The Fraser Valley, Canada’s agricultural mecca, is an exciting destination where you can discover delicious cuisine, perfect wines, upscale boutique hotels, and exciting outdoor adventures. My friend Laura and I recently road-tripped through three exciting cities in the Valley—Harrison Mills, Harrison Hot Springs, and Abbotsford.
Our adventure into the Valley began with a ride on BC Ferries from Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island to Tsawwassen, B.C. We drove our rental car along Scenic Highway 7 to our first destination, the village of Harrison Mills.
Escapades in Harrison Mills
We reached Harrison Mills and checked into Fenn’s cabin at Rowena’s Inn on the River at Sandpiper Resort. The luxury cabin featured lofty ceilings and a massive stone fireplace. It was raining, but the wood floors and tile bathroom floor were heated, keeping our feet warm and cozy. The bathroom featured a deep-soaking Jacuzzi tub under a large skylight. Two cushy chairs in front of the fireplace invited us to sit down and relax, and a table and chairs in front of the large bay window beckoned us to gaze out at the river. French doors led to a deck outside, where a beautiful magnolia tree was filled with purple/pink buds aching to open.
We dined at the Clubhouse with former owner and current resident Betty Anne Faulkner. Her parents owned the house, now the inn, for decades. When I asked what she loved most about growing up there, she replied, “I loved the scenery even as a child. My father put up a two-seater swing, and I'd sit there and look out at the mountains all day. I played in the woods nearby, and it is a wonder I never ran into a big animal like a bear.” Betty, her husband, and her brother remodeled the home into an Inn.
Fine Dining in Harrison Hot Springs
Next, we spent the night at the Harrison Beach Hotel in Harrison Hot Springs. During the day, we swam in the local pool filled with water from the hot springs and took a spin around the village on a quadricycle from Jamie’s Quadricycles. After an active day, we dined next door to the hotel at Morgan’s Bistro.
Restaurant owner Morgan’s son-in-law Stewart served us a sumptuous meal that evening. We began with escargot and an eggplant Napoleon. I am unfamiliar with Canadian wines, so Stewart suggested we try a couple of flights. My favorite with the appetizers was the 2015 Steller’s Jay Methode Classique Songbird Brut, an Okanagan Valley sparkling wine.
The succulent Australian rack of lamb with a Dijon rosemary sauce was excellent. The slow-roasted, bone-in beef short rib was seasoned with garlic and rosemary and sat atop a rich red wine demi-glaze garnished with horseradish cream. Silky potato purée and crisp-tender asparagus, snap peas, carrots, and broccoli shared the plate. Our flight of Canadian red wines was terrific, and Laura favored the Orofino 2016 Red Bridge Red, a B.C. wine that is a red Bordeaux blend.
Stewart surprised us with a delicious bottle of sweet Pinotage 2013 Ice Wine from Stoneboat Vineyards that ended our meal on a perfect note. We chatted about wines from around the world and our insights on various chefs throughout the evening.
Hiking in Abbotsford
En route to Abbotsford, we hiked to Bridal Veil Falls where we viewed water cascading from 197 feet above. The loop trail takes you to a viewing platform at the base of the falls. After a short hike, we continued on to Abbotsford. Once we reached the city, we sampled various local foods and browsed some intriguing shops.
Accommodations at Brookside Inn
Brookside Inn in Abbotsford is a three-story, Tudor-style boutique hotel with unique movie-themed suites. The Midnight in Paris room boasts a private deck and sitting room, and the Roman Holiday Suite’s balcony offers views of Mount Baker. Owners Chris and Sandi Buis bought the unfinished hotel five years ago and created this retreat in a natural setting.
Romantic movies inspire room furnishings at the Inn. Sandi shared, “People come here for a vacation, and there were all kinds of ways we could have decorated. Why not choose something fun and memorable like classic movies?” Chris is friendly and knowledgeable about the area, and Sandi makes incredible breakfast fare. Their quintessential hospitality made our stay memorable. The boutique hotel serves as a comfortable basecamp perfect for exploring the area.
Gorgeous Gardens at Tanglebank
Tanglebank Gardens, a lovely nursery, is picturesque and the on-site Brambles Bistro serves delicious farm-to-table dishes. In 1996, Brenda Falk and her husband Arnold opened Tanglebank Gardens, a boutique-style perennial nursery. The couple soon realized they needed to expand the business and take a different approach. Over nine years they built Brambles Bistro and converted a few of the original old barns into covered garden nurseries and a greenhouse.
Tanglebank is a family business. Their son did the millwork for both the onsite shop and restaurant, and their daughter served as the chef when the Bistro opened. Many Bistro dishes incorporate ingredients grown in the gardens.
When I asked Brenda what she loved most about Tanglebank Gardens, she said, “It’s the people. I love when they arrive in a grumpy mood and leave with a smile on their face.” Brenda and her family believe it is essential to give back to the community. Each year schools send children to the nursery to learn about plants and gardening. Many of these children have no idea where their food originates.
Brenda plans a unique project for each year. Last year, she gave total reign to one up-and-coming landscaper. He designed a specific section of her garden promoting his work.
Wine Tasting in Abbotsford
Laura and I indulged in some local wine tasting at three nearby wineries. We met with Debbie Etsell, owner of Singletree Winery. She introduced us to several white varietals, including Grüner Veltliner, and Siegerrebe. My favorite was a bubbly 2017 Victory with peach notes that were so strong that I said, “I would love to bathe in it.”
Vern Siemens and his daughter Josie run Mt. Lehman Winery. We sampled several delightful red and white wines at Mt. Lehman. My favorite was the Brawny Tawny, a tawny port fortified with the alcohol derived from their pinot noir. The dark chocolate and black cherry flavors were spectacular.
Seaside Pearl Winery is Abbotsford’s newest winery. David and Allison Zimmerman owned the property for nine years and then decided to grow grapes and start a winery three years ago. Seaside produces single varietal and blended wines.
The Seaside Pearl Chapel Tasting Room is a copper-spired chapel surrounded by stunning gardens. David showed us the winemaking room where we tasted numerous wines directly from the tanks. I especially enjoyed two new wines, the Petit Milo and Cabernet Foch.
There are many popular tourist destinations in British Columbia but we certainly enjoyed the unspoiled, yet luxurious, welcoming feel of the Fraser Valley. Be sure to check out Wander for more great locations to explore while visiting Canada.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations, meals, tours and other compensation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.