When you dream of Canada’s west, images of vast forests, soaring mountains, and grizzlies snapping at salmon appear. All that, and more, are what Canada’s West, is all about.
The western provinces of British Columbia and Alberta do nature in spades – with wild places where nature, not man, creates the boundaries, and its people, history, and culture are all shaped by the environment.
It all starts on the Pacific coast, cut by hundreds of impossibly steep, blue fjords and scattered with thousands of forested islands. The coastal villages here are home to locals whose lives revolve around the ocean. Needless to say, the fresh seafood on the coast is second-to-none!
Along the coast is BC’s legendary Great Bear Rainforest, where a wealth of wildlife, including the rare white Kermode (or spirit) bear, wanders free. This forest of towering cedars and spruce is also home to grizzlies, wolves and cougars.
We highly recommend you experience the true nature of BC at one of the region’s wilderness resorts. Go whale or bear watching by day, retreating by night to cosy accommodation and fresh local cuisine. One of our favourites is the thoroughly indulgent Sonora Resort. Here you can get out amongst it to view wildlife, go kayaking, salmon fishing, or even heli-hiking. When it all gets too much there is absolutely no shame in retreating to the outdoor heated pool or hot tub, or refuelling with some gourmet cuisine. And the best part? Getting to Sonora involves a helicopter flight followed by a float-plane transfer – where else but in BC!
For the ultimate in grizzly bear viewing, fly up to the wild and remote Knight Inlet in Canada’s Pacific Northwest. Here you’ll find Knight Inlet Lodge, a floating resort tucked into a protected anchorage in Glendale Cove. Home to one of the largest concentrations of grizzly bears in BC, it is not uncommon for there to be up to 40 bears within ten kilometres of the lodge when the salmon are running.
Beyond the rainforest, you can also visit the Gulf Islands to explore artists’ communities, organic farms, and white shell beaches, or drive high into the Coast Mountains on the dramatic Sea-to-Sky Highway to experience Whistler Blackcomb, a four-season resort with excellent skiing, dog-sledding, snowshoeing, and one of the most exciting gondola rides in the world.
When all that nature builds up an appetite, head for the sun-drenched Okanagan Valley in BC’s heartland. Here you’ll find hundreds of wineries, fruit stands, and farm-to-fork eateries inviting you to sample their wares. It would be rude not to!
Your entry-point to Canada’s West, and your base from which to explore, will usually be Vancouver. Fine dining, shopping, nightlife and enough arts to satiate even the most ardent culture vulture are all on offer. A side trip out to Victoria on the southern tip of Vancouver Island is a must.
To slow it down and ride in style, take a journey aboard the Rocky Mountaineer train to Whistler, Jasper or even to the picture-perfect Lake Louise and Banff. Luxurious, comfortable and with spectacular views of the Canadian Rockies, it’s an experience you just can’t get from the road.
In Vancouver, and throughout BC and Alberta, there are opportunities to experience the ancient cultures of its First Nations peoples. Guided explorations of traditional lands can reveal art galleries and craft studios, live performances and traditional feasts. In Calgary itself, dive into the Western Culture with a little line-dancing – cowboy boots and Stetson optional.
Wherever you go in Canada’s West, allow enough time to do it all, and nature will prevail.