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Maligne Lake Cruise Review – Is the Spirit Island Cruise worth it?

Maligne Lake Cruise Review – Is the Spirit Island Cruise worth it?

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Jasper National Park is one of the top destinations you can visit in Canada, and it’s home to one of the most photogenic bodies of water in the world. I live three hours south of Jasper, and, by far, one of my favorite things to do in the area is visit Maligne Lake. 

I love this lake for its shockingly blue waters and gorgeous mountain backdrop, and I’m sure you will, too! While there are many ways you can take in the incredible views around the lake, one of my favorite ways to experience its beauty is to take a cruise across the calm waters. 

The Maligne Lake Cruise is super popular — and for good reason! Whether you only have a few hours in Jasper or are spending a couple days here, this cruise should absolutely be on your list of things to do. 

What is the Maligne Lake Cruise?

A boat travels to Spirit Island on a cruise from Maligne Lake, Jasper
The boat to Spirit Island
A canoe at Spirit Island, Maligne Lake, Canada
Does it get any better than this?

The Maligne Lake Cruise is a 90-minute experience on a lake that looks like it belongs in a storybook. If you’ve seen pictures of this photogenic lake before (and you probably have), there’s no wonder why so many people love to come here. 

However, simply stopping by the lake to look at the water only gives you a fraction of an idea of how amazing this lake actually is. This area is full of mountain peaks, glaciers, and wildlife that you can only partially see from the shore. When you take this cruise, you get out on the water and can really drink in all the beauty the UNESCO World Heritage Site has to offer. 

Beyond the incredible views from the boat, you’ll also experience a tour that’s incredibly well-crafted and informative. Not only is it one of my favorite things to do Jasper, it might be one the best cruises in all of Canada! 

View of Maligne Lake, Canada
I mean, wow!

During the tour, you’ll learn about the park’s ecology and history. While that might sound boring, it definitely isn’t. This part of Canada has been occupied by Indigenous communities for ages, and you’ll learn about their stories as you sail around the lake. The storytelling is captivating, so you’ll feel like you’re part of the narrative as you pass by glaciers and more mountain peaks than you can count. 

While you’re learning about the history of this special place, you’ll also have the chance to see everything from moose and caribou to wolves and elk. I haven’t been fortunate enough to spot a moose on my different trips to the lake, but it might be your lucky day when you go! 

Once you’ve been sailing for around 40 minutes, the boat will arrive at Spirit Island. For me, this is always the highlight! This spot is significant to the people who have lived in and around these forests, and I love seeing what I just learned about in the tour portion of the ride. Here, the boat will dock, and you’ll get to spend about 15 minutes soaking in the views of the lake. If you love nature like I do, the tour is worth it just for the vantage points you’ll have from this island. 

On the way back, you’ll get to take in some last-minute views before you dock again at the Maligne Lake Boathouse and Chalet. 

The tour is easily my favorite thing to do in Jasper, and tickets start at $89 CAD.

What are the highlights of the Maligne Lake cruise? 

Bailey sits on a dock at Spirit Island, Canada
Look at those views
A glacier in the mountains around Maligne Lake
The glaciers are epic!

There are so many aspects of this cruise that make it a winner! Here are some of my favorite highlights: 

Spirit Island – When most people visit Maligne Lake, it’s to visit Spirit Island. It’s only accessible by boat, so this cruise is one of your only ways to get here! When you take this lake cruise, you’ll get to spend time walking around the island and experiencing the picture-perfect views. Every time I come, I take tons of photos! The view never gets old.

Seeing glaciers – When you’re in a place that’s as beautiful as Maligne Lake, the views can be overwhelming. Everywhere you turn, there’s something magnificent. When you take the Maligne Lake Cruise, your guide will point out the different mountain peaks and glaciers you pass by. I like to know what I’m looking at when I go somewhere new, so I appreciate that the guide points everything out. 

On-board commentary – Even in the most beautiful places, a tour is only as good as its guide. Captain Claire and Cam help create an unforgettable experience as they share helpful details about the local wildlife and history. Even if you don’t consider yourself a history buff, their stories are so captivating!

Magnificent views – Of course, one of the top highlights of the cruise is the views you’ll take in as you tour the lake. This part of Canada is one of the most photographed destinations in the world, and it’s easy to see why. The ancient forests and looming mountaintops stand out against the bright blue sky, making it a gorgeous scene no matter what time of year you visit. 

Our experience on the Maligne Lake Cruise

Bailey walks the pathway along the shores of Maligne Lake looking out at Spirit Island
Just stunning
Bailey walks the dock at Spirit Island on Maligne Lake, Canada
The dock at Spirit Island

We set off early in the morning for our cruise, and the waters were super calm. Our tour guides gave us some helpful information about the nature we were seeing, as well as some historical background about the area. 

As we headed towards Spirit Island, we learned all about the lake and enjoyed the views from the comfort of inside the boat. Even though it was cold outside, the heater kept us nice and toasty inside. 

After around 40 minutes, we arrived at the dock at Spirit Island. We were very excited to go exploring and knew we only had a limited amount of time, so we tried to be one of the first people off the boat. 

Once on land, we got to walk around and enjoy the views from a wooden platform. It might not sound like a lot, but the views were amazing. We had around 20 minutes to enjoy the views and look around before heading back to the boat to set sail again. 

On the way back, our guides gave us some good tips about wildlife in the area and where we could see things like bears and caribou. It was definitely one of the highlights of this trip to Jasper for us!

Related Read: For more epic views from the air this time, take a ride on the Jasper SkyTram!

Maligne Lake Cruise FAQs 

Where is Maligne Lake located?

The Boathouse at Maligne Lake, Canada
The Boathouse at Maligne Lake!

Maligne Lake is located inside Jasper National Park about 48 kilometers (30 miles) from Jasper itself. We wrote a guide on how to get from Jasper to Maligne Lake, but basically, you can drive yourself, which is pretty easy and takes about an hour, or you can take a guided tour (our favorites are below!).

You’ll pass forests, mountains, and lakes as you go, and possibly spot some elk on the way! There aren’t many gas stations once you leave Jasper though, so make sure you fill up your car before leaving town.

What are the best tours to Maligne Lake that include the cruise?

Jasper National Park Tour: Maligne Valley, Medicine Lake, and Spirit Island

Bailey poses for a photo at Maligne Lake looking over at Spirit Island
Such a beautiful place
A waterfall rushes through Maligne Canyon in summer in Jasper
Maligne Canyon!

To cover some of the most incredible sights in Jasper National Park along with the Maligne Lake Cruise, this 6-hour tour is the way to go! You’ll of course see Maligne Lake, but you’ll also get to see the limestone gorge and waterfalls of Maligne Canyon, the stunning Spirit Island, the “disappearing” Medicine Lake, and more!

There are several stops on the tour where you’ll have the chance to get out and take a few short walks. This is your best chance to see wildlife including moose!

For all that you get to see, this tour is super affordable at only $154 CAD including the boat cruise and hotel pickup and drop-off, which is really convenient. You can also book a cheaper tour if you substitute the cruise with a guided hike along the Mary Schaeffer Loop. Book online here with the option for free cancellation up to 24 hours in advance.

Jasper Wildlife and Waterfalls Tour with Maligne Lake Cruise from Jasper

A boat sitting at the dock of spirit islandd on maligne lake
The dock at Spirit Island
A grizzly beear on the side of the road in Jasper National Park
Grizzly bears are so cool!

If you ask us to pick just two things we love about this area wildlife and waterfalls would definitely be up there! So, it should come as no surprise that this Jasper Wildlife and Waterfalls tour is one of our favorites. It ticks all the boxes as you get to see the most incredible waterfall at Maligne Canyon, explore Maligne Lake (keeping an eye out for wildlife!), and cruise on the water to Spirit Island.

Some of the animals you might spot on the tour include big horn sheep, elk, moose, bears, and eagles. But you never know what you might find, which is part of the fun!

Hotel pick-up and drop-off are included and we found the guides excellent at helping you spot wildlife and telling you the history of the area. Book the tour in advance online for $175 CAD.

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

Related Read: While the cruise is one of our favorite experiences in Jasper, check out our other top Jasper tour recommendations here!

Is the Maligne Lake Cruise worth it?

Bailey looks over at Spirit Island on the boardwalk at Maligne Lake, Canada
Yes!

Without a doubt, the Maligne Lake Cruise is one of the best things you can do on your trip to Jasper. It’s arguably the best cruise in Canada, and it’s easily my favorite. 

During your ride, you’ll learn a ton of information about the lake, and the views are out of this world. I have done it twice and would go again in a heartbeat! 

Where to Stay in Jasper to visit Maligne Lake

The spa at the Whistler Inn in jasper
What a view! This photo is taken from the gorgeous Whistlers Inn.

When compared to Banff (and the dozens of hotels in Banff), there actually aren’t that many to choose from in Jasper. That’s right, accommodation in Jasper is limited, and therefore it’s important to book your stay as far in advance as possible!

Here, I’ve handpicked some of my personal favorite hotels in Jasper suitable for any type of traveler with any type of budget!

Pyramid Lake Resort (Luxury)

The Pyramid Lake Resort is beautiful, and it is set in an even more beautiful location! Pyramid Lake is the perfect place for hiking, swimming, kayaking, or even skating in the winter. Pyramid Lake Resort doesn’t cut any corners and it’s a highly-rated hotel. It’s also a popular place to stay for those visiting Jasper on a honeymoon! You can check availability and book on Booking.com.

Whistlers Inn (Moderate to High Budget)

Whistlers Inn is the perfect place to stay if you are looking for a nice escape right in town and only a short walk from popular bars, attractions, and restaurants in Jasper. They also have a rooftop hot tub (pictured above) – need I say more? You can check prices and availability on Booking.com.

Jasper Downtown Hostel (Budget Backpackers)

Jasper Downtown Hostel is the best place to stay for those on a tight budget. The central location, shared facilities, and friendly atmosphere makes it a great place to stay. They offer budget dorm beds as well as affordable private rooms. You can book Jasper Downtown Hostel on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.

Other Activities to do While You’re in Jasper

Bailey smiles while white water rafting in Jasper National Park, Canada
Rafting in Jasper is so much fun!
Here’s your ride onto a glacier!

Jasper National Park is just filled with fun things to do and see! So besides taking the Maligne Lake Cruise, there are a few other activities that we recommend that you check off your to-do list. They are:

  • Whitewater rafting – Jasper is one of the best places in Alberta to go whitewater rafting with a few different rivers nearby. For an adrenaline-filled rafting experience complete with class 3 rapids, opt for this rafting tour. It has nearly all 5-star reviews and costs $128 CAD. For something a little calmer and family-friendly but just as highly rated, choose this scenic rafting experience for only $85 CAD.
  • Explore Maligne Canyon – Located on the edge of Jasper town is the beautiful Maligne Canyon, where you can hike alongside and peer down into the deep canyon. There are also a few bridges you can walk on to really take in the views. In the winter, we highly recommend doing an icewalk in the canyon where you put on ice cleats and explore frozen waterfalls, ice caves, and walk in the middle of the frozen canyon!
  • Visit Pyramid LakePyramid Lake is a calm lake that offers reflections of the surrounding mountains including the symmetrical Pyramid Mountain. In the summer you can swim, hike, canoe, and SUP on the lake. In winter, go ice skating or ride in a horse-drawn sleigh. For an extra special treat, spend the night lakeside at the Pyramid Lake Resort.

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.

Renting a Car in Alberta

A car drives along the Icefields Parkway
The drive is mesmerizing!

If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.

Renting a car will definitely make exploring all of the fun things to see and do in Alberta easier.

Car rental in Canada isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t overly expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website DiscoverCars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.

Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie at Maligne Lake, Canada
Thanks for reading!

I hope our review of the Maligne Lake Cruise has you excited to book your spot! Photos really don’t do this incredible lake justice and I know you’ll have an amazing time (and a full camera roll!) after visiting. If you’re ready to secure your spot, tickets for the cruise are available here.

If you’re traveling through other areas of Canada, have a look through our other Canada posts here! Below, I’ve selected a few articles about Jasper that might come in handy for your trip.

8 BEST Athabasca Glacier Tours to See the Columbia Icefield

How to Get from Jasper to Banff +21 Fun Road Trip Stops

Guide to Planning the Most Romantic Honeymoon in Jasper, Canada