An August 2004 trip
to Kimberley by Ben the Grate
Quote: There is no shortage of self-proclaimed "authentic Bavarian villages" in North America. And the guidebooks suggested that Kimberley wouldn't be my kind of place. Well, they were wrong! This little alpine German community in British Columbia is truly charming.
The place, despite its kitsch, is charming, and about as authentic as such a postmodern tourist culture trap can be. Perched on the outer rim of the Purcell Mountains, with a view across the Columbia River valley to the Rockies, Kimberley is Canada's second highest incorporated town.
Catch the hourly chime of the "World's Largest Cuckoo Clock." Truly tacky, but fun. Indulge in authentic and fusion schnitzel at the Mozart House, or roast suckling pig and strudel at Chef Barnard's. Escape the continent in your own Bavarian apartment, complete with hot tub (not too Bavarian, but who cares?), while the piped-sounds of yodeling drift up from beneath the floorboards. Stroll the Platzl and listen to an according competition. Bask in naturally hot water at one of the nearby wilderness hot springs. Oh, and you can hike/bike/paraglide/ski/snowboard...and all the usual mountain stuff.
The rooms are small and cozy, with a more lived-in feel than you get from a lot of hotels and guest houses. I like that.
Their rates are EXTREMELY reasonable, especially in summer, when their "jacuzzi apartment" starts at $60CAD.
I can imagine that the upstairs rooms might get a little noisy, in winter, when the crowds of young skiers stay late at the restaurant and get drunk and sing. But that can also be charming, eh? Otherwise, I'm sure this is an extremely quiet, lovely spot to rest your head.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 13, 2004
Chef Bernard's Inn
170 Spokane Street
Kimberley, British Columbia
Hotel | "Kimberley Inn (Samesun Kimberley Lodge)"
The Kimberley Inn is located right on the Platzl, the center of town, which is only a short stroll from the mountain, which rises almost directly out of downtown Kimberley. The hostel is located above the O'zone Pub, a kickin' nightspot, which originally worried me. I figured I'd never get a good night's sleep. I was wrong. My room was directly over the loudest part of the bar, and I never heard a thing. Maybe if they were having a massive headbanging party in the peak of winter season I'd be kept awake, but I'd probably be down there contributing my own noise.
In the emerging hostel trend, they offer both dorm rooms and private rooms. If you're an HI member, dorms are $21.40CAD year round, and private rooms are $49. To be honest, it seems like there's no difference between their dorms and their private rooms. They all have 2 sets of bunk beds (usually including one VERY large lower bunk) and if you book a private room, you'll have that room all to yourself, and if you book a dorm room, you'll have the same room with up to 3...maybe 4 roomies. The beds were ultracomfy.
All of the rooms have private bath with uber-cool spacepod showers (you'll understand when you see them). The water pressure was truly something to behold, and I had as much hot water as I could take for as long as I could take it.
The website claims a towel and key deposit. I was never asked for it on my visit, which was in the middle of summer and the place was really slow.
There's a bright and well-equipped kitchen with lots of fridges and freezers.
And downstairs is the kickin' O'zone Pub, so you can get smashed and stagger up to your room without ever setting foot outside.
Though it ain't much to look at from the outside, this is one of the best hostels I've patronized. Do it!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 13, 2004
275 Spokane Avenue
Kimberley, British Columbia
Restaurant | "Mozart House"
Before I continue with this insult, I should say that I absolutely ADORED this restaurant. It sits right on Kimberley's Plazl, and you can dine out on the pedestrian-only street, on the deck overlooking the street, or indoors (away from mosquitoes in summer and chilly wind and snow in winter.) The decor inside is dark and warm, with paintings of the namesake composer on the wall, and classical music drifting on the schniztel-scented air.
Mozart House has a clever menu, with most items carrying a three-course complimentary companion... The House Appetizer, which on my visit was an exquisitely decorative plate of canapes which where as divine on the palate as they were to the eye. Choice of soup or salad...my companions had the house salad (you can get Caesar, too!) with a Thai vinaigrette which was too spicy for them but FANTASTIC for my taste buds. I am a soup fan, and the awkward stumbling teenager who served as our waitress informed me that an old Hungarian lady makes their soups every day, so I chose soup. It was an astounding white bean soup that sent me through the roof. And dessert was promised to follow our choice of main course. All of this at no extra charge beyond menu prices.
Wow, huh? I was sipping a dark German draft and eagerly awaiting what I anticipated would be the best schnitzel of my life...Alpine Schnitzel with artichoke hearts and goat cheese ($19.99CAD). But it turned out to be disappointingly tough.
No big deal, the apple strudel served for dessert with ice cream made up for it.
Companions had BC Salmon en croute (yummy, at $19.99CAD), and Seafood Pasta (which was supposed to be salmon fillet, but the chef forgot his glasses and read the order wrong, so my friend got this house specialty at $24.99 for a lower price, and it was stellar!).
The chefs are a very old Bavarian couple. The place is authentic. The food is, overall, very impressive. The service from the young locals is sketchy at best, and the chef apparently forgets his glasses every night and messes up at least a few orders. But with the combination of the included extra courses, you end up getting a full gourmet meal for about $15US. Very impressive.
They have a nightly special for $9.99CAD which is usually sausage based. So you can eat for almost fast-food prices here, and the extra courses are usually included.
Three thumbs up!
Mozart House Inn
130 Spokane Street
Kimberley, British Columbia
Restaurant | "Chef Bernard's Restaurant"
The awards are justified. The place is pretty amazing. The menu is extensive, and while it offers all the traditional German foods, there is a bizarre addition of Thai, and then some traditional pan-European delights. The night we were there, he was featuring a roast suckling pig for $24.99CAD. A bit too expensive for my hostel pocketbook, but a STEAL compared to urban-US prices for such a meal at such a restaurant.
Schnitzels and pasta dishes are priced around $20CAD, but do not come with all the superfluous courses that The Mozart House, two doors down, offers gratis. You must pay for these things at Chef Bernard’s, which is the only fault I can hold to the place.
Dining is right on the Platzl sidewalk directly opposite the "World's Largest Cuckoo Clock," or on their covered deck, or inside the quirky dining room which has model trains running around the walls. Funky and fun.
They recommend reservations here. On an August Thursday evening, I could have chosen a table wherever I liked. But don't count on that at Christmastime.
This is a restaurant that offers the kind of dining experience that you WILL talk about for a decade. The food is great, the atmosphere is kooky, and the service is a notch above their competitors. Try it!
170 Spokane Street
Kimberley, British Columbia
Lussier Hot Springs is the most accessible and most popular. From Kimberley, drive north to Skookumchuck about 40 minutes. Continue 24.1km (15mi) from the gas station Skookumchuck to the turnoff for Whiteswan Provincial Park on the right. This road is used by big logging trucks, so turn on your lights and proceed with caution. The excellent gravel road leads 18.3km (11.3mi) to the marked parking lot for the springs. The last section is one-lane high above the Lussier River Gorge. Hair-raising, but beautiful. Be very cautious driving this section. There are changing rooms next to the parking lot, and a gravel trail leads steeply down to the hot springs, which are right on the Lussier River. A large gravel-bottomed upper pool is VERY hot, 44C (110F) and few can sit in it for too long. It's about 3 feet deep. A small waterfall leads to shallower, cooler pools. If you get overheated in summer, it's traditional to wade into the icy Lussier River to cool down. This is a popular location (party spot on summer weekend nights) and you'll rarely have it to yourself. But it's a VERY lovely spot.
Ram Creek Hot Springs are more remote, less visited, more spectacular, but cooler. Instead of being in the bottom of a canyon, they are high on a mountain shelf with a great view of the surrounding ridges. People usually combine a visit to Ram Creek with one to Lussier, because they are close. The back roads to Ram Creek are rough, and closed in winter, but I can drive them (carefully) in a Neon in summer, so most anyone can make it. There are MANY potholes, though. Be cautious. Continue past Lussier 3.4km (2.3mi) and turn right on White-Lussier Road toward Top of the World Park. Stay to the right at major junctions, following Top of the World signs. You'll come to a major junction in 16km (10mi) where you'll turn RIGHT onto White-Ram Forest Road. Then follow this narrow, potholed road for 5.8km (3mi) to the parking area on the right side of the road. A short, steep trail leads up to the 2 main pools. The large pool is cooler, the small one warmer. Farther up the trail is an even warmer upper pool, and down by the road is a very small almost-hot pool for 1 person. The water is lukewarm compared to Lussier, but there is much more privacy and the views are better. To get back to the highway, keep going down the road about 16km (10mi) until it becomes paved. Turn RIGHT at the junction onto Sheep Creek Rd, and follow it to the main highway. Turn left to head back to Kimberley.
Dewar Creek Hot Springs is close to Kimberley, but is more remote. Most fanatics believe it's just about the best hot springs in all of Canada! From the main traffic light in Kimberley, drive south to the St. Mary Rd 5.7km (3.5mi) south. Turn right. The pavement ends in 17km and then you should be cautious of logging trucks. Just past the 39km sign, go straight at the junction. 9.5km later you cross a bridge, then 0.5 km later turn right (don't take St. Mary West Fork Rd). Follow this main road "Dewar Creek Rd" for 22.2km and turn right onto a rough spur road. Drive 0.8km and turn left, then 0.6kms more to a grassy parking area on the left. It will take 1.5 hours to drive this 64kms from Kimberley. The hike to the springs is 9km (5.6mi) each way, and can be done as a long day hike (2-3 hours each way), but most people backpack in, or camp at the trailhead. It's an easy hike, which leads to numerous pools and waterfalls of water up to 82C (180F). The springs are popular, but remote, and so plentiful that you can always find privacy. Nude bathing is the norm here, unlike at the springs above. People visit them year round, but winter will require good road conditions, 4WD, and X-country skis.
Buhl Creek Hot Springs is a lovely small pool of 40C (104F) water at the end of a long logging road. Inquire locally for directions.
Ben the Grate