Prior to 1885, Canada was little more than a scattered collection of towns surrounded by thousands of miles of wilderness.
Then something dramatic happened: the Canadian Pacific Railway opened. For the first time it was possible to travel the entire width of the country with ease and settlers soon flooded west.
Since then the idea of touring has been an integral part of the Canadian national psyche and with six million square miles to roam around, clients’ choices are pretty much unlimited.
These days, the west isn’t the only draw. In fact, choosing between the cosmopolitan cities, snow-capped mountains, stunning waterways and vast prairies that dominate the country’s provinces and territories can prove difficult.
In many ways it’s better to follow the example of the pioneers and let modern transport take you past all these visual wonders – although these days you’re not simply limited to the train.
Travel Weekly discovers five of the best ways to explore Canada.
Why: the best way for clients to experience this region is with a cruise on Spirit of Oceanus. The spectacular scenery is visible the moment the vessel sails under Vancouver’s Lion’s Gate Bridge (see right) and continues as the ship follows the shore of the Great Bear Rainforest.
By day four of the cruise, this backdrop gives way to the dramatic fjords and glaciers of Alaska, where clients are likely to spot icebergs, humpback and orca whales, seals, sea lions and porpoises.
Land excursions include trips to the Norwegian-founded fishing village of Petersburg, the gold-rush town of Skagway and Sitka – the one-time capital of Russian America.
And just when cruise guests think they’ve seen it all, the ship sails past the Glacier Bay National Park and the 76-mile long Hubbard Glacier.
The amazing wildlife that gathers on Prince William Sound is a last-minute treat as clients head towards Whittier, where they disembark and transfer to Anchorage for the journey home.
Sample product: 1st Class Holidays offers a 12-day cruise in a superior cabin from £3,969 per person twin-share, excluding flights.
Why: following the winding roads of Nova Scotia on a flydrive holiday, clients will pass through the mist-covered valleys of the Cabot Trail and Cape Breton Highlands, and an array of tiny fishing villages such as Truro and Antigonish.
But to really experience the region they will need to hit the water for some sea kayaking, whale watching or a trip to see the local puffins and seals.
As Nova Scotia is relatively small the daily drives are short, which means it’s perfect for a family holiday. It’s also the lobster capital of the world, so the whole clan can eat like royalty at a fraction of the UK price.
Sample product: All America Holidays offers a 13-night family flydrive package for £2,899, including accommodation, return flights and car hire. This is based on a family of two adults and two children under 11.
Why: on a self-drive tour clients can spend their nights in hotels on the banks of the beautiful St Lawrence River, surrounded by sandy beaches, rocky coves, lighthouses and colourful communities.
During the day they can amble their way through a series of pretty rural towns such as Riviere-du-Loup, Matane and Pointe-au-Pic – a favourite with tourists since the early 20th century – or sample the unique cosmopolitan tastes of Montreal and Quebec City.
With Bonaventure Island, Rocher Percé and the Forillon National Park on the doorstep there’s no shortage of wildlife, whether they want to spot whales surfacing near the shoreline, gaze at 500,000 birds nesting in the same area or simply sit in a cosy Québécois café and watch the world go by.
Sample product: Canada Flights and Holidays offers a 15-day self-drive tour for £826 per person twin-share. Flights from Gatwick or Manchester cost £288 return.
Why: Rocky Mountaineer Railtours launches a new service on May 1 between Vancouver and Whistler, offering passengers a three-hour taste of British Columbia’s ‘Sea to Sky’ region.
Cascading waterfalls, sparkling Pacific waters and soaring mountain peaks can be found around every bend, and clients can choose from a range of dining choices depending on how and when they travel.
Passengers will also be able to link up with the new Fraser Discovery Route, which opens on May 2. This two-day journey starts in Whistler and ends in Jasper, with an overnight stop in Quesnel, British Columbia. It also takes in the Rocky Mountain Trench, the rolling forests of the Cariboo Plateau and Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies.
Sample product: Canada Flights and Holidays offers one-way trips on the Whistler Mountaineer from £56 per person. Prices for the Fraser Discovery Route start at £303 per person.
Why: clients don’t have to be Michael Palin to travel vast distances in a short time.
The Canadian rail journey whisks you from Toronto to Vancouver in three days, crossing the scenic lakelands of northern Ontario, the western plains of Saskatchewan and Manitoba and the vast Rocky Mountains around Alberta and British Columbia.
Other stops include Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Jasper and Kamloops, and at either end of the journey clients can catch another train to explore further into the larger half of North America.
If they want to head into a wilder environment clients can also stop off anywhere they wish between Sudbury Junction and Winnipeg.
But those who prefer their comfort will enjoy taking in the jaw-dropping scenery from the spacious cabins, with great food and glass-domed carriages.
Sample product: International Rail offers all-inclusive Silver and Blue Class travel from £1,350 per couple for the three-day journey. This includes a double bedroom with toilet and washbasin, all meals and entrance into the Panoramic Domes. Comfort Class travel with a reclining seat, blanket and pillow, starts at £615 per couple.