We couldn't visit Canmore and the Canadian Rockies without seeing Banff, so we booked the 'Explore Banff' sightseeing tour with Pursuit Banff Jasper Collection, which turned out to be an excellent day trip.
With car hire being so expensive in the region at $500+ a day, we opted for a tour that included transfers to make life easier; we were picked up and delivered back to Canmore, where we were staying in our magical Airbnb.
An early start to the day, where we were to meet at a local hotel to wait for our transfer at 7.30 am; fortunately, it was only an 8-minute walk from our accommodation.
First up was a quick stop to take in the gorgeous Bow Falls, where we popped off the bus and had 20 minutes to enjoy the falls, being up close and personal with them, and for picture opportunities. There was also a telephone booth where a bear had left his mark, with huge claw prints on display.
Bow Falls was followed by a gondola flight to the top of Sulphur Mountain summit; the views were something else! You have 360-degree views over the Banff region and a birds-eye view over six Canadian Rockies mountain ranges; they are endless.
The journey was less than 10 mins to the top where you could find some cosy, quiet spots for breathtaking pics and to avoid the crowds. We were fortunate to be there at 9 am, so crowds were limited. As we left one hour later, the queues were filling up quickly!
Tip: If you need your coffee fix, be sure to do this at the cafe on top of the mountain, you will be disappointed in the Starbucks; the coffee was hardly worthy of a trash can. Note to self, stick by my principles and avoid supporting such coffee brands in the future!
After spending one hour soaking up the heavenly views, we were back down to Banff to take in a few sites, including the Cascade of Time Garden, which is also the home of the Parks Canada Administration. This historical building is perched up at the top of Banff, overlooking the township and surrounding mountainscapes. It is a postcard view over Banff. Before boarding the bus, we were all treated to a coffee/tea and biscuit from the company.
We then stopped at The Elk + Avenue Hotel for a quick lunch, it was buffet style and hosted in the conference room, very uninviting, and beverages were an additional cost; water was available only. The food was average, with a basic salad with a meat patty. The room was windowless at the back of the hotel; we did stay in this hotel when we arrived in Banff for one night and were also treated with views from our room of the air conditioners on the rooftop, which is not the view you are hoping for in Banff at AUD$500 per night.
After about 35 minutes, we were transported off to Lake Minnewanka, about a 30-minute drive from Banff. The largest glacier lake in the region for a relaxing panoramic 1-hour interpretive cruise. More breathtaking mountains and emerald-green water, surrounded by forested slopes and rocky shorelines with waterfalls.
Fun fact: The group of Pando trees (also known as the trembling giant or trembling aspen) on the lake are one living organism; they are believed to have one massive underground root system. Therefore they support each other, and if one feels down, they all chip in to help stay healthy. Part of the tree bark is also known to have natural SPF and pain relief qualities.
We were keeping a watchful eye out for wildlife all day; unfortunately, no bears, but we did score some elks and a long-horned mountain goat!
Following the cruise, we were back on the bus and delivered back to our home destinations. The buses throughout the day were very modern, clean and comfortable. Our bus driver and tour guides, Andrew and Muireann, were a pleasure to spend the day with and very informative in helping us enjoy the beauty of Banff.