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I braved the Canadian wilderness on a bucket list trip – this is how it's changed my wellness game

Exploring British Columbia and The Yukon changed my perspective on travel and wellness

Francesca Shillcock
Senior Features Writer
8 May 2024
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When considering a 'wellness trip' a few images might initially spring to mind. A remote beach with silky sand and blue waves, or perhaps a luxury spa.

What may not cross your thoughts is an expedition spanning two territories in western Canada, exploring the sights of bustling Vancouver, British Columbia, before heading to the remote city of Whitehorse in The Yukon to snowmobile over frozen lakes and coming within inches of jaw-dropping wildlife.

I consider myself someone for whom wellness is not a new concept. But venturing into the Canadian wilderness was an opportunity to experience it in a new dimension. 

Aerial shot of Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia© Jordan Manley
Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia

Thanks to My Canada Trips and their superb new itinerary, my perspective on how we can improve our wellness and travel game was altered for the better…

Experiencing wellness in BC

After touching down in VanCity and a restful overnight stay (more on that later), the wellness trip kicked off perfectly with yoga and the beauty of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen's Chinese Gardens, before a workshop learning about traditional tea making, sampling aromatic teas full of antioxidants.

Yoga class at the Wedgewood Hotel & Spa© Francesca Shillcock
We enjoyed a yoga class at the Wedgewood Hotel & Spa

Forest bathing at Capilano River Regional Park, just a short drive north of the city, was next on the agenda. With its breathtaking views, sky-high trees and flowing waterfalls, it was impossible not to feel rejuvenated by the incredible surroundings.

I love being outdoors, but admittedly I'm not a typical 'tree hugger', however, I surprised myself at how connected I felt to nature. And it's not just a spiritual thing, the team at Treetops Adventure were there to inform us of the science: being immersed in such a phenomenal forest can drop the amount of cortisol in our bodies by 40 per cent and our serotonin can rise exponentially, making us feel happier.

Forest bathing at Capilano River, British Columbia© Francesca Shillcock
Forest bathing at Capilano River, British Columbia

A pitstop at the Capilano Suspension Bridge was another brilliant opportunity to witness the stunning backdrop of the snow-capped mountains and lush trees while walking over a bridge 230 feet above the ground. 

This was the first – but certainly not the last – time during this trip that I realised running away from a comfort zone can have a dramatic impact on our wellness. We can feel an addictive sense of achievement and boost morale, energy levels and overall happiness.

Shot of writer on the Capilano Suspension Bridge across the park© Francesca Shillcock
Capilano Suspension Bridge across the park

Waving goodbye to VanCity and hello to Vancouver Island, we ventured into the remote, exploring wildlife and trekking down long forest roads into bear territory. Despite being hibernation season, the proximity to wildlife brought new realms of joy. Thanks to Ahous Adventures, this continued throughout our days there with a boat trip from Tofino for whale watching.

I saw nature I had never seen before – humpback and grey whales and bald eagles alike. It was a privileged exploration of our incredible planet, reinforcing the need to protect it, and realising the world is so much bigger than our everyday routine and stresses.

My trip to the Canadian Wilderness
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Wellness in The Yukon's Wilderness

With a land size double that of England, and a population less than half the average crowd of a stadium concert, you don't get more 'wilderness' than The Yukon Territory. Our journey north towards the Arctic Circle began with a HeliJet ride from Vancouver Island back to VanCity, before boarding a two-hour flight to the Yukon's capital, Whitehorse where temperatures were a cool minus 25 degrees Celsius. A first for me, but mild by the Yukon's standard, which can reach a jaw-dropping minus 70.

Caribou pictured at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve© Francesca Shillcock
Caribou pictured at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve

The Yukon set the bar sky-high on the first day. Thanks to the Yukon Wildlife Nature Preserve, we got to see incredible species such as musk oxs, mountain goats, and moose. The star of the show was the Canada Lynx, who gracefully pounced through mounds of snow a mere three metres or less from where we were standing.

Canada Lynx pictured at The Yukon Wildlife Preserve© Francesca Shillcock
Canada Lynx pictured at The Yukon Wildlife Preserve

If wellness was the starter, then cultural history was the main course. The group and I paid a visit to Kwaday Dan Kenji - Long Ago People's Place for a plant medicine workshop, immersing ourselves in traditional First Nation culture. 

We explored Indigenous history using recreations of traditional Southern Tutchone First Nations culture, structures and tools, guided by Meta and founder Harold. The humbling experience of learning about First Nation culture was cemented with the help of Joella, founder of The Yukon Soaps Company, who helped us create our own traditional soaps while pouring out inspiration and history in abundance.

Long Ago's People Place in The Yukon© Francesca Shillcock
Long Ago's People Place in The Yukon

Elsewhere in this must-visit territory, we relaxed our minds and bodies with a yoga class overlooking the Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs, before taking rejuvenation to new heights with a dip in the natural springs that have been there for hundreds if not thousands of years. Treating our bodies well was then furthered thanks to the incomparable Cat McInroy, leader of Well Bread Yukon who was on hand to give us a private cooking session.

A couple soak in the Japanese onsen-inspired Eclipse Pool at Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs© Andrew Strain
The Japanese onsen-inspired Eclipse Pool at Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs in The Yukon

And you can't visit the Arctic Circle without observing the Northern Lights. Aurora showed her stunning self in a sweep of green across the black sky dotted with more stars than I had ever seen.

A silhouetted figure stands beneath an incredible northern lights display over Lake Laberge in Yukon.© Dan Carr
The Yukon is perfect for Aurora hunting

Towards the end of our wilderness expedition, it was time to up the adrenaline ante. Paying a visit to Up North Adventures, we hopped on snowmobiles and journeyed over a frozen lake before trekking through the surrounding forest, encountering wild moose prints on the way. As our guide said to us, this was the "real Canada".  

A trip to the Canadian Wellness changed my travel game for good© Francesca Shillcock
A trip to the Canadian Wellness changed my travel game for good

Where we stayed

The accommodation scattered across the itinerary was nothing short of sublime. In Vancouver, we were treated to two nights at the Wedgewood Hotel. Situated in the heart of the city, they offer impeccable service from their friendly staff, and a cosy fireplace area to shield from the icy wind. It was the perfect place to kick off the trip.

The Wedgewood Hotel & Spa is in the heart of Vancouver© PFuoco images
The Wedgewood Hotel & Spa is in the heart of Vancouver

Over on Vancouver Island, a real treat was visiting the Wickaninnish Inn. Rumoured to be a favourite among some well-known names in the world of politics and showbiz, the hotel offers incredible views, sublime service and rooms and a five-star menu at their Pointe Restaurant, overlooking the crashing waves of Tofino.

The Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, Vancouver Island is spectacular© Wickaninnish Inn
The Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, Vancouver Island is spectacular

After driving south to Ucluelet, another gem was Black Rock Oceanfront Resort, offering our own individual apartments fully decked out with a kitchen, living area, and a bathroom so big it would rival my entire apartment at home. 

Their artisan-inspired on-site restaurant, Currents, was a treat for the palate, offering oysters with cream cheese and caviar, a range of meat and fish dishes, plus stunning views across the Pacific Ocean. This is a must if visiting the shores of Vancouver Island with a larger group.

Black Spruce cabins are located within the Whitehorse city limits and offer a boutique accomodation with modern cabins.© © Government of Yukon
Black Spruce is located within the Whitehorse city and offers a boutique accommodation with modern cabins

The Yukon's accommodation was certainly more rustic, but no less impressive. Two nights in the Black Spruce Cabins made us feel like we were camping out in style in the middle of the snow-covered forests, while the family-run Yukon Ski Lodge added a layer of cosy comfort and a warm, welcoming atmosphere.

The family-run Yukon Ski Lodge© Francesca Shillcock
The family-run Yukon Ski Lodge

Why embracing wellness in the Canadian Wilderness changed my travel game 

We don’t always need to move at a snail's pace to feel like we’re taking time for ourselves. Basking in slowness from time to time is, of course, needed, especially when many of us move through life at lightning speed.

A trip to the Canadian Wellness changed my travel game for good© Francesca Shillcock
A trip to the Canadian Wellness changed my travel game for good

But taking risks, seeking a high of adrenaline and, crucially, overcoming challenges, is undoubtedly a boost to our confidence and sense of self. This phenomenal, once-in-a-lifetime trip is fundamental proof that adventure and wellness go hand in hand.

Francesca Shillcock travelled as a guest of My Canada Trips, Destination Canada, Destination British Columbia and Travel Yukon.  

New for 2024: My Canada Trips has launched a Canadian Wellness Getaway itinerary: 14-nights from £5179 per person including international and internal flights, 14-nights hotel accommodation, car rental on Vancouver Island and in the Yukon, return ferries from Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay (Vancouver to Tofino), admission to Capilano Suspension Bridge, a Hot Springs Cove Eco-Cultural Tour in Tofino, entrance to the Yukon Wildlife Reserve & Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs, and a Dawson City & Gold Fields Tour.

To book visit My Canada Trips or call 0808 223 4124. 

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