Stuart Forster participates in a walking tour of Kamloops, British Columbia.
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Rolling into the Canadian city of Kamloops marked the end of the first day of a scenic journey from Vancouver to Banff aboard the Rocky Mountaineer luxury train.
As we neared the city of 90,000 people — which, by area, is one of the largest municipalities in Canada — a member of the train’s guest experience team pointed out St Joseph’s Church.
Next to it is a First Nations graveyard. Smallpox, brought by European settlers in the 19th century, wiped out many of the area’s Secwepemc inhabitants. Seeing the eternal flame that burns in memory of one of the Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc chiefs made me keen to explore.
Walking tour of Kamloops
The Tourism Kamloops website has details of a self-guided heritage walking tour of Kamloops.
I started at Riverside Park, where bands perform free-of-charge concerts from 7.00 pm to 9.00 pm each night of the week during July and August.
The North and South Thompson rivers flow together close to the park. A few paces back from the waterfront a stone memorial records the flood levels recorded since Kamloops incorporation in 1893. The level of the 1894 flood was etched well above my head. Did that surge in the water level make settlers question the wisdom of choosing the area as the location of their new home?
Kamloops Chinatown and Chinese cemetery
Many were attracted by the opportunities brought by the Canadian Pacific Railroad.
Numerous Chinese labourers worked on the construction of the line, which helped ensure that British Columbia became a part of Canada rather than the United States of America. Consequently, Kamloops had a sizable Chinatown in the 1890s.
Kamloops has a sizable Chinese cemetery where it’s said that the bones but not the spirits of the migrant workers rest. According to Chinese beliefs, repatriation of their mortal remains to China would be necessary for the latter.
Heading along Victoria Street, I viewed single-storey buildings wedged between brick-built facades that rise two levels. They occupy what were once lanes between long-established premises.
Arrival of the Overlanders
Reading a heritage sign at the location of the opera house, which burnt down in 1932, I discovered that, in addition to recitals and musical performances, it hosted boxing and wrestling bouts, and even basketball games. Canada can even claim a hand in inventing that game. James Naismith, basketball’s inventor, was born in Ontario.
The sculpture depicts Catherine and Augustus Schubert. Catherine gave birth just a day after arriving at Kamloops, six months after beginning the journey.
Robert Service in Kamloops
Brownstone Restaurant (118 Victoria Street; tel. +1-250-851-9939), across the street from the memorial, is regarded as one of Kamloops finest dining establishments. It occupies premises built as the Canadian Bank of Commerce.
Robert Service used to work in the bank. He is now better known as the poet who wrote The Cremation of Sam McGee, which tells of “strange things done in the midnight sun / By the men who moil for gold.” Several of the Canadians in the tour group recognised his work from poetry that they studied in school.
Places to visit in Kamloops
As many as 4,000 cigars a day used to be rolled in a cigar factory erected on 1st Avenue in 1897. From there it’s a short walk to Kamloops Courthouse Gallery (7 Seymour Street). Works by local artists are sold in the gallery.
The basement holds display cabinets with law and order-related exhibits, including an improvised tattoo gun and weapons.
The trial of Billy Miner
The Victorian courthouse is the ideal location to think about the tale of Billy Miner, a train and stagecoach robber from the USA.
He was renowned for his politeness and consequently nicknamed the Gentleman Bandit and also the Grey Fox, on account of his drooping moustache. In 1906 a bungled robbery netted Miner and his two accomplices just $15.15, prompting a manhunt that resulted in their capture and subsequent trial at the courthouse.
After strolling through the city I stopped by the Noble Pig Brewhouse to sink a couple of locally brewed craft beers. It’s one of many bars on Victoria Street, The city is home to several craft breweries and cideries. Wine is produced in the Thompson Valley too, making it a good spot for drinks after a heritage walking tour.
Things to do in Kamloops
While you are in British Columbia you may enjoy the following things to do in Kamloops and the surrounding region:
- Visit the Secwepemc Museum and Heritage Park to discover the area’s First Nations heritage and culture.
- Go fishing on one of the region’s many freshwater lakes. More than 100 are located within an hour’s drive of Kamloops. Autumn is regarded as the best time of year for fishing on still water. The Interior Fly Fishing Company is one of the businesses that can help provide further details.
- Kamloops Bike Ranch is Canada’s largest municipal bike park. Kenna Cartwright Nature Park is also a popular location for cycling and hiking.
- Appreciate good wine? Taste wines with the owners of wineries along the Kamloops Wine Trail.
- From late September into mid-October view sockeye battling upriver during the Adams River Salmon Run north-east of the city.
Want an authentic Canadian experience while you are in Kamloops? Head to the Sandman Centre to watch the Kamloops Blazers play ice hockey.
The team plays in the Western Hockey League, whose regular season typically runs from October into mid-April. The post-season continues until mid-June.
Map of Kamloops
The map below shows the location of Kamloops in British Columbia, Canada. Zoom into the map to see details of streets and find locations within the city:
Google Map of Kamloops, British Columbia
Travel to Kamploops
The Rocky Mountaineer luxury train travels via Kamloops on two of its routes.
Kamloops features on both the First Passage to the West (between Vancouver and Banff) and the Journey Through the Clouds (between Vancouver and Jasper) routes.
Flying? Kamloops Airport (YKA) is approximately 15 minutes’ drive northwest of the city.
I stayed at the four-star Sandman Signature Kamloops (225 Lorne Street, Kamloops; tel. +1-250-377-7263), a modern hotel overlooking the South Thompson River and Riverside Park.
Books about British Columbia
Planning a trip to British Columbia? You can buy the following books via Amazon by clicking on the links or cover photos:
Lonely Planet guidebook to British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies:
The Tourism Kamloops website has information about things to do and see in the city.
Thank you for visiting Go Eat Do and reading this post about the self-guided heritage walking tour of Kamloops, British Columbia. Planning a trip to Canada? You may enjoy this post about travel photography in Canada.
Photos illustrating this post are by Why Eye Photography.
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A version of this post was originally published on Go Eat Do on 14 May 2017.