I'm planning a trip to Canada this August, flights in YVR. I'd like to fit in Vancouver Island and the Inside Passage ferry, and the Rockies. (We have 17 days but we usually like seeing several places rather than seeing everything that one place has to offer.)
This suggests two options: (i) a long, clockwise driving loop or (ii) flying from Prince Rupert to Calgary (using miles) breaking to trip into two halves. I'd appreciate some advice on which is easier.
My concerns with (i) are the driving distances. Basically Prince Rupert to Jasper is 1100km, and we'd have two-and-a-half days probably split as Prince Rupert - Smithers (353km), Smithers - McBride (580km) and McBride - Jasper (166km). What are the roads like on the long day: is 100kph, ie 6 hours realistic? Do I need to worry about conjestion / poor surfaces this far north? Are the any sights along the way (other than the Skeena valley)?
I also have to pay C$250 to take a car on the ferry this way. Are there any alternatives to this, other than one-way hire fees - eg. in NZ, Avis and Thrifty will swap your car without fee so you don't have to take it on the Interislander ferry. It seems crazy that there must be hundreds of rental cars going north and south on the IP ferry every year.
If I flew (ii) instead, I'd be without a car on Vancouver Island. Would this be a bad idea? Nanaimo to Port Hardy (390km) is seven hours by coach , would 4-5hrs plus some stops by car be realistic (traffic/surfaces)?
It comes down to a question of what would you do? Am I right to think the Inside Passge + Northern BC is worth the hassle/cost? I'd prefer option (i), as long as I'm not being unrealistic about timings. Any advice would be gratefully received
Programs: NW Plat (now they call it DL Diamond) 1MM, soon to be DL Plat, Hilton Diamond, SPG Gold, Dusit Gold
Western Canada is a big place
Personally, I would find it almost impossible to do what you want to do without driving. There are a couple of viable alternatives. My suspicion is that you will pay a drop-off fee to return anywhere other than Vancouver.
1. Take the train to Bellingham, alternatively, fly from Vancouver. Catch the Alaska Ferry to Prince Rupert, Take the train (Skeena) to Calgary. Take another train to Vancouver.
2. Rent the car in Vancouver, rather than taking the ferry from Tswassen to Sydney or Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, take the ferries along the Sunshine Coast (Vancouver Island is not particularly scenic on its east coast. The scenery is on the west.). Cross over at the top of route to Vancouver Island and go north to Port Hardy. Alternatively, spend some time on the island by going over to the west coast. The Sunshine Coast drive is quite scenic and very pleasurable. Roads are excellent. Cannot speak for those out of Prince Rupert, but suspect that they are fine. Speed limit is 100 kmh and BC cops and RCMP use photo radar. The Icelands Parkway portion is very scenic and interesting.
Seventeen days should work for a time frame. You will be driving a lot. Do not expect to have a multitude of choices of places to stay unless you are camping. British Columbia is fairly wild outside the cities. Restaurants outside of Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Kamloops and Kelowna are pretty basic. Expect to actually see wildlife along this loop.
August will be one of the busiest months. Keep this in mind due to limited facilities. But, this is British Columbia and it never gets really busy except for a couple of weekends. You probably will need ferry reservations especially if travelling on Friday or Sunday. Traffic jams are normally caused by gawkers staring at the critters.
Please be aware that, in general, there are no motorways in British Columbia or Alberta. Almost all of this loop is two lane roadway with sideroads entering . In fact, almost all of the Trans-Canada Highway is 2 lane. In August, the roads have a large number of campers and motor homes. Alignment of the roads is generally excellent and passing lanes are available. This said, the roads are wider than Scotland or Ireland and better.
Last edited by opushomes; Jan 25, 05 at 11:30 am.
Reason: to discuss road width
Thanks opushomes. This is now a duplicate thread - after five days I gave up and re-posted in the AC forum. Your comments are very useful - I think if I go through with the YPR-Jasper drive I'll have to allow more time: at the moment it seems to be 5 long days in row (4 driving, 1 on a boat). Alternatively I may settle for the coastal scenery on VI and the sunshine coast.
Don't think holiday planning has ever been such an embarrassment of riches!