Travel Guide to Canada
RAIL: ONLY BY TRAIN!
When this vast land we call Canada became a country, the promise of a railroad was the tie that bound one coast to the other. On that historymaking day in 1867 in tiny Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, the concept of a permanent link between the West and the Maritimes clinched the deal for the Fathers of Confederation.
Ultimately built in the late 1800s, the railway would enable valuable freight to be moved, making our country a solid business proposition for all provinces.
While freight was the lifeblood for business, the railway soon became important for another purpose. European tourists, eager to see the New World, were arriving by the shipload and, with few cars and even fewer roads, the railway was the answer for all inland travel. Tourist travel soon rivalled freight, and exploring the exciting young country by train became ultra-fashionable. Capitalizing on a profitable trend, the Canadian Pacific Railway Company built glamorous, high-style hotels to rival the most elegant European châteaux, located 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 then have seemed a completely magical manner of travel, gave birth to a thriving Canadian rail tourism industry.
Still hugely popular in Canada, train journeys top the list for sophisticated travellers from all over the world, eager to tour parts of this rugged country that are otherwise simply inaccessible. Many areas of the Far North can still only be reached 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 great choice—and there is no better time to experience it than in 2018, VIA Rail’s 40th year! Since May 2014, VIA Rail has worked to improve its service offerings by focusing on customers and their travel needs. Some of the enhancements include upgrades to the Business class service on the Québec City-Windsor corridor, which offers refurbished lounges, a spacious on-board environment, a greener and more relaxing trip, complimentary meals and 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, including one of the world’s most legendary and popular long-haul rail journeys—the Canadian—a cross-country service linking Toronto and Vancouver. Welcoming close to 100,000 travellers every year, this route offers breathtaking landscapes, cosy accommodations, attentive and courteous service and outstanding dining.
Day trippers love the Québec CityWindsor corridor as a means of experiencing some of the country’s most vibrant cities. Every year, when the streets of Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal and Québec City explode with the energy of iconic festivals and events showcasing top talent from around the world, VIA Rail Canada makes getting there part of the thrill. Festival hop from city to city to experience some of Canada’s many great events.
If you’re a nature lover, be sure to make the trip between Jasper National Park and the rugged North Pacific Coast of Prince Rupert, BC. This two-day rail journey winds along the Skeena River where wild grizzlies, black bears, moose, bald eagles, elk and mountain sheep gaze as you pass. Visit the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary and 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 (www.viarail.ca ).
If the Rocky Mountaineer is at the top of your bucket list, you’re not alone! Featuring once-in-a-lifetime views of majestic mountains, glittering lakes and pristine western Canadian wilderness, this iconic train offers a spectacular experience. Guests can choose from two levels of service: SilverLeaf or GoldLeaf, both of which include delectable 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. Combine your rail tour with a stay at the luxurious Sonora Resort, the ultimate Pacific-Northwest wilderness retreat, or plan a pre or post Alaskan cruise experience from Vancouver, BC or Seattle, Washington aboard select Holland America Line ships (www.rockymountaineer.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 the floor of the Agawa Canyon, created by glacial retreat some 10,000 years ago. A GPS-triggered commentary in five languages makes sure you don’t miss a thing along the way, telling stories of fur traders, explorers and the Ojibway people.
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).
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. This authentic vintage train, an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, makes a steep 914 m (3,000 ft.) climb through gorges and glaciers on a narrow-gauge track. If you’re really dying to explore further, complete your adventurous itinerary by adding a motorcoach tour through parts of Alaska, British Columbia or the Yukon (www.wpyr.com).
TRAIN DE CHARLEVOIX
This rail adventure travels through the stunning but remote countryside between Québec City’s 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. The service runs daily from mid-June to October 21 (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; and, there is no better way to experience that beauty than from the comfort of a train!