Beginning and ending in the relaxed city of Vancouver, this self drive tour takes you to some of the most interesting and visually arresting places in British Columbia. Whistler, for example, with its year-round appeal, and the Joffee Glacier. The Monashee Mountains, Pyramid falls and the Albreda Icefields. The Canadian Rockies highest peak and Jasper. The beautiful Maligne Lake, Bow Valley, Banff and the Okanagan Valley all await.
Vancouver is the third largest city in Canada and a bustling interesting port. It has the ambiance of a world class city and the restaurants, shopping, galleries and museums, nightlife and sight-seeing opportunities to match. Its setting is pretty impressive too; including the Coast Mountains, the Burrard Inlet and the Strait of Georgia.
Stay: Two nights in Westin Bayshore
Collect your hire car and drive along the Sea to Sky Highway towards Whistler. This unforgettable route will take you past stunning views over Howe Sound, the Coast Mountains, Shannon Falls and mighty Stawamus Chief Rock – mecca for climbers from around the world. Whistler offers golfers four championship designer courses. You can dine on the top of a mountain or take to the water on five lakes and any number of waterways. Mighty glaciers, extinct volcanoes and snowy peaks are on show from a 7000 feet viewpoint, accessible via by an open chair lift.
Stay: Two nights at Nita Lake Lodge.
Rivalling the Sea to Sky Highway for sheer drama is the Duffey Lake Road. This is why you chose self drive. A series of breath-taking views of the Joffee Glacier lead eventually through Lilloet – known as the land of the Gold Rush Trail – culminating in Cache Creek and the historic Hat Creek Ranch.
Stay: One night in the Sun peaks Grand Hotel.
Let the river be your guide. The Thompson River meanders through plateau after plateau, steering you ever upwards to the snow-clad peaks of the Monashee Mountains. And on your way to Jasper you can see the seemingly endless Albreda Icefields and the towering bulk of Mount Robson – at 12,972 feet the Canadian Rockies’ highest peak. Jasper also offers great scenery, especially if you take a tram up Whistler Mountain or cruise across Maligne Lake with its heavily wooded shoreline and glacial peaks rearing straight up from the waterline. Spirit Island is similarly atmospheric.
Stay: Two nights at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.
Scenery is your theme for the next few days. And just when you thought that the countryside couldn’t become any more beautiful, the next natural wonder jumps into view. The spine of the Canadian Rockies is a parade of majestic mountains, ice blue glaciers, sky-scraping peaks, emerald lakes and stunning icefields. The highlights include the Columbia Icefield, Sarbach Glacier, Peyto and Bow Lakes, Crowfoot Glacier and Lake Louise. Then comes the Bow Valley Parkway, Bow River and Johnston Canyon and Banff itself; with its shopping, nightlife, restaurants, museums, Upper Hot Springs, Cave and Basin National Historic Site and Banff Gondola.
Stay: Two nights at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.
Wonder as you wander along one of Canada’s most impressive routes, through Kicking Horse Pass and Rogers Pass to the shores of Shuswap Lake – where sockeye salmon spawn. The Thompson River then guides you across great grasslands to the city of Kamloops and true cattle country, before reaching the lush orchards and vineyards of the richly fertile Okanagan Valley and Lake Okanagan at Kelowna.
Stay: Two nights at the Grand Okanagan Resort.
Has the best been saved till last? You could be forgiven for thinking so as you drive along the Coquihalla Highway towards Vancouver. Quaint roadside stalls offer all manner of local produce, as you climb to the 1244 metre high point – an average of 10 metres of snow falls here every winter – and onwards to the Great Bear Snow Shed, the Dry Gulch Bridge (over 280 metres long and 175 metres high) and perhaps some of the best views in the whole state. It ends with the Pacific Coast and pastoral Fraser Valley’s Minter Gardens. A great stop before returning your car and catching your flight from Vancouver Airport.