I first heard about Nelson, BC last fall through a travel post about top 10 small towns for vegan travelers and then that same month through Erin Ireland who runs It's To Die For. We were instantly drawn to the mountains and amazing hiking in the area (plus, food), it didn't take us long to book a trip for Memorial Day weekend.
I love road trips for so many reasons, but first and foremost the road snacks. Good views, good snacks, open road, makes for a soothing break from the crazy hustle and bustle of life. This time we made dehydrated fruit, kale chips, PB J sandwich, and some apples (that were confiscated at the boarder...sadness).
I had been doing tons of research on food in the area and quickly realized, especially with the help of Erin Ireland's blog post, that it wouldn't be that difficult to find vegan food. Fun fact, Nelson's population is only 10,000 but has more restaurants per capita than Manhattan. And pretty much every single one has a vegan option...you heard that right. Nelson is truly a vegan's dream world.
We arrived Friday evening and went straight to our Airbnb which was outside of the town. I booked it during a time when all I wanted to do was get out of the city, so I made sure to find a cute little cabin in the woods (with a hot tub). After settling in we decided to drive into town for dinner and drinks. We stopped to have dinner at rel-ish bistro since it was a beautiful night for patio dining. They have quite a few vegan dishes and they even label them (bravo!). Let me start by saying the service here was amazing. The waitress was so helpful with letting me know what is and isn't vegan, even went back to ask the chef a few times. I ended up going with the vegan lentil burger sans bun. One of the most delightful, hardy burgers I've ever had. She also let us in on all the brewery action in town so afterwards we hit up Backroads Brewery for a night cap.
Our waitress at rel-ish told us about a quick but popular hike nearby called Pulpit Rock. We woke up on Saturday and headed straight for the trail head. Now let me warn you, this may be a short hike, but it's a doozy. Only 1.9 miles round trip, but you gain 1000ft of elevation. Basically you just go up. And up some more. It was a great surprise workout as we really expected the hike to be nothing but a walk in the park. At the top of Pulpit Rock you have the option of going even further up to Flagpole, which we did because why not just keep going further up! There is an option to take the easy or more difficult way up, we opted for the difficult. Beware the difficult trail has a few scrambles that may not be for the faint of heart. Overall, an absolutely beautiful hike so close to town.
We had heard about this famous farmers market on Saturdays in town called Cottonwood Market. A little hard to find, but once you do it's the most amazing vegan friendly market that I've ever come across. I almost cried tears of joy. The background is a raging waterfall followed by countless vendors with local homemade goods, local juice, apple cider and more. The vibe is just, ugh, so welcoming and free. I had the MOST amazing raw cheesecake from Rawsa, please stop by and try all of her treats.
After the market we headed back to our airbnb to freshen up and take a snooze before heading back out again. Next up was a stop at Taghum Beach for some sun and relaxation. Did you know Nelson has white sand beaches? We had no idea what to expect but we found the most beautiful beach with white, soft sand, full of people enjoying volleyball, drinks and laughs.
Our next move was to hit up Torchlight Brewing for a few drinks and appetizers. Torchlight never popped up on Yelp or Happy Cow as having any vegan options, so I was delighted to see that they had a plant-based cheese plate and vegan hand pies. For dinner we hit up Red Light Ramen for some butternut squash miso tofu. The creamiest broth you ever did see. If you're in the area, you must head out to Kalso as a day trip. The drive is drop dead gorgeous and you can find hundreds of hikes in that area. Unfortunately, many of the hikes in the area weren't open due to snow yet, so we had to make due with a low elevation lake hike. We were bummed as we wanted those summit views, but that just means we have to go back! The good news is we saw a moose on our way out. A real life moose running through the water!
After the hike we went into Kalso for some beer at the Angry Hen and some food. Kalso has a population of only 900, but I could count at least 5 restaurants that had vegan options. I love BC. Kalso Hotel & Pub called to us with their deck view of the mountains. I had the quinoa salad and sweet potato fries on the side because you can't not get the sweet potato fries. There is so much to do in the area, after our dinner we stopped at Ainsworth Hot Springs on our way back to Nelson.
Coming from Seattle, there are so so many coffee shops I tend to not even think about trying to find anything better elsewhere. Oso Negro has changed my views. They have a beautiful outdoor patio and treats with the most detailed labels you would think you're in LA. I was feeling a bit spicy and decided to change up my order to an in-house chai latte with almond milk which the barista double checked to be vegan. Not too sweet with the perfect amount of spice. We ended up going to Oso twice during our trip because it was that good. The second trip I got a few treats which were bomb. If you get anything, get the E-Ball. Peanut butter goodness galore.
It was unseasonably warm in Nelson while we were there, think upper 80s, so we utilized the beaches as much as we could. Unfortunately the glacier fed lakes were still ice cold, and only the brave (ahem, not me) would dive in for a quick cool off. I dipped my toes and called it a day. Nelson was a relatively clean town, but wow were the beaches filled with cigarette butts and trash. I spent a good hour walking around the beach cleaning up butts, glass, straws, caps, pieces of water guns. Growing up I would pace around beaches looking for shells, now I'm all about the trash.
Such a majestically town Nelson is. There aren't many places where as a vegan you can have a multitude of options for going out to eat. We even missed a few places because there just wasn't enough time. Everyone was incredibly welcoming, so open to chatting with tourists and giving great local information. We spent a good part of our time researching how we could move there...still TBD. Until then, we will start planning a winter trip to explore all the skiing that area has to offer.
Other vegan food in Nelson:
Thor's Pizza - 2 types of vegan cheese
El Taco - Can make most of their stuff vegan + wheat free (margartia's also on point)
Sprout - We didn't make it here, but they offer smoothie/buddha bowls
Yum Som - vegan options
The Enlightened Coconut - amazing sundaes/smoothies/ice cream. All vegan
The Yellow Deli - vegan options cafe
Dominion Cafe - vegan coffee shop Until next time Nelson...