Vancouver to the Rocky Mountains, fjords to pine forests: the heart of western Canada is as varied as it is addictive. Mountain bike on glaciers and scuba dive in the Pacific Ocean on a trip packed with eagles, bears, and moose. But there’s so much more than nature: the art of the Tsimshian people, the hustle of Richmond’s Chinatown, and fine wine from one of the world’s most fertile regions await. So hit the open road and see what western Canada has in store.
Majestic mountains, sparking ocean, and temperate rainforests make Vancouver the perfect place to begin your tour of Western Canada. Explore the galleries and coffee shops of hip Granville Island, or lose yourself in Stanley Park’s seemingly endless trails. A perfect synthesis of the urban and the natural, it’s not hard to see why Vancouver is known as the “Pearl of the Pacific”.
There’s a beautiful spot at the southern end of Little Shuswap Lake, where the town of Chase lies. Take a leisurely stroll through the green pines of Tsútswecw Provincial Park, where curious pine martens dart in and out of the trees. Head back into town for a relaxing meal of freshwater salmon caught a stone’s throw away. Chase is the perfect place to relax and forget about the world.
3. Lake Louise
Lake Louise is the quintessential Rocky Mountain snapshot. Canoe on the turquoise water among the snow-capped peaks of the Devil’s Thumb and Mount Victoria, disturbed only by the gentle sounds of your paddle breaking the surface. Finish a day with unctuous fondue in the Fairmont Chateau, one of Canada’s historic Grand Railway Hotels.
Make your way north through the Icefields Parkway to Jasper, an alpine town nestled in the 4,200 square miles of Jasper National Park. From town, take the Skytram up to Whistler’s Peak mountain, where you can look down onto some of Canada’s most awe-inspiring landscapes. Breathe in the clear air as you look across the Athabasca River to Pyramid Mountain.
5. Prince George
Head west to Prince George, known as British Columbia’s “Northern Capital”. Start at Exploration Place, where exhibitions on the area’s history and nature are always on display, before making your way to the Two Rivers Gallery, a treasure trove of modern Inuit and First Nations art. Of course, there’s still plenty of nature—enjoy the fresh Nechako River breeze in McMillan Creek Park.
It’s not hard to see why the Wet’suwet’en First Nations tribes settled the area of Smithers. This small town is a perfect base for fishing, hiking, and camping on the Hudson Bay Mountain, accompanied by the cries of great blue herons who fish in the creeks. Make sure to see the fossils in Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park, one of the world’s most valuable palaeontological sites.
7. Prince Rupert
This port city on Kaien Island is a nature-lover’s dream. Take a “flightseeing” helicopter tour of the local villages and the island’s fjords before swinging by the grizzly and black bear sanctuary in Khutzeymateen Valley. In Prince Rupert you can’t miss First Nations culture, including totem poles and ceremonial headdresses of the local Tsimshian tribes in the Museum of Northern British Columbia.
8. Port Hardy
In a tour overflowing with nature, Port Hardy still manages to stand out. Above the water, bald eagles scan the surface for fish, but the real wonders lie below. Get on a dry suit to explore the submarine kelp forests, home to wolf eels and pacific octopus in this majestic cold-dive location. Round off a day with a platter of locally caught salmon in this idyllic town.
Tofino lies on the shores of the Clayoquot Sound, a perfect spot for wildlife spotting and a great place to learn more about First Nations culture. Hike through the forest trails, looking out for pine martens and black bears among the gnarled giant cedar trees. Take a guided canoe trip with local guides from the Nuu-chah-nulth tribe to learn more about the history and mythology of this Biosphere Reserve.
Victoria is Vancouver Island's largest city, and it maintains the British charm from when Canada was ruled from afar. Stroll through the city centre, whose Empress Hotel and St Andrews cathedral seem closer to Bristol than Vancouver. Enjoy further tastes of Blighty by catching a game of cricket in Beacon Hill Park, before afternoon tea in one of the harbourside cafés.
Although Vancouver usually steals the spotlight, its smaller neighbour Richmond packs an equal punch. Take on the Dumpling Trail, a collection of 20 Chinese restaurants that will satisfy any foodie, especially one who needs refuelling after a week hiking in Canada’s west. Get one last taste of wildlife by watching sea lions frolicking on the harbourside, a fitting way to end your incredible journey.
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