Hannah’s Canada and Rocky Mountaineer Experience

This trip to Canada was 7 days in total and really gave me a great appreciation into the vast beauty this country has to offer. As part of this tour, I travelled on the Rocky Mountaineer, which I highly recommend as a MUST DO while visiting Canada, it is the absolute best way to view the Rockies!

On arrival in Vancouver I took a taxi from the airport to downtown where my hotel was located. All taxis are a flat rate from airport to downtown and with tipping it cost me CAD $50. They determine the price based on zones within the city and this information can be found on the Vancouver airport website. The hotel I stayed at was the Fairmount and it was in a great location for local sight seeing and the service was 10 out of 10! Note: Fairmount chain charge for internet however if you sign up to the President Club which is a free loyalty program you will get free internet usage for your entire stay and in the future at any Fairmount for life. Highly recommend this especially if you are staying at multiple Fairmount Hotels while in Canada.

Day 1 – Vancouver

After meeting my group, we had an afternoon at leisure to go up the Vancouver lookout tower. I went up at about 3pm and was told by staff at the ticket office to make sure I came back at sunset as it is a exceptional photo opportunity. As you can see below, I took their advice, and I am glad I did. Note: Your tickets gives you all day access to the tower and can go back as many times as you want.

Day 2 – Vancouver Sightseeing

Our first stop was the Totem Poles located in Stanley Park for a quick photo opportunity. Stanley Park is beautiful and provides a great vantage point to stand and look back over the harbour to see the city Skyline. The best way to see it is to jump on the hop on hop off bus, stay up there for half an hour (which is ample time to see the main sites )and then jump on the next bus back down (buses run every 30 minutes).

Next we went to the Capilano Suspension Bridge which is a must do for anyone visiting Vancouver! There are 3 walks you can do which are all included in your entry (approx. CAD $46pp). I did all 3 – Suspension Bridge – Treetops Adventure – Cliff walk. I don’t love heights but found all 3 walks manageable. You need to be able to climb stairs and definitely walk unaided to do all 3 walks.

It was then on to Granville Island Markets for lunch and I must say, this is one place you have to visit! The atmosphere was amazing and there are lots of different food and a huge variety of stalls. If you do the hop on hop off bus this is an included stop. We only spent 1 hour here but I would recommend spending a minimum of 2 hours.

Our final stop for the day was Canada Place to do the Fly Over Canada, Vancouver’s newest attraction. Fly Over Canada utilizes state-of-the-art technology to give you the feeling of flight. You will sit (buckled in) suspended, feet dangling, before a 20-metre spherical screen while the film whisks you away on an exhilarating 8-minute journey across Canada, from east to west. Special effects, including wind, mist and scents, combine with the ride’s motion to create an unforgettable experience. This was a lot of fun and it could be a good option to do if the weather is wet and miserable which can often be the case in Vancouver.

Day 3 – Rocky Mountaineer  – First Passage to the West – Vancouver to Kamloops in GoldLeaf

A very early start to catch our coach transfer to the station, to board, the Rocky Mountaineer. About 7:15am prior to boarding they play the bag pipes and then call the official ALL ABOARD. This was actually really nice and got everyone very excited for the journey ahead. We then proceed out on to the platform and walked the “red carpet” onto our carriage. There are a number of stairs to navigate onto the carriage and then again up to the top floor where the seats are located for GoldLeaf which was what I was travelling for this leg of the journey. The GoldLeaf seats are spacious with ample leg room. Drinks and snacks are served in your seats, however breakfast and lunch are served downstairs in the dining cart. As the dining cart only seats 24 guests they split the carriage into groups of two for meal service. Our first meal of the day was breakfast which consisted of pastries, a main dish (choice of 7 dishes), tea and coffee. Our second meal was lunch which consisted of salad or soup, fresh bread, main (choice of 7 dishes) and dessert.

Highlights today were seeing Hell’s Gate in the Fraser Canyon and the steep slopes and rock sheds along the Thompson River. The service was great and the commentary was  very informative. We had two hostesses and the train manager providing us with commentary throughout the day. They only fault is that when your downstairs in the dining hall you do miss the sights as the windows are small and you don’t get any commentary so if there was a wildlife spotting during your meal you would most likely miss it.

On arrival into Kamloops at 6pm we disembarked the train carriage and stepped directly onto a coach for our transfer to our hotel and my bag was in my room on arrival.

Day 4 – Rocky Mountaineer – Kamloops to Banff in SilverLeaf

We rolled out of Kamloops at 7:00am. Today I am travelling in SilverLeaf. I was initially disappointed that I was going to be doing the best part of the two day trip in SilverLeaf, however by the end of the journey this was not the case and I could not fault SilverLeaf in anyway. I discovered that SilverLeaf is NOT a downgrade from GoldLeaf, it is just a different experience of equal quality and great value!

The seats in SilverLeaf are comfortable and have ample leg room. They also recline however do not have seat warmers. This carriage is all one level with massive windows and meals are served at your seat, which means, you won’t miss a thing! If you have mobility issues, SilverLeaf is a very good option for you. The meal options are slightly limited, with only a choice of two dishes, however the ones on offer are the same ones served in GoldLeaf. I was served breakfast and lunch and both meals were delicious. The major difference is they do not offer as many drinks only beer and wine, spirits are extra.

The highlights for today’s scenery were endless! Every bend we travelled around there was another jaw dropping moment! Traveling through the Rockies by train is the ultimate way to see the wildlife and the beauty that Canada is renowned for. We didn’t see an abundance of wildlife as we travelled very early into the spring, however if you travel during the summer I was told by the train staff they would see many Bear’s and Moose.

Day 5 – Lake Louise Sightseeing

Today I went up to Lake Louise to see the famous hotel by the lake the Fairmount Chateau. This hotel is full of history and is situated on the edge of the Lake. The lake was still frozen and they seemed to think it would stay that way until the end of May. Most people staying in Banff would normally do the day trip to the Columbia Ice Fields on this day. Banff is beautiful but very small so 2 nights is plenty of time to see the sites including the ice fields which is a full day trip.

Day 6 – Sightseeing Banff en-route to Calgary

This morning after a short coach tour through Banff we went up the on the Gondola to see another jaw-dropping view of the Rockies. Photos can not do the view justice! We then continued the journey on to Calgary, making a stop along the way to do the 12 minute helicopter ride over the Rockies.

Day 7 – Calgary

This morning I walked into the main tourist hub of town which took me 10 mins from my hotel. There was a massive shopping mall and an entire street of shops and restaurants. Calgary is not as picturesque as Vancouver and more just a hub to fly in and out off and to connect onto Banff and Lake Louise. If I had more time I would have ventured off to the Calgary Zoo or Heritage Park Historical Village. The best time to visit Calgary is when the annual Calgary stampede rodeo is on in July, the city is buzzing and cowboys from all over the country come to town.

Getting to the airport was easy. Most hotel books the airport shuttle which runs every hour and picks up at most hotels. One way is CAD $15 and takes about 45 minutes. It needs to be pre-booked at least 3 hours prior to your scheduled pick up time.

Flights: I flew with air Canada and I’m sorry to say my experience with them was not the best. But unfortunately they are the only carrier that offer a direct service from Brisbane and Sydney to Vancouver, otherwise I would recommend Air New Zealand via Auckland.

If you are thinking of making Canada your next holiday destination please give myself or one of our travel specialists a call on 1800 300 999 to have a chat about creating an unforgettable experience for you!