Surrey is big! Not only is Surrey the second most populated city in Metro Vancouver and one of the fastest growing, culturally diverse cities in Canada, it also covers a lot of ground. The city reaches from tidal beaches to the west to farmlands to the east and from the US border in the south to the Fraser River in the north. There are a variety of activities, diverse neighbourhoods, green spaces – over 50% of Surrey is green space, if you count the golf courses – breweries and cultural experiences to discover. My two-day tour through the South of the Fraser Ale Trail featured beautiful hiking trails, a bald eagle sighting, axe throwing, craft beer, a culinary experience with a touch of Indian spice, and more!
Delicious Eats, Scenic Beaches, Cocktails and more!
To start off our adventure we headed to beautiful South Surrey, which has beaches and two border crossings into the United States, and is full of parks and trails.
We first stopped in at Eggcetra Breakfast Café for mimosas and one of the best chicken and waffles plates that my friend Hayley has ever had, while I went with the California omelette with crispy hash brown sticks. The café is cute and cosy with friendly staff; order at the till and they’ll bring it to your seat. There is a good variety of menu options from all-day breakfast to burgers and sandwiches, and a few local craft beers to choose from. The food was flavourful and fresh with more-than-filling portion sizes. It was a great way to start off our morning before rolling down the windows, blaring music, and driving 40 km/h behind a cop to the next spot.
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Eggcetra Breakfast Café is just a few minutes drive away from Crescent Beach, a quaint beachside community with a few restaurants where you’ll often see people walking around with ice cream cones or having fish and chips. It dates back to the early 1900s when it was promoted as a resort area with views of the bay and distant mountains, and an area to enjoy recreational activities. Today, it is a residential area with a lot of families and children playing, and a popular place for activities including sailing, swimming, volleyball and tennis. On sunny days it gets busy quite fast, making it hard to find parking, but there is a free parking lot next to the tennis courts.
Adjacent to Crescent Beach is Blackie Spit Park, which is part of Boundary Bay and has two off-leash dog areas including the only off-leash dog swim area in Surrey. For dog lovers, go past the Crescent Beach village and to the end of the parking lot to access the off-leash areas.
Hayley and I walked the scenic path from Crescent Beach into Blackie Spit Park while finishing our coffee, and followed the trail to a popular bird-watching area. Download the eBird app to find out what birds you can view in the area. We even spotted a bald eagle on our walk, which is not uncommon in this area. Blackie Spit is an annual migration rest stop for birds travelling on the Pacific Flyway, a migratory bird route spanning from Alaska to South America. The area’s tidal marsh, sandy spit and eelgrass beds are a welcoming area for waterfowl and shorebirds like sandpipers, northern flickers, pileated woodpeckers, brown creepers and yellow-rumped warblers. There are informational boards directing you to the path and explaining the importance of the area. A cool fact we learned is that there are over 200 species of migratory birds that come through Surrey, and the Crescent Beach area is a great spot to see many through the year. You can easily spend two hours walking the nature trail through the meadows and along the dike, but note that this is a dog- and bike-free area. We lucked out with great weather for our beach visit and were able to take our time and work up an appetite.
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Up next was lunch at Chacha’s Tandoor Grill located in Little India, in a popular plaza filled with shops, many of which had gorgeous Indian party outfits. It turns out that Chacha’s is a very popular dining spot and comes highly recommended from locals and business owners in the area. The establishment has a modern look and relaxed vibe, great for grabbing a quick lunch or to sit down and take your time. The menu has a lot of variety, but isn’t overwhelming with options. What caught my eye was the Street Eats section which is a good option for a grab-and-go meal. I tried the vegetarian kathi rolls because it’s something completely new and different for me. It’s a wrap rolled in a thin flatbread called rumali roti that comes with spicy fries, and it was absolutely delicious! For my next visit I plan to order the roti on its own and pair it with other items. I also tried the traditional chicken tikka dish which was juicy and flavourful, and a healthy portion size.
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By far one of the most unique activities on my discovery tour was axe throwing. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but knew going with a bestie would be the most fun. Hayley and I walked into Bad Axe Throwing to try our hand at it and we had a blast! The unit blends in with other office doors in an industrial area so at first you wonder what it will be like, but once you walk in you’re transported into a safe play room with bullseyes and fencing between team areas. The staff is very diligent in explaining the rules and techniques, and each guest is given a light axe for one-handed throwing and a heavier axe for two-handed throwing. We noticed later that there are larger-size axe options to upgrade to if you choose but we were more than happy with the two we were given and even managed to get a couple of bullseyes. Since my friend is a fitness instructor it made total sense to us to relate the full-body axe-throwing movement to a workout—start off with a tricep extension back, then bring your arm up as you lunge forward with the opposite leg. It worked for us, but listen to the professionals! Bad Axe Throwing was a really fun and different experience, and one that we would go to again with a group of friends. For groups of four or more, there is an option to book ahead, otherwise you can walk in.
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After an already jam-packed day it was time to check into my hotel before heading out for dinner. Civic Hotel, Autograph Collection® is a fairly new boutique hotel conveniently located steps away from Surrey Central Skytrain. It is part of the Marriott umbrella and centrally located in Surrey’s City Centre, offering 144 guest rooms, a conference and meeting space, and a popular restaurant and bar. The hotel and restaurant always look busy when I pass by so I was really looking forward to checking out the rooms and amenities. The room was clean and cozy with a luxurious and modern look, and had comfy beds. Amenities include a 24-hour fitness centre, pool, and hot tub, which I was looking forward to relaxing in later that night. The spa area is one of my favourite parts of a hotel, and the Civic Hotel did not disappoint.
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Featured on Surrey’s Spice Trail is an amazing restaurant called Clove – The Art Of Dining. The moment you walk into this hidden gem it looks and feels like you have entered a fine dining experience. The decor and ambience is classy and accompanied by a best-in-class hospitality and guests’ services experience.
You can tell that the menu at Clove was curated with great care taking into consideration guest experience, fresh food, flavours, creativity and presentation. There is a huge selection of dishes that the knowledgeable staff can easily guide you through and help pick what best matches your palate. I personally really enjoyed the salmon kokum curry but feel that I need a few visits to this restaurant to really appreciate its full menu and the level of skill put into the dishes. I do have to say that as someone who rarely stays for dessert, ordering the signature Surrey’s Mess was a great decision. This dish offered a mix of dessert options and was the perfect ending to a spicy and tasty meal.
There was a variety of alcoholic beverages to choose from but the Clove Cocktail Fables list is a real stand out. The cocktails are given fun names to match the atmosphere such as The Majestic Lady and Monsoon Weddings, and are created to pair with food using creative ingredients. The presentation of the cocktails is also quite elaborate and detailed, from unique glassware to smoking effects. They have a number of very elegant non-alcoholic cocktails as well from their “Zero Proof” menu.
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There was just one last stop to end Day 1 of my BC Ale Trail and Discover Surrey Road Trip: Dominion Bar + Kitchen back at the hotel for a nightcap. The bar was lively and busy with a fun vibe, and offers a full menu if you stop in for lunch or dinner.
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Forest bathing, craft beer and SPICE!
As a guest of the hotel a continental breakfast is available at the Dominion Bar + Kitchen for an additional fee.
Morning coffee was a must and then I went up to the fourth floor to use the outdoor lap pool. I even ran into a few local football players on my way there. It was nice to have a few minutes of quiet on my own before starting the day, and an added bonus that hotel checkout was for noon.
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With Sunday already off to a great start it was time to stroll through Tynehead Regional Park, which is fairly large and offers both bike and hike trails, and an off-leash area for dogs. No visit to Tynehead feels right without Max, my German Shepherd nephew. For the off-leash dog area, start on the west side of the park. The off-leash area is securely fenced in and offers a lot of running space to burn off energy for large breeds. There tends to be a lot of areas with pooling so be forewarned if you’re trying to avoid a muddy dog.
You can continue to loop around Tynehead with a leashed dog for a total of 4.5km. It is a very pretty park and you’ll likely see other people enjoying the trails and exploring the upper Serpentine River. We took our time through the forest, crossing several streams, and a wooden bridge, and walking past the hatchery. Trails are clearly marked with plenty of signage and waste bins along the way. There are some wooden steps up to a viewpoint, but you can choose to continue along a flat path instead if you like. Overall, the difficulty level is low and it’s a very enjoyable place to walk through with picnic areas and lots of free parking space. Tynehead is accessible off Highway #1 coming into Surrey and is a great park to visit with or without a dog. You can easily spend hours here enjoying the space and recharging.
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The next stop was a real treat for a private tasting in Surrey’s newest tasting room at Russell Brewing Company, one of the original 10 microbreweries in Metro Vancouver and a leader in the craft beer movement since 1995. You may be familiar with their popular Craft Lager or Blood Alley Bitter or other core beers, which are all done well. The tasting room offers a variety of beers on tap plus a couple of slushie beers. Overall, the tasting room is modern, sleek and spacious with room for large groups and the flight boards are fun and appealing. I had a chance to sit down and have a few drinks with Jimmy and Brian and enjoy the space and conversation.
The right thing to do was to have a flight and go from there. After a sampling, standouts for me were the Wee Angry Scotch Ale and the very creative Mango and Pineapple Milkshake IPA, which is a twist on their classic Milkshake IPA with added pineapple and mango purée, and additions of Mosaic, Citra, and Galaxy hops. The flavour was subtle and not overpowering with fruit or sweetness, which was a big win for me. Since my visit the tasting room is open to the public for craft beer tasting and sales, and a Mexican-themed food lineup that includes tacos. I’ll definitely be back to enjoy some nachos and a flight, and maybe try a beer slushie on a hot day.
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After the tasting, food was needed, so I headed back to Max’s house to pick-up my 13-year-old human nephew, Connor, and get back on Surrey’s Spice Trail to try out Chatora Indian for a late lunch. The restaurant is on a street filled with quaint shops and restaurants. It had welcoming windows and was small inside so you may want to book ahead if you’re going in with a larger party. Takeout was quite busy when we got there so we took that as a good sign, and we were right! It was very much like an at-home dinner experience with bowls of food coming out to share. It may look like small portions in the bowl but trust me when I say there was more than enough and a lot of leftovers. I didn’t realize until after that it was the owner and chef, Mohit Verma, who served us that Sunday afternoon. I learned that he started cooking at 13 years old with his mom, and you can truly tell that his food is authentic.
Connor said we had to have butter chicken, so we did and kept the leftover sauce to dip our naan into. I ordered plain naan and he had the garlic, and both were good. Additionally, we ordered curried potato and cauliflower, chickpeas, and chicken curry. The dishes were all rich in flavour and colour, and made with fresh ingredients. Overall, the meal was tasty with a balanced blend of traditional and fusion flavours and well enjoyed.
This tour of Surrey took me to hidden gems with amazing food, fun activities, great nature trails and pioneering craft breweries. We didn’t make it this time but Showshaa – The Modern Taproom is on our list for next time! This trip was a great way to start to discover Surrey and the BC Ale Trail, south of the Fraser River but there is so much more left to see and experience with options for the entire family.
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Surrey, BC is one of the liveliest and fastest-growing cities in Metro Vancouver. With vast natural beauty, a flourishing culinary scene and cutting-edge recreational facilities, it’s a city just waiting to be discovered.
Surrey is a diverse community rich in arts, culture, history, heritage and home to some of the largest and most vibrant festivals in Canada. We embody a unique fusion of urban and rural, embracing both our buzzing urban centres and the stunning natural landscapes they’re nestled amongst.