I work for a travel wholesaler on Sydney's north shore and love photography, festivals & events, and travel, of course. My new passion is writing and I hope to inspire others. Visit my blog at www.travelwithirenke.blogspot.com
Published July 27th 2016
Many amazing graces in this small town beauty
Imagine shopping in a main street with a snow-capped mountain as the backdrop; quaint shops with names like The Bare Moose for souvenirs and gifts, Avalanche Movie Co., Alpine Flower Gallery, Beaver Tails for pastry, Mountain Chocolates, and Lakeside Scoop for ice cream; and where the only traffic congestion that happens is when wildlife ventures into town. That's Banff in Canada.
Both locals and tourists stop to see the wildlife which can pop in at any time. The town is both beautiful and picturesque with an area covering just under 4kms. It is one of only two municipalities located within a national park in Canada (the other one is Jasper). Mountains abound in the Canadian Rockies and Banff has its share with Mount Rundle, the most notable, along with Cascade and Sulphur Mountains.
Bow River runs through the town which sits above Bow Falls and is popular for wedding couples' photography as well as tourists.
Bow River, where you'll often see wildlife on the banks
There is a lot to do in and around this thriving little town. You can hike, bike and climb a mountain, ski, snowboard and toboggan, soothe your muscles in the hot springs, visit museums and art galleries, take a lake cruise, or see the Cave & Basin National Historic site.
We took a gondola up to Sulphur Mountain. Now to me a gondola is a boat I took through the Venice canals in Italy, so I was confused at first. It turned out to be what I call a cable car or skyway. It took us to the top of the mountain in 8 minutes and gave us spectacular views of Banff and the surrounding mountain ranges. The magnificent Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel stands out below in a setting surrounded by the greenery of the mountain trees in summer. There is a boardwalk to wander and get some great snaps of the area. A restaurant at the top saw us grab some lunch and afterwards it was time for more photos. Looking down below, I managed to capture this unusual animal on the side of the mountain. I had no idea what it was but showing our tour guide the picture gave us the answer. It turned out to be a marmot, an alpine habitant and a rare find. One of those photo opportunities that some photographers perch on mountains for days to get, I happened upon by chance and was feeling good about my find. On researching this animal later, I found it is a large squirrel, although it could also pass as a shaggy dog from its looks.
On lower land, we also came across black bears with cubs and a scrawny looking deer-like animal that turned out to be a long-horned sheep. These sheep venture down to eat the salt on the side of the roads. With so much amazing wildlife here, it's a big draw to this town and its outskirts. The only disappointment was not spotting a moose. Apparently, these are shy animals and very hard to find here.
After a full day out you'll be looking for some dinner. Why not try the Grizzly House, Banff's famous fondue restaurant. Not just fondues but great for steaks. Choose from wild game sausage, buffalo steak to Alberta beef steak, caribou, smoked trout and shark, or try rattlesnake in this rustic environment with wood panelled walls and wood carved bear, totem poles, buffalo head, and bearskin rugs. You can't go past it for a great dining and entertaining experience.
Great for fondues, steaks and other wild beast meals
There's also plenty of accommodation in Banff and the surrounding areas, from hotels to mountain lodges, hostels to resorts, and inns. Something for all budgets can be found. My son and I stayed in the Banff Park Lodge, not far from the main street of Banff Avenue. Four star quality with a mountain behind it and views from our room allowing us to spot wildlife. Simply amazing.