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Advice for First Timers in Canada Please

Mooloolaba...
Level Contributor
149 posts
29 reviews
Advice for First Timers in Canada Please

Hi, have just started to plan for a trip to see the Polar Bears at Churchill in 2013. This will mean our visit has to be end Oct/ beg Nov. We will book a tour that leaves from Winnipeg. My question is since we are coming all the way from Australia we would like to include some more time (a week or so either before or after the polar bears?) seeing some more of Canada - but at this time of year - what would the experts recommend?? We are interested in nature and history and good food/wine. Not interested in going skiing.

Can anyone give any suggestions that might fit our trip plans?

Many thanks for any suggestions, just to give me some ideas to start thinking about!

Kingston, Canada
Level Contributor
3,689 posts
99 reviews
1. Re: Advice for First Timers in Canada Please

Since you're coming from Australia I'd suggest that there are a multitude of possibilities in western Canada. Do you know where your flight from Australia is flying into? I've never honestly explored much of the west of my beautiful country, but I do know that Vancouver and the area up to Whistler was beautiful and we did some amazing hikes. Of course, Alberta has some awesome places that I've seen pictures/video of, and plan on visiting some day.

Why don't you get some books/videos and see what sort of piques your interest? Go and check out the various forums for British Columbia and Alberta - the forums that show a lot of posts and are therefore busy are likely a good start for your research.

I'm just about to watch a dvd about parks and scenic wonders in Canada - I can come back to you and tell you what I'd like to see in person, but of course that's such a individual thing that it might not be helpful.

ktown

Penticton, Canada
Level Contributor
20,588 posts
28 reviews
2. Re: Advice for First Timers in Canada Please

Hi

if you are interested in good food/wine then a visit to the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. okanaganvacationguide.com/okanagan-wine-fest…

You can fly an open jaw ticket which should make your ticket reasonable

so Sydney-Seoul-Vancouver-Kelowna- (layover) with car rental - Winnipeg-Churchill is one routing.

if you decide that this is an option, posting on the Okanagan or Penticton forum will get you more details of that leg of the trip.

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver
Level Contributor
68,612 posts
66 reviews
3. Re: Advice for First Timers in Canada Please

Hi ozkiwis ~

I think you'll find that Canada is pretty big, approx 24% bigger than Aust. So with only a week or so, you will need to fly in or out of Winnipeg from your choice of other destination.

I like the idea of the Okanagan Valley. It's a mixture of towns and small cities with access to nature. The temps would likely be nice too.

Vancouver Island is pretty nice too. Victoria for a small, pretty city, with areas up Island such as the wine region of Cobble Hill and lots of rural atmosphere. In Oct, but not Nov, you could take a grizzly bear tour from Campbell River, which is about a 3.5 hour drive north of Victoria. There's also an ocean front drive, about 2.5 hours, then back with possible intertidal (low tide) explorations.

This website will explain the Pacific Marine Circle Route (well just consider half of it to Port Renfrew) and the things to do along the coast.

http://www.sooke-portrenfrew.com/

However, with a week, you would be down to about 2 locations on Vancouver Island. In the Okanagan Valley you could pretty much stay put as the whole valley is about 1 hr north of Kelowna and 1.5 hours south of there.

The list of Things to Do (both attractions and tours tabs):

tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g1507204-Activit…

Another option might be Montréal and Québec, with a 3 hour drive between. It will be "crisp" there in Oct and Nov. You would experience a large, cosmopolitan city and sophisticated in Montréal and a small, pretty, charming city in Québec, with its distinct culture and exceptional history.

Vancouver - Winnipeg is about a 2h30 flight. Montréal - Winnipeg about 3h.

Government weather data has Penticton/Kelowna temps in Oct > 10.6C, in Nov > 1.5C. And in Québec City in Oct > 8.2C, in Nov > 3C.

Edited: 15 April 2012, 10:08
Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
Level Contributor
22,196 posts
132 reviews
4. Re: Advice for First Timers in Canada Please

I would suggest the week *before*, since that will be better weather in all parts of Canada. Other than for something like the polar bears (where it's high season), it's low season for tourism almost everywhere.

My area, the Canadian Rockies, is gorgeous any time of the year, although some roads and tourist attractions are also closed for the season so there are not quite as many things to do and see as in the high season in the summer. In the colder months, driving conditions in snow and ice can be an issue if you want to tour by rental car (which is optimal, but there are public transportation options). This can be an issue as early as late October, especially at the higher places on the Icefields Parkway ( www.icefieldsparkway.ca ), one of the most scenic drives around.

The west coast and the Okanagan valley, British Columbia's wine country, are warmer at that time of year than many other places. So, another vote for Vancouver & Kelowna. At that time of the year, there may be decent "seat sales" on the two domestic airlines, WestJet www.westjet.com and Air Canada www.aircanada.com , for a flight from Kelowna to Winnipeg. Canada doesn't have low cost carriers, so sign up for both their e-newsletters to get notice of promotions.

Another possible destination is southern Ontario. The Niagara peninsula might suit your interest in wine. I'm not sure if your interest in nature also includes birds, but Point Pelee National Park is quite reknown for birding, especially during migrations (although I don't know what the timing is). You could also visit Toronto and Niagara Falls.

Or, if you want to get a feel for French Canadian culture, how about visiting Montreal and Quebec City. Ottawa, our capital, could also be an option.

Just a few thoughts about regions and points of interest ... note that in none of them am I suggesting doing *all* of it in one week, just throwing out a few choices. If you find that one region draws you, try googling up its provincial tourism website - and also check out the resources people have contributed here on TripAdvisor. From the left hand menus, you can find Travellers' Articles, Travel Guides etc., and from the right hand one, the "Top Questions" for that destination. I find that when I am considering destinations, sometimes browsing the forums a bit will help me get a "feel" for what the main attractions are, and whether it'll interest me.

Perhaps the Canadian Tourism Commission website might help you narrow your choices: http://au.canada.travel/

Hope this helps!

Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
33,082 posts
62 reviews
5. Re: Advice for First Timers in Canada Please

October can still be pretty nice here on the west coast. Once the rain starts and the salmon start coming up river, then its all over until April or so. If you plan your polar bear tour for the end of your visit, and then spend some time in BC going on bear and salmon viewing tours, that would probably work well.

Mooloolaba...
Level Contributor
149 posts
29 reviews
6. Re: Advice for First Timers in Canada Please

Thank you all for the great advice, it has certainly given me some things to consider.

The salmon viewing trip sounds interesting, will look into that. Is this best done in November? (ie after seeing the bears). What specific area should I be looking at?

Does anyone know if it is possible to find Orca around Vancouver Island (or elsewhere) at that time of year?

Will definately sign up for the domestic airlines e-newsletters, thanks for the tip.

Going to start some research into Okanagan too!

Will certainly be back with more questions, thanks again for any further advice.

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver
Level Contributor
68,612 posts
66 reviews
7. Re: Advice for First Timers in Canada Please

Well, the salmon viewing is not that interesting necessarily, but seeing the grizzlies jump all over them gets pretty thrilling.

Discovery Marine Safaris in Campbell River go to the grizzly viewing river in Sept and Oct.

Tide Rip Grizzly Tours in Telegraph Cove finish up on Sept 20th.

Are you familiar with maps.google.com to be able to plot some of these locations?

You might be able to see salmon at the visitors' center in Capilano Regional Park in North Vancouver as they go up the fish ladders. Not sure if they will still be running in November though.

There are resident Orcas off Victoria at the south end of Vancouver Island. You can access them by an all day whale watching tour out of Vancouver. Or you could travel by land/ferry for 4 hours, one way to Victoria where you could see them in half a day.

Here is a link to an article about whale watching here. In the paragraph about "who to go with" there is a link to providers that you could look up here on TA and read the reviews.

tourismvancouver.com/do/…

Edited: 16 April 2012, 05:57
Blind Bay, BC
Level Contributor
1,002 posts
6 reviews
8. Re: Advice for First Timers in Canada Please

Salmon Season is definitely in October...

…gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/roderick/

Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
Level Contributor
22,196 posts
132 reviews
9. Re: Advice for First Timers in Canada Please

That's the sockeye salmon run (and I've seen the Adams River run twice, without bears, and still thought it was pretty exciting!) - but other salmon runs are earlier. I am not sure which type of salmon runs all the way up the Fraser River almost to the Alberta border (Valemount and Mt. Robson Provincial Park area), but they arrive there before the end of August.

10. Re: Advice for First Timers in Canada Please

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