Picture a slice of the interior that hadn’t lost its small town sensibilities for tourism glam. Welcome to Salmon Arm, BC.
For folks bored of the over-developed feel and crowds of more popular interior destinations, Salmon Arm is a quieter, more rugged alternative. A great alternative for families or roadtrippers looking for a down-to-earth, cost-effective getaway.
Vancouver bills itself as a friendly place, but Salmon Arm’s easy hospitality makes you wish that this was your hometown. For the first couple of hours, I felt a little out of place, almost unequipped to strike up conversations with strangers. But small town charm quickly won me over, the memory lingering long after my trip was over.
Wildlife Sanctuary & Marina – Prestige Harbourfront Resort Salmon Arm.
Salmon Arm’s crowning jewel is the Prestige Harbourfront Resort, beautifully situated by the wildlife sanctuary on Shuswap Lake. What sets this luxury option – the town’s only – aside from comparable options is the self-catering nature of many of the suites.
Furnishings are on the sparse side, and lean towards functional rather than hipster – which goes well with the entire theme for the town. This is true rustic comfort, something that most city slickers crave before heading back into their busy lives.
Rustic Comfort & Self-Catering Rooms – Prestige Harbourfront Resort Salmon Arm.
A group of friends or a young family would be equally at home with the fully equipped kitchen (complete with dishes and pots); a great way to save on meal costs and prepare lunches for those long day hikes. The one bedroom option was a great cost-effective option for my family of four, as there were two queen beds in the bedroom and a pull-out couch in the living room.
There was also a full gym and an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, as well as two restaurant options and a breakfast/coffee cafe.
I tried out the dining room option, Aquatico Bay Restaurant, and found the portions to be just as hearty as the hospitality. Prices are reasonable and family-friendly for dinner, with many big healthy entree options available, as well as contemporary favourites.
I had the ‘famous’ Honey Garlic Crispy Chicken Ceasar Salad, which was a rather bizarre combination – the chicken was delicious, but the two opposing sauces didn’t quite mesh together. Still at $12.95 for that portion, you could do much, much worse (full menu here). And that patio is one of the best in town.
Other budget-friendly hotel options recommended by Shuswap Tourism are The Podollan Inn, The Comfort Inn, and Best Western Salmon Arm.
Mavis Staples, legendary rhythm & blues singer opens the 2014 Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival.
Oh god, the Roots & Blues Festival. If you haven’t been, then it’s a must. It’s Salmon Arm’s biggest weekend every August, with approximately 23,000 day-trippers and weekend campers alike hitting the Fairgrounds (a few blocks outside of downtown).
The longevity of the festival ensures that big names come out of their way to Roots & Blues – just as one example, Mavis Staples was the Friday night headliner this year. Beyond that, I’ve never attended an overnight festival with such a nice crowd. The audience is upbeat and low-key, ready to dance and voice their approval to both popular artists and relatively unknowns.
Besides that, Salmon Arm is all about the outdoors. Shuswap Lake is one of the most popular recreational destinations in BC. The 400-plus kilometers of shoreline contain more than 20 provincial parks and offer unlimited water-related recreational opportunities. The surrounding mountains provide beautiful trails for cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, mountain biking and hiking.
Salmon Arm gets local in a way that isn’t pretentious. It’s a quiet of course we make it all ourselves rather than a long-winded menu description.
When I visited bustling hot spot The Barley Station Brew Pub, a blink-and-you-miss-it restaurant off the Trans-Canada Highway, I instantly thought: great food and beer. No wonder it’s so popular. Sustainable, ethically sourced ingredients and many options for special diets made it an instant hit among locals and tourists.
Santa Fe Chicken Salad & Station House Blonde Ale – The Barley Station Brew Pub.
But then I stepped into the bowels of the on-site brewery, and learned exactly how far that commitment and passion extended. The Barley Station produces hand-crafted beer with no preservatives or chemicals. The beer is always in limited small batches, as there are only enough tanks to supply the Brew Pub and close-by sister restaurant, Wicked Spoon.
Stu Bradford, Owner of The Barley Station Brew Pub.
Amazingly enough, owner Stu Bradford runs the whole production line with very little help, taking me through the stages with the practiced ease. The small-scale but taxing production is impressive enough, but wouldn’t matter two spades if the five house beers (and one summer seasonal) didn’t live up to it. Thankfully it did, and I saw many locals coming in to refill their growlers.
Most of the big box stores are just outside of town, allowing downtown Salmon Arm flourish with locally owned stores and services. A favourite stop for groceries are the two farm markets on the way into town. I stopped by DeMille’s Farm Market, which contains fresh produce, meats, a petting zoo, a corn maze, and an ice cream stand.
The local corn and potatoes I brought home were wonderfully fresh and tasty, but have a care when selecting your produce – some of the fruit was a little overripe for my tastes. Be sure to drop by the Cowlicks Ice Cream Bar in the summer for truly gigantic portions. The only challenge was eating it before it all melted.
Two scoops in a cup – Cowlicks Ice Cream Bar.
Salmon Arm is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, with many budget friendly options for young families and couples. I truly enjoyed my time here – next time, I’ll be staying a week to truly soak in the reprieve and explore more of this wonderful part of the Thompson Okanagan.
Disclosure: Stay generously sponsored by Prestige Harbourfront Resort, meal at Aquatico Bay Restaurant & The Barley Station Brew Pub sponsored by Shuswap Tourism. This review was neither paid for nor expected, consists of my own thoughts of the experience.