Travel For Food: Why Island Lake Lodge Should Be On Your Radar
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Two months after our weekend getaway in BC, we were back to the Kootenay Rockies for a culinary affair. This time, we journeyed deep into the forests, spent two nights at Island Lake Lodge – an upscale Fernie accommodation, and fully indulged ourselves in Untamed Kootenays’ forest-to-table wilderness experience.
Island Lake Lodge surprised us in so many different ways. In this post, we want to share with you why this backcountry lodge is worth going outside the province on an Alberta road trip and what it has to offer for food lovers!
Island Lake Lodge: A Journey Back to Nature
We’ve stayed in many beautiful mountain lodges in Banff and Jasper, and we can tell you that Island Lake Lodge is like no other place in the Canadian Rockies.
From Calgary to Fernie, the 3-hour drive led us through pancake-flat farmlands, remnants of a dramatic rock slide, and a lush sprawling landscape. It becomes obvious the moment we stepped onto the mountain property why it was named one of the most authentic and unique hotels in Canada by National Geographic Traveler in 2011. Imagine towering cedar trees and jade-green lakes, Island Lake Lodge has all you could possibly want to unwind in seclusion.
Cozying up in the Mountain Lodges
Being off the grid and close to nature doesn’t necessarily mean you have to rough it. At Island Lake Lodge, we were greeted with a luxurious oasis of comfort that you can’t find in other hotels in Fernie.
Each of the 26 timber-framed rooms offers a spacious layout, complete with an ensuite bathroom with a soaker tub and walk-in shower as well as a private deck looking out to the breathtaking mountains. Moreover, our stay granted us access to the outdoor sauna, fitness room, games room, breakfast at the Tamarack Restaurant as well as complimentary Wi-Fi. All these amenities, along with the tranquility of the natural surroundings, make Island Lake Lodge an ideal location for a mountain getaway.
The only things we couldn’t find here are phones and TVs, but let’s be real – do you really need them when being kept occupied by all the outdoor activities?
Tasting the Wilderness Through Untamed Kootenays
Many travelers are drawn to Island Lake Lodge for its powder snow. As the world’s premier cat skiing destination, there’s no shortage of adrenaline-fueled fun at the Lodge in winter, but the mountain resort offers an equally unique summer experience that gets us in touch with nature to make lasting memories.
One of the most notable experiences is the annual culinary event called Untamed Kootenays. For three consecutive years, Island Lake Lodge welcomed food enthusiasts like us for a weekend to savour a true forest-to-table experience.
>> First Day
Our weekend started with dinner at the elegant Tamarack Dining Room. The culinary team cooks up a mouth-watering menu showcasing locally grown ingredients and sustainable seafood in the Elk Valley. Our favourites include the Asian-inspired seared scallop & elk chorizo and slow-braised bison short ribs. The half cured, half searched arctic char soaked in pear parsley sauce has also received high praises.
>> Second Day
Next morning, we embarked on a foraging hike with Executive Chef Keith Farkas. Geared up with a bucket, scissors and gloves, we were ready to seek out wild ingredients in the woods!
As we strolled down the trail nearby the Island Lake, Chef Farkas explained the dishes we would be having that evening and the ingredients the recipes called for. Fiddleheads, stinging nettles, and horsetails were just a few we managed to harvest. Not too bad as beginners!
In addition to learning to forage for wild edibles, this behind-the-scenes, interactive encounter with the chef gave us the opportunity to hear how cooking with wild ingredients has inspired him to be more creative.
Back at the Lodge, we stopped by Bear Lodge Bistro for a quick lunch. Their menu fueled us up with casual bites such as salads, flatbreads, and sandwiches, paired with a selection of beer, wine and cocktail creations. We highly recommended the grilled salmon tacos which have all the elements of a perfect fish taco: crunchy slaw, fresh pico de gallo, creamy avocado aioli, and a punch of zesty flavor!
The culinary experience ended with the Chefs’ Showcase in the Tamarack Dining Room. The evening’s program featured four chefs: Keith Farkas, Mark Butcher, and Mike Bye from Island Lake Lodge alongside the renowned Italian chef Andrea Campi, who is also the inventor of Snowlicious, the snowcat food truck franchise.
The 5-course wine-paired dinner was specially crafted to demonstrate the chefs’ personal creativity and reflect the seasonally available local ingredients, many of which were foraged by us in the morning!
For example, stinging nettles were incorporated in Spaetzle (part pasta, part dumplings native to the Alpine region between Italy and Austria) to give the noodles the vivid green colour and spinach-like taste; dandelion greens added a twist to the chimichurri sauce to complement the sous vide beef tenderloin.
Summer Fun at Island Lake Lodge
Although the weekend centered around food, our trip went well beyond eating and drinking. Island Lake Lodge is a special place unlike any other Fernie hotels, where nature is truly at our doorstep.
The best way to explore the untouched nature is by hitting the trails. Whether you are an amateur stroller or a pro hiker, there’s a hiking trail for you out there.
To get a taste of the mountain scenery, we started with the Lake Trail offering numerous photo spots by the lake. We didn’t spot any animals, but other people reported seeing moose graze on the grass!
The lake is also a wonderful location for fly fishing and paddling (canoe rental is available at the lodge, completely free of charge!).
A visit to the Spa is a must after a full day of activities. Designed to relieve stress and muscle tension, the new spa menu offers a full range of treatments leaving us feeling revitalized from head to toe!
Winter or summer, you will never have a dull moment at Island Lake Lodge. Reserve a room and plan your summer mountain getaway now!
Disclaimer: This post is written in partnership with Island Lake Lodge. As always, all opinions on For Two, Please are our own and we only recommend brands that we 100% stand behind.
Staying in Fernie, BC for extra days?
You might be interested in other Fernie attractions in the historic downtown such as Fernie Museum and Fernie Arts Co-Op.
Hiking and mountain biking are popular things to do in Fernie. Click here for Fernie Trail Map.
For those who’d like to take it easy, grab a meal at one of the Fernie restaurants (go to Nevados for Latin American dishes!), or refresh your palates at Fernie Brewing Company!
After going through the whole post, I can’t agree more that Island Lake Lodge surely has to be under radar. This place is blissful, calm, and serene. In addition to the lovely stay, the experience of foraging wild ingredients and the chef’s showcase in the dining room have made it all exciting. I would love to stay here for a weekend.
Island Lake Lodge must be one of Canada’s hidden treasures! Your entire experience sounds right up my alley: hiking for your food, a weekend of culinary delights, potential paddling in the summer, skiing, and secluded relaxation. I hope to not only to partake in the Untamed Kootenays, but also visit Island Lake Lodge at some point in the future.
Wow the pictures of islank lake lodge makes me want to leave everything and go there right now. This is surely the place to be. I wonder how amazing it would be to do kayaking in the lake. The platter looks delicious too!
That’s so cool they have a foraging program (although mushrooms aren’t my favorite to be honest)! I haven’t been up to Canada is too long, and have never visited the rockies. Incredible views. Looks like an amazing stay!
How cool! We so often hear about farm-to-table, but forest-to-table seems like something we SHOULD know more about. My son does survival drills in the military and has learned about all types of edible berries and plants. He would absolutely love this!
This whole trip looks right up my alley, Cat. I’ve heard some wonderful things about the Kootenay Rockies this year. I would defintely be up for a stay at the Island Lake Lodge… mountains, scenery, and good food? Count me in 🙂 I went on a foraging walk in Stratford last year, but it would be especially interesting to do one with a chef I think.
I would love to travel to Banff and Jasper one day, but never thought about Fernie! Now after reading your experience, I want to stay at the Island Lake Lodge! The lodge and the views are beautiful- and the food looks amazing!
An amazing experience being close to nature. I love the awesome views of the mountains. Going with your chef on a hike to collect fresh ingredients sounds cool. I was already curious about the experience of the Chef’s Showcase. Summer activities in nature are the best. I should know as I live in Austria.
The Island Lake Lodge looks to be a slice of paradise. This is definitely our kind of place. What an enchanting place to wake up in. Such a lovely place ensconced in the lap of nature. The mountains seem to be right at the porch! Nothing can be more rewarding than kayaking on the ethereal-looking lake.
Staying in mountain lodges seems like staying in paradise and therefore Island Lake Lodge looks like a perfect stay for me in Canadian Rockies. Outdoor patio with views of mountains are incredible. Kayaking here in the lake which is surrounded by wonderful mountains is top on my list. This property is now in my wish list when I visit Canada.
The place is just picture perfect. I love the view you woke up to. It so makes your trip perfect. Kayaking on that pristine lake must have been so much fun. I am not sure if I would have focused on the kayaking as much as looking around 😉
Man, I miss the mountains. Beautiful post! I love the concept of mountain-to-table. Going foraging for wild mushrooms and then eating them for a gourmet dinner would be so so cool. I want to go right now!
Oh, I absolutely love foraging for foods and I’m always looking to expand my knowledge on it. This looks like so much fun. I did a foraging class in Asheville last year and fell even more in love. I’ve been wanting to go back to BC (I’ve only been to Victoria) and this spot looks lovely.
I can really use some off days at Island Lake Lodge. The amazing view is fantastic! I would really love to check out the surroundings. 5-course wine-paired dinner sounds amazing! It’s good that they use natural ingredients which makes it healthier and yummier! Kudos to the owners!
This looks pretty amazing, really want to share the experience with my friends