Google+ Travel in Canada: Top spots I stayed in 2014 | Travel & Happiness I by Jenn Smith Nelson

Travel in Canada: Top spots I stayed in 2014 (photo heavy!)

I don’t generally write a lot about where I sleep. Even with hosted media trips. It’s just not my thing. But when I take a look back at my travel during 2014, there were many places that really impressed me for a variety of reasons – mainly though because of location or direct connection to travel adventures.

So, I thought I would try something a little different this year by writing about some of my favourite stays and why these places stood out to me, or how they connected to my trip. Now for the disclaimer: Many of these were hosted accommodations (which I am immensely grateful for!), but these thoughts are all my own, and this post of my own choosing to write. Not coming from a place of obligation, just simply sharing thoughts on what in my opinion are some great spots.

2014 was a wonderful year for me full of Canadian travel experiences and diverse accommodations. I went from staying at incredible British Columbia Fairmont properties to sleeping outdoors in an ice hotel, followed up by winter camping IN Saskatchewan. I truly enjoyed nearly every minute of it. But by March, I was ready to sleep indoors again.

Though I like to think of myself as pretty low maintenance when it comes to choosing where to hunker down for the night, this past year I admittedly enjoyed some very luxurious digs and their many perks too.

Here are a few of the amazing places to lay your head down in Canada and reasons why I thought they deserved a write up on my blog.

The perfect property to celebrate a prairie winter

Elk Ridge Resort – Saskatchewan
What I loved:
Nearly everything – except for the fact the spa was all booked up. Elkridge, found in Prince Albert Park’s beautiful boreal forest near Waskesiu, has multiple types of accommodations (cabins, hotel, cottages, town houses) to suit individual or family travel needs. We stayed in a great cabin and spent almost every waking minute enjoying the superb winter offerings Elk Ridge has to offer such as pond hockey, curling, tubing and more. I loved the ability to see so much winter wildlife from the abundance of elk to the friendly grey jays.

For more details on the incredible winter offerings read this post I wrote earlier this year.


The cozy cabins of Elk Ridge.

Elkridge header

Elk aptly found on the ridge near the entrance to the resort property.


The tubing hill was super fun although I nearly killed myself. Who puts a 2 ft lift at the bottom of a hill?

Creature comforts galore at two consistently grand hotels

Fairmont Waterfront & Fairmont Chateau Whistler Resort – British Columbia
What I loved:
 The location and views. The warm welcomes (goodies and welcome notes). The TV’s in the bathroom mirror. The consistent sophistication from Fairmont. And, the food. What can I say? As much as I feel I’m not much suited to the high end of luxury travel, I kind of love it when I get to stay at amazing properties, and I am especially fond of Fairmont ones, especially those with ambassador dogs.

Favourite highlights while in British Columbia included borrowing a BMW bicycle (Waterfront) and exploring the seawall and Stanley Park, touring the incredible food truck scene, visiting Beau and Mavis over at Fairmont Vancouver, an oyster shucking lesson with in house Chef, Dana Hauser, experiencing the Bear Foot Bistro and super fun Belvedere Ice Room (Whistler), and lastly, walking out from Fairmont Whistler’s back door to be greeted by Backcomb Mountain, where I had my first adult skiing experience. And if that wasn’t enough, I had the most amazing meal of my life at a chef’s dinner in the Fairmont Whistler kitchen. I am still dreaming about it. Plus, there were so many easy to access adventures between the sea-to-sky route.


View from my room of the Fairmont Waterfront – nothing short of spectacular.


My room at the Fairmont Waterfront.


Visiting the food trucks of Vancouver, which were just a short walk a way from the Fairmont Waterfront was a definite trip highlight.


Inside the chef’s kitchen at Fairmont Whistler.


THIS. This is the meal that changed my life. Pork belly. This surely glutten-ish beauty was the best dish I’ve ever had, hands down.

Canadian, quirky and cool

Hotel de Glace – Quebec City
What I loved:
 This is the coolest hotel in Canada, quite literally. Sleeping on an ice block, in an ice room of an ice hotel was definitely an adventure in 2014. It’s too bad I had to leave my snug sleeping bag midway through the night to get cold meds as I couldn’t go back to it. Once cold air gets in your bag, it doesn’t come out. The remainder of the night found me curled up on a lobby chair fighting the flu. BUT, the hotel itself was an experience. Besides its obvious cool factor, it really is a piece of art – the carvings, the unique sculptures, the furniture, the temporary nature of it all – was completely fascinating. I recommend trying a specialty drink from the ice bar, hanging in the outside hot tub and maybe get married here. Lots of people do. Find more images and a write up about this adventure here. Also, be sure to check out Carnaval if you find yourself in Quebec City.


This was the ice bedroom I shared with a fellow journalist. What you can’t see well in this photo is that there is a complete sitting area (ice block couch even) with a beautiful bird ice sculpture.


The chapel – a stunning backdrop should you choose to get married at the Hotel de Glace.


Yummy ice cups filled with cocktails. I fancied these little blocks so much I bought a mould from the gift shop and brought it home so I could make my own.


The entrance to the Great Hall.

Stunning surroundings and unexpected comfort

Sundance Lodge Tipi – Kananaskis, Alberta
What I loved:
Hanging out in the Rockie’s foothills was one of my favourite moments from our family summer roadtrip through Alberta. Stunning backdrops combined with a super cozy campground made for a great way to spend the night. Plus we got to try something very new – sleeping in a tipi. The tipi we stayed in was equipped with raised, padded beds complete with a heater. It was super comfortable. My kids especially loved the experience of sleeping in the tipi, cruising their bikes around the campgrounds and playing in the Kananaskis River’s chilly glacier fed waters.


The tipi we spent the night in.


Finn wandering riverside with Mount Lorette in the background.

Where the eagles (and faeries) live

Sun Wolf Cabins Squamish, British Columbia
What I loved:
After this trip, which was my first to the area, I decided I kind of want to relocate to the Squamish. Why? Well, beyond it being super lush and having oodles to do like hiking the Chief, white water rafting, mountain biking, visiting Sea-to-Sky Gondola, and so much more, there are tons of eagles! You can even take a magnificent eagle float tour. A stay at Sun Wolf cabins which has the Cheakimus River (full of eagles) as it’s backyard is well worth it, plus they offer the eagle float tour, white-water rafting and much more. Be sure to visit renowned onsite café, Fergie’s if you go – especially if you are a meat lover.


These rows of green cabins back right onto the Cheakimus River.


Seeing hundreds of eagles in about in hour is definitely an amazing thing – even if you aren’t that into birds.


The lush surroundings of the property around the Sun Wolf cabins.

 Making the best of both seasons outside

Equipped Summer camping at Elk Island National Park, Edmonton, Alberta /Winter camping at Great Blue Heron Provincial Park, Saskatchewan
What I loved:
 Imagine showing up to your campsite to find nearly everything you need already ready for you. Tent, sleeping pads, eating tent, camp stove, propane – all check! This is what equipped camping is all about folks. A paid service from Parks Canada (in partnership with Mountain Equipment Co-op), I highly recommend this for those who are in a rush or simply have no camping gear. This is camping made easy. I was also super impressed with Elk Island National Park as it was my first time there. Although it was the end of the season, I fit some birding in, had a standoff on the road with a beaver (who I swear had a death wish) and then followed up by an incredible bison encounter.


Imagine not having to even pitch the tent. (Don’t mind that kid wearing socks and sandals – I don’t know him. Haha.)


Finnigan getting cozy in the tent. For their first time camping I would say they had it pretty good. I don’t think I ever camped this comfortably as a child.


A Parks Canada employee making sure everything is good to go with our site.


Death wish or really just an absurdly slow moving beaver? I will never know for sure.


I’m pretty sure the animals of Elk Island National Park think they own the road. In this case, I wasn’t about to argue.

And, for my second outdoor winter accommodations experience in 2014 and another first, I gave winter camping a go. And although the -39 was a bit more breezy than the -5 degree Celsius temps of the Hotel de Glace, I survived. This adventure from start to finish was fully taken care of by Sundogs Excursions. From the sled dog arrival, to the amazing camp meals by heated stove at night, it was truly outstanding. I won’t go into insane detail as I wrote about it at length here and even made a video. All I can say is that if you want to take camping and adventure to a new level, consider this a great opportunity to try both.


Would you stay in a tent during the winter IN Saskatchewan?


I learned to mush during a day trip excursion from camp.


Best way to see the boreal forest in the winter time is via dogsled.

Culture immersion with an impeccable view

Quaaout Lodge and Spa, at Talking Rock Golf Resort – Shuswap, British Columbia
What I loved:
Well, I felt kind of spoiled once again in B.C. with a walkout room only steps away from the very scenic Little Shuswap Lake. My room was rather large (though a tad dated) with a huge jacuzzi tub, but what really made this property stand out was the immersion of First Nations culture into every aspect of the lodge. From Indigenous artwork and design within the hotel to spa treatments with essential oils, along with access to an onsite onsite kekuli (winter house – be prepared to come out reeking of smoke), tipi and sweat lodge made, this a truly special place!

This fine stay was icing on the cake for the salmon adventure I also got to experience while in B.C.


View from my main floor deck. Insanely gorgeous. I want to be sitting on one of those chairs now!


First Nations storyteller Barbara Callihoe gave us a detailed tour of the area and its many Indigenous components.


Inside the kekuli. The perfect place for story telling. Kekulis traditionally slept 25-30 people.


View from inside the room. Note the extra large tub (which was used two nights in row).


A morning view of Little Shuswap Lake. I even got up early to walk the beach and take in the scenery. It was well worth it.

Beyond a place for a good night’s rest, adventure awaits each day

Lazy Bear Lodge Churchill, Manitoba
What I loved:
 Getting to visit Churchill is an extremely special experience and Lazy Bear Lodge made it super easy to take advantage of bundling all the incredible Churchill activities in with a comfortable stay. Guides from the cozy wood cabin lodge gave us the full tour of this unique northern town. We scoured back roads and took a ride on the artic crawler to view polar bears (we ended up seeing 15), visited the polar bear jail, dog carted through the boreal, snorkeled and kayaked with an abundance of beluga whales and visited pretty much every point of interest in the town. (Detailed article to be published soon.) The lodge features a whole bunch of tours based on what you might want to do while in town. My advice is to do as many as possible, though be aware beluga season is July/August and polar bears can best be viewed in October/November.


A cozy climate inside the lodge restaurant.


View from the room.


Dog kisses pre-ride at Blue Sky Expeditions.


A curious beluga pops up boat side to study us.


A beluga momma and baby selfie. Who could resist? Tell me. Who? I love this pic – except my goofy gaze.

A boat with a waterslide. It doesn’t get much more fun.

House boating with Twin Anchors in the Shuswap Region – British Columbia
What I loved:
 So many firsts this year! Ok, why have I never been house boating before this? Oh man, the list of positives on this is a long one. Besides floating around on an incredibly soundproof super boat that feels more like a 2000 sq foot home, there is the roof top hot tub, on-deck water slide and changing views of the beautiful Shuswap Lake area that made this an awesome experience. I adored my sweet little cabin where laying on the bed had me staring out double window doors onto the water. What a great way to wake up! This experience was made possible by Twin Anchors who also played host toting us through the waters over two days.


This boat was an impressive beast!


Now this was a meal with a view – pleasantly distracting.


House boating is a pretty big thing in the Shuswap region. Not only for the party folks, they make a great family or multi-family getaway.

Topping the chart for my favourite place to stay in 2014, Storm Mountain Lodge

Storm Mountain LodgeBanff National Park, Alberta
What I loved:
 Much like Squamish, it was love at first sight when I arrived at Storm Mountain Lodge. Just outside the town of Banff en route to Lake Louise, these rustic little cabins provide incredible ambience and luxury in this neck of the woods. Though we didn’t have a family cabin and we had to split into two’s for the night, it was well worth it. From the perfect details within each individual cabin to impeccably prepared chef’s meals, this place really had it all. My favourite part was starting a fire in my suite’s grand fireplace that lulled me and my son warmly to sleep. This is a place I really cannot wait to return.


We made ourselves instantly at home. Bringing bikes to cruise around the cabins was a great idea if I do say so myself.


Many found materials added to the charming appeal of each cabin.


I love the attention to detail with all aspects of the cabin’s decor.


Can someone make me one of these? I am obsessed with this antler chandelier.


Claw foot tub. Sure the bathroom quarters were tight, but I did’t care much as I soaked away an hour or so in this lovely tub.


Loon decor. Ok, really do I need to say more? They get me here.


Paw moulds from local residents adorned from the walls.


More lovely decor detail.

If you made it to the end of this – thank you! Hopefully it was worth the read and inspired you to try something or visit somewhere new in 2015.

Thank you to all who hosted me on these grand adventures in 2014!

Did you have a place you stayed that stood out to you this past year? Tell me about it.

12 thoughts on “Travel in Canada: Top spots I stayed in 2014 (photo heavy!)
  1. Aaahh all of these places look SO amazing, especially the tipi! But I have to admit, I’ve been wanting to stay at Hotel de Glace for years now! I was totally expecting to make it a reality in 2015 but I’m not so sure I’ll be able to swing the $$. Maybe next year. Until then, I’ll just enjoy your post. 🙂

    • Jenn Smith Nelson on said:

      Thanks Amanda! The tipi experience was really great. Here’s hoping you make it to Hotel de Glace next year. Happy New Year!

  2. I’m heading to Storm Mountain Lodge for 2 nights in two weeks. I will look forward to it even more now. Loved a few nights spent houseboating a couple of years ago in the Shuswap esp as I scored the bigger room! A fun post to read!

  3. This is a fantastic round up Jenn! As a relatively new prairie import, this list give me some great ideas for future family trips! My best hotel stay in 2014 was at Hotel Zed in Victoria – groovy vibe, friendly staff, mega comfy rooms and a not-quite-downtown-but-easy-to-travel-from location. 🙂

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