Barkerville is a gold rush town full of history and fun things to do. It is set in the interior Cariboo region, 88 km (54.7 mi) east of the city of Quesnel, at the end of Highway 26.
Barkerville was founded in 1862 and is the largest historical site in British Columbia. Unlike many gold rush towns from this era – which have long disappeared – Barkerville remains a thriving place, rich in history and full of life. You can tour the town with one of the colourful characters from Barkerville’s past, watch the notorious Judge Begbie strike fear into the hearts of history’s criminals, witness authentic gold rush theatre, and see a real Cornish Waterwheel in action. Pan for gold with your family and friends, visit Barkerville’s well preserved Chinatown, and go back to school in the 1800s. Or, learn about the town at your own pace by visiting the historic buildings and beautiful displays.
I have a sister living in Quesnel and she first took my daughter and me for a daytrip two years ago. We had a great time and hope to go back for another visit this summer.
Check the daily activities and schedule when you first arrive. It will allow you to plan your day, and take in the sights that most interest you.
We didn’t start with the town tour, but being someone who really enjoys hearing all the little details and anecdotes, I will definitely start with this on my next visit. It apparently takes about 45 minutes, and is included in your admission price.
Cornish Water Wheel
This was the highlight of our visit. The actors were wonderful and really involved the crowd. Learn about the operation of a Cornish Water Wheel in this demonstration of 1870s technology that uses an authentic wooden water wheel. You’ll learn, in a comical and entertaining session, about the geology that brought gold and gold seekers to the Cariboo. It was fascinating for the whole family.
The colourful characters at the Cornish Water Wheel also present the ‘Goldfields Discourse’ several times a day, which provides an introduction to the geology of the area and why gold is found here in Barkerville. Both are included in the cost of admission.
Experience school like it was when Barkerville was thriving. All children are welcome to attend this authentic classroom session. Line up at the schoolhouse doors when you hear the school teacher ringing the bell. Don’t be late, and boys are kindly asked remove their hats before entering.
We walked through the schoolhouse, which was great, but I will try to have my daughter attend a session on the next visit. (40 minute lessons at 10:30am, 1:30pm, and 3:30pm)
Morning and evening prayer services are at St. Saviour’s Anglican Church, and are performed by a student of the Anglican Church, playing the role of Reverend Reynard. Enjoy a moment of prayer like the miners used to do. There is also a regular Sunday morning service.
The Theatre Royal is located in the home they share with the Fire Brigade, and offers exceptional shows that not only educates visitors about Barkerville’s past, but does so in a way that mirrors the theatre of the gold rush days in Barkerville. The box office opens each day at noon.
Stagecoach rides are available throughout the day, and a great way to see Barkerville. You can travel in authentic 1860s style, and be sitting on the stagecoach when it comes thundering through town. A fun ride for all ages. Tickets available at Barnard’s Express as well as at the Visitor Centre. Rides are available from 10am to 5pm during the main summer season.
At the end of our day, we visited the Wendle House. It’s a great way to experience domestic life as it was in the 1890s. We went in and watched Miss Wendle (another excellent actor that stayed in character, even when questioned by my young daughter) and others baking and cooking on an authentic wood stove. We arrived at just the right time, and got to have a taste of freshly baked bread! You can watch household chores get done the way your great grandmother used to do them. You might even have a chance to lend a hand.
One of the best parts of the day was simply wandering the streets and stopping to check out the old-fashioned shops and businesses, like a dentist, blacksmith shop, dry-goods store, bakery, post office, etc. There is even an historic Chinatown.
There is so much to do in Barkerville that many people choose to spend two days here (second day admission is only $2). There are three on-site bed and breakfasts, as well as camping (including space for RVs) very close to the park.
This is a destination you can visit many times and always enjoying something new.