#LTtravels – British Columbia Road Trip

The choices were endless when it came to my annual summer vacation. My bucket list is long and deep but a driving trip across British Columbia quickly rose to the top. The two week adventure required careful pre-planning as summer is high season in a province known for its abundant lakes and mountains. We started the trip in Calgary and then headed across to BC. Here’s the agenda, packed with a lot of tips.

Time – July and August are peak season. July is generally the driest hottest month in the BC Interior but that doesn’t mean you won’t get grey rainy days (we had several).

 

banff
View of Banff

Transportation – book a rental car (and accommodation) no later than April and be prepared for a surprisingly steep rental fee. Our mid-size Chrysler cost $2300 for 15 days. We logged over 2000 miles.

Start – We flew to Calgary and then drove to Banff. Buy a National Parks Pass online so you can avoid the lineup at the Entrance. We arrived the afternoon of Canada Day, the tourist town’s busiest day of the year. (Won’t do that again!)

 

view-from-banff-gondola
The new Banff Gondola has 360 degree views of the surrounding area.

Banff – 3 nights at the Juniper Hotel & Bistro. (thejuniper.com)

This modest motel sits on the other side of the Trans Canada Highway less than a five minute drive outside of the town of Banff. We loved the quieter location with its spectacular view of the majestic Banff Springs Hotel in the distance. The restaurant here was a stunning surprise with excellent regional cuisine – make a reservation. Banff highlight – don’t miss the new Banff Gondola.

 

lake-louise
Spectacular Lake Louise

From Banff, take an early morning drive to nearby Lake Louise (40minutes). We arrived around 9am on a holiday weekend and easily found parking at the lake area. 90 minutes later the roads were closed due to traffic congestion and cars were turned away in favor of shuttles from overflow parking lots located a short drive down the highway.

kelowna-bb

Revelstoke – one night at the Coast Hillcrest Hotel (coasthotels.com/Hillcrest)

Revelstoke was a welcome stop after the morning drive through The Rockies but not essential. Kelowna is an easy two hour drive south.

Kelowna – 3 nights at A View of the Lake B&B (aviewofthelake.com)

This lovely home tucked on the hillside of West Kelowna overlooking the lakeside town was a great find. Steve, the owner, is an executive chef who dished up incredible three course breakfasts. At $140 night, it was the trip’s hotel bargain and one of our favorite stops.

cycling-kelowna
Cycling in the Myra Valley

A highlight in Kelowna was cycling the old railroad trestles and through the tunnels of the Myra Valley. Kelowna is BC central for wineries and fruit orchards so expect to eat very well. My favourite restaurant in town was Raudz. 

keremeos
Drive through Keremeos on the way from Penticton to Vancouver

Penticton – 2 nights at the Ramada Hotel

We stayed at a bland Ramada Hotel so I would recommend researching a B&B instead. Activity in Penticton centers around the beach of the lake so plan to relax and kayak or swim. Apparently there are rattlesnakes in the hills which was enough to put me off hiking. “Don’t worry you’ll hear it before you see it,” – no thank you! Load up on boxes of peaches, cherries, apples and blueberries for the long five hour drive to Vancouver. The scenic route is about 30 minutes longer and will take you through Keremeos and glorious Manning Park.

 

seawall-cycle
Cycling around the Seawall with the Lions Gate Bridge in the distance

Vancouver – 3 nights The Sylvia Hotel (sylviahotel.com)

I could write a book about my hometown so I’ll be brief. Hotels are crazy expensive during high season. I like The Sylvia for its location on the doorstep of English Bay and it won’t break the bank. Rent a bike and ride around the Seawall in Stanley Park ending at Granville Island – my favourites in this picturesque city. Grab what you need for a picnic and then cycle to Kitsilano Beach. The cycle path will also take you around False Creek past the Science Centre and Yaletown. 

 

stanley-park-tree
Inside the 1000 Year Old Tree in Stanley Park

After a full day cycling (stop at Granville Island – it’s a MUST!), check out one of the many excellent restaurants in town. Sushi bars are everywhere and most are cheap and good. My current favourite restaurant is Nightingales on West Hastings – the second restaurant for Chef David Hawksworth. I’d also recommend taking the gondola up Grouse Mountain and visiting the Capilano Suspension Bridge.

blackrock-resort
A room with a view at the Blackrock Resort

Ucluelet – 3 nights at the Black Rock Ocean Resort (blackrockresort.com)

Take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo and then drive the winding road across Vancouver Island to Ucluelet. This was the highlight of my trip and I would have loved to stay a few more days to truly relax in this astonishing environment of soaring fir trees, black rock shores and stormy waves.

chesterman-beach
Chesterman Beach, Tofino

Next time, I would stay in Tofino, a 30 minute drive further south where the restaurants are better and you’re closer to beaches. Tofino has several bakeries, including The Common Loaf, with delicious casual food. The highlight of this stop was the hiking along the Wild Pacific Trail and Chesterman Beach. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve visited in Canada. Sign up for a whale watching trip – we saw many bald eagles, sea lions and three California Grey whales feeding along the coast of Long Beach.

 

end-of-day-walk
End of day hike along the Pacific Coast Trail in Ucleulet
cathedral-grove
On the way back from Tofino, stop by Cathedral Grove to see 800 year old Douglas Fir trees.

Our trip ended with a one night stop in Sidney to see my  Dad. It’s a 10 minute drive to the Victoria International airport. If you have a few more days, spend them in Victoria, a pretty city that’s the capital of BC.