In 1925, Harrison Hot Springs Resort was built on the edge of the town, overlooking the turquoise waters of Lake Harrison. It was the first resort-style hotel in Southwestern British Columbia. Today, there is little else in the town or the surrounding areas. Perhaps that is why it feels like a spot not consistently touched by time.
Many of the pictures on the wall leading to the dining room are from the ’50s and ’60s and feature couples dressed in pearls, gowns and tuxedos. It’s obvious that, for them, a night at The Copper Room was the height of elegance and sophistication. Today the hotel’s formal and stately past seems to be losing the battle to its more casually inclined clientele. Afternoon tea is still served between 2 and 4p.m., but now it consists of tea from a large urn, poured into a Styrofoam cup, accompanied by a cookie on a paper napkin in Miss Margaret’s café. You can, however, duck out of the crowded café and enjoy your treat in one of the comfy chairs in front of the fireplace in the upper lobby instead. Even the dress code in the elegant Copper Room was downgraded a few years ago to dress casual. Jeans (gasp) are even allowed if clean and not torn.
Soaking in the hot springs
The main reason to visit the Harrison Hot Springs Resort is, of course, for the hot springs. Although the pools are manmade, the water is piped in from naturally occurring mineral springs in the hills just behind the resort. Soaking in the hot water on a cold night, watching the steam rise up off the water to the twinkling lights in the surrounding trees is an almost magical experience and most certainly intensely relaxing. There is also a much cooler, although still warmer than average, outdoor lap pool, a shallow pool for kids (who aren’t allowed in the larger, deeper and hotter pool) and two indoor hot tubs. All of the pools are very clean and very well maintained. You will want to make sure, however, that some of that maintenance isn’t occurring during your stay. It’s a good idea to check that all the pools will be operational when you make your reservation.
Dining at Harrison Hot Springs Resort
The breakfast buffet is available until 11a.m., which means there’s time to go for a run, or otherwise work up a large appetite beforehand. No matter what your favourite breakfast food may be, you will find it in abundance. There’s bacon, sausage, eggs benedict, fruit salad, yogurt, French toast, cereal, oatmeal, omelettes made to your liking, Belgian waffles and dozens of other delights, all wonderfully prepared and frequently replenished. A breakfast at Harrison will easily tide you over until dinner time.
While at Harrison, treat yourself to dinner in The Copper Room. The service is efficient without being intrusive, the food is excellent and the atmosphere is unique to say the least. The room is gorgeous, with high ceilings, an abundance of windows, a large dance floor, white linens, low light and ornate fixtures. There is live music nightly; it’s loud enough for dancing, but not so loud that you can’t have a conversation with your dinner companion. The entertainment is provided by the local longtime favourites The Jones Boys who alternate with a variety of other bands. The music consists mainly of country classics from any period prior to the past two or three decades. You could easily imagine yourself whisked back in time as the dance floor fills with waltzing couples celebrating their 40th, 50th and even 60th wedding anniversaries.
There are many different areas to choose from when making your reservation at the resort. There are reasonably priced, though a little run down, cabins; there’s the main hotel and west wing, which also show a little wear and tear, and the newer west and east towers. The primary difference between the east and west tower rooms appears to be the price (with the east being pricier) and the view. The rooms in the west tower overlook the pools while the rooms in the east tower overlook Harrison Lake. The rooms are all clean and comfortable but fairly utilitarian. For a true sense of luxury you’ll need to visit the full-service spa for some pampering.
Children at Harrison Hot Springs
In the summer there are many festivals, events and activities for the whole family to enjoy. The resort even owns its own golf course. Keep in mind, however, if you plan to come during the winter months there will be much less available to keep the little ones occupied. They will love frolicking in the pool, but with no lifeguard you will be there continuously, and there is little else to occupy them. After they have poked the huge stuffed bear in the lobby and dumped all of your quarters into the circa 80’s video games (yes, there’s Pac Man) in the determinedly unattractive activities room, there isn’t much left for them to do. They aren’t allowed on the dance floor in the Copper Room (although they can dance in a tiny area to the right of the bandstand) and there aren’t any areas where they can safely run about.
Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa can be quite expensive, but some of the mid-week packages during the fall or winter are quite reasonable.