Barkerville is British Columbia’s Gold Rush Town. It’s located in the Cariboo region of British Columbia and the closest city is Quesnel. Back in the hey day, Barkerville was the largest town north of San Francisco and west of Chicago- by the mid 1860’s the town had a population of more than 5000 people.
After the Great Depression, Barkerville became a ghost town and it remained that way until the late 1950’s when the government decided to turn into into Barkerville Historic Town. Since then, lots of people from all over Canada and even the world have visited Barkerville to be transported back into the ol’ Gold Rush days (and of course, in the meantime learning about Canada’s Gold Rush history).
I first learned about Barkerville in school and have always wanted to visit. It has over 125 heritage buildings that help you discover what it might have been like living on the Frontier.
Barkerville is pretty big (lots to see and do), but it could be doable in one day (one long day). If not, you could stay in the historic town itself.
- St George Hotel Bed and Breakfast– rustic hotel (but lots of mosquitoes!) with a few rooms. The breakfast is delicious and home-made. The decor is very historic and it feels like you are living in the 1860’s. Not cheap, about $120+/night but if you want to experience “true Barkerville” and wake up to horse drawn carriages walking down the street, this is the place to stay.
- King and Kelly House Bed and Breakfast-Located just in the beginning of “town”. Very small home, very homey.
- The good thing about staying at the “in town” bed and breakfasts is that you get a 15% discount to the actual Barkerville historic town when you check i.
- Camping-This is hit and miss especially if you’re not fond of camping in the rain. As long as the weather is good this is a good option! Camping is near Bowren Lakes, just outside of Barkerville.
- Wells– The nearest “real” town is a few minutes drive from Barkerville. A very small town but there is a hotel there that is cheaper than the in-Barkerville accommodation. You could also stay in Quesnel and drive the 1 hr from Quesnel to Barkerville.
The restaurants in town aren’t very expensive, especially Goldfield Bakery, the cinnamon buns are to die for. Lung Duck Tong Restaurant is probably the best Chinese cuisine you could get in small-town British Columbia, but it doesn’t come cheap. Average price for a dish is around $15.
Outside of Barkerville, the Bears Paw Cafe has delicious food for a reasonable price (I believe the food is all organic). It has a great atmosphere. Casual yet classy. There’s a large flat screen TV that shares a picture slideshow of the surrounding area (Bowren Lakes is beautiful). I had a vegetarian lasagne for $12. It was the best vegetarian lasagne I’ve ever had. The desserts are also delicious but not “wow”. The ribs were reasonably priced at $14 for half a rack of ribs- they were delicious fall off the bone type of ribs.
You could spend all day looking at Barkerville’s shops and sites. Some of the things to do include a walking tour, looking at St. Saviour’s church (one of the oldest still-standing churches in B.C.), looking at the Cornish Wheel/ Goldfields, and taking a calligraphy and abacus lesson at the Chinese school.
This metal contraption, believe it or not, is a vacuum cleaner!
If you’re hankering for candy, there’s a candy store and a general store that sells candy, just like the old days! I wouldn’t recommend paying $18 for an ultimate Gobstopper though, that thing huge!
A visit to the historic gold rush town is not complete without seeing gold nuggets. I didn’t buy one though. A tad too rich for my budget!
Of course, because the gold nuggets were so pricey, I had to try to pan for gold instead. Panning for gold is $10 and you get to take home the gold flecks that you pan out, not to mention learn how to pan for gold (it’s not easy work). Panning for gold is probably a quintessential experience for any personal finance blogger, so I decided to give it a shot.
After about 15 minutes of sifting and draining and sifting and draining, this is what I got (yes, three gold flecks):
If you want to be super frugal…
If you want to be super frugal, instead of paying the $21.95 admission fee (you have the pay admission on a daily basis, but if you visit the second time, I believe it’s $2 per person for the second day), you could visit late in the afternoon. The gates are usually open late in the afternoon just before closing. You will still be able to see some of the exhibits and peer into the frontier homes, but they do start closing the exhibits at 6pm. Also, if you’re heading into Barkerville late, you won’t experience the walking tours, or the fun interactive school lessons, or see anyone dressed up in 1860’s garb.
Barkerville is definitely a fun stop on any British Columbia road trip to the Cariboo region and would be a child’s dream to visit ( SO much to do!).
Canadian readers, have you heard of or visited Barkerville?