Nelson is a city located in the Selkirk Mountains on the West Arm of Kootenay Lake, and about 45 km east of Castlegar. Known as “The Queen City” the community has many restored heritage buildings from its 1880s silver rush glory days. Nelson was named in 1888 for Hugh Nelson, then Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia.
The city is located in the traditional territories of the Sinixt (or Lakes) and Ktunaxa (Kutenai) peoples. Gold and silver were found in the area in 1867, and a discovery of silver at nearby Toad Mountain in 1886 caused the town to boom, leading to its incorporation as a town in 1897. The town attracted immigrants from England and Doukhobors from Russia who developed the area’s agriculture. Nelson’s mountainous geography kept its growth along the narrow valley bottom.
Two railways pass through Nelson which made it a key transportation hub for local mines, and as a distribution centre for the region. By the early 1900s, Nelson even had an electric streetcar system, powered by the town’s own hydro generating system.
In the 1960s and 1970s, many of the town’s buildings were updated with aluminum siding, but by the 1980s the town restored its wooden storefronts to their original brilliance. The town’s Baker Street was used as the set of Steve Martin’s Roxanne feature film, bringing it a wider following. The city is a cultural centre with the restored Capitol Theatre a regional hub for the performing arts. Nelson has several retail outlets for natural and organic foods.
Over the decades, Nelson has also been noted for its illegal marijuana production, though recent legalization has reduced that reputation.
Scheduled commercial airline service is available at the West Kootenay Regional Airport, approximately 43 kilometres (27 mi) southwest of the city.
Downtown Local Market
on Baker Street
every Wednesday from June through September.
last Friday of the month in June, July, and August.
A lively nighttime street market in the heart of Nelson’s downtown, happens on the last Friday of the month in June, July, and August.
Pulpit Rock Trail
A short but somewhat challenging hike that ends with a view of the city. After Pulpit Rock, the trail continues up the spine of Elephant Mountain (as the locals call it) offering postcard views, and up to the radio towers above the city.
Angry Hen Brewing Co.
343 Front Street, Kaslo, BC
Angry Hen Brewing is a new craft brewery downtown Kaslo, BC serving a variety of fresh beers and inspired locally produced snacks. Steps away from the S.S. Moyie, the Angry Hen is next to boutique shopping and inspired dining.
Nelson Brewing Company
512 Latimer Street, Nelson, BC
Located in a heritage building near the fire hall, Nelson Brewing Company (NBC) is one of the first certified organic breweries in BC. Sourcing local ingredients as much as possible, NBC beers are award winning and known province wide. They are on the drink menus for many restaurants and bars in the region.
125 Hall Street, Nelson, BC
A new addition to the beer market here is Torchlight Brewery, a nanobrewery filling the need for more hyper-local beer goodness. Enjoy their tasting lounge close to downtown or buy a few to bring home. They’ve also got a rotating list of beers on tap.
Backroads Brewing Company
460 Baker Street, Nelson, BC
Located on Baker St Backroads Brewing Co serves up craft ales and lagers, brewed in the heart of Nelson. Stop by for a pint or flight or grab a growler to go!
Kokanee Mountain Zipline
Kokanee Glacier Road, Nelson, BC
Less than 30 minutes from Nelson and 15 minutes from Balfour is a fantastic aerial adventure experience. Kokanee Mountain Zipline offers six ziplines from a 90-ft warmup line to a 2400-ft cross-canyon mega ride. Anyone from 50lb-265lb can take part, and the fully guided tours are 2.5-3 hours end-to-end.
Whitewater Ski Resort
Whitewater Ski Hill Rd, Nelson, BC
Just 25 minutes from downtown Nelson, Whitewater Ski Resort is a world-class ski destination that still enjoys a well-deserved laid-back reputation. Serviced by four lifts and offering family-friendly slopes, remarkable steeps and tree-skiing and endless backcountry for every level of off-piste adventurer.
Averaging 40 feet of snow annually, and with 81 runs, and part of the Powder Highway, it’s been called “one of the best powder mountains on the continent” by Powder Magazine. With the lodge base at 5400 feet (1646 metres) and lifts up to 6700 feet (2042 metres), it offers consistent and reliable snow for those seeking winter ski getaways.
Kokanee Creek Nature Centre
4902 Hwy 3A, Nelson, BC, V1L 4R9
In August, you can watch thousands of spawning salmon head up the waterways to release their eggs into the water. The Kokanee Creek Provincial Park is one of the top spots to experience the spawning mayhem.
Meadow Creek spawning channels are also very active and produce between 10–15 million fry annually with mean egg-to-fry survival rate of 45%. There are fisheries staff on site during the spawning season which is August through October.