Western Canada, 2000

July 8, 2011 by Paris and John  
Filed under Sample Articles


Wild About British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon
by Paris Permenter and John Bigley

With its soaring Rocky Mountains, miles of rugged coastline, and untamed wilderness, Western Canada boasts some of North America’s most breathtaking scenery as well as picturesque cities. British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon offer a full menu of activities, no matter what your group’s interests.

Gold once lured travelers to this western portion of Canada but today the treasure for groups lies in the opportunities to experience Western Canada in a wealth of ways. Clients can hike mountain trails or stroll beautiful gardens. Adventurous travelers can experience helihiking to explore the most remote reaches of the region or try helisightseeing for a visual adventure. Jet boating, kayaking, and fishing attract summer visitors while winter travelers enjoy dogsledding, ice fishing, and wildlife viewing.

“British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon are really gearing up for the new traveler. They are challenging tour operators to provide a product to inspire and enrich travelers to discover people and the land around them,” explains Cathryn Holler, VP Marketing for Vancouver-based SNV International, one of Canada’s largest receptive tour operators.

(b)Vancouver: Home Base(b)

For many groups, the perfect base for discovering the cultural bounty of western Canada is Vancouver. Boasting a temperate climate, the waterfront city is filled with greenery in Stanley Park and Queen Elizabeth Park, with its towering evergreens and Bloedel Conservatory. Travelers can shop for fine art at Granville Island, enjoy a panoramic view of the city with a skyride up Grouse Mountain, or learn more about the marine life of this region at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre. This sophisticated city is also infused with an international air, thanks partly to the strong business ties with the Pacific Rim.

That international flavor is seen at the city’s expansive Chinatown as well as at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, the first classical Chinese garden created outside China. Visitors can “see the craftsmanship and ancient traditions, hear the peace and quiet within this urban oasis, touch the hand carved woods, extraordinary rocks and horticulture delights as well as being immersed in another time and place,” explains spokesperson Erika Korstrom. Regularly scheduled tours by local residents offer groups the opportunity to learn more about Chinese culture. Soon a $1.5 million expansion will offer groups an education center, meeting room, a seven-story pagoda, and a Penjing Greenhouse for the garden’s rare and antique Penjing collections.

(b)Victoria and Vancouver Island(b)

How about a quick trip to jolly old England? Watch a game of cricket. Dine on fish and chips. Shop for tartans. Sip tea and nibble on scones.
Groups can have a peek at Great Britain without ever leaving the continent thanks to Victoria, British Columbia, known as Canada’s most British city. Just a ferry ride away from Seattle or Vancouver, Victoria is a British vacation with a bonus: an average of 2,183 hours of sunshine a year, making this Canada’s sunniest city.

Victoria lies at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, separated from the mainland by the Strait of Georgia. The city began in 1842 as a trading post for the Hudson Bay Company. With the Fraser Gold Rush, the post boomed in 1858 and four years later Victoria was incorporated, making it one of the oldest cities on the west coast.

Those early colonists may have been located in the middle of the rugged Pacific Northwest, but they weren’t about to abandon their British traditions. They filled their homes with fine china and linens and their lawns with beautiful gardens that thrived in the congenial climate. Even today, Victoria is distinctly British, from its Parliament Building watched over by a statue of Queen Victoria to its double decker tour buses to its shops selling the finest merchandise from the British Isles. Groups can board those buses or horse-drawn carriages for a look at Chinatown and its Fan Tan Alley (the narrowest street in North America).

Downtown stands one of Canada’s finest museums, the Royal British Columbia Museum, a compendium of exhibits including everything from natural history to totem poles to a reconstruction of Captain Vancouver’s ship, the H.M.S. Discovery. “Our new 20th Century Hall is a decade-by-decade reconstruction of British Columbia’s history over the past 100 years and includes hands-on computer stations that will take you back through voluminous historical records,” notes the museum’s spokesperson John Matters.

Garden lovers shouldn’t miss the city’s Butchart Gardens, often cited as one of the world’s finest. These formal gardens began in 1904 as a one-woman effort but today the sprawling attraction includes a rose garden, Italian garden, Japanese garden, sunken garden, elaborate fountains, and greenhouse displays.
Outside the city, groups find a myriad of outdoor adventures on Vancouver Island, including sea kayaking, whale watching, salmon fishing, scuba diving, sailing, and more in the Gulf Islands.

(b)Beyond the City Lights(b)

Beyond the major communities of Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia reveals an array of recreational opportunities. “The trend is to more experiential travel, and British Columbia is exceptional for providing that type of product. This region is a staging point for discovery, not just of the countryside but of culture and cuisine as well,” says Vancouver-based Cathryn Holler.

Just 10 minutes outside Vancouver stands the 230-foot-high Capilano Suspension Bridge and Park. Although much of the park’s attraction is its natural beauty, groups also find that the park teaches visitors about the rich history and culture of this region. “The park’s focus for the 2001 season will be pioneer entertainment,” explains spokesperson Francine Shefley. “The park will be filled with tour guides playing instruments and entertaining guests with turn-of the century music and stories.” Another important part of the park is its emphasis on native culture; at the Big House Carving Center, First Nations carvers exhibit their skills and artwork.

Groups looking to venture further into British Columbia have the option of train travel, thanks to BC Rail, on a route that follows Howe Sound past coastal communities and seaside parks to the Coastal Mountains.

Beyond the city, the landscape turns rugged, with jagged mountain peaks and verdant valleys where wildlife outnumber human residents. An excellent spot for wildlife viewing is Hell’s Gate Airtram, where groups can watch salmon on their journey back to their homeland. “The salmon are unable to make it through here on their own so they use these International Fishways to make it through Hell’s Gate and on to their spawning grounds,” says spokesperson Debbie McKinney.

(b)Yukon (b)

Just the name “Yukon” stirs up pictures of rugged mountains, adventurous explorers, and gold rush fever. Today travelers can still try panning for gold or opt for whitewater river rafting, kayaking, or soaking in the Takhini Hot Springs. Wildlife enthusiasts have plenty of opportunities to spot some of the province’s many residents: Dall sheep, moose, Arctic swans, and black bears.
Although traditionally the Yukon was offered to groups as an extension of an Alaska trip, today tour operators are seeing the province as a destination in itself. “The Yukon is starting to stand on its own,” points out SNV International’s Holler. “We are seeing more infrastructure to meet the growing demand. Exploring the whole gold rush phenomena in itself becomes a nice seven-night, eight-day itinerary. There’s a cultural side there both with the Inuit and the gold rush aspects. Also it allows travelers to experience nature in secure groups.”

(b)Northwest Territories(b)

In the northernmost reaches of Canada, where the land mass breaks up as it approaches the Arctic, lie the Northwest Territories. This area, continuously carved by ice and water, recently underwent political change as well. In April 1999, the Northwest Territories was divided into two sections: the Northwest Territories on the western region and Nunavut, the Inuit lands on the eastern side.

The capital city of the Northwest Territories is Yellowknife, which can be reached by road from Alberta and British Columbia or by air from Calgary and Vancouver. From Yellowknife, however, most travel takes place in chartered planes. “Anytime you go in the Northwest Territories, the program is more on nature and not so much coach touring,” says Holler. “You must incorporate charter flights so moving the group is more challenging.”

The Northwest Territories attract summer vacationers in search of the Aurora Borealis, the hauntingly beautiful Northern Lights. Although traditionally most groups have visited between June and September (last year 48,000 visitors), nearly one in six visitors chooses to vacation here during the winter months. Winter visitors celebrate the season with dogsled races and carnivals, ice fishing, and snowmobiling across the tundra.


Festivals and Events

Beluga Jamboree, Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories
Summer Solstice, Inuvik
Festival of the Midnight Sun, Yellowknife
Gold Panning Championship, Taylor, BC
Whistler Jazz and Blues Festival, Whistler, BC

Facts and Figures

Vancouver’s Chinatown is North America’s second largest after San Francisco.
Captain Vancouver first charted the west coast in 1792.
Gold was discovered on the Fraser River in 1857.
British Columbia is four times the size of Great Britain.
First Nations residents make up 5% of British Columbia’s population.

Outdoor Adventures

River rafting draws new paddlers to the Adams River; thrillseekers head to the Stikine River, considered one of the world’s best whitewater rivers.
Nimpo Lake is nicknamed the “Floatplane Capital of British Columbia” and is a favorite for trout fishing.
Murtle Lake is tops for canoeing–the nearest neighbors are over 100 grizzly bears and numerous bald eagles.
The 200 Gulf Islands attract sea kayakers and their calm waters are perfect for beginners.

Natural Wonders

The tallest tree in Canada is found on Vancouver Island; the 311-foot tree is the tallest Sitka spruce in the world.
The largest octopus species in the world is found in the waters of the Georgia Strait.
Wood bison, the largest North American land mammal, are seen in two preserves in the Northwest Territories.
British Columbia’s Della Falls in Strathcona Provincial Park are nearly 10 times higher than Niagara Falls.

Top Attractions

Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre
Butchart Gardens
Royal British Columbia Museum
Capilano Suspension Bridge and Park
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
Hell’s Gate Airtram

Did You Know?

An estimated 700,000 barren-ground caribou call the Northwest Territories home.
During the days of the “midnight sun,” you’ll find 20 hours of daylight.
Writer Jack London came north for the Klondike gold rush and later used the experience for Call of the Wild and White Fang.

Web Sites

Tourism Rockies
Northern British Columbia Tourism Association
Vancouver, Coast and Mountain Tourism Region
Northwest Territories
Tourism Yukon
Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre

Who to Call

Tourism Association of Vancouver Island
Northwest Territories Arctic Tourism
Tourism Yukon
Tourism British Columbia
BC Ferries
BC Rail
Northern British Columbia

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