We had already had a pretty amazing trip and we were still only a few days in. I remember feeling like it was going so slowly and was lasting forever which is exactly what you want from a trip. Normally they whizz by so fast you don’t get a chance to breathe.
Our trip to Lake Louise had left us pretty exhausted so the next day was a little more on the relaxed side. We had a lazy morning and headed into Banff town to pick up some tickets for our upcoming adventures, have a mooch about and see some sights.
Now, we were a bit rubbish when we were in Banff town and only took a grand total of 2 pictures. Ooops. Perhaps this was because I had a minor major strop trying to find somewhere to park the van. The town is lovely but is very much a tourist centre, with gift shops, tourist information and a few museums.
We checked out the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies for an hour or so. It wasn’t the best museum we have ever been to but did have some great displays (including some photographs of the early rock climbers in their full suits and skirts scaling mountains tied to each other with rope).
Their mission is described as:
“In the spirit of Peter and Catharine Whyte, the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies acquires, preserves, interprets and makes accessible the history and culture of the Rocky Mountains of Canada by inspiring and cultivating the exchange of knowledge and ideas through our collections, programs and exhibitions.”
They also had an art exhibition on which was good to have a look around. It cost $10 per adult for entrance which was a little steep for what was there but it was a cute museum and had a few interactive displays for kids.
Lunch was next on the cards so we decided to check out The Bear Street Tavern which is highly recommended on TripAdvisor and also in our Lonely Planet guide. Stu went for a bison pizza and I a roast beef sandwich. Stu also opted for one of their beer tasters which gave him 8 mini beers to try (well 7 beers and a cider). Always a winner!
Nicely nourished we headed for the Cave & Basin National Historic Site, the birthplace of Canada’s National Park scheme which began in 1885. The site was discovered and turned into Canada’s first national park, people used to be able to bathe here in the natural mineral waters. Despite the eggy smell.
Today the actual cave itself is protected as its home to a microscopic snail that lives on the water. It’s the only place left in the world that this snail still survives. You’re asked to not place your hands in the water but many people ignore that. Which is mildly irritating, much like taking photographs in places you’re asked not to. I understand why people do – for the experience etc etc but for me it’s disrespectful. We hung around in the cave for as long as we could stand the sulphur before taking a look round the old bath house.
It’s a fairly basic centre and there is a boardwalk around the site (which we didn’t try out) but is a lovely museum and historic site. I would recommend checking it out if you’re in Banff. Top tip – don’t queue for a ticket in the shop at the bottom, walk up the hill and grab one there.
As if that wasn’t enough for one day we headed over to the Banff Gondola. Just as we made our way from Wally (the van) to the queue for tickets I remembered I had pre-booked so we ran back to get the tickets and bumped into a couple from Birmingham! Small world!!
Annoyingly even if you have pre-booked you have to queue the same as everyone else to receive your allotted time. Ours was 3pm, which luckily for us was in about 5 minutes! As we were there in the shoulder season it was much quieter than in the height of summer so I imagine the experience is somewhat different. Each group/couple/family were given their own cable car to sit in which was a nice touch as I imagine in the UK we would have been packed in.
It takes about 8 minutes to get to the top and you get some fab views on the way up. The visitor centre at the top was under construction when we were there but the rebuild promises amazing views 7486 ft (2281 m) above sea level.
Once you’re at the top there is a lovely boardwalk to Sanson’s Peak where a weather station used to be based. It is a bit up and down but is all on decked pathways so is fairly easy going. It was pretty windy up there so keep hold of your hats!!!
This was one of two cable cars we visited and for both the pictures speak for themselves!!!
Our last stop of the day was MUCH MORE RELAXING! Banff Upper Hot Springs!!! A hot spring 5 minutes walk up the road from the gondola and is a great way to finish off the day. There is one main pool sat right in the mountains giving you an amazing view. The entry was really cheap and you can also rent a towel and swimsuit. Once you’re showered (some people took this WAY more seriously than others might I add) you walk through into the pool and can relax in the warm waters.
What more could you want!! I love a hot spring and aim to make my way around the world visiting these hot baths that I fell in love with in Budapest!
We didn’t take any pictures at the hot springs – even though there was a viewing platform where you could see right down into the pool – as it’s a little weird but mainly because it’s nice to not share everything!!!
Banff town didn’t let us down overall, we had some great food, great views, culture, history and a soak in a giant bath!!