British Columbia Road Trip Itinerary | Western Canada Part Two

This summer, we set out on an adventure, road-tripping in western Canada for six weeks. This is the continuation (part two) of our Canadian summer road trip. We started in Calgary and drove through the Canadian Rockies on our way to the western coast of British Columbia. This post covers the bulk of our British Columbia road trip, where we spent two weeks exploring Vancouver and Vancouver Island.

This post contains affiliate links, and we may earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you!) if you purchase when you click on the links. Thank you for supporting Love Dwells Here!!

This post is the second in a four-part series about our itinerary, and then I will link up other posts that go into more detail on the places we stayed and things we did. This is really serving more as an outline rather than an in-depth look at specific attractions, activities, hikes, hotels, etc.

This leg of our trip was about two weeks, focusing on the British Columbia coast, namely the Vancouver/Victoria and Vancouver Island areas. We started this leg of the journey in Kamloops and ended in Vancouver because we were driving from Calgary. However, it can be done as a standalone itinerary from Vancouver by omitting the Kamloops to Vancouver portion.

June 10-11, 2022: Kamloops, British Columbia

Where We Stayed – Hampton Inn Kamloops

2 queen studio suite at Hampton inn kamloops

photo from Hampton Inn Kamloops

There’s not a whole lot to say about the Hampton Inn Kamloops. It was perfectly fine and completely met our needs for a quick overnight stay in Kamloops. To maximize points, we almost exclusively stay within the Hilton family of hotels when we’re traveling. A lot of our spending goes on the Hilton AMEX Surpass card, so we rack up A LOT of Hilton points that we redeem for stays like this one.

If you’re looking for a new credit card to maximize points/miles travel, I highly recommend the Hilton AMEX Surpass, and right now, you can get 150,000 bonus points after making $3000 in purchases. There is a small annual fee, but I’ve found the rewards to make the price totally worth it.

What We Did Near Kamloops

Rogers Pass

kids at Rogers Pass artillery

At the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre in Glacier National Park, we learned all about how Parks Canada uses the 105mm howitzer for avalanche control. By firing shells at specific targets to create small avalanches, they can minimize the impact on the road and railway. This is an excellent stop on the TransCanada Highway (Hwy 1) to learn more about how the roads are maintained through the winter and the history of mountaineering in Canada.

The Last Spike

The Last Spike transcontinental railroad

This stop wasn’t even on my radar until our GyPSy Guide audio tour suggested that we stop. At The Last Spike, you can see where the last iron spike of the Canadian railroad was hammered in. There was a massive rush for a transcontinental railroad in order to lay claim to all the land that makes up Canada (so that the US could not claim it for themselves). And here, on November 7, 1885, eastern and western Canada were connected, and the transcontinental railroad was complete.

Jurassic World: Dominion

Jurassic World Dominion in the theater

We happened to be in Kamloops on opening day for Jurassic World: Dominion, so we just HAD to add that to our plans. Did you know that they filmed some of Jurassic World: Dominion in Kamloops?!

Coquihalla Highway

view of the Coquihalla highway on British Columbia road trip

The Coquihalla Highway (Hwy 5) is the quickest way to get from Kamloops to the Vancouver area. It bypasses parts of the TransCanada Highway and is a divided highway with a higher speed limit. The Coquihalla features the highest speed limit in Canada – 120km/hr. We opted for the Coquihalla because we needed to be in Vancouver at a specific time, but you do miss out on some of the smaller towns and scenery of Highway 1.

Where We Ate in Kamloops

McD’s

girl eating pancakes at McDonald's Kamloops

We only had time for a quick dinner in Kamloops (before our movie), so we stopped at McDonald’s. In Canada, you can order breakfast ALL DAY(!), and they have a Happy Meal with PANCAKES! Ellie was in heaven! Usually, we would have opted for somewhere with more local flair, but this was all we had time for, and it got the job done.

June 11-13, 2022: Nanaimo, British Columbia

Where We Stayed – Best Western Nanaimo

girl eating pizza at Best Western Nanaimo

There are not many hotel options in the Nanaimo area – and even fewer chain hotel options. We were looking for something affordable and big enough for the 6 of us, so we ended up at the Best Western Northgate Nanaimo—another perfectly fine but not particularly noteworthy option. The kids raved about the extensive breakfast buffet throughout our trip though, so I count that as a win! I’d stay there again if we were in the area, but I wouldn’t plan a trip just to stay there or anything like that.

What We Did Near Nanaimo

BC Ferries

view of Vancouver from BC Ferry

We sailed from Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay) to Nanaimo (Departure Bay) on BC Ferries – a trip that takes just under two hours. We arrived at the port about an hour early to get in line, drove our SUV onto the ferry, and then set out to explore. BC Ferries connects the mainland with Vancouver Island to the west. The ferries have restaurants, coffee bars, and gift shops to help you pass the time while sailing.

Relaxed

car wash in Nanaimo on British Columbia road trip

While we were in Nanaimo, we took care of some road trip necessities. After ten days of driving through the Canadian Rockies, our SUV was due for a good scrubbing. We drove through a carwash and then spent some time vacuuming out the interior of the car. I know planning time for things like car washes isn’t necessary on a shorter trip, but with a 6-week trip, it was critical! We also took some time to relax and unwind. Planning some downtime is essential when you’re doing such a long trip.

Goats on the Roof

kids shocked by goat on the roof British Columbia

This was such a fun stop! The kids thought it just had a silly name and were shocked when they realized that there were literal GOATS on the ROOF! It’s a super cute market with all sorts of goodies! We left with some jelly, snacks for the car, stickers, and a stuffed goat! There’s also a restaurant (we didn’t have time to check out) and an ice cream shop (we obv stopped at!).

Where We Ate in Nanaimo

Noodlebox

Noodlebox in a hotel room

There was a Noodlebox near our hotel, and it quickly became a favorite! I love that in addition to picking the main flavor of your dish (like kung pao, pad Thai, or Singapore cashew curry) you also get to choose between their noodle types: Hokkien, ribbon, chow mein, cavatappi, or rice (which I know is not a noodle!).

Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo bar and a latte

When in Nanaimo, you MUST get a Nanaimo bar! If you’re not familiar, it’s the most delicious three-layered treat. The bottom layer is a nutty, coconut-graham crust; then, it has a thick custard, followed by chocolate ganache. And they are SCRUMPTIOUS! We tried them from several different places, and the Serious Coffee Nanaimo Bars were our fave!

June 13-16, 2022: Tofino, British Columbia

Where We Stayed – The Shoreline

dining and family room of the shoreline tofino

I actually came across The Shoreline on Instagram before it popped up in my search for somewhere to stay in Tofino. It’s a small property with five rooms plus the cutest A-frame house. We rented the A-frame house, and it was the best decision ever. I honestly think I could live there full-time! The house has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, the cutest loft area, and an epic harbor view.

What We Did in Tofino

Bear Watching Tour

black bear tofino bear tour

The Tofino area is among Vancouver Island’s best places to see black bears. We went on a bear-watching tour with Jamie’s Whaling Station, and it was phenomenal! I honestly never realized that you could see bears on the shoreline, and the experience was unreal. The times depend on the tides, and if there’s an early morning option (we did 6:30am!), make sure to book it! The early sunrise and fog combined with bears is absolute perfection.

Surf Lessons

two kids taking surf lessons in Tofino

Tofino is known as the “Surf Capital of Canada,” so you know we HAD to try it while we were in town. Nick and Lexie did a private lesson with the Surf Club at Long Beach Lodge Resort. I loved that they included the board and wetsuit rental in the package. With 45-50º water, wetsuits – including gloves and booties! – are a necessity.

Both kids wiped out a LOT, but before the lesson was over, they were starting to get the hang of it! And now they both want to go back again and surf for days on end!

Where We Ate in Tofino

Rhino Coffee House

eating a bronut at Rhino Coffee in Tofino

Rhino Coffee House is a Tofino institution. The line was out the door when we arrived midweek at about 10am, but it moved quickly. Chris went with the “Bro” Nut – fried egg, sausage, aged cheddar, and lettuce, on a homemade savory DONUT! He said it was delicious! The rest of us had an assortment of breakfast sandwiches and bowls, which were all excellent.

Tacofino

girls at the popular Tacofino food truck

Another Tofino institution, Tacofino, is a food truck with a cult-like following. Seriously, DO NOT be afraid of the line and make the mistake of not stopping at Tacofino for lunch! We waited in line for an hour to order, then waited about 25 minutes for our food, and it was so good that we did it again the following day.

Shelter

delish salmon bowl at Shelter Tofino

When I was researching where to eat in Tofino, Shelter kept popping up. I made a reservation several months in advance since I didn’t have a lot of flexibility in terms of time/date. The Tofino Surf Bowl – wild salmon, teriyaki vegetables, jasmine rice & spicy yogurt, red cabbage, and cilantro – did not disappoint! It turned out to be one of the best meals of our trip.

Unfortunately, there was a fire at Shelter a few months ago, but they’re supposed to be reopening at a new waterfront location this spring.

Tofino Chocolate

gelato at Tofino Chocolate

Located in the same parking lot as Tacofino, Chocolate Tofino is another one of those places that you must try! In addition to delicious chocolate treats, they also have an extensive gelato menu. The Salted Caramel Sundae – complete with a little surfboard! – was Lexie’s favorite treat of the trip!

Tofitian

Breakfast polenta at Tofitian Tofino

We stopped by Tofitian for breakfast after our early morning surf session. Nick was originally going to get a day-old pastry (he’s a cheapskate at heart!), but when he saw the breakfast polenta, he quickly changed his order! Everything we ordered at Tofitian – lattes, hot tea, pastries, quiche, and breakfast polenta – was terrific, and we actually stopped by again the next day!

June 16-19, 2022: Ucluelet, British Columbia

Where We Stayed – Black Rock Oceanfront Resort

girls climbing on driftwood at blackrock oceanfront resort ucluelet

If you’re looking for a beautiful resort on the west coast of Vancouver Island, look no further than Black Rock Oceanfront Resort. This gorgeous resort is in Ucluelet, about half an hour south of Tofino. Ucleluet is like trendy Tofino’s little sister – quieter and less crowded – and is the perfect escape.

We stayed at Black Rock Resort for several days, and the kids were IN LOVE with the rocky bluffs and driftwood – it’s an explorer’s paradise! The Wild Pacific Trail runs right to the resort, and it’s not far to check out the trails in Pacific Rim National Park.

What We Did in Ucluelet

Ucluelet Aquarium

Ucluelet Aquarium

The Ucluelet Aquarium is small, comparatively speaking. It’s a collect-and-release aquarium, so everything in there is from the ocean right outside. It was fun to see what’s out there in the water instead of what’s in the water on the other side of the country! It took us less than an hour to walk through the whole thing, but it was well done, and we found it to be worth the time and money.

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

kids hiking in pacific rim national park reserve

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve covers nearly 200 square miles of Vancouver Island. There are three different regions: Long Beach, the Broken Islands group, and the West Coast Trail. The park includes both beaches and rainforests, and the area is rich with wildlife, including black bears, cougars, elk, and wolves.

One afternoon we hiked the Rainforest A (North) trail. It’s only about 1km and on a boardwalk, but there are A LOT of stairs (500+). It was beautiful meandering through the red cedar and western hemlock forests. Definitely a must-do if you’re in the Tofino/Ucluelet area.

Where We Ate in Ucluelet

Ukee Dogs

boy eating burrito at Ukee Dogs

This guy is never one to pass up a burrito, so when we went to Ukee Dogs, that’s just what he ordered! They also have delicious tacos and hot dogs. An interesting combo, for sure, but one that works! Honestly, everything we ordered was delicious.

The Floathouse

kids eating dinner at The Floathouse Ucluelet

The Floathouse Patio & Grill is a Ucluelet staple with the waits to prove it! We waited nearly an hour for our outdoor table, but it was well worth the wait. The menu features a nice mix of burgers, seafood, and ribs, and we enjoyed everything we ordered. Note – they do not have a kids’ menu though they do have many kid-friendly things on the menu.

Shipwreck Pizza

kids eating Shipwreck Pizza at hotel

We originally ordered from Shipwreck Pizza because they delivered to our hotel. But after eating, I would order Shipwreck again even if I had to drive over there and pick it up myself – it was THAT good! They have a great mix of interesting pizzas all with ship/pirate-themed names.

June 19-22, 2022: Victoria, British Columbia

Where We Stayed – Doubletree Downtown Victoria

breakfast at the Doubletree Victoria Downtwon

The Doubletree Downtown Victoria has a great location, just a few blocks from the Inner Harbour. It’s walkable to many of the attractions in Victoria, and I enjoyed our little break from driving. We used Hilton Honors points to book our stay. When we’re staying at chain hotels, we try to stay at Hilton-branded properties to accrue as many points as possible and then use them to cover more expensive hotels (like downtown locations!).

What We Did in Victoria

Malahat Skywalk

Malahat Skywalk tower with slide

One of the newest attractions on Vancouver Island, Malahat Skywalk, is a must-do! The experience starts with an elevated boardwalk through the trees before arriving at this massive structure. It’s a super cool spiral tower with AMAZING views from 250m above sea level. And there’s a slide in the middle of it! You ride down on a mat for a consistent sliding experience – and it’s fast!

Whale Watching

sunset whale watching Salish Sea

You can’t go to Victoria and not go whale watching. Really, if you just have time for ONE thing in Victoria, it needs to be whale watching! Victoria sits in the Salish Sea, one of the best places in the world for whale watching – especially for orcas. Now, it can be hit or miss as to seeing anything – we went the summer before on from the US side of the Salish Sea and only saw one lone humpback. But the chances are pretty good that you’ll spot whales on most whale-watching excursions.

Even though there’s some luck involved, there are things you can do to increase your chances.

  • Go with a crew that knows what they’re doing and what they’re looking for.
  • Choose an open boat that can go faster – you can cover more ground and hopefully increase your chances of seeing more whales!

We went with Eagle Wing Tours out of Victoria, and it was a fantastic experience. We did one of their sunset tours – you know how I am about sunsets!! – and the light was perfect. The sunset tours are offered from mid-May through the end of September and are three hours long. Eagle Wing Tours provides gloves, jackets, hats, sunglasses, and blankets, which we definitely took advantage of! And they’re so confident in their ability to find whales (from May-Nov) that they offer a whale guarantee – they guarantee you’ll see whales on your tour, or you can come back for free!

Chinatown

kids at oldest chinatown in canada

Victoria is home to Canada’s oldest Chinatown (pictured) and Canada’s narrowest street – Fan Tan Alley (not pictured). We walked through Chinatown briefly and stopped at the very popular Don Mee Restaurant for a quick lunch.

Victoria Carriage Tour

kids on carriage tour in victoria

A carriage tour is a must-do when you’re in Victoria! We did the 90-minute tour with Victoria Carriage Tours and saw SO MUCH! They offer tours from 30 minutes that provide just a taste of the streets of the James Bay neighborhood to more extended tours that visit Beacon Hill Park and all the highlights of Victoria.

Where We Ate in Victoria

Noodlebox

girl with Noodlebox in hotel

See, I told you we really liked Noodlebox! We were excited to see one within walking distance of our hotel in Victoria and enjoyed it for dinner one night. I’m all for going out to restaurants, but sometimes it’s nice to curl up on the couch with some takeout in your pajamas at the end of the day!

Earl’s Restaurant

girls having dinner at Earl's Victoria

When we lived in Calgary when I was growing up, Earl’s was my all-time favorite restaurant. I’m pretty sure that I converted the kids into Earl’s addicts, too. We ate at Earl’s twice in Jasper, and as soon as they saw the one in Victoria, it was back to Earl’s for us! This is another place that does not have a kids’ menu, but again, they have some kid-friendly options.

Chocolats Favoris

ice cream cone at Chocolat Favoris

If you’re looking for somewhere different to get ice cream, Chocolats Favoris is a perfect choice. You get to pick a soft serve flavor + dip flavor + toppings. Nick chose the Crunchy Hazelnut – chocolate ice cream, dark chocolate dip, hazelnuts, and a piece of hazelnut cake.

June 22-25, 2022: Vancouver, British Columbia

Where We Stayed – Hilton Vancouver Downtown

girl at hilton vancouver downtown

The Hilton Vancouver Downtown was another stay we booked using a combination of Hilton Honors points and free award nights. The walkable location worked out perfectly for our family of six, split into two rooms.

One thing to note is that breakfast is not included when staying at Hilton hotels, like at the more family-oriented Hampton Inn or Home2 Suites. Instead, if you have Gold/Diamond status, you get credits for food/beverage for every night of your stay. It worked out that it didn’t cover breakfast for the whole fam, so we alternated who had breakfast at the hotel restaurant and who had leftovers or pop-tarts back in the room. While that’s not an ideal solution, having breakfast with just a few kids at a time was fun.

What We Did in Vancouver

Capilano Suspension Bridge

kids on capilano suspension bridge north vancouver

Just north of Vancouver, Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is one of the most popular attractions in the area. I remember going as a child, and it’s always stuck in my head as one of the coolest places I’ve ever been. Originally built in 1889, the Capilano Suspension Bridge has seen a few updates over the years. It’s now strong enough to hold a fully-loaded 747, so even though it’s a bit wobbly, it’s totally safe to walk across.

Also at the park, make sure to check out the Treetops Adventure – a combination of platforms and suspension bridges high up in the trees. The view is out of this world!

Vancouver Aquarium

girl at vancouver aquarium touch tank

The award for the first public aquarium in Canada and the largest aquarium in Canada goes to the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park. We spent about four hours exploring what the aquarium offers and could have easily spent all day. Like most aquariums, they have touch pools which are always a highlight with the kids. Don’t miss Stellar’s Bay, where you can see the Sea Lion training – it’s usually offered twice a day!

THINGS TO REMEMBER FOR YOUR BRITISH COLUMBIA ROAD TRIP

  • Like Seattle, the coast of British Columbia is on Pacific Time. In fact, most of BC is on Pacific time, except for a few mountain communities near the Alberta border that are on Mountain Time.
  • Road trips are popular in British Columbia during the summer due to the long, warm days. However, if you’re planning a winter road trip, ensure you have winter tires, chains, and experience driving in snow and ice – the conditions can be brutal.
  • If you’re coming from the US, remember that speed limit signs are in kilometers in Canada. No,  you cannot drive 100mph!!

Have you been to British Columbia, Canada? The British Columbia coast is genuinely bucket list worthy – definitely worth the time and effort to visit!

Black Rock Oceanfront Resort | Ucluelet, BC

Ucluelet, on the western coast of Vancouver Island, is a beautiful place with rugged, rocky coastlines. Its remote location means that it doesn’t experience the same level of crowds as other beach destinations on the island, making it an ideal getaway for both Canadians and international travelers. And if you’re planning to spend some time in Ucluelet, the Black Rock Oceanfront Resort is the perfect place to stay.

This post contains affiliate links, and we may earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you!) if you purchase when you click on the links. Thank you for supporting Love Dwells Here!!

Disclosure: A huge thank you to Black Rock Oceanfront Resort for working with us on this trip. We partnered with them to show why Black Rock Resort is the perfect place to stay when exploring Ucluelet. As always, all opinions are honest and our own.

view from the Black Rock lobby

Even though we were already planning to stay in Tofino, I knew I also wanted to stay in Ucluelet. The two towns are only about half an hour apart, both on the western coast of Vancouver Island, but they’re VERY different. I would say that Tofino is a bit trendier, more expensive, and has more restaurant options. Ucluelet, on the other hand, is quieter, closer to more hiking, and considerably less crowded.

Black Rock Resort on the rocky Vancouver Island coast

Black Rock Oceanfront Resort is the perfect place to stay when you visit Ucluelet. Its location on the rocky bluffs of western Vancouver Island is perfect for watching the wild storms that grace the island or taking in the view of the ocean.

And even more impressive than the view is the fact that Black Rock strives to be a zero-waste hotel. They’ve maintained a Green Rating with the Vancouver Island Green Business Collective and take sustainable tourism to the next level.

living room in 2 bedroom trail suite at black rock

We had a fantastic two-bedroom suite with amazing views of the black rocks and the ocean. I love staying in two-bedroom suites because they usually have two bathrooms, and now that the kids are getting older and spend more time in the bathroom, it really is a lifesaver. Plus, having room to spread out, especially on a longer trip, can be such a sanity saver!

kitchen at Black Rock

Our suite also had a kitchen which is awesome if you’re planning to cook in the room to save a little bit of money. We ended up not using it other than to make sandwiches, but it’s such a great feature to have – and something we definitely would have used on a longer stay!

coffee on the balcony

Now, we did use the Nespresso machine. We’ve never actually used one before so we had to Google how to put the little pods in and more importantly, how to get them out, but it was a hit with the whole family! Rooms come fully stocked with the pods and then we also had little cups of half-and-half in the refrigerator. We went through all of it the first afternoon, but don’t despair, the front desk is happy to refill as needed.

Bedroom Black Rock Oceanfront Resort

Each bedroom featured a king-size bed and a private bathroom with a HUGE shower, a tub, and even heated floors! There were doors out onto the balcony from each bedroom as well.

girl playing on black rocks Vancouver Island

The first thing Ellie wanted to do when we arrived was head out to the beach, so that’s exactly what we did. There’s a trail down to the rocky coast and we lucked out and it was right by our room. Easy enough!

girl jumping big beach Ucluelet Vancouver Island

I swear she could have spent all day out there, hopping from rock to rock, checking out the tide pools, and just watching the waves crash. Do make sure to be careful if you’re climbing on the driftwood because it can shift and it’s not super sturdy.

Also, flip-flops were not the best shoes for climbing around the rocks. We wore hiking boots the next time but also would have been totally fine in our Teva sandals.

Black Rock Resort gym

The teens, on the other hand, were more interested in the gym than the beach. Black Rock Resort Ucluelet has a great fitness room in the main building and the teens spent a couple of hours there every single day. Gotta stay in shape for varsity sports!

Things to Do While Staying at Black Rock Oceanfront Resort

Wild Pacific Trail

hiking the Wild Pacific Trail

One of the biggest draws to Black Rock Oceanfront Resort is the proximity to the Wild Pacific Trail. This trail runs along the coast, weaving in and out of the trees, and it opens up to expansive views of the ocean. Nick and Ben hiked the whole trail from the resort to Rocky Bluffs – about 3km each way – and then they came back changed into gym clothes and decided to run the trail. Pretty sure trail running is now a new hobby of theirs!

Wild Pacific Trail Vancouver Island

Can you think of a more beautiful place to hike?!

Wild Pacific Trail views

Views for days! And I seriously love that these two thought to take a picture of them together while they were out hiking!!

Pacific Rim National Park Hikes

Rainforest Loop Pacific Rim National Park Vancouver Island

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is also nearby. It’s situated in between Tofino and Ucluelet but we opted to visit on one of our Ucluelet days. We hiked the Rainforest Trail which has two separate loops – A (north) and B (south). We went for the A (north) loop as many reviews said it was the prettier of the two and it’s the one with the red National Park chairs.

Rainforest Trail Pacific Rim National Park Vancouver Island

The reviews did not mention the fact that there are TONS of stairs. While it is advertised as a boardwalk trail, note that it is NOT fully accessible due to the stairs. There are roughly 500 of them so be prepared to get your climb on! Each loop of the Rainforest Trail is only about 1km, so they are considered “easy” on AllTrails.

If you’re looking for an accessible trail, the Shorepine Bog Trail is just under 1km and gets excellent reviews! It’s another boardwalk trail and perfect for both wheelchairs and strollers.

Pacific Rim National Park Beaches

kids splashing in waves Long Beach Vancouver Island

After hiking, we visited Long Beach, also in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. It is important to note, that in Pacific Rim National Park you either need to pay when you park or have a valid Canadian National Park pass. We ordered our National Park pass online ahead of time. And because we were visiting so many parks on this trip we went with the annual pass that covers admission for the whole family into all the parks for a year.

The water around Vancouver Island is freezing. Not literally – it was probably around 45–50°. But still very cold, especially without a wetsuit. My crazy kids were the only ones in the water without wetsuits, and they lasted longer than I expected. Long Beach is as you guessed it, a very long beach. In fact, it’s 10 miles long and is the longest beach in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

Ucluelet Aquarium

girl at the Vancouver Aquarium

The Ucluelet Aquarium, while on the small side, is still a great deal of fun. It’s a terrific place to spend an hour and check out the sea life that lives in the area around Ucluelet. It is a collect-and-release aquarium (I never realized that was a thing!) so the exhibits are always changing. Most animals stay for around 9 months, but the giant pacific octopus is usually only there for 3-4 months in the late winter/early spring.

We had a fantastic time exploring the Ucluelet area for a few days. It’s a great spot if you’re looking for outdoor adventure and if you’re looking for a wonderful place to stay (in any season) to take in the beauty of western Vancouver Island, Black Rock Oceanfront Resort is perfect. Ucluelet is still one of those places that’s not on everyone’s radar, so it’s a bit of a hidden gem!

Is Vancouver Island on your bucket list?? While many people visit Victoria, the western side of the island is way less crowded! Ucluelet and the Black Rock Oceanfront Resort are definitely worth checking out!

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort | Golden, BC

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, just outside of Golden, British Columbia is a popular winter destination in the Canadian Rockies. It’s known as the “Champagne Powder Capital of Canada” and gets about 24 FEET of fluffy snow every winter. But it’s a fantastic summer destination as well! Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is the perfect place to stay if you’re looking for adventure, no matter the season!

pin image for Kicking Horse Mountain Resort Golden British Columbia

This post contains affiliate links, and we may earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you!) if you purchase when you click on the links. Thank you for supporting Love Dwells Here!!

Disclosure: A huge thank you to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort for making this trip possible. We partnered with them to show why Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is the perfect place to stay when exploring the Canadian Rockies. As always, all opinions are honest and our own.

view from Golden Eagle Express Gondola

For starters, you can’t beat the location. Surrounded by mountains and nestled in the forest, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is a dream. It’s named after the nearby Kicking Horse River, which got its name when James Hector, a member of the famed Palliser Expedition (1858), reported getting kicked by his horse while exploring the river.

The resort is about an hour west of the famous Lake Louise and offers a beautiful location with wayyyy fewer crowds. And there’s still plenty to do!

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort Grizzly Bear Refuge

kicking horse grizzly bear refuge sign

One of the biggest draws of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is the Grizzly Bear Refuge. While it’s no surprise that you can potentially see a grizzly in the wild when you’re driving through western Canada, you can significantly increase your chances by visiting the Grizzly Bear Refuge at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.

Usually, to get up to the Grizzly Bear Refuge, you can take the Catamount Chairlift. However, it’s not running during the week due to staffing issues right now. They are driving people up to the refuge, but it needs to be booked ahead of time so call guest services if you’re interested.

Boo the grizzly bear Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

Here, Boo, the resident grizzly, lives in an expansive 20-acre enclosure – the largest of its kind in the world. Boo was rescued as a cub when a poacher killed his mother. Knowing that such a young cub would never survive on its own, the Grizzly Bear Refuge was built at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, and Boo has been living there for the past 20 years.

Boo and the Kicking Horse Gondola summer

Guests can visit the refuge and often can catch a glimpse of Boo. There are no guarantees that you will actually see him; he is a wild animal and is treated as such by the staff at Kicking Horse, but he does make appearances – especially in the mornings, so visit first thing if you’re hoping to see Boo.

While tours are offered, he isn’t fed during the tour, so he doesn’t associate food with humans. He’s encouraged to forage and hunt on his acreage, and when his diet needs to be supplemented, it’s not done where he can see.

Boo the bear Kicking Horse Grizzly Refuge

Boo has ponds, creeks, waterfalls, hills, clearings, and woods to explore. Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Refuge has done a fantastic job of ensuring that Boo has as natural of an environment as possible.

Kids with Boo at Kicking Horse

We had a fantastic time learning about and observing Boo at the Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Refuge. I highly recommend stopping here – even as a day trip from the Banff/Lake Louise area.

Kicking Horse Resort Mountain Biking

Smiling kids ready for mountain biking

Kicking Horse is also known for their mountain biking. There are over 50km of trails all over the mountain, ranging from beginner to more expert tracks.

The kids were excited to try their hand at mountain biking; the first step is always safety gear. Kicking Horse has packages where you can rent equipment, including bikes, for a half day, full day, or even longer.

kids with mountain bikes in gondola

Like many places, Kicking Horse Bike Park is suffering from some staffing shortages. This meant that some of the trails were not open because they didn’t have staff to run the chairlift. You’ll find this more of an issue if you’re visiting during the week versus on the weekend because they have things fully running on the weekends.

But, the kids were still willing to try, so they headed up to the top of the mountain, and the only option was to ride down! To get to the top of the mountain, you load your bike into the gondola and take a scenic trip about 3500 feet higher than the base.

mountain bikes at top of Kicking Horse

Made it to the top of the mountain – at an elevation of 7700 feet!

girl mountain biking down mountain Canada

Kicking Horse Bike Park offers excellent alpine riding, with all types of trails, through alpine meadows and with gorgeous mountain views the whole way down.

Kicking Horse Mountain Bike Park

And it is a ride DOWN! This is not just a bit of up and down on trails through the trees. It’s a 3000+ foot descent down a mountain.

view from top of Kicking Horse

Can you see the little dot on the road at the bottom of the picture? That’s one of the kids heading down the mountain. But check out those sweeping mountain vistas they could enjoy on the way down!

kids mountain biking Kicking Horse Mountain Resort summer

While some trails are easier than others coming from the gondola, none are truly beginner trails. If you’ve never mountain biked before, I highly recommend you go on a day where you can start halfway up the mountain from the Catamount Chairlift.

While Nick, Ben, and Lexie did make it down the mountain safely, it took them way longer than expected. There were several points where they had to walk the bikes or travel very, very slowly and cautiously. Had they been able to do at least one run from the midpoint to get a feel for it, I think they would have felt way more comfortable coming from the very top.

kids mountain biking Golden BC

But they made it and were all smiles at the bottom!!

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort Via Ferrata

Via Ferrata is another fun thing to do at Kicking Horse. The kids were planning to go while we were in town, but due to the VERY late snowmelt, the Via Ferrata track was still covered in snow, and we had to skip it. If it’s open when you’re visiting, I highly recommend giving it a try!

Via Ferrata is a form of climbing where you’re attached to a cable and clipped into attachments on the cliff face, ensuring you will not fall. There are steel cables and ladders on the mountain face that you climb along.

Kicking Horse has three routes of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty. The Pioneer Route (1 hour) is the shortest option, and it’s a great choice if you’re unsure about the whole Via Ferrata thing. The Discovery Route (2 hours) goes a bit further and features a few short technical sections. And the Ascension Route (3 hours) is one of the most technical routes in North America! It takes you to the summit of Terminator Peak and includes the Guts Bridge. All the routes have a guide, orientation, and gear + an Adventure Pass so you can visit Boo at the Grizzly Bear Refuge.

Kicking Horse Resort Gondola and Chairlift

view from Kicking Horse Mountain Resort Gondola

The Kicking Horse Scenic Gondola (Golden Eagle Express) isn’t just for mountain bikers looking to get to the top of the mountain. Resort guests and the general public can hop aboard for a scenic journey up to 7700 feet. Once at the top, there’s a variety of hiking trails as well as the Eagle’s Eye Restaurant (open seasonally). And keep your eyes open for wildlife – the gondola goes right over Boo’s enclosure!

Catamount Chair Golden BC

And if you’re looking for an open-air option, the Catamount Chair is a great way to explore Kicking Horse! This lift is how you get to the Grizzly Bear Refuge, but you can also just ride it up and down and take in the views. If all of the mountain biking trails are open, the Catamount Chair will take you + your bike about halfway up the mountain.

The Adventure Pass is the best deal for sightseeing at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. It combines all the fun of the Golden Eagle Express Gondola with a visit to the Grizzly Bear Refuge to see Boo. Currently, tickets are $52.95CAD for adults, $44.95CAD (13-17), $26.95CAD (6-12), and free for the under-five crowd. But, even better, they have a family ticket option for only $121.95CAD that covers two adults and up to four children/youth!

Things to Do Near Kicking Horse Mountain Resort 

And the fun doesn’t stop when you get outside Kicking Horse Mountain Resort! There’s plenty for the whole family to do in the Golden, BC area.

White Water Rafting with Glacier Raft Company

kids rafting the Kicking Horse River Golden BC

Glacier Raft Company has been rafting the Kicking Horse River for the past 40 years. And when it comes to planning rafting trips, they have it down pat. They offer several different trips depending on the age/ability of the rafters. And they even offer heli-rafting, which looks totally extreme!

Golden Skybridge

view of Golden Skybridge and waterfall British Columbia

Canada’s highest suspension bridge, the Golden Skybridge, is located about five minutes from the Glacier Raft Company offices. In fact, we started the day on the river and spent the afternoon exploring everything at Golden Skybridge. If you want to do the suspension bridges – there are 2 – and walk the loop trail, allow a couple of hours. If you’re going to take advantage of everything the park offers – ziplining, playgrounds, rock walls, etc – then plan to spend half a day.

Yoho National Park

Natural Bridge Yoho National Park

While lesser known than nearby Banff National Park, Yoho National Park is just as beautiful. With gorgeous lakes (Emerald Lake, I’m lookin’ at you!), the Natural Bridge (above), the very popular Takakkaw Falls, and tons of hiking, Yoho is an outdoor lover’s paradise.

If you’re looking for a great place to stay (in the summer or winter!) with plenty to do but away from all the crowds of Banff/Lake Louise, Kicking Horse Mountain and the town of Golden are great alternatives. It’s one of those places that’s still a bit of an unknown, but I know it will catch on in no time. Start planning your trip now so you can visit before word gets out!

Tips And Tricks for Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

  • Make sure to check the website for hours and availability. Summer in the mountains can be somewhat unpredictable, so make sure that opening hours have not changed. We visited in early/mid-July and were shocked that the Via Ferrata was still closed due to the late snowmelt.
  • Definitely get the Adventure Pass at KHMR so you can use the gondola/chairlift and see Boo!
  • Pack bug spray – we found the mosquitos worse than we expected – especially up at the Grizzly Bear Refuge.

Have you been to the Canadian Rockies before? Is biking down the side of a mountain something you’d do? Or is hanging out with Boo at the Grizzly Bear Refuge more your speed??

A Visit to Calgary’s Heritage Park | Alberta

History comes to life at Canada’s largest living history museum, Heritage Park. It’s an immersive experience and tons of fun for the whole family. Visiting is absolutely a must-do when exploring Calgary. And make sure to set aside a full day for this adventure as there is so much to do and see!

pin image for Heritage Park

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Disclosure: A huge thank you to Heritage Park for partnering on our visit. As always, all opinions are honest and our own.

Heritage Park Calgary sign

As a kid, Heritage Park was my absolute favorite place to visit in Calgary. Anytime we had a free weekend, I was begging to go! Between the midway rides, the reenactors in period costumes, and the fun treats, there was nowhere better to be.

Now, (more than!) twenty years later, I was excited to bring back my children and see if Heritage Park still lived up to the hype or if it was one of those cases where the nostalgic memories were better than the current experience. And without a doubt, it is still as fantastic as ever.

historical dirt street in Heritage Park Calgary

Heritage Park is located just 15 minutes south of downtown Calgary and only 45 minutes from the airport. Nestled on 127 acres near the Glenmore Reservoir, the park explores the history of the Canadian west. Visiting truly is like stepping back in time.

Boy with backpack looking at Storyseeker exhibit Innovations Crossing

We started the day at the brand new Innovation Crossing building. Here, the STORYSEEKER exhibit helps guests learn about Canada’s energy history, as well as about different artifacts housed within the park. It’s one of the few buildings with air conditioning, making it a great place to check out on a hot afternoon.

girl walking into Prospect Ridge Heritage Park

And then we headed outside to explore! Much of Heritage Park is outside, so make sure to dress accordingly and pack sunscreen, especially during the height of the summer season.

Heritage Park oil rig

At Heritage Park, you can explore Western Canada‘s history from the 1860s to the 1950s. The park is broken into sections focusing on different time periods.

  • Heritage Square, technically outside the park (so you can visit without paying admission), focuses on the 1930-1950s.
  • Prospect Ridge explores Western Canada’s Natural Resources from the 1880s-1930s.
  • At The Settlement, you’ll find the 1860s-1880s fur trading fort and First Nations Encampment.
  • The Ranch is an early 1900s pre-railway settlement.
  • The Village Centre is a c. 1910 Prairie Railway Town, and the nearby Antique Midway, with rides and games, is from the same period. 

oil rig and reenactor at Heritage Park

The historical reenactors, dressed in period costumes (of which the park has 13,000!), are what make Heritage Park so unique. Yes, it’s fun to walk around and look through the historic buildings, but the reenactors truly bring history to life.

Kinsman Railway Playground Calgary

I have fond memories of playing on the Railway Playground when I was younger. We didn’t take the time to play on this visit – mainly because there’s so much to see and do at Heritage Park. But it’s nice to know there’s somewhere that the little ones can run around and play while visiting.

Heritage Park Midway Rides

Smiling kids riding The Caterpillar amusement park ride

As a kid, my absolute favorite part of Heritage Park was the midway rides. No, they’re not the big thrill rides you will find in today’s amusement parks, but they will still put a smile on your face! And the midway rides are included in the price of admission to Heritage Park Historical Village!

Bowness Carousel at Heritage Park Calgary

The Bowness Carousel was a gift from the City of Calgary in the 1980s, though it was initially built in 1904. Unlike traditional carousels, where the horses go up and down, the horses on the Bowness Carousel go back and forth.

2 kids on Ferris Wheel

Common in a traveling amusement park in the early 1900s, Heritage Park also has a Ferris wheel. Technically, they have two – one for the youngest visitors and one that’s open to people of all ages.

smiling girl with red sno-kone

With the summer heat, sno-kones from the Midway Treatery are a must! One of the things that I appreciate most about Heritage Park is that the prices are very reasonable.

girl on boat swing Calgary

The park has the cutest Children’s Boat Swings! Built about 100 years ago in what was then known as Czechoslovakia, they were donated to Heritage Park in the 1980s.

Lunch at Heritage Park

lunch at the Wainwright Hotel Heritage Park Calgary

We opted to have lunch at the Wainwright Hotel – partly as a break from the intense heat (close to 40º C – nearly 100º F), but also because I’ve heard great things about the menu! You definitely HAVE to get the pickle fries – they were absolutely delicious, with a bit of a kick. The Wainwright Hotel has quite a few choices on the kids’ menu and even has an option to swap the fries for fresh fruit!

teen boys enjoying lunch at the Wainwright Hotel Calgary

If you know anything about Ben, you know that if tacos are on the menu, he WILL order them! Nick went more traditional with the Sausage and Perogies entree, and both choices were delicious!

Smiling girl with giant cookie from Alberta Bakery

Ellie was excited that her lunch included a chocolate chip cookie from Alberta Bakery (located inside the park). We got it to go, and she enjoyed it as we continued walking around.

Exploring the Historical Village

learning about the printing press at Heritage Park

One of my favorite parts about Heritage Park is how educational the whole experience can be. As a child, I wasn’t really aware that I was learning when we visited, but as an adult, it’s easy to see how educational the visits with the reenactors actually are. These people are the real deal, and they know what they’re talking about. Many have worked in the park for decades, and they are all well-versed in the history of the Canadian west.

acid relief images in newspaper

We’ve seen printing presses MANY times but usually in the context of printing a book. Ever the curious one, Ben asked how they go about printing different images in a weekly newspaper because it’s not the same image over and over (like in a book). They took the time to explain how they printed images wayyyyy back in the day, and we learned all about acid relief.

Print shop at Heritage Park

We also learned about the Linotype machine. Rather than setting individual letters, this machine allowed you to set entire lines of type, drastically speeding up the typesetting process.

learning about linotype at Heritage Park printer

The historical reenactors at Heritage Park go above and beyond. While they all have their usual lines about their location, they could also answer every question we asked. And trust me, my kids can ask the most random questions! Like meeting Disney characters, you get out of the experience what you put in. If you ask questions and are involved in the conversation, you will learn SO much more.

Front Street in Heritage Park Historical Village Calgary

Isn’t Heritage Park just the cutest?!

Front Street has a row of shops, including Gledhill’s Drugstore, the Claresholm General Store, and the Vulcan Ice Cream Parlour. All of the shops are open for perusing or actual shopping, and historical reenactors staff them.

girl eating a slice of saskatoon pie

As work ramped up on the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1880s, Chinese immigrants arrived in droves to work the rails. Once the railway was complete, these immigrants, mainly men – and numbering over 17,000, couldn’t afford to return home to China.

Many opened up businesses in western Canada, mostly grocery stores, laundries, and cafes. The Club Cafe is a recreation of a typical Chinese cafe in southern Alberta, and interestingly, “Club Cafe” was the most common name for Chinese cafes in Alberta!

These Chinese cafes didn’t actually serve Chinese food. Instead, they served a western menu at a low price point and were an institution across the Canadian Prairies! We split a slice of local Saskatoon pie at the Club Cafe at Heritage Park! Yum!

Flett's Blacksmith shop Heritage Park Calgary

I love how the people in the shops are actually working on their craft. At Flett’s Blacksmith Shop, two different blacksmiths were busy creating when we visited, and they put on quite a show. They stopped to answer our (many!) questions and then got back to their work.

girl standing on fence watching horses Calgary

Ellie wanted to spend all afternoon watching the horses out on the farm. She called and called and called but couldn’t get them to come over to her.

family with five kids standing on farm under trees

The grounds of Heritage Park are just beautiful. Watching Ellie skip down tree-lined paths was a glimpse at what life would have been like in the 1900s. It is such a fun place to explore, and I love that you can let the kids have some free reign to wander a bit.

kids drinking soda at Drew's Saloon Heritage Park Calgary

We stopped in at Drew’s Saloon for a round of drinks. The Saloon is open to visitors of all ages and does serve beer/cider in addition to the sodas the kids picked out.

girl learning to play poker

And the kids even learned how to play poker! Drew’s Saloon was stocked with decks of cards and sheets explaining different hands – perfect for the youngest gambler!

teen boys drinking soda from glass bottles

While so much of Calgary has changed since I lived there in the 1990s, at Heritage Park, time continues to stand still. Walking through the gates brought me back to the turn of the century (1900s) in Calgary, as well as back to my own childhood.

Heritage Park has the ability to magically transport you back in time to the days when life was simpler. And if you’re planning a trip to the Canadian Rockies, you should definitely make time to visit Heritage Park, too.

TIPS & TRICKS FOR VISITING HERITAGE PARK CALGARY

  • Double-check the park hours with Heritage Park. While Heritage Park Towne Square is open year-round, the historical village is not. The Historical Village is open daily during the summer, but it switches to weekends only from September through November.
  • Also, check the schedule if you’re interested in riding the steam train or the S.S. Moyie – the paddle-wheeler on Glenmore Reservoir.
  • Bring cash for the midway games! They’re only $2CAD, and you’re almost guaranteed to win a prize!
  • Make sure to bring sunscreen since much of the park is outdoors. It was super hot when we visited, and the kids said we should have brought the fans we take with us to Disney!
  • Plan to spend the whole day exploring. We were there from park opening until park closing (10am-5pm) and didn’t have enough time to see and do everything!

Do you like living history museums? Have you ever visited Heritage Park??

Canadian Rockies Road Trip Itinerary | Western Canada Part One

This summer we went on the most epic road trip in western Canada. It was a six-week road trip, with a one-week Alaskan cruise in the middle, and it was beyond fantastic. Seriously, the trip of a lifetime! The first part of our trip serves as a great Canadian Rockies road trip and could totally be done on its own.

With a trip of this magnitude, you better believe I spent a boatload of time researching and planning everything. And now, I’m sharing it all with you!!

Canadian Rockies Road Trip Itinerary

This post contains affiliate links, and we may earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you!) if you purchase when you click on the links. Thank you for supporting Love Dwells Here!!

This post is the first in a four-part series about our itinerary, and then I will link up other posts that go into more detail on the places we stayed and things we did. This is really serving more as an outline rather than an in-depth look at specific attractions, activities, hikes, hotels, etc.

This first part was ten days, focusing on the Canadian Rockies. We started this leg of the trip in Calgary and ended in Lake Louise, but you could definitely return to Calgary if you wanted to do this as a standalone itinerary.

Because our trip was so long and involved so many different places in Western Canada, it will take a while to get all of this done. This post and the other itinerary posts will be a work in progress probably for the rest of the year. But, I will make sure to update with links as other blog posts get finished.

kids at Canada sign in Calgary International Airport YYC

June 1, 2022: Fly to Calgary

Where We Stayed – Hampton Inn Calgary University Northwest

smiling kids at Hampton Inn Calgary University Northwest

There’s not a lot to say about the Hampton Inn & Suites Calgary University Northwest; it was a run-of-the-mill Hampton Inn. There was absolutely nothing wrong with it, but there was nothing special about it either. I booked a King 1 bedroom suite + a connecting 2 queen room using our Hilton points.

To maximize points, we almost exclusively stay within the Hilton family of hotels when we’re traveling. A lot of our spending goes on the Hilton AMEX Surpass card, so we rack up A LOT of Hilton points that we redeem for stays like this one. If you’re looking for a new credit card to maximize points/miles travel, I highly recommend the Hilton AMEX Surpass, and right now, you can get 150,000 points for free after making $3000 in purchases. There is a small annual fee, but I’ve found the rewards to make the fee totally worth it.

What We Did in Calgary

Rental Car

OK, so the first thing we did was pick up our rental car at the airport from Enterprise. We almost always rent with either Enterprise or Alamo, but it’s definitely always done through the Costco Travel website. You cannot beat Costco travel pricing even with military deals or coupon codes. Seriously, if you travel a lot, it’s worth it to have a Costco membership!

Groceries & Supplies

Next, we made stops at Costco and Walmart (there’s no Target in Canada! ????????) to pick up groceries and supplies. We bought an inexpensive cooler so that we could get lunch meat and cheese and things like that to make lunches on driving days. Groceries were more expensive in Canada than I expected, so we stuck to the basics and didn’t buy a variety of treats.

On our trip last summer, we also grabbed a kids’ sleeping bag for Ellie to use since she can be picky about who she’s sleeping next to. I was able to pack it in my duffle bag and didn’t need to get a new one this summer!

June 2-5, 2022: Banff, Alberta

Where We Stayed – Canalta Lodge

2 queen + bunk loft suite at Canalta Lodge Banff

We absolutely loved Canalta Lodge! I went back and forth because there are tons of options in Banff, but Canalta Lodge worked out absolutely perfectly for our family. It is not the closest hotel to all the action on Banff Avenue, but it is well worth being a little bit further away from everything.

We stayed in a double queen + bunkbed suite, and it was amazing. Plenty of beds and enough room to spread out, which is invaluable when traveling with a larger family. It also had a full kitchen that we likely would have used if we’d stayed longer. And, perhaps most importantly, our suite had two bathrooms!

What We Did in Banff

Johnston Canyon Hike

kids on hike at Johnston Canyon Banff

Johnston Canyon is a great hike near Banff, and it’s only about 1.5 miles round-trip to the Lower Falls. One of the coolest things about this hike is the elevated boardwalks on the canyon’s sides- it’s totally different from just walking on a trail. And if you go, make sure to check out the cave with an awesome (wet!) view of the falls. It’s about 3 miles round-trip to go to the Upper Falls and about 7.5 miles round-trip to the Ink Pots.

Banff Gondola

Girl looking towards Banff from top of Banff gondola Sulphur Mountain

If you’re looking for one of the best views of Banff, you can’t beat the Banff Gondola. It whisks you 2300 feet up to the top of Sulfur Mountain. Once you’re at the top, take in the views of the town of Banff and the surrounding mountain ranges, hike one of the many trails, and check out the Above Banff Interpretive Center.

Lake Minnewanka

girl steering boat on Lake Minnewanka Banff

At Lake Minnewanka, in Banff National Park, hop aboard a boat for one of their famous lake cruises. Lake Minnewanka is the largest lake in Banff National Park, and a Lake Minnewanka boat tour is one of the best ways to see the lake. You can also rent kayaks, canoes, and motorboats if you want to explore on your own.

Banff Avenue

five kids smiling on Banff Ave

Banff Avenue is the main street in town, with the bulk of the hotels and restaurants. The road is typically closed to traffic in the downtown business area, and it’s a great place to wander around on foot. Pay attention to parking signs downtown because while there are a couple of free lots (like the train station), you’ll need to pay to park in most places.

Cave & Basin National Park

Cave and Basin National Park

In 1883, Canadian Pacific Railroad construction workers discovered the Cave and Basin hot springs just outside of the town of Banff. Banff National Park, the first in Canada(!), was created just a few years later to protect the Cave and Basin and Upper hot springs. Now, you can visit Cave and Basin National Historic Site and see those original hot springs.

Where We Ate in Banff

The Keg

smiling girls at The Keg Steakhouse in Banff

Ever since she ate there last summer, The Keg has been Ellie’s favorite restaurant. It’s a Canadian chain with a few locations around the US, but it is infinitely better in Canada, where you can get the absolutely delicious Alberta beef. There are two locations in Banff – we went to the downtown location, and it was delightful.

BeaverTails

Beavertails pastry treat on Banff Ave

Kind of like a flat donut covered in toppings, BeaverTails are a quintessential Canadian treat. I highly recommend ordering several and splitting them with your group! Our favorites were the Mehple- maple flavored spread + maple sugar crunch, and the Coco Vanil – vanilla icing, crushed Oreos, and chocolate sauce.

Old Spaghetti Factory

girl with penne and meatballs at Old Spaghetti Factory

We also enjoyed dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Banff. Yes, it’s a chain with locations in the US and Canada, but we don’t have one around us. Every entrée on the menu is one of 3 courses and the kids thought it was fun to get a salad AND dessert with their dinners!

June 5-6, 2022: Icefields Parkway, Alberta

Where We Stayed – Glacier View Lodge

kids in lobby of Glacier View Lodge overlooking Athabasca Glacier

Located on the Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper, Glacier View Lodge has stunning views of the Columbia Icefields and the Athabasca Glacier. They even have glacier-view rooms! It’s also one of the only places to stay around the midpoint of the Icefields Parkway unless you’re camping or have an RV. The fact that it’s one of the only places to stay does mean that the prices are on the higher side. We loved staying at Glacier View Lodge, though, and wouldn’t hesitate to stay there next time we’re in town.

What We Did on the Icefields Parkway

Icefields Parkway

kids in front of Crowfoot Glacier Icefields Parkway

The Icefields Parkway is considered one of the most scenic drives in Canada and maybe even the world. This road goes through the Canadian Rockies, connecting Banff and Jasper. Whether you drive it north or south, it is absolutely breathtaking – and we did both! There are LOTS of places to stop on the way, so even though it’s only 144 miles long, expect it to take you all day.

Columbia Icefield Skywalk

Columbia Icefield Skywalk glass bridge

The Columbia Icefield Skywalk is a glass observation platform that juts out from the side of a cliff and has expansive views. The platform is suspended 918 feet above the Sunwpata Valley floor, and it is not for the faint of heart! The Skywalk is made of 1.5-inch thick glass panels and can hold the weight of TWO Boeing 747s.

Athabasca Glacier

kids on Athabasca Glacier in the Columbia Icefields

Did you know that you can go out onto a glacier? At Athabasca Glacier in the Columbia Icefields, you can board an Ice Explorer – a 30-ton, specially designed bus – that takes you out onto the glacier. You’ll get about half an hour to carefully walk around, and you can even get some glacier water to drink from a glacier stream.

Sunwapta Falls

Located on the Icefields Parkway, Sunwapta Falls has both upper and lower waterfalls that are fed by the Athabasca Glacier. The Upper Falls are easily accessed from the parking lot. It’s a 0.8-mile hike down to get to the Lower Falls. We only visited the Upper Falls because it started to rain as soon as we got out of the car.

Athabasca Falls

smiling girl at Athabasca Falls on Icefields Parkway

Also on the Icefields Parkway, Athabasca Falls is just north of Sunwapta Falls. This is another quick stop, as the falls aren’t too far from the parking area. There is a 1km hike over a few bridges and to observation lookouts if you’re interested and have the time.

Where We Ate on the Icefields Parkway

Car Picnics

kids eating a picnic in the car

We packed sandwich stuff in our cooler – lunchmeat, cheese, fruit, etc – and then we were able to stop and have lunch whenever we were hungry. It worked out so much better than trying to time our drive to be somewhere with restaurants at meal times. Plus, it was wayyyyy cheaper!

Altitude

dinner at Altitude Glacier View Lodge

There aren’t many places to eat along the Icefields Parkway, hence the picnic lunches. We ate at Altitude, but it is currently only open to Glacier View Lodge guests. We had dinner there after we visited the Columbia Icefield Skywalk. It was a bit on the pricy side, but since it’s the only restaurant around, the prices were understandable.

June 6-8, 2022: Jasper, Alberta

Where We Stayed – Miette Mountain Cabins

Miette Mountain Cabins Jasper National Park

With a family of six, it can be hard to find accommodations – especially without paying for two rooms. I rerouted our trip to include Jasper kind of last minute, and there was very little availability in the town of Jasper itself.

Miette Mountain Cabins had an awesome suite in the lodge (not in a standalone cabin) with three queen beds plus a sofa bed, and it even had a full kitchen! It’s about a half-hour drive from the town of Jasper, at the turn-off for the Miette Hot Springs.

What We Did in Jasper

Jasper Planetarium

boy at planetarium show Jasper Planetarium

Did you know that Jasper is in a dark sky preserve and is one of the country’s best places to see the night sky?? The Jasper Planetarium is a great spot to check out when you’re in town. They host their events at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge and offer nightly planetarium shows and stargazing – assuming it’s not cloudy and raining like when we were there! If the night sky isn’t visible due to clouds/weather, they also have a cloudy sky program in place.

Maligne Lake

frozen Maligne Lake Boathouse

Perhaps my favorite, Maligne Lake, is another beautiful lake in the Rockies. This one is famous for Spirit Island, one of the most photographed places in Jasper National Park. The easiest way to get there is on the Maligne Lake Cruise. Unfortunately, when we were there, the lake was still frozen, so the boat tours were not running yet. But the lake was beautiful, all covered in ice and snow.

Bears!

standing black bear in Jasper National Park

I think everybody traveling to the Canadian Rockies is hoping to catch a glimpse of a bear! We had much better luck seeing bears in Jasper National Park than in Banff National Park, partly because there are fewer people there and also because there are more bears around.

This one was spotted on the road out to Maligne Lake. ALWAYS be bear aware while you’re driving – we saw several hanging out on the side of the road. And ALWAYS stay in your vehicle if you come across one!

Where We Ate in Jasper

Earl’s Restaurant

Hunan Kung Pao Chicken from Earl's Restaurant

Oh, Earls, how I love you! Yes, I know it’s another Canadian chain with several US locations, but it just might be my favorite restaurant on the planet. They have everything from Chicken Hunan Kung Pao (absolute BEST thing on the menu!!!) to chicken street tacos to cajun salmon to steaks, and everything in between!

June 8-10, 2022: Lake Louise, Alberta

Where We Stayed – Lake Louise Inn

view outside Lake Louise Inn

Lake Louise is another place with availability issues during the summer – so always book well in advance – but we lucked out with Lake Louise Inn. We booked a fabulous one-bedroom condo with a loft and had plenty of room to spread out. The grounds are beautiful, and you can’t beat the location unless you’re able to actually stay at the lake!

What We Did Near Lake Louise

Peyto Lake

kids at snowy Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake is one of the most popular lakes in the Canadian Rockies, and for a good reason! From the observation point, the lake looks like a wolf’s head, and it’s the most gorgeous shade of blue. Later in the season, when all the ice has melted, it turns more of a turquoise color.

From the parking lot, it’s about a half km hike to the main viewpoint, but it is UP most of the way. We visited in early June, and the trail was still covered under several feet of snow, making it quite an interesting endeavor.

Moraine Lake

kids on a frozen Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake is an absolute must-do when you’re in the Lake Louise area. The parking lot is small, and the lake is SUPER popular, so if you’re not there well before sunrise, you will most likely need to take the shuttle – make reservations ahead of time!

If it’s not peak season, you may luck out and find that the parking lot is open on and off throughout the day, but do not count on that!! The road to Moraine Lake is only open from mid-May to mid-October; the exact dates are dependent on the weather. Make sure to check if the road is open ahead of time if you’re visiting in shoulder season. When we visited, the lake was still covered in snow and ice, so it wasn’t the usual brilliant turquoise color of later in the summer.

Lake Louise

girl sitting on a rock at Lake Louise

Lake Louise is the lake that most people think of if you say you’re going to the Canadian Rockies. And it’s quite understandable that it is so popular! The famous Fairmont Château Lake Louise sits on the shores and it’s an exceptional place to stay – if you can afford the exceptional price tag.

Like at Moraine Lake, parking can be an issue, but there is a shuttle that will take you from the Park & Ride to Lake Louise and/or Moraine Lake. Reservations are required so make sure to check out all the details of the Lake Louise Summer Shuttle.

Where We Ate In Lake Louise

Timberwolf Pizza and Pasta

pizza at Lake Louise Inn

Our days were jampacked with adventuring and exploring, so we opted for late dinners. However, the town of Lake Louise does not have many restaurants that stay open late. Luckily, Timberwolf at the Lake Louise Inn was open late and had delicious pizzas! The Rocky Mountain with Alberta beef, bacon, spicy chorizo, red onion, sun-dried tomato, and grilled asparagus was one of our faves!

Lakeview Lounge

kids at table with view of Lake Louise Lakeview Lounge

For my birthday, we had lunch at the Lakeview Lounge at the Fairmont Château Lake Louise. You can’t make a reservation if you’re not staying at the resort, so we put our name in for a table as soon as we arrived at the lake, and about two hours later, it was our turn. We had a table out on the patio with a phenomenal view and enjoyed a delicious lunch!

Things to Remember for your Canadian Rockies Road Trip

  • From Lake Louise, it’s about a two-hour drive east to get back to Calgary if you’re making this a round trip out of Calgary. We headed west to British Columbia to continue our road trip, which you can follow in Part Two of our Western Canada Road Trip!
  • Like Calgary and Denver, the Canadian Rockies are on Mountain Time.
  • If you’re coming from the US, remember that speed limit signs are in kilometers in Canada. No,  you cannot drive 100mph!!
  • Always check the weather before setting out. While less common in the summer, it can snow every month of the year in the Canadian Rockies.
  • If you’re driving through the Rockies in the winter, be prepared with chains and/or snow tires.

Have you visited Alberta, Canada before? The Canadian Rockies are one of those places that should be on EVERYONE’S bucket list – they’re really that amazing!

Best Tofino Bear Watching Tour | British Columbia

Ever since I was little, I have been fascinated by bears. When I heard that Vancouver Island is home to a huge population of black bears, it instantly jumped higher on my list of places to visit. It was actually one of the catalysts for adding the west coast of Vancouver Island to our itinerary this summer. The Tofino area is one of the best places on the island to see black bears, so I started searching for the best Tofino bear watching tour.

I was shocked when I realized that all the Tofino bear tours are actually boat tours! Who knew there were boat tours dedicated to searching for bears in their natural habitat?! Boats really are the ideal way to see the wildlife, and we’re sharing our experience with the best Tofino bear watching tour around!

pin image for Tofino Bear Watching Tour

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Disclosure: A huge thank you to Jamie’s Whaling Station for partnering on this excursion. As always, all opinions are honest and our own.

early morning at Tofino Harbor

Although black bears live in the forest, they venture out to the coastline, especially at low tide. This means that a boat tour is one of the BEST ways to see bears on the island! They flip over the rocks and comb through the tide pools looking for crabs and other delicious sea creatures.

kids standing at Tofino harbor

We went with Jamie’s Whaling Station, who, as you guessed, also does whale watching tours. They focus on education and provide a wealth of information about the bears, their habitat, and how to protect both. Check-in is at the Tofino Harbor, and you need to be there about half an hour before tour departure. Since we lined our tickets up ahead of time, it was smooth sailing (no pun intended!). We boarded the boat with about 15 other early risers and headed out into the Clayoquot Sound.

foggy morning on Clayoquot Sound

There is nothing like sailing in the morning just after sunrise as the fog floats in and out of the trees on the nearby mountains. Such a beautiful setting!

girl on best bear watching tour in Tofino

For our tour, we sailed towards Meares Island, one of the many islands just offshore of Tofino. Meares Island is known for having one of the largest populations of black bears, and it makes sense since it’s relatively hard to get there and isn’t very populated.

best bear watching tofino

Our first bear sighting of the day!! It’s pretty easy to see the bears since their black coats contrast nicely with the lighter rocks on the beach.

black bears on tofino bear watching tour

When a bear is spotted, the captain will get as close as possible while maintaining a safe and respectful distance. While some passengers may want to get closer, the priority for the crew at Jamie’s Whaling Station is to ensure that the bears do not feel threatened, which can affect their behavior.

tofino wildlife

I cannot even begin to explain how amazing it is to watch these beautiful creatures walk along the shore. It’s pure magic.

kids on bear watching tour tofino

While it was a cool morning, everyone stayed warm enough on the enclosed boat. Layers are recommended, and we found that the Amazon Basics Puffer Jackets were an excellent weight for the summer morning.

Clayoquot sound with fog on tofino tour

Clayoquot Sound is one of 19 UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves in Canada. You’ll find temperate coastal rainforests, rocky coastal shores, and the ocean within the reserve. The crew at Jamie’s Whaling Station does a great job explaining the different ecosystems in Clayoquot Sound and how to protect them for generations to come.

bear tour tofino

These pictures were taken at an appropriate distance from the bears, with a zoom lens, and then further cropped as needed. I highly recommend bringing a zoom lens anytime you’re doing a wildlife tour because it will drastically improve your ability to get good photographs. All of these photographs were taken with the Nikon Z6II plus Sigma 60-600mm Sport lens.

black bears on shore meares island tofino tours

Low tide is the time to see bears, meaning the bear tour schedule changes almost daily with the tides. We lucked out, and low tide was right around 6am when we were in town, so we could combine sunrise and our tour. Two of my favorite things!!

black bear on coastline bear watching tour tofino

Seriously, pure magic watching the bears stroll along the shoreline. Can you see the bear in this photo??

smiling boy on best bear watching tour in tofino

One of my favorite things about Jamie’s Whaling Station is their wildlife sighting guarantee. If you don’t see a whale or bear on the whale watching or bear watching tours, they will give you a raincheck ticket for a FREE tour! They see whales and bears on 95% of their tours, so luckily, they don’t have to give out rainchecks too often.

black bear eating rock crab tofino wildlife

Rock Crab is the main draw for the black bears in these parts. They will dig the crab out from under the rocks, their elongated snouts and sharp claws providing invaluable assistance.

girl spots a bear on tofino bear watching tour

Her face lit up every single time we spotted a new bear!

bear watching tour tofino

bear watching vancouver island

Bear watching tours are offered in Tofino and Ucluelet from April – October when the bears are not hibernating. Starting in May, it’s possible to see mama bears + cubs, although we did not see any cubs on our trip.

Bald Eagle spotted during Tofino wildlife tour

In addition to looking for bears, we also looked for other wildlife. We spotted a few bald eagles in the trees, but they were way off in the distance. And then we happened upon one sitting on the shore and got a much closer look! Such an incredible experience!! Have you seen bald eagles in the wild?!

boy on covered boat Tofino bear watching

There are lots of options for tour operators in both the Tofino and Ucluelet areas. You can do tours on covered boats or more “exciting” higher-speed zodiac boats. Jamie’s Whaling Station provides full-body floatation suits if you opt for the zodiac boat tour. The zodiac tours do have a height requirement – that Ellie has not met yet – so we opted for a covered boat, and it worked perfectly for our family.

kids on covered boat Tofino bear watching tour

Even though the boat is covered, there are giant windows that open up, giving you a clear view of the shoreline. And the back of the boat is open and great for views as well! The plus to the covered boats is that they’re not as cold/windy, which can be a huge bonus on a cool morning or fall day.

smiling kids on bear watching tour tofino

We had the best time on our bear watching tour with Jamie’s Whaling Station. While we’ve seen bears in the wild before, it’s always been as we were driving through the mountains. It was such a unique experience to see them on the rocky coastline – and one that we won’t ever forget!

smiling kids on boat tofino

Things to Remember for a Tofino Bear Watching Tour

  • Make your reservation ahead of time as tours often sell out. Jamie’s Whaling Station has an excellent online booking interface and tells you how many spots are available for each tour.
  • Book more than one tour with Jamie’s and take advantage of their multi-tour discount!
  • Bring at least a light jacket; a water-resistant one is even better!
  • If you plan to take photos, make sure you have a zoom lens. While cell phone pictures are better than nothing, you will likely not get close enough to the bears to get great images. No flash photography is allowed.
  • Do not bring any food/drinks other than water. Bears have a powerful sense of smell, and it’s vital that the bears do not associate the boats with food.
  • Bring a smile and have a great time!

Have you ever seen a bear on the coastline? Would you do a boat tour to go see bears??

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