This tour includes the gentile beauty of Vancouver Island, a spectacular railway journey through the Canadian Rockies, the fertile prairies of western Canada right though to the American Heartland complete with midwest Farm Shows, Mississippi moments and Nashville notes – all the while meeting up with innovative farmers and other impossibly hospitable inhabitants of one of the world's most fertile and vast swaths of agricultural land.
SEE DRAFT ITINERARY BELOW
We depart Australia for Vancouver (Canada) with connection to a direct flight to Victoria on Vancouver Island.
Thanks to crossing the international dateline, our watches and smartphones will be telling us we have arrived in Canada almost before we left Australia.
At around 500 km long and 100 km wide, Vancouver Island offers a wide and fantastic range of sights and activities including the world renowned Butchart Gardens. The island is also home to a thriving agricultural industry which benefits from a maritime climate of warm, dry summers, mild and wet winters and a long frost-free season. There is a wide range of farming including field crops, berries, tree fruits, dairy products, pigs, sheep, poultry, floriculture and ornamental crops.
We take advantage of our "extra hours" by visiting the magnificent Bouchart Gardens before checking in to our Victoria hotel. We enjoy an informal welcome reception before turning in for a well earned rest after a big day.
Guided touring around Vancouver Island, including a farm visit, before returning to Victoria and a free evening.
A leisurely morning to take in the sights of this beautiful and unique portside capital at your own pace. Early this afternoon we board our chartered float plane for a spectacular flight and water-landing arrival into downtown Vancouver.
We are met at the float plane terminal by our local Vancouver guide and bus. We then enjoy a guided city tour to help get our bearings before checking in to our hotel. Dinner this evening at one of Vancouver's renowned restaurants.
Guided touring this morning in the fertile and picturesque Fraser River valley where we visit some farms and enjoy lunch at a family-run local produce outlet. Return to Vancouver for a free evening.
This morning we board The Rocky Mountaineer eastbound for Kamloops. We will see dramatic changes in scenery today, from the lush green fields and farmlands of the Fraser Valley, through forests and winding river canyons surrounded by the peaks of the Coast and Cascade Mountains, to the desert-like environment of the British Colombia interior.
Highlights include the rushing waters of Hell’s Gate in the Fraser Canyon and the steep slopes and rock sheds along the Thompson River.
We overnight in the historic town of Kamloops where the North and South Thompson rivers meet.
This morning we board the Rocky Mountaineer again to continue our journey eastward bound for Canada’s stunning Rocky Mountains. Once again we will see a spectacular array of scenery as we travel across ranchlands, along rocky lakeshores, over high mountain passes and through the remarkable tunnels that form part of the rich rail history of the Canadian Rockies.
Today’s highlights include Craigellachie, where the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven, the climb over Rogers Pass, Kicking Horse Canyon, the Spiral Tunnels and, of course, the glaciers and snow-capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies. Our rail journey ends this evening in Banff where we are met and tranferred to our hotel.
This morning we visit the nearby and majestic Moraine Lake and afterwards, the equally majestic Lake Louise to drink in its incomparable beauty. We also enjoy a very special high tea in the luxurious Fairview room of the Fairmont Chateau. There's time for a paddle on Lake Louise, or whatever else floats your boat, before returning to Banff for some free time.
An option this afternoon is an unforgettable 30 minutes chopper flight over the Mt Assiniboine Glacier region. The flights depart from Canmore, around 15 minutes east of Banff. Dubbed the ‘Matterhorn of the Canadian Rockies’ Mt Assiniboine rises majestically to 3611 metres along the Great Divide. The surrounding valleys, glaciers and icefalls are astounding.
This evening we take a spectacular gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain, overlooking Banff, where we will enjoy dinner.
Today we board our charter coach and travel north. We are travelling the lcefields Parkway – one of the most spectacular drives in the world. This is a wilderness habitat for elk, big horn sheep, moose, mountain goats and bear. Waterfalls, emerald lakes, alpine meadows and snow-capped peaks complete the scene as we wind along the shoulder of the Continental Divide. The Columbia Icefield covers nearly 325 square km. Melt water from the icefield feeds rivers emptying into three different oceans: North to the Arctic; East to the Atlantic; and, West to the Pacific.
We visit the Colombia Icefield Discovery Centre and travel by specially adapted vehicles onto the glacier.
We continue onto Rocky Mountain House – nestled on the eastern foothills of the Rockies and the edge of the Great Plains – for overnight.
With our Canadian farm specialist on board, we set out from Rocky Mountain House this morning to meet with farmers and ranchers typical of the region. Over the next few days we will visit highly successful farming operations. We will also visit a Hutterite colony where very traditional lifestyles belie the sophistication of their large scale farming operations.
Our general route takes us from Rocky Mountain House, through to Red Deer and onto Drumheller.
Nearing Drumheller, we enter an area of amazing landscapes dubbed the “badlands”. We will discover that this moniker does an injustice to the very good farms, and farmers, in the area.
The unique soils and geology around Drumheller also create a unique window into the world of fossils, particularly dinosaurs. We visit The Royal Tyrrell Museum – a world-famous centre of palaeontological research – located on the outskirts of town.
We also enjoy a BBQ tonight at a unique country pub – the Last Chance Saloon – located a short distance out of Drumheller.
Some more farm visits this morning as we head towards Calgary and a brief city tour to get your bearings before a free afternoon and evening.
This morning we have a direct flight to Chicago. This city has it all and enjoys spoiling its visitors and locals alike with a wealth of culture, shopping, dining and entertainment possibilities. As Frank Sinatra sang so many times about this world-class city, "it's one town that won't let you down." On arrival, we have a guided city tour to help get our bearings before dinner.
More touring around Chicago including The Magnificent Mile, The Loop and other places Al Capone and his ilk liked to frequent. Free afternoon and evening.
Today we travel west into the seemingly endless and fertile wheat, corn and bean fields of the Mid West. We visit the world headquarters of John Deere at Moline before continuing west to Cedar Rapids.
Today we visit the Farm Progress Show at Boone, Iowa. This is the largest outdoor farm event in the US and annually hosts more than 600 exhibitors displaying new farm equipment, tractors, combines other farm implements and inputs.
We then travel southeastwards through the wonderful farmlands of Iowa towards the mighty Mississippi.
Today we continue onto St Louis, following the Mississippi, with a farm visit along the way. We call into Hannibal, the very well preserved historic Mississippi river town and the boyhood home of Samuel Langhorne Clemens – better known as Mark Twain.
We meet with Bayer/Monsanto in St Louis this morning before continuing into the southeast corner of Illinois with a farm visit on the way. We tour through the Shawnee National Forest and cross into Kentucky.
As Lonely Planet points out, while the big cities such as Louisville and Lexington have high-end restaurants, cocktail bars and "all of the other hipster requirements, most of Kentucky is made up of small towns with quiet scenes." This is our kind of state and Clarksville is our kind of town!
Travel on to Nashville, Tennessee.
Touring around Nashville including The Grand Ole Opry before a free afternoon and evening..
Today we leave Nashville and travel into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Great Smoky Mountains are part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are in turn a division of the larger Appalachian Mountain chain.
Travel to Savannah
Touring around Savannah with some free time this afternoon before our farewell dinner.
Transfer to the airport for flights home or you can continue your adventures in the US or elsewhere.