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Need help sketching out my trip to the North west

Need help sketching out my trip to the North west

Old Sep 14th, 2023, 12:05 PM
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Need help sketching out my trip to the North west

I usually plan all my own trips and enjoy doing so with the help of Fodorites, Im having a tough time figuring this one out. Our first plan was to do a small boat cruise on the inner passage. But, two of the things we would like to do are visit, Butchart gardens, and do a train ride on the Canadian Pacific to or from Jasper. I found a small boat 6 day cruise by Lindblad that starts or ends in Ketchikan.
The train ride ends in Prince Rupert; but, I cannot figure out how to get from there to the cruise ship in Ketchikan or Juneau.
we are limited to two weeks for this trip, so I dont know if we should consider other options. We could fly from the East Coast to Seattle get to Vancouver island, then see some of the San Juans and do the train ride
. I know Im all over the place, but would appreciate your advice.




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Old Sep 14th, 2023, 07:42 PM
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First you need to decide where you want to go . I can help a bit with Seattle and the San Juan islands. Don't know anything about Alaska or Canada. With only two weeks you'll need to pick your priorities. Dealing with ferries, trains, rental car, cruises, etc. is kind of complicated as you are finding.

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Old Sep 15th, 2023, 08:19 AM
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This might get a bit confusing, sorry.

Unfortunately, Covid and budget cuts resulted in the Alaska State Ferry service between Prince Rupert and SE Alaska being canceled a couple of years ago, with no word on if or when they'll restart. So to get from PR to anywhere in SE Alaska involves backtracking to Seattle and flying to Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, or any of the other SE Alaska communities served by air from Seattle. As far as I know, there are no scheduled commercial flights to SE Alaska from any Canadian airport. Given your time constraints, it looks like you're going to have to choose between an Inside Passage cruise or the Via Rail (not CP) ride from Jasper, or else pay a lot of money to fly south from PR to Vancouver, make your way to Seattle, then fly back up to Ketchikan. Time consuming and lots of $$.

Just personal, but I looked at a couple of YT videos covering the train ride, and to be honest, I wasn't all that knocked out. To be sure, Jasper is awesome, and the train travels through some nice and wild country, but amenities on the train are minimal, you have to secure your own overnight accommodations in the overnight stop in Prince George, and while I've only been to Prince Rupert once, I can't say it struck me as a must-see destination. Maybe things have changed, of course.

We could fly from the East Coast to Seattle get to Vancouver island, then see some of the San Juan‘s and do the train ride
Again, some logistical issues. The Washington State Ferry service from Friday Harbor (San Juan Island) to Sidney BC on Vancouver Island has also been canceled with no word on its resumption, so getting to Vancouver Island after visiting the San Juans will require returning to the US mainland before ferrying to Vancouver Island from either Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula, or from the Tsawwassen terminal across the border in BC.

One alternative I'd urge you to consider with this (non-cruise) option is to swap the Canadian Gulf Islands for the US San Juans. These are accessed both from the mainland (the same Tsawwassen terminal) and from Vancouver Island and are in many ways similar to the San Juans in terms of physical beauty and a laid back lifestyle. Google Salt Spring Island, for example. These could easily be reached if you fly into Vancouver.

Then once on Vancouver Island, you'd need to arrange a one-way rental car with a drop in Port Hardy at the north end of the island, from which the BC ferry departs to Prince Rupert. There are a couple of rental car offices in Port Hardy - Budget and National at least - so that might be possible but likely also pretty pricey given the one-way fees. (Note this all could probably be done in reverse, north to south.) I'll also have to say that the drive up Vancouver Island from, say, Victoria to Port Hardy is rather less scenic than you might like, owing to a lot of clear-cut logging having taken place over the years.

Now back to the cruise option, honestly, if it was me (and of course it's not) and I wanted the small ship experience, I'd fly up to Ketchikan from Seattle, do the week's cruise, then fly back, get a car and use it to explore the San Juans, OR, take the train from Seattle up to Vancouver, get a car, and spend the second week touring the lower BC mainland - maybe up to Whistler, enjoying Vancouver's astounding range of indoor and outdoor activities, parks and gardens, fabulous ethnic food, and so on.

(Another personal opinion - Butchart Gardens is a terrific experience, but a costly and potentially crowded one. Google and do some research on the gardens in Vancouver and near Seattle for the sake of comparison - Queen Elizabeth Park Gardens, Bloedel Conservatory and Van Dusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver, and the marvelous Kubota Garden in Seattle and the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island, reached by ferry from downtown Seattle. My hunch is that you'd see that Butchart has lots of competition, much of it way more accessible and affordable than Butchart itself. Like I say, personal opinion.)

I'm sorry if this is all quite confusing; traveling around the Salish Sea and the Inside Passage is not that easy. Come back with more questions.
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Old Sep 15th, 2023, 01:34 PM
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Thanks so much for your replies. Lots of wonderful information to digest. Yes it looks like it is pretty hard to navigate this area. The one part that’s nonnegotiable is the train ride so if I flew to Seattle, got to Victoria, drove to Port Hardy, then over to Prince Rupert and did the train ride to Jasper , whew!!! I still have to figure out how to get from Jasper home. Suggestions?
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Old Sep 15th, 2023, 03:22 PM
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Have you considered cruising from Vancouver instead of from Juneau? You can get cheap flights from Calgary. Expensive flights from Prince Rupert.

There may even be a few cruises on relatively small ships that start in Vancouver and end in Seattle which would make it easier to get back home.
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Old Sep 16th, 2023, 02:09 PM
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When is this trip? Seems like you have about three trips here. You say the train trip is top priority. Fly to Vancouver, take flight to Prince Rupert. Take next available train to Jasper, be aware you have to overnight in Prince George. Check seat61.com. Enjoy scenery on way Calgary, make your way to your next phase. This phase seems at least a week.

I have spent a few days in Prince Rupert. We found it low key charming with good food. Are you interested in nature? You can do bear tours from there.

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