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Vancouver Island

The Grand British Columbia self-drive tour

21 days from £8,930pp

Vancouver Island
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Tour highlights

  • Try your hand at some of the best salmon, sturgeon and trout fishing in the Fraser Valley.

  • Drive the road less travelled through the small towns of central and northern British Columbia.

  • Observe grizzly bears in their natural habitat on a boat trip through the Khutzeymateen Valley.

  • Experience the wilderness of the Great Bear Rainforest on a multi-day kayak adventure.

  • Explore the small, artistic coastal towns of the Sunshine Coast for some rest and relaxation.

Price includes:

  • Scheduled international flights
  • Fully insured vehicle hire
  • All accommodation
  • 24-hour support while you travel
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Itinerary idea in detail

Includes international flights from a choice of UK airports, including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

  • Today you begin your journey by boarding your international outbound flight to Vancouver. On arrival in Vancouver, make your own way to your hotel. Most flights land in the mid-afternoon, leaving you time to catch a casual dinner downtown before settling into your hotel for the night.

  • Enjoy a leisurely start to the day before meeting your local guide on Granville Island and discovering why Vancouver has developed such a reputation among foodies. At the end of the tour, we recommend spending time at the market exploring the artisan stalls before making your way to Stanley Park for a touch of nature. The totem poles provide an additional cultural point of view of the history of the park. We suggest heading to Gastown for a wide variety of sumptuous dinner options.

  • This morning, pick up your car from a downtown depot. The car will include all taxes, third-party liability, loss damage waiver and an additional driver. Begin your adventure by leaving the city and making the short drive along the Fraser River to your next stop. We recommend stopping at Harrison Hot Springs Resort en route for a dip in the thermal pools. On arrival at this comfortable lodge, settle into your room and explore the facilities on offer.

    Stay at Fraser River Lodge   
  • Included today is a half-day fishing trip on the Fraser River. The region is home to some of the best sturgeon, trout and salmon fishing. Your private guide will shuttle you down the river by jet boat to find the best stop for the day. Settle in and enjoy the surrounding forested landscapes as you wait for that prized catch. In the afternoon, return to the lodge to try your hand at axe throwing and yard games, and cosy up around the campfire to talk about the day’s activities.

    Stay at Fraser River Lodge   
  • Continue your journey through the Cariboo region of British Columbia today. As you drive north toward Williams Lake, you’ll be passing through cattle country and the sagebrush-covered hills and dry land of the area. There are plenty of small lakes, towns and ranches to stop at in this region, so you can enjoy a leisurely journey.

  • Your journey continues due north today, following the path of the Fraser River to reach the town of Prince George. Your halfway point is marked by Quesnel, a settlement that grew rapidly as a way station on the route to the gold fields. Through Riverfront Park there’s a walking trail winding past historic points of interest and along the banks of the Quesnel River. Arrive in Prince George this afternoon and explore this town at the heart of British Columbia’s forestry, pulp and paper industries.

  • Your route now turns northwest as you continue through the logging region of British Columbia to Smithers. This area is one of the most scenic, untouched areas of Canada with snow-capped mountains in the distance, plenty of lush green forests and sparkling lakes to attract the eye on your journey. Your destination, Smithers, rests at the foot of Hudson Bay Mountain, which rises dramatically to a height of 2,651 m (8,697 ft) and is a great centre for any outdoor enthusiast.

  • Spend the day at leisure in Smithers today. It’s one of the largest towns on the Yellowhead Highway but is surrounded by the wilderness of British Columbia. We highly recommend the walking trails in Babine Mountains Provincial Park and taking the road to Widzin Kwah (Moricetown) Canyon to see fishers out on the rocks next to the rushing white water. Hudson Bay Mountain is also home to the Crater Lake trail, with the mountains mirrored in the clear surface, and the prairie is home to wildflowers in summer.

  • As you leave Smithers, you enter an area with a rich cultural history. Hazleton is the centre for several fascinating First Nations sites, including Ksan Historical Village and Museum, a recreated village of the Gitksan people. As you continue along the highway, you pass some of the province’s most breathtaking lakes, forest and mountain scenery. You eventually join the Skeena River and the railway line alongside it, which is the most spectacular section of the drive to Prince Rupert.

  • Bring your camera and binoculars and prepare for a memorable experience as you travel through Chatham Sound before continuing into rugged fjords and the pristine wilderness of the Khutzeymateen, home to the largest population of grizzly bears anywhere on Earth. The area is also home to orcas, eagles, seals, mountain goats and black bears. Enjoy a packed lunch in the wilderness before more wildlife watching and returning to Prince Rupert for the evening.

  • A long but exciting journey awaits today as you join a ferry early in the morning that takes you through the Inside Passage to the northern tip of Vancouver Island, Port Hardy. The journey takes you through the many fjords and islands of British Columbia’s coastline and takes approximately 16 hours. You’ll travel in comfort in a private cabin with outside views, meaning you can keep a close eye out for the wealth of marine life that calls the region home.

  • Another early start today as you make your way to Port McNeill to begin your kayaking adventure. Leave your car at a local hotel before being transferred with the rest of your small group to the dock. From here, a water taxi takes you across the waters of Johnstone Strait to your base camp where you’ll have time to unload and orientate yourself. In the afternoon, you have your first kayak experience to explore the local coastline. You will have breakfast, lunch and dinner included on the trip.

  • Your first full day awaits. Your base camp is ideally situated on orca travel routes and humpback feeding grounds, so you may even spot the fins of whales from your camp. The day will be planned around the weather conditions, wildlife viewing and your interests, with the morning and afternoon spent on the water searching for wildlife. Lunches are typically on a secluded beach and dinners around the campfire or in a designated dining tent.

  • Another day out on the water. These islands and islets are home to numerous seabirds, bald eagles and seals, so there is always plenty to see. When you encounter orca, guides will often drop a hydrophone into the water to listen to them communicating. As the kayak trip is a fairly basic and physical trip, these three nights can be swapped for time at a bear lodge instead.

  • You have a less physically taxing day ahead today as you are picked up by boat and taken up Knight Inlet for a full day of grizzly bear spotting. The tour also provides an insight into the cultural significance of the animals and area. You return to Port McNeill in the late afternoon where you can check into your hotel and gather one last time with your group.

  • After an active few days, enjoy a leisurely morning before continuing your journey. Leave the north behind and travel for about two hours to the east of Vancouver Island, Campbell River. This is the gateway to the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia and your base for tonight. We recommend a leisurely stroll along the waterfront on the Rotary Sea Walk or stopping in at Elk Falls Provincial Park to see Elk Falls from the suspension bridge.

  • For the final leg of your trip, make your way down to Comox to catch the ferry to the mainland. This region remains a lesser-visited area of British Columbia and is home to many hidden gems. While tranquil, there is plenty to do, from outdoor activities to the many museums and art galleries, to simply relaxing and absorbing the dramatic scenery. On arrival in Madeira Park, we recommend getting acquainted with your hotel by taking a dip in the infinity pool overlooking the harbour.

  • Spend the day at leisure on the Sunshine Coast. The small towns of the area are home to art galleries, independent cafes and shops, and marinas where you can take a kayak or canoe out onto the water. We believe the best views of the bay can be found at the top of Pender Hill. While a steep hike, it’s only about 1.5 km (1 mile) long and only takes about 30 minutes.

  • You have another day at leisure on the coast. In nearby Egmont, West Coast Wilderness Lodge offers many day trips to Princess Louisa Inlet, kayaking, jet skiing, float plane tours and mountain biking trails. We also recommend making the most of the spa and serenity garden at Painted Boat Resort for a touch of tranquillity and relaxation. Enjoy the sunset over the water on your last night in British Columbia.

  • It’s time to leave British Columbia behind today as you make your way to Vancouver Airport. Most flights will be in the evening, so we recommend stopping in the town of Gibson on your way, with its many art galleries and great stops for lunch. Continue on for your onward journey from Vancouver.

  • Arrive home today to complete your journey.

Accommodation options

While the itinerary price reflects the suggested accommodation, Audley trips are 100% tailor-made, and a specialist can help you select the option best suited to your tastes and budget.

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When to go

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Place Daily max temperature (°C) Monthly rainfall (mm)
Prince George
Prince Rupert
Port Hardy
Campbell River

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