Shopping’s Best Kept Secret: Nelson, B.C.

by Allen Cox | Photo © Allen Cox

Ask any traveler visiting tucked-away Nelson in British Columbia’s Kootenay Rockies why they are there, and you’ll discover reasons galore. Whether it’s skiing or boarding at nearby Whitewater Ski Resort in winter or boating or hiking in summer, this all-season town has long been revered as one of British Columbia’s recreational hubs. Three mountain ranges—Selkirks, Purcells and Valhallas—surround Nelson with rugged terrain rich in outdoor experiences.

The historic town itself borders a shore of Kootenay Lake and heads sharply uphill from there. Nelson’s walkable downtown occupies a few streets terraced along the hillside. Historic storefronts, once containing the businesses of every Western town, are now home to a plethora of boutique shops, making browsing a pastime you shouldn’t pass up.

If you’re visiting Nelson, which is a 3-hour drive from Spokane and 7.5 hours from Seattle, you’re likely there for a few days. Immerse yourself in history by checking in at the Hume Hotel (, built in 1898 and rebuilt to modernize it in 1929. The hotel anchors the base of downtown, and one block uphill you’ll find the main retail row on Baker Street.

People watching is a worthwhile pastime in Nelson, and made even more meaningful if you find a Baker Street Bingo card. Pick out your favorite character types, such as “Looks like an old Mick Jagger” or “Still wearing winter clothes,” as you browse the town. You might be able to find a card at John Ward Fine Coffee at 503 Baker Street, a great place for a mid-day coffee break during your retail excursion.

While the townspeople wake up, join them a few blocks uphill at the popular Oso Negro Coffee ( at 604 Ward St. for a cup of their house-roasted coffee with breakfast. Then, before all the shops open for the day, get to know Nelson a little bit better; head to Gerick Cycle & Ski ( at 702 Baker St. and rent an electric bicycle, perfect for breezing around this hillside town with minimal exertion.

After you turn your bike in, you’re ready to comb Baker Street for treasures. Be sure to check out these local establishments:

Valhalla Pure, 624 Baker Street, – When in Nelson, you need to be outfitted for exploring the local terrain, and there’s no better place than this clothing and gear store, known for quality products and outstanding service.

ROAM Shop, 639 Baker Street, – In Nelson you can’t expect only one outdoor gear shop. More than an outfitter, the folks at ROAM can set you up with the outdoor experience you want, whether it’s kayaking Kootenay Lake or hiking in one of the three nearby ranges.

Mountain Baby, 636 Baker Street, –
Don’t leave the little ones behind when visiting Nelson. Mountain Baby has everything they’ll need to dig the outdoors alongside Mom and Dad.

Otter Books, 398 Baker Street – What this well-stocked bookstore has going for it is a healthy supply of local-interest titles. If you want to learn about Nelson and the Kootenay Rockies, this is the place to browse. And, of course, it is independently, locally owned.

Still Eagle Planetary Persuasions, 476 Baker Street, – Do you shop with conscience? Are your purchases easy on the planet? Then head straight to Nelson’s very own eco store that promotes natural, hemp, organic, local and fair trade in its sustainable fashion and household products.

Culinary Conspiracy, 610 Baker Street, – The moment you walk through the door of this boutique culinary shop, your nose will let you know you’re in foodie heaven. Grab a shopping basket. You’ll want to stock up on the rich inventory of spices, blends, rubs and salts. Your spice cabinet will thank you.

Maison, 446 Baker Street, – Buy a gift for your home at this well-curated home furnishings shop. Besides brand-name items, you’ll find locally crafted artisan pieces here as well—after all, that’s why you’re shopping in Nelson.

Moon Monster’s Secret Cave, 448 Baker Street, – Fun. Funky. And always original. You’ll discover unique artisan jewelry, fashions and more treasures in this hip little shop.

If you’re visiting Nelson on a Saturday, make a stop at the Cottonwood Market ( a part of your Nelson spree. Here you’ll find plenty of local color as the community comes together to buy and sell produce, crafts, goodies and much more. The market is located in Cottonwood Falls Park at the end of Railroad Street.

Learn more about Nelson, B.C., at