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Take the ultimate self-drive road trip through western Canada where coastal rainforest and the glittering Pacific coastline abounds with brown bears, wolves, whales and bald eagles.

This tailor made wildlife trip starts from Calgary on the prairies of Alberta Province and, following a highly scenic route, winds its way right through the heart of the celebrated Rocky Mountains before descending to the forested British Columbia coast - with a huge choice of activities en route. On crossing to Vancouver Island, you drive through the ancient forests of Pacific Rim National Park to the remote coastal town of Tofino, famed for its whale watching. Finally make your way back to the mainland to end in the lively - and lovely - city of Vancouver. 

Suggested Itinerary

  1. Days 1-2 : Fly to Calgary, collect hire car & drive to Banff

    Fly from London to Calgary, arriving later the same day. After collecting your hire car and completing any formalities, depart Calgary and travel west through the foothills of the Rockies to the resort town of Banff (journey time approximately two hours). It is a leisurely and scenic route to Banff, part of a vast protected area and a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site.

    The following day, explore the wonders of world-famous Banff National Park, visit the hot springs or drive up Buffalo Street to Surprise Corner for spectacular views of the Fairmont Banff Springs.

    Accommodation: Buffalo Mountain Lodge, 2-nights                                                                                                                          

  2. Day 3: Drive to Colden; vsit Northern Lights Wolf Centre

    It's about a two hour journey from Banff to Golden, so you'll have plenty of time to stop and explore along the way. We recommend stopping at Johnston Canyon to see the waterfalls, and Lake Louise, a beautiful place to wander and explore.  After departing Lake Louise you will enter Yoho National Park and continue on Highway 1 until you reach Golden. 

    Perhaps make a visit to Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre which promotes wolf and bear conservation throughout the natural environment, and offers interpretive talks about wolves and their role in a healthy ecosystem. The grey wolves live in an enclosure, and interpretive talks take place right at the fence.

    Accommodation: Prestige Inn, 1-night

  3. Days 4-5 : Drive Icefields Parkway to Jasper

    Today return to Alberta and continue on to Jasper via the Icefield Parkway, the most spectacular trip in the Canadian Rockies. The highway follows the spine of the Canadian Rockies, passing beneath jagged snow and ice capped peaks, with sparkling lakes and literally a hundred glaciers visible throughout the course of the day.

    You should arrive into Jasper in the late afternoon. Fascinating in beauty and history, Jasper National Park is set amid some of the most rugged peaks in the Rockies. You may wish to take a tram ride up Whistler's Mountain, soak in the pools at Miette Hot Springs or perhaps visit Maligne Lake, one of the most photographed lakes in the world.

    Accommodation: Bear Hill Lodge, 2-nights

  4. Day 6: Drive to Clearwater

    Today's journey follows the Yellowhead Pass though the Rockies and Mount Robson, the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies, with an elevation of 3,931 metres. Its summit is covered year round by snow and is capped by the Robson Glacier. 

    Accommodation: Alpine Meadows Resort, 1-night

  5. Days 7-8 : Drive to Whistler

    Today you will start by travelling southwest towards Kamloops, before reaching the gold rush town of Cache Creek, often referred to as the Arizona of Canada because of its desert like ecology, with sagebrush, prickly pear and even rattlesnakes. Before arriving in Whistler, you can enjoy breathtaking views of Joffee Glacier and snow capped Mount Currie that rises to a height of 2,596 metres.r             

    Set against a backdrop of stunning mountains, Whistler has magnificent vistas on all sides, and offers a plethora of activities

    Accommodation: Aava Whistler Hotel, 2-nights 

  6. Days 9-11 : Drive & ferry to Tofino on Vancouver Island; whale watching in Pacific Rim National Park

    A full day's drive takes you along the scenic Sea to Sky Highway to Horseshoe Bay where you take the ferry to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, and then head to Tofino. 

    Vancouver Island is a great destination for wildlife enthusiasts because of its healthy black bear population and whale-watching opportunities. Tofino and Pacific Rim National Park are the main places to visit. Here you can walk along wild beaches and through dense forests where black bears are common. Boat trips provide excellent opportunities to see impressive numbers of grey whales that spend the summer in the plankton-rich channels offshore.

    Included during your stay is a whale watching tour. This tour takes you through the pristine waters of Clayoquot Sound to view beautiful scenery and wildlife. Depending on the time of year, you could encounter grey whales, humpback whales, sea lions, sea birds and resident bald eagles.

    There are many hiking trails in Pacific Rim National Park; or perhaps take a stroll along one of the many beaches, or perhaps wander through a collection of eclectic shops in Tofino.  Alternatively, you could take an optional Coastal Bear Watch tour, which features black bears and explores the fjord inlets of Clayoquot Sound. While the bears forage in the intertidal zone, you can unobtrusively observe and photograph their behaviour. 

    Accommodation: Best Western Tin Wis, 3-nights

  7. Day 12: Drive & ferry to Vancouver

    Today make your way back to the east coast of Vancouver Island to connect with a ferry from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay and onto Vancouver.

    Accommodation: The Listel Hotel, 1-night

  8. Day 13: Depart Vancouver

    A free day before returning your hire car to the airport and departing on an overnight flight back to the UK.

  9. Day 14: Arrive UK

Key info

Our trip ideas are offered to inspire you and can be tailored to suit your requirements.
  • Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 14 days from £2,895 pp
  • Duration and price excluding international flights: 13 days from £1,895 pp
  • Single supplement: From £1,635
  • When to go: May-Sep
  • Activities available:
    • Photography
Featured locations:

Banff National Park

Canada’s oldest national park, first protected in 1885, Banff National Park is also one of Canada’s most popular. With snow-capped peaks towering over glistening emerald lakes, including the ever photographic Lake Louise, the park is home to iconic wildlife including grizzly and black bears.

  • Where: Alberta
  • Ideal for viewing: brown bear, American black bear, caribou, Columbian ground squirrel, coyote
  • Excellent for: Bear watching, Birdwatching

Jasper National Park

The largest of the national parks in the Canadian Rockies, Jasper National Park offers a quieter alternative to its more famous neighbour, Banff. With numerous trails to explore within the park, Jasper offers the chance to search for numerous mammal species in a truly unique wilderness setting.

  • Where: Alberta
  • Ideal for viewing: brown bear, American black bear, moose, caribou, cougar
  • Excellent for: Bear watching, Birdwatching

Vancouver Island

The healthy black bear population and whale-watching opportunities make Vancouver Island a great destination for wildlife enthusiasts. Separated from the mainland by a long strait, the island’s west coast overlooks the Pacific Ocean, while the mountainous interior is heavily forested with big conifers.

  • Where: British Columbia
  • Ideal for viewing: American black bear, puma, grey whale, orca, sea otter
  • Excellent for: Wildlife photography, Self-drive, Whale watching, Bear watching, Dolphin watching

Vancouver

British Columbia’s largest city stands in a fine coastal setting, against a backdrop of lofty tree-covered peaks - a great starting point to any wildlife holiday in the province. There is plenty to see in this lively, multi-cultural city, such as exploring Stanley Park on foot or by bike.

  • Where: British Columbia
  • Excellent for: Activity & adventure, City stopover, History & culture

Pacific Rim National Park

Facing the Pacific Ocean, backed by Vancouver Island’s mountainous spine, this park preserves the natural heritage of Canada’s west coast, whose cool maritime climate generates an abundance of life on land and in the water. Interwoven with these natural wonders is the history of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations.

  • Where: Vancouver Island, British Columbia
  • Ideal for viewing: brown bear, humpback whale, orca, bald eagle, wolf
  • Excellent for: Walking safaris, Whale watching, Bear watching

Tofino

The small town of Tofino lies on the west coast of Vancouver Island, at the southern edge of Clayoquot Sound. It is a popular destination for anyone wanting to enjoy whale watching, particularly in March when the migration of thousands of grey whales is celebrated at the Pacific Rim Whale Festival.

  • Where: British Columbia
  • Ideal for viewing: otter, bald eagle, orca, humpback whale, American black bear
  • Excellent for: Whale watching, Bear watching, Dolphin watching

Calgary

One of the main international gateways to the breathtaking Canadian Rockies, the city of Calgary has a young, vibrant feel alongside its cattle-ranching ‘Old West’ cowboy history of which it is fiercely proud and which is showcased in July during the world-famous Calgary Stampede.

  • Where: Alberta
  • Excellent for: Activity & adventure, City stopover, History & culture