Rugged Canada Road Trip
This luxury road trip around some of the most ruggedly beautiful bits in Canada should be at the top of any bucket list. Here, we have created an itinerary combining the Canadian Rockies in Alberta before heading into beautiful British Columbia, down to the coast and across to Vancouver Island.
Itinerary at a Glance:
- Drive in style through the Rocky Mountains
- Sample some of the best wines in North America
- Spot whales and bears on Vancouver Island
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Day 1: International Flight
Your flight to Calgary will leave London mid-afternoon and land nine hours later in late afternoon thanks to the time difference. After you have cleared customs and collected your luggage, you will pick up your 4x4 (or SUV in local parlance), which we're sure will come in handy on the mountainous driving coming later in the trip.
It's now time for your first bit of driving - one and a half hours to Banff where you'll spend the first night.
Day 2: Banff
Today is all about getting you bearings in Banff, so after breakfast you will be met at your hotel by your expert guide for a tour of Banff town and its spectacular surroundings.
The town is interesting enough, but head five minutes in any direction and you're in wild country where bears, elk, wolves and bighorn sheep roam. In fact, Banff National Park itself was Canada's first and remains one of its very finest, thanks to dazzling glaciers, towering mountains, wildlife galore, alpine meadows and emerald lakes, all of which you can explore over the next three days.
After a picnic lunch, you will be privately transferred back to your hotel where you can collect your car to visit the Banff Gondola at your own leisure for a 360-degree view of six mountain ranges.
Day 3: Via Ferrata
Today, after an early breakfast you will privately transferred to Mount Norquay for half a day on the vie ferrate (literally 'iron roads' in Italian). The system of cables, ladders and suspension bridges takes you across the mountains to enjoy some extremely well-earned and spectacular vistas.
This afternoon is yours to spend at leisure, but we recommend taking a self-guided hike through the mountains along one of the well-marked trails before dinner and drinks in Banff. Our detailed Dossier will have recommendations.
Day 4: Winelands
After breakfast this morning you will set off on the first big drive of the trip - some six hours in all - to Okanagan, British Columbia's prime wine region. You will travel from Alberta into British Columbia and across two of Canada's most beautiful national parks.
Since there are so many spectacular vistas along the (mostly traffic-free) road, we imagine that you will want to make numerous photo - and snack! - breaks, so factoring in a couple of extra hours driving time is a wise idea.
When you arrive at your vineyard hotel, we recommend taking a walk around the estate before dinner and drinks - it would be rude not to sample a few of your host's vintages, after all.
Day 5: Wine Tour
Today you will leave the car behind as you're met at your hotel for a privately guided wine tour around some of Canada's finest wineries.
You will be privately transferred between vineyards, as your expert guide explains the unique terroir that produces Canada's distinctive wines, and the ingenuity of the growers to keep the vines alive during the bitter Canadian winters. Having visited your fill of vineyards, enjoy a picnic lunch on the shores of the lake and picked up a few bottles of your favourites before being privately transferred back to your hotel to spend the rest of the afternoon at leisure.
Day 6: Whistler Bound
Today, we imagine you'll rise a little late, and possibly with a sore head, so it's probably for the best that you're heading to the fresh, mountain air of Whistler. The drive into the mountains takes roughly six hours, although with plenty of stops for photos, and a well-deserved lunch en route, it may take longer.
After checking into your hotel we recommend dinner at one of the restaurants in town - check your Dossier for our favourites.
Day 7: Whistler
After a later start today, you will head into the mountains to the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, which spans the two and three quarter miles between Whistler and the Blackcomb Mountains. The incredible 360-degree views take in Whistler, mountain peaks, lakes, forests and glaciers. The glass bottomed gondola - definitely not for vertigo sufferers - offers a bald eagle's eye view of the forest.
After lunch, or for those without a head for heights, we recommend trying out one or more of the trails around Whistler for a few hours hiking through the mountains. After spending most of yesterday in the car, the clean, crisp mountain air will no doubt be welcome. There are numerous well-marked trails for walkers of all abilities, taking you deep into the spectacular countryside. With tired legs, we recommend drinks and dinner in Whistler before the last leg of your road trip.
Day 8: Bear Stalking
This morning you will be met at your hotel by your expert guide for a very special outing. After a quick private transfer up into the vast coastal-hemlock forests above Whistler, where around 50 black bears hunt for food and hibernate, you will search the forest for bears.
As your guide takes you through the forest, he or she will talk about the wildlife, vegetation, glaciers and rainforests of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. You will learn how conservation and enhancement initiatives help to sustain healthy bear populations and traverse through the mountain among old growth, coastal hemlock-cedar forests, seeing bear dens, daybeds and feeding sites.
After your tour, you will be privately transferred back to your hotel to spend the rest of the afternoon at leisure.
Day 9: Vancouver
After checking out of your hotel this morning, it's an easy hour and a half drive along the Sea to Sky Highway (although you're heading from sky to sea) to Vancouver. Arriving around lunch time, it's time to say a fond farewell to your trusty motor, which have clocked up almost a thousand miles by now.
To stretch your legs after your drive, we've arranged a three-hour cycling tour of Vancouver's Stanley Park. Your expert guide will lead you down the pristine forest trails that criss-cross through the park, all the while telling you all about Canada's amazing wilderness city.
Post tour, you'll check into your hotel for the next two nights, before dinner at a restaurant chosen from your handy Dossier.
Day 10: Art Tour
This morning you will be met at your hotel by an expert guide for a three-hour private 20th century Canadian art tour of Vancouver. Your guide tour will show how works by Canadian artists of both First Nation and European descent, including Emily Carr - one of British Columbia's best loved artists - were inspired by their natural surroundings.
After your tour, it will be time to consult your Dossier for a lunch venue, and then spend the afternoon exploring more of a city regularly voted the most 'livable' on the planet.
Day 11: Vancouver Food Tour
After a morning at leisure, just before lunch you will be met at your hotel for a three-hour walking and food tour of the city - where you will sample gourmet food from some of Vancouver's best chefs, including the city's best dim sum (Vancouver has always had an eastward aspect, and there is a large Chinese population) as well as learning about Vancouver's food trends, culture and architecture.
Post tour, you have the afternoon at leisure - may we recommend some shopping or sampling the wares in some of the many hipster micro-breweries popping up. If you can find the room for dinner, we'd recommend choosing a restaurant from your handy Dossier.
Day 12: Vancouver Island
Yes, we know this was supposed to be a road trip but we insist that you spend a couple of days at one of the luxury lodges on the Vancouver Island, arriving in style via seaplane trip from the city harbour for three days of back-to-nature bliss.
After checking into your hotel and having lunch, this afternoon is all about exploring the island on one of the many self-guided hikes available.
Day 13: Whale Watching
Today is you last full day in Canada, so we've arranged a three-hour whale watching trip from Victoria. You will be taken out onto the river - home to the world's largest concentration of orcas.
Using the onboard hydrophone to listen to their call, you will travel along the shoreline and inlets to find a plethora of wildlife, marine and otherwise, including black bears, pacific white-sided dolphins, porpoises, seals and eagles. After a picnic lunch, you will be privately transferred back to your lodge where you can spend the rest of the afternoon exploring your wild surroundings.
Day 14: Wine Tasting & International Flight
Today is sadly your last day in Canada, but before your evening flight home, this morning you will be met at your hotel by an expert guide for a private wine tour of the Cowichan Valley wine region.
You will visit four different producers and will be treated to some of Canada's finest wines, from sparkling wines to bold reds to crisp, classic whites, along with brandies, ports, and even ciders. After a day of exploring the beautiful Cowichan Valley, not to mention its wonderful wines, you will take a seaplane to Vancouver airport for your overnight flight home. The direct flight takes roughly nine-and-a-half hours.
Day 15: International Flight
Your flight will land in London in the early afternoon.
Abigail and Ollie are our experts for this itinerary and as seasoned travellers they have the inside track on the most memorable adventures.