A Canada road trip Itinerary – Calgary to Vancouver

Canada has been high up on our agenda for just as long as I can remember. Having spent the last three weeks in this incredible country, I don’t know why we haven’t made it a priority sooner. Glass mirror lakes, lush forest, rolling blue mountains, intriguing wildlife and adventure activity galore, it was the best place to take the kids. As we have friends in Alberta, we made it our starting point and mapped out our epic Calgary to Vancouver road trip. I mean who doesn’t want to drive through Canada?

Driving straight though would take around ten hours but we had three weeks to meander through the Rockies. We started off by renting our car from rentalcars.com. Being a broker, it gets the best prices for the all-important budget. We took our car seats with us since we are going to be renting cars throughout the year and also took out annual excess insurance. Its worth noting there is usually a fee for one way car rentals. So if you pick it up in one location and drop it off in another, there is an additional charge.

SHOULD I TAKE A CAR SEAT TRAVELLING?

The car seat question is something that comes up time and time again. My answer is, if I am renting a vehicle, or if we are in a country where we will be travelling in cars a lot, we bring our own. I know it can be really annoying lugging them around, they are seriously the least transportable piece of kiddy equipment. One incentive is it saves money!

I am so excited to share our route with you and if you are planning to visit, I hope it gives you some trip inspiration. Here is our Calgary to Vancouver road trip itinerary.

Calgary to Vancouver Road TripCanada Calgary to Vancouver Road Trip

Three days in Calgary

After picking up our car from Calgary Airport we made our way to stay with friends in the neighbourhood of Mahogany, south of the city. We spent the first couple of days adjusting to the new time zone and checking out low key places nearby. Canada - Calgary to Vancouver Road Trip

The Saskatoon Farm was a real hit with our little girl. It’s so picturesque with views over a valley, giant sunflowers throughout and an old school saloon-style restaurant. We didn’t spend too much time in the city since the main reason we were visiting Canada was for the nature!

One day in Canmore

When deciding to do this Calgary to Vancouver road trip, we decided to try to keep all our drives short and sweet since we were travelling with two young kids. As such, our next stop was Canmore, a 70 minute drive from Calgary, it was the perfect distance for our first stint. Canmore is a beautiful little town, it reminded me of the ski villages in Austria! There is a boardwalk that runs around the outskirts through the forest. It’s a really easy walk with kids. Canada Calgary to Vancouver road trip

We also did a hike in nearby Kananaskis. It was a super easy trail to a waterfall that was around a 3 km round trip. This was our first hike in Canada and sure enough we came across bears! Our Canadian friends were shocked since it doesn’t happen that often. When we saw them we just backed up and changed direction. One thing I learnt from our encounter is that it’s worth learning some bear safety tips if you plan to do hikes. We also love the All Trails app that explains so much about nearby trails, difficulty and suitability for kids. It also is used as a platform to report bear sightings.

Two days in Sunshine Village

Our next stop was Sunshine Village in Banff National Park. Downtown Banff is quite popular, however we found it too over touristy so we were happy to escape the crowds once we had a look around. We stayed at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge. The property is at the top of a mountain and is also on the edge of some incredible hikes. We had free parking at the foot of the mountain and we were transported up in a gondola. Canada Calgary to Vancouver road trip

We used chairlifts to get to the trails. It’s quite off the beaten track. There were some pretty lakes and so many beautiful wild flowers. The trails were easy so our three year old could manage most of it.

Two days in Johnston Canyon

Next up was Johnston Canyon, only a thirty minute drive further west. It was in the ideal location to see some of the other more popular sites in Banff National Park. We stayed in cute cabins on the edge of the Canyon. We did the trail to the lower falls late in the evening when most of the tourists had finished. That was the beauty of staying so close. Canada Calgary to Vancouver Road Trip

The waterfalls are very pretty but the trail is also quite busy. Using JC as a base allowed us to see all of Banff’s big attractions either early in the morning or late in the evening when the crowds were gone.

Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake has to be one of the most picturesque places on planet earth. The only issue is, you have to be up at the crack of dawn to see it. In the summer time, come 8am, the 10 km road to Moraine Lake from the Trans-Canadian highway is closed. Tourists have to park in overflow carparks miles away and come back in on a shuttle that costs around CAD 30. Canada Calgary to Vancouver road trip

The best thing is to arrive just before sunset so parking is readily available. Its’ also a really nice time to see the lake change in the different light. Wrap up well because it’s a little cold first thing in the morning and bring some take-away breakfast to pass the time before its light. Moraine Lake is most beautiful when the sun is out but its pretty magical watching it light up in the morning, it has the best mirror reflection I have ever seen. The water is so clear you can almost see yourself when you look in the water. There is an elevated view on top of a rock pile like in the picture above.

Lake Louise

Lake Louise is another tourist hotspot, however it simply can’t be missed. The aqua green colour of the water with the snow capped mountains in the background is so beautiful. Around the edge of the lake is crazy busy with tourists taking photos. Although it’s expensive for a kayak, its well worth taking it out, not only for the best photos you will get in all of Canada, but its also incredibly peaceful. Canada road trip Vancouver to calgary

Similarly to Moraine Lake, it’s worth arriving early during peak summer to get a space and avoid having to take a shuttle from overflow car parks. After the kayak, there is a nice walk along the Beehive circuit trail. It has quite a bit of incline but the elevated view of the lake is very pretty. There is also a teahouse at the top to chill out before coming back down.

 

IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR MORE THINGS TO DO IN ABLERTA , HERE IS A MORE DETAILED GUIDE.

Three days in Revelstoke

Revelstoke is a 2 hour 40 minute journey from Lake Louise. We found three hours was our maximum car time before the kids found it too much. Revelstoke is fast becoming an adventure hub, especially with the Mountain Coaster Pipeline which we loved.

Canada Road Trip

The National Park at the top of Mount Revelstoke has an amazing 25 km winding road called the Meadow in the Sky Parkway. It’s a picturesque drive with views of all the nearby mountain ranges. We also visited the towns aquatic centre and the awesome Enchanted Forest just outside of town, both were a big hit with our three year old.

Two days in Kelowna

Kelowna was slightly off track to the South. However we heard so many great things about it, we felt it was worth the detour. What amazed me about Canada was, every stop is completely different. We only explored a small proportion of the East Coast, yet the experience along the road was so diverse. Canada road trip

Kelowna is a city that is famous for its vineyards, the Okanagan Lake and some of its nearby hikes. I really didn’t know Canadians made wine and its good! The heart of the community is at the lake. It seems like all the locals have boats, fish and spend their spare time socialising on the beaches and lakeside parkland. We only allowed two days for Kelowna, but in hindsight, we should have allowed more like three or four.

Two days in Kamloops

The drive from Kelowna took around two hours. Kamloops is another destination that has quite a few wineries to check out. Although it’s not the most family friendly activity in the world, we found if we did a quick tasting they were very good at helping to keep the kids entertained by giving them apple juice tastings and colouring in.

The Wildlife Park is also a good place to visit in Kamloops and there are plenty of walking trails in the area. They are family friendly and not too strenuous with kids.

Two days in Whistler

We spent two days in Whistler and although it was slightly north of Vancouver it was not too much of a detour. We loved the village especially as there are no vehicles in the centre and it is pedestrian only. There are lots of big car parks all around the outskirts. We did things like the peak to peak gondola, visited Squamish Lil Wat Centre and also took a peddle boat out on the lake. Family road trip Canada

We also went on a photo safari tour and learnt so much about bear behaviour which has been really helpful in spotting when they may be nearby.

Two days on Vancouver Island

Foolishly we only spent one night on Vancouver Island. That was a huge mistake because the island is massive and we had completely underestimated that! The best port to go from is Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo. The ferry is quite reasonable with a car if booked in advance. They are very strict and close check-in 30 minutes before. Even if the ferry hasn’t left, its still not possible to get on, even if you are only 10 second late, as we learnt. Family Road Trip Canada

Despite the ferry check-in dramas, the journey is really beautiful. It’s quite common to spot whales and dolphins along the way. We stayed at Canada’s number one spa resort as voted by Spas of America the last two years running. Tigh-Na-Mara is a beautiful little place with log cabins and some apartments with an ocean view. They have a nice beach and several activities for kids. It’s not every day you can go to a top spa resort that is family friendly. It’s in an ideal location for getting to nearby sites like the Englishman Waterfall which is a short drive away.

Two days in Vancouver

By the time we got to Vancouver we were completely exhausted after our epic road trip through the Rockies and across to Vancouver Island. We decided to book into a really nice hotel and do nothing other that relax. There was a drop off point for our car rental just a couple of kilometres away. Canada Calgary to Vancouver Road Trip

I hope you have found our itinerary for your Calgary to Vancouver road trip useful. If you have any questions, we would love to hear from you. Leave a comment and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

I you are considering renting a car to do this epic road trip, I would be so appreciative if you could use my Rental Cars affiliate link here. It doesn’t cost you any extra and gives us a few pennies for the travel piggy bank.

Disclaimer: We partnered with multiple tourism boards and companies throughout the trip to promote Canada as a destination to families. As always, all views expressed our entirely our own.

By |2018-11-29T13:26:35+00:00September 14th, 2017|Canada|19 Comments

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Gráinne
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Gráinne

How did you book your kayak for moraine lake? Looks so beautiful and we head there next weekend.thank you.

Rebecca C
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Rebecca C

It wasn’t Moraine Lake, you can hire a boat in Lake Louise.

Ayla
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Ayla

This looks like such a fantastic road trip and great fun for the little ones as well as the grown ups. I’ve never visited Canada but I’m getting more and more tempted – especially with those pics of Moraine Lake. Cannot believe the colour of that water!! May have to look into a visit with my little one too 🙂

A-K
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A-K

May I ask what your approximate budget was for trip?
I also have two young children, one who just turned 2 and another who is almost 8 months and this trip sounds perfect for the family! Just wondering if financially it might be possible for us at this time.
Thank you!

Sharee
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Sharee

This is a fantastic insight into Canada and what can be seen when you have little ones with you. It’s a place we would love to visit in the future, so thank you for your sharing your tips!

Jaz
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Jaz

What time of year did you visit?

James
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James

Hi,
Fantastic blog on your travels. My wife and I are looking at a similar route in June with our baby who will be 1 by then. A couple of people have suggested that we flip the route, starting in Vancouver and finishing in Banff, fly from Calgary.
Do you have any thoughts on this? Are there any benefits?

Adele
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Adele

Karen can you maybe say more or less what your budget was? We’re leaving for Canada hopefully in March, have 3 kids under 4years and are going the same route (will spend longer on Vancouver Island though ?). Thanx

marion
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marion

very nice! we’ll go to Calgary next summer, please I would like to know how I can find places to sleep not too excessive for a family with 5 persons.
Thanks a lot!

Ana
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Ana

I would like to Know if it is safe to visit the rocky mountains with a 4 months baby?

Julie
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Julie

We were travelling from Calgary to Vancouver next month (June 2018) but as we are 4 adults and 4 large suitcases, we need a HUGE car/mini van and the prices are coming in around £650-£700! The rental cars link you provided is too expensive for us. Because of the car cost after the air fares, we therefore only want cheap motel accommodation when we stop to sleep each night after travelling. Your hotels/accommodation choices look very expensive? We then have 7 nights in Vancouver before travelling back to the UK. Any cheap tips please? Thank you

Sara
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Sara

Hi, thanks for your info, thinking of doing this trip in July 2019…?can I ask, did you pre book all of your accommodation?….we will be a family of 4, two teenage children….so wondering whether to pre book or just go by the seat of our pants?!

Steve
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Steve

Hi, A great article. We are planning a trip next May/June and wondered if you have a list of places that you had stayed on this trip just for information for us. We have never been to Canada before but have been to the USA on flydrive a few times and we have been advised that places to stay are a little more limited..

Alix
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Alix

Hi Steve, I am from Calgary and have a few ideas for you if you are planning for the next May/June. Depending on how many days you are planning to visit Canada/Alberta/British Colombia, you can start from Calgary (visit the downtown “The Core” shopping mall and 17th Ave. for restaurants and bars”, then drive to Canmore from Calgary (1hr drive), I would suggest to stay for at least one night, walk in the city, go for a helicopter ride (last time I checked it was 125$ per person for 20 minutes), take photos with “Three Sister Mountains”, rent a bicycle… Read more »

Jessica Spiteri
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Jessica Spiteri

Hi could I ask where you stayed in Kamloops we are doing the drive from Calgary to Vancouver in a couple of weeks and still can’t fully decide where to stay for our one night. Thank you. Like you we are travelling with kids ages 2 and 4

vancouver seo consultant
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vancouver seo consultant

Your pics of Moraine Lake and Lake Louise are sublime. Thank you for sharing. Will def have to make my way over to see now that I have seen your pics. https://topratingseo.com/vancouver-seo-consultant/

Ldavis
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Ldavis

What a wonderful and really helpful blog Karen. Thank you. My partner and I are hoping to do a very similar trip next June and looking for suggestions, tips and ideas to ensure we maximise the experience. We are coming from Australia. Anyway, thank you and happy travels to you and your family wherever you travel to next!! Lynne