Majestic mountains, cosmopolitan cities, small mountain towns, stunning lakes, French speaking cities, wildlife abounds: Grizzlies, White Kermode Spirit Bears, Moose, Elk, Polar Bears, Whales – the list goes on. You can be staying at a stunning wilderness lodge only a short floatplane flight from Vancouver, travel through the Rockies aboard the spectacular Rocky Mountaineer, stay in an Ice Hotel or on a ranch – Canada has something for everyone and more!
Vancouver & Whistler Vancouver is a city worth spending at least three days as there is so much to do! Explore beautiful 1,000 Acre Stanley Park either on foot, bike or horse drawn carraige, eat your way through the food markets of Granville Island, or wonder the streets of Chinatown and historic Gastown. From Vancouver travel up the stunning Sea to Sky highway to Whistler and take a ride on the longest and highest lift in the world for an unparalleled perspective of British Columbia’s rooftop – from incomparable views of towering volcanic peaks to coastal rainforest.
Travel by ferry or floatplane to the capital Victoria and explore the city’s English charm including beautiful Butchart Gardens. Wander through the 55 acres of breathtaking gardens on the 130 acre estate. If you have time the island is worth exploring with access to bear lodges and the wild rugged west coast.
Banff National Park including Lake Louise
Explore this pristine wilderness destination by road or train – either way you will be blown away by Canada’s oldest national park! The alpine landscapes are simply stunning with towering mountain peaks, turquoise glacier lakes and ice fields and at every turn – have your camera ready! Lake Louise is located within the National Park and famous for the beautiful chateau which sits on its shores. The summer months will see the lakes turn a spectacular turquoise with the winter months transformed into a snowy winter wonderland.
Fondly known as the greatest outdoor show on earth, the Calgary Stampede is an annual, 10-day rodeo, exhibition and festival held every July in Calgary. The city takes on an incredible party atmosphere with office buildings and storefronts are painted in cowboy themes, residents don western wear and events held across the city include hundreds of pancake breakfasts and barbecues.
Quebec City Located at the intersection of the St. Lawrence and the St. Charles River Quebec is the heart of French Canada and is the only walled city north of Mexico with 4.6 kilometres of walls. The city looks and feels very European; perhaps that is why the entire old section of the town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.
Canada stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, sharing the southern latitude of Rome and reaching all the way up to the Arctic. Across such a vast landscape the temperature and climate varies dramatically. In May alone, you can ski the Olympic-caliber mountain terrain of the west coast or attend the world’s largest tulip festival in central Canada.
If you are a skier, then November to April is the best time to visit the ski slopes of Whistler, Banff, Sunshine Village, Lake Louise, Fernie, Marmot and Sun Peaks, to name a few.
The majority of visitors to Canada is during the spring and summer season from May though to mid September. Late September/October (Autumn/Fall) on the East Coast in particular has the most spectacular fall colours.
I have had so many wonderful experiences in Canada and find it very hard to narrow it down to my favourite. I’ve been fortunate enough to stay at Sonora Resort three times now and would go again and again. An all inclusive resort and if you want to get away from it all and be spoilt beyond belief, then this is the place to go. The cuisine is superb and not only are all drinks included, your fully stocked mini bar is too. They also let you call home anywhere in the world free of charge, so you can ring and gloat to friends and family. For the men (or women), you can go out fishing in the boats they have available, or practice in the fully stocked catch and release pond. Whilst the husbands are out fishing, wives can relax at the beautiful spa, and hubbies can join them at the end of a busy day of fishing. The Resort will also cook the fresh salmon catch for you at dinner that evening.
From Sonora we were fortunate enough to do a bear viewing excursion and saw several Grizzlies trying to catch salmon from the river. A memorable experience and one I will never forget! Add to that wandering around the French flavoured cities of Old Quebec and Montreal, travelling GoldLeaf on the Rocky Mountaineer, browsing the markets of Granville Island in Vancouver, a helicopter ride over Grouse Mountain, trudging through the snow to see beautiful Peyto Lake on the Icefields Parkway, travelling by floatplane to the English city of Victoria, and seeing moose and elk wander up the main streets of Banff and Jasper. Its hard to aptly describe how wonderful Canada really is. Kim
Currency The unit of currency is the Canadian Dollar
Language English is spoken throughout, but French is also an official language, and is the predominant language in the province of Quebec, which has its own local accent and vocabulary.
Why we love it There’s no greater an outdoors than in Canada! The iconic Canadian Rockies, vast plains where the buffalo roam, plentiful lakes, rivers and fjords, and glaciers galore. Even the Canadian people seem to exude that fresh-faced wholesomeness that such surroundings produce. Friendly and relaxed, there is a natural affinity between Canadians and Kiwis that make it a great place to get amongst the locals. Of course other locals include the likes of moose and grizzlies – perhaps less friendly, but amazing to see in the wild. We highly recommend getting out into the more remote wilderness areas to view bears in their natural habitat, and particularly love the area called the Great Bear Rainforest on the Pacific Coast which is home to not only grizzlies, but wolves, humpack whales and the elusive all-white Spirit Bear. But Canada is about more than whales and wilderness. The cities are sophisticated with vibrant arts scenes, and in the East offer a fascinating French flavour. Each region boasts a unique angle, from the outdoor activities of alpine-style towns of the Rockies, to the rustic fishing villages of Novia Scotia, and the vast ranches of the Yukon. And of course we must recommend a dose of the wild west at the annual Calgary Stampede. Aside from this obvious reflection of Western culture, you’ll also find that increasingly there are opportunities to experience the cultures of the First Nations people who have lived in the region for thousands of years, such as the Tsimshian of British Columbia – you may not be able to pronounce it but will find learning about their culture and traditions will add a quite enriching dimension to your holiday. A relatively new option to consider for your visit is a stay at one of the gorgeous Spa Resorts that have begun to spring up in wilderness areas, for a refreshing and restorative break from the hustle and bustle of travel. Getting around Canada is a breeze! The Rocky Mountaineer or Whistler Mountaineer are the ‘best of the best’ rail journeys in terms of stunning scenery, and VIA Rail offers scheduled services which are great for covering long distances. Self-drive is also a good option, as the roads are excellent, and outside the cities at least there is surprisingly little traffic. Just be aware when doing a self-drive itinerary that it pays to have all your accommodation booked in advance, as demand is heavy in the popular months. So – maple syrup, mounties and more bears than you can shake a stick at – what can we say – we LOVE Canada!
Weather Canada’s spring, summer and autumn (generally May to October) are all ideal for travelling, but for skiing you’ll aim for November through to April. The further north you go the cooler it gets, so leave that for July and August, whereas further south things can get very hot over those months. Peak tourist season is between Victoria Day (late May) and Labour Day (early September). Although spring and autumn have fewer crowds, lower prices and a more relaxed pace than the summer months, some attractions and facilities may be closed during these shoulder seasons.
Festivals & events Summer is when many of the country’s festivals take place. Whether it be beer, jazz, films, gardens, wine, comedy or tango – there’s a lot going on! The Montreal Jazz Festival is one of the largest in the world, attracting over 2 million people to its hundreds of concerts. Alberta is where you’ll find the Stampede, rodeo and chuckwagon type events, not to mention the intriguing sounding Lac La Biche Pow Wow and Fish Derby! Vancouver’s International Children’s Festival is jam packed with music, arts and activities. Victoria celebrates the First Peoples’ Festival in early August with traditional craftwork, dancing and war-canoe rides. Basically you’ll find something going on of interest, just about wherever you are!
Health* As you would expect of a developed western country, no special immunizations or medications are necessary for travel to Canada, but insect repellents and other measures to prevent mosquito bites are advised after dusk in the late summer and early autumn if out in the wilderness.
Notes *Please be aware that Health information is subject to change at any time and you should always double check these requirements at the time of booking and before travel.
... behind us a male polar bear appeared in the water swimming his way up Hudson Bay. The beluga whales took the opportunity to swim around and under him, hassling him as they apparently do when polar bears are in the water. It was hard to know where to look!