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13 Best Things To Do In Nelson BC, Canada (2023)

Nelson is a lovely village located on the shores of the west arm of the Kootenays and a must-visit on any British Columbia road trip.

Located in a beautiful valley, the majestic peaks of the rugged Selkirk mountains tower over this charming Canadian town. It may be only a small city (11.000 residents) but there are many things to do in Nelson BC.

With a rich heritage, an incredibly varied food and coffee scene, hiking trails, and many other outdoor activities, it's easy to spend at least a couple of days in Nelson.

Be warned though, you might end up staying a lot longer as the town has such a relaxed vibe you won't want to leave.

Top things to do in Nelson BC

Kootenay Lake British Columbia Canada

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What to do in Nelson BC: map

Click here for the interactive map.

What is the best time to visit Nelson BC?

While Nelson is a year-round destination, the most popular time to visit Nelson is between June and August. During these months, the days are long and (mostly) sunny, and temperatures are comfortable (15-23°).

The summer season is perfect for the many outdoor activities Nelson and the surrounding area have to offer.

Upper Arrow Lake British Columbia

May and September are nice months to visit Nelson as well, while temperatures are a bit lower you will get to admire beautiful flowers in Spring and the leaves turning color in Autumn.

The winter months are cold in Nelson, but if you are a fan of winter activities (like many people in Canada) this can be a wonderful time to plan a trip to Nelson.

The surrounding mountains are covered in a thick layer of snow which not only makes for picture-postcard views but there are plenty of skiing opportunities just a short drive from Nelson's main street.

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Where to stay in Nelson BC?

There are plenty of accommodation options in Nelson, from budget options (campgrounds, hostels, and house-sitting) to mid-range and luxury hotels.

Best hotels in Nelson BC

If you're looking for a nice hostel or hotel in Nelson, there are several great options. I've collected some of the best places to stay in Nelson in the table below.

Dancing Bear Inn Hostel ☆☆8.6US$125Click here
Cloudside Hotel☆☆☆9.2US$241Click here
The Savoy☆☆☆☆8.4US$357Click here
Prestige Lakeside Resort☆☆☆☆8.3US$337Click here
Hume Hotel & Spa☆☆☆☆☆8.9US$285Click here

Note: Prices for these hotels depend on the time of year and how far in advance you book. Therefore, the prices mentioned above are a rough indication of the price per night to help you compare the different options. Use ‘click here' to see the latest prices on Booking and book ahead to get the best deal.


Red campervan with mountains in backdrop Canada

Camping is a great option if you love the outdoors as much as we do and you've got your own campervan or rented one.

There are many beautiful campgrounds around Nelson, the Nelson City Campground is just a 5-minute walk from Baker Street.

If you are traveling to Canada on a budget, I recommend downloading the iOverlander app to find (free) places to camp.

Do a house-sit via Trusted Housesitters


We did a house-sit in Nelson via Trusted Housesitters and loved spending a couple of days in one place (instead of staying at a different campsite every night). We immediately fell in love with Nelson, it's such a nice town…

If you love animals, house-sitting can be a great option. However, please note that Trusted Housesitters is not a platform to find free accommodation.

A good house sitter is someone who is looking to stay in an area for a longer period of time while taking excellent care of someone’s pets and house.

Check Trusted Housesitters for more information
(and a 25% discount on their membership!)

13 great Nelson BC attractions and sights

1. Explore downtown Nelson

Founded as a mining town in the late 19th century, Nelson has done a great job in preserving its many historic buildings.

The Railway Station, Courthouse, and Firehall are just a few examples of the landmarks found in this pretty town.

On this map, you can find all the heritage sites in the downtown area of Nelson and the town of Kaslo (70 km from Nelson.

Nelson has a lively city center, with Baker Street at its core. Here you can find many shops, restaurants, and bars.

I personally love the cozy Otter Books store (398 Baker Street) with its extensive collection and friendly staff. John Ward Fine Coffee is a great place to grab a cappuccino and a snack.

2. Visit the Touchstones Museum

The Touchstones Museum is the perfect place when you want to learn about the history of Nelson and its surroundings.

There are exhibits about the First People (Sinixt and Ktunaxa nations) as well as information about Nelson's mining history and the development of the first hydroelectric power plants in the province.

The museum is open daily during the summer months, however, in winter it's closed on Mondays.

3. Ride the electric tram

Streetcar 23 Nelson BC Canada

One of the most fun things to do in Nelson is riding the electric tram. Streetcars have been in use in Nelson since 1898 when the first streetcar was installed at the top of Stanley Street.

Fun fact: Nelson was the second town west of Winnipeg that built a streetcar system. | Source: Nelson Kootenay Lake website

Nelson’s Streetcar #23 has been in operation since 1924 and runs between the Prestige Lakeside Resort and the Rose Garden Cafe.

Enjoy a lovely ride along the water and through the park or head to the Tramway Society Museum located in Lakeside Park (#4) to learn more about Nelson's streetcar history.

4. Have a picnic in Rotary Lakeside Park

Lakeside Park is one of the best places to visit in Nelson. Located just north of downtown, at the foot of the iconic BOB (Big Orange Bridge, aka Nelson Bridge), it's where locals and visitors go on sunny days.

To relax, go for a swim, read a book, play a game of volleyball, or simply enjoy the best view across Kootenay Lake.

Or, if you're hungry, get a wrap, salad, or poutine from the Rose Garden Cafe and have a picnic!

5. Get out on the water

West arm of Kootenay Lake at Nelson BC

Nelson lies on the banks of the west arm of Kootenay Lake and therefore offers plenty of water sports such as canoeing, paddling, kayaking, boating, and fishing.

Adventurous travelers can enjoy white water rafting on the Slocan, Salmo, and Lardeau rivers in the beautiful Kootenay Lake area. 

6. Hike the Pulpit Rock trail

This popular and rewarding 3.6km trail (round trip) takes about an hour each way and leads to Pulpit Rock. The trail head is the parking lot at Johnstone Road.

You'll be ascending approximately 340 meters but your effort will be rewarded with a beautiful view over Nelson town and its surroundings.

If you want you can continue to Flagpole, though you'll be ascending another 315 meters. A round trip to Flagpole is 5.8 kilometers and takes about three hours.

7. Go mountain biking

Gravel road through the forest

For those who love a bit of adventure and adrenaline, there are many mountain bike trails in the Kootenay area.

No matter if you are a skilled rider or if you never went downhill biking before, there are trails suitable for any level of experience. You can find an overview of the trails here

8. Hit the slopes

Snowy fence

Just 22 kilometers from Nelson, you can find great downhill skiing at the Whitewater Ski Resort. What the resort lacks in size, it more than makes up for with beautiful slopes and a wide range of facilities.

For those not into skiing, there are several multi-use trails for nordic skiing and snowshoeing as well.

You can either drive to the slopes yourself or, if you're not a confident winter driver, hop on the Whitewater Ski Resort Shuttle which operates every day during the ski season.

9. Relax in the Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort 

Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort is unique as the springs have been used by the Ktunaxa people for their restorative properties for ages.

The warm water originates in Cody Caves and contains many minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and sodium.

The commercial development of the springs started in the 1920s and throughout the years, several renovations have taken place.

Nowadays Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort is a modern resort and spa and highly worth a visit when you're exploring the Kootenays.

The Springs are open year-round from 10 am until 9 pm. From Nelson, it's about a 45-minute drive to Ainsworth.

10. Visit the SS Moyie 

S.S. Moyie National Historic Site in Kaslo BC

One of the best things to do near Nelson BC is to visit the S.S. Moyie, the oldest passenger sternwheeler in the world that is still intact. 

This National Historic Site and British Columbia Historic Landmark can be found in Kaslo, about 70 kilometers from Nelson.

Nowadays the S.S. Moyie is a museum, but this beautiful sternwheeler was in use for 59 years and carried railway passengers from Kootenay Landing to the towns of Nelson and Procter.

The ship is kept in pristine condition and inside there are many historical objects on display. If you're lucky you can even blow the ship’s steam whistle!

The opening hours for the S.S. Moyie are from 10 am to 4:15 pm daily.

11. Taste locally brewed craft beer

Craft beer tasting Wellington

Nelson is known for its craft beer scene and there are several local breweries.

Nelson Brewing Company is the most well-known, this organic brewery has won several awards with its Hooligan Organic Pilsner and brews many other types of beers, ales, and IPAs.

Besides being served at quite a few local restaurants and bars, beers from Nelson Brewing Company are also available across British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

Torchlight Brewery is another popular place for a pint, the owners are on a mission to create the most delicious and innovative craft beers around.

They have a tasting lounge and beers with funky names like Rhubarbarian and Cyber Mammoth on tap. Torchlight Brewery also serves up some tasty dishes to go along with your drink.

12. Grab a bite at one of the many restaurants

No matter if you're craving Indian, Mexican, steak, or Italian, there are plenty of options for dinner in Nelson.

For a taste of Southeast Indian cuisine, head to Kootenay Tamil Kitchen, one of the best restaurants in Nelson BC (rated #1 on Tripadvisor).

Meatlovers can get their fix at Jackson's Hole & Grill (try the Steak Sandwich or Jackson's Loaded Burger) while those who looking for a tasty burrito, taco, or quesadilla will love Cantina Del Centro.

13. Enjoy nature in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park


Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park is an absolute must-visit when you're in Nelson. With its majestic mountains, glacial valleys, and beautiful lakes, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

With several trails of varying difficulty, you can explore the stunning alpine meadows and lush forests of this beautiful provincial park. Keep an eye out for bald eagles, deer, and other wildlife.

On a sunny day, get in a kayak and take in the stunning views of the lake from the water. Alternatively, go fishing and try to catch some Kokanee Salmon (sort out your fishing license first!).

Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park it's an easy drive from Nelson, it takes about an hour and a half to get there.

Take Highway 3A to Highway 31, then follow it all the way to Kokanee Creek Provincial Park (near Crescent Bay). From there, you can follow the signs to Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park.

How to get to Nelson BC?

By car or campervan

Red campervan with mountains in backdrop Canada

In my personal opinion, the best way to get to Nelson and explore the surrounding area is by car or campervan.

The Provincial Parks surrounding Nelson are stunning and driving here from Vancouver (8 hours) or Calgary (6.5 hours) makes for a wonderful scenic road trip.

Click here for the best rental car deals

By plane

Nelson has a local airport and flights arriving daily from Vancouver and Calgary. There are several international airports near Nelson, you can find more detailed information here.

By bus

You can also get to Nelson by bus from Vancouver (via Kelowna) and from Calgary (via Kaslo). Read more information here.

Nelson BC things to do: in conclusion

I hope you've enjoyed this guide to Nelson and will fall as much in love with this beautiful town in the Kootenays as I did.

Feel free to ask any questions you may have! You can leave a comment below or send me a message.

If you are looking for more Canada travel inspiration, check out my Canada page where you can find all the posts I've written about this wonderful country.