I remember with huge fondness my first visit to Canada back in 1977, a trip I recall well not only because we had an amazing time in such a beautiful country, but also because we were ‘across the pond’ when Elvis died that August and it was one of those events that you know exactly where you were when it happened !
It was now time to take my own children to Canada and so this last summer we set off on a family adventure in search of some of its greatest highlights including grizzly bears, vast panoramas, dramatic glaciers and turquoise lakes as well as a little urban sophistication and the prerequisite retail therapy.
I had actually been on a fishing trip in the remote and stunning scenery of northern British Columbia and then met the rest of the family on their arrival in Vancouver and with all planes on time this was an auspicious start. Vancouver is a bustling west coast seaport set in a dramatic location surrounded by beautiful mountains and it is also one of the country’s most ethnically diverse cities resulting in a thriving cultural scene with wonderful art, theatre and cracking cuisine. Cruise ships slip in and out on their way to Alaska, sea planes whizz around on their way to remote lodges and waterfront promenades are full of cafes, joggers and cyclists giving the place a real buzz. For those with plenty of time then there’s plenty to see here and I would definitely recommend a couple of nights to visit places such as the Capilano Suspension Bridge, take a hike up Grouse Mountain, wander around bustling Chinatown or cycle around the delightful Stanley Park.
Having picked up our massive Chevvy hire car we then took the ferry across to Vancouver Island and drove up to Campbell River for a night in readiness for our morning float plane trip to Knight Inlet Lodge tucked away on the remote and truly stunning Glendale Cove. This is a world of lush forests and steeped sided fjords and home to black and grizzly bears, bald eagles, killer whales and a wealth of other wildlife. We spent several days with our fantastic guides either kayaking, hiking and on boat trips in search of bears and whales and there’s nothing better than sitting in a tree hide with a huge male grizzly sitting beneath you scratching his nose and then jumping into the river to try and catch some migrating salmon – a wildlife encounter we’ll remember forever !
We then took the ferry back to the mainland and had a long drive up through ever-changing scenery to Kamloops for a logistical night before heading into the incredible mountain scenery of the Rockies and the legendary Icefields Parkway, which is often described as ‘the most beautiful road in the world’. Jasper lies at the northern end and Banff at the southern end and both towns are fun, vibrant and lively places with plenty of good hotels, restaurants and activities on offer. The road between them offers jaw-dropping scenery punctuated by more than one hundred glaciers, cascading waterfalls and turquoise lakes set in sweeping valleys. The driving all the way is very easy on good roads and one can stop all along the route to enjoy a multitude of activities such as walking on the Athabasca glacier, peering out on the gravity defying Skywalk, canoeing on Lake Louise, white water rafting on the Kananaskis River or hiking up the Johnson Canyon to the bubbling ‘inpots’ ! Whatever your interests are this is an incredible road trip.
Having dropped off the beast of a Chevvy at Calgary airport, we flew east to Toronto, Canada’s commercial powerhouse of a city and had a couple of days to explore this energetic city. A couple of highlights were whizzing up the side of the CNN Tower for some stomach churning views of the streets about a kilometre below through the glass floor and meandering through the old historic parts of the city whilst enjoying a little retail therapy. However the main reason to stop here is to see the mighty Niagara Falls, and the raw energy of these dramatic falls is wonderful to experience, especially if you head down into the tunnel behind the falls and watch the water thumping down in front of you.
All in all, Canada offers an incredibly diverse holiday whether it’s for couples or families and thirty years after my first visit, it never fails to deliver !