Canada. Mention the name of this great Northern wonder and most people will think of vast lakes, craggy mountains and wide-open prairies. However, although Canada does have an abundance of natural beauty, there’s so much more to discover.
There are cosmopolitan cities, internationally inspired cuisine, a thriving art and music scene and friendly, welcoming people. The best way to experience it all? On a train vacation.
Traveling by train is, without a doubt, the most enjoyable way to experience Canada. Crossing the vast distances between each city becomes an opportunity to slow down, disconnect and view rarely glimpsed pockets of remote wilderness.
As hours of ever-changing scenery roll past your window, you get a true sense of the epic scale of your journey. Plus, you’ll get to stop along the way and explore what each unique region of Canada has to offer.
Here are five of the best train travel experiences in Canada.
1) The Rocky Mountaineer
This legendary train, which has been featured on many lists of “The World’s Greatest Train Journeys” is known not only for the spectacular views – but also for the quality of service on board. There are two classes of service – SilverLeaf and GoldLeaf. (If you can, splurge a little extra for GoldLeaf as the views from the glass dome observation car can’t be beat.)
This daylight-only train will take you through the most dramatic scenery of the Canadian Rockies – glittering turquoise glacier-melt lakes, jagged peaks bathed in golden sunlight, dense thickets of fragrant pines.
Along the way you’ll be entertained by stories from the knowledgeable local staff and treated to gourmet meals and excellent BC wines. Taking a trip aboard the Rocky Mountaineer is truly a bucket-list experience for lovers of train travel.
2) The Canadian
This is a journey that is huge in length, but also in natural diversity and cultural importance. The Canadian Train links Toronto and Vancouver, a journey that lasts nearly four days and covers more than 4,400 kilometres and four time zones.
You’ll travel through an incredibly wide range of Canadian scenery, from the lakes of Ontario to the wide open prairies to the sky-scraping Rocky Mountain peaks and the temperate rainforests of the West Coast. You’ll get a taste of the bustling culture of Canada’s largest cities, as well as the quiet lifestyle of the tiny towns along the tracks.
Keep your eyes glued to the windows and you’re likely to spot bears, deer, elk, and other local wildlife along the way. If you can book a seat in Prestige Class, you’ll be pampered throughout the trip with superb meals and the service of a concierge. The menu onboard highlights the regional specialties along the way, from B.C. Salmon and Saskatoon berry salad to Alberta beef.
3) The Ocean
The oldest continuously operated named passenger train in North America, The Ocean travels a 24-hour route from the French Canadian metropolis of Montreal to the friendly coastal city of Halifax. It’s been rolling along the same route since 1904 and the postcard-perfect views have been delighting passengers ever since.
You’ll travel through the tranquil countryside of Quebec and the Maritimes, entering the Baie des Chaleurs at sunset on the east-to-west route or sunrise when heading the other way. You’ll find yourself doing a lot of window-gazing as every mile of pretty countryside slips by.
You’ll see it all from the retro-luxurious Park Car, with a glass dome for soaking up every bit of the view. There’s nothing quite like the peaceful beauty of this seaside community, with the lavender sky reflecting in the shimmering ocean, the colorful clapboard houses and the breezes blowing in from the salty Atlantic.
4) The South Simcoe Railway
On this unique train journey, you’ll travel back in time through the Beeton Creek Valley, in restored 1920s train coaches. The train follows the route that once connected Hamilton with Barrie and Collingwood. It’s a short journey of only an hour and during the trip, you can enjoy the historic commentary of the Conductor.
The South Simcoe Railway is the only operating European steam engine in Canada and it’s been chugging along for over 100 years. It was lovingly restored by a community who are passionate about their railroad heritage and love to share it with visitors.
5) The Skeena
This is a dream journey for anyone who is fascinated by the nature and history of British Columbia. You’ll go deep into the densely forested interior of Northern BC, along the path of the mighty Skeena River, towards the coastal city of Prince Rupert.
Along this very seldom-traveled route, you’ll get to see the rugged wilderness of this wild and unspoiled province up close. Plus, you’ll also experience many fur trading posts, remote salmon hatcheries, historic mining towns and tiny rural settlements along the way. Take imn jaw-dropping views of the dramatic Yellowhead Pass and be shadowed by the canopy of untouched coastal rainforest.
It’s a chance to see a section of the West Coast backcountry that most visitors to Canada don’t get to experience. This journey happens entirely in daylight, with an overnight stopover halfway through in Prince George, so you don’t miss a minute of the scenery.