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Itinerary Help - 2 weeks to cover Victoria to Jasper/Banff

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We have finally made the decision to make Canada our next vacation destination. We are in the very, very early stages of planning/researching and only know at this point that we will be going in mid-late June for 2 weeks and that we would like to cover from Victoria to the Jasper & Banff areas. As I have seen on the site, here, this seems to be a popular trip. I have a few questions about travel, and our itinerary. I'm going to number them for simplicity sake.

1) We live in the US - Oregon, would it be more wise (cost/time effective) to drive in or to fly in and rent a car in Vancouver? If driving is the better idea, should we ferry to Victoria FIRST via Seattle, and then again to reach the mainland, or should we take I-5 on through into Canada and then cross to Victoria?

2) How, exactly, should we lay out our trip? Which is to mean, not where should we stop, but which route is most time effective? What highways will we use (so that I can look them up on a map) for your suggestion? And how many miles will we cover that way?

3) Would you recommend making a few different bases, and traveling the places around those bases but coming back to the same place a few nights in a row? Or would you recommend the way of sleeping in a different town every night, creeping our way from Victoria to the Rockies area?

4) Two things that we are very much interested in doing are a whale watching tour, and a bear sightings tour. Can anyone recommend the best place to see these two animals, and which touring companies will take you to those spots?

5) My final question may be a stupid one, but...can the Northern Lights be seen from any where in BC in June?

I sincerely appreciate any help that can be offered, as this will give us a great starting point from which to branch out and plan out the details of our trip!

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    In the hope that it may be illuminating, I will share our first similar trip:


    - Flew into Seattle, drove to Vancouver and took the Tsawwssen ferry to Victoria the first day. Exhausting, but we had to start in Florida and not Oregon. We wouldn't push so much the first day on future trips.

    - 2 nights in Victoria, seeing Inner Harbour, Royal Museum, Butchart Gardens

    - Drove to Tofino for 2 nights, stayed at Middle Beach Lodge on a whale watching package. Wish it had been 3 nights. Made a leisurely trip to Tofino, stopped at the Country Market in Coombs to see goats on the roof and pick up picnic supplies. http://www.oldcountrymarket.com/ Whale watching in a zodiac was awesome.

    - Drove back, took ferry at Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay, continued driving until stopping for the night in Merritt. Too long a drive, we wished we had stopped maybe in West/North Van or Nanaimo.

    - Drove to Okanagan, stayed 1 or 2 nights and did the wine country. Good times.

    - Drove to Nelson, stayed at the Hume for a night and visited all the sites where Roxanne was filmed. Kitchy, it’s an awesome historic hotel. But maybe not for everybody.

    - Drove to Banff via a winding road that goes up to Revelstoke and then through Glacier Nat’l Park (Canadian). Best part was the ferry across the lake, what fun. Not a road to drive when you are tired, early morning is best.

    - Banff.... stayed a week in a timeshare but could have stayed 3 or 4 nights and then gone to Jasper. Jasper is NOT a day trip from Banff and well worth another 3 or 4 nights.

    - Returned via Kamloops, did not return the longer winding Nelson-Okanagan region route.

    Subsequently, we have left Vancouver, spent the night in Kamloops, then on to Mount Robson and Jasper for a few nights, then Banff. If you are not interested in the wine country, that is the better route, most likely.

    I’m sure you are wanting to see a lot of the beauty of British Columbia, and to us that often means winding mountain roads. That is not to be rushed, though.

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