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Best places to see in Western Canada

25 replies

Sarcelle · 12/01/2020 13:18

Hi, trying to plan a road trip in Western Canada. What are the must sees/recommendations.

(We will be starting and finishing in Vancouver, taking in Vancouver Island). Provisionally thinking of 2 weeks but will probably extend up to 18 nights.

We are middled aged, fit, solvent. So whilst money is no object we won't be roughing it, like a bit of comfort.

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Parker231 · 12/01/2020 13:19

Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise - all very different but amazing.

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Beebumble2 · 14/01/2020 14:04

Whistler is great in the summer for outdoor activities. See if you can fit in a trip along the Okanagan valley, it’s beautiful with lakes to stop by.

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BubblesBuddy · 14/01/2020 14:05

We have done some fantastic areas of western Canada last September.

The best thing we have ever done - a week on a boat in The Great Bear Rainforest! You would never ever regret it. We went with Blue Water adventures. They have a great web site. You won’t see other travellers! You will see bears and whales. You will learn a lot. I cannot recommend this outfit highly enough! I think Maple Leaf adventures might do something similar. Also consider Haida Gwai.

We then went to Tweedsmuir Lodge . Hiking is available there and I highly recommend this lodge too.

Both these areas require you to fly out of Vancouver. Terrace for the boat (Kitimat) and Bella Bella for Teeedsmuir. This is raw Canada and isn’t over run with tourists. It’s magical and truly special. We saw rare Kermode bears too.

We met a couple from Vancouver Island on the boat and that’s where we will go next! Lots of great things to do and see there. I cannot wait!

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Beebumble2 · 14/01/2020 14:06

Also, if you want luxury, stay in the Fairmont hotels such as the Banff Springs, Vancouver Waterfront and Whistler Chateau

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BubblesBuddy · 14/01/2020 14:08

Ps: bluewater do have an en suite boat but others have shared facilities. I was a bit concerned about sharing but it was no issue at all. You are paying for amazing zodiac trips, a naturalist, a captain and crew that know what they are doing. It’s totally brilliant if you can afford it. Tweedmuir is up market - it’s lovely!

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BubblesBuddy · 14/01/2020 14:09

Fairmont hotels are huge! The real Canada is more personal than that!!

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nachthexe · 14/01/2020 14:23

They are indeed huge. But less traumatic than battling ten thousand other tourists on the lakefront/ Banff Ave if you really want to see these places (and let’s face it, most people do.) Early morning and late evening once the crowds are gone, the hotel guests in some places have absolutely the best access.
You should also consider back country lodges - there are a variety, some require effort to reach! Emerald Lake Lodge, Skoki, Assiniboine - lots of others. Depends how far off the beaten track you want to get.
If you are including Jasper, there is a very well worn route past the glaciers that has lots of viewpoints/stop-offs. A night at NumTiJah Lodge would be interesting.
Once you are out of the Rockies (don’t forget to visit one of the hot springs too) a few days in the Okanagan visiting vineyards is nice.
Haida Gwai is an awesome idea. Tofino?

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MooseBeTimeForSummer · 14/01/2020 14:27

Canadian here. Fairmonts are impersonal and overpriced. Lots of better and cheaper alternatives.
I’d do Lake Louise as a day trip from Banff.

What time of year?

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Fartlek · 14/01/2020 14:31

Lake Louise is lovely but it is completely overrun with tourists most days. It is really beautiful though.
We rented an RV and camped on the Shuswap lake in the Okanagan Valley last year at the Heritage camp ground near Salmon Arm. It was wonderful! That part of the world is a mini-rainforest, there are beautiful orchards to visit, lakes to tour on, vineyards galore and guaranteed warm weather. There are lots of lovely BnBs around there where you can live on a farm or right on the lakeshore.
2 weeks won't be enough if you want to do Vancouver City proper, Vancouver Island plus drive into the interior of the Rocky Mountains. Take the 18 days if you can! Don't try and pack too many destinations into your trip as you'll spend all your time driving. Don't underestimate how long it takes to get anywhere on 2 lane twisty mountain roads.
Vancouver Island is also amazing. Tofino and Long Beach are stunning and wild.

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Sarcelle · 14/01/2020 17:59

@moosebetimeforsummer - Sept

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Ciunasbotharcailinbainne · 14/01/2020 18:01

Lissard hot springs if you can get that far north!

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BestIsWest · 15/01/2020 19:47

I really disliked the Fairmonts. Not my kind of thing at all.

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lovelyupnorth · 16/01/2020 06:49

For me having done Calgary to Vancouver via Banff, Jasper and further north down to Whistler.

If you’re flying in and out of Vancouver I’d stick to Vancouver, Vancouver Island and Whistler unless you want to spend a long time in your car there and back.

Best tips - do everything early. - jet lag helped. But we did some walks around the Banff area that by the time we where back to the car is was hell. But lake Louise even at 8 o’clock was bad but we went over and did the cable car on the other side. They did and excellent Breakfast and ride deal. Also got to see a few bears on it.

I’d not do the fairmont hotels. Had lunch at the one at lake Louise and it was shit. Also massive

Our favourite things we did. The bobsleigh at Whistler, whale watching, the early morning cable car near lake Louise whose name escapes me. White water rafting - but did it further north on the sulphur river. also early morning moose crossing the road. The glaciers on the highway where good.

Would love to spend more time in Vancouver and to visit Vancouver island, both for next time.

Tips - take lots of money cause you’ll spend it. And get everywhere touristy early. And we would take some of the driving out. We did 18 days and did end up staying further north Than we’d really planned but then to stay in the National park round jasper was massively expensive. But did also mean we did a really good Whitewater rafting and got to see moose and wild beavers.

Enjoy

For reference we flew to Calgary hired a one way car rental

Stayed at
Canmore - near Banff
Grande Cache - north of Jasper - not a lot in town but some lovely walks round the Sulphur river, whitewater rafting, we visited a town with an awesome cafe and wild beaver walk. And saw loads of moose early mornings.
Kamloops - breaking long drive
Whistler - stayed on Blackcomb
Vancouver -

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AnnaBegins · 16/01/2020 06:59

The island is a holiday in itself! Duncan is cute and has a fab cafe in the garage. Tofino is beautiful. Victoria is cool and hipster, wish we'd spent more than a day there. Also further north for bears and good climbing - Campbell river, telegraph cove. Quadra island is full of artists. You could spend 2 weeks just on Vancouver island.
In Vancouver, hire bikes to explore Stanley park.
My personal fave is to head up to the sunshine coast. Or squamish for more climbing.
I'd fly between Vancouver and Calgary to see Banff and jasper if time, but again I'd not skimp on the time.

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Parker231 · 16/01/2020 08:17

We loved the Fairmont Lake Louise - we went at the end of January. The lake was frozen. Walked across it and deep snow was everywhere. Hotel staff were lovely. Had a great spa treatment and then gorgeous meal overlooking the lake as the snow came down. Was magical.

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SalamanderingAbroad · 16/01/2020 08:26

Tofino on Vancouver island, my favourite place, we went whale watching, kayaking, walking, great food, amazing ocean, lovely feeling to the place.

W3 stayed in a B and B overlooking the inlet rather than the sea. It’s my happy place.

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BubblesBuddy · 16/01/2020 20:41

Vancouver Island is 400 miles long. You cannot “do” it in a few days. It is worth spending time in areas you visit.

One fantastic thing about the Great Bear Rainforest: no other tourists!!! We saw 4 boats in a week! Haida Gwai would give a similar exclusive experience.

Snow resorts in Canada are very different to summer time in the resorts. Snow makes everything magical. Whistler is just one massive resort with - a Fairmont Chateau!!! We’ve done this and the Four Seasons for skiing but value other areas away from crowds.

A question for Canadians: are the Rockies less crowded in September? What about May/June?

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BestIsWest · 16/01/2020 21:26

Beginning of June was quite busy especially Lake Louise at the lake front. If you went a bit more off the beaten track then much quieter.

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BestIsWest · 16/01/2020 21:26

They are talking about limiting the number of park passes so I hear.

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MooseBeTimeForSummer · 17/01/2020 04:39

I live in Canmore. It’s busy all year round. Summer is busiest though. Places like Johnston Canyon can get crazy busy, so the earlier you get there the better. They actually closed access to Lake Louise in July as it was so busy.

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nachthexe · 17/01/2020 04:49

they closed it over Christmas too Grin are you guys here ft now? Did I know that? Dredging my memory...

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BestIsWest · 17/01/2020 06:50

I have serious envy of you living there.

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Muffinbutton · 17/01/2020 07:00

The Icefields Parkway drive between Jasper and Banff is stunning.

Probably won't have time, but Waterton is a really nice national park. Smaller and a bit quieter than others. It's south of Calgary.

Nelson is a lovely town. It's got a relaxed vibe and a good place to stop if doing a road trip. Mount Revelstoke is also a good road trip stop, and you can drive right up the mountain, with amazing wildflowers .

I also agree with previous PPs about Okanaga (sp?) , Salmon Arm, hot springs.

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fallfallfall · 17/01/2020 15:17

Starting on Vancouver Island;Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park, walking along the waterfront is stunning, easy trip to Tofino, the ferry to Van is stunning, land at Horseshoe bay stay at the Lonsdale Quay hotel visit the city a bit. Then I’d head into the Kootenays, stopping in Nakusp. Then the inland ferry over the arrow lakes to Revelstoke. Head towards Alberta/ice fields/Jasper/Banff then Mount Robson, there’s a very nice hike that takes you uphill to a scenic lake. Highway 5 to Kamloops then onto the Coquihala back to Van.
Bubblesbuddy I lived in Kitimat for 30 years, never imagined I’d see someone else on MN mention it 👍
Currently in Kamloops. I’d recommend the Sandman centre hotel on Lorne St., as the park across the street is lovely.
Personally JASPER PARK LODGE, is adorable certainly worth a meal just to see the elk.

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BubblesBuddy · 17/01/2020 18:30

Well, DH and I get to places most MN posters never go! I can honestly say that trip to the GBR was outstanding on all fronts! We do want to go East though so that’s why I was asking about the best time to go. We do like our whales and bears though.

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