The best approach to the Rockies that form the border between British Columbia and Alberta is on the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver. This iconic railway will carry you up and over the Continental Divide to either Jasper or the lively mountain resort town of Banff, but no matter where you arrive, plan on driving the superbly scenic Icefields Parkway which runs cheek by jowl beside the highest summits and menacing tongues of glaciers, passing by Lake Louise and a string of other gorgeous lakes.
FOOD AND WINE
You have no doubt heard about the fantastic seafood in the east and the fashionable Pacific Rim cuisine out west. What may surprise you is the superb wine that Canada produces. The Okanagan Valley in British Columbia is known for its dry sunny climate and fruit orchards, but also boasts some 100 estate vineyards, and so this region of rivers, lakes and canyons makes for an ideal stopover on the long drive from Vancouver up into the Rockies.
As well as being convenient airline gateways, Canada’s cities demand time in their own right. Choose between Vancouver, with its feet in the sea and its head in the mountains; Toronto, Canada’s largest city with easy side trips to Niagara Falls and the Algonquin wilderness; charming Ottawa, Canada’s historic capital; Quebec City with its distinctive Gallic atmosphere encased in 400 year old walls; and Montreal, hugely cosmopolitan with a full calendar of festivals from jazz to comedy.
WET AND WILD
Black or brown, grizzly or polar, there’s nowhere on the planet that beats Canada for bears. The prime time for grizzlies is late summer and early autumn when they can be seen catching salmon, often accompanied by their cubs. Several lodges in British Columbia organise ‘safaris’ by boat as well as viewings from hides. Sightings of polar bears, the ‘Lords of the Arctic’, peak during the autumnal gathering around the town of Churchill in Manitoba where they wait for the Hudson Bay to freeze before setting off to hunt for seals, their staple diet. Both coastlines of Canada offer whale watching, with the presence of particular species depending on location and time of year. April to October, for example, are the prime months for viewing Orcas off the coast of British Columbia, while on the eastern seaboard, the massive tides in the Bay of Fundy - which separates New Brunswick from Nova Scotia - attract Humpbacks and the North Atlantic Right.