Here’s why road trip vacations are our new favorite thing: you can pack as much as you want (or, as much as you can fit in a car); friends won’t think your itinerary is overly ambitious, because the whole point of a road trip is to cover a lot of ground; and you get to roll at your own pace, basing yourself off of a rough itinerary, but allowing enough flexibility to stop at anything that grabs your attention along the way.
So, the next time you have the choice of a flight or a drive, we suggest the latter. And if that distance just so happens to be between the two westernmost provinces in Canada, we’d not only suggest it, we’d encourage it. Because when a country has this much to offer, you’d be seriously missing out by flying.
Here’s our ideal way to do a one-way road trip through Western Canada:
Day 1: Vancouver
Before you set off on your weeklong road trip, take the weekend to just enjoy being in and around Vancouver. Rent a bike, and bike along the sea wall towards Stanley Park. Spend the afternoon on one of Stanley Park’s many beaches, being sure to catch the sunset from Third Beach. If you’re feeling daring, dip into the ocean for a refreshing plunge in English Bay. For dinner, head to Tacofino in Gastown, where you’ll get tasty tacos, potent margaritas, and can’t miss fiery chili chocolate cookies for dessert.
Day 2: Day trip to Deep Cove (22 miles round trip)
Ease into the week of driving with a quick day trip to Deep Cove, a quaint waterfront town just 30 minute from the city. If you’re anything like us, you’ll want a snack upon arrival, so book it to Honey’s for a coffee, some breakfast, and their famous doughnuts (chocolate or maple, you can’t go wrong). Spend the next few hours on a boat, paddling your way up the Indian Arm. You can rent kayaks, canoes or stand-up-paddle boards right along the waterfront. If you’d rather stay on dry land, pop into the shops along Gallant Ave, being sure not to miss Sunnyside or Room6.
When you get back into the city, swing by one of Vancouver’s many micro-breweries for a late afternoon drink. We’re partial to Brassneck Brewery, where we sipped on their “Sunny Disposition” and “Ambiguation.” For dinner, skip the overly hyped west coast sushi, and try Vij’s instead. Serving up some of the most unique and creative Indian food around (like their grilled venison on tamarind-date purée), don’t let the long line scare you, because Vij’s is well worth the wait (especially since your wait consists of delicious cocktails in their lounge).
Day 3: Vancouver > Joffre Lakes > Kelowna (342 miles)
This day will be a bit of a long haul, so pack lunch and plenty of snacks. You’ll want to leave Vancouver relatively early (around 7) to beat the crowds, and head north on the Sea-to-Sky Highway. If you need some help staying awake, stop for your first (or second) cup of coffee at Galileo. Otherwise, do your best to hold out for Pure Bread, where you can grab some cookies or treats, which you’ll want for a post-hike-pick-me-up.
Speaking of hiking, here’s how to hike Joffre Lakes: park in the Joffre Lakes lot, then set off up the mountain towards the three turquoise lakes. Stop at the third lake for a rest and to eat your packed lunch. When you get back to your car, take a few minutes to do some stretching before setting off for the next leg of your road trip through Western Canada. Continue east for roughly 5 hours towards Kelowna, through some of the most breathtaking scenery yet — pull over often to snap some pics and to #exploreBC.
Day 4: Okanagan Valley (~80 miles round trip)
You will likely be feeling a bit sore from yesterday’s hike, so treat yourself by spending the day wine touring. Head south to the Naramata region, where there are some of the area’s best wineries. Be sure to stop in at the newly opened Little Engine, try the Chardonnay from Noble Ridge, and relax in the garden at JoieFarm with a bottle of rosé and a pizza lunch. From Naramata, head north along the west side of the Lake, stopping at any local fruits stands along the way that catch your eye. End your day in Kelowna, with a local farm-to-table dinner at Raudz, or one of the larger wineries, like Mission Hill or Gray Monk.
Day 5: Kelowna > Revelstoke > Field (248 miles)
Leave Kelowna around 8 AM and continue east along the Trans-Canada, for day 5 of your road trip through Western Canada. Along this drive the landscape changes dramatically from the Okanagan “desert” to the lush mountains and coniferous trees of Interior BC. Stop at La Baguette for lunch, then choose from one of the many hikes around the area — Eva or Jade Lake in Mount Revelstoke National Park, or Balu Pass or Asulkan Hut in Glacier National Park. Post hike, head east for another 2 hours, towards Yoho National Park. Treat yourself to an evening at the Emerald Lake Lodge, where your exhausted self will appreciate the cozy cabins, quaint fireplaces, and stunning setting.
Day 6: Field > Banff (52 miles)
You’ve covered some serious distance in the car the past few days, so give yourself a few days outdoors to take in the scenery of Alberta. Sneak an early morning walk around Emerald Lake before all the tourists pour in, then continue along the Trans-Canada highway towards Banff. Stop by Lake Minnewanka to gawk at the mountains, or hop on a boat for a tour of the lake. Spend the afternoon in Banff, strolling the streets, doing a bit of shopping, and grabbing an early pizza dinner at The Bear Street Tavern. Don’t forget to dunk your crust in the honey-hot sauce concoction, it’s shockingly delicious. Finally, head to the Vermillion Lakes to watch the day slip away, as the sun sets behind Mt Rundle.
Day 7: Lake Louise > Calgary (112 miles)
Wake up early (to beat the tour buses at the Lakes), and double back to the Lake Louise area. Start at Lake Moraine, walking up the small flight of stairs to get an unreal view of the mountains and royal blue water. You’ll want to spend all day here. Resist the urge, and move on to Lake Louise. You can rent a canoe and paddle around Lake Louise, or, if you’re feeling more active, we’d recommend the Plains of Six Glaciers Hike, stopping at the tea house enroute for a cup of soup and some tea. Back in the car, head east to Calgary, your final stop, and finish with dinner at the Pigeonhole before flying home the next morning.