photo by Lance Henderson
As the fur traders of the Hudson’s Bay Company established a network of trading forts in lower British Columbia, they probably never imagined the region’s unforgiving wilderness would give way to a tourist haven.
Nestled on the banks of the Fraser River in lower British Columbia, Fort Langley is a multi-faceted daytrip destination within arm’s reach of Whatcom County.
This quaint village in the township of Langley is considered “the birthplace of British Columbia” and recently celebrated its 150th anniversary.
Deborah Kulchiski, executive director of Tourism Langley, said the 150th anniversary festivities in Fort Langley led to an increased awareness of the tiny tourist town.
“The village really has become a quaint destination for daytrippers coming from Bellingham to the south, Chilliwack to the east and Vancouver to the west,” Kulchiski said. “It’s also a nice meeting place for local residents and tourists to come and spend the day.”
One of the most appealing aspects of Fort Langley, Kulchiski said, is the diverse range of activities available, which has something for everyone within walking distance of the city center.
For those looking for a more cultural experience, the village tells an amazing historic tale of the frontier days of British Columbia through the Fort Langley national historic site, the Canadian National railway historic site, the Langley Centennial Museum and the B.C. Farm Machinery & Agricultural Museum.
“One of the awe-inspiring features of the village is that it has so much history,” Kulchiski said.
Those with an eye for more activity will enjoy the Fort-to-Fort Trail, which stretches 2.5 miles between the location of the first Hudson’s Bay Company fort and the current national historic site near the village. The hike is a lazy stroll through the beauty of the Fraser Valley and the Fraser River.
“We, like many places in this region, are blessed with a great deal of natural beauty,” she said.
As daytrippers drive into the village, they are greeted with tree-lined streets and serene bedroom neighborhoods that give way to a city center adorned with unique boutiques and an array of eateries for any budget.
“Fort Langley appeals to those who want to have a unique shopping experience, which is an opportunity to go into some of our uniquely funky and high-end stores,” she said.
Heather Kyle, a college student from nearby Maple Ridge, said she loves coming across the Fraser River into Fort Langley, especially for the shopping.
“It’s a very cute and touristy place where you can walk all around and look at all the cool shops,”Kyle said.
Heather Nicholson, an employee at Roxann’s of Fort Langley, Men’s and Ladies Hats & Accessories, said she enjoys her post at a funky hat gallery with hooks and mannequin heads all modeling the latest head-covering fashions.
“In the wintertime, people will always come in for new hats, gloves and scarves, but now the younger generation is really starting to bring hats back,” Nicholson said as she motioned to a wall of Sinatra-esque fedoras.
Nicholson said she lives in the nearby neighborhood of Walnut Grove, but will often come into Fort Langley on her off days to check out an art gallery or hit up the new martini bar.
“It’s just a real artsy community where everybody knows each other,” Nicholson said.