Best of Western Canada: Calgary to Vancouver Island
Banff - Jasper - Clearwater - Whistler - Parksville - Tofino - Victoria - Vancouver
This road trip from Calgary to Vancouver Island offers some of the best driving scenery in the world through mountains, forests and past dazzling lakes and rivers. Vancouver Island's Pacific Rim National Park has wild and rugged beaches while a few days in Vancouver offers city life at its best.
- Explore some of Canada's most beautiful national parks including Banff and Jasper
- Choose from a great selection of outdoor pursuits including hiking, biking, canoeing and white water rafting
- Relax on the beaches of Vancouver Island's stunning Pacific Rim National Park
- Enjoy excellent wildlife viewing with the opportunity to spot bears and whales
- End your trip with a few nights in Canada's most beautifully positioned city, Vancouver
Fly drive in Western Canada from Calgary to Vancouver
Fly to Calgary and collect your hire car before driving to Banff (145km) on either the Trans-Canada Highway or the more scenic 1A Highway. Once in Banff proceed to your chosen hotel, with the remainder of the day at leisure.
A full day to explore Banff and the surrounding area. In town you’ll find lots of excitement including shopping, cafés, nightlife and museums. Check out the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, Banff Gondola - where you will see a panoramic view of the Bow Valley - and then take a dip in the hot mineral pools at the Upper Hot Springs. If you are keen to spot wildlife or escape some of the crowds, we suggest an early start to do some hiking in the more remote parts of the national park. There are hikes of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty depending on your interest and stamina.
Drive the Icefields Parkway towards Jasper, viewing a never-ending procession of mammoth mountains, jagged peaks, over 100 glaciers and pristine emerald coloured lakes. Along the way see such sights as the Sarbach Glacier, Peyto Lake, Bow Lake, with the Bow Glacier providing the backdrop, and Crowfoot Glacier before your arrival at the Columbia Icefield for an Ice Explorer ride out onto the glacier. Leaving the Athabasca Glacier, your camera should be ready to capture the majesty of the Athabasca Falls prior to your arrival into Jasper. The total drive will take around three and a half hours.
Explore the charming mountain village of Jasper - close to many terrific scenic highlights. Take a tram ride up Whistlers Mountain, or visit Maligne Lake, one of the most photographed lakes in the world, and enjoy a 90-minute cruise heading toward the south end of this postcard setting. You will marvel at the magnificent shoreline with dense forest and glacial peaks rising abruptly from the water’s edge.
There are plenty of wonderful hiking trails in Jasper National Park, making the most of this vast wilderness of mountains, forests and countless lakes. These range from short easy hikes near the town to longer and more demanding routes such as the steep but rewarding Sulphur Skyline hike which offers far reaching views from its summit. A rewarding dip in the Miette Hot Springs awaits hikers upon their return.
Today you will take the 320km Yellowhead Highway to Clearwater in British Columbia, a drive of around three and a half hours. You will pass Mount Robson, at 3,954 metres the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies. Clearwater is located on the edge of beautiful Wells Grey Provincial Park. Wells Gray Provincial Park offers wild and untamed scenery with fewer visitors than some of the other parks you will have visited over the last week. This means a greater chance of wildlife sightings as well as quieter hiking opportunities. The park’s lakes and rivers are ideal for canoeing and rafting and other activities include mountain biking, fishing and float-plane excursions.
Today will be your longest drive as you journey to Whistler, a drive of around five and a half hours. Begin the day traveling via 100 Mile House to the Gold Rush Town of Cache Creek, where you can stop to visit the historic Hat Creek Ranch, which literally takes you back to the days of the Gold Rush. Continue the journey south to Lillooet, known as the land of the Gold Rush Trail and ‘Mile Zero’ of the Old Caribou Wagon Road during the Gold Rush Years. Now the area is home to the largest Canadian producers of the medicinal plant, Ginseng. Departing Lillooet travel the Duffey Lake Road to Whistler. On the upper elevations of the Duffey Lake Road enjoy breath-taking views of Joffre Glacier and snow-capped Mount Currie that rises to a height of 2,596 meters.
This alpine resort of Whistler offers plenty of summer activities from hiking to white water rafting and is nestled between the world-renowned Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. Experience the beauty of Whistler Blackcomb’s alpine environment via the Peak Adventure on Whistler Mountain. Take the Peak 2 Peak Gondola to Whistler Mountain’s sub-alpine and then rise to over 7,000 feet via Whistler’s premier open chairlift. At the top of the Peak Chair, guests will be treated to unbelievable views of glaciers, extinct volcanoes, snow-capped peaks and more.
Depart Whistler at your own leisure along the scenic Sea-to-Sky Highway to Horseshoe Bay, a drive of around 90 minutes. Highlights along the way include the cascading Shannon Falls and the Stawamus Chief Rock where climbers from all over the globe migrate to climb the granite cliffs. At Horseshoe Bay, sail for 2 hours on BC Ferries to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. The journey across the Strait of Georgia is a scenic hour and 40 minutes with the chance of some whale watching en route as this stretch of water is popular with pods of killer whales.
From Parksville you will drive across Vancouver Island to the Pacific Rim National Park on the island’s west coast. The drive will take around three hours and passes through beautiful mountainous and forested scenery until you reach the wild beaches and coastal rainforests of the Pacific coast. You might enjoy stopping at Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park, around an hour inland from Nanaimo. This forest is home to huge and ancient Douglas-fir trees, some over 800 years old and the largest measuring over nine metres in circumference. On the west coast you will be based in the small community of Tofino for the next 2 nights, ideally situated for making the most of this stunning national park.
Enjoy exploring the forests of huge trees and wild beaches of the Pacific Rim National Park. There is much to look out for in terms of wildlife from the rich sea life in the tidal pools along the beaches to grey whales which are regularly spotted on boat trips here due to their migration route passing through this region. Visitors can also take boat trips to more remote stretches of coast to spot bears fishing for crabs and sea lions basking in the sunshine.
Travel back to the East Coast of Vancouver Island and head south to Victoria, a drive of around 4-5 hours. Enroute stops should be made at the artist community of Chemainus, where you can admire the giant murals which adorn the exterior walls throughout the town and Duncan the “City of Totems”. If time permits visit the Quw’utsun’ Heritage Village which provides you with an insight into the lives of the northwest coast people.
Today is free to explore Victoria, with its turn-of-the-century architecture and British traditions such as high tea and shops full of woollens and china. Be sure to visit the unmissable Butchart Gardens with it’s over 50 acre display of magnificent colour.
Leaving Victoria drive north to Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal for a 90 minute ferry ride to Tsawwassen. On board BC Ferries enjoy the scenery of the Gulf Islands as you cross the Strait of Georgia. From Tsawwassen continue on to downtown Vancouver.
After almost two weeks of wilderness and awe-inspiring scenery, Vancouver is not quite the shock to the senses that some cities might be. In an enviable location between the sea and the mountains, Vancouver is a very beautiful city with good food, arts, shopping and plenty of outdoor pursuits on its doorstep should you require a last minute dose of the great outdoors.
You are at leisure to explore Vancouver’s diverse neighbourhoods. Many tourists head for historic Gastown, but vibrant Chinatown or the Downtown area with its excellent selection of cafes and restaurants, ideal for a long breakfast or brunch, feel more authentic. Granville Island is another popular spot with markets, galleries and shops making for an enjoyable afternoon. Hiring bikes and heading to Stanley Park is another popular pursuit with its extensive cycle ways through forests and along the coast.
Today is at leisure to further explore Vancouver until you drop your car back at the airport in time for your overnight flight back to the UK.
From £2,740 per person
Price is based on travel in mid season and on 2 people sharing. Includes international flights from the UK, accommodation and car hire.
All of our itineraries are tailor-made to your specific requirements and therefore prices do vary. The above is an indication only. Prices will vary depending on the season of travel and the standard of accommodation used. Please contact us for a quotation and to discuss your holiday requirements in more detail.