Stretching for nearly 4,900 miles from west to east, between Victoria, British Columbia and St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada is a massive country with unique and diverse landscapes. Its terrain includes everything from lush islands and driftwood-strewn beaches to sparkling lakes, wide-open prairie, and soaring mountains. When it comes to bucket-list experiences, it’s truly unrivalled, with many opportunities to check off adventures of a lifetime. Thrill-seekers will find plenty to satisfy here but there are many ways to enjoy a relaxed holiday whilst immersing yourself in the spectacular scenery too.
These epic options provide something for everyone, from an exciting cruise to iconic road trips, an internationally renowned rail journey, and immersion into the cultures of world-class cities. With plenty of flexibility through independent touring, you can make it as relaxed or as active as you like.
Journey the Rockies by rail
One of the world’s top train trips, exploring the Canadian Rockies by rail on the luxurious Rocky Mountaineer train is something that’s a must to check off on any bucket list. It rolls from just outside Banff National Park in Alberta to Vancouver on British Columbia’s west coast, winding through the soaring Rockies along the way. A five-star experience enjoyed over two days with an overnight in Kamloops, you won’t have to worry about keeping your eyes on the road. Instead, you can relax and soak up the passing scenery that includes jewel-like lakes, lush forest, jagged snow-dusted peaks, and majestic cascades. With gourmet meals complemented by local wines and exceptional service onboard, it’s a blissful way to travel.
Recommended trip: 10-day Journey Through the Clouds Grand Adventur Calgary II
Enjoy a self-drive tour of British Columbia
A road trip from British Columbia showcases many incredibly scenic delights and brings the opportunity to indulge in fine local and regional wines, along with pampering treatments at lavish spas. Just east of Kamloops is the British Columbia Wildlife Park, inhabited by bears and Cougars whilst the town of Vernon in northern Okanagan wine country is home to Sparkling Hill Resort overlooking Lake Okanagan. It’s the perfect base for wine enthusiasts and a must check off on your bucket list, literally sparkling with more than 3.5 million Swarovski crystals in its sleek architecture. Plus, the on-site spa features a menu of over 100 treatments designed to help you relax and recharge. Just south, Kelowna is home to over 40 wineries, ideal for a wine tasting tour.
Recommended trip: 14-day BC Spa & Winelands Circle Self-Drive
Cruising in the icy wonders of Alaska
Vancouver, British Columbia is one of the top departure points for an Alaskan cruise, providing the chance to experience a cruise on the line that’s often named the best for exploring Alaska, Holland America. The Inside Passage route is a favourite, visiting Tracy Arm Inlet, flanked by glacier-covered mountains and dramatic cliffs, the capital city of Juneau, Skagway with its gold rush-era buildings, and Ketchikan with its rich Alaska Native culture. Holland America will even bring you into Glacier Bay. One of only two cruise lines permitted there, passengers can get face-to-face with glistening, blue-tinged glaciers, listen to the thunderous sounds of iceberg calving, and marvel at a myriad of wildlife, including sea otters, sea lions, whales, coastal brown bears, mountain goats, and bald eagles.
Recommended trip: 18-day Rockies & Alaska Cruise Extravaganza
Take a short break in Toronto
Diverse Toronto is the country’s most populated, renowned for its food scene thanks to the high number people who have immigrated here. A short break in the city brings the chance to dine across the globe, enjoying everything from Korean and Indian fare to Italian, Portuguese, and Ethiopian. The St. Lawrence Market is widely regarded as the best of its kind in the world, with over 120 specialty food vendors, and you’ll find many cultural attractions too. Learn more about the area’s history at the Royal Ontario Museum which displays some six million artefacts from dinosaur bones to First Nation art. You’ll also have the opportunity to check off an iconic landmark on every traveller’s bucket list too. The grand sight and thunderous sounds of Niagara Falls is just an 80-minute drive away.
Recommended trip: 4-day Toronto & Niagara Falls Short Break
Enjoy a motorhome holiday in Alberta
Travelling in a motorhome allows you to enjoy the freedom of the open road without having to unpack and repack continuously. You can save money on food and overnight stays as well, stocking up on groceries before travelling so you can cook up some of your own meals and take advantage of opportunities to dine out. Start in Calgary, Alberta and work your way through the grand Canadian Rockies, including Banff and Yoho national parks. You’ll be able to gaze out at cascading waterfalls, the surreal electric blue waters of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake in the Valley of the Ten Peaks and travel the Icefields Parkway. Known as one of the world’s most scenic drives, keep watch for abundant wildlife, including bighorn sheep, moose, elk, and mountain goats.
Recommended trip: 15-day Roaming the Rockies with Campgrounds
Embark on a city tour of Vancouver
British Columbia’s largest city is one of the most beautiful in the world with an ideal mix of natural and cultural attractions, surrounded by mountains and water. Stanley Park just outside downtown hosts a paved 5.5-mile-long path that hugs the waterfront, providing views of the North Shore Mountains, Lions Gate Bridge, and Burrard Inlet. It’s also home to an aquarium with marine creatures from the Arctic to the Amazon. Just minutes away, the Capilano Suspension Bridge is surrounded by lush scenery, hanging high above the rushing Capilano River, spanning 450 feet. Crossing it offers the chance to tick off a heart-pounding bucket-list experience. Visitors can enjoy other activities and attractions too, like the Cliffwalk that follows the edge of a canyon.
Recommended trip: 5-day Vancouver City Break
Take an Ontario road trip
Experiencing the Great Lakes of Ontario is another one to tick off your bucket list. So large you might think you’re at the end of an ocean, they offer incredible scenic beauty and opportunities for outdoor adventure. There are numerous options for a road trip – you might travel north-west from Toronto toward Pancake Bay Provincial Park, detouring to Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron. The largest freshwater island in the world, enjoy everything from hiking and kayaking to learning about Aboriginal culture along the Great Spirit Circle Trail. Once in the park, which lies along Lake Superior, you can paddle the shoreline that edges Caribbean-like waters and hike the Pancake Bay Nature Trail, an easy 2.2-mile loop trail with lots of colourful wildflowers blooming in the summer.
Recommended trip: 16-Day Ontario – The Home of Outdoor Adventure
Enjoy a glorious summer in the mountains
The mountain resort town of Whistler was the site of many of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, but its towering mountains are ideal for summer hiking and a ride on the Peak2Peak Gondola for a bird’s-eye view over it all. It travels between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, completing the world’s longest continuous lift system whilst showcasing an unparalleled perspective of ancient glaciers, coastal rainforest, and volcanic peaks for the ultimate bucket-list experience. Plus, there are heart-pounding zip-line rides and trails for mountain biking. At the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre you can learn about First Nations history, art, and culture. The building was designed to represent the longhouses of the Squamish and includes artisans who create traditional handcrafted goods along with various exhibits.
Recommended trip: 7-day Vancouver and Whistler Advenure
Explore Quebec’s cities of Montreal and Quebec City
Even if you have only a week or even less, you can spend it exploring two of the most beautiful cities in Canada, Montreal and Quebec City. The ideal twin-centre combo, vibrant Montreal has joie de vivre that can only be found in the world’s top cities, with an international energy, and both English and French influences. See the incredible Notre-Dame Basilica, visit the bustling square of Place Jacques Cartier, and perhaps take a horse-drawn carriage tour of Vieux-Montreal. Old Quebec is the most appealing area of Quebec City with its cobbled streets revealing 400 years of history. Here you can tick off witnessing the iconic Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, one of the world’s most photographed hotels. Overlooking the St. Lawrence River, it looks like a fairy-tale castle.
Recommended trip: 7-Day Montreal & Quebec Twin-Centre
My name is K.C. Dermody and I have travelled across the globe, extensively within the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, throughout Europe, New Zealand, Central America, South America, Asia, and beyond. Read more about me on my About page.