4th - 14th August 2017
After a few days in the city we couldn’t wait to escape to the countryside!
Here we would see what Canada really had to offer. Our planned road trip through British Columbia from Vancouver to Banff National Park returning to Vancouver quickly changed once we hit the road, saw the skies, smelt the air and watched the news of the worst forest fires in Canada for over 60 years blazing through the province! We quickly learnt a backpacker’s life doesn’t always go to plan.
The original plan was to pick up our hire car and go on a 10 day road trip, camping in a tent along the way. We hired a car whilst in England online with Hertz rental company. The cost was £356.00
for the 10 day period collecting and returning the car in Vancouver. Although the small economic car did the job perfectly and saved us on fuel, we would not recommend Hertz. On collection of the car they tried to pressure us into purchasing a more expensive insurance cover that was unnecessary and even now 3 months down the line they are taking money out of our bank account without informing us for things like parking tickets and speeding fines that we never actually incurred. This has now been refunded but caused us a lot of hassle.
Anyway back to more positive memories here is our original plan…
Vancouver – Harrison Lake 1.5 hr drive. Stay 1 night
Harrison Lake – Salmon Arms 4hr 10min drive. Stay 1 night
Salmon Arms – Revelstoke 1hr 15min drive. Stay 1 night
Revelstoke – Banff 3hr 15min drive. Stay 2 nights
Banff - Canyon Hot Springs 3hr drive. Stay 1 night
Canyon Hot Springs – Oakanogen 4hr drive. Stay 1 night
Oakanogen – Sicamous 3hr drive. Stay 1 night
Sicamous – Whistler 5.5hr drive. 2 nights (go up to Joffre Lakes)
Whistler – Vancouver 1.5hr drive
This would work out perfectly for anyone following in our footsteps in terms of the quality of the stops and timings. We would advise you to live the Canadian way ‘at one with nature’ and get out there and camp. Either hire a car and hit up a Walmart for all the cheap camping essentials (tent incl pegs, air bed and pillows, pump, hammer, lamp, torch, stove, gas, pots and pans, cutlery incl tin opener) as we planned to do or hire a camper van. Depending on budget we would say a camper is better as it is less hassle, you often pay the same for a camping spot as a tent (if unpowered) and you can cook meaning you will save on eating out or buying cooking essentials such as a stove and gas.
On arrival to Harrison Lake it soon became clear camping was not an option for us, the air quality was a mere 2 meaning camping was not advised by the government or even being outside for long periods of time. It may have been fine but with asthma to deal with and it being our first stop away from home we opted for the hotel / motel route which ended up killing our budget unfortunately. Some of our desired destinations such as Banff, we had to skip due to the skies being so bad you couldn’t even see 10 meters above you.
The Harrison Lake Hotel was our first nights’ accommodation at $135 per room. It was fine for a night’s stay, a little over priced but there if needed. Don’t expect to be blown away by Harrison Lake, if you are one for long drives just head straight up to the next stop; Salmon Arms. However, if you want to break up the drives it’s fine for a stop off. There is a beach to relax on with mountain views and a smaller lake to swim in. Water sports are available on the beach and you can hike 2hr to the natural hot springs or stay at The Harrison Lake Hotel where they have their own man-made hot springs. A few nice restaurants to choose from along the water’s edge, food for the two of us with a glass of wine cost around $50. A nice spot for an evening BBQ on the beach though, we remember a lovely golden sunset here.
The next stop was Salmon Arm which bought huge smiles to our faces as we arrived to a clear blue sky. It was the first time we had seen the magnificent mountain ranges that surround BC. A pretty little village with the lake being its main attraction. Walk around the water’s edge, hire a jet ski or hang out at the café on the end of the jetty. We ended up staying at the only hotel with rooms available; The Salmon Arm Hotel. A beautiful hotel overlooking the lake with gorgeous rooms including your own jacuzzi and ginormous comfy bed. Of course, completely off budget at over $250pn. If you’re looking to treat yourselves this is the place to do so. Unfortunately, we woke up to smokey skies so escaped to the next stop… wherever that would be.
On route, out of Salmon Arm a local lady told us about a little town called Revelstoke. We had never heard of it before so checked the news and as the smokey skies were set to improve up there way made our way North. Revelstoke was our favourite spot in BC. A cool little skiing town that looked like an old American film set surrounded with bear warning signs. On arrival, here we became aware of Canada’s ‘long weekend’. A weekend where every Canadian goes away either North or South of BC to enjoy the extended weekend with their family. Of course we were there on the long weekend where 100 years of Canada was being celebrated up and down the country so literally every Canadian and their dog had booked up all the hotels, motels and camping spots months in advance.
After an hour in the visitors centre they managed to find us the last room at The Revel Stoke Lodge for $150pn, double the usual cost due to the high demand. We sucked it up and headed to the lakes which quickly cheered us up after over spending on accommodation again. It was around 5pm the skies weren’t too smokey and people sat on the water’s edge basking in the sunshine after a long day at work, or swam in the fresh water lake with their dogs and children, while others lowered their boats in and rode around. It was a great experience of the Canadian lifestyle and a lovely evening we won’t forget. We then headed back to the town for a street festival with live music after indulging in some yummy tacos.
The next day we made the most of the beautiful blue skies in Revelstoke National Park which is just a 5 minute drive out of town. It was one of our favourite national parks so far, full of breath taking views, wild flowers and rangers looking out for the grizzly bear that was living in the wild up there. Entry into the park was $30 per car. The lady who recommended Revelstoke to us also spoke highly of Nelson. You have to get a ferry out there but it is meant to be beautiful and a great unique town. We didn’t make it here but definitely somewhere to look into.
We decided not to go any further North at this point due to the extreme forest fires up near Banff and nowhere to stay as we hit the Friday of the long weekend. Heading back South we stopped off in Sorrento, not much to see here but we know a lovely B&B if you need to break up a journey and of course there is another beautiful lake to explore. The Salaha Retreat provided us with a wonderful room which was so peaceful being surrounded by a beautiful garden, the hosts were wonderful cooking us a delicious three course breakfast and we left feeling very refreshed and full.
The next stop was Sicamous about a 20 minute drive North from Salmon Arm where we stopped on the way up. This was a pretty fishing village, very small but complete with a nice harbour, restaurants and beach where we spent the day relaxing. Here we stayed in a motel which was a little cheaper and did the job perfectly.
We then made our way to Whitstler via Vancouver which we absolutely loved. It’s a great skiing town that comes alive in the Summer with all its shops, restaurants, hikes and lakes. We spent the day here hiking to a couple of freshwater lakes where we relaxed, swam and sunbathed surrounded by families doing the same and enjoying BBQ’s. It was a great atmosphere. And after a long day what could be better than ice cream? COWS; the best ice cream we have had on this trip! You cannot miss it with the que coming out of the door. On the drive to or from Whistler stop at the waterfalls along the way they are beautiful and easy to find as all sign posted. We would love to return here in the winter months to ski. Note you do have to pay to park here.
From there we drove to Pemberton around 30 minutes away where we stayed in an AIR BNB which was perfect to get a good night’s sleep before driving a further hour to Joffre Lakes in the morning which was a massive highlight of BC. You can either hike to the lower, middle or higher lakes or do all 3. It takes around 2hr to get to the top, 1hr30 to the middle and 20 minutes to the first lake. The glacier fed water in the lakes is ice blue and gets better the higher you go. Surrounded by snow covered rocky mountains the scenery is pretty breath taking. Take water and a picnic, take your time and make a day of it. If you are brave enough dive into the ice cold waters, it may be a refreshing treat after the steep hike up.
That was the trip complete as we headed back to Vancouver. This took around 3.5hr, just be aware of traffic in the city as we didn’t account for this and ended up being late for the return of the car!
The blue waters of Joffre lakes
The views from Revelstoke National Park
The town of Whistler
Being surrounded by bears and the excitement / anticipation of seeing one
Always take advice from local people, they know best and don’t look at things through a tourist’s perspective
Sing and talk whilst walking to scare off bears and don’t run!
Always check the weather forecast and what’s on
Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go to plan
Book accommodation in advance even camping spots during the Summer
With love from The Globe,
Isabelle & George x
Currently in Australia.