One of the pleasures of a road trip is discovering unexpected places. I spent several weeks last summer and fall road-tripping across western Canada between Vancouver and the Canadian Rockies, and one of those unexpected places for me was the small town of Kaslo, British Columbia.
My base in Kaslo was the historic Kaslo Hotel. Here’s the scoop:
Where is Kaslo?
Kaslo is located in B.C.’s West Kootenays region on the shore of Kootenay Lake.
It’s 450 miles (730 kilometers) east of Vancouver and about 300 miles (480 kilometers) southwest of Banff. It’s an hour’s drive (44 miles, or 70 kilometers) between Kaslo and the town of Nelson.
The history of the Kaslo Hotel
The original Kaslo Hotel was built in 1896 during an era when Kaslo was an active logging and mining community. As those industries began to decline, the hotel did as well, closing its doors in the 1920s.
During World War II, the rundown building was used as housing for Japanese-Canadians who were forcibly relocated from coastal British Columbia. (If you’re interested in learning more about this dark period in Canadian history, take a side trip from Kaslo to the nearby town of New Denver, where the excellent Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre, housed in a former internment camp, is now a museum and historic site. Its serene Japanese garden is shown in the above photo.)
After suffering a fire following the end of the Second World War, the Kaslo Hotel was torn down and what stands on the site today is essentially a modern reconstruction of that historic hotel. It was rebuilt in 1958 and later extensively renovated and updated.
Guest rooms and amenities
The Kaslo Hotel has 11 traditionally furnished guest rooms with modern bathrooms and private balconies. The rooms on the building’s front side face the town’s main street, while those at the rear overlook Kootenay Lake. Rooms have work desks, mini-fridges (handy for storing your road trip snacks), coffeemakers, and electric teakettles.
There’s a microwave in the hallway that guests can use, and if you’re headed for the lake, ask for a beach towel at the front desk. The hotel also provides rags for cleaning your hiking boots, mountain bikes, or other outdoor gear, since many guests are here to enjoy the outdoors. On the hotel’s main level, a casual restaurant and pub have windows over the lake.
Double room rates at the Kaslo Hotel start at CAD$150. Rates include wi-fi as well as local and long-distance calls within North America.
With Kootenay Lake at its back door, the Kaslo Hotel is a great base for kayakers. Kaslo Kayaking, located a few blocks from the hotel, rents kayaks and leads kayaking tours. I went for a morning paddle on the lake, and it’s a beautiful way to explore.
If you want to know how travelers traveled along the lake in the early 20th century, stop into the S.S. Moyie National Historic Site, down the street from the hotel. Built in 1898, it’s the world’s oldest intact passenger sternwheeler, and it operated until 1957.
About 20 minutes’ drive south of Kaslo are the Ainsworth Hot Springs, natural mineral pools now managed by the Lower Kootenay Band of the Ktunaxa First Nations. The bubbling hot springs have an unusual horseshoe-shaped cave where you can soak in dark, secluded nooks. Just the thing to soothe any road-trip cramped muscles!
Head southeast of Kaslo toward the fun and funky town of Nelson, which has an excellent art and history museum, Touchstones Nelson, lots of eclectic shops, plenty of cafes, and an assortment of interesting places to eat. From Kaslo, you could easily drive to Nelson for a day, or continue on to Nelson as part of your road trip across B.C.
Because when you’re road tripping, you never know what you might discover.
Hotel feature by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller, author of the books Moon Handbooks: Ontario (now available in a new 2nd edition) and Living Abroad in Canada. Photos © Carolyn B. Heller. Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism hosted my stay at the Kaslo Hotel, while I was researching a new travel guide, Moon Vancouver and Canadian Rockies Road Trip, that will be published in summer 2016.