An easy and popular day trip from Cranbrook is to Kimberley, a small Bavarian themed town in southeastern British Columbia, west of Cranbrook and nestled in the foothills of the Purcells . The town was named after the famous Kimberley diamond mine in South Africa, While there are no diamonds here, for almost 100 years this town was home to the world’s largest lead-zinc ore (or “gallena”) mine, the Sullivan Mine (which has been closed for more than a decade). Kimberley’s main industry now is tourism. Kimberley is among Canada’s highest altitude cities at 1110m above sea level.
The town has picked a Bavarian theme for it’s central downtown area, known as the “Platzl”. This pedestrian walkway is home to a number of restaurants serving pretty fair Bratwurst and strudel , coffee and gift shops. You’ll also find Canada’s largest free-standing cuckoo-clock, which you can watch yodel for a loonie (Canadian dollar coin). If you’re like John Travolta’s character in the movie, Michael, this is an attraction you won’t want to miss. We arrived after the Labor Day weekend and this downtown area was almost completely closed. I guess the summer season ends when the kids are back in school and the winter season doesn’t start until there’s a good base of snow on the mountains, with little to do in between these seasons.
Our favorite stop in Kimberley was Cominco Gardens, a pleasant oasis of colorful flower beds and shaded lawns, with welcoming benches. The grounds were extremely well cared for and it was most pleasant walking through the gardens, enjoying the blossoms (before frost would shortly destroy them), the setting framed by the majestic Purcells. The Gardens are only a 3 minute drive uphill from the Platzl (or about a 15 minute walk). Another popular and, at 1977 acres (800 ha), spacious park in which to hike or bike is Kimberley Nature Park, the largest incorporated park in Canada (even larger than Vancouver’s Stanley Park). The Nature Park is intended for more strenous activity while the Cominco Gardens most definitely was meant for strolling.
Although it was closed when we visited, the Kimberley Underground Mining Railway is popular with kids in the summer. It features an underground mining interpretive center, with thorough instruction in mining and the life of a miner. The center is operated by the Sullivan Mine and Railway Historical Society. A train ride in this attraction takes you through the forested valley as well as into the mine.
The above attractions are really relatively minor compared to the city’s main appeal, that being as a hub for outdoor recreation. In winter, Kimberley is a popular skiing destination and is home to the Kimberley Alpine Ski Resort. There is also world-class snowboarding and snowmobiling, and in the summer fishing, mountain biking, hiking, whitewater rafting, kayaking, and golf are popular. In the fall, they roll up the sidewalks….
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, right arrow to advance slideshow)