When you dream of Canada, 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 forested islands. The villages here are home to locals whose lives revolve around the ocean. Needless to say, the fresh seafood here is second-to-none!
Along the coast is the legendary Great Bear Rainforest, where wildlife including the rare white Kermode bear, wanders free.This forest of towering cedars and spruce is also home to grizzlies, wolves and cougars.
The true nature of BC is best explored from one of its 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 indulgent Sonora Resort. View wildlife, go kayaking, salmon fishing or heli-hiking, or simply retreat to the outdoor heated pool or hot tub! And the best part? Getting there is by helicopter and float-plane – where else but in BC!
For grizzly bear viewing, fly up to the wild and remote Knight Inlet Lodge in the Pacific Northwest. This floating resort is tucked into a protected anchorage which is 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 10 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’s 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 for 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 will usually be Vancouver. Fine dining, shopping, nightlife and a vibrant art scene are all on offer, and a side trip out to Victoria on Vancouver Island is a must.
To ride in style, take a journey aboard the Rocky Mountaineer train to Whistler, Jasper or 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.
Wherever you go there are opportunities to experience the traditions of its First Nations peoples. Guided explorations of traditional lands reveal art galleries and craft studios, live performances and traditional feasts. Or dive into Calgary’s 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.