Canada: On the right track

Canada: On the right track

Nikki Bayley recommends riding the rails as one of the best ways to see Canada

Like this and want more details? Click here to download and save as a PDF.

With a country as vast as Canada – it’s the second largest in the world, beaten only by Russia – hopping on board a train is the most civilised way to make a dent in its glorious stretches of seemingly endless open space, filled with picture-perfect wild landscapes, soaring mountains and shimmering lakes.

Two operators rule the rails: the private Rocky Mountaineer and nationally owned VIA Rail. However, be aware that as freight companies own the tracks, both companies have to give way to goods trains, which can result in delays of up to a couple of hours over longer trips.

Suggest clients see this as a blessing by embracing the journey as part of the holiday fun. And never make an onward travel booking for them for the next day.

From taster trips to full-blown cross-country expeditions, there are plenty of options out there. Here are four favourites.

Rocky Mountaineer

Where? Jasper to Vancouver – Journey Through The Clouds

How long? Two days of approximately eight to 10 hours’ daytime train travel, plus a night’s stopover in a hotel in Kamloops.

Why? Excellent service from knowledgeable staff, impressive food and drink offerings and multiple price options and routes.

The lowdown: Top-notch service, sparkling clean trains and the wide-open spaces of the Canadian Rockies rolling past as you chug through pristine wilderness. Pick from three levels of service: all-inclusive, five-star Gold Leaf, with its two-level glass-domed car and gourmet dining; Silver Leaf, with a single-level glass dome and at-seat hot entrée dining; or no-frills Red Leaf, with picture windows and at-seat dining.

Rocky Mountaineer

Journey highlights on this route include towering waterfalls, the soaring peak of Mount Robson, the highest in the Rockies, and the ear-popping climb over the Yellowhead Pass into Jasper National Park.

Package it with: Rocky Mountaineer trains travel across five routes through BC and Alberta, all packed with jaw-dropping, natural beauty and fascinating pioneering history. They are perfect for clients wanting to pair thewide-open spaces of the Rocky Mountains and resorts of Jasper, Banff and Lake Louise with the city fun of Vancouver or an Alaskan cruise.

Book it: Travel 2 offers aneight-day Western Rail Adventure on the Rocky Mountaineer, including seven nights’ hotel accommodation, two-day Rocky Mountaineer SilverLeaf Service, selected meals and sightseeing, from £2,389.

The Skeena

Where? Jasper to Prince Rupert

How long? Over two days, you will be on board the train for 20 hours, with a hotel stay in Prince George.

Why? Learn more about BC’s Gitxsan, Nisga’a and Tsimshian First Nations as you travel deep into the largely unexplored interior.

The lowdown: From Jasper National Park, head through the Rocky Mountains and Yellowhead Pass along the winding Skeena River, past Fort Fraser, which marks the last spike of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad, totem poles and waterfalls.

Break your journey and spend time exploring the historic cultural community of Prince George along the way. Pick from Touring Class with meals included and a dome car, or bring a picnic and travel economy class and take in your surroundings through the picture windows.

Package it with: Prince Rupert is on the cusp of Alaska so an ideal jumping-off point for cruises along the Inside Passage, also an amazing spot for wildlife. Canada’s only grizzly bear sanctuary is here, and there are humpback whales, seals, eagles and beautiful white sand beaches.

Book it: Titan Travel offers the16-day Scenic Spectacular escorted tour featuring the Skeena, and an Inside Passage cruise from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert from £3,499, departing June 17 and August 26.

The Ocean

Where? Halifax to Montreal

How long? A 20-hour journey setting off three times a week at midday from Halifax, arriving at 9.18am in Montreal, or at 6.55pm from Montreal, arriving at 5.25pm in Halifax.

Why? A relatively inexpensive way to dip a toe into experiencing Canada by rail, the Ocean connects two totally different cultures.

The lowdown: Take a journey from the Celtic heritage of Atlantic Canada and its fascinating history of forts, fishermen and links with the Titanic, to the vibrant French-Canadian city of Montreal. Passengers can get off at Moncton to experience the Bay of Fundy and stay overnight in New Brunswick.

The Ocean winds its way across gently rolling hills with glimpses into small Maritime community life along the way, before roaring into Quebec with views across the mighty St Lawrence River. The sleeper cars may be a little more compact than those on the Canadian, and the food offering not as impressive, but the overall service is reassuringly excellent.

Package it with: A cruise around the Maritimes or self-guided drive exploring the area’s rich historical and cultural offerings. At the other end, dive into Montreal’s cosmopolitan culinary and festival scene.

Book it: The Independent Traveller offers a three-night package including one night in Montreal and one night in Halifax before and after the train journey, plus accommodation on the train, including a shower, from £299. Flights and other arrangements can be added to any package.

The Canadian

Where? Toronto to Vancouver.

How long? Four nights and three days on a 2,791-mile expedition crossing five provinces, the Canadian runstwice-weekly off-peak and three times a week from May to October.

Why? It’s a stunning way to experience the incredible differences of the Canadian landscape and a good way to get to grips with how huge a country it is. The time on board means it’s also a chance to relax and meet other passengers.

The lowdown: Taking in the endless, shining lakes of Ontario, golden swaying wheatfields and big skies of the prairies, before giving way to the snow-capped drama of the Rocky Mountains, VIA Rail’s signature cross-country product is a must for all train and slow-travel fans.

Canadian Train

Tickets fit all budgets, offering reclining seats to private cabins with en-suite bathrooms. Splurge on thebrand-new Prestige sleeper cabin service with an L-shaped leather couch that transforms into a double bed, which features all meals, and Canadian wines. Entertainment includes wine tasting, puzzles, games and movies.

Package it with: Fly into Toronto then add an Alaskan cruise from Vancouver, a trip by float plane to Victoria or the new 30-minute Orca Air service to Tofino for the ultimate west coast surfing, bear and whale-watching trip.

Book it: First Class Holidays has a 12-day package that includes two nights in Toronto, four nights on the Canadian, three nights in Jasper and two nights in Vancouver. Meals on board are included and accommodation is in a cabin for two. Hotels are room-only and based on four-star standard. April departures start from £1,399 excluding flights. Travelling in the new Prestige Sleeper Class adds a supplement of £1,185.


This is a community-moderated forum.
All post are the individual views of the respective commenter and are not the expressed views of Travel Weekly.
By posting your comments you agree to accept our Terms & Conditions.

More in Destinations