Maligne Lake Cruise vs Lake Minnewanka Cruise

Should you book the Maligne Lake cruise or the Lake Minnewanka cruise? This is one of the main questions we see come up when summertime rolls around the Rockies. If you can only choose one cruise, it’s not an easy choice. Both cruises are completely different and offer unique views.

What’s the main difference? Well, for starters, one is in Jasper, and one is in Banff, but there is much more to each activity. Let’s break down each cruise, and help you make the right decision for your trip!

About the Lake Minnewanka Cruise

Lake Minnewanka Cruise
  • Location: Lake Minnewanka is in Banff National Park, about a 15-minute drive from Downtown Banff. It’s easily accessible from Banff, and you can even take the Roam Transit Route 6 to get there, eliminating the need for a car.
  • Nearby Attractions: Lake Minnewanka is located near Two Jack Lake, Johnson Lake, and Cascade Ponds.
  • Length of Cruise: Cruises last between 1 hour and 1.5 hours, depending on which cruise package you purchase. We recommend booking the 1.5-hour Premium Cruise or Beer Voyage Cruise.
  • Hours: In 2024, Lake Minnewanka Cruises will run every day between May 10 – October 14 (weather dependent).
  • Cost: Cruises start at $65.00 per adult
  • Notable Tidbits: Lake Minnewanka is the largest lake in Banff.
  • Highlights: Getting out to Devil’s Gap and taking in the views that not many get to see. Beer Voyage Cruise for the adults!

One of the best things to do in Banff in the summer is enjoy the Lake Minnewanka Cruise. This panoramic cruise cruises Lake Minnewanka and allows visitors to take in the views from the water. The cruise then heads to Devil’s Gap at the end of Lake Minnewanka and then returns. Devil’s Gap is a unique natural feature that looks out to the east and the plains of Alberta while enveloped in a natural amphitheater.

This area where you’ll stop the cruise is also the lake’s deepest point, plunging 152 meters beneath the surface. Many don’t get to see this area, as to explore this hidden gem on foot, one must embark on a 30-kilometer journey into the remote Canadian Rockies. However, on a Lake Minnewanka cruise, this can be reached in just 30 minutes of cruising, which alone, makes the Lake Minnewanka cruise well worth it. When you reach Devil’s Gap, the captain will turn off the engine and ask for silence so that cruisers can appreciate the area’s beauty.

Devil's Gap
Devil’s Gap

While Devil’s Gap is certainly a cruise highlight, the captain will highlight other points of interest and landmarks along the route. All these sights are combined with insights into the region’s history to enhance the overall experience. Travelers will learn about interesting tidbits, such as how the Nakoda people historically utilized Devil’s Gap as an entry point into the Rockies, a route shared with early European explorers.

In addition to the standard cruise, other types are offered specifically for families and even adults who want to drink a few local brews.

Lake Minnewanka Cruise Tickets

Types of Cruises Offered

On the Beer Voyage Cruise
  • Lake Minnewanka Classic Cruise: This is the most standard cruise and includes a short visit Devil’s Gap. It is one hour long.
  • Lake Minnewanka Premium Cruise: The premium cruise includes a longer stop to view Devil’s Gap. It is 1.5 hours long and includes a taste of tasty Pine Tea.
  • Beer Voyage Cruise: This 90-minute cruise runs daily at 5 p.m. and allows guests to enjoy local craft brews while enjoying the views. Guests of 2 are given 4 beers total for the tasting, and you can bring home any unopened cans you don’t consume. If this will affect your driving to and from Lake Minnewanka, consider taking public transit to Lake Minnewanka. This is an 18+ only cruise.
  • Family Lake Minnewanka Cruise: If visiting Banff with kids, families can enjoy a one-hour cruise on Lake Minnewanka, specially made for kids 12 and under. This cruise includes a kids’ journal book, a treat for kids at the docks, and one free child for each full-paying adult.

About the Maligne Lake Cruise

Maligne Lake Cruise
  • Location: Maligne Lake is located in Jasper National Park, it’s about 45 minutes drive from Downtown Jasper down Maligne Lake Road.
  • Nearby Attractions: Along the way to Maligne Lake, you’ll pass beautiful sights like Medicine Lake and Maligne Canyon.
  • Length: Cruises last between 1 hour and 1.5 hours, depending on which cruise package you purchase. We recommend booking the Premium Cruise, which gives you more time at Spirit Island.
  • Hours: In 2024, the Maligne Lake cruises run from May 31* – October 13th.
  • Cost: Cruises start at $82.00 per adult
  • Notable Tidbits: Maligne Lake is the second-largest glacier-fed lake in the world.
  • Highlights: Stopping and taking in the beauty of Spirit Island and the Hall of the Gods. The further you get away from the parking area, and closer you get to Spirit Island, the bluer the water will get!

Heading to Maligne Lake and hopping on a cruise to Spirit Island is easily one of the most popular things to do in Jasper and, for many, one of the main reasons they visit. The hour-and-a-half panoramic cruise heads to Spirit Island, which is 14 km up the lake. It’s around a half-hour ride to the island, and here, guests get 15 minutes of time to enjoy the views of Spirit Island and take photos unless they book the Premium Cruise.

Cruising the beautiful waters

Visitors are guaranteed spectacular mountain vistas while cruising across cerulean water. You’ll probably notice as you cruise along that the lake gets bluer and bluer as you get closer to the glaciers. All the more reasons to book the cruise!

During the cruise, a guide will explain all the fun details about the lake, its history, and its importance to the area. You’ll learn a bit about the Stoney Nakoda and the cultural significance Maligne Lake plays to them. There’s plenty of time to take in the views, and stepping outside the covered boat is possible to get some fresh air as you’re cruising.

Maligne Lake Cruise Tickets

Types of Cruises Offered

Maligne Lake Cruise
  • Classic Cruise: This is the standard cruise that allows for 15 minutes of free time on Spirit Island.
  • Premium Cruise This cruise is almost identical to the Classic Cruise cruise. The only difference is that you get 30 minutes to explore Spirit Island and an extra stop to enjoy the views at Pincushion Bay. The Premium Cruise also runs in the evening and is the last cruise of the day.

Things to Note About Both Cruises

  • Both Lake Minnewanka and Maligne Lake are in national parks. You will need a parks pass for each.
  • I’m not a boat expert, but both boats seem pretty similar. Neither has bathrooms, and each has about the same amount of space.
  • Both cruises are similarly priced
  • Both cruises only run during the summer months.
  • Both cruises are operated by Pursuit.
  • Both cruises are on among some of the largest lakes in the Rockies.
  • Both lakes are surrounded by mammoth mountains, and are on incredible scenic roads.
  • It’s recommended to book both cruises in advance.

Key Differences Between the Lake Minnewanka and Maligne Lake Cruise?

lake minnewanka cruise
Boarding the boat at Lake Minnewanka
  • The Maligne Lake Cruise is about $20 more than the Lake Minnewanka Cruise.
  • Maligne Lake radiates blue and is surrounded by glaciers, while Lake Minnewaka is not.
  • The Lake Minnewanka Beer Cruise is exclusive to Lake Minnewanka.
  • Lake Minnewanka is closer to Banff than Maligne Lake is to Jasper.
  • You get out of the boat on the Maligne Lake Cruise and get to view Spirit Lake by land. On the Lake Minnewanka cruise you stay on the boat the entire time.

If You Can Only Choose One, Which One Do We Recommend?

Spirit Island
Spirit Island

If you are eager to do both cruises, we highly recommend you do, as they offer unique and different experiences. That being said, we understand that it’s an expensive ordeal, especially if you are a family, and may only get to choose one.

While we loved our time on Lake Minnewanka and Maligne Lake, we think the cruise on Maligne Lake is more special. For one, Maligne Lake is a more iconic lake. Peter Gales’ iconic portrayal of Spirit Island even graced Kodak’s Colorama exhibit at New York City’s Grand Central Terminal in 1960. Fast forward to 2014, Apple selected an image of Spirit Island to highlight the enhanced photography prowess of their latest iPad model during its launch.

In our opinion, the views of the whole cruise and down the Hall of the Gods are jaw-dropping, and the waters of Maligne Lake are much bluer than Minnewanka. Lastly, Spirit Island is a special place with canoers paddling over 14 km daily to camp there. The fact that Spirit Island is surrounded by the same mountain range on three sides is rare and extremely significant to the Stoney Nakoda. Getting out on land, taking in the views, and snapping a few photos is a once-in-a-lifetime experience you won’t regret.

I’ll end this article by mentioning that this question gets asked often in our private Facebook group, and our readers overwhelmingly recommend the Maligne Lake Cruise over Lake Minnewanka. If you’re leaning that way too, we recommend booking the cruise on Maligne Lake, and strolling the shoreline of Lake Minnewanka!

Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies

  • Tours (New in 2024): The Banff Blog is partnering with one of the leading tour companies in Western Canada so readers can experience the magic of the Rockies with other travelers – without having to think about a thing. See all our 2024 tour offerings here!
  • Get to Banff or Canmore Without a Car: The Banff Airporter provides fantastic service connecting you from the Calgary International Airport (YYC) to Banff or Canmore.
  • Get Around: We suggest renting a car to get around. You can search for rental cars on Or embark on an epic campervan trip. We like to compare prices on Motorhome Republic and Outdoorsy.
  • Cheaper Airfare: We also use Going to watch for cheap airfare deals!
  • Hop On, Hop Off: This tour is taking Banff by storm. It’s exactly what it sounds like, hop on and off a bus bound for all the best attractions at your own pace!
About Natasha

Natasha calls Canmore, Alberta home. After traveling across seven continents and 90 countries with Cameron, she settled down in the stunning Canadian Rockies. She loves to help others travel and make their planning easier. She is a winter enthusiast and loves to snowboard, ice skate, and snowshoe and enjoy all the fantastic summer opportunities in Banff like hiking, scrambling, and biking. You can find her in the mountains or enjoying a coffee by the river. Learn more on the about us page!

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