Tourism Abroad - Disabled Accessibility

The Canadian Rockies - Part Two

Calgary to Vancouver Road Trip - June 2019

Day Nine – More Natural Beauty

After breakfast and checking out of Twin Pine Suites, we headed back into Jasper to see some more stunning scenery.

Pyramid Lake

This is a stunning lake with crystal clear water; there are three beaches to choose from, with plenty of disabled parking and toilets.  The beaches were sandy and had picnic benches with fires for BBQ’s; an ideal spot for kayaking and swimming.

Patricia Lake

This was another spectacular lake and we only went to the viewing point, which was a lay by.  There was no disabled parking bays as it was just a viewing point, also there were no toilets here.  My support worker had to navigate a steep decline onto the beach where there were benches.

Jasper Town

Although this is a big town, it’s not as busy as Banff.  The roads are clean and tidy with plenty of disabled parking.  The town also has public disabled toilets.

Curbs are dropped; pathways are spacious and flat with easy access for wheelchair users.  There are many shops and a fair amount of restaurants to choose from.

Karcorsco Greek Restaurant

This was a big spacious restaurant, along the main stretch in Jasper town centre.  The food was good as was the staff and service here, however there was no disabled toilet for wheelchair users, just one bigger toilet in each the men’s and women’s.

After a very pleasant lunch, it was time for us to depart Jasper National Park, heading west through Mt Robson Provincial Park bound for small town Valemount

Please note Valemount is on a different time zone than Jasper so we had an additional hour, yippee!

Dream Catcher Inn - Valemount

This was a traditional Inn, situated off Highway 5.  We had some difficulty finding the Inn as it was not well sign posted (the sat nav was no help either!)  The Inn was situated in a large, but hilly spot with beautiful gardens.  There was easy parking with plenty of spaces within the gardens. 

This Inn was not suitable for wheelchair users because the entrance did not have a ramp and the carpet was very thick, thus being difficult to manoeuvre a wheelchair around.  There was only a twin bedroom on the ground floor, which I used.  There was a spacious living room with an open fireplace and double doors leading to the gardens.  My support workers had to use the upstairs bedroom; this was also where the kitchen was situated.

The breakfast was quite basic, with cereal, fruit, but no cooked breakfast available.

We were told that a family of bears were in the neighbourhood, unfortunately we did not on this occasion see them however, we did see a beautiful fawn, but no mummy!

Three Ranges Brewery

It was time to try some real Canadian beer as we swung into savour some mighty fine ales at Three Ranges Brewery.  I enjoyed a fantastic pint of Tail Slap IPA without realising that it was 6.4%, the alcohol went straight to my head as dinner was next.  Uh-oh!

Opposite the brewery there is easy disabled parking bays with plenty of parking spaces.  The Brewery was clean with welcoming and friendly staff that were knowledgeable about the area.  Three Ranges Brewery is open from 1pm to 8pm, but is closed on Tuesdays.

Caribou Grill

Valemount is a sleepy town and not very big.  When we arrived at the restaurant we had a 15 minute wait, as this restaurant is very popular.  There was a large car park at the front which was under construction at the time of our visit, but we still managed to park.

There were many steps to navigate before entering the restaurant, once in there was a large waiting area, nice bar to have a drink whilst waiting for a table.  The tables were spaced out nicely and the lighting was very good.  Strangely enough, there were disabled toilets with easy access.

Day Ten – Rockin’ Out on the Road

We departed Valemount on the Southern Yellowhead Highway and drove for roughly 2.5 hours (124 miles) to Clearwater.  We then stopped for lunch at The Painted Turtle Restaurant situated on Dutch Lake.

The lake was very beautiful and clear, peaceful and quiet. Staffs at the restaurant were helpful and friendly, and there was a great selection of food on the menu.  The prices were reasonable considering the stunning views of the lake.

There were a lot of RV’s here and parking was not very good.  We arrived just before lunchtime and were lucky enough to get a table.  There were no disabled toilets at the restaurant and the grounds here were gravel and slippery.

After lunch, we hit the road heading south bound for Sun Peaks Grand Hotel, 71 miles away.

Sun Peaks Grand Hotel

This was a large ski resort hotel with easy disabled parking near the entrance, valet parking available if needed.  The reception area / lobby were large with electronic doors for easy access.  Staffs were friendly and helpful, and there was porter service available to help with our suitcases.

The rooms were spacious with all the facilities you would need; air conditioning, coffee machine, fridge, safe and a microwave.  There was also a kettle for a cuppa.  The bathroom had a shower in the bathtub, and was clean with hand rails.

There were three lifts going up to five floors and down to the lower lobby.  Here you could find the gym, pool with three hot tubs.

In the lower lobby there was a bar and restaurant which served breakfast, lunch and dinner at reasonable prices. There was an outdoor area, which was all flat and easy to navigate for a wheelchair.  There were also three disabled toilets near the restaurant / bar.

This hotel was very spacious and I found it easy to walk around unaided.  I was able to interact independently with the staff and they were friendly and helpful. 

Please note Sun Peaks is a ski resort, so it was rather quiet during our stay.

Day Eleven – Sun Peaks Village

I had decided to give my two designated drivers a well-earned break from the road so we visited Sun Peaks Village located near the hotel.

There were many shops, bars and restaurants to choose from, however, as the summer months are off season, quite a lot of places were closed.

It was easy to walk about with ramps in place. However, there was some construction going on and this did have an effect on the pavements making them dusty and slippery.

The afternoon was spent by the pool.  This was a rather hot day so I decided to go to the bar after a swim.  Accessing the poolside is all flat, but to get in the pool or hot tub is by steps, I didn’t notice a hoist.

Morriseys Pub in the Village

There was a ramp in place to enter the pub, but there was no disabled toilet and the main toilets were upstairs and difficult to navigate. The menu was sparse with not a lot of choice.

Day Twelve – Scenic Route 99 to Whistler

It was recommended by a local shop owner to take Highway 1 to Cache Creek, then route 99 to Whistler.  This is a beautiful, winding route and very scenic, a must drive.  Kamloops Lake is 18 miles long and one of the most scenic lakes to see.  There are several laybys to stop along the route which we took full advantage of.

We stopped in a town called Cache Creek for some lunch at Annie’s, again recommended by the shop owner.  There was disabled parking and toilets on site.  Cache Creek was a small town, with some restaurants, hotels and gas stations. 

From Sun Peaks to Whistler, the journey took us over six hours, but well worth it as the scenery was absolutely amazing.

Nita Lake Lodge – Whistler

When we arrived, we parked underground in a disabled bay, however, there was no one to help with luggage and we had to navigate through several doors to reach the lift, there was only one lift going up to reception.

Reception / lobby were flat and spacious with electronic doors, but the lighting appeared to be a bit dim.  There were disabled toilets in the lobby area and two lifts going up to the rooms.  There was a large bar area, serving bar food, a restaurant with a spacious outside eating area overlooking the lovely Nita Lake.

The bedrooms were spacious with a king bed and a sofa bed if needed.  There was a small kitchen in a cupboard, and a large balcony but the door was very difficult to open.  The rooms had all the amenities a four star hotel would offer; air conditioning, safe, coffee machine, fridge and hairdryer.

The bathroom was modern and very spacious with a huge separate bathtub and a large rain forest shower; however, there were no grab rails at all.  The floor was uncomfortable to walk on feeling rough and unsteady; it felt like walking on small cobblestones.

The Hotel Restaurant

I decided to treat my two ladies to a classy meal in the hotel.  It was a lovely evening and we sat outside overlooking the lake.  The food was absolutely exquisite so never mind the cost!

The outside seating has four person tables down one step.  However, there are two person tables which are easier to access with no step required.

Day Thirteen – Whistler Village Town Centre

The hotel had a free courtesy car taking you into the Village and picking you up.  This ran every twenty minutes and took ten minutes to get to the village.  It started at 10am and finished around 10pm.

We had difficulty finding the ramps but they were in place just not signposted clearly.  Many of the shops were up a few steps.  There did not seem to be many disabled parking bays in or around the village.  After a bit of retail therapy and some lunch, it was time to head back to the hotel for some relaxing therapy in the spa.

Nita Lake Lodge Spa

This spa was on the same floor as our rooms, therefore just a short walk down the corridor.  I had booked a massage which was very pleasant and well worth the money, just wanted some divine relaxation. 

There was a large disabled shower/changing room with lockers.  There was a steam room plus a relaxation room with comfy beds and lots of lemon water.  Outside there were two hot tubs and some sun loungers for further relaxation, we found this inaccessible for wheelchair users.For the evening meal, a Mexican feast was on our taste buds, as we went back to Whistler Village by courtesy car.  It was a bit of a struggle finding a Mexican eatery, but gradually found, The Mexican Corner Restaurant.

This restaurant was delightful, with good food at reasonable prices.  It was hard to find an accessible route as we needed to go up several steps and then use a lift taking us up to the restaurant.  This restaurant was very busy with it being a Friday evening, so we went next door to a bar for a drink.  Once the pager was alerted, we went back for a grand Mexican feast.  There were no disabled toilets here.

Day Fourteen – The Final Leg

After a lovely breakfast, we were off on the final leg of our epic journey bound for the city of Vancouver.

It was time to get adventurous once again, as we visited the Calipano Suspension Bridge Park, located in North Vancouver.  This is an attraction not to be missed and was very busy.  On arrival there were disabled parking bays by the entrance.  When we arrived at the pay kiosk, we paid for parking, and my support worker was granted free admission, (well she was too afraid to walk on the wobbly bridge anyway!)  This was for three hours, which was plenty of time for us to have some grub and see the whole attraction.

The bridge which was originally built in 1889 takes its name from Chief Joe Capilano and his ancestors are still in the area to this day.

Although part of the attraction was easily accessible, the bridge itself was inaccessible for wheelchair users; there were thirteen steps down and was very wobbly.  I found it rather exciting and enjoyed the thrills, feeling a bit like Tarzan!

On the other side, there were quite a lot of steps for The Tree Walk, which wasn’t accessible.  This attraction was around thirty minutes from our Vancouver hotel.

Hyatt Regency Hotel – Vancouver

This was a five star hotel, located in downtown and a short ten minute walk from the bay area.  The lobby area was large with four receptionists, two concierges and plenty of porters to help with luggage.

This made check-in smooth and easy; you could even do this via three large TV screens, located in the reception area.  The toilets, including the disabled toilets, were located on the second floor.

This hotel also had two bars; one on first floor (ground floor) and accessed via four steps.  Food was served here which was reasonably priced with large portions.  Mosaic Restaurant was on the second floor which was easily accessible for a wheelchair user.  Also on the first floor there was a Starbucks Coffee shop with easy access for wheelchair users.

To access the floors, there were five lifts A to E, with a touch screen which was at a good level for wheelchair users.  You pressed the number floor you wanted then it would let you know which lift to go to. The lifts were spacious and fast.  From the lobby they had escalators going up to the second floor.

We were allocated rooms on the 18th floor, as the booking was a high rise room.  The rooms were spacious with a desk, TV, fridge, coffee machine and air conditioning.  I did not book a disabled room but was told that there was only one in the whole hotel.

The bathroom was spacious and clean.  However, the bath and shower were in one with no grab rails for support.

The Gym was well equipped but quite small for such a large hotel and accessed via the lift. This led out onto the pool, again this was small with only some sun loungers; they also had a Jacuzzi.

Day Fifteen – Hop On Hop Off Bus: Exploring Vancouver

Early in the morning, my support worker went to drop the car off, goodbye Rosie…  We no longer required her services.

After a refreshing breakfast at the Hyatt, it was time to explore the city of Vancouver with the hop on hop off bus.  We had purchased our tickets from the concierge and had to walk four blocks down to the Bay area to catch the bus.

Vancouver is a young city and dates from 1886.  There are a lot of skyscrapers with nice water features, clear roads and pavements.  Walkways were wide with dropped curbs and the crossings made bird noises when ready to cross; the sound wasn’t as clear as the British ones, but I did recognise some noise.  The buttons for crossing were difficult to find.

We went to Gas Town for drinks and walked around this famous town which dates back to 1867, older than Vancouver itself!  Then back on the bus to the Bay for some lunch.

This is an easy way to see the city and you can get on and off as many times as you like.  However, this is not accessible for wheelchair users as the hop on hop off buses seem a bit dated.  You would need to be able to walk up a few steps in order to board the bus and then walk down the aisle to the nearest available seat.  Although I was able to access the buses, I was rather disappointed after reading a lot about how accessible the city was.

Black Restaurant

A few blocks from our hotel was the Black Restaurant, serving traditional Thai cuisine.  This was a lively joint with good food, large and busy.  Service was good with friendly staff and the food was great (very large portions too!)  Toilets were upstairs accessed via a lift; however, there were no disabled toilets here.

As it was a warm evening, we went for a stroll along the bay, stopping at a pub with bay views.  There are quite a few souvenir shops in the bay area.

Day Sixteen – Boat Trip and Stanley Park

As part of our hop on hop off excursion, we had included a boat trip around the bay.  This was a 45 minute slow narrated trip.  The access to this was down a rather steep ramp, although there were grab rails I struggled to walk down.  This excursion would not be suitable for wheelchair users as there were steps to get from the dock to the small boat.The bus dropped us off at the entrance to the Westin Harbour side Hotel, where we had a drink in the Bar and admired their vintage car.  The hotel was flat to enter with a spacious lobby area, they had disabled toilets here.

Stanley Park

Stanley Park is one of Vancouver’s top attractions located northwest of Downtown.  It is a vast public park measuring 1,001 acres, with plenty of stops on the way.  The park was named after Lord Stanley, 16th Earl of Derby, a British politician who had recently been appointed Governor General.  Stanley Park was established in 1886, the same year as Vancouver.

The bus takes you into Stanley Park and stops at several places within the park; we got off at the Totem Poles attraction.  The ground was gravelled and difficult to walk on.  Here you will find a souvenir shop but did not see any toilets.  The Totem Poles have a long history and is worth seeing.  There are benches to sit on and take in the view.

Once back on the bus we stopped at the Lions Gate Bridge (Guinness Bridge) view point still within the park.  There is a gift shop, toilets and a snack bar, where we had a bite to eat, also a restaurant. They had disabled toilets within the main toilet area.  At this stop you can get clear views of the Guinness Bridge, which was constructed in 1937 by the famous Irish Guinness family.

The red route tour was the longest and took over an hour to get back to the bay. 

We had dinner in the lobby bar at the Hyatt; some good old fish and chips, before meeting with my Canadian friends for some well-earned drinks.

Day Seventeen – Homeward Bound

The next day, sadly, was a departure day from Canada, back to the UK.  We checked out around 12 noon, which was made easy by the porter who came for our cases.

We had one last walk around town, stopping for coffee at The Sutton Place Hotel, all was accessible with a flat entrance. Later that afternoon, we took our fine dining to the next level for an exquisite lunch at The Cactus Club Café Restaurant and Bar. This restaurant was accessible for wheelchair users, with adequate space between tables and sufficient lighting due to ceiling to floor windows.

After a delightful lunch, we headed back to the Hyatt to sample the services one last time, before catching a cab to the airport.

At the Airport

Vancouver International Airport is 8.3 miles from the Hyatt Regency, and we departed by taxi with the journey being around 40 minutes due to traffic.

Check in and security was fairly smooth despite having to queue.  The security guard provided me with a wooden walking stick in exchange for my symbol cane as I walked through the metal detector with ease.

After a good wander around at the duty free and having some dinner, it was time to head to the gate.  The airport is all fully accessible with lifts and escalators, the disabled toilets are huge!

We boarded the Air Canada flight via a walkway and were welcomed by a very friendly crew.  After allocating our seats, we buckled in and with the safety procedures on show, we were off home.  I then reminisced what an epic adventure this was with many extraordinary and unforgettable moments…

Overall Experience

Canada, the land of 31,752 lakes, with spectacular and breath-taking scenery, and with roughly 3000 miles clocked on ’Rosie’, this trip exceeded my expectations.

I took my Disabled Blue Badge with me which enabled us to park in disabled bays across Canada. There were no issues or fines allocated even though it was a British Disabled Badge. I have also used this in America previously; therefore I knew that it would be accepted in Canada.

I was very impressed how close the parking was in the National Parks, making the views across the lakes and mountains very easy to access.  This is similar to the United States.

The Canadians are very aware of disabilities; however I did feel that in a few areas on our itinerary there was a lack of disabled toilets.

As a bonus I had an additional driver as my support worker was concerned about the long distances of driving understandably. With the two drivers being able to share the driving, this made it much easier and enjoyable for all three of us.

I would highly recommend Canada for disabled travellers as the country accommodates disabled people well.