An insider’s guide to this community at the north end of Squamish.
Where: Brackendale, a community at the north end of Squamish. Bordered by the mighty Squamish River to the west and the Sea-to-Sky Highway (and CN railway) to the east. Government Road and Depot Road are the main access routes.
What: It was the original European settlement in the area, established in 1886. Recent years have seen the farm fields give way to oversize residential lots and townhomes. There are five provincial parks nearby, so the wilderness is never far away.
Who: A mix of old-school loggers, new-age Dharma bums, outdoor enthusiasts, backyard farmers, artists, and lots of young families. A forward-thinking, “can-do” attitude thrives—in 1957 the Brackendale Farmers Institute set aside 20 hectares of forest as community parkland.
Telling sign: Upon turning into a long residential cul-de-sac: “Slow Down. Free-range kids running loose.”
Two things I love: The location is close to Whistler skiing but with easy access to white-sand river beaches. There’s also a sense of community summed up by Thor Froslev, owner of the Brackendale Art Gallery: “If you are lacking anything in your life, just go knock on your neighbour’s door.”
One thing I could do without: Rumour has it a local lady broke the heart of a CN rail engineer, and every night he takes extra glee in blasting the whistle as the train rumbles past.
Claim to fame: Home to one of the world’s largest concentrations of wintering bald eagles. The 27th annual Brackendale Eagle Count held in January 2013 tallied 804 birds (down dramatically from a 1994 record of 3,769).
Great places to eat: Try The Nest for gourmet pizzas. The Red Bench Diner has breakfast down to an art form, and Fergie’s Café serves homemade food with a side of no-nonsense.
Best place for a hot or cold brew: Hot: Bean Around the World has fair-trade organic java and a patio/ bulletin board/meeting spot that’s hard to leave. Cold: The Watershed Grill features pristine river and mountain views.
Best way to spend a weekend afternoon: On your bike. Hit Republic Bicycles for trail maps and friendly directions to the expansive dirt-jump/pump track local kids constructed in the forest. Afterwards, take tea at the Brackendale hand-built Art Gallery and find David Suzuki’s face on The Casting Wall.
Watch for: Seals, eagles, salmon, paddleboards, bikes, horses, and kids. And don’t miss the annual Brackendale Fall Fair each September.