Come explore the Cariboo Region: Start by doing these 5 cool things in Williams Lake


FestivalSeekers and Miss604 want to challenge you this summer to #ExploreCariboo. The Cariboo region is home to an array of funky, creative communities like Wells, Quesnel, 100 Mile House, Williams Lake and Horsefly. Explore more, see the links below and #ExploreBC.

Rebecca Bollwitt (aka Miss604)

Williams Lake was once a patchwork of ranches until the railway came through in 1919. To celebrate its connection to the rest of Canada, the stampede was established, and the town grew up around cowboys, lumber, and trains. Today, that trifecta of heritage can be found in every corner of the region, complemented by locally inspired art, cuisine, music, and some unique and entertaining attractions.

Start your time in Williams Lake at the Tourism Discovery Centre (TDC) to learn more about the area while circumnavigating an ancient cedar in the centre of the impressive structure. From there, you can choose your own adventure, including mountain biking which is the hottest activity around these parts. There’s even a new trail that ends at the TDC.

When you’re not out on the biking trails, here are five themed ways to explore Williams Lake.

#ExploreCariboo this summer. Plan your trip to Williams Lake...

The history buff

The TDC isn’t just an amped up visitor centre, it’s also home to the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin. It’s got a Cowboy Hall of Fame, a replica of a pioneer homestead, and a gallery dedicated to First Nations history and culture.

Williams Lake
Photo: Rebecca Bollwitt

The Williams Lake Museum is inside the Tourism Discovery Centre just off Highway 97. There are pioneer displays and exhibits, as well as the BC Cowboy Hall of Fame

The nature lover

Scout Island is a more than nine-hectare nature preserve with beaches, boardwalks, birdwatching, hikes, and a nature house that's open daily from May to October.

Inside the Nature House visit with some critters (like salamanders and turtles) while you learn about the creatures that call Williams Lake home. Outside, stake out a spot in one of the blinds and look for migratory birds. I saw a beaver, several deer, and even more colourful birds.

"There are so many lakes within a drive of downtown, it often gets overlooked," said Mary Forbes, who leads programming at Scout Island and is also the woman behind all the cool things happening at the Potato House (see below).

"Scout Island helps put the lake back in Williams Lake," she said as we strolled the boardwalk along Williams Lake.

Williams Lake
Photo: Rebecca Bollwitt

Explore the boardwalks at Scout Island, along Williams Lake.

The artist

The Station House, a train station-turned-gallery, was the first heritage site in Williams Lake, and today it showcases local artists with rotating exhibitions. It also has a studio space with workshops for young and old. Kids can also sign up for workshops and art classes. In the gift shop, you'll find pottery, textiles, paintings, jewelry, and more from Cariboo artists and artisans. You can see the passion for the Cariboo shine through these pieces, many of which are inspired by the landscape.

Williams Lake
Photo: Rebecca Bollwitt

The Tourism Discovery Centre’s loft is a pop-up gallery featuring local artists. This canvas is by Dwayne Davis, whose work you’ll also see all around downtown in the form of murals.

The eco-champion

Did you know Williams Lake has Canada's only drive-through compost station? The Potato House in Downtown Williams Lake is where innovation thrives, and it just so happens to also be a historic Second World War home – and Canada’s only single family protected WW2 home with Heritage Status.

Williams Lake
Photo: Rebecca Bollwitt

The Potato House is a live music venue, community garden and all around amazing chill space in downtown Williams Lake.

The Potato House's is a wonderful venue when they host Garden Gigs, with live music in the yard where you can grab a seat on a garden box, lined with comfy padding from upcycled Whistler Blackcomb gondola seats. Residents and visitors can drop off their compost anytime, and there's also a community garden with veggies used at the local Chinese buffet and by local community groups.

Halloween is especially fun at the Potato House. Be sure not to miss the pumpkin patch.

The art walker

Want to have all of these experiences this summer? Plan your trip to Williams Lake during the Art Walk, Aug. 10 to Sept. 8. More than 50 vendors feature the works of dozens of local artists in and around the downtown. During the Art Walk, pick up a passport, get it stamped at all participating locations (while checking out the art pieces) and enter to win prizes. Be sure to also check out the numerous murals around town that you can be seen any time of year.

If you go

Read our festival overview of the Williams Lake Art Walk here.

Check out this website that might just inspire you to explore more of the region.

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