Chilliwack Sunflower Festival | Blrrd Creativ
Good things are growing in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley. Small businesses are popping up like mushrooms after the rain. Life is being breathed into gentrifying downtown cores. There’s a “homegrown and handmade” ethos that’s stirring a sense of place and pride – and it’s caught the attention of travellers. The region, bisected by Highway 1, has often been overlooked by those making their way to Vancouver or road-trippers heading inland to B.C.’s wine country. But the valley stands as a destination itself. There are many reasons to visit – The Abbotsford Tulip Festival and Chilliwack Tulip Festival in April, lavender blooms in June and July, The Chilliwack Sunflower Festival in August and pumpkin patches in fall – and even more reasons to stay. Travel, to eat and drink your way through this edible landscape, but also to meet its butchers, bakers and soy candle makers.
Go wine tasting in Abbotsford
Mt. Lehman Winery
Address: 5782 Mt. Lehman Road
Tasting room hours: Daily from 12:00 – 5:30 p.m.
Mt. Lehman Winery
Address: 5094 Mt. Lehman Road
Tasting room hours: Daily from 12:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Seaside Pearl Winery
Address: 5290 Olund Road, Abbotsford
Tasting room hours: 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. Tuesday – Sunday
Seaside Pearl Winery
With its temperate climate, the Fraser Valley is better suited to growing white grapes. Don't miss Siggy (Siegerrebe) at Singletree and Charlotte Estate Petit Milo at Seaside Pearl. Those who favour reds should sample Pearl's Lovers Lane Cabernet Franc.
Although the order you visit doesn't matter, it's worth noting Singletree has a licensed picnic area and Seaside Pearl offers indoor seating and an outdoor patio.
Restaurant 62, Abbotsford
Address: 110-33559 Marshall Road, Abbotsford
Tel: (604) 855-3545
If there is one reservation you'd be remiss not to make, it’s at Abbotsford’s Restaurant 62. Though it’s widely acknowledged as the Fraser Valley’s original farm-to-table restaurant, Chef Jeff Massey’s locavore menu pre-dates the trend. He simply aims to “make good dishes out of good ingredients” while admitting “good food is hard work.” The menu rotates with seasonality and availability, but the Yarrow duck breast dressed in cherry jus is a steadfast favourite and when morel mushrooms are in season, one must indulge.
Valley Food + Farm Collective Thursday market, Abbotsford
Address: 2518 West Railway Street, Abbotsford
Market hours: 4 – 8 p.m. on Thursdays, May through November
On Thursday evenings, local vendors and purveyors gather at The Rail District Collective in downtown Abbotsford. Strings of Edison bulbs are draped from the venue's timber frame interior and a stage awaits its next performer. The scene is lively. Millennial parents walk hand-in-hand with toddlers, couples line up for artisanal ice cream and, depending on the week, there's a live cooking demonstration. Folks stow fresh produce into canvas bags and sip kombucha on tap. Outside, an A-frame playhouse invites kiddos to use their imaginations while friends gather at high tops over craft beer. This is the Valley Food + Farm Collective Thursday market.
Field House Brewing, Abbotsford
Field House Brewing | Sean Dalin
Address: 2281 W Railway Street, Abbotsford
Tel: (604) 776-2739
There are many reasons to love Field House Brewing. To start, founder Josh Vanderheide. Vanderheide is a relative newcomer to the community, having left his advertising job in Vancouver to relocate to Abbotsford in 2015. Since then, he opened Field House Brewing and spearheaded Valley Food + Farm Collective, a not-for-profit that stewards and engages food culture in the Fraser Valley. But the most obvious reason to love Field House Brewing is the beer. The juicy Dark Sour is dangerously delicious – it's a berry-forward brew that's 10 per cent but doesn't taste it. The Strawberry Tart Saison belongs to the Farmland Series, meaning it's crafted entirely with Fraser Valley grain, hops and fruit.
Vanderheide's dedication to local ingredients means creative brews but also extends to the dishes served by Field House's kitchen. The pizza and mac n'cheese temper cravings for comfort food, but it's an exquisite charcuterie board that's the real surprise here. Sourced from local makers, it's a taste of the entire Fraser Valley on a single wood board.
Drop by on a Thursday evening for The Field Sessions, an outdoor live music series that runs until late September.
Shop curated boutiques in downtown Abbotsford
Old Hand Cafe | Jennifer Hubbert
A visit to downtown Abbotsford – affectionately dubbed “downtown Abby” – offers a portrait of hygge-hip gentrification. First, get caffeinated at Oldhand Coffee, a café that evokes an HGTV farmhouse renovation: shiplap walls, an exposed beam ceiling, stamped concrete floors, fig trees and vintage school room seating.
Next, shop carefully curated boutique retailers. Peruse Spruce Market Collective for home décor, cards and gifts; Yes Chef for kitchen provisions; and Montrose & George General Store for sensible threads and accessories.
Snack + savour in downtown Abbotsford
Don’t leave downtown Abby without an armful of snacks.
Sweet and savoury aromas waft from Duft & Co Bakehouse where daily specials revolve around seasonal ingredients. One day it's caramelized onion, thyme and goat cheese Danish pastries; the next it's maple bacon donuts.
Up and around the block at The Polly Fox, gluten and allergen-free snacks mean everyone can enjoy fritters, bars, sandwiches, buns, bread and more. They're mostly vegan, too. Next door, HABIT Project serves up fresh-pressed juices and blended smoothies made from Fraser Valley produce. HABIT was founded in 2016 by sisters Danielle and Mariah Bruinsma, to share their passion for life balance, wellness and the healing power of food.
Campbell’s Gold Honey Farm & Meadery, Abbotsford
Campbell’s Gold Honey Farm & Meadery
Address: 2595 Lefeuvre Road, Abbotsford
Tel: (604) 856-2125
A visit to Campbell’s Gold Honey Farm & Meadery offers a taste of this ancient beverage but even more intriguing, a myriad of infused honeys. Our picks include creamed honey infused with garlic and, separately, cinnamon. In addition to perusing the tasting room and shop, visitors can learn all about beekeeping and how honey and its products are derived on a one-hour educational tour. Tours are by appointment only, cost eight dollars per person and require a minimum of five participants.
Local Harvest Market, Chilliwack
Address: 7697 Lickman Road
Tel: (604) 846-6006
If you enjoyed Restaurant 62, Field House Brewing and HABIT Project's farm-fresh ingredients, pay a visit to their produce purveyor Local Harvest. Here, it’s not uncommon to see chefs from around the Fraser Valley tracking through the mulchy fields, sampling in-season ingredients alongside Dan Oostenbrink, a champion of Fraser Valley permaculture farming.
Travellers can shop the country market for veggies, herbs, farm-raised proteins, fresh-baked bread and provisions, but a visit is made even more worthwhile on Saturdays when the outdoor oven churns out thin-crust pizzas loaded with veggies.
Bravo Restaurant & Lounge, Chilliwack
The Fraser Valley | Robyn Bessenger
Address: 46224 Yale Road
Tel: (604) 792-7721
In Chilliwack, Chef Jared McCunn of Bravo Restaurant & Lounge serves up casual fine dining made with ingredients he grows in his own garden. A respectable martini menu washes down tender house-made gnocchi, port-braised beef with truffle mash and other gourmet Pacific Northwest fare with international influences.
Old Yale Brewing, Chilliwack
Address: 44550 South Sumas Road, Chilliwack
Tasting room hours: Sunday - Wednesday 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.; Thursday - Saturday 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Take a seat on a picnic table or sink into a green Adirondack chair in the tasting room of Old Yale Brewing. Either way, you'll be admiring a gorgeous view of Mount Cheam (okay, it's a mural – but can you locate the tiny hidden Sasquatch?) and making fast friends with the folks pouring Old Yale's fine craft brews. On sunny days, the front commercial-size garage door is retracted, opening the space to expansive pastoral views.
Old Yale's vibes might be millennial cool but it's been brewing craft beer since 1999. Sasquatch Stout was voted 2014's "Best Beer in Canada" and tasting room rep Lauren Kempers dares craft beer non-enthusiasts to sample the Knotty Blonde – the brew she dubs "a conversion beer" because "it gets people who don't drink craft beer to love it."
Rustic Soap Company, Chilliwack
Address: 42537 S Sumas Road, Chilliwack
Hours: Thursday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Rustic Soap Company Founder Tawnya Walsh has been making small-batch soap since 1999. She's since expanded into beauty care and items for home. Her gentle line of chemical-free products includes eczema hemp oil, salves, balms, room and linen spray, bath bombs, lotions, soap, essential oils, soy candles and clay masks.
In 2016 she opened her affectionately named "soap shack," which features on the Chilliwack Circle Farm Tour. We left with a bag of goodies that included lavender room spray, B.C. Glacial Clay Facial Mask and a rosemary–mint soy candle. And if you fall in love with her provisions, she ships Canadian orders of $100+ for free.
Fort Langley Village
Find charming storefronts in darling Fort Langley Village where Republica Coffee Roasters and Sabà Café compete in popularity, shops Bella & Wren, Aimee B. Clothing and Fort + Co. sell trendy wardrobes and Livingroom Fort Langley and Maven offer covet-worthy home décor and jewelry.
For lunch, duck into the eatery at Trading Post Brewing for craft beer served with elevated pub fare and a dose of local nostalgia. For seasonally-driven fine dining, head to Fortitude where the entire menu tempts.
Fort Langley National Historic Site
A trip to Fort Lanley Village must include a visit to Fort Langley National Historic Site. The Fort’s history is inextricably entwined with British Columbia’s proclamation as a colony. To stroll through the Fort’s timber outbuildings is to literally walk through the past; fascinating on its own, but better when enlivened by Parks Canada costumed interpreters. Stand in rapture as guide Andrew Bellefontaine shares histories as dramatic as an HBO miniseries.
Parks Canada operates an annual calendar of events at the Fort but feature events include Vive les Voyageurs festival (January), Brigade Days (August long weekend), and arguably the most popular: Grave Tales, which tours visitors through Fort Langley Village after dark. (Mid-October through early November.)
Roots and Wings Distillery, Langley
Address: 7897 - 240th Street Langley
Tasting room hours: Friday to Sunday, noon - 5 p.m.
On Langley’s Circle Farm Tour route, meet moonshine mama Rebekah Crowley and sample her artisanal spirits at Roots and Wings Distillery. Vital Vodka is her inaugural libation but small batch production yields creative seasonals like horseradish, dill, and honey and hops. Keep an eye on R.A.W.'s online event calendar for activities like Slow Flow Into Caesars Yoga Class which take place against the distillery's farmland and mountainscape backdrop.
Fraser Valley Cider Company, Langley
Fraser Valley Cider Company
Address: 22128 16 Ave, Langley City
Tasting room hours: Friday & Saturday 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Follow the encouraging hand-painted yard signs to reach the orchard-set tasting room of Fraser Valley Cider Company, nestled in a pocket of pastoral calm. Outdoor picnic tables, umbrellas and a feature food truck invites guests to lounge a while as they sip proprietor Rachel Bolongaro's small-batch, B.C. apple ciders. Order a tasting flight or tip your glass to imbibe seasonals like ginger, smoked sage, gin botanical (a collaboration with Roots and Wings Distillery), or plum basil – while they last.
Township 7, Langley
Address: 21152 16 Avenue, Langley City
Tasting room hours: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Township 7 is no secret but its three-acre vineyard and tasting room, set back from a sleepy section of 16 Avenue, are a real gem. The winery is well reputed for its portfolio of 90+ point scoring wines; we're especially fond of the NBO vintage. Check ahead to time your visit with one of the winery's many seasonal events.
Where to stay
Much of the lodging in the Fraser Valley is mid-range, serving business, tournament and through-travellers. However, there are some true gems to be mined.
Brookside Inn, Abbotsford
Breakfast at Brookside Inn | Jennifer Hubbert
Address: 2379 Chardonnay Lane, Abbotsford
Abbotsford’s Brookside Inn, named TripAdvisor’s best small hotel in Canada, is most unexpected – for many reasons. Tucked into a quiet residential community, the bed and breakfast offers luxury without pretension in six spacious suites, themed for movies: Under the Tuscan Sun, Midnight in Paris, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Secret Garden, Roman Holiday, The Thomas Crown Affair and A Good Year. Proprietors Chris and Sandi Buis are welcoming hosts, happy to impart local recommendations to enquiring travellers. Start your day in the salon with an exquisite breakfast, prepared by Sandi, using garden-grown ingredients.
oTENTik, Fort Langley National Historic Site
Address: 23433 Mavis Avenue, Langley City
From May through mid-October, travellers can get a historic glamping experience at Fort Langley National Historic Site. There are five oTENTiks – structures described as “a cross between an A-frame cabin and a prospector tent” – located within the Fort’s palisade. A night spent here inspires Night At The Museum feels. In the morning, wander over to lelem’ at the Fort, an Indigenous owned-and-operated café that continues to supply food to Fort Langley, a Kwantlen First Nation legacy that dates back to the Fort’s days as a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post. Light sleepers take note: infrequent trains run nearby throughout the night. $120 per night; book well in advance.
The Royal Hotel, Chilliwack
Address: 45886 Wellington Avenue, Chilliwack
In downtown Chilliwack, The Royal Hotel offers comfort and antique charm. The building is more than a century old, but a gentle renovation means modern creature comforts like air conditioning complement original Douglas fir woodwork and clawfoot tubs.
How to get to the Fraser Valley
Car – driving times from Vancouver:
Langley: 47 kilometres; 45+ minutes
Abbotsford: 71 kilometres; 55+ minutes
Chilliwack: 102 kilometres; 1h 10m +
Abbotsford International Airport (YXX)
Vancouver International Airport (YVR)
Disclosure: My visit was coordinated through Destination BC with the support of Tourism Abbotsford, Tourism Langley and Tourism Chilliwack. All opinions are my own.