The heart of Fernie's vibrant community is the small but perfectly formed Historic Downtown.
Historic Downtown is a highlight of any Fernie travel itinerary. Centred around 2nd Avenue, Fernie offers boutique shopping, dining, attractions and activities of a more gentle nature. Plan to spend at least a day exploring all the unique features and soaking up the charming atmosphere from a summer patio or on a snowy stroll, while enjoying spectacular mountain views in every direction.
After the Great Fire of August 1st 1908, Fernie City Council decreed that 'all buildings within a ten-block section be constructed of fireproof material'; and so it was that from the ashes rose an attractive town built from locally produced unique golden and rose coloured brick and local sandstone.
The architectural style is described as simplified Italianate, typified by rows of 3 storey, flat-roofed commercial brick buildings, enlived with round-arched and rectangular windows decorated with hood mouldings or classical pediments and pilasters. Most of the buildings in the downtown core date from 1908/09 and emanate an air of permanence rarely found in small town BC. In 1922 the wooden sidewalks and dirt roads were paved; these were widened in 2004 for the city's centennial revitalisation, creating the pleasant boulevard that we enjoy today.
Fernie's historic downtown has become well known as a filming location, having featured in the 2010 Hollywood blockbuster 'Hot Tub Time Machine' and Disney's 2012 children's film 'Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups'.
Parking is free in downtown Fernie, larger vehicles will find more space on 1st Avenue or in the parking lot on the corner of 3rd Avenue & 4th street.
Places to visit & things to see & do
- Start at the Fernie Museum and Visitor Information Centre for an informative and fascinating look at the history that has shaped our town. Virtual guides based on real local historical figures will lead you through Fernie's storied past, legends and unique flora, fauna and geology. Visit the 2nd floor gallery for special exhibitions.
- The Fernie Heritage Library is a beautiful stone building that was once Fernie's Post Office and Customs Building. It now houses 3 floors of reference, literature and magazines plus a cosy children's corner, study room, meeting rooms and computer lab. Large arched windows flood the 18ft upper floors with light making this a welcoming and pleasant space to spend an afternoon. The library also features a charming garden and is home to many events including the Fernie Writers' Series which brings some of Canada's most prestigious writers to Fernie.
- The Court House (1911) is a magnificent chateau-style building with slate shingles, copper trim and granite imported from Vancouver and is well known throughout BC as a historic landmark. In 2014, the Architecture Foundation of BC named it one of BC's best buildings.
- City Hall (1905) was once the home of the Crows Nest Pass Coal Company and is a survivor of the 1908 inferno. It was strategically located in the middle of a block to minimize fire risk and served as a place of refuge for the survivors during and after the great fire. City Hall has a free charging station for electric cars.
- The Miners Walk is located at City Hall, and features interpretive panels with fun activities for children, local ironwork sculptures and the feature 'Face of the Miner' which changes right before the viewers eyes. The gardens and adjacent lawns are a lovely spot to relax and enjoy a picnic.
- The Holy Family Catholic Church (1912) is a beautiful brick edifice built in a "cruciform pattern". The Italian stained glass front windows are backlit at night, which adds to the reverent stature of the church.
- The Arts Station was originally built as a railway station for the CP Rail Line. When passenger trains stopped visiting Fernie, this elegant Van Horne building was moved in 1990 to become the cultural hub it is known as today. It serves as a home for the local Arts community complete with restaurant, 100 seat theatre, gallery space and studio space featuring many artistic pursuits including pottery, weaving, fine arts, fibre arts and children's programming.
- The Elks Lodge, located on 1st Avenue features an original mural and attractive ironwork panels. It was once How Foon's Restaurant and Laundry. The Livery Building on the corner of 2nd Avenue & 7th Street was one the central receiver and shipper for dry goods and offered livery services to visiting horse-drawn carriages. Pick up a historical walking tour guidebook at the Fernie Museum to learn more about the history of the many buildings lining 2nd Avenue.
- The Banner Project has graced historic downtown Fernie with colourful art banners for over 10 years. Each year, around 25 artworks are selected by a jury from dozens of local entries to be featured on the banners you see hanging from lightposts along 2nd Avenue. In their second year, the banners are transferred to the highway, and then finally they are presented to their sponsors. You may see older banners in businesses and even gardens around town. Take the time to view them all and pick a favourite.
- The Fernie Arts Co-op features many of the artists whose work you will see on the art banners. This large and inviting gallery space is bursting with the work of dozens of local artists, from painting, pottery and jewellery to sculpture and even artisan soap and cosmetics.
- Clawhammer Letterpress is a traditional print press where watch the printmakers in action on the 1916 Chandler & Price Platen Press, or one of several other presses gathered from around the province. Enjoy the art gallery or create a custom souvenir of your visit. Clawhammer has occasional live entertainment- check the events calendar for details.
- Beanpod is one of only a handful of traditional chocolate makers in the world. Watch the antique melangeur at work through the glass viewing wall while you sip on a freshly roasted mocha or cool off with affogato- fresh espresso over exquisite gelato made in-store.
- Dining and nightlife is varied and eclectic in downtown Fernie. Patios line 2nd avenue from late May until late September. Some offer more secluded locations, while others are right in the middle of the hustle and bustle. Enjoy fresh coffee, artisan chocolate & cheese, hearty lunches, ethnic cuisine or a pub burger and beer with friends.
- The Fernie Aquatic Centre, across the railway tracks just off Pine Avenue is a recreational hub in the heart of Fernie. Enjoy a swim, hot tub or sauna indoors, or in the warmer months there's plenty of additional outdoor activities to enjoy from the Dirt Jump Park and Basketball Court, to the Splash Park and nearby Skate Park. A large covered meeting point is the starting point for the nearby Coal Creek Heritage Trail and offers interpretive signage, maps and a bike wash station.
Take a virtual tour of Historic Downtown Fernie