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April 9, 2020

2 Week Canada Road Trip From Washington State

Views of Vancouver BC on Canada Road Trip with Annie Miller

CANADA ROAD TRIP FROM OUR HOME TOWN.

Nate and I have wanted to visit Canada for a while now. For us it’s one of those “we can do it anytime” locations, since we live five hours south of Vancouver, B.C.. But when I booked a continuing education conference in Victoria B.C., it was the opportune time to plan a road trip.

You could certainly do this road trip quicker than we did, but we like to take our time. Because, well, we can.

This was the route + accommodations worth noting:

  • Ocean Shores: 1 night (not needed – we recommend just heading straight up to Port Angeles).
  • Port Angeles – 1 night (terrible overpriced motel)
  • Ferry to Victoria
  • Victoria: 4 nights (two days at the conference, one explore day) Hotel Rialto
  • Vancouver BC: 3 nights (shanty Airbnb)
  • Kamloops: 1 night Plaza Hotel
  • Banff: 3 nights Rundlestone Lodge
  • Calgary: 2 nights Airbnb
  • Spokane: 1 night

Car of choice:

The Millers LOVE a convertible. You get to see so much more. And although it was a bit late in the season for a Ford Mustang GT Convertible…we still made the most of it. Our trip was Sept 10th to the 27th (I think) and it literally poured down snow in Banff the day after we left. #bless because our car was NOT suited in any way, shape or form for that kind of weather.

Washington

We drove up through the Olympic Peninsula because I’d never been but heard that it was beautiful. We almost didn’t get out and do the short hike to the Cape Flattery view point, because it was raining some kind of hell outside. But it was also the LITERAL reason we took this route. So out we went, onto the mud-river trail. The hike was only 30 minutes there and back, and well worth it. In better weather I am sure this is even more stunning.

Hiking to Cape Flattery view point with Annie Miller
Annie Miller at Cape Flattery Viewpoint in Canada Road trip from Washington
Cape Flattery View point on Olympic Peninsula with Annie Miller
views of Cape Flattery viewpoint on Olympic Peninsula
Cape Flattery View Point with Annie Miller on the Olympic Peninsula
Annie Miller exploring Cape Flattery Viewpoint on Canada road trip from Washington

Ferry to Victoria

After a night at a TERRIBLE accommodation in Port Angeles, it was off to Canada, finally. Booking a ferry was easy. We did it ahead of time for the earliest time slot here. You can also book here through the CoHo Ferry Line. I wasn’t fast enough to grab my phone, but we did see some humpback whales on the ride over! Not too shabby considering we’ve paid for whale watching tours on Orcas Island and not seen a single whale. All of that is to say, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. You might get a show.

Victoria is a beautiful city with plenty to see and do. Spoiler alert – we actually preferred Vancouver, BC over Victoria. I was partial to Vancouver, having been there before. But Nate also enjoyed it more than Victoria. If you do go, I highly suggest a small road trip. Getting outside of the main city is treat. And you’ll feel like you’re in a completely different area (because you are).

Our top eats in Victoria were: Bartholomews English Pub, Red Fish Blue Fish on the docs, Discovery Coffee, Ruby on Johnson (for okay breakfast food). We ate at a taco place during the conference that was to die for. But I cannot for the life of me remember the name. It’s pink, that’s all I remember.

Favorite hotel: 4 Star – Hotel Rialto. The hotel itself was very nice. We did a Japanese whiskey tasting at the bar, and the hotel gave us free access to a full gym down the street. We were pleased to take advantage of the gym pass for sure. Definitely stay here if you can swing it. The location and service are worth it!

Welcome to Victoria BC on Canada Road trip with Annie Miller
Architecture in Victoria BC on Canada Road Trip with Annie Miller
City of Victoria BC with Annie Miller on Canada Road Trip

If we would have done more research in advance, we would have planned an extra day and stayed further up on the island. That’s what everyone kept telling us to do. I guess there is a beautiful area like four hours away. Too far for a day trip, but worth the trip if you have the time.

Instead, we did a little day trip through some national parks and surrounding areas. It was a beautiful drive and a great opportunity to put the top down.

The Mini Road Trip:

Drive from the city on the 14 along the coast, down to China Beach, to Wild Renfrew Brewery, through Pacific Marine Road North to the 18, and then the 1A back to Victoria.

Mini Road trip views in Canada with Annie Miller
Ocean views through the trees on Canada Road Trip
China Beach on mini road trip in Canada with Annie Miller
Annie Miller on China Beach in mini road trip in Canada
Views of Wild Renfrew Brewing in Canada
Wild Renfrew Brewery Beer on Canada Road Trip

Ferry to Vancouver BC

The Ferry dock to Vancouver BC from Victoria was a decent little drive, so we decided to tack on a well known view point. The weather was less than ideal but that’s the chance you take when visiting Canada in September. No big deal for us Pacific Northwestern-ers, really. I may or may not have tried to get a chic ferry pic, but the weather put me in my place. So wet, so windy + so cold.

View point on Mount Doug. Drive up, get out, walk a few meters to the lookout.

Ferry Booking through BC Ferries.

Viewpoint on Mount Doug in Vancouver on Canada Road Trip
Annie Miller at Viewpoint on Mount Doug in Vancouver on Road trip
More views from Mount Doug in Vancouver BC
Annie Miller on the ferry from Victoria BC to Vancouver BC

Vancouver BC

I love Vancouver. I visited years ago for a cheerleading competition and absolutely fell in love with this city. You know when a city just “gets you.” Vancouver BC “gets me.” The waterfront, the fitness community, the food, the natural beauty; ALL OF IT.

We spent two full days here, one of which was cold and rainy, and one of which was a brisk and beautiful 72 degree autumn day – cue exploring.

That’s what makes for a great Vancouver BC experience – just explore. And you already know we had THE TOP DOWN! Here’s what we did:

  • Walked the water front and got breakfast at Yolks.
  • Grabbed some high quality, specialty coffee at Coffee Roastery Modus.
  • Drove to the Vancouver Aquarium.
  • Parked at Stanley Park and walked some more.
  • Drove across the bridge to the Cleveland Dam. Planned to do a cable car ride but felt it was overpriced.

Do what you like. I promise it can be found in this city.

Food: Yolks or OEB Breakfast for breakfast. Coffee Roastery Modus or 49th Parallel Cafe & Lucky’s Donuts for coffee and a treat, Vera’s Burger Shack and Tacofino for lunch or dinner.

Vancouver BC skyline on Canada Road Trip
Vancouver BC Waterfront
Food in Vancouver BC with Annie Miller on Canada Road Trip
Vancouver BC Waterfront views with Annie Miller
Views of Vancouver BC on Canada Road Trip with Annie Miller
Bridge view from Stanley Park in Vancouver BC on Canada Road trip
Views from Stanley Park
Annie Miller at Stanley Park in Vancouver BC
Driving across the bridge in Vancouver BC to Cleveland Dam by Annie Miller
Seal at Vancouver Zoo with Annie Miller
Cleveland Dam Views on Canada Road trip with Annie Miller
Cleveland Dam viewpoint

Drive to Banff

I have an entire post coming on our two full days in Banff. It’s definitely worth a post of it’s own.

We drove through Whistler and wanted to do the cable car but it was closed. But we did see some pretty waterfalls in the area, and the drive was GORGEOUS as you can imagine.

You can break up the drive by staying in the town of Kamloops. Stay at the Plaza Hotel and eat at Forno on 5th. It was a far more pleasant experience than we were expecting.

Driving to Banff on Canada Road trip with Annie Miller
Waterfalls on Canada Road trip

I will do an entire post on Banff since it’s worthy of a solid 1,000 words on its own. But you for sure need to visit both Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. They’re iconic for good reason. It’s fairly difficult to impress Nathanael and I. And I don’t say this to gloat, but once you’ve seen the Swiss Alps, and the glacial waters in the surrounding areas…it’s hard to find legitimate competition. The Canadian Rockies don’t disappoint.

Visit Moraine Lake & Lake Louise

We read blog after blog telling people to get to the parking lots at 5am so you can beat the rush. But that just didn’t sit right with the Millers. We are early risers, but not THAT early.

Upon reading a post from another influencer I follow on Instagram, we decided that heading to the lakes around 5-6pm was the ticket. WE WERE RIGHT. We went to Lake Louise one night, and Moraine Lake + Bow Lake another night. Both the Louise and Moraine parking lots were more than half empty and we had plenty of space to ourselves (as you can see).

I’ll be sharing about our Banff experience next week. Stay tuned.

Moraine Lake at 5:45pm in September by Annie Miller
Moraine Lake at 5:45pm in September
Lake Louise at 6pm in September by Annie Miller
Lake Louise at 6pm in September
Annie Miller at Moraine Lake in September on Canada Road Trip

Drive to Bow Lake

After Moraine Lake, we took the advise of our hotel receptionist and tacked on Bow Lake. It was about a 30-45 minute drive from Moraine Lake and little over an hour back to Banff. Bow Lake doesn’t have the minty-teal color that Moraine and Louise have from their glacial crystal run-off, but it is a hidden gem and worth visiting.

We saw several glaciers on our drive out to the lake, and only one other car. If you dig natural beauty but aren’t as fond of tourists, hit up Bow Lake. I imagine the color of the lake is even prettier when the sun is beaming through the water. As you can see, we were chasing daylight…so no sun beams for us.

Annie Miller at Bow Lake on Canada Road trip
Bow Lake in Canada with Annie Miller

Rawson Lake & Serrail Ridge…Kind of

Because we didn’t get to do any of our desired hikes in Banff due to trail closures and bears, we found a hike in Canmore, on our way to Calgary. This was also a bust due to hail and snow storms which set in as we started our last ascent. It was a mess. The only woman who made it to the actual ridge in the two hours we spent there was the first hiker of the day, and she had poles and Yaktrax (spikes you attach to your shoes).

She told us there was no way she could have made it to the top with normal shoes/boots. So that made us feel like less of a complete failure. She also let us know that the view from the top was a sheet of white mist. On a clear day this hike would be a STUNNER. Even still, Rawson Lake was BEAUTIFUL.

You can get the full story on this day on our two days in Banff blog post. It was a doozy.

views leaving Banff on Canada Road trip with Annie Miller
Waterfall while hiking in Canmore on Canada Road trip
Rawson Lake on a cloudy day on Canada Road trip
Clear waters at Rawson Lake on Canada Road Trip

After the hike, it was off to Calgary. There is not much to do or see there. But I needed to work, so we stayed for full day in our amazing Airbnb. If you happen to pass through Calgary at some point, I highly suggest staying here.

One day in Calgary, then we were off to Spokane for one night. And back on the road the next day, headed home.

Do Canada your way or our way. Just make sure you go. She’s a massive country with A LOT to offer in the way of natural beauty and man-made cities. I think you’ll like her.

Planning a trip to Canada? Pin this post for later!

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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.

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