Canada is a pretty big place, and deciding where to visit can be a difficult decision. After living in Peterborough, Ontario, during my year abroad, I was lucky enough to visit a range of places in Ontario and Quebec. However, I had always wanted to visit the Canadian Rockies, and Vancouver. So when the time came, after completing my year abroad, the first place I knew I wanted to visit was Vancouver.
Toronto to Vancouver
For a 17 day road trip around the west coast of Canada, I split my trip into two parts. Flying with AirTransit, with my friends, from Toronto to Vancouver was the first step. I, personally, had 8 days to explore what Vancouver had to offer, and 4 days within them 8 days to explore with friends.
Although Vancouver is arguably more expensive than Toronto (state tax wise), you can easily do Vancouver on a budget. The hostel that I stayed in with friends for the first 3 nights had now unfortunately shut down – notably it was a bit grim, but for $15 a night no one was complaining, and it also had a really great bar. If hostels are you thing, then the HI Hostels are great (and includes breakfast), or the Samesun Hostel group are also pretty good. Samesun and HI are more expensive, but you can get a loyalty card with HI which makes staying cheaper and can be used across the U.S and Canada.
Vancouver to the Canadian Rockies
For a first timer in the Canadian Rockies, and by myself, the best way to explore was by joining a tour. After careful research, and discovering that Trek America was out of my budget and didn’t do tours in April / May, I choose MOOSE. They are a lot cheaper, you stay in hostels, and you can really pick and mix your tour. My tour was eight days, starting and ending in Vancouver. However, you can decide to start and end in Banff for three days; Vancouver to Banff (including Jasper); Banff (including Jasper) to Vancouver.
The tour guide was amazing, insightful, and knew all the hidden gems – which is exactly what you want, at the end of the day. It is also a tour that I would easily go back and do again, and the 48 hour digital detox, while staying in a wilderness hostel, was exactly what I needed.
Stop in Penticton for paddleboarding, and you may just seen some bird of prey flying between the mountains.
Stay the night in Kelowna to break up the long journey to Banff. Explore the local town, and if you have time (and the weather is nice), head to the beach. Also stop in a supermarket to get roadtrip supplies.
Revelstoke is simply perfect. Stop in the town for a coffee, or two. Then head to water for some kayaking. Peaceful, and isn’t a tourist haven as Lake Louise is. The family run company will also supply you with flapjacks as you take in the most peaceful settings, the water, and the mountains.
Banff really is as instagramable in real life. Yes, it is expensive and tourists love it. Explore the town, buy some tourist collectables, explore Sulphur Mountain (hike it, takes about an hour and a half but it is worth it for the views at the top) via cable car, and take a dip in the Banff hot springs.
Banff National Park is the real attraction. From Lake Minnewanka, Johnston Canyon, Mistaya Canyon, and Bow Lake to name a few. You could spend days exploring the lakes and the mountains. Lake Louise is also in Banff National Park.
The Icefield Parkway connects Banff to Jasper. There are plenty of mountains, lakes, and glaciers to explore as you make your way up to Jasper, and back down to Banff again. Anthabasca is truly beautiful, but don’t spend a fortune in the visitor center, as you can see it all from the road, or get out an explore for yourself for nothing.