Okay, so I’ve been to Vancouver a ton of times. In fact, the west coast city is probably my favourite Canadian spot to visit. The fact that it’s a metropolitan city surrounded by mountains and right on the ocean is pretty much my idea of the most perfect city ever (and seriously, it has the freshest air I have ever smelled). Typically when I visit I always fly direct from Winnipeg to Vancouver, but with the launch of so many low-cost airlines recently, it’s actually more budget conscious to fly into Abbotsford instead.
Abbotsford is located is about an hour’s drive from Vancouver, and I’ll be honest, I was always under the assumption that if I ever flew into the city, I would make my way straight to Vancouver. Well friends, after having visited Abbotsford, I can tell you that it’s definitely a place you’ll want to make a stop into.
Abbotsford is home to just shy of 150,000 residents (it’s the largest municipality in the province after Metro Vancouver) and is the near the Canada-United States border, Greater Vancouver, and the Fraser River. You can fly direct from Winnipeg to Abbotsford through Flair Airlines, which is how I chose to get there last week. Tourism Abbotsford actually invited myself down, as well as another blogger friend, Kiki from Pursuing Pretty, to experience the Fraser Valley Sunflower Trail (which I blogged about last Friday). Although most of our stops were sunflower-related, we also got to experience activities in and around the area, which I’m so excited to share with you. Since Abbotsford is bordered by various other towns, districts, and cities, there really is a ton of stuff to do in the area.
Where to stay
As soon as we landed at Abbotsford International Airport, we drove a short five minutes to the Brookside Inn Boutique Hotel (2379 Chardonnay Lane). Just a note about the Abbotsford International Airport, since it’s small, it literally takes 10 minutes to de-board the plane, grab your luggage, and carry about your day. I love flying into smaller airports since large ones like Vancouver International take forever to check in, drop off your bags, go through security, and get your bags when you return. Oh, and if you’re also renting a car like we did, that takes another 20 minutes at least.
The Brookside Inn is actually located in a residential neighbourhood and is a cute little bed and breakfast with a number of rooms themed to different movies. We stayed in the Under The Tuscan Sun suite, which had a living room with hideaway bed, a bathroom with a stand-alone shower and soaker tub, and a bedroom with walk-in closet and four-poster bed. It also had a large terrace with a sitting area so you can go outside to relax and take in the views of the gardens. There was also a mini fridge in the room with complimentary snacks and water. And of course, there was also the Under The Tuscan Sun DVD and book in the room as well.
I have never stayed in a bed and breakfast before, but I loved every moment of our stay at the Brookside Inn. The room was very large and felt like I was right at home. The owners, Chris and Sandi also were such great hosts and every morning they offer a complimentary breakfast made from local farm-to-fresh ingredients. Seriously, the breakfasts here were one of the highlights since Sandi cooks them herself and we aren’t talking standard muffins or cereal. Our first meal was an omelette with guacamole and sun-dried tomatoes with a side of toast and fresh fruit, whereas the second day we had a poached egg on top of a philopastry with veggies and a side of sausage, fresh fruit and toast. It was definitely the kind of breakfast you would go to a cute cafe or hip restaurant for.
Where to eat
The first day that we were in the city we actually made our way downtown to check out the cute shops and pop into Oldhand Coffee + Bakery in downtown Abbotsford. Grab a latte and a scone and then walk around the downtown area, which is filled with cute shops and restaurants. I guess they redid the downtown a few years ago since the architecture has a restored heritage feel to it. As we were driving there, Kiki mentioned how they often shoot Hallmark Channel movies there and low and behold, they were actually shooting a Christmas one in front of one of the shops.
For some photo ops you can also travel down some of the backlanes as there are a number of cute murals in the area.
Downtown Abbotsford is also home to one of the city’s newest restaurants, Nine Kitchen & Lounge. The restaurant, which also has a cute patio out back, serves up delicious wood-fired pizzas, craft cocktails, and burgers, salads, and more, all made with fresh ingredients. We each had a glass of white wine (from a local winery), as well as a Hawaiian pizza and the Nine salad.
Another great spot to stop in at is Bramble’s Bistro, which is at Tanglebank Gardens (29985 Downes Road). Tanglebank Gardens is a boutique-style nursery that is located in West Abbotsford and has been around since 1996. The family has deep roots in the area and is run by the fourth-generation of owners (with the fifth generation running around as well).
Bramble’s Bistro, located in Tanglebank Gardens is part of the Mt. Lehman Sojourn in the Country, which is a collaboration of like-minded, quality vendors located in the Mt. Lehman area of West Abbotsford. The idea of the partnership is to experience the best of country living in the area. Other businesses include wineries, restaurants, and shops.
We went to Bramble’s Bistro for brunch and I had the lavender French toast, which was so delicious. Since there are so many farms in the area, it seems like locally sourced farm-to-table ingredients are a huge thing in Abbotsford and I’m all for it. Even if you aren’t stopping in for food, I highly recommend popping by to check out the nursery and walk through the gardens.
What to do
Aside from seeing the sunflowers (we went to Taves Family Farms, Maan Farms, Eco-Dairy, and the Chilliwack Sunflower Festival – read about it here), there are so many fun things to do in Abbotsford, best of all, most of them are outdoors!
One of my favourite activities we did (and much needed in 30-degree weather) was drive to Cultus Lake and rent a boat. Cultus Lake is actually located in Chilliwack and there are a number of recreational things to do there (including a waterpark). We went to the Cultus Lake Marina and rented a boat to take out on the lake for a few hours.
Now Kiki and I have never driven a boat before (they also offer skidoos, wakeboards, tubes, and other watercraft), but that didn’t matter since they show you a video beforehand and then someone goes over the steps again before trusting you with the keys (they also give you a temporary boating licence in case you get pulled over by the RCMP). Once we got the boat (although they offer a number of different sizes, we got the nine-person one, it was the only one available at that time), we drove out in the lake and just parked it so we could hop in the water. Cultus Lake is right the middle of a number of mountains, so I truly was living my best BC life.
Also near Chilliwack is Harrison Mills, where we made our way to the Sandpiper Resort. We stayed at Rowena’s Inn on the River which is located on the resort (which also has a large golf course). This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me since the property is so beautiful and our accommodations were one of their new cabins. Although they actually had accommodations for us in two separate cabins (one of the older, more rustic ones and one of the new ones), Kiki and I decided to just stay in the new one since it was a two-bedroom anyways.
Rowena’s Inn on the River is the perfect getaway spot since it’s located on the golf course and gives you views of the mountains and river on one side and forest on the other. As soon as we checked in, we quickly changed into our bathing suits and made our way to the pool, which is in front of the grand estate (and seriously, the cutest photo ops!).
After the pool, we made our way back to the cabin to change and sip some wine on the deck before heading to the Clubhouse Restaurant for dinner. We split a couple of the burgers and fries (they were seriously so delish!), but the menu also boasts steak and seafood (including salmon from the area).
Our flight home was an early one, but thankfully the Abbotsford International Airport was about 45 minutes away from Sandpiper Resort (plus at 5 a.m. there isn’t a ton of traffic). Again, since the airport is small, it took no time to drop off the rental, check in our bags, pass through security, and find our gate.
I had the most amazing time in Abbotsford, and although the point of the trip was to to explore the sunflower trail, I was so happy to see and experience a number of other things that the area has to offer. Even though we were so close to Vancouver, I didn’t once feel like I was missing out by not going there and doing all my favourite Vancouver things. If you are planning a B.C. trip, I highly recommend you add Abbotsford and area on the itinerary, even if the trip is revolving around Vancouver. Fly into the Abbotsford airport, rent a car, explore a sunflower field or two, experience an amazing farm-to-table meal, check out the hospitality at one of the resorts, and just enjoy yourself in a city that truly is cultivated.
Have you been to Abbotsford, BC?
Please note, this trip was in collaboration with Tourism Abbotsford and Flair Airlines, who provided airfare, accommodations, food, transportation, and access to all activities. All opinions are my own.
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