Kerry Wiebe, an Alberta cowboy turned entrepreneur, is a great promoter of Kamloops. He is the best public relations entrepreneur and promoter of Kamloops that the city can have. A staunch advocate of Kamloops, he believes quite emphatically that now the time for Kamloops, B.C., a city of 16,000 people, has come and investors should not miss the opportunity.
Kerry doesn’t just pay lip service in his attempt to promote Kamloops but has invested to become the owner of the biggest marina in the city. As one of the major marina developers, he owns Kamloops Bruker Marina & Beach Club located on Kamloops Lake. The marina, which officially opened in the summer of 2013, is situated right beside B.C.’s No. 1 golf course, Tobiano, and the communities of Summers Landing and Lake Star.
The marina is complete with 110 boat slips available for seasonal or annual moorage, an observation deck, public boat launch and beach area, a fuel dock, convenience store and availability for various motor-sport rentals. Also on site is a storage facility, available for monthly boat, RV, camper and other recreational equipment storage.
Wiebe is quick to point out that the time for Kamloops has now come since the B.C. government has imposed a recreational tax on property owners from outside the province but Kamloops has escaped the levy. Kelowna has already taken a hit as a result of the speculation tax designed to cool down prices in major real estate markets in the province. This would help Kamloops, dubbed the Arizona of Canada, with 35-degree temperatures, as the hottest place in Canada, to develop and attract more residents, visitors and investors.
Five minutes from the Bruker Marina is Kamloops’ premier golf course, Tobiano Golf Course, one of the acclaimed golf courses in Canada and winner of several top awards. Ideally located in one of the most striking and untouched areas of the province, it captures the essence of B.C.’s semi-arid desert climate and provides one of the most remarkable landscapes in the province. The combination of 2,000 hours of sunshine and an eight-month season make Kamloops Canada’s hottest golf destination.
Kamloops’ fame is also built on several wineries, a renowned university and aggressive sports organizations. Since 2001, Kamloops has been synonymous with first-class sporting events, combined with an enthusiastic volunteer base and outstanding venues. The city has realized the importance of sports tourism as an economic generator for the area and has adopted the Tournament Capital Program one of its top priorities. The city’s impressive sporting events include hosting tournaments in hockey, curling, athletics, swimming, cross country skiing, judo, soccer at national and provincial level. Hence, no wonder that it calls itself the “Tournament Capital of Canada.”
We began the Kamloops Wine Trail at Monte Creek Ranch, just a 10-minute drive outside Kamloops City limits overlooking the Thompson River. With a cool climate viticulture favourable to grape growing, Kamloops is set to become Canada’s next major wine-growing destination. Monte Creek produces Riesling, Cabernet Merlot, Frontenac Gris, Foch, red and white Hands Up, along with fruit wines, offering fresh and lively table wines.
We stayed at the Hotel 540, a great location downtown and ony six-minute walk to the beach. Featuring a rooftop outdoor swimming pool, a bar and hot tub, this Kamloops hotel offers modern rooms with free Wi-Fi and a dining room and lounge featuring seasonally inspired cuisine and a 24-hour fitness centre. It is considered to be the best value in Kamloops.
Kamloops also has a variety of excellent eateries and restaurants close to the Hotel 540. Our first dinner was at the Brownstone Restaurant. Starting as a corner neighbourhood restaurant in a historic bank site, it is one of the more popular establishments, with warm and elegant ambiance. It places great emphasis on using local products by offering inhouse breads, cheeses and charcuterie; herbs and salads grown on site in their garden courtyard and partnering with local producers of fish and agricultural products.
As a starter, I ordered escargots fricassee in roasted garlics and cremini mushrooms, with baguette. The sumptuous dinner ended with Thai coconut green curried Pacific cod, jasmine rice with fresh cilantro. As our guide rightly advised, “you just can’t go wrong at Brownstone.” We found the service, the food and the ambiance exceptional.
Another outstanding restaurant in Kamloops is Storms on the River, a family-owned establishment on the South Thompson River. Working directly with fishermen near Vancouver, the restaurant receives fresh seafood and makes everything from bread and pasta to condiments and desserts from scratch.
And as if a great meal doesn’t stop at the food, the restaurant partners with local wineries and breweries to offer the best of the region. In summer, the restaurant’s outdoor patio is packed with patrons.
An excellent place to visit for a family with kids is the B.C. Wildlife Park which has been showcasing the province’s wildlife and is one of the few wildlife rehabilitation centres in the province since 1965. The park has 209 animals of over 60 different types, including the only Kermode Bear in human care in the world.
“The animals have been rehabilitated here because either they were orphaned or born in from another facility or brought to the park because their injuries have prevented them from being released back in the wild,” explained Glenn Grant, executive director of the park.
Grant outlined several activities offered by the park for everyone’s enjoyment, which includes feed talks, Bird of Prey shows, a splash park and playground and the Wildlife Express Train. A visit to B.C. Wildlife Park assures visitors, young and old, an educational and entertaining experience.
I was a little sceptical when our guide suggested we have lunch at The Noble Pig before heading to the airport. As a non-eater of pork or ham, I wasn’t sure what to expect at The Noble Pig but was pleasantly surprized to see many choices of non-pig items with house made brews paired with meticulously created food for our noble lunch.
Already numbers of travellers visiting Kamloops has soared at the Kamloops Airport (YKA) during the first three months of 2018. YKA recorded its busiest first quarter on record, welcoming 92,471 travellers through January, February and March. It reflected a 5.8 percent increase over the same period in 2017.
Airport managing director Heather McCarley said she couldn’t attribute the surge to anything other than a growth trend Kamloops is experiencing. “I think passenger numbers tend to reflect the economy, the growth in Kamloops, there is a bit of a tie there,” she said.
There is no doubt that Kamloops, which offers a small-town friendly atmosphere on the shores of two picturesque rivers, spectacular landscapes and a wide range of culinary offerings, is definitely fine-tuned for growth and development. Kamloops’ time has come!
Mansoor Ladha is a Calgary-based journalist, travel writer and author of “Memoirs of a Muhindi: Fleeing East Africa for the West” and “Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims.”