Art…Heritage…Charm…Friendliness… These are Windermere words. Warm sunny days and crisp mountain evenings. Ruffles on the lake and sunset on the Purcells.
Located on the eastern shores of Windermere Lake, this charming town of high style and low-key rhythm is fast becoming a favourite spot for fishing, boardsailing, hang-gliding, swimming and golf.
Windermere is rich in heritage. The valley’s first commercial buildings were constructed here as early as 1883, and some of them are still there!
Windermere artists are happy to open their doors and show how it’s done; wood carving, ceramics, glass blowing, and more! The town folks are friendly, and the setting is spectacular.
If you love a good story, you simply have to visit The Stolen Church. The incredible romance behind the the story of the the Stolen Church makes it a wonderful spot to visit, photograph, or get married in. Windermere’s favourite pioneer tale began with St. Peter’s Anglican Church in the railway town of Donald, over 200 km away. When a Mrs. Kimpton moved from Donald in 1897, she so missed her church that her husband literally stole it from under the noses of the town officials, shipped it by wagon and barge to Windermere, and had it rebuilt at its present location!
Laze the day away under a maple tree at the Windermere Beach. Pack up a picnic and let the kids loose in the playground, shake out your towel and come for a dip – the Windermere Beach focuses on fun! Just a leisurely walk from the Town Centre.
The broad sandy beach fronting Windermere Lake at James Chabot Provincial Park, 2 miles (3 km) west of Hwy 93, just north of Windermere, attracts travellers searching for a pleasant, landscaped environment, great swimming, windsurfing, sailing and fishing.
Windsurfing can be an especially elevating experience when it takes place between the towering peaks of the Rockies and the serrated ridges of the Purcells. Windermere Lake is the place to go for this serene activity. Launch from the wide, sandy beach in James Chabot Provincial Park in Invermere where strong winds arise with regularity on summer afternoons. Farther south at Canal Flats Provincial Park, windsurfers can breeze along on Columbia Lake, getting a head start on the same waters that eventually flow through the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, one of the preeminent windsurfing spots on the continent.
Skiing: Due to its remote location in the Toby Creek Valley of the Purcell Mountains, Panorama Mountain Ski Resort is more of a mountain retreat, comfortably able to handle 7,000 day-skiers – only 3,000 skiers and boarders show up on a busy day. Panorama has all the trappings of a tremendous destination resort: walk-to-lifts accommodation, high-speed quad chairlifts, 4,300 vertical feet (1,320 m) of skiing, and even several outdoor hot tubs located right at the base of the lifts for soaking your weary bones after a day on the slopes. Skiers looking to improve their form need go no farther than Panorama’s famous ski school. There’s also great cross-country skiing on a network of 19 miles (30 km) of trails that winds its way through the woods at the base of the mountain. Panorama Ski Resort is located 11 miles (17 km) west of Invermere on Toby Creek Road, and 20 miles (32 km) north of Fairmont Hot Springs. Invermere and Windermere are well located to provide accommodation for Panorama Ski Resort.
Skiers can also head out to the Fairmont Hot Springs Ski Resort for downhill skiing and snowboarding on the 300-metre vertical rise serviced by a T-bar and rope tow. Twenty kilometres of groomed trails are available for cross-country skiing. Night skiing is available for four nights each week.
Hot Springs: The largest and most popular hot spring pool complex in Canada, with nearly 1,000 square metres of pools, the internationally renowned Fairmont Hot Springs Resort soothe visitors year-round with the curative powers of the 35 to 45 deg C waters.
Biking: For an easy, scenic ride, West Side Road is perfect. It’s more than 16 miles (26 km) of paved road running along the west side of Windermere Lake. The road starts just north of Columbia Lake on Hwy 93/95, just south of Fairmont Hot Springs, and heads north to Invermere. Take Toby Creek Road west out of Invermere to explore the Panorama Resort trails.
Golf: The layout of the 18-hole course at the Windermere Valley Golf Course on Windermere Loop Road is fairly wide open, with superbly maintained fairways and greens that ensure an enjoyable experience for golfers of all skill levels. Nearby golf courses include Eagle Ranch Golf Resort in Invermere, Spur Valley Greens and Radium Hot Springs Resort (Radium Course and Springs Course) in Radium Hot Springs, and the 2 courses at Fairmont Hot Springs; Riverside Golf Resort and Mountainside Golf Course.
Golf Vacations in British Columbia.
Fishing: Windermere Lake has good trout fishing. You’ll find a boat launch at James Chabot Provincial Park.
Camping is also available at Dry Gulch Provincial Park, 15 km north of Fairmont Hot Springs on Hwy 93. Dry Gulch is frequently used as an overflow campground for the popular Kootenay National Park nearby.
Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Park is in a class of its own. Early in this century, Earl Grey, then Governor-General of Canada, crossed the Purcell Mountains from Invermere in the Columbia Valley to Argenta on Kootenay Lake. His route followed a trail up Toby Creek and down Hamill Creek over a 7,401-foot (2257 m) pass. This route, later named the Earl Grey Pass Trail, had already been well defined by the Shuswap Indians. Despite Grey’s urging to set aside this magnificently scenic area as a park, not much was done until the 1970s, when the area was designated as a roadless tract in which the natural environment would remain undisturbed by any development. Consequently, there’s no road access, and all forms of mechanized access are prohibited, including helicopters. Over 85 miles (137 km) of hiking trails, challenging mountaineering, horse riding, and winter recreation await backpackers in the five biogeoclimactic zones spread throughout this central portion of the Purcell Mountains. Access the park via the Toby Creek Trail from Invermere.
Kootenay National Park blankets almost 350,000 acres (140,600 hectares) north of Windermere. Its lands were ceded to the federal government from British Columbia in 1919. In return, the federal government built the Banff-Windermere Road (Hwy 93) – the first motor road through the Canadian Rockies. Situated on the west side of the Continental Divide, Kootenay National Park extends across the valleys of the Vermilion and Kootenay Rivers, touches on the Rocky Mountain Trench at Radium Hot Springs (north of Fairmont), and straddles the Main and Western Ranges of the Rockies. Some of these peaks rise to 11,000 feet (3355 m). The park features three major campgrounds: Redstreak Campground, McLeod Meadows Campground and Marble Canyon Campground, with a total of over 400 campsites. The park also offers fabulous backpacking and great hiking trails, including the Floe Lake/Hawke Creek Trail and the Stanley Glacier Trail.
Circle Tours: See the best of the area on the Okanagan and Kootenay Rockies Circle Tour or the Kootenay Rockies Hot Springs Circle Tour. Travel the sunny interior of British Columbia, north through the Okanagan to Sicamous, following Highway 1 into the mountains of the BC Rockies. From Golden, head south through the Columbia Valley to Creston, and west through Boundary Country and the Southern Okanagan to complete the loop.
Circle Tours in British Columbia.