10 Secret Canadian Destinations You Should Visit Now
Which, frankly, is a damned good idea.
Even Canadians can take heart, there are still a number of destinations that are a great value for their flagging currency.
Everyone knows about cities like Toronto, Vancouver, Montréal, Calgary; and tourist hotspots like Banff, Whistler, Niagara Falls, and Québec City. And while I recommend visiting each one of these places, sometimes it’s nice to escape the tourist hoards and discover different parts of Canada.
Here are 10 Canadian destinations (in no particular order) you don’t know about, but should:
A small outpost town situated along the Hudson Bay and the mouth of the Churchill river, Churchill is known as the polar bear capital of the world. From October to November each year thousands of polar bears gather around Churchill as they await for the Hudson Bay to freeze over so they can go hunting. While this is the best time to see polar bears, they are always some stranglers and it’s possible to run into one at any time of year — so it’s best to exercise caution and never walk around town alone, especially at night.
The town is small. filled mostly with restaurants, hotels, and a few boutiques. Along with herds of deer and big horn sheep who seem to forget that the town is for humans, not animals. There is nothing quite like hearing hooves outside your second floor room, opening your door, and finding a couple of big horn sheep walking around the second floor balconies.
If you’re an outdoor lover, Waterton is the place to be with plenty of mountain hikes and serene camping spots. Consider the 8-hour hike to Crypt Lake (one of the best), trek along Red Rock Canyon, or take the boat to Goat Haunt, Montana and spend the day hiking in Glacier National Park — yes, there is a very small customs hut in the middle of nowhere that you’ll need to pass through!
Île Quarry, Québec
Exploring the unique flora to fauna on the islands (there are 40) that make up the Mingan Archipelago is the perfect way to disconnect from the digital world and get back to nature. Of course if you’re going to go all the way up there, you may as well spend a night or two, and I suggest doing that on Île Quarry.
In the summer days feel as though they will never end, which is partially due to the sun never truly dipping below the horizon. In the winter the sun never truly rises. Needless to say, the sun, or lack there of, can mess with your eternal clock. So why should you visit Whitehorse or the Yukon in general? Simple: it’s pure nature porn.
Visit the McBride Museum and what remains of Sam McGee’s cabin, devour fried fish at Klondike, or venture into the mountains to go hiking and/or camping. Or, visit Oct/Nov to experience the magic of the Northern Lights.
Îles de la Madeleine, Québec
Split your time between the six small communities, each with it’s own character. Visit in May for the lobster festival as the season begins, or venture down to a wharf and buy lobster from the boats as they return to the dock. Take a cooking class, visit the brewery and enjoy a beer so strong it will knock on your arse — thanks to a strong fermentation process which includes the curing of barely and malt in the same smokehouse as the herring.
On the islands life is a mixture of relaxation and adventure. You can spend days on the beach collecting sand dollars or kayak around the red cliffs. There are plenty of activities to keep you busy.
Set a course for Bonavista and make plans to stop along the way. Newfoundland has hundreds of fishing hamlets tucked away in small bays. Pull off the main highway (there is only one that goes to Bonavista) whenever you see a sign saying a town is 16km, or less, away. Points for finding towns like Tickle Cove, and Duntara. Bonus points for driving down roads until they end as they sometimes lead to a small community with colourful saltbox houses spread between craighs of rock, a small wharf, general store, and hand-written road signs.
Haida Gwaii, British Columbia
Haida Gwaii is rich with native history and massive totem poles can be found throughout the islands. Activities on the islands include: deep sea fishing for halibut, kayak, camp, surf, or explore on foot. Wander hemlock forest, or go in search of colourful starfish that cling to rocks in the shallow crystal clear creeks and rivers. Make time to learn about the Native American culture of the islands and make time to admire the varies forms of art on the islands: wood carvers, weavers, painters, glass-blowers, and more.
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Today Charlottetown is the perfect city for an east coast getaway with gourmet restaurants, historic monuments and activities, cycling, fabulous theatre productions, charming boutiques, and so much more.
When planning your trip to Charlottetown, consider renting a car and venturing around the island — go see the house from the Anne of Green Gables series or have a lobster bake along a beach.
Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
While the city may not look like much today, it was once the go-to place for those looking to liquor-up during prohibition. In fact, the Chicago mob were regular visitors to Moose Jaw, where the tunnels (which were built years earlier by Chinese immigrants who were hiding from the government) held everything from booze to gambling houses to stores of illegal weapons.
Saint Pierre and Miquelon
This is a destination that begs to be bragged about!
Where you do like to go when you visit Canada? Tweet us @bootsnall.
Photo Credit: Parks Canada / E. Lajeunesse