Chilling out in Harrison

I have been out to Harrison in the summer for the Slow Food Cycle tour, and for romantic summer weekend getaways, but fall and winter also beckon me to this conveniently close getaway.  Last year we escaped in October for a night at Harrison Hot Springs Resort and ended up staying for two, and this October I returned solo for a media trip with a little bit of outdoor activity thrown in.   I am already planning a late birthday getaway for next weekend.

The Harrison Hotel Springs Resort has a history dating back to 1886 when the St. Alice Hotel and Bath House was built to accomodate travelers looking for the health benefits of the spa.  In 1920 a fire destroyed the original hotel and in 1925 the Harrison Hotel was built.  The hotel was the first resort-style hotel in Southwestern BC, accessible then solely by riverboat or train.      

The original building is still in existence, but in the 1950’s and 60’s, Harrison Hotel added the West Tower, West Wing and The Copper Room (dining). An East Tower was added in 1988, along with additional pools – 3 outdoor and 2 indoor mineral pools remain today. In 2001, the spa was added, giving resort guests a complete relaxation package, if they wish.     


This October (2010),  before arriving to the resort I had booked a Relaxation Massage to unwind for the drive from the city.  I left completely rejuvinated and ready for a swim and soak in the pools before dinner (spa brochure here).  There are three outdoor pools, some solely for adults, and an indoor pool and hot tub open late until 1 am for adults only, with children allowed in the day.       

Indoor hot tub

When you make a reservation, be sure to reserve a night of dining in The Copper Room.  While the food has been updated, the atmosphere has that super-club feel.  Think back to old black and white movies and dancing like your granparents may have done.  There’s always a couple or two who have watched their fair share of Dirty Dancing-type movies and can truly bust a move or two on the floor.     

The stars on the floor
The dishes are comfortable, and while not right on the cutting edge, they’re well executed.  My boyfriend and I enjoyed our meals in 2009, but on my most recent visit the food had been dialed up a notch.  Our group were all thrilled with the dishes and we sampled some great BC wines off the well managed list. Bonus points for being Oceanwise and for our charming host, Stuart Hammond, Director of Rooms, who’s never-ending energy is inspiring.   This is a special place that will not fail to charm you. 
Jumbo Scallops - Seared with Maple Miso Glaze, Sautéed Swiss Chard and Pancetta
Buffalo Mozz - Heirloom Tomatoes Drizzled with White Balsamic Vinaigrette
Crab and Smoked Halibut Cakes - Fennel Salad, Curried Carrot Fondant, Wasabi Remoulade
Salad - With 3 course
Pacific Halibut - Coated with Hazel Nut Crust, Served with Capers,
Rack of Lamb -Flavoured with Herb Parmigiano in a Tomato and Olive Fondue
Wild Pacific Salmon


Veal Chop - Simply on the Grill with King Oyster Mushrooms and Rosemary Madeira Jus

The hotel has 337 guest rooms, cottages, and suites in five distinct areas of the property.  Be sure to inquire as to the type of accomodation you will receive, as overlooking the pools can be noisy in the summer, and the older rooms are smaller.  On my last trip I had a double suite with an adjoining door, overlooking over the pools (quiet in the fall), as it was mid week and the resort was being generous. I think there was probably more square footage than my Vancouver city apartment.   One room is definitely adequate for two, although the suites are a great family option. Obviously I need to get some better room shots next time, as the one is off a web booking site.       


As for winter activities, there’s still much to do in addition to soaking in the hot tubs.  November and December are the perfect times to seek out some wildlife on the Fraser River, and I highly recommend BC Sportsfishing Group who also run Harrison Eco Tours. 

In October I suprised myself by actually enjoying a morning out Sturgeon Fishing. Our host was patient with my rather nil fishing skill set, and he could talk the lingo with the pros in the group. Although, mine got away, the others, including Miss 604 and seasoned fishermen Fishing with Rod  (video footage here) brought in a sturgeon for scanning and recording.  Of course we returned the majestic beasts back to the water to swim for another day.     

Eagle watching had just started in October as the birds were fishing on the dying salmon that have come to spawn in the Harrison River.  Harrison Mills and the Harrison River attract one of the largest populations of bald eagles in the world. Upwards of a 1000 Eagles have been counted in the Harrison Mill area at the height of the season. Starting in mid November and continuing through March these incredible raptors swarm here.  Travel by jet boat and then float leisurely down the Harrison river past this incredible natural phenomenon.  Seals are also present in significant number dining on the same bounty.    

The Eco Tour jet boats are covered, comfortable and heated so that regardless of the weather you can enjoy the tour.  

Winter Eagle Tour -length -2 hours from $75 a person For more information click here   

Morning on the Fraser River
Rods are out
Well. I tried. Mine got caught under a log and got away.
Miss 604 caught one!
Upside down and around about


Adam (almost) hauling one in - another tricky fish
Fellow Fishermen out for salmon
Glorious sunshine on the way back in

On the way in the sun broke and before heading back into town, we grabbed lunch at the hotel.  I’m already planning a trip for next weekend (stay tuned).  Romantic getaway (late birthday gift for me and my boyfriend combined) and MORE FISHING!  The eagles with be even more prevalent and this time I’m going to catch me a massive Sturgeon.

There are many winter packages available including US Thanksgiving, Girlfriend Spa and Family Chirstmas.



One Comment

  1. Rodney Hsu says:

    Nice write-up Cassandra! 🙂 Too bad we couldn’t get a sturgeon in for you to pose with too. 😉 Better luck next time.

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