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Canada Coast to Coast

You are viewing the 2025 itinerary. Select your departure year
19 days From £5,395 per person
4.1 stars(50 reviews)

Discover the best of Canada on this epic journey from Vancouver on the Pacific coast to Halifax on the shores of the Atlantic

Mobility Rating 2

2025 Tour code: CCG25

About the tour

A spectacular overland adventure showcases the beautiful and varied landscapes for which the world's second largest country is famed.

Landing in characterful Vancouver, we explore the majestic west coast's jaw-dropping Rocky Mountains, rushing rivers, glacial lakes and pristine forests before boarding the iconic Canadian train for a three-night journey across the plains and grasslands to shimmering Toronto.

After marvelling at the breathtaking beauty of the wondrous Niagara Falls, we continue eastwards, through vibrant Montreal and venerable Québec City to gorgeous Nova Scotia and its enchanting coastal towns.

Unforgettable Experiences

Immerse yourself in the incredible beauty of Jasper National Park
Immerse yourself in the incredible beauty of Jasper National Park
Set high in the Canadian Rockies, the serene town of Jasper is surrounded by astonishing natural wonders. Admire the area’s spectacular sights on a journey through the Maligne Valley, uncovering turquoise lakes and hidden canyons.
Cruise into the mist of the majestic Niagara Falls
Cruise into the mist of the majestic Niagara Falls
Absorb the powerful wonder of nature of that is the Niagara Falls on a full-day guided excursion from Toronto. Enjoy a cruise amid the spray and thunderous roar before viewing the falls from Table Rock.
Experience Vancouver’s charming atmosphere and vibrant food scene
Experience Vancouver’s charming atmosphere and vibrant food scene
Considered one of the world’s most desirable cities, explore Vancouver and surrounding areas on guided tours, including Gastown and Granville Island, before sailing to Vancouver Island to stroll through the beautiful Butchart Gardens.
Discover beautiful Peggy’s Cove on the Nova Scotia coast
Discover beautiful Peggy’s Cove on the Nova Scotia coast
A guided sightseeing tour from Halifax reveals a stunning Atlantic coastline bedecked with picture-perfect and colourful fishing villages nestled among tranquil coves, including Peggy’s Cove – famed for its striking white lighthouse.
Explore historic Québec City and savour lunch at a sugar shack
Explore historic Québec City and savour lunch at a sugar shack
Uncover a walled city full of delightful cobbled streets, fantastic buildings and important historic sites, and enjoy a three-course lunch at a traditional sugar shack, where maple syrup is produced.
Travel across the heartlands on the Canadian train
Travel across the heartlands on the Canadian train
View the changing scenery of central Canada – from mountains to prairies, forested wilderness and bustling towns – from the comfort of your berths or the observation car on a three-night journey aboard VIA Rail’s amazing Canadian.

What’s included


Day 1 - Our overland adventure begins on arrival in Vancouver

Meeting our fellow travellers and Tour Manager at London Heathrow this afternoon, we board a flight to the west coast of Canada, arriving in Vancouver early evening local time.

The city is regularly regarded as one of the world's most desirable places to live, thanks to its charming atmosphere amid the incredible setting of mountains and the Pacific coast. Blending the vibrancy and culture of a cosmopolitan city with spectacular scenery, Vancouver calmly impresses its many visitors.

Our hotel is a short distance from both Downtown and this picturesque city's gorgeous harbour. After check in there is a free evening to unwind or head out to try some of western Canada's finest cuisine. Top class seafood, such as salmon, oysters and Dungeness crab can be found in many of the city's restaurants. With a multicultural population, you can also find delicious local versions of Asian and Mexican dishes.

Day 2 - Exploring vibrant Vancouver

Our first full day in Canada sees us embark on a guided sightseeing tour of Vancouver's most characterful districts this morning.

As Vancouver's original Downtown, Gastown is the city's most historic area. Redbrick Victorian buildings dot the tree-lined streets surrounding pretty Maple Tree Square. Many upmarket fashion boutiques, trendy coffee shops, art galleries and the famous Gastown Steam Clock can be found in this area named after talkative Hull-born sailor and barman 'Gassy' Jack Deighton.

Crossing East Hastings Street, we arrive in Chinatown - the largest in Canada - where we relish the sights and sounds of the lively streets and tranquil squares. From leafy Stanley Park, where we view colourful totem poles celebrating the region's Native American history, we travel to Granville Island. Boasting mouthwatering food markets, this is where our tour concludes.

The rest of the day is free to explore independently, and you could head to North Vancouver and find the Capilano Suspension Bridge hanging 450 feet above the forest floor. Alternatively, take the cable car to the top of Grouse Mountain for sweeping views of Vancouver.

Day 3 - Beautiful Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island

Making the most of a full day on the wild Vancouver Island, we make our way by coach early this morning to Tsawwassen for the ferry over to Swartz Bay. Known for its population of black bears, this is Canada's 11th largest island and, while rugged in parts, is also dappled with charming towns and cities.

One of its most renowned manmade attractions is Butchart Gardens, where we head on arrival. These beautiful botanical gardens started out as Robert Butchart's limestone quarry in 1904, before his wife Jennie spotted the potential to create a wonderful sunken garden. The grounds expanded to include a Japanese garden, an Italian garden and a fragrant rose garden.

After exploring this picturesque haven, we transfer by coach to British Columbia's capital, Victoria. There is free time to explore and lunch independently. You might like to visit the Inner Harbour lined with grand buildings including the parliament, Royal BC Museum and Fairmont hotel, or wander the charming streets of Canada's oldest Chinatown. Later, we sail back to Vancouver where you can dine on your own tonight.

Day 4 - Through the mountains to Kamloops

Our great trans-Canadian adventure gets under way in earnest today as we leave Vancouver by coach for a scenic journey along stunning valleys, with Canada's grand landscapes laid out before us.

Following the course of the Fraser Valley, we arrive in the historic trading post of Hope surrounded by huge mountains. Here, there is time to grab a bite for lunch before joining the Coquihalla Highway. Swathes of undulating land blanketed in deep forests pass our windows as we climb through the Cascade Mountains, their ridged peaks guiding us through this incredible landscape to Kamloops.

On arrival in Kamloops in the early evening, there is free time to find dinner independently. You could also explore this charming town that started out as a fur trading centre in the early 1800s and became an important railway town with the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railroad in 1886.

Day 5 - Into the Rockies to picturesque Jasper

Canada's iconic scenery becomes even more incredible today as we enter the Rocky Mountains. Joining the Yellowhead Highway after breakfast at the hotel, we follow the course of the North Thompson River to the small town of Clearwater. There is time to wander and enjoy a light lunch before continuing our breathtaking journey deep into Canada's wilderness to the jaw-dropping Mount Robson.

With a summit at nearly 13,000ft, this rugged peak is often called the King of the Rockies and its seemingly vertical southern face dominates views from miles around. The varied stratum of rock gives the impression of a road twisting round the mountain - a fact noticed by the indigenous Texqa'kallt people who call it Mountain of the Spiral Road.

Jasper is a beautiful enigma. One of the most important towns for miles around and a popular destination for visitors to the Rockies, yet it retains a calm, small-town feel. Charming buildings line its streets peppered with interesting shops and enticing restaurants. After checking in to our hotel, you are free to explore this picture-perfect town this evening.

Day 6 - The stunning sights of Jasper National Park

A free morning provides the opportunity to unwind at our hotel or take a casual stroll around Jasper, admiring its location surrounded by imposing mountains.

Around noon, we board our coach for a scenic excursion deep into Jasper National Park. While this UNESCO-listed park surrounds the charming town, we head into the stunning wilds on a tour of the Maligne River valley. A spectacular showcase of Canada's grandest landscapes, we view craggy and often snow-dusted mountains, plunging waterfalls, hot springs and crystalline lakes.

Visiting the otherworldly Maligne Canyon, we are greeted by year-round beauty as the rushing river squeezes dramatically through a narrow fissure rich with fossils. Continuing from the gorgeous Medicine Lake, we are treated to an array of staggering vistas on the approach to Maligne Lake - the largest glacier-fed body of water in the region.

Before returning to Jasper for a free evening, there is plenty of time to admire the azure waters and look out for some of the area's rare wildlife, including mule deer, moose, eagles and ospreys - as well as bears, caribou and wolves.

Day 7 - Crossing Alberta on the Canadian

There is time to enjoy lovely Jasper this morning before we transfer to the train station for one of the world's most epic train journeys.

Boarding the evocative steel carriages of the Canadian, we settle into our berths for a three-night ride across Canada to Toronto. As we follow the Athabasca River, we wind down the Rocky Mountains into the verdant foothills. With lunch and dinner served on board, we can enjoy views of glaciers, plunging canyons, soaring mountains and endless pine forests.

As we cross further into Alberta, the scenery changes as remote settlements and serene lakes dot the landscape. Leaving Edmonton this evening, we can relax and look forward to a laid-back day as the Canadian continues its remarkable journey.

Day 8 - Into the great wide open

Waking up on the Canadian, we are welcomed to Saskatchewan's vast prairies which we can view while enjoying our breakfast. The seemingly endless grasslands of the Great Plains stretch as far as the eye can see, with boundless farming communities passing by our windows as the Canadian rolls on.

With a population similar to that of Glasgow's and an area greater than France, Saskatchewan is ideal for sitting back and watching the world go by and the glass-roofed panoramic observation car is the ideal place to do this, either side of lunch. We travel through the southern plains of Saskatchewan, home to deer, eagles and, in select areas, antelope, moose and bison. Dinner is also served on board.

We later cross into Manitoba, a province with more than 100,000 lakes stretching all the way up to the shores of Hudson Bay. Its capital is Winnipeg, considered the geographical centre of Canada. Late this evening, the train pulls into this fascinating city, home to more than 50 ethnic communities before continuing eastwards overnight.

Day 9 - Across the Canadian Shield

Over breakfast on the VIA Rail Canadian train this morning, we cross the rocky ground of northwestern Ontario, a landscape pocked with primordial lakes and thick, verdant forests of ancient trees.

For the isolated communities we pass through, the Canadian Pacific Railway has been a lifeline for decades. While Ontario might be the most populous of Canada's provinces, the remote areas we travel through today are raw Canadian wilderness, with moose, lynx and black bears prowling its dense woodlands.

After lunch on board, the Canadian changes direction, continuing its journey in a southeasterly direction towards the Great Lakes. Spend some time in the observation car or lounge as we travel through this evocative scenery before dinner is served. The Canadian continues its epic journey overnight towards its destination.

Day 10 - Arrival in cosmopolitan Toronto

Our final morning onboard the Canadian begins with a continental breakfast as we travel south towards Toronto. The views change from the mountains and prairies of the past few days to more familiar suburban scenes as we make our way round Lake Simcoe into the Greater Toronto area.

Brunch is served before our arrival in mid-afternoon at Toronto's Union Station, Canada's largest and most elegant train station. Its Great Hall looks every bit a temple to the railroad, while its resplendent limestone exterior is dominated by 22 Romanesque columns. Built in 1927, this glorious Beaux-Arts structure is actually the third incarnation of the station - a testament to the importance of railways in connecting Canada. Nearby is the iconic CN Tower built by the Canadian National Railway Company and the world's tallest free-standing structure from 1975 until 2007.

We transfer to our Downtown hotel where there is time to unwind or explore Canada's most populous city at leisure. There is no shortage of restaurants nearby for you to find somewhere to eat - from steak and seafood to European and Asian cuisine.

Day 11 - A cruise among the spectacular Niagara Falls

Today is a highlight of our trans-Canadian adventure as we are joined on a coach by an expert local guide for a full day trip to the incredible Niagara Falls.

Connecting two of the Great Lakes - Erie and Ontario - the Niagara River plunges down three astonishing waterfalls. When we arrive, we set sail on a cruise to get closer to one of the world's most impressive natural sights - with protective ponchos supplied. Marvelling at the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and the iconic Horseshoe Falls is an unforgettable experience as the clouds of spray and thunderous roar emphasise the awesome majesty of nature.

Back on shore, there is time for lunch independently in one of Niagara's restaurants before viewing the falls from above at Table Rock. Continuing our exploration, we reach the whirlpool where the river bursts out of the Niagara Gorge.

We conclude our excursion at the pretty town of Niagara on the Lake, where there is time to stroll its quaint streets. Returning to Toronto this evening, you are free to dine on your own tonight.

Day 12 - To the ‘City of Saints’ by rail

After a relaxing morning in Toronto, we board the VIA Rail train service to Montreal.

Following the shores of Lake Ontario and the course of the St Lawrence River, we arrive in this UNESCO city of design in the early evening, with a short transfer to our central, 4-Star hotel. Being in the province of Quebec, Montreal has a cosmopolitan air blending French- and English-Canadian influences, visible in the street names and elegant architecture. Across the Place du Canada from our hotel, you can find the charming Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral, built in the 19th century. Just beyond here is the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth hotel, where John Lennon and Yoko Ono held their second 'bed-in' for peace in 1969. It was during this two-week stay that Lennon's first solo single, Give Peace a Chance, was written.

In Montreal's historic centre, you could admire the towering, Gothic-revival Notre-Dame Basilica and savour some traditional Québécois cuisine - including the incredibly popular poutine.

Day 13 - The Corridor Service to Québec City

Breakfast is included at the hotel this morning before we make the short distance to Montreal's Central Station just before noon for an afternoon journey on VIA Rail's Corridor Service to Québec City.

Founded as a French settlement in 1608, historic Old Québec is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has the only remaining fortified city walls in the Americas north of Mexico. We arrive late afternoon and check into our 4-Star hotel near the province's stately national assembly building and the city walls.

The evening is free to explore authentic and ancient Old Québec where you can wander the picturesque, cobbled streets lined with cafés, independent shops, pubs and restaurants. Dinner is on your own this evening, and you may wish to indulge in some French-inspired dishes with a local touch, such as soups, tourtiére meat pies, bourguignon or crepes.

Day 14 - Discovering Québec City and maple syrup tasting

Today's guided city tour begins with a look at the historic conflicts between France, Great Britain and the United States that led to the founding of Canada in 1867. Constructed between 1820 and 1850, the star-shaped citadel served to protect British North America on early French fortifications. The British gained control of this important city in 1759 after the French surrender at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.

We visit this battlefield overlooking the St Lawrence River, just outside the citadel, before transferring by coach to an authentic 1920s sugar shack where maple syrup is produced. Amid a forest of maple trees, we learn the history of maple syrup on an informative short tour followed by a tasting of this iconic staple of Canadian cuisine. Afterwards, we sit down for a three-course lunch of traditional food inspired by the syrup.

Returning to Québec City, the rest of the afternoon and evening is free for independent exploration. You could view Old Québec's opulent 17th-century Notre-Dame Basilica or admire the open-air art displays on the charming Rue du Trésor.

Day 15 - Free day in Québec City and overnight on VIA Rail Ocean

There is plenty of time today to continue exploring the varied charms of the city that the local French-speakers call La Vieille Capitale, or the 'Old Capital'.

One of its most iconic structures is the fairytale turrets and towers of the mesmerising Fairmont Le Château Frontenac hotel - the first of the iconic castle-like hotels constructed by Canadian railway companies from 1893. Originally built to attract tourists to the trans-Canadian railways, this revivalist masterpiece is regularly considered to be the most photographed hotel in the world, and it's easy to see why.

In front of the hotel, you can find Dufferin Terrace, a popular place to admire views across the St Lawrence River, and a delightful electric funicular dating from 1879. Travelling down this cableway takes you to the quaint Place Royale, a square that has the feel and architecture of a small village in rural France but surrounded by stylish museums and galleries.

This evening, we transfer to Sainte-Foy train station and board VIA Rail's Ocean service for an overnight journey to Nova Scotia and the Atlantic Ocean.

Day 16 - Through New Brunswick to the Atlantic Ocean

During the night, the VIA Rail Ocean train makes its way along the widening mouth of the St Lawrence River before crossing into New Brunswick near Chaleur Bay. Reaching the Canadian Maritimes in time for breakfast on board, the scenery changes once again. Windswept shores and shaded coves speckle the coast as the Ocean rumbles onwards. Inland, we push on through spruce forests, crossing the Miramichi River towards Moncton.

Lunch is served as we wind our way closer to our eighth and final of Canada's provinces, Nova Scotia. The terminus of our epic trans-Canadian overland adventure is the attractive city of Halifax on the Atlantic coast. A cultural centre of the Maritimes, Halifax retains many of his historic seafaring traditions. Arriving in the early evening, our 4-Star hotel is attached to the train station near the old port. Dining independently this evening, there is an on-site restaurant serving local specialities or perhaps you might like to try one of the nearby eateries.

Day 17 - The maritime gems of picturesque Nova Scotia

With an expert local guide, we explore "Canada's Ocean Playground", a historic land of picture-book fishing villages and cosy coves dappled with small bobbing boats and wooded islands.

With Nova Scotia meaning New Scotland in Latin, it is perhaps unsurprising that its capital, Halifax, blends Celtic influences with unmistakable North American style. Our first stop outside Halifax is charming Peggy's Cove, a tiny settlement of colourful buildings on a headland dotted with wave-battered boulders. Keeping seafarers safe for more than a century is Peggy's Cove Lighthouse, reputedly Canada most photographed lighthouse. There are also many traditional inukshuks here - age-old rock structures used to navigate the frozen north.

A scenic drive leads us to pretty Mahone Bay, an idyllic village adorned with rustic Gothic revival buildings. The UNESCO-listed harbour town of Lunenburg is our next destination. Here, the splash of colour provided by quaint waterfront houses along Bluenose Drive - Bluenosers being an old nickname for Nova Scotians - is reflected in the tranquil waters.

This evening is free to try some delicious local food, including chowder and the famed Digby scallops.

Day 18 - Homeward bound

A free morning and afternoon afford you the chance to explore Halifax at your leisure. You could head to Point Pleasant Park, in Halifax's south end peninsula. This wooded 75-hectare park is popular with locals and offers several walking trails. Alternatively, take a step back in time at the historic Alexander Keith's brewery, take a stroll along the bustling waterfront boardwalk, sample the renowned local lobster at a waterside diner, or spend some time in the maritime museum.

We depart the hotel for Halifax airport in late afternoon as we begin our journey back to the United Kingdom. A short connecting flight takes us to Montreal, before we board an overnight flight across the Atlantic Ocean to London Heathrow.

Day 19 - Arrival in London

As our plane touches down at London Heathrow this morning, our incredible Canadian adventure comes to an end.

This spectacular expedition has seen us travel overland from Pacific Coast to the Atlantic, crossing the world's second biggest country and witnessing many highlights with new friends.

From the thriving cultural scene of Vancouver and the awe-inspiring vistas of the Rocky Mountains, we travelled on board the iconic Canadian train for three nights, reaching vibrant Toronto. The unforgettable experiences continued as we visited the majestic Niagara Falls and an authentic sugar shack, before arriving in charming Halifax and viewing some of Nova Scotia's most attractive towns.

We say farewell to our fellow travellers and Tour Manager with whom we will share these fantastic memories for a long time to come.

Additional information

Please note

Please note that while every departure of this tour will feature the same excursions, the order may differ from that shown above.

Hotels may vary depending on departure dates.

Departure times

Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular holiday with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.


The Westin Nova Scotian, Halifax

The Westin Nova Scotian, Halifax

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Forest Park Hotel

Forest Park Hotel, Jasper

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Jasper Inn & Suites, Jasper

Jasper Inn & Suites, Jasper

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Best Western Plus Hotel, Kamloops

Best Western Plus Hotel, Kamloops

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Hotel Manoir Victoria, Quebec

Hotel Manoir Victoria, Quebec City

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Chelsea Hotel, Toronto

Chelsea Hotel, Toronto

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Delta Hotels by Marriott Vancouver Downtown Suites, Vancouver

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The Plaza Kamloops, Kamloops

The Plaza Kamloops, Kamloops

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Hotel Omni Mont Royal, Montreal

Hotel Omni Mont Royal, Montreal

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Grizzly Bears of Knights Inlet Lodge
Vancouver Island


4.1 stars4.1 / 5 · 50 reviews

  1. 5 stars
  2. 4 stars
  3. 3 stars
  4. 2 stars
  5. 1 star

John Oxley

4 stars

Submitted 16/Jun

Exhausting but very enjoyable

Collected by Trustpilot


4 stars

Submitted 11/Jun

Well organised trip with fab excursions. Met up to expectations.

Collected by Trustpilot

J Howles

5 stars

Submitted 2/Jun

A wonderful trip with a group that gelled and felt like a family. The tour manager was excellent as a problem on the trip was the lateness of all the trains and he kept us all informed with good humour. His pre trip briefing also made us well aware what to expect in Canada. It would have been good to have more time at the eastern end of the trip - say a couple of extra days - - in particular a stay in Montreal as we only changed trains there so didn’t see much other than the station. There was a good balance of organised group outings and free time to explore. It made you appreciate that Canada is a v. big country.

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3 stars

Submitted 30/May

Excellent journey but a few tweaks would be helpful. A meet and greet with fellow travellers as a great group but took a while to meet everyone. The last few days were very busy and would have preferred longer in Quebec for instance. Another 2 days days would have helped. More meals such as breakfast would also be helpful as finding somewhere in a different city each time was more difficult. The Tour Manager was extremely helpful in this however.

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Jason Logan

4 stars

Submitted 28/May

A unique trip from West to East across Canada with the highlight being 3 days on board the Canadian. This is a review of the Great Rail Journeys (‘GRJ’) ‘Canada Coast to Coast Tour undertaken from 5 May to 21 May 2024, beginning and ending from Heathrow Airport. (Other options are available for non-UK participants.) While this review makes mention of Hotels and Restaurants within the Tour, these have more detailed reviews filed separately on Tripadvisor. This is an excellent trip across Canada with the Canadian and Ocean train journeys as key points of focus. GRJ provides guided tours on many days, and these offer good insights into the local cities and wider sights. The trip progresses at a good pace until Toronto, after which it feels rushed with late train timings and arrivals impacting many travellers. This tour includes the transport, hotels and trips only; travellers need to manage their own meals and tips (expected 15-25% at time of writing). Alcohol in Canada is sold from licenced liquor stores and is more expensive than the UK. Bars and restaurant food are equivalent to ‘London prices’, but the cost of food in convenience stores is significantly higher than in the UK. Canadian trains (unlike Europe) do not allow consumption of your own alcohol, although this is relaxed in your compartment on the Canadian and Ocean. The sale of alcohol on Canadian trains also appears controlled to one drink per hour. Canada is predominantly English speaking however French is the main language in Quebec. This trip encompassed 5 Time Zones, so we ‘lost’ 5 hours in this regard, as well as 10 hours due to late trains. Day 1 – London to Vancouver We arrived at Heathrow Terminal 2 at about 11am for the 2pm flight to Vancouver. We were met at check in by our Tour Manager who confirmed he would meet all of those on the flight at Baggage Reclaim in Vancouver to facilitate the hotel transfer. We progressed through security and passed time at the London’s Pride before boarding the flight. We travelled by Air Canada in Economy, and there is very little space in these seats for a 9 hour flight; the space is similar to that on Easyjet or Ryanair for shorter flights. There is onboard entertainment however this was not a broad or fully up to date selection. In flight catering was as expected in economy. The flight arrived on time and there were no issues. Our Tour Manager met us all at Baggage Reclaim and it was a 45-minute coach ride to the Blue Horizon Hotel in Vancouver. Check in was handled by our Tour Manager and we all departed to our rooms; albeit the volume of concurrent arrivals gave rise to issues with the 3 lifts. There are only 8 rooms per floor – all with a balcony view – with 29 floors so this is understandable. Rooms are of a very good size with a Queen-Sized bed in our double room and a Chromecast capable TV. The hotel offers a leisure facility with a pool for use. We arrived in Vancouver to very poor weather, very similar to the UK which made we think of 2 literary quotes: - 'The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.’ Neuromancer, William Gibson, and - ‘In the state of Washington, under a near constant cover of cloud and rain, there is a small town named Forks.’ Twilight, Stephanie Meyer This is not to say that the weather did not improve but I get the feeling this is pretty much Vancouver weather; not sure anyone would move here for that! If you are going to Vancouver do not have any expectations of the weather and be equipped for all eventualities. Day 2 – Exploring Vancouver We met at 9am for a guided tour of Vancouver which took in Downtown, Gastown, the Ferry Terminal and Stanley Park where we disembarked to see the Totem Poles and then views of the Lions Gate Bridge from the Prospect Point lookout. Lots of chances for photos! We then moved on to Glanville Island where we had c.90 minutes for shopping and lunch before the coach took those who wanted to return to the Hotel back while others spent longer there and then exploring Vancouver. We ate at Kaisereck Deli in the Granville Island Public Market and this was a very good option which I recommend. Still tired from yesterday’s travelling we had a few hours’ sleep before venturing out for an evening meal and a drink. Now, I have had heard it say that there is always Ice Hockey on TV in Canada – “Down at the sports bar, the Ice Hockey never ends” Montreal by Marillion – and I can say that during my time there this was the case; albeit it was the Stanley Cup play offs. We ate that night at the Coco Rico Café and the food, the drink and the service are recommended if you are looking for a relaxed evening – complete with sport on the TVs. Day 3 – Vancouver Island An early start for a Coach Trip to Vancouver Island. Following the 90-minute crossing from Tsawwassen, we proceeded to The Butchart Gardens; a group of floral display gardens. We spent a good 90 minutes here and the weather was much better than mainland Vancouver which probably helps the flowers. We then proceeded to Victoria where we had a couple of hours to spend before the coach returned to Vancouver. We took lunch at the Bard and Banker in Victoria where my wife had her first taste of the Canadian National Dish Poutine; served with Pork Belly. This was well received and the food, drink and service in the Bard and Banker was very good and recommended. Day 4 – Coach To Kamloops With a slightly later start, we ate breakfast at Adobe, the hotel breakfast restaurant and this was of good quality. Prices are comparable with similar establishments so there is no need to venture out if you are in search of breakfast. Today was a 350km coach journey with good mountain scenery along the way. Following advice from our Tour Manager, everyone was equipped with food for lunch purchased in Vancouver and we had a picnic lunch stop in Hope; best known as the small-town setting used in Rambo: First Blood. We drew in to Best Western Plus Kamloops at c.5pm in glorious weather. The hotel has a leisure centre, all rooms have 2 double beds, and it is only a 400m walk to the closest liquor store and restaurants. We ate that night at Mr Mikes Steakhouse and had a good meal. There are a lot of other options locally but Kamloops itself is just a stop on the road/railway to other places. Day 5 – Coach to Jasper The Best Western Plus Kamloops offers a buffet breakfast, and this was more than satisfactory to start the day. Note that you clean up after yourself disposing of the paper plates in the bin, but it is a good offering. Another long day on the coach with 450km to Jasper. Our Tour Manager and Bus Driver attempted to break this up with some stops along the way at Spahats Creek Falls, Clearwater and the Mount Robson Visitor Centre. Spahats Creek Falls near Clearwater is a 246-ft waterfall set in a large rock canyon offering good photo opportunities. Following this we stopped for lunch at the Dairy Queen in Clearwater which allowed some of us to have our first experience of the Dairy Queen Blizzard. I can confirm this is just a sugar overload; if you feel the need to try one, I suggest starting with the small size! We arrived at the Mount Robson Visitor Centre on a picture-perfect day, and we were very lucky. I met a Canadian woman who has been stopping to photograph the mountain over the last 30 years and she advised it was the first time she has ever had a clear shot of the mountain without cloud cover. We travelled on to Jasper where we checked in to the Jasper Inn & Suites. While this is a well-appointed hotel, the choice of room allocation for our trip was questionable. Most rooms included a living area with the bed in an upstairs mezzanine however the average age of our tour party was 70+ which would mean at least one nighttime descent of the stairs to use the bathroom! (Great Rail Journeys / Vacations by Rail please take note.) Hotel rooms are equipped with Chromecast, but we had to have this reset by the maintenance team who were more than happy to help and I would suggest this is a regular problem, That night we ate in the Jasper Curry Place which offers an ‘All You Can Eat Buffet’. While the food quality was satisfactory there was very limited choice; perhaps the limited customers is a key factor here. Good selection of local and national beers in cans. Day 6 – Jasper National Park Another coach trip today around the Jasper National Park for photo opportunities which included: - Medicine Lake; empty as upstream lakes still frozen but we did see a pair of bald eagles in their nest; - Maligne Lake; frozen completely and all facilities shut as out of season, and - Maligne Canyon; a 50m limestone canyon with tourist walk. Our Tour Manager and Driver did well to keep things moving and we saw Elks and Long Horned Sheep grazing wild around Jasper as well as a Black Bear roadside. We also briefly visited the Jasper Sky Tram to drop off some of our party who chose to take the cable car to the top. We ate that night at the De’d Dog Pub in Jasper and had decent pub grub and beer. A good range of local and national beers available as well as cider. In preparation for our 3 days on the Canadian, the expected highlight of the journey, we stocked up on alcohol and snacks on the way back to an evening in at the hotel. Day 7 – Joining the Canadian Train The train was scheduled to be at Jasper by 11am for a 12:30 departure. This allows time for a full re-stock of the train, cleaning of key external areas and the boarding of passengers. However, this was where we learned of the ways of the Canadian railway. Freight trains have priority in Canada and therefore passenger trains, particularly along the cross-country routes, are frequently delayed. This approach is understood by Canadians, all the train staff and confirmed by our Tour Manager. This would become a feature of the rest of the trip! While we awaited the train, we had brunch at the Birch Kitchen and Bar which delivered a very good brunch (Classic Breakfast and Classic Eggs Benedict) with great service. With the train still awaited, we spent time in the Whistle Stop Inn also; yes, holidays are tough! The train finally rolled in about 4pm and we boarded. This involved picking our restaurant service prior to boarding and we elected for the last one (‘3rd Call’) for both today and tomorrow. (Note that breakfast is ‘first come, first served’ from 6:30am to 9:30am and this worked well during the trip.) We boarded the train and were introduced to our cabin by our car manager, Mike, who was very helpful and replaced by friendly Steve with the change of shift during the night at Winnipeg. Note that there is limited space in your compartment and only carry on luggage is allowed. This meant that our main suitcases were transported in the luggage car from Jasper to Toronto. There is NO access to this luggage during the trip, so passengers need to plan ahead. This should not be a problem as there is limited things to do on the train. Luggage is recovered from a carousel in Toronto upon arrival. The compartment is just about spacious enough for two. During the day there are 2 full sized, adjustable and moveable chairs (so if your cabin is rear facing you can still turn the chairs around to look out of the window going forward) which are folded flat below the lower bunk at night. There is a small toilet room in the compartment as well as a sink unit. KEY POINT: ensure the sink plug is DOWN at nights. This empties the sink contents directly on to the track so allows all sound to come in which is especially noticeable at night. Mike apologised on day 2 for not pointing this out. There is a shower per car that can be used, and shower kits are provided by ViaRail. The shower is very good all things considered and was better than over 90% of the showers I have experienced with Saturday and Sunday amateur football! The restaurant car is a focus on board the Canadian with a routine of Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Sleep, Repeat. No sooner has the 3rd call completed from lunch than the team have progressed to 1st call for dinner but with the quality of the food available this is not a problem. The food on board the Canadian is restaurant quality and is a highlight of the trip on this train. The ‘Skyline’ cars include the Bar, Games area and the Observation area (which rivals a Las Vegas casino for the level of AC being pushed through at all times of the day and night). As well as activities – Chair Yoga, Beer Tasting, Scattergories for example – there is tea and coffee available all day, and snacks available until lunchtime. After 4pm, Sleeper Class passengers can access the Skyline car at the rear of the train (in Prestige Class). We ventured down the 14 cars once to see what the fuss was only to discover the car full of our fellow passengers also having a nosey! Not really any different from our section, except it had a proper bar and unfettered views back down the line. Beds are put down by 9pm in agreement with your cabin manager, usually when you head off to dinner. The bunks are reasonably spacious and comfortable with good storage space within each bunk for phones, watches, etc. There is no charging point here, the only double socket in the room being next to the sink but this did pose a problem. We had looked on YouTube before the trip and I would recommend this to all. Sleeping on board is actually very good – once the plug is depressed – and the train does seem to make more progress during the night. ViaRail offer continual tracking of the train (the Canadian is Train 01 Toronto-Vancouver and Train 02 Vancouver-Toronto) and is easily accessible on the internet. This does however allow for passengers to be fully aware of how far behind the train is, but this does fade from the mind on the journey. Day 8 & 9 – Onboard the Canadian While the first day on the Canadian is dominated by views of snow-capped mountains, this gives way to the plains of Canada on day 2 and then forests and lakes of the Canadian shield on day 3 and into Toronto. The scenery is expansive, extensive and never ending. The problem is that after a few hours of looking at it, it becomes repetitive and only the most avid animal spotters will still be watching. On the train we spotted Black Bears (usually in trees), Coyotes and Bison/Buffalo, Moose and Beavers remained unspotted but plenty of evidence of Beaver activity was observed. The Canadian was the highlight of the trip – and why we booked through Great Rail Journeys – and I would recommend this trip to anyone who likes the idea of overnight travel by train. The on-train team do encourage passengers to get off and stretch their legs occasionally at stops as otherwise it is the equivalent of a 3-day flight; there are no windows that open, with the areas between car sealed off to the outside while in motion. Day 10 – The Canadian to Toronto So finally, to Toronto and the 4 hour delay that we had been carrying since Jasper looked although it would become 3 hours until it became 5 hours in the last 5km! This was not unexpected and there was time built into the Great Rail Journeys schedule. The on-train team did provide additional food at lunchtime due to the delays on the route and this seems to be a fairly standard and expected practice! Once luggage was collected, we met the bus which took us to the hotel. This was a confusing episode as there were 2 Great Rail Journeys parties alighting the train and going to the same hotel! The other trip had travelled from Vancouver to Banff on the Rocky Mountaineer before joining the Canadian with us at Jasper. This did give a broarder range of English-speaking travellers on the train to chat and dine with. We finally arrived at the Chelsea Toronto just before 8pm and turned immediately around and went out for dinner at the Queen and Beaver English Pub adjacent to the hotel. We enjoyed some good pub food and drinks there before turning in. Day 11 – Niagara Falls Another early start for the coach to Niagara Falls; a must do trip when in Toronto. The journey took us past the CN Tower on the way out and we reached the Falls by 11am for a trip on the Hornblower (the Canadian side, the Maid of the Mist is on the American side). Niagara Falls is well known and documented but still something that everyone needs to do. After the trip on the boat, in our very fashionable rainwear, we received complimentary Hornblower waterproof bags and then made out way by coach to Niagara-by-the-Lake, stopping for a photo opportunity at the Niagara Whirlpool falls. We ate lunch (and yes, drank alcohol) at The Olde Angel Inn in Niagara-on-the-Lake and bought cake from a local bakery. The weather was much improved from both earlier on the day at the Falls and from Vancouver earlier in the trip. We returned to Toronto with some of the party choosing to visit the CN Tower (with a taxi charging issue arising!) while my wife went to the hotel leisure facilities. I headed out to the local liquor store ahead of the train journey the next day. Day 12 – Train to Quebec City The train was scheduled to depart at 11:30 and arrive in Quebec at 10pm following a change at Montreal. (There was no time for Montreal sightseeing.) The coach was due at 10am and eventually arrived at 10:15pm but this still allowed for us to get to the station and our Tour Manager did a sterling job or getting our luggage loaded by the porters and us obtaining early boarding. The train departed on time (amazing!) Consumption of own alcohol on Canadian trains is prohibited. This can be worked by taking on your own beer if it matches what is for sale; Molson Canadian 355ml. Alternatively, and very teenager, mix your own spirits in to a soft drinks bottle and take onboard. As well as enforcing the no own drink rule, the buffet will only sell one drink per customer per hour. For a 5-hour journey through relatively uninteresting scenery this may be a challenge! We arrived on time in Montreal where we had a 2 hour stop over. We hit the station bar and then the McDonalds where my wife had her second serving of poutine; yes, this is on the menu in Canadian McDonalds. Unfortunately, due to issues with the line, the train arrived over 2 hours late into Quebec just after midnight. The coach picked us up and took us to the Delta hotel, but this was undergoing renovations and arriving after midnight with only a limited staff and a non-standard hotel set up proved challenging to many of our party. We all finally got to bed by about 1pm. Day 13 – Quebec We met the coach at 9am for a tour of Quebec which encompassed the Quebec Citadel, the Plains of Abraham and Quebec City including passing the imposing Fairmont Le Château Frontenac. All very worthy photo opportunities. For lunch, we went to the Érablière le Chemin du Roy; a maple sugar shack. After hearing from Rose about how this works, we had an all you can eat lunch accompanied by maple-based drinks, spoon playing and some dancing. The group gamely participated in both the spoon playing and the dancing with a good time had by all. We returned to the hotel by about 4pm with collection for the overnight train to Halifax scheduled for 9pm. Typically, the Delta has extensive lounging areas and a coffee shop however this was all suspended during the renovations so many of our party had to make do. We went for a walk to the Promenade outside Fairmont Le Château Frontenac and then walked down to Rue du Petit Champlain (boutique shops). We took the Funicular back up at $5 per person; the hill is not the only thing that is steep! We returned to the hotel at about 7pm and I then headed out to a local bar - Bar Le Sacrilège – where I had a couple of beers and watched the Ice Hockey. This really reinforced the fact that this is a French speaking city; I was the only one there not speaking French, albeit ordering a pint is easy in any language! We transferred to the Sainte-Foy station for the train which was 90 minutes late; told you this was a running theme! We boarded about midnight and headed straight for bed. (Our Tour Manager sorted us all out for 2nd Call Lunch on the Ocean.) As with the Canadian, luggage is carried in the Luggage Car and inaccessible until Halifax. Day 14 – The Ocean to Halifax Another day, another delayed train and additional food on the Ocean. The scenery changed again and resembles the West Coast of Scotland; not much of a surprise in New Scotland. Having experienced the Canadian, the Ocean is a step down to a narrower, smaller train. Cabins are narrower, beds are narrower and not every cabin has a shower. We did not have a shower in our cabin but those who did said this was more of a wet room approach and the space was not sufficient for this to be viable. With only one day on the train and a hotel awaiting in Halifax, I would suggest a shower is not a necessity on this journey. Arrival into Halifax was 3 hours late (a total of 10 hours of train delays from 4 journeys) but the hotel is adjacent to the station so even when raining no-one gets wet. Our Tour Manager arranged for the luggage to be delivered to our rooms, so we headed straight for the bar in the Hotel Westin Nova Scotian. The bar is well priced for both food and drink (£8/pint) and has sport on the TVs. The hotel has a leisure centre and pool which seems well used; including guests in swimming costumes frequenting the bar! Day 15 – Nova Scotia Another coach trip taking in the Titanic Graveyard site at Fairview Cemetery, then on to Peggy’s Cove and Lunenburg for lunch. Peggy’s Cove is an unashamed tourist trap and photo opportunity, while the arrival of a coach tour in Lunenburg gets all the local eating establishments up on their toes. Our local guide was entertaining and tried to keep us all awake! We ate at the Dockside Inn and Restaurant in Lunenburg where the Coconut Shrimp was good, the Chowder passable and the Fish & Chips very good. The local IPA was very good to wash the Fish and Chips down. Our waitress was nervous and may have been new but tried her best, and the whole team were very keen to ensure the coach schedule was kept. We then returned to the hotel – with most of our party sleeping on the way back – and ate in the hotel bar that evening. Good serving of wings and a very enjoyable Lobster Roll. With various departure times for our US travelling companions on the next day, this was an evening of bidding farewell to many. Day 16 – Halifax Our flights back to London were Halifax-Toronto and then Toronto-London overnight. As a result, much of the day (until 5pm) was free for exploring Halifax and shopping. We headed off to Dollarama to get all our Canadian merch to take back to the family; no need to spend any more! A fair amount of money has been spent on the Halifax Boardwalk and this is a Tourist Trap but well worth a walk along for both shops and restaurants. We ate (and drank) at the Halifax Pier Pub where we had our final poutine – adjudged by my wife to contain more of a stew than gravy – and the best coffee of the holiday as determined by my wife. With everyone back in time and the coach early we set off for the airport. We checked our own bags on which was a new experience as you needed to position the labels exactly right to be accepted. This is actually not a bad thing and just needs practice! We ate in the Firkin & Flyer English Pub in the airport. The food was reasonable and helped to pass the time before the flight to Toronto. Upon arrival at Toronto, it was a fair hike across the airport to get from the internal arrival to the international departure; at least the luggage was transferred by Air Canada. The flight boarded quickly, and everyone settled down to try and get some sleep (which we didn’t) Day 17 – Arriving Back in London So back to the UK on time and back to heavy rain! We collected our luggage smoothly and said goodbye to our fellow travellers before being met by our taxi for the journey. Arrived home to a scene from the ‘Young Ones’ playing out in our house which put paid to plans for a short sleep as housework became the order of the day. Summary A unique trip which was marred by the rushed nature after Toronto with poorly timed trains impacting the enjoyment. This has driven the 4-star rating. There was limited time in Toronto, no time in Montreal and a feeling from all the group that extra days would have been the answer to the trip. [This may previously have been a 21-day trip and that feels like a better length of time.] There seemed to be a difference in expectation between UK (Great Rail Journeys) and US (Vacations by Rail) travellers and this should be reviewed to ensure a consistent message is presented. (While the Tour Manager had provided the same guidance to all, the availability of US contact details may have hindered elements of this.)

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Godfrey Trickey

4 stars

Submitted 28/May

Incredible and amazing only drawback they need to put in a few extra days here and there to allow for late arrival of trains so that you can really enjoy the best of Canada.

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