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Islands to Icefields
11 days · Vancouver, B.C. → Calgary, AB. or reverse or Victoria, B.C. → Banff, AB. · Easy
This trip follows a classic itinerary that embraces BC‘s west coast via the Inside Passage cruise followed by a train trip across BC through the Rocky Mountains. In the Rockies, visit Jasper, the Icefield Parkway and Banff.
Departing from Vancouver, this self-guided holiday is perfect for the independent traveller who desires to experience the far flung reaches of BC and the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Travel conveyances include a transfer from Vancouver to Victoria, a private coach up the length of Vancouver Island, the Inside Passage Cruise, an overnight train trip, and a private coach tour of the Icefield Parkway. Along the way there’s plenty of time to explore on your own and partake in several specialized day adventures we organized, including a grizzly bear tour into world renowned Khutzymacheen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary.
- 11 days, 10 nights
- Vancouver, B.C. or Victoria, B.C.
- Calgary, AB. or Banff, AB.
- Activity Level
- Max Group Size
- One or more
- 3 star hotels
- Coach, BC Ferry Inside Passage Cruise and train
- 10 Breakfasts
- Activity Notes
- Porterage is not included in the tour price. Passengers must be prepared to transport their own luggage for short distances between shuttle buses to train stations and coaches.
- 10 nights’ accommodation at 3 star hotels
- Ten breakfasts
- Transfer from Vancouver to Victoria
- Ferry fees from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay
- One hour city tour of Victoria
- Bus transportation from Victoria to Port Hardy
- Inside Passage Cruise with premier seating from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert
- Full day grizzly bear tour to the Khutzymacheen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary (May to mid July)
- Via rail passage from Prince Rupert to Jasper
- Guided tour and tickets to the Jasper Tramway
- Guided coach tour of Icefield Parkway from Jasper to Banff
- One hour boat tour on Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park
- Shuttle to Calgary, AB.
- Meals where not indicated
- Optional activities
- Local guide gratuities
- Travel and Baggage Insurance
- 5% GST
Schedule & Prices
|Jun 17–Sep 11, 2018||$4,889||—||$1,775|
Islands to Icefields Itinerary
Western Canada Holiday via the Inside Passage
Day 1. Vancouver, B.C. to Victoria, B.C. (Vancouver Island)
This day begins with a coach pickup from either your downtown hotel location or bus depot in Vancouver- you’ll stay with the same coach all the way to Victoria. After leaving downtown, the coach passes through farmland on the way to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. The one and a half hour sailing crosses Strait of Georgia before entering the scenic GulfIslands. While onboard the ferry, guests can access the buffet dining-room, café, snack bar, gift shops, video arcade and various lounge areas.
From the Victoria bus depot we escort you to your hotel which is a stone’s throw from Victoria’s picturesque harbour and promenade. Enroute we’ll give you a quick tour of the city’s highlights. You’ll have the late afternoon and evening to enjoy on your own. Optional activities include: horse drawn carriage rides, classic car rentals, whale watching, museums, tours of Victoria’s InnerHarbour and ButchartGardens.
Accommodation: Hotel in Victoria
Day 2. Port Hardy, B.C.
After breakfast you’ll be shuttled to the bus depot where the local coach will take you up the Island Highway. The first part of this tour will fly by as we pass Split Rock with panoramic views overlooking Finlayson Arm and the Saanich Peninsula. The further north we head, the more of civilization we leave behind. We stop at Campbell River for lunch at the halfway point. Continuing north we venture into the rugged NimpkishValley, home to black bear, elk and deer. By about 5:30 pm you’ll be relaxing in your hotel room in Port Hardy on the north tip of Vancouver Island
Accommodation:Hotel in Port Hardy
Day 3. Prince Rupert, B.C.
This morning we embark on our 15 hour voyage up the Inside Passage. Everyone needs to be packed and down to meet the shuttle bus by 5:15 am. We arrive at the BC Ferry terminal at 5:30 am where we undergo a security check before boarding. By the time the ship departs the harbour at 7:00 am we’re already on our way upstairs to our reserved seats in the dining room. A sumptuous breakfast buffet awaits with several varieties of eggs, meats, seafood, cheeses, breads, pastries and juice. We take time to linger over breakfast while watching the gently rolling wilderness wake up to the day.
About 1500 kilometers in length, the Inside Passage starts in Puget Sound in WashingtonState and extends north along the British Columbia coastline to the Alaska Panhandle. The first 500 kilometers of the Inside Passage are sheltered by Vancouver Island. Ours is the middle portion and is the most rugged and isolated section of the Inside Passage.
Shortly after leaving Port Hardy, on the north tip of Vancouver Island, we cross the open ocean and round CapeCaution to the Central Coast Archipelago. This feature marks the beginning of the sheltered route north to Prince Rupert. As the wilderness envelops us we pass through a pristine marine wilderness where the hand of man appears sporadically. In this land no roads connect the settlements we see.
Built in Germany in 2009, the Northern Expedition harnesses 9000 horsepower for an average cruising speed of 18 knots. This 150 meter ship offers 55 staterooms and accommodates 638 passengers and crew and 130 vehicles. Spacious passenger areas such as the Canoe Cafe, Vista Restaurant and the Raven and Aurora Lounges complement what is a unique sailing experience. This is not a jammed cruise ship where one competes for space and amenities!
Along the way, the captain and crew provide narrative accounts of local sights, including wildlife sightings which are common on this route. Gray and humpback whales, orcas, porpoises, dolphins seals, and black bears and many species of birds call this land home.
One of the first announcements is for the abandoned cannery village of Namu, meaning place of high winds, or whirlwinds. Dating from when the cannery was first established in 1893, Namu is the oldest settlement on BC’s west coast. Excavations have unearthed artifacts dating back 10,000 years. Our first glimpse of real civilization is Bella Bella. With a population of 1,400 this is the largest settlement on the central coast and is home to the Heiltsuk First Nation.
At mid point in our journey we sail close to the manned Boat Bluff Light Station. Built in 1897, Boat Bluff marks the northbound entrance to the narrow Sarah Passage and its light can be seen for 20 miles. Here, the coastline is so rugged that any boat would be hard-pressed find a welcoming landing site.
Just over halfway to Prince Rupert, our chances of seeing bears increase as we approach Princess Royal Island, the favourite haunt of the elusive Kermode or Spirit Bear. Its white colour is the result of a single recessive gene carried by both parents. Wildlife biologists believe the high concentration of Spirit bears on PrincessRoyalIsland is because they are geographically isolated from other black bear populations. Many of the Kitasoo/Xaixais people believe the Spirit bears hold super-natural powers. Hence, the name Spirit bear - one that suits its mythical-like presence. Next is the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, and we bring out our binoculars again, hoping to see a grizzly or two lingering around the river estuaries.
About ten hours into our voyage we encounter abandoned SwansonBay, established in 1909 as one of the first sulfite pulp mills on the coast. Next is Butedale, founded as a cannery and abandoned in the 1950’s. Then, four hours from Prince Rupert, at about dinner time, we enter Grenville Chanel, the most spectacular channel in the Inside Passage. Mountains ranging from 1500 to 3500 feet surround us as we enter this 70 kilometer long channel, the narrowest portion of which is a mere 1400 feet wide.
Our wilderness cruise comes to a close when we dock in Prince Rupert, “The City of Rainbows” (pop. 15,000), by 10:30 pm. For most of the summer dusk will now be upon us, or will have shortly arrived – as we are now further north the sun takes longer to wane. Our ocean view hotel is a 10 minute drive away.
Accommodation: Hotel in Prince Rupert
Day 4 Prince Rupert, B.C.
This day is yours to sleep in and then explore this historic port city. After breakfast, take a walk to restored CowBay, explore the local shops and cafes and visit the port’s Interpretive Centre. Walk the grounds of the SunkenGardens or visit the Museum of Northern British Columbia and its extensive collection of First Nations’ artifacts. Other attractions include the First Nations’ Carving shed, the RailwayMuseum and local galleries. You can also take a half day to visit the restored North Pacific Cannery Museum or walk the five kilometer circular trail to Butze Falls that winds its way through second and old growth forests and along Fern Passage. And don’t overlook salmon fishing charters, a stone’s throw form your hotel..
Accommodation: Hotel in Prince Rupert
Day 5. Prince Rupert, B.C.
This morning your embark on a full day Grizzly Bear Tour into the famous Khutzeymateen “Valley of the Grizzly”. On board a 72 foot catamaran, you’ll travel north through Chatham Sound where your local guide will regale you with fascinating stories of the First Nations’ People in this area. Along the way, watch for porpoises, seals, sea lions, bald eagles, and blue herons and learn first-hand about this diverse marine environment.
From the open waters and tiny islands and islets you’ll enter the rugged coastal mountains and pristine wilderness of the KhutzeymateenValley, home to one of the highest concentrations of grizzly bears in North America. You will have a chance to see these legendary giants in their natural environment. It is truly a photographer’s paradise and will be one highlight of your holiday with Midnight Sun Adventure Travel. From this pristine wilderness we’ll return to Prince Rupert where guests will have the evening free to hit the casino (nest to your hotel) or enjoy a refreshment in the hotel lounge overlooking the harbour.
Accommodation: Hotel in Prince Rupert
Day 6. Prince George, B.C.
Get ready to venture onto the legendary tracks of the Great Canadian Railway! Settle into your reserved seat and relive the romance of rail travel on this two day daylight cruise as it travels 1,160 kilometers from the north Pacific coast to Jasper in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Most of your journey will be dominated by great stretches of wilderness, home to eagles, hawks, bear, moose, elk, wolves and deer.
This is a land founded and still based on a resource-based economy: forestry, mining, agriculture and commercial fishing are mainstays for the communities we pass. Before this time the ancient traditions of the native peoples, the not-too-distant pioneer days of sternwheelers, steam trains and panning for gold all left their mark alongside the tracks.
Initially, you’ll see the mighty SkeenaRiver (translated from native Gitksan as “River of mists.”) a trading route and fish source for thousands of years. As you leave the Pacific Ocean tidal zone, the Skeena narrows and numerous trackside waterfalls begin coming into view. As the Skeena tumbles among jagged rocks, the rail line skirts a canyon and passes through four tunnels. Now we’re in the deep wilderness of BC, passing by remote settlements, the Seven Sisters Mountain Range and Kitwanga where ancient totems stand to this day. After crossing two bridges, we pass through three tunnels that take us by BuckleyCanyon. Then its Morricetown, a vital fishing village of the Wet’sewet’en for 5000 years. We pass by Twin Falls and then Kathlyn Glacier which offers one of best views of a glacier from a passenger train in Canada.
Now, as we’re almost halfway to our overnight stop at Prince Geroge, villages turn into towns: Smithers, Telkwa and Houston. Near the community of RoseLake is the watershed for the Skeena and Fraser systems. Here the train the crosses BulkleyRiver eleven times. At FraserLake, a logging community, the railway crosses the EndakoRiver eight times. Next is FortFraser, near the site of a fur-trading post built in 1806 by explorer Simon Fraser. The country flattens out as we approach Vanderhoof, the geographic centre of BC and a rich agricultural area. The train comes to rest for the night at Prince George, located at the crossroads of the Nechako and Fraser Rivers. This city is the largest in northern B.C and is a major manufacturing and service centre. At the station, you shuttle will take you to your downtown hotel.
Accommodation: Hotel in Prince George
Day 7. Jasper National Park, AB.
This morning we begin our climb into the RobsonValley. This valley occupies the Rocky Mountain Trench that follows the FraserRiver to the YellowheadPass. The name is derived from 3954 meter high Mount Robson, the tallest mountain of the Rocky Mountains and a designated Canadian Rocky Mountains World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Communities we pass by in the RobsonValley include the settlements of Dome Creek, Crescent Spur, McBride, Dunster, and Tête Jaune Cache, the head of navigation for FraserRiver sternwheeler travel from 1911 to 1913. Most of these communities were established in the early 1900’s to support sawmill and logging operations.
Passing through Mount RobsonProvincialPark, ,, the railway skirts the aqua blue waters of MooseLake. ThunderFalls can be seen across the lake as the FraserRiver re-emerges by the tracks at railway junction of RedPass. The train climbs to RedPass, crossing the boundary between Mount RobsonProvincialPark into JasperNational Park. You’re now officially in the Rocky Mountains!
The crest of YellowheadPass marks Alberta-B.C. border, the change between Mountain and Pacific time zones, the highest part of this route and the point where the railway crosses the Continental Divide. At this point the MietteRiver flows eastward and westward water flows east in YellowheadLake on its way to the FraserRiver and Pacific Ocean. Now the peaks of the Rocky Mountains sit proudly on either side of the railway, snow capped and sculpted by water and glaciers, with spectacular rivers and lakes at their feet. Every corner the train takes presents another postcard view .
At the end of the day you’ll arrive downtown Jasper. Because JasperNational Park is a wildlife sanctuary, it is common to see all sorts of wild animals in their natural habitat. Elk and mule deer often wander the main street of the town.
Your hotel is easily accessed across from the train station. You’ll have the evening to stretch you legs and enjoy some Jasper nightlife in this quaint mountain town.
Accommodation: Hotel in Jasper
Day 8. Jasper National Park, AB.
Never rush, you’re on vacation. Relax and sleep in or enjoy a leisurely breakfast buffet in the hotel dining room. Grab a coffee and sit outside in the park. Give yourself time to reflect and let your mind wander to the mountain peaks surrounding you in this charming mountain village.
After lunch, your shuttle bus will take you where your mind dares to wonder – to Whistler’s mountain peak! Your local guide will escort you to the Jasper Tramway where you’ll board Canada’s highest and longest aerial tramway. You will be transported 1304 meters above sea level in the safety of an enclosed Tram cabin. Your tram guide will inform you of the area, points of interest, animal life and the history of the area as you travel for seven minutes to the Upper Station at 2277 meters above sea level.
From the top of the Upper Terminal you will experience an awe-inspiring view that you will remember forever. Stroll the boardwalk, view the interpretive signs and breath in the fresh mountain air. Wildlife in this area include; Hoary Marmots, white-tailed Ptarmigan, ground squirrels, pikas and the occasional Big Horn Sheep. If Travel off the boardwalk on the one-two hour hiking trails to summit the peak. From the mountain top you’ll be able to see unprecedented views of six mountain ranges, including Mt Robson on a clear day, glacial fed lakes, the AthabascaRiver and valley as well as the town-site of Jasper. After your” RockyMountain high” your shuttle bus will return you to your hotel by late afternoon.
Accommodation: Hotel in Jasper
Day 9. Banff NP. AB.
Get an early start and make your way to the hotel lobby to be picked up by the coach. Today you’ll make your way along the famous Icefield Parkway to BanffNational Park. Leaving the town of Jasper, keep your binoculars and camera close at hand as you head down the Icefield Parkway.
During your tour the coach will make many stops, the first being at the AthabascaFalls and SunwaptaCanyon. Along this scenic route your see hundreds of glaciers and snow capped peaks, turquoise lakes, rushing waterfalls and giant sheer rock faces. The coach will stop for lunch at the Icefield Centre where you'll be able to explore the remains of a retreated glacier and have the option of taking the snowcoach out onto the glacier. From the Icefield Centre you'll continue onto the park boundary of Jasper and BanffNational Park.
Other spectacular sights include Crowfoot Glacier, BowLake, and MistayaCanyon. We'll also stop at Lake Louise before your coach drops you off at your hotel in Banff in the late afternoon. The evening is open for you to explore the lively mountain town of Banff.
Accommodation: Hotel in Banff
Day 10. Banff NP. AB.
Put on your walking shoes, it’s time to tour this mountain town and its surrounds! Several great walking and hiking trails are easily accessible right from the downtown area. Included in today’s activities is a one hour cruise on LakeMinnewanka. From the town of Banff you’ll take the shuttle bus for a 15 minute ride to where you’ll board the tour boat for a magnificent cruise of LakeMinnewanka and the surrounding area. Interpretive guides will teach you about the wildlife and vegetation that inhabit the Canadian Rockies. The highlight of the tour include the Devil's Gap, a glacial path carved through LakeMinnewanka from the foothills of the Rockies. You’ll some come to see why the LakeMinnewankaValley offers some of the most interesting and spectacular scenery found anywhere in the Canadian Rockies.
After the boat tour you’ll be shuttled back into town where you can choose from several optional activities. These include the Cave and BasinMuseum, the Banff Gondola or soaking up the healthy minerals at the Sulphur Mountain Hot Springs. Whatever you choose it’s sure to be a fun and inspiring day!
Accommodation: Hotel in Banff
Day 11. Calgary, AB.
You’ll have the morning to relax before checking out of your hotel. Your shuttle bus will drop you off either at your hotel in downtown Calgary or the CalgaryAirport. Travelers returning to Vancouver need to book their return transportation separately – please see Midnight Sun Adventure Travel regarding transportation packages to Vancouver Travel packages to Vancouver include plane, train, and overnight coach tour or by Greyhound.