Ainsworth Hot Springs to Osoyoos
From mountains, spas and the world's biggest penny, to a pocket desert and all the vineyards
you can tour
For a spa experience in beautiful natural surroundings, Ainsworth Hot Springs is one of several such establishments in B.C. It's just down the road from Kaslo, one of the prettiest and most laid-back towns in B.C. The hottest pool features genuine caves. There are three pools in all, including the cold plunge, and the hottest pool is built into genuine caves.
The pools are smallish and the facility has no lockers, which means guests have to fold up their clothes and put them in a bag. Also, there are no lawn or deck chairs around the middle pool, the jets of which are mostly low and weak, except for two or three. The hottest pool has no jets at all, but does have two waterfalls. It's a matter of waiting one's turn.
Ainsworth at least has a restaurant and hotel on site. The restaurant has healthy choices, such as a very good grilled veggie sandwich with avocado and bocconcino slices with a side salad. All around the area are motels and camping sites. However, for shopping, the best bet is Nelson, which is 47 km away along highways 3A and 31. Though the city only has a population of 10,000, it services the area, so it has all the amenities of a bigger municipality. There are several very attractive streets in the downtown area, and visitors can find everything there from yoga classes to theatre and art galleries. One caveat: business hours are not as extended as in a metropolitan area.
Nearby Salmo, around 40 minutes away, is known for its stone murals. These are a project dating from 1990, started by local quarry owner Iris Lamb. Salmo was a mining town that sprang up during the 1896-97 Gold Rush. The local museum features things with names like the Sheep Creek Laundry Exhibit and the Bathhouse Exhibit. Next to a motel, there's the World's Oldest Telephone Booth, which I suspect got its moniker from the 465-year-old tree it was carved from. Down the road, at the city limits, is the World's Biggest (Canadian) Penny. It looks like it's made of papier mâché. Maybe it's really plaster.
Highway 3 to Vancouver, via Castlegar and Osoyoos, is a very winding road with spectacular scenery. Just before Osoyoos, the valley, the lake and the town offer a postcard panorama from on high.
Osoyoos is Canada's only "pocket desert". The name of the town, and lake, means a narrow point where two lakes come together. The area features two desert-centred facilities: the Osoyoos Desert Centre; and the Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre. As the hottest and driest place in the country, the desert area is home to rattlesnakes, scorpions and cacti.
Osoyoos is in the Okanagan, so fruit stands abound on the side of the road. The town boasts several restaurants, such as the Campo Marina Café and Restaurant, which features local wines such as Blue Mountain Winery Pinot Noir and dishes like Angus sirloin with mushrooms in a demi-glace.
There are several campgrounds in and around town. Island View RV Resort has tiny lots with a gravel pad, but it's central.
Many businesses in Osoyoos use the desert theme, with Southwestern-style facades and architecture. There's also a miniature fairground with rides and a windmill that lights up at night.
Orchards dot Highway 3 on the way out of town. It's possible in summer to get apricots and nectarines at prices as low as 50 cents a pound, so it's worth stopping by. There are also many vineyards with wine shops, such as the very photogenic Seven Stones Winery, offering their unique blends in a sun-drenched setting.
Photos of the highway to Osoyoos
Photos of Osoyoos and the Okanagan