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Banff National Park, Canada

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Banff National Park is Canada's oldest national park. It was established in 1885 in the Canadian Rockies, 120 kilometres west of Calgary. It covers 6641 square kilometres of mountainous terrain and has many glaciers and icefields, dense coniferous forest and alpine landscapes.

The Icefields Parkway extends from Lake Louise, connecting to Jasper National Park in the north. Provincial forests and Yoho National Park are neighbours to the west, with Kootenay National Park to the south and Kananaskis Country to the southeast. The main commercial centre of the park is the town of Banff in the Bow River Valley.

The Canadian Pacific Railway was instrumental in Banff’s early years, building the Banff Springs Hotel and Chateau Lake Louise.

In the early 20th century, roads were built in Banff, and since the 1960s, park accommodations have been open year-round with enormous numbers of tourists enjoying this very special place.

While visitor numbers can reach four million a year, because Banff is in both a National Park and World Heritage Site, its growth is closely controlled. It will never be more than four square kilometres in size and never have a population of more than 10,000. To live there, you have to work there.

Canada's Native people were the first to soak in the hot springs. The waters were sacred to them, and a place to cure illness and maintain health.

Canadian Pacific Railway workers claimed to have discovered the Upper Hot Springs in 1884, and dammed a small pool. A rival claim resulted in a dispute over the ownership of the hot springs, and that led to government intervention and the birth of Canada's first national park.

The Grand View Villa Hotel was built near the hot springs in 1886 and rebuilt in 1901 after it was destroyed by a fire. A second fire levelled the Grand View in 1931 paving the way for the government to acquire the lease and build the current Upper Hot Springs Bathhouse.

The new bath house opened in 1932 and rivalled other world-famous spas of the time. The Upper Hot Springs Bathhouse was designed as one of a number of 1930s park buildings which together were intended to create a distinctive architecture for Banff. A Queen Anne revival or a compatible, late-Medieval architectural style was adopted. The styles were modified to give the buildings a somewhat alpine or rustic appearance, and timber and local Rundle stone rock were used to complete the picture.

The pool was reconstructed and the interior modified in 1961. The 1932 bathhouse was restored to its former glory in 1995 with a $4 million upgrade and is now a registered Federal Heritage Building. The water can reach 47°, but it is cooled down to get it just right for bathers.

Just five minutes from the town, on the shoulder of Sulphur Mountain, is Banff Gondola. In the heart of the Canadian Rockies its 360° views are simply breathtaking. It has viewing decks, restaurant and a Summit Ridge interpretive boardwalk. It takes eight minutes to reach the 2281 metre summit.

The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel was completed in the 1920s. Styled after a Scottish baronial castle, it has 800 rooms and numerous dining areas, bars and public areas. Heritage Hall above the Grand Lobby highlights the natural and cultural history of the area.

It has stunning sweeping mountain and river views, championship golf course, classic cuisine and a recently refurbished European-style spa.


In the Canadian province of Alberta.


Scenic Tours and Harvey World Travel have a 35-day east and west coast Canada package. It includes Scenic FreeChoice activities in Banff, two nights at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, a seven-night Alaskan cruise and seven-night Eastern Canada and New England cruise and a trip on the Rocky Mountaineer. Most meals and return airfares from Australia, plus a two-night Las Vegas stopover, are included. Price starts at $17,045 per person, twin share.

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel rooms start at around $316 a double a night.

For more information

Scenic Tours
Ph: 1300 723 642
Or book through Harvey World Travel Fairmont Hotels and Resorts

Alberta Tourism

Canadian Tourism Commission Australia
Ph: 02 9571 1866

Air New Zealand
Ph: 132 476

User comments
I am glad that you have done a story on Banff. During all my travels this is one of the most amazing places that i have every been to. The sights and the people are fantastic. I would recommend anyone to travel to Canada
I did the Scenic Tours trip with my husband
Great place it is the only resort I have been on skis at and doubt anything could be as good.
Thank you. We are soooo excited at the prospect of staying there this christmas. Can't wait!
i loved it my stay their last year in November, it is a place away from everywhere, i really enjoyed myself canoeing and walking when i was there and its good they have walks for every fittness level,
The holiday looks great but how can i find out who was the winner on your website?
Was very interested to see this segment as we (4 Aussies) were waiting to come down from the mountain via the Gondola and at the station waiting Catreona hopped out of one of the carriges. We called her name and she was most gracious in letting us take photos etc - what a lovely person she is. We had six weeks touring America, Canada and Alaska and the only celebrity we saw in that time was Catreona - and it was the best. We loved Canada and did the Alaskan inside passage cruise- would recommend it to anyone. The cruise is fabulous and a must if visiting this area. Love the show - Jules

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