If you go for a home-made ice cream at Thomasina’s Bakery & Café in Princeton, British Columbia, you’re in for a treat. Thomasina’s is in a building that was once the town’s first silent movie theatre, complete with a pianist to provide the music. Princeton was a pit stop on our 416-km first-day’s journey from Vancouver to the city of Penticton in the Okanagan Valley where we stayed overnight. We were a group of six so we rented an eight-seater GMC Yukon SUV from Avis because we needed extra space for our suitcases and day packs. The vehicle turned out to be exactly the right size for us and offered plenty of comfort.
We found several other good places to break up the day’s drive, including a lovely spot with just-flowering rhododendrons on a ten-minute walking trail. The roads in southern British Columbia are excellent with good signage and the scenery in the Okanagan Valley is wonderful as the route follows several very long lakes. The Valley is renowned for its fruit and wineries but we were a little early for the fruit season.
Save-On-Foods is a good supermarket chain in Western Canada and we stocked up the next day for a three-day stay on a houseboat on Shuswap Lake near Salmon Arm on the western edge of the Canadian Rockies. Houseboating is very popular in this area and our nine-person boat was well equipped including the most important pieces of equipment: a barbecue, and a hot tub on the roof. We also found it simple to steer and moor the boat. A two-hour walk up a river one day showed us a series of magnificent waterfalls. We kept making noises in case of bears and carried bear spray as a precaution.
'The roads in southern British Columbia are excellent with good signage and the scenery in the Okanagan Valley is wonderful as the route follows several very long lakes.'
Back on the road through the Rockies we stopped at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and if there is one thing you shouldn’t miss there it’s the high-speed gondola ride 3,413 metres up the mountain. It takes you to superb views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers and there is a very nice 5-star restaurant called Eagles Eye, offering the highest dining (at 2,346 metres) in Canada.
Heading further east, we were advised to visit Lake Louise before 9am to avoid the crowds and thank goodness we did. On a stunning blue-sky day the famous reflections in the water were brilliant. Even at that hour there were already hundreds of people but we managed to grab some shots without people in them. A visit the day before to Emerald Lake was equally as good in our eyes, with fewer people.
The resort town of Banff is absolutely crowded and we would advise anyone planning to make this journey to go early in June and avoid July and August. The next day saw another early start with a spectacular journey north towards Jasper along the Icefields Parkway. Several excellent stops (with waterfalls) included Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls (with a rewarding view of a moose walking along in a river), before we arrived at Jasper for a Skytram aerial tramway ride up the mountain. From here you look down on the town and many turquoise and purple lakes.
'The Rockies are incredible. It’s easy to think you are somewhere in the Swiss Alps and even in the months when the snow has gone it is still a beautiful place to visit.'
The Rockies are incredible. It’s easy to think you are somewhere in the Swiss Alps, especially with the many ski resort hotels and lodges jammed in between the ski slopes, and even in the months when the snow has gone it is still a beautiful place to visit. A few final tips... Plan your itinerary carefully as there are large distances between towns and accommodation is always in high demand. Allow plenty of time for stops, have driver changes during the day if possible, and remember to keep an eye on your fuel. Oh, and make sure you stop for ice creams.