time. Well, Fernie is a great place to do just that. Thanks to its history as a coal-mining town and some massive fires in the early 1900s, Fernie actually has a lot of brick-style heritage buildings. You can grab a visitor guide or pull up a historical walking map on your phone and easily walk to the 12 most popular and significant buildings in the downtown core.
One of our favourite buildings is the 1911 Court House, which is built from granite and looks like a chateau. There’s also the Holy Family Catholic Church, which was constructed in 1912, and the impressive City Hall, which also has a cool little exhibit in front where you can learn about Fernie’s history as a coal-mining town. Although it’s City Hall today, it was once home to the headquarters of the Crow’s Nest Pass Coal Company.
Another great thing to do in any city you visit is visiting the local museums and Fernie is no different. Located in one of the most beautiful historic buildings in town, the Fernie Museum will teach you everything you need to know about Fernie, including the struggles that early inhabitants faced when creating a community here, the fires that ripped through the entire city, its history as a coal-mining centre, and more.
The museum contains around 9,000 artifacts, including artworks, photographs, old mining equipment, and valuable silverware that was saved from the Methodist Church during a huge fire in the early 1900s. It’s not a big place so 1-2 hours should suffice.
Visit Island Lake Lodge
It might seem odd to list a lodge as a “thing to do” but as you make your way up to the mountain to the lodge, you’ll see why. Big trees and beautiful landscapes open up many possibilities for hiking, and even if you’re not staying at the lodge, you can visit beautiful Island Lake itself or rent a canoe for a quick 1-hour paddle on the small but pretty lake.
Surrounded by the beautiful Rocky Mountains, Fernie is home to a swath of pristine waters with rivers and lakes making it one of the most productive dry fly destinations in the world. Popular rivers include the Elk, Flathead, Wigwam, and Bull, and all of them are popular for fishing Bull Trout. Lakes are also popular, especially when it comes to catching Largemouth Bass and Rainbow Trout. For guides, click here.
Surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, it should come as no surprise that hiking is one of the top things to do in the area. During our visit, we wanted to make it to a summit for epic views, so we opted for Mt. Fernie. Hiking to the summit of Mt. Fernie took about 5-hours for a return trip and once at the top, we had spectacular views of the city as well as the surrounding mountains. It’s not a difficult hike but it is uphill the entire time so expect to have sore legs or knees, especially on the way down. The last 20-minutes to the summit is a little steeper and requires some simple climbing, but certainly nothing extreme. Other than that, it’s a well-worked path.
Other popular hikes include Fairy Creek Falls, the many trails around Island Lake Lodge, Castle Mountain, and many more.
For those into biking, there’s no shortage of trails in Fernie. After all, it’s surrounded by mountains! Not only is there lots of trails to choose from, including the Fernie Alpine Ski Resort, but there are also some companies offering lessons, rentals, and guided tours.
Tour and Taste Fernie Alpine Springs
Up until our latest visit to Fernie, we didn’t like Kombucha. However, that all changed when we visited Fernie Alpine Springs and took a short tour with Simon, the master brewer behind what is now our favourite Kombucha! While you’re welcome to simply stop by and pick some up, you can also book a 15-minute tasting tour with Simon, which is a great way to learn about how it’s made and try the many different delicious flavours.
Located right in the historic downtown core is Fernie Distillers, a company that produces less than 200 bottles per batch run by one of the female distillers in the industry. They produce delicious vodka and gin, as well as some truly unique specialities such as their Fernie Fog Liqueur, which is an Earl Grey tea-infused liqueur with vanilla and demerara sugar. You can actually see the distillery behind the window while sipping back on a flight or enjoying one of their many hand-crafted cocktails.
Fernie Brewing Company
For those who love beer, you’re also in luck as Fernie is home to the Fernie Brewing company, which creates award-winning beers made from Rocky Mountain water. The building itself is beautiful and offers stunning views from their popular summer patio, which even welcomes all those good little doggies out there. Up to 12 fresh from the source beers is offered on tap – rotating through core beers, seasonals, and limited-release brews as soon as they’re available.
What to Do in Fernie in the Winter
With mountains all around the city, Fernie is an epic winter destination.
Fernie Ski Resort
Without a doubt, the star of the show for Fernie’s winter wonderland is Fernie Ski Resort, one of the largest in Canada. With plenty of ski-in-ski-out accommodation, restaurants, and 140 runs, this is among the best skiing in the Rocky Mountains. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, they have green runs, blue runs, black runs, and even double blacks for those looking to go extreme.
While hiking is popular in the summer, many of the trails become popular for snowshoeing in the winter and it’s a great way to get some exercise and witness the beauty of winter. There are multiple locations including Fernie Alpine Resort, Island Lake Lodge, and the many hiking and mountain biking trails. What’s great about snowshoeing is that it’s quite accessible to anyone. Simply bring your own, book yourself on a guided interpretive tour, or rent snowshoes from one of the gear shops in town.
Another wonderful winter activity is cross-country skiing and Fernie is a great place to do it. The Fernie region has five areas with trails groomed for cross-country skiing, all within a few minute’s drive from the town. You can simply bring your own skis, rent a pair in town, or join in on some ski lessons for both adults and kids with the Fernie Nordic Society.
Where to Eat and Drink in Fernie
When it comes to Fernie restaurants, there are lots of good options, especially for such a small town. From handmade pasta to sushi, you’re bound to find something to satisfy your tastebuds.
We loved our dinner here. One of the top restaurants in Fernie is Loaf, an Italian-inspired restaurant serving real, honest food, fresh every day, using all-natural ingredients made from scratch, by hand. When a restaurant makes their own pasta and pizza dough you know it’s good. In fact, Load recently won Fernie’s best pizza, so it looks like their handmade dough is a real hit.
Originally started as a bakery offering a range of artisan bread and pastries, Loaf has transformed over the years and moved locations to Fernie’s Historic Downtown where it is a highlight on the culinary scene offering gourmet Mediterranean-inspired cuisine.
The Chopstick Truck
If you’re looking for something delicious, quick, and low-key, we can recommend the Chopstick Truck. This food truck served up delicious Vietnamese-inspired cuisine, such as Vermicelli Bowls, Pulled Pork Tacos, and Kimchi Fries. They have a lovely little set up for outdoor dining and right next to them is Miner’s Mud, another food truck offering delicious coffee, drinks, and baked goods.
Although we personally were not blown away by the flavours here, it seems to blow the pants off everyone else. Not only is Yamagoya Sushi often voted as Fernie’s top restaurant, but it was also recommended by locals we met during our visit and even readers of Must Do Canada. The interior is beautiful and is quite similar to what you’d find in Japan. The food is also of great value as we found the portions to be fairly large for the price.
We tried the miso soup, gyoza, and the sashimi carpaccio for appetizers before diving into some of their popular sushi rolls such as the “Fernie Roll”, curry roll, and giant dragon roll. They have lots to offer as well as a wide array of drinks. You may want to make a reservation as it can fill up!
Where to Stay in Fernie
Fernie has loads of options when it comes to accommodation. Whether you’re after something familiar like Best Western, something rustic, or a cozy bed & breakfast, there’s something for you.
Twisted Timber Guesthouse: We love staying in local Bed & Breakfasts and this one was truly special. The owners are super friendly and are eager to make sure you have a great time. The house is absolutely beautiful and the breakfast is exquisite. Literally, the breakfast is better than what you’ll find at a restaurant, so that alone is worth the stay! There are only two rooms, so it’s cozy and charming, and as an added bonus, they recently built a Finnish Sauna in the backyard. What else could you want?
Best Western Plus: When it comes to chain hotels, we love Best Western. In this case, it’s a Best Western Plus, so you get even more value, comfort, and quality.
Island Lake Lodge: We didn’t stay here during our visit but we did rent a canoe to paddle on Island Lake for an hour. It looks like an absolutely beautiful lodge and it’s located in the most scenic place in the whole area, so it’s definitely a place we hope to stay one day. Keep in mind though that it is only open during the warmer months.
We love Fernie but if you’re looking for more things to do in the area, check out these articles below: