One of the biggest challenges of RVing, particularly in a longer motorhome, is the ability to find parking when and where you need it. Before you travel, be aware of destinations where it just might be better to leave your RV at your campground and use alternative means to get around.
Without a doubt, exploring Canada in an RV is absolutely the best way to travel. But, I won’t lie … while the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages of RV travel, one of the biggest challenges of RVing, particularly in a longer motorhome, is the ability to find parking when and where you need it. Now, when I talk about parking, I’m not talking about where you stay overnight. I’m talking about some of the challenges you may have finding short-term parking when visiting popular tourist spots or exploring city attractions.
I’ve encountered this many times during my years of RVing and find that a little research and planning can go a long way towards alleviating many of these challenges. Before you travel, be aware of destinations where it just might be better to leave your RV at your campground and use alternative means to get around.
You may own your RV, in which case you’ll already have first-hand knowledge of where you can and can’t park but, if you’ve rented an RV to see Canada for the first time, you may need some tips to help plan that perfect summer RV vacation. Let’s look at the popular tourist spots in Western Canada
While I don’t recommend trying to park a large RV in downtown Victoria
, there are options for parking. The city of Victoria manages three surface parking lots in the downtown Victoria area. These are pay-by-space so larger RVs may require payment for two spaces. 150 spaces are available at the Wharf Street lot next to Harbour Air and this is the most convenient parking to downtown. A further 220 stalls can be found at Royal Athletic Park on Caledonia Avenue. From this lot, it’s a 25-minute walk to the downtown harbour-front area. On-street parking may be available but again, bear in mind that you may need two spaces. With surface lot parking, there are no time limits for occupying the space whereas on-street parking is often time-limited. So, what are your alternatives to taking your RV downtown?
Victoria is a very walkable city so leave your RV at the campground and take public transit to Wharf Street. CanaDream Club partner campground Fort Victoria RV Park
welcomes CanaDream Guests. Getting to downtown Victoria from this campground is easy by bus, taking only 30 minutes (that’s just 10 minutes more than driving there and then you’d still have to park!). Once downtown, consider the hop-on, hop-off bus to take you to the most popular attractions, hire a bike, take a water taxi or just walk.
If you’re travelling with bikes, leaving your RV at the campsite is a no-brainer. Cycle into the downtown core (don’t forget those secure bike locks)! Taxis are also an option from your chosen campground.
RVs and campers over 20’ in length are authorized to park only in designated areas in the Tofino
area. These designated RV parking zones are located in areas just outside of the downtown core on Gibson Street, Arnet Road, and at the Community Hall. From here, it’s an easy walk to downtown. If you’re taking a whale watching trip, check with the operator to see if they offer free RV parking at their location. If you’re just wandering around Tofino, consider leaving your RV out of town and choosing another transportation option to travel to and around the village.
While it is not illegal to park an RV between the hours of 6.00am to 10.00pm in the City of Vancouver
, we strongly recommend parking outside of the city or in public parking lots accommodating RVs and taking public transport into the city. Within the city, you will find limited options for large vehicle parking and a maximum time limit for those spaces. Vancouver has an excellent public transit system which will get you places much quicker than in an RV. Consider bus or Skytrain to conveniently get you to places. If you’re planning to explore Stanley Park, explore by bike or hop on a Stanley Park horse-drawn tour. Paid parking for oversized vehicles may be available however at the Vancouver Aquarium
is a pedestrian-friendly village. Here, most people walk, bike or use public transit to get around. Park your RV in day lot 3 (payment required); arrive early during summer to ensure you get a spot – then walk or rent a bike to explore further. The closest RV Park to the village is at Riverside Resort
but this fills up quickly in summer so advance reservations are essential. Book early to avoid disappointment. Bike rentals are available in Whistler and are a great way to experience the Whistler Valley Trail.
While RV parking is permitted on all metered parking lots, finding parking for oversize vehicles during the peak summer months in downtown Kelowna
can be a challenge. If your vehicle doesn’t fit into a regular parking space, consider other options for exploring this city. The Kelowna Regional Transit buses allow you to get around and explore Kelowna without parking hassles. You could also consider taking an organized tour or renting a bike or e-bike.
I remember a time when it was fairly easy to get parking for an RV close to downtown Banff
but, with the increased popularity of this destination, this is no longer the case. There is NO motorhome or RV parking in downtown Banff and parking is extremely limited on the south side of the river. Park at the Train Station and take a ten-minute walk into the downtown area or, better still, leave your RV at the Tunnel Mountain campground and take the Roam Transit
shuttle into town. Banff is well-equipped for tourism and Roam Transit offers a number of routes to help you avoid the parking hassles at the most popular destinations including Lake Minnewanka and Johnson Canyon/Johnson Canyon Campground.
Lake Louise (incl Moraine Lake)
If you’re travelling to Lake Louise
or Moraine Lake, park your RV in the Park and Ride lot, located at the Lake Louise Ski Resort and take the Parks Canada Shuttle
to these places. Advance reservations are required on this shuttle, often days in advance. The Moraine Lake Road is closed to private vehicles from June to mid October. The exception to this is vehicles with a valid disability tag. Parking spots for RVs at Lake Louise are extremely limited and require a super early arrival to snag one. I strongly urge you to take the shuttles. If you are staying at the Lake Louise Campground, take advantage of the free shuttle between the Lake Louise Campground, the village of Lake Louise and the Lake Louise Park and Ride Between October and May (once the park shuttles stop running) you should have no problems with parking at Lake Louise, and the Moraine Lake road will be closed.
Paid parking is in effect over the summer months. Street parking is permitted but often hard to find and you must pay for the spots you use. There’s an RV Parking lot off Hazel Avenue as you come into the town of Jasper
and it’s a fairly easy walk from there into town. Unlike Banff, Jasper has no public transit system. No worries though, you’ll discover that the majority of places you choose to visit in the area will most likely have sufficient parking for your RV. If it comes to the crunch, the town has bike rentals and, of course, taxis!
Calgary has a great public transit system consisting of light rail and buses. Most people staying at a campground close to Calgary
will choose Mountain View Camping on the eastern edge of the city, Callaway Park Campground to the west or the Balzac Campground close to CanaDream. There is no direct public transport from any of these campgrounds but C-Train stations all have free parking lots and we recommend you drive to one of these and then hop on the C-train to travel into the City. If you plan to visit some of the attractions outside of the downtown core, such as the Calgary Zoo
or Heritage Park
, you should be able to find paid parking at those locations for your RV.
The comments in this blog relate mainly to travel between May and October. While it might seem counter-intuitive, parking your RV for a few nights at a campground centrally located to the things you plan to do, then renting a car to get around might be something to consider. I’ve done this on a few occasions and found it to be convenient and cost-effective when taking into consideration the fuel consumption of an RV, parking costs and the number of public transit fares I might need for my family. Ultimately though, you have to make your decisions based on the time of year you are travelling and the availability of parking in the areas you plan to travel.
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