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Wildlife and wilderness holidays in Canada
Read time: 7 mins
For a holiday with a difference Canada has the answer, from arctic adventures and polar bearing spotting in the north to trekking mountain ranges on horseback in Alberta and whale watching on Vancouver Island. Experience all this whilst surrounded by incredible scenery and of course spot wildlife you wouldn’t get to see at home. The Canadian wilderness is waiting to be explored, read on for some ideas on real adventure holidays.
Self-Drive Whales, Bears & Vancouver Island
A self-drive tour is a great way to experience Canada and this 8-night adventure is the perfect combination of city exploration and wilderness activities.
Start your outdoor pursuits in Victoria, the capital of British Columbia. Take a stroll through the ocean fronted Beacon Hill Park, go on a cycling tour of the city stopping at breweries or coffee shops along the way or for some history check out the Parliament Buildings and Royal BC Museum. You won’t have to travel far to discover wildlife in this city, jump aboard a boat tour with a marine biologist and learn about orca, minke and grey whales with the chance to spot them in their natural habitat.
From Victoria embark on an incredible drive to Tofino; stop at Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park to take a look at the huge Douglas fir trees. Continue on with beautiful views of mountain ranges and follow the winding road past lakes such as Kennedy Lake, Vancouver Island’s largest. Highway 4 eventually opens up to stunning coastline and is a lovely area to stop along the journey for photos and beach walks. Characterised by rainforests, lakes and beaches, Tofino is the end of the road on the west coast of Vancouver Island making it the ultimate wilderness retreat. From here head out by boat on a bear spotting trip. Staying close to the shoreline you will get the opportunity to see bears foraging for food on Tofino’s sandy stretches and in hidden coves. Learn to surf, relax in hot springs or hike along one of the many trails in the Pacific Rim National Park, there are endless opportunities to get lost in the wilderness here.
The next leg of the journey leaves Tofino behind for Sonora Resort on the east coast of the island. Exciting stops along the way include Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park, perfect for a picnic lunch surrounded by mountains and waterfalls cascading into rocky gorges. On arriving at Campbell River from here the only way to reach the resort is by water taxi. Sonora Resort is in a beautifully secluded location; combine eco adventure travel with luxury at this wilderness resort. Take in the breathtaking surroundings on a hike and make use of the resorts facilities. Swimming, tennis and fly-fishing are just a few of the activities on offer during a stay here. Squeeze in a tour while at the resort too: the Eco-Adventure boat tour is an exciting way to experience the great outdoors with a wilderness guide. If you visit from August to October a grizzly bear tour is a must, starting off with a boat ride, followed by a rainforest walk to viewing towers along the Orford riverbank where you can watch out for these elusive creatures.
Continuing the road trip your final destination is Vancouver. En route stop at Fanny Bay and try its famous oysters, take in the sea air on a walk along Rathtrevor Beach in Parksville and a must-see are the goats who live on the roof of Coombs Country Market! The final leg of the journey is a ferry ride from Nanaimo to Vancouver. Finish your trip in style with some shopping, sightseeing or one final hike.
More information and to book: Self-Drive Whales, Bears & Vancouver Island
Polar Bears, Churchill & Tundra Experience
Experience the Canadian wilderness in the arctic town of Churchill, found in Manitoba on Hudson Bay. This remote area is cut-off from the rest of Canada as there are no roads into the town. Only reachable by rail or air from Winnipeg, make it the ultimate spot for a wilderness and wildlife break. Known as the polar bear capital of the world winter is an exciting time to stay in Churchill. October and November are the prime months for polar bear sightings as they make their annual move from summer to winter hunting grounds. Climb aboard a Tundra Buggy for an experience like no other. The raised, reinforced buggies will transport you across the frozen landscape into a whole new world; watch out for polar bears and other wildlife with a knowledgeable guide. Temperatures at this time of year can often dip to -26 and below so remember to pack plenty of layers, thermals and cosy outerwear. Dog sledding is another must do while in this part of the world, zoom across snow-covered tracks on a sled pulled by a team of huskies. Afterwards warm up with hot chocolate and bannock, native flat bread with a chance to chat to the mushers. The Northern Lights can often be spotted during the winter months here, as long as the weather conditions are correct look out for the mesmerising shades of green dancing across the night sky. Churchill itself is a small arctic community of around 1000 and has plenty of sights to keep you busy in between wildlife watching such as the Eskimo museum, Fort Churchill and Cape Merry.
More information and to book: Polar Bears, Churchill & Tundra Experience
British Columbia Cities & Wilderness
Beyond this tour’s two wonderful city stays in Victoria and Vancouver, you’ll embark on an amazing journey to Sonora Island, a beautiful wilderness shrouded in bright, luscious forest and decorated with soaring, lush mountains.
Reachable by water taxi, Sonora Island is one of the Discovery Islands’ outer islands, and offers plenty of quintessential activities amongst its untouched landscapes. Majestic brown bears roam through the forests, and the sparkling waters sweep out onto phenomenal views of the surrounding mountainous islands.
The resort prides itself on its luxurious amenities and décor, adding a unique juxtaposition to the wilderness outside, and the pace is deliciously slow and leisurely. Potter along to the indulgent Island Currents Spa to try out the sensational Water Journey, using the breath-taking views of peaceful water and luxury water-based facilities to purify the body and relax the mind. Or, you could sail across the calm lakes in search of salmon, and clamber into a kayak to slowly float alongside the magnificent mountains. One of the main draws is Sonora Island’s eco-adventure tours, including hopping on the open-air Eagle Master boat and heading on an adventure to see the area’s incredible wildlife, including curious sea lions, cheeky porpoises, and jaw-dropping eagles. The boat even has a hydrophone and headphones so you can hear the whales creating wonderful songs underneath you.
More information and to book: British Columbia Cities & Wilderness
Vancouver & Wildlife Watching at Knight Inlet
Nestled 80km from Campbell River, Knight Inlet is a beautiful, remote wilderness that will propel you into a world full of natural beauty and incredible wildlife sightings. The utterly charming Knight Inlet Lodge you’ll be staying in is tucked away in Glendale Cove, home to one of the highest concentrations of grizzly bears in British Columbia.
This is why grizzly viewing is so prevalent during your stay here. It’s not uncommon to see one of the magnificent creatures hunting for salmon close by to the lodge, and venture here in the spring and you’ll get to enjoy a wonderful two-hour bear watching cruise. You’ll also be treated to a two-hour Knight Inlet sightseeing cruise through the cove, taking in vibrant views of forest-shrouded landscapes and majestic eagles swooping overhead.
With no TV’s or phones in the rooms, the lodge offers an escape for every day, modern stresses, focusing solely on creating an authentic experience deep in the wild. Embark on a wildlife tracking tour to create plaster casts of animal prints, hike through the luscious Kwalate River Valley, and venture to Johnstone Strait to spot the area’s amazing marine life.
More information and to book: Vancouver & Wildlife Watching at Knight Inlet
Backcountry Lodge & Riding Adventure
The backcountry lodge and riding adventure will take you right back to nature. Ride through the wilderness of Alberta, beginning and ending in Banff you will be on horseback for the duration of the trip. Your horse will be handpicked for you and will be your noble companion over the course of the 6 days. Daily rides are around 5.5 hours in duration, ending each day at an outback lodge, many of which have an old western feel. Halfway Lodge at the base of Allenby Pass has been looking after riders since the 1920s and is steeped in history; its wooden clad walls have many a backcountry story to tell. Heated by wood burning stoves and with propane candles and lanterns as the only light sources, you will certainly feel like you have gone back to the days of the Wild West. Sundance Lodge is another tiny backcountry cabin, priding itself in its hearty, home cooked meals and hot showers; just what is needed after a full day in the saddle. Ride past hot springs, along the turquoise Bow River and through alpine forests and valleys surrounded by the snow capped Sundance Mountain Ranges. Follow the steep winding trails and end up high above the clouds on the Rocky Mountain passes. Allenby Pass is a ride that won’t be forgotten in a hurry; follow the pass 8,000 feet up for unbelievable views of the Canadian wilderness. This is a trip where you will get to experience a lot that others visiting this area wouldn’t normally get to see. The bonus is that you only need basic horse riding experience to enjoy this once in a lifetime opportunity, so saddle up and get into cowboy mode.
More information and to book: Backcountry Lodge & Riding Adventure
Canada boasts a whole host of unique accommodation for exploring its wilderness and wildlife, there are plenty of relaxing retreats which mean you can escape it all without having to go back to basics.
Arowhon Pines Resort and Restaurant
Perched on the edge of a lake in Algonquin Park, Arowhon pines is a wonderful wilderness escape. Lakeside cabins with log burners; private decks and no televisions or radios mean there is nothing more to do then admire the beautiful surroundings. Take advantage of this remote area by hiking or biking along one of the many park trails. A complimentary vehicle day pass included with a stay at Arowhon means you can explore further afield too. At the resort swim, kayak, sail or SUP on the lake, play tennis or relax in the sauna. The dining area has views of the lake and surrounding forests and serves tasty Canadian specialities. There is a fire pit in the grounds for toasting marshmallows under the stars and watch out for local wildlife including moose, beavers and black bears.
More information and to book: Arowhon Pines Resort and Restaurant
Emerald Lake Lodge
Found deep in Yoho National Park the lodge sits on Emerald Lake which certainly lives up to its name, stunning turquoise waters surrounded by a thick alpine forest and the incredible Rocky Mountains make for an unforgettable backdrop. All of the rooms have fireplaces, which are stocked daily with complimentary firewood. Hearty meals such as local game will keep the inner explorer satisfied and the outdoor hot tub is the perfect place for relaxing and taking in the stunning lakeside views. The surrounding area has plenty of wilderness activities to keep you busy from witnessing the thundering Takakkaw Falls, one of Canada’s highest waterfalls to rock climbing, horse riding and of course hiking in this natural playground; Yoho National Park has over 400 kilometres of trails waiting to be discovered.
More information and to book: Emerald Lake Lodge
Whether it’s a self drive holiday, going back to basics and exploring the wilderness on horseback, staying in a remote lakeside cabin or adventuring in the arctic circle watching polar bears from the comfort of a Tundra Buggy, for an adventure holiday like no other Canada is the place to go for the ultimate wilderness experience.