Travel Guide to Canada
CELEBRATE CANADA’S 150TH ON THE RAILS!
Celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday? Never forget that what brought us together to form a country on that fateful day in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, was the promise of a railway that would link the West to the Maritimes. That railway, finally built in the late 1800s, would enable valuable freight to be moved, making our country a viable business proposition for all provinces.
Soon that freight railway became even more valuable as European tourists, keen to see the New World, hurried to sail to Canada and book their tickets. At the time, there were few cars and fewer roads, so the railway was the answer for all inland travel. Passenger travel soon became as important as freight, and touring the exciting young country of Canada by train became ultrafashionable.
Recognizing a growth trend when they saw it, the Canadian Pacific Railway Company hastened to build glamorous high-style hotels to rival the most elegant European châteaux, and located them conveniently near the train tracks so guests could relax at the end of a day of touring. The combination of elegant accommodation, and what must have been in that day an absolutely magical manner of travel, gave birth to a thriving Canadian rail tourism industry.
That same rail tourism is still hugely popular in Canada, with train journeys topping the list for sophisticated travellers from all over the world, eager to tour parts of the rugged country that are otherwise simply inaccessible. Many parts of the Far North, for example, can only be explored by train, and sitting in a comfortable railway car is by far the most inviting way to cross vast stretches of prairie, see the Rocky Mountains and experience the wealth of natural beauty that is Canada.
For travellers looking for efficient and environmentally friendly transportation, VIA Rail is a popular choice. With the support of the Government of Canada, a major modernization program has greatly enhanced the VIA Rail experience, including upgrades to the business class service on the Québec City-Windsor corridor route, which now offers refurbished lounges, a more spacious on-board environment, a greener and more comfortable trip, new meals and more personalized service. WiFi accessibility is also included on the Ocean eastern overnight long-haul service between Montréal and Halifax.
VIA Rail offers some of Canada’s best scenic travel experiences such as the Canadian, a cross-country service linking Toronto and Vancouver that is one of the world’s most legendary and popular long-haul rail journeys. Combining breathtaking landscapes, cosy accommodations, attentive and courteous service and outstanding dining, this train welcomes more than 100,000 travellers every year.
For day trippers, the Québec CITYWINDSOR corridor is perfect for experiencing some of the country’s most vibrant cities. Every year, Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal and Québec City come alive with iconic festivals and events featuring top talent from around the world, and VIA Rail Canada makes getting there part of the thrill. Plan to “festival hop” from city to city to experience some of Canada’s many great events.
If unspoiled nature is your passion, travel by train between Jasper National Park and the rugged North Pacific Coast of Prince Rupert, B.C. This two-day journey winds along the Skeena River providing incredible wildlife viewing of grizzlies, black bears, moose, bald eagles, elk and mountain sheep. Explore Prince Rupert’s remarkable Museum of Northern BC, which houses the fascinating history, culture and art of the Northwest Coast in a traditional longhouse, and visit the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary.
Canada’s north is also accessible with VIA Rail Canada on a two-day trip from Winnipeg to Churchill, MB that winds
through prairie fields before reaching the open expanse of the boreal forest.
Churchill, the “Polar Bear Capital of the World,” also provides up-close and personal experiences with beluga whales in summertime and stunning views of the magical aurora borealis in winter (www.viarail.ca).
It’s no wonder that the Rocky Mountaineer tops so many bucket lists. Offering once-in-a-lifetime views of the majestic mountains, glittering lakes and pristine wilderness that characterize western Canada, this iconic train offers a spectacular experience. Guests can choose from two levels of service: SILVERLEAF or GOLDLEAF. Both include top quality food and wine, outstanding attention to detail and fascinating, informative on-board commentaries. Multi-day excursions include such iconic destinations as Vancouver, Victoria, Whistler, Lake Louise, Jasper, Calgary, Banff and Kamloops. Add optional excursions such as city tours and helicopter rides to your itinerary, and enjoy the overnight accommodations included in Rocky Mountaineer trips, or combine your rail tour with a pre or post Alaskan cruise experience from Vancouver, BC or Seattle, Washington aboard select Holland America Line ships (www.rockymountaineer.com).
WHITE PASS & YUKON ROUTE RAILWAY
If you’ve ever longed to see Canada’s farthest northern locations, such as the Klondike Gold Rush country, you’ll want to book a seat on the long-serving diesel and steam locomotives of the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway. Passengers aboard this authentic vintage train, an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, make a steep 914 m (3,000 ft.) climb through gorges and glaciers on a narrow-gauge track. If you are really dying to explore further, complete your adventurous itinerary by adding a motor coach tour through parts of Alaska, British Columbia or the Yukon (www.wpyr.com).
AGAWA CANYON TOUR TRAIN
Fans of the legendary Group of Seven artists will want to journey into the remote northern Ontario wilderness that inspired these talented painters on board the Algoma Central Railway’s Agawa Canyon Tour Train. Not only does the 367-km (228-mi.) round trip from Sault Ste. Marie wind through the spectacular canyon from late June until mid-October, attracting wildlife lovers and nature enthusiasts alike, but it also makes a stop at Mile 114 to allow for exciting hikes to nearby waterfalls and sightseeing points. A GPS-triggered commentary in five languages makes sure you don’t miss a thing along the way.
While spring and summer tours are certainly beautiful, autumn is the most popular time for this train tour. In fact, so many “leaf peepers” come looking for autumn colours that booking a full year ahead is recommended (www.agawatrain.com).
TRAIN DE CHARLEVOIX
This train-tour service runs on select days from June through October. It travels between Québec City’s stunning Montmorency Falls and La Malbaie for 125 km (78 mi.), stopping in seven picturesque towns and coastal villages as travellers enjoy a gorgeous view of the St. Lawrence River (www.reseaucharlevoix.com).
There is no other country in the world that can rival Canada for stunning landscapes, untouched wilderness views, rugged Rocky Mountain peaks and shimmering northern lakes. Could there be a better way to celebrate this wonderful country’s birthday than by exploring her beauty from the comfort of a train?