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Lake Minnewanka Cruise Review – Is it worth it?

Lake Minnewanka Cruise Review – Is it worth it?

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Wondering if the Lake Minnewanka Cruise is as great as some people make it out to be? You’ve come to the right place. We had the same question so we decided to do it for ourselves!

Being Canmore locals (an awesome little town nearby) we have explored every nook and cranny of the Canadian Rockies. We know there are a lot of epic lake experiences in the area and not everyone can do them all. So choosing which is right for your vacation can be tough! 

This review will cover what to expect, things to know, our experience, and if we think it’s worth your time. Plus some tips you won’t find anywhere else!

So keep reading and let’s jump right into it!

What is the Lake Minnewanka cruise?

View out the back of the boat on a Lake Minnewanka cruise
The cruise is spectacular!

The Lake Minnewanka cruise is an hour-long sightseeing cruise across the lake towards the Devil’s Gap. This is a glacial path that I can best describe as a spot where the mountains meet the sky on either side of you at the deepest point in the lake. It’s a place that would take DAYS to hike to, but the cruise gets here in 30 minutes and has better views from the water!

The cruise on Lake Minnewanka is really popular because it’s just a 20-minute drive from Banff, so it’s easily accessible from the downtown area, and it’s a fantastic way to take in the stunning scenery of Banff National Park. I mean, put your hand up if you love cruising on a boat and admiring dramatic mountain peaks … I’ll raise both my hands for that!

The cruise is also a fantastic (and safe) way to spot wildlife and learn about the history of the lake. This place is significant to the Stoney Nakoda people, and I learned so much about the lake’s history from the commentary on board.

It’s also worth noting that the cruise only runs during the summer, from May to early October, because Lake Minnewanka freezes over in the winter. And safe to say this boat doesn’t do well on ice!

There are a few different cruise options available. We opted for the classic 1-hour cruise, but there’s also a Beer Cruise with craft beer served on-board, a premium cruise which is 90 minutes, or a Junior Explorer Cruise for families where kids ride free with an adult and there’s an on-board treasure hunt and games.

Related Read: If you happen to be in Banff when Lake Minnewanka is frozen, don’t worry! We’ve got plenty of suggestions for things to do in Banff during the winter.

What are the highlights of the Lake Minnewanka cruise?

The dock at Lake Minnewanka where the cruise leaves from
Beautiful!

Magnificent views

The number one draw of a Lake Minnewanka cruise is the views. I think the turquoise water and jagged mountain peaks really do belong on a postcard, and the Devil’s Gap is just spellbindingly beautiful. 

Interesting history

Lake Minnewanka has a really interesting history, which we learned all about during the cruise. It’s feared and respected by the Stoney Nakoda First Nation – in fact, its name translates to “the Lake of Spirits” because it’s said to be haunted! There’s also a tourist village submerged beneath the water, which is pretty crazy to think about. We enjoyed the commentary on board the cruise, and Quinn, our guide, definitely knows how to keep things both informative and entertaining at the same time. 

Close to Banff

The dock for the Lake Minnewanka cruise is just a 20-minute drive from Banff town. But what’s even better is the fact that the Route 6 Roam bus will actually take you to Lake Minnewanka for free when you present your cruise tickets to the driver! This is what we did and it was so nice to avoid the hassle of parking and get a free ride!

Our experience on the Lake Minnewanka cruise

Fall colors with the Lake Minnewanka dock
A perfect day!

Of course, we had to check out the Lake Minnewanka cruise for ourselves after hearing all of the hype. We arrived well before our cruise, but it’s recommended to get here and check in at least 15 minutes before.

The live commentary began as soon as we left the dock, and our guide, Quinn, told us lots of stories about the lake, from how the Stoney Nakoda people inhabited its shores to the arrival of European settlers and the ill-fated tourist village that was once here. Quinn also pointed out different mountains and told us a little about those, and talked about the wildlife around the lake’s edge including bears and wolves. 

There was an indoor seating area on the boat as well as an outdoor viewing area, so of course we went on the back deck to take in the views and enjoy the fresh air. This was when I was glad I brought a jacket along!

The cruise took us right over to the Devil’s Gap, which was definitely a highlight of the experience. Our boat captain, Christine, cut the engine here so we could take in the beauty of this place. The silence combined with the view was breathtaking. It’s beautiful and dramatic, with mountains on either side, and it has been a significant corridor for both people and wildlife for thousands of years.

Unless you take this cruise, the only other way to reach Devil’s Gap is with a multi-day hike or by ATV. Our boat captain told us even then, the views are better from the water!

Then, we headed back to shore – with a full camera roll on both our phones! The cruise lasted for about an hour, so it was easy to fit into our Banff sightseeing itinerary, and we definitely enjoyed it. 

Lake Minnewanka Cruise FAQs

Views of the mountains from a Lake Minnewanka Cruise in Banff National Park
I mean, wow!

Is the Lake Minnewanka cruise worth it?

Photo out the front of the boat on a Lake Minnewanka Cruise in Banff
We loved the scenery!

I’d say it depends on what you’re looking for. It’s a nice cruise, but there are better ones available in the Rocky Mountains. If you only want to do one cruise during your trip, this Maligne Lake cruise in Jasper is better and includes a visit to the stunning Spirit Island – we were blown away by this experience! But if you’re not visiting Jasper, then the Lake Minnewanka cruise is definitely worth it. The scenery is gorgeous and it’s the only cruise available in Banff.

Related Read: If you’re off to Jasper, read our guide on the best stops between Banff and Jasper.

Other Things to do While You’re in Banff

Bailey at the Upper Falls at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
Waterfall at Johnston Canyon!
Bailey and her mum pose for a photo at Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake tours are a must!

Going on the Lake Minnewanka Cruise is just one of the many awesome experiences here! To give you an idea, here are some of our other recommendations for the best things to do while you’re in Banff:

  • Visit Lake Louise and Moraine Lake – If you want to see more stunning lakes in the area, check out these two! Parking at Lake Louise can be tricky (and impossible at Moraine Lake!), so we’d recommend this Banff National Park Tour. You’ll get to visit Lake Louise as well as Moraine Lake in one go – with enough time to walk around, learn the local history, and snap postcard-worthy photos.
  • Look for wildlife – Banff is home to some pretty incredible wildlife. You might just spot elk, bears, deer, foxes, coyotes, bighorn sheep, and more! The best chance you have of seeing the most critters is on a wildlife tour in Banff. We really liked this small group tour where the guides tailor the itinerary to recent wildlife spottings and you get to see highlights of the national park along the way.
  • Explore Banff town – While many nature-based activities are nearby, you shouldn’t neglect Banff town itself! Start your morning by visiting one of the cute local cafes, or grab patio drinks along Banff Avenue in the afternoon. To avoid traffic, check out the pedestrian-only Bear Street, with even more restaurants, cafes, and shops. And if that’s not enough, there’s also a Farmers Market every Wednesday in the summertime.

Where to Stay in Banff

Bailey poses for a photo on Banff Ave walking street
Welcome to Banff!

When it comes to deciding where to stay in Banff National Park, it’s easy to be a little overwhelmed with just how many accommodation options are on offer! There are tons of great hotels right in Banff town, but if you prefer somewhere a little outside of town, we’ve got you covered too. Below are some amazing hotels we recommend for all budget types.

Luxury – $$$

The Fairmont Banff Springs is easily the most luxurious hotel in Banff. It’s not cheap but the place is simply incredible – it seriously looks like a castle! Inside the hotel, you’ll find 11 restaurants, 14 shops, bowling, bars, a top-rated spa, a couple of pools, and so much more. It’s a luxury resort-like stay and the only one of its kind in Banff. If you’re visiting Banff on a honeymoon then this should be the hotel you choose!

Prices can be as low as $650 CAD or upwards of $1,000 CAD depending on when you book. You can check prices and room availability for Fairmont online here.

Mid-range hotel – $$

Our top choice for the mid-range budget, the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort has a swimming pool, hot tub, gym, and all the rooms have kitchenettes or full kitchens. It’s the perfect place for families since two and three-bedroom units are also on offer. The location is peaceful on Tunnel Mountain yet only a 5-minute drive from Banff town.

Prices start at $130 CAD and you can check availability and book Banff Rocky Mountain Resort online here.

Budget-friendly hotel – $$

The Banff Inn is the perfect mix of comfort and affordability. It has a budget-friendly price tag but also comes with lots of luxuries. The hotel is located right on Banff Ave and all rooms are air-conditioned. In the hotel, you’ll find a hot tub, steam room, and sauna, as well as a restaurant and bar.

Prices range from $180-$440 CAD depending on the season. Regardless of when you go, we suggest booking the Banff Inn well in advance as this is one of the most popular hotels in Banff.

Budget-backpacker hostel – $

The Samesun Backpacker Hostel is a great budget hostel with dorm rooms. It’s perfect for those on a tight budget who want to stay in the heart of Banff town. This is only a backpacker place though, as there are no private rooms available.

Dorms at the Samesun Backpacker Hostel run roughly $50 CAD in winter and $100 CAD in summer. They can be booked on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.

Important info: I suggest booking a place in Banff ASAP! Using Booking.com is great too because many hotels offer free cancellation, so just lock in a place (or two) for now and make the final decision later.

Parks Canada Pass Quick Info

If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks (including Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Kootenay, and more) then you’re going to have to pay for a Parks Pass.

Single Daily Admission:

This type of pass is valid for one person for one day. It is ONLY the best value if you are traveling alone and only plan to visit a national park for a couple of days.

  • Adult (ages 18-64) is $11 CAD
  • Senior (65+) is $9.50 CAD
  • Youth/Child (17 or younger) is FREE

Group Daily Admission:

If you’re traveling in a group or with family, you can buy a single-day admission for your entire vehicle (up to 7 people in one vehicle.)

  • $22.00 CAD gets your entire vehicle entry for one full day

Parks Canada Discovery Pass

The “Discovery Pass” is what Parks Canada calls their year-long (365 days from the purchase date), multi-park entry pass. This pass will give 365 days of access to all participating national parks in Canada. This includes the most popular parks like Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke, and so much more.

  • Adult (age 18-64) – $75.25 CAD
  • Senior (65+) – $64.50 CAD
  • Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $151.25 CAD

Hot Tip: Although more expensive up front, if you plan on spending more than 7 days in different parks in Canada within a 12-month period, then the Discovery Pass is actually the better deal!

Parks Canada Passes can be bought online here or at one of the Visitor Centers or booths at the entrance to many national parks.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie at Lake Louise
Thanks for reading!

We loved the beautiful views on the Lake Minnewanka Cruise – which isn’t surprising given just how gorgeous the area is! Hopefully, our review has helped you decide whether or not booking this cruise is right for you.

If you’ve got more travel plans to make, check out the rest of our guides about Canada. We’ve got tons of tips and advice to help you make your trip even better. You can get started with one of the blogs below:

Banff Gondola Review – Is it Worth it?

22 BEST Places to Visit in Alberta, Canada

How to Spend ONE DAY in Calgary

10 Things to KNOW About the Grotto Canyon Icewalk