Our trip to Canada was a bit of a trip of a lifetime for us. It’s something we’ve always wanted to do, but other priorities; weddings, other people’s weddings, need for sunshine, 100 mile ultra marathons or frankly, money, always got in the way. In 2019 Dave decided he needed to take care of unfinished business by running a 100 mile ultra marathon. Which meant absolutely no holidays that could interrupt training. Boo.
BUT what it did mean was not leaving the country, me taking advantage of a small promotion I had at work, and ploughing every spare penny we had into saving for Canada. Yay!
To plan our route I essentially just stole a coach tour route I found online and copied that, except we hired our own car and booked our own hotels so could be a bit more flexible with where we stay, and for how long. Plus it meant we didn’t have to spend our holiday with other people. Double yay!
A map of our route:
For the sake of your attention span and me not having to write a 10,000 word blog post, I’ve split this into separate smaller posts about the different areas we visited, so you can just click through to the sections you’re most interested in, plus some general advice on food, wildlife and everyone’s favourite topic; toilets.
We sadly only had 1 full day in Vancouver before moving on but if you plan your day, I reckon you can see a lot in that 1 day. You can read my 1 day in Vancouver post for more detail but with jet lag on our side and an early start, we saw the food market, caught a water taxi, cycled round Stanley park and even managed afternoon pints. Oh, Newmans.
Did you know Canada has a wine region? Neither did I until we visited. And vast and delicious it is too. Read my Canada wine tasting post to see where we visited and tried. Penticton itself is also home to lots of little micro breweries and, you know me, dear followers, I love a pub tour. So you can also read my Penticton Micro Brewery Guide, should you so wish.
We were a little marred by bad weather here if I’m honest, the best lakeside views being the morning we left, naturally. But it was worth a stopover for the booze alone, and great to break up the journey between Vancouver and Revelstoke.
You can catch up on everything we got up to in Revelstoke here. But needless to say, this is when we first began to feel like we were in the mountains. Weather was a good 5 degrees colder, snow was visible on the highest peaks and we saw a bear padding about in the river. And it doesn’t get much more Canadian than that. Oh, and this is the section where you can read about how this prissy city girl wore the compete wrong trainers on a hike to find some salmon….
I have mixed feelings on Canmore (read the full rundown here). 1. It was the town we stayed in to allow us to visit Banff, which I loved, but 2. Mother nature really kicked us in the dick and bucketed 8 inches on snow on us which we weren’t expecting (and I certainly hadn’t packed for!). I can’t, however, Express how much I loved Banff though so worth read for what went on there and some cool pictures. We also stopped off at Lake Louise on the way here which was pretty cool.
Icefields Parkway/Lake Louise
I naively thought that the Icefields Parkway was the road we used for the 5 hour drive from Canmore to Hinton (near Jasper). How wrong I was as this part of the trip turned out to be my favourite few days, possibly ever. Loads of canyons, waterfalls, glaciers, rolling mountains and hot springs. It’s what we came here for really and we were not disappointed. Read all about that here.
We stayed in a little logging town called Hinton because staying in Jasper itself cost more plovdivs than we could afford. It was the ideal base to see more of the surrounding area and this section including some geothermal springs and a very cold walk up a very snowy mountain.
We stayed here really just to break to the journey from Jasper to Whistler and needless to say we saw all Kamloops had to offer in the space for about 2 hours. Still, I was the happiest I’d been almost all holiday for finding a GAP outlet and we took part in a pub quiz and didn’t come last!
I was so excited to go to Whistler as I knew it would be most like Queenstown in New Zealand, which I fell in love with on honeymoon in 2013. It was the perfect place to end our trip on and we really went out on a high. It was probably the nicest hotel we stayed in on the whole trip too!
I’ve written a girlie post about what I wore on our trip and how under prepared i was for the climate here and what I did to try and make my face not look utterly horrific without piling make up on here should that be you bag. We were unlucky in that we drove right into a snow storm, which was uncharacteristic for Banff in September. To summarise, my advice would be unless you’re travelling in the height of summer (June to August) then be prepared to layer up because you could get anything. As a bare minimum, a good coat (roomy, warm and waterproof) and some comfy waterproof walking shoes are a must.
I genuinely thought that seeing any wildlife while we were away would be like trying to spot a red squirrel in the UK. You know they’re there, but no one ever seems to see one. How wrong I was. It started by seeing a racoon in Stanley Park in Vancouver on the first day and then pretty much escalated from there. I spotted a black bear swimming in the river in Revelstoke, so we pulled up and saw it pad out the water and into someone’s back garden.
But I know, I know, pics or it didn’t happen so I was hellbent on seeing another one and getting a picture. That’s when the Icefields Parkway being tourist central comes in handy. You don’t have to be so eagle eyed because other tourists do it for you. If you see a load of cars pulled up at the side of the road, chances are they’ve spotted something, and that’s how we found our second bear, a moose and a female elk.
It’s true to say they’re more scared of you that you are of them, and the moose and elk particularly seem pretty placid. Not that I fancy my chances against that big lad’s horns mind, but keep your distance and keep quiet (i.e. don’t yell ‘Moose! Moose!‘ out the car window like I did) you’ll be fine. Bears on the other hand are the opposite, if you come near one you’re supposed to make a lot of noise and make yourself as big as possible, which, as Emma pointed out when I told her this ‘well that’s you two fucked then’. I’d be offended if it wasn’t so accurate – we’re not the tallest people in the world.
Now who doesn’t like a bit of toilet talk?! One of the biggest concerns about road trips can be regular stops for your daily ablutions. Inevitably there’s nowhere to stop when you need to and you don’t always want to pull into a restaurant or service station every time you need a wee. Up in the Rockies and certainly along the Icefields Parkway there are toilets in almost every rest area (which are almost every mile it seems)
HOWEVER the majority of them are long drop type affairs that look like this…
Don’t let the seat fool you, that’s essentially a hole in the ground and let me tell you, the people who’ve been before you haven’t given you the courtesy of sticking to the ‘no twosies’ rule. For a woman though, it does mean you don’t have to squat in the woods; there’s a seat, loo roll and hand sanitizer in each one. My advice? Hold your breath and don’t look down.
If you’re a bloke, Dave much preferred the ‘donate to nature’ approach. He’s a bit of a germophobe though so abluting in one of those things was never going to happen!
So there you have it! This post has probably been the longest and most complicated one I’ve ever written so I’m rather pleased to get it out there in the universe. But it really was such an epic trip of a lifetime, I just hope I’ve done it justice!