Located smack-dab in the middle of the East and West Kootenay regions, the Creston area is the ultimate base camp to launch day trip adventures to neighbouring communities. One of the most popular is the drive along Kootenay Lake’s East Shore — “the lake road”, as many locals refer to it — a trip that leads to your choice of beautiful beaches and a string of quaint communities full of quirky history, eclectic artisans and great views along the way. It’s always been one of my favourite things to do during the early spring, on a sunny summer day or even a lazy fall afternoon!
Covering a distance of 97 kilometers (58 miles) from Creston to Riondel at the end of the East Shore road, the trip typically takes 1.5-2 hours one-way. This makes it a perfect day excursion from Creston, offering ample opportunities to pause and explore the area before returning for a relaxing evening. While this article highlights attractions as you head north to south, there is a lot to see in a day, so if planning your own itinerary consider leaving some spots to visit on the return journey back to Creston! Please find the handy route map below to help you follow along on our "virtual route" as well!
Kootenay Lake Road Trip Route Map
Starting Your "Lake Road" Journey - Wynndel, Sirdar & South Kootenay Lake
Even a short road trip is incomplete without snacks, so just after heading north on the winding and scenic Highway 3A, be sure to stock up on baked goods at Mountain Barn Bakery. Fresh donuts, anyone? Continuing through Wynndel and Lakeview, you'll soon see Duck Lake on your left and then arrive in the small hamlet of Sirdar, where you can’t miss the historic Sirdar Station Pub on the right. built in 1929 to service the railroad heading up the lake it is so close to the road, you can almost touch it! The food is local, and the beer is always cold!
Heading another 10 minutes north you'll finally reach the south end of Kootenay Lake and the almost microscopic hamlet of Kuskonook, a once thriving orchard community, most of which was tragically lost in a 1900 fire. Now, Kuskonnok is best known for it's excellent marina and boat launch, popular for kayakers, stand-up paddleboarders and boaters keen to explore the southern end of the lake.
About 10 minutes north of Kuskonook your next pit stop is Twin Bays Road, which leads to Twin Bays Beach, one of the most popular on Kootenay Lake’s East Shore. The beach is incredibly sandy and the water is usually warm and shallow. There is also ample parking, basic outhouses and garbage bins just down the road from the beach, making it a huge favourite of families with children in the Creston area and well worth a visit on a hot day!
Midway Point - Oddities, Art & More Beaches in Boswell & LockHart Creek
Venturing further north you'll next encounter truly one the most unique and bizarre structures on the East Shore — indeed, in the Kootenays — the Glass House, a 1,200-square-foot home made of over 500,000 embalming fluid bottles constructed by David H. Brown in 1952, after he retired from the funeral business. Open for tours daily in the summer, it also has terraced paths leading to a mini-lighthouse and viewpoint looking out over the lake.
Boswell, another sleepy village a bit farther north, is best known for it's small volunteer run public boat launch as well as the serene Mackie Beach, a small south facing beach and park , which offers a sunny retreat with coarse sand and picnic tables. Just a bit up the highway, the charming Arrowsmith Gallery showcases the vibrant watercolor paintings of Kootenay scenery by well-loved artist Karen Arrowsmith.
Alternatively if you continue north, Lockhart Beach Provincial Park provides yet another excellent family-friendly beach with amenities like bathrooms, picnic tables, and expansive views of the Selkirk Mountains across the lake. And if you're up for a hike, consider exploring the trail within Lockhart Creek Provincial Park, just across the highway!
Gray Creek & Crawford Bay - HIstory, Arts & The Outdoors
Carrying on another 20 minutes north you next arrive in the historic Gray Creek, one of the oldest communities on Kootenay Lake and home of one of the original landings for the Sternwheeler ferries that moved people and cargo up and down the lake before the highway arrived. Today Gray Creek is best known for it's historic colonial-era wood buildings, such as the famous Gray Creek Store (in constant operation since 1913), the 112-year-old Gray Creek Hall nestled beside the lake, and the elegantly wood-framed Harrison Memorial Church, which now serves as a community art space and concert hall.
Just past Gray Creek you finally arrive in Crawford Bay! Not to sell short the other stops along Highway 3A, but you just don’t want to miss Crawford Bay, nearly 80 kilometres north of Creston and home of the annual Starbelly Jam Music Festival, and an impressive number of skilled artisans offering the finest of handcrafted wares, and usually open from spring to fall.
Possibly the most famous are the handcrafted brooms from the family-owned North Woven Broom Co., whose brooms have featured in many films and TV shows. Drop into Barefoot Handweaving to hear the clack-clack of looms, operated — you guessed it — barefoot, or feel the heat of the furnace watching the blacksmiths at Kootenay Forge. Across the street you’ll find the funky Dog Patch Pottery along with the eclectic and palate-pleasing culinary art at the famous Black Salt Café. And for those looking to spend time outside the community is also home to the incredible 18 hole Kokanee Springs Resort, a number of great mountain bike and hiking trails and the wonderfully sandy beach at Crawford Creek Regional Park.
A Fork (Sort Of) Near the End of the Road - Pilot Bay or Riondel?
You may be tempted to linger long in Crawford Bay, but continuing north on Highway 3A toward Kootenay Bay and the Kootenay Lake Ferry leads to something of a fork in the road and a couple of fascinating final options: take a right heading north on Riondel Road to visit the peaceful village of Riondel, or keep going on Highway 3A to the Kootenay Lake Ferry landing, where a left turn onto Pilot Bay Road leads you to the iconic Pilot Bay Provincial Park.
North to Riondel: Turning north, you’ll pass the Yasodhara Ashram, a yoga retreat and study centre founded in 1963, before you come to this former mining-town-turned-quaint-village with it's stunning north facing beach, community campground, collection of artisan studios and charming nine-hole golf course, and even more trails to explore on foot or by bike!
South to Pilot Bay: If you choose to head south instead the must-visit spot is the iconic three-story Pilot Bay Lighthouse, built in 1904 and the last remaining inland lighthouse in B.C., offering a breathtaking panoramic view of Kootenay Lake that is sure to impress and well worth the short hike to it. Alternatively, if you have time to spare consider exploring the stunning lakeside trail through Pilot Bay Provincial Park. Once a bustling community with a sawmill and smelter, all that are left are relics, such as Sawmill Bay, a sawdust filled cove fittingly named after the mill that previously stood there, now a serene cove and campground accessible by boat or ambitious hikers!
More to Explore
As your day trip concludes and you return back to Creston, you will no doubt have arrived back with some great memories and hopefully with inspiration to keep exploring the Creston area. Be sure to check out the rest of our Play and Events sections of our website for even more things to do while you are in the area. Or for more trip ideas and inspiration, check out the other blogs in our Get Inspired section! Finally, be sure to visit our Stay section to find the perfect hotel, motel or B&B to stay at while you explore our big backyard!
Until next time, enjoy Kootenay Lake's East Shore!
Freelance writer Brian Lawrence is a former editor and publisher of the Creston Valley Advance. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking and trail running, and acting in and directing productions with Creston's Footlighters Theatre Society.