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21 days for Canadian Rockies, Vancouver Island and Vancouver

York, United Kingdom
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21 days for Canadian Rockies, Vancouver Island and Vancouver

I’m planning to visit to Western Canada and would appreciate it if anyone has done a similar route and duration or know the areas I plan to visit and would have a look at my schedule and see if I have allowed adequate time in each place.

I am looking at booking independently rather than booking a preset route through a travel agent. I may book flights and car rental car as a package.

We are a couple travelling so I think a fly drive will be the most suitable option but I am the only driver so trying to keep distances manageable. Initial planning is for late August into September.

Fly from UK to Calgary (land approx 14:00). Collect car and drive to Banff.

4 nights Banff include visit to Lake Louise or 3 nights Banff 1 night Lake Louise

3 nights Jasper

2 nights Clearwater

1 night between Clearwater and Vancouver Island (possibly Hope area)

Ferry Tsawwassen to Duke Point or Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay

3 nights Tofino

2 nights Victoria

Ferry Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen

4 nights Downtown Vancouver

Fly from Vancouver (depart approx 16:00) back to UK

The above schedule leaves me with 1 night spare.

Would it be worth spending 2 nights instead of 1 while travelling between Clearwater and Vancouver Island and travel via the Okanagan Valley. The only thing with this is I would have quite liked to travel through the Fraser Canyon and Hell’s Gates so would this put me too far out of the way?

I could spend a night in Calgary but would prefer to head straight to Banff when arriving as I would rather concentrate on the Rockies than sightseeing/shopping in Calgary.

Not particularly interested in visiting Whistler unless it makes science to drive that way on route to Tofino and use the spare night.

Would I be better just adding the additional a night to Banff or Jasper?

I have spent hours reading travel guides and Tripadvisor forum and have started going in circles! Basically is the plan sound?

What would be my best option for a Whale watching trip? I am assuming Victoria!

What would be my best option for Bear watching or will I see them anyway?

My initial plan has me leaving Jasper to travel to Clearwater on Sunday Sept 1st. Will this be a problems with traffic as I do realise Monday the 2nd Sept is Labour Day. Will Labour Day have any great impact on us visiting Wells Grey Provincial Park besides it been busier?

Once in Vancouver should I return the car or hold on to it for visiting Grouse Mountain and Capilano suspension bridge and transport to airport. I will stay downtown so would I be as well just using public transport? I could keep car 1 day in Vancouver for Grouse Mountain and Capilano.

Nothing is booked as yet but as for timing of my visit I cannot avoid Labour Day one way or another.

I know I have covered a lot but if I am given just a few bits of advice that would be great.

Edited: 03 January 2013, 17:24
seattle
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1. Re: 21 days for Canadian Rockies, Vancouver Island and Vancouver

A few quick comments. Whale watching is very easy from Victoria as a base. Bear sightings are always a treat but late summer is not the best time to see them

Jasper often is the best place to see wildlife. I agree with driving straight into Banff.

Capilano and Grouse Mountain run free shuttles from downtown Vancouver So what car will not be necessary at all in Vancouver.

Vancouver, Canada
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2. Re: 21 days for Canadian Rockies, Vancouver Island and Vancouver

Welcome to the forum w-spoons ~

What an extraordinarily well prepared first shot at an itinerary.

1 night spare. You could include the Fraser Canyon and Hell's Gate if you considered the following: Clearwater > Lytton or Boston Bar > Nanaimo > Tofino. Lytton is a small, basic, but busy enough town at the confluence of the Fraser and Thompson Rivers. The drive from Lytton > Nanaimo looks long, but includes an hour waiting for the ferry and 1.5 hours relaxing on the ferry, therefore reducing the actual driving time. Boston Bar is a very small town. You could count on basic motel accommodation here. Here's a map of this route:

http://goo.gl/maps/SrIoQ

If that doesn't appeal to you, Hope is a small, cozy town set away from the busy intersection of 3 main highways: Hwy 1, Hwy 3, Hwy 5. Good choice. Have a look at the Park Motel or the Windsor, both tucked away in town. There is a public park on the cliff overlooking the Fraser River.

Yes, head to Banff. Yes, give Whistler a miss. Whale watching either Victoria or Tofino. Grizzly bear watching from up island at Telegraph Cove, about 4.5 hours drive north of Nanaimo. From Campbell River from the first week of September. My opinion is that Labour Day will not be appreciably busier in a remote location such as Well Gray PP. You do not need a car in Vancouver, it's easily walkable and public transit is easy and convenient.

Aboriginal Journeys or Discovery Marine Safaris in Campbell River (had a great time with DMS one early September) reviews are here on TA:

tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g181792-Activiti…

A very sound plan.

Port Moody, Canada
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3. Re: 21 days for Canadian Rockies, Vancouver Island and Vancouver

Wonderful plan! You've allowed time which is super.. agree totally with advice by Mufti come down the Fraser canyon skip Whistler... your drive day will be long but you could do Clearwater to Horseshoe Bay in one day and catch the ferry to nanaimo.. overnight nanaimo then head out to Tofino early in the morning .. It would be about 7 hour drive time total Clearwater to Lillooet down the canyon to Horseshoe Bay.. and there's still lots of daylight in early September so ample time to see things along the way ( like a stop at Hell's Gate)

No car for vancouver... and the only thing I might change would be to skip Victoria and spend that time up island in either Port McNeill or Telegraph Cove... Victoria is a charming small city oft visited by people looking for a bit of "Englishness" kind of like coals to Newcastle in your case.. head up island for wilderness and bush.. something unique to our area a city is still jus a city imo

Vancouver, Canada
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4. Re: 21 days for Canadian Rockies, Vancouver Island and Vancouver

If you enjoy white water rafting, there are several outfits through the Fraser Canyon, so you could spend two nights in that area and take a day to go rafting.

I've been with Reo in the past and have really enjoyed the camp, the food, the guides and the river. Spectacular remote situation.

http://www.reorafting.com/

England, United...
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5. Re: 21 days for Canadian Rockies, Vancouver Island and Vancouver

For whale/bear viewing while on Vancouver Island, check out Remote Passages or The Whale Centre in Tofino (separate trips for grey whales and bears). If you want to see orcas, have a look at Eagle Wing who operate out of Fisherman's Wharf in Victoria.

These are two companies that we have used and can highly recommend.

York, United Kingdom
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6. Re: 21 days for Canadian Rockies, Vancouver Island and Vancouver

Thanks for all the replies and extremely useful information and opinions.

The first part of the route I have left unchanged.

Arrive Calgary and drive straight to Banff, as many suggested.

Banff 4 nights (or 3 Banff 1 Lake Louise), Jasper 3 nights, Clearwater 2 nights.

Clearwater > Lytton > Fraser Canyon > Hope for 1 night.

MuftiMixandmatch thanks for your various suggestions. If we stay in Lytton or Boston Bar I’m feeling I could have travel more that day and left the Fraser Canyon ticked off. Also I think I have easily used up my spare days due to your Campbell River suggestion!

Thanks Vancouverite6… for the Fraser Canyon white water rafting suggestion. Not sure we are up for that but would like to do some gentle rafting while in Banff/Jasper.

Traveller47 the idea of doing a straight drive from Clearwater to Horseshoe Bay for the ferry would be a good one allowing us to arrive on Vancouver Island a day earlier. But I have reservations about the distance/time as I am the only driver.

Now to the second part of the route with changes to the Vancouver Island leg.

Ferry Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay.

3 nights Campbell River. It will be September by this time so we are considering taking one of the Grizzly Bear tours that will be running out of Campbell River rather than having to drive all the way to Telegraph Cove.

Still planning 3 nights Tofino to chill out. If we didn’t spot Whales on the Grizzly Bear tour we could book a Whale watching tour while in Tofino.

Ferry Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen.

4 nights in Downtown Vancouver returning the rental car on arrival or next morning.

Does anyone think I would be better travelling to Tofino first then Campbell River as Grizzly Bear sightings are guaranteed (as much as they can) from the 7th September with some tour operators?

Our current plans would put us arriving on Vancouver Island the 4th September.

With this revised plan for Vancouver Island I have missed Victoria. I’m still not sure about this so I’m thinking of a few other options.

1 - Spent only 2 nights at Campbell River or only 3 nights in Vancouver. Travel to Victoria for 1 night before leaving the Island for Vancouver.

2 - Spend only 2 nights in Campbell River and 3 nights in Vancouver leaving me 2 nights for Victoria before leaving the island for Vancouver as in my original plan.

3 - While in Vancouver (4 nights) take a Float Plane to Victoria and return to Vancouver by ferry. The Float Plane would be another experience to have and I was considering taking a scenic Vancouver Float Plane tour anyway.

As suggested by traveller47 is it worth missing Victoria to spend time elsewhere but is Campbell River any subtitle for Port McNeill or Telegraph Cove?

Thanks davidgmg and PamjoHertford… for your info on Vancouver and Whale/Bear watching

Port Moody, Canada
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7. Re: 21 days for Canadian Rockies, Vancouver Island and Vancouver

The drive from Clearwater to Horseshoe Bay will be fairly easy actually we're used to doing 10-12 hour drives here the roads are good with passing lanes and 4 lanes in many spots..... but if you do want to do the Fraser canyon and are worried about doing the driving then I'd stay in Hope instead of Lytton or Boston Bar.... lots of spots to stop along the way from Clearwater to Hope and much more accommodation choice in Hope.....then you can get an early start and get the Horseshoe Bay ferry by noon putting you on the island by 1:30....personally I'd travel to Port McNeill instead of Campbell River... ( sorry Campbell River folks) the north part of the island is far less "touristed" and you can also do a day trip over to Alert Bay which is quite interesting.

It's not that long a drive up island ..we've stayed at water's Edge b&b in Port McNeill..check reviews..simple but great location and comfortable..we actually had a bear at our door there!

It's hard to say which is better to do first...we always see bears up island ..Port McNeill, Port Hardy, Coal Harbor area.. black bears on the side of the road mostly..

I think you might want to do Tofino first..you'd be there in early afternoon if you drive from arrival in Nanaimo ( Departure Bay)..

For your return if you don't plan to drive down to Victoria there's no need to take the Swartz Bay/ Tswassen ferry ...unless you're wanting to drop your car at the airport rental..and then take the Canada Line into downtown..

You could do the Duke Point ferry from just south of Nanaimo to Tswassen then head to the airport.. you won't need a car in Vancouver...

the float plane to Victoria is a great outing..I love those planes..there's also the helijet ..both go from downtown to downtown...your plan for plane one way and then bus/ferry back is excellent for a day trip.

Vancouver, Canada
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8. Re: 21 days for Canadian Rockies, Vancouver Island and Vancouver

I'm really liking your plan! Its coming together really well and you will be happy with it I think.

Ok, Victoria: City, museums, people, buskers, a harbour (but not an amazing one). Its nice, but its not spectacular, IMO.

Conversely: bears, natural beauty, wilderness, rainforests, rain, bugs, mud.

Vacation planning is full of difficult choices. Only you know what your priorities are.

Vancouver, Canada
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9. Re: 21 days for Canadian Rockies, Vancouver Island and Vancouver

That outline is a fair bit to digest. So I will say by way of introduction here that Clearwater to Hope will be a fairly long drive of about 6 hours. Hope to Tofino will be a drive of about 6.5 - 7 hours driving, including the hour wait to board the ferry at Horseshoe Bay. Hope to Campbell River would be closer to 5.5-6 hours, including the wait for the ferry.

Once you're on the Island, the driving legs are very reasonable between Victoria, CR and Tofino.

But there is nothing to stop you from going to Victoria first, then Tofino, then CR, then Vancouver. This would be better for bear viewing. So have a think about this:

Calgary > 4 nights Banff > 3 nights Jasper > 2 nights Clearwater > (via Little Fort, 70 MIle House, Lytton ) > 1 night Hope > (via Tsawwassen-Swartz ferry terminals) > 2 nights Victoria > 3 nights Tofino > 2 nights Campbell River > (via Departure Bay-Horseshoe Bay terminals) > 4 nights Vancouver.

Again the longest leg would be from Clearwater to Hope, Hope being the better town to overnight in, over Lytton or Boston Bar.

Here's the map for this idea: http://goo.gl/maps/Ns1Po

On this map you will notice just east of balloon I that the blue line cuts off cross-country to the ferry terminal rather than go into Vancouver. Here is a close up of that cut off:

http://goo.gl/maps/Z5KQz .... Just ignore the lollipop stick under Balloon B as Google Maps has just stuck that in. If you zoom in big time, you will see how to get off the highway at 200th St, in Langley (Exit 58) and find your way fairly efficiently to Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. These maps can be printed off.

You will need to make reservations for the ferry. It will be the last hurrah for families to get to and from the Island, so it will be busy. With a reservation, you would need to arrive at the terminal between 60 and 45 min ahead of sailing at which point you are guided by ground staff to a preferred loading lane. You drive on to the ferry first and are first to drive off on the other side.

If you click on satellite view and zoom right in over Tsawwassen you can clearly see the ferry terminals and how the loading area is laid out.

The seaplane idea. That would be great on a nice day. Seaplanes are subject to weather conditions and the flight would be cancelled if it was too windy or if visibility was not sufficient to fly. Something to keep in mind when trying to plan with certainty. It is a flightseeing journey all the same, really nice and at low enough latitude that you can see people mowing their lawns, cars and people on the ground and kids playing in yards and parks.

North Island. Telegraph Cove. It is more wild and has more wildlife. You could consider the following:

Hope > (north ferry route) > 1 night Campbell River > 3 nights Telegraph Cove > long drive (6-7 hours, stops extra) to 3 nights Tofino > long drive (~7 hours, north ferry route) to 3 nights Vancouver. 3 nights in TC would allow you a day of whale watching and a day of grizzly bear watching.

tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g499151-d6…

tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g499151-d1…

I hope I've understood your new plans correctly.

Edit: Just rereading this makes me realize that the first itinerary would give you much variety of towns/cities, landscapes, activities, scenery, even the southern ferry journey. If you put the weight on Telegraph Cove in favour of whales and bears, you would lose some of that variety of itinerary.

Edited: 08 January 2013, 02:49
York, United Kingdom
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10. Re: 21 days for Canadian Rockies, Vancouver Island and Vancouver

Wow thanks for all the great ideas.

I was thinking traveller47, as you have pointed out that if I stay in Hope area it’s not too far to Horseshoe Bay and will mean I arrive on the island in good time. I’ve had a quick look at Port McNeill, it looks very interesting. Thank you for pointing out my error with ferries. I will hopefully drop the car in Downtown Vancouver so will take the Departure Bay/Horseshoe Bay ferry. I’ll have a closer look at the Helijet and Float Plane.

Sorry MuftiMixandmatch I did try to shorten my last post. I was a little worried it was getting confusing but you understood it ok. I like your first itinerary and have read about the drive via Little Fort and 70 Mile House a few days ago on a TA forum. I like your suggestion of going to Victoria first, that mixes things up nicely. I assume with that route you meant to cut Vancouver down to 3 nights! Thanks for the route maps. I was hoping everything would have settled down by the Tuesday after Labour Day but thanks for that advice and I will make a ferry reservation. I also like the idea of your second itinerary suggestion but as you say it cuts down on the variety.

I would only consider the Float Plane idea to Victoria if I had 4 nights in Vancouver and as you said weather could ruin that plan.

Anyway lots for me to think about and as Vancouvrite67 difficult choices to make.