4 Perfect Canadian Lakes: Talbot, Moraine, Maligne & Louise

We started our four month trip around the word in Alberta, Canada, and honestly, a day in, I thought we screwed up. It was too beautiful, too perfect – we’d peaked way too early! I couldn’t imagine how anywhere else could measure up to such a truly spectacular part of the world. It had all of my favourite things – big, fluffy fir and pine trees, actual snow-capped mountains, endless stretches of road, and big, blue lakes.

I don’t think “blue” really captures the colour of them, actually. But I can’t think of any other words that can. The water was the blue of the sky on a cloudless summer day, of bubblegum ice cream – this insanely, richly, perfect blue that you have to see to believe. And there are plenty of lakes around Alberta where you can enjoy this eye candy, but today I’m going to take you to four of the most perfect ones.

Something to note just before we get started though is that we’re talking about National Park areas here, so make sure you get your permit to drive through them first!

Talbot Lake

This was the first lake we came across, completely by accident. We were following the map from Calgary to Jasper on day one of our 120 adventure, and noticed a big body of water coming up on the map. This was it: Talbot Lake. Surrounded by tall trees that looked tiny against the behemoth mountains behind them. The water was glass clear, to the point that you could easily see your reflection and count the stones beneath it at the same time.

Visitor tips: This isn’t one of the big “draw card” lakes like Louise, so just pull your car over alongside the lake, and walk on down to the shore. There’s plenty of space to walk around or just sit by the water and relax for a while.

 

Moraine Lake

While it’s much smaller and not as publicised as the far more well known Lake Louise nearby, Moraine Lake was easily my favourite of the lot. This turquoise beauty is fed by a nearby glacier, and is tucked down in the Valley of the Ten Peaks (you can see six of them in the photo above). It is literally impossible to take a bad photo around the lake. Trust me, I tried. Once you’re done with the camera, there are quite a few hikes and walks you can take, from beginner to advanced levels, and in the nicer weather you can hire canoes and take to the water for a while. And if you really want to treat yourself, I would highly recommend a night or two at the Moraine Lake Lodge – absolute heaven!

Visitor tips: Parking is very limited around Moraine Lake, so aim to get there before 8am. If you don’t manage to snag a car park, there are shuttles that run back and forth from a car park a bit further out, but they are seasonal, so if you’re not visiting in summer, you might be out of luck. You can find more up to date info here regarding seasonal closures. Food options are also slim pickings and quite pricey, so I’d recommend bringing your own lunch and snacks – just make sure you dispose of everything responsibly, because bears. And wear comfy shoes, because you’re going to want to walk around and see the places from a few view points!

 

 

Maligne Lake and Spirit Island

This was a bit of an accidental discovery for us. I knew I wanted to see Spirit Island, but I ignorantly didn’t know/check how to get there before we left. We drove to the general area our map told us Spirit Island was located, and found ourselves approaching signage that indicated we were at Maligne Lake. Shimmering blue under the giant Canadian Rockies, this is another lake fed by glacier flow, with a ton of great viewing points. Turns out there’s a lot more than Spirit Island there! We went out on a hike that was about an hour in each direction (there are longer and shorter ones, too), sat by the shore and relaxed with a giant chocolate chip cookie, trawled the gift shop, and took a boat tour out to Spirit Island (which is every bit as magical and beautiful as it looks in photos). Something to note is that you can’t actually go out onto the island, but chances are you want to take photos of it anyway, so being on it wouldn’t help!

Visitor tips: We arrived around midday and didn’t have any problems finding car parking, but you probably would in peak (summer) season, so as always, aim to arrive in the morning. There is a well-provisioned café on site and food was reasonably priced, but it’s not a bad idea to BYO picnic lunch, either. If you want to see Spirit Island, you’re going to be taking a cruise – you can buy tickets there, but they sell out early and you may not have many options for the time of the cruise on the day. A safer bet is to book online in advance. You’ll enjoy some phenomenal views on the lake, and get a good 15  – 30 minutes (depending on your tour option) at Spirit Island to take your photos and enjoy the peace & quiet. 

 

 

Lake Louise

This is the one everyone’s heard of, and she is just as beautiful as everyone says. We decided to forgo a sleep in and made our way out early, arriving around 7.30am – there were only a handful of other cars when we arrived, but it got busy pretty fast! You have to take the photos, but once you’ve snapped a few, put the camera away, and start walking. It’s a big lake, and the walk along it is really something to see with your own eyes. When you’re ready for a break from walking, you can take the gondola and see it all from above, and even if you can’t afford to stay at the Fairmont on the lake, you can still take a seat at the café and enjoy your tea with a view.

Visitor tips: Arrive early – 8am at the latest. Like Moraine Lake, if you miss a car park, there are seasonal shuttle options. The Fairmont’s café options were actually really good, both quality and pricewise, so don’t think you need to lug food around here. Comfy shoes again are a must, because there’s a bit of walking to do in the area. I’d also recommend pre-booking the gondola if you want to ride at a certain time, especially in peak times, as the lines are long and there are no guarantees! 

Stay & eat here: Moraine Lake Lodge, Alberta, Canada

Moraine Lake Lodge
1 Moraine Lake Rd, Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
https://morainelake.com

5 hour layover in Seattle? Perfect time for a blog post! We’ve been on the road for a week so far,  and I’ve slipped back into travel life likea duck into a pond 🙂 We spent week 1 in Alberta, Canada, and I think I can pretty confidently say it’s the most beautiful place in the world. I’ll have a longer post coming on how to DIY road trip the Icefield Parkway so you won’t have to join the hoards of buses doing the rounds, but for now, a quick look at our one night of fancy accommodation for the trip, at Moraine Lake Lodge!

I, like many others, had the dream of spending a night at the Fairmont Lake Louise, and was prepared to shell out a bit of money for the honour. Until I saw that the $800 or so for a lead in room type was one of the crappy out-the-back no view rooms, and we’d have to pay more for car parking and breakfast. Ummmm no. I started hunting for an alternative and found Moraine Lake, with the Moraine Lake Lodge coming in at the top of my searches for lake view cabins in the area. And as far as alternatives go, this was perfect.

 

Location?
Right on the lake. As in, any closer and you’d be in the water. Moraine Lake is completely breath taking, the most perfect shade of blue you could possibly imagine, and surrounded by mountains and trees. As you can see from the shot below, taken from our balcony…

 

Rooms?
We stayed in a Lodge Queen room, which was located on the second floor. No TVs in the rooms to encourage you to really switch off and relax, but there is free wifi available to guests if you get desperate. We also had a gorgeous antique gas fireplace, a nice big balcony, complimentary tea and coffee, and a nice big bathroom.

 

 

Amenities?
– Free parking in a private guest carpark, away from the day visitor lot
– Complimentary buffet breakfast
– Free wifi throughout
– Complimentary tea and coffee service in the Library each afternoon
– Guided hikes and canoe hire

 

Cost?
It varies depending on time of year and room type, but we paid around AUD $475 for one night. We thought it was money well spent; the location was beyond anything I could have imagined, waking up and being able to walk straight up the top of the path to look out over thr lake with hardly anyone else around was priceless, and the service was so friendly and professional all at the same time – we even had a bottle of bubbles on ice and a happy anniversary card waiting in our room upon arrival 🙂

 

Dining?
The Walter Wilcox Dining Room is the restaurant where breakfast is served to guests only, and dinner is open to anyone – but your best bet is to make a reservation, as it’s a fairly small and intimate place. The menu is elegant, and takes full advantage of the local produce and specialties. Not a cheap feed, but a really memorable special occasion meal. Special mention to not only the chefs, but the servers – friendly, helpful and attentive service made a good meal a great one!

Stay here: Novotel Toronto Centre, Toronto

Novotel Toronto Centre
45 The Esplanade, Toronto
http://www.novotel.com/gb/hotel-0931-novotel-toronto-centre/index.shtml

Happy Canada Day! Well, it is in Canada – in Australia, it’s already July 2nd. But, keeping in the spirit of it, I thought I’d re-visit the place I called home for the week I was in Toronto over new year period – The Novotel.

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I was absolutely stoked when we turned up here. The hotel, recommended to us by a friend who lives in the city, was about as central as we could have hoped for! In true Novotel fashion, the service was fantastic from the moment we stepped through the front doors to the morning we left; very friendly and attentive.

In terms of amenities…
– very spacious room with a very comfortable bed
– work area/desk
– TV with a ton of channels
– hair dryer
– coffee making facilities
– mini-bar fridge
– complimentary toiletries
– heating and cooling
– bar and restaurant on site
– car parking (extra cost)
– complimentary wifi
– room service
– ATM at reception
– fitness facilities – gym, sauna and pool

In terms of location, the street it was on had a mini-mart, a few pubs and restaurants, and constantly had cabs passing by, so transport wasn’t a problem. It was also very easy walking distance into the main CBD hub of the city, and easy to get to public transport from as well. It was a perfect home away from home and a really lovely stay in the city!

Niagara Falls, Toronto, Canada

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This place is crazy… it is one of the truly most incredible sights I’ve ever seen, it completely took my breath away and had me fall completely silent. The power of that water rushing over the edge is something utterly mesmerising, and it’s gotta be a must-visit for anyone going to Toronto!

We got all excited about it when we started booking the trip, not really considering the fact that we’d have to find a way to actually get there. Tours were overpriced and would take 8 – 12 hours out of our day. Public transport was a bit of a nightmare option, particularly as we both struggle with motion sickness. Husband had a stroke of genius – “Let’s just hire a car and drive ourselves! You’re great reading maps, I’ll drive, it’ll be easy!” I felt a bit of panic going on – driving in the snow, on unfamiliar roads… hmmm..

Turns out that, for once, I was worried about absolutely nothing. It was the EASIEST drive, even when we hit a few snow drifts and had to drive through the fluffy clouds of snow flakes! Seriously, I couldn’t believe it! It’s a pretty easy, straight run from the CBD, just under an hour and a half driving and we were there! Car parking wasn’t super cheap, but we figured it was still a hell of a lot better than blowing a few hundred dollars on a tour we didn’t want to take!

Sadly the Hornblower wasn’t running (dead of winter, duh), but we had a great time wondering around the little city (yes, it’s an actual little town there, with plenty of shops, restaurants, cafes and what not – I’d highly recommend morning tea at the Hershey’s shop for the best brownies you’ve ever had!), enjoying all the open park spaces, and just staring completely dumbstruck at the falls…

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Eat here: Kanga, Toronto

Kanga
65 Duncan St, Toronto
http://www.eatkanga.com

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So we’re about half way through our trip right now, and it’s not that we’re missing home per se, but being proud Aussies, it’s simply not in our nature to turn down the opportunity for a good meat pie.

We’d heard about Kanga before we left and then kinda forgot about it once we got here. Walking back to our hotel from Kensington Market this morning miraculously took us straight past the bright shop front, and we pretty much ran straight across the road to get the taste of home we didn’t realise we both wanted.

The menu is a solid mix of cultures, with everything from the Butter Chix (northern Indian) to the El Diablo (pulled pork and mash), but our hands were tied; we went with the Traditional Aussie. Not particularly cheap at almost CAD$8.00, so we were expecting big things, and Kanga more than delivered.

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The most perfectly crispy golden pastry filled with quality beef mince and rich gravy, and smothered in tomato sauce (ketchup), obviously. Because that’s the Australian way.

If you ask most Aussies, they’ll probably tell you that despite the stereotype, they don’t really eat meat pies often. That’s because, frankly, they’re pretty average for the most part. This was hands down the best “traditional” mince meat pie I’ve ever had, absolutely no contest. The flavour was perfect, the ingredients were quality, and the price was justified. Any Aussies in Toronto need to get here soon, because that’s what a meat pie is meant to taste like! Thanks guys!