Eastern vs Western Canada

Tuesday, 5th March 2019

Destination Specialist

canada alberta rockies hikers inukshuk ta

A vast country, Canada is 41 times bigger than the UK and spans six time zones. It also offers a huge amount of diversity and choice – so which is the coast with the most? Will you opt for the Atlantic provinces with their spectacular whale watching, world heritage sites and rich maritime history, or will you head west to the Pacific for First Nations culture, the Great Bear Rainforest and Inside Passage?

Best for bear watching

canada bc knight inlet lodge grizzly bears4

Western Canada

Grand, green and groaning with grizzlies, the Great Bear Rainforest is also home to the Kermode (spirit) bear – a rare subspecies of black bear. Reached by floatplane, 80km from Campbell River, Knight Inlet Lodge is one of the best places in Canada to spot grizzly bears – up to 50 can be seen within 10km of the lodge during the autumn salmon-feeding frenzy.

Eastern Canada

Black bears can be glimpsed throughout much of Atlantic Canada – from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia. For polar bears, head to the spectacular Torngat Mountains National Park on the Arctic coast of Labrador.

See bear watching holidays in Canada

Best for self drive

canada alberta icefields parkway scenic drive ta

Western Canada

The beauty of a self drive holiday in the west is that you can combine the open road with ferry trips along the Inside Passage and a classic train journey on the Rocky Mountaineer. In just two or three weeks, you’ll be able to dabble your toes in the Pacific, dawdle through the Rockies and enjoy a spectacular succession of provincial parks on the Sea to Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler.

Eastern Canada

How can the east possibly compete on this one? Well, for starters it has the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia – a scenic drive right up there with anything the west can offer. New Brunswick’s Fundy Coastal Drive is particularly eye-catching in early fall with a fiery display of leaves, while Newfoundland is easy to reach and awash with maritime charm and wild places.

See self drive holidays in Canada

Best for adventure

canada yukon tombstone territorial park hikers rest ty

Western Canada

Ramble in the Rockies, stride out on Vancouver Island’s West Coast Trail, kayak in Johnstone Strait, go dog sledding, horse riding… the adventure opportunities in British Columbia, Alberta and the Yukon are almost endless.

Eastern Canada

Not to be outdone by the west, activities in eastern Canada include hiking in Gros Morne National Park, tidal bore rafting in the Bay of Fundy and paddling with icebergs off Newfoundland.

See adventure holidays in Canada

Best for wild landscapes

Western Brook Pond, Gros Morne National Park

Western Canada

Old-growth forest meets surf-raked shore in the Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island, while Kluane National Park in the Yukon is a wilderness of peaks, glaciers and forests. Then there’s the Great Bear Rainforest and spectacular Rocky Mountain national parks like Banff, Jasper and Yoho.

Eastern Canada

Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland offers superb mountain hiking across stark, salmon-pink rocks sheared from the crust of an ancient seabed. More than 85% of New Brunswick is covered in forests, while the remote coastline of Labrador is riven by deep fjords.


Best for whale watching

canada new brunswick whale watching bay of fundy nb

Western Canada

Johnstone Strait, between Vancouver Island and the British Columbian mainland, is one of the best places in the world to see orcas (May to September). Humpback whales can also be seen, while grey whales migrate along the west coast of Vancouver Island during March and April.

Eastern Canada

The spring thaw sparks a food-chain reaction in the Gulf of St Lawrence that lures a variety of whales, including beluga, fin, minke, humpback and blue. Further south, the Bay of Fundy is renowned both for its enormous tides (up to 16m) and superb whale watching. Boat trips operate from Digby in Nova Scotia and the St Andrews area in New Brunswick. Humpback (shown right), fin, minke and the endangered northern right whale are all possibilities.

See whale watching holidays in Canada

Best for culture

canada bc totem is

Western Canada

Bald eagles, bears and orcas gain mythological stature in the minds and carvings of the First Nations people of the Pacific Northwest. Alert Bay is a centre of native culture and art, while museums in Vancouver and Victoria showcase the region’s rich history and cultural diversity.

Eastern Canada

For an insight into 11th-century Viking settlers, head for the World Heritage L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. Celtic influences, meanwhile, are evident throughout the Maritime provinces.

Best for cities

canada bc vancouver skyline bct
View of Vancouver

Western Canada

Vancouver has repeatedly been voted the best city in the world to live. Take the ferry to nearby Victoria on Vancouver Island and you get two beautiful, waterside cities in one trip.

Eastern Canada

Charming and colourful, St John’s in Newfoundland is the oldest city in North America. Halifax in Nova Scotia has a modern feel, with trendy waterfront dining.

Best for maritime history

canada newfoundland bonavista harbour nlt

Western Canada

Forested islands, wedged against the mainland of British Columbia and Southeast Alaska, form a channel stretching 1600km from Seattle to the old gold rush town of Skagway that. The Inside Passage is one of the world’s great marine highways, plied by generations of fishermen, traders and travellers. Follow in their wake by taking the ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert and beyond.

Eastern Canada

When John Cabot returned from Newfoundland in the late 15th century with tales of “a sea so full of fish that a basket thrown overboard is hauled back brimming with cod” there was no stopping the rush of settlers to the New World. Atlantic Canada is renowned for its maritime heritage. Fishing villages and lighthouses pepper its coastline, while historic cities like St John’s and Halifax have strong seafaring legacies. Be sure to visit the Lunenburg Fisheries Museum and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax.

Best for family holidays

canada bc johnstone strait sea kayaking wg

Western Canada

Cities like Vancouver and Calgary have family friendly adventures waiting right on their doorsteps, whether you plan to hike, kayak, ride a horse or watch for whales.

Eastern Canada

Kids can also get stuck into the Great Outdoors way out east, with activities ranging from rockpooling along the coast of Nova Scotia to exploring the geological wonders of Newfoundland.

Planning your Canada Holiday

For further inspiration and itinerary ideas, view our collection of Canada holidays.

Alternatively, you can contact our team of accredited Canada Specialists who are on hand to offer help and advice and can create the perfect holiday for you, from flights and stopovers to all your ground arrangements.

Speak to a specialist

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