Canada is a little like Australia: it’s so vast that visitors are often flummoxed as to know where to begin. It’s probably better not to attempt to do it all in one hit, but rather divide it into two – the east and the west – and do one part at a time.
Boasting the impossibly photogenic Rocky Mountains in the west, many people head to this part of the country first – mainly for its dramatic scenery, pristine environment and the chance to see some of the country’s incredible wildlife in the national parks. If this sounds like bliss, it’s going to be a recipe for a truly awe-inspiring honeymoon.
In the rockies
When the first log chalet was built in 1890 at Lake Louise it provided rustic accommodation for a handful of guests in a glorious location overlooking the eponymous lake in what was to become Canada’s first national park. Today, the lake, with its multistoried Fairmont Hotel, is considered the ‘Jewel of the Rockies’. The hotel has a spectacular outlook over the deep green lake, which is fringed by tapering pines that coat the edges all the way up to the snowy jagged peaks of Victoria Glacier and dotted with traditional red canoes in summer.
Day excursions will take you to ‘must-see’ spots like the permanently snow-bound Columbia Icefields, where you can drive out and walk on a snow-toped glacier, magnificent Lake Moraine and Lake Maligne with its much photographed, almost mythical Spirit Island, and glacial-blue Peyto Lake. A ride up the Jasper Tramway offers extraordinary 360-degree views over the water-laced region rimmed with picture-perfect snow=peaked mountains.
Don’t be surprised if elk or moose make impromptu street crossings in Banff – they graze on public grasslands in town – and be on the lookout for all manner of wildlife around Jasper, which is located on prime lakeside land and attracts Canada geese, deer and cheeky chipmunks and squirrels.
If you really want to take wildlife viewing a step further, you can try an exhilarating floatplane from Vancouver to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Follow the inside coast road north until you reach remote Telegraph Cove, a two-hour drive north of Campbell river. It is as if you have stepped back in time, for this tiny boardwalk community is lined with quaint original weatherboard cabins that have been refurbished to offer rustic accommodation. Although the cove has an abundance of visitors, there are actually only two permanent residents, the owners of the accommodation. Perfect for a honeymooning couple who just want to explore the beautiful surrounds minus the hordes of tourists.
One of the main reasons people visit this 1912 outpost is to see the grizzly bears at Knight Inlet. Fast boats can take guests across Johnstone Strait to view these brown giants as they come to feed on the sedge grass that edges the rivers on this mainland waterway. If you have time, take a boat out into the strait, switch off the engine and float around to see what comes out: there could be killer whales, orcas, stellar seal lions, dolphins, hump-backs, harbour porpoises and more.
In charming Tofino, the western district of Victoria, you will discover even more to see and do. You can go surfing, whale-watching, browse art galleries, dine very well on top regional fare or just admire the spectacular coastal scenery. At Cathedral Grove, you can hug giant fir trees in an old growth forest or in Courtenay, walk the private beach around Kingfisher Oceanside Resort and drop into their renowned spa facility.
The Wine Islands
Vancouver Island hosts some quality vineyards producing some very decent premium wines. There are about 80 vineyards and more than 40 wineries on Vancouver Island and the smaller Gulf Islands, which collectively market themselves as the Wine Islands. Try unfamiliar varieties like the Ortega – a crisp white wine ideal with the local seafood, particularly succulent crab - and Maréchal Foch, a full-bodied red that is perfect with barbeques and heart casseroles. The whol island is interlaced with markets such as Coombs Old Country Market, where you can stock up on fresh produce, sample candied salmon, tuck into a heart lunch and ponder why there are goats on the roof.
Just west of the island capital Victoria, Sooke Harbour House has long been a gourmet retreat for those who wish to dine well and relax in the tranquil environment overlooking Juan de Fuca Strait to Washington state. Arriving in Victoria for the first time, you’d be forgiven for thinking you had stepped into England instead. The imposing Fairmont Empress hotel dominates Victoria Harbour, where you can watch float planes take off and land regularly. If you’re into all things history, you should definitely check out the outstanding Royal British Columbia Museum and, if you’re a green thumb, to the world-class Butchart Gardens. Indulge in high tea at the Empress or indulge in Roger’s Chocolates, established in 1885, and lastly, seek out the local sweet treat – the Nanaimo pie, a decadent chocolate-coated biscuit.