10 unique places to visit in Canada this summer
Summer time is pretty much upon us, and after struggling through a frigid winter, it’s time to get out there and enjoy Canada’s warmer months. While you might consider taking your annual vacation somewhere exotic, you don’t actually have to leave the country at all to experience something truly unique. In fact, Canada is home to some of the greatest natural beauty in the world, so why not make the most of it this summer?
1.Tofino, British Columbia
On the west coast of Vancouver Island is the sandy shores of Tofino, a nature lover’s paradise. A favourite amongst surfers, bird watchers, hikers, whale watchers and fishers. Tofino has become a prime escape from city life for Vancouverites, but is also rapidly becoming a top vacation destination. In fact, it’s cool, surfer vibe is reminiscent of the coast of California-especially in the summer months. If the beauty of the beaches aren’t enough, Tofino is also home to two amazing environmental wonders-the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Tofino is also home to some pretty special little restaurants, offering fresh, west coast food. Sip on a freshly brewed cup of coffee in the morning at Tofino Coffee Co., and finish off your day with a bean burrito from family-owned SoBo.
Whether you are an active bunny who wants to climb, swim, surf and explore, or you want a more relaxing trip basking on the beach and enjoying delicious food, there is something for everyone.
Trek the path less travelled this summer and head to Durham, a small, nature-heavy region that you may not have even heard of if you aren't from this neck of the woods. Just two hours northwest of Toronto and you can find yourself in this sleepy little town, abundant in nature. The small town feel also brings with it a host of welcoming residents who will be happy to share some of their town’s best bits.
Visitors can explore history and take a trip through the town on the York-Durham Heritage Railway which dates back to the 1950s. Or sample locally brewed beverages at one of the local craft breweries that call Durham home, including Old Flame Brewing Co, and 5 Paddles Brewing Co. If you are travelling with a group of adventure seekers, be sure to try out the Treetop Eco-Adventure Park, which lets you get up close and personal with some of the largest trees in the area. Explore new heights at the Treewalk village, or be a daredevil and try out zip lining or the aerial games on offer. However, if you really want to become one with nature, then you must try out the tree house cabin that sits just a little outside of the town. This unique experience allows visitors to sleep under the stars and really enjoy the quiet, tranquility of the countryside. Built by local lady Lynne Knowlton, the tree house lets up to four guests relive their childhood and sleep in this cozy, wooden cabin amongst the branches.
3. Osoyoos, British Columbia
Nestled in the Okanagan Valley, between Penticton and Omak, is the town of Osoyoos which has seen a growth in tourism in recent years. The town's population swells dramatically in the summer months, thanks to the abundance of natural beauty that floods the surrounding area. The town is also rich in both history and culture, sitting adjacent to the Osoyoos Indian Band.
Water lovers can rejoice, as Osoyoos Lake is the warmest freshwater lake in the country, and in summer the BC Parks System reports an average water temperature of 24 °C. If you don’t quite feel like taking a dip, you can relax on one of the sandy beaches that span the shores of the lake for miles. There are also big plans in the future to breathe new life into the waterfront along the town core, thanks to the recent addition of the Watermark Beach Resort.
One of the highlights of Osoyoos, however, is the amazing Spotted Lake that sits just 9 km west of the town. First Nations of the Okanagan Valley consider the lake to be sacred, and trust in its ability to heal illnesses that are both physical and spiritual. In the summer the surface becomes a series of coloured pools, or “spots”-hence the name, when most of its water evaporates due to the heat. The pools vary in colour from blue to white, yellow to green, depending on which minerals are present. Most of the pools contain a common mix of magnesium, calcium and sodium. The magnesium sulfate in the lake solidifies allowing visitors to totter between each. It truly is a wondrous sight.
Nature lovers should also check out the Osoyoos Desert Centre and the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre, both just a short journey from the town, that work to preserve the beautiful ecosystem of the surrounding Okanagan Desert. In your down time, perfect your swing at one of three 18-hole golf clubs in the area- Osoyoos Golf and Country Club, Fairview Mountain Golf Club (Oliver) and the Nk’Mip Canyon Desert Golf Course.
4. The Big Muddy Badlands, Saskatchewan
The Big Muddy Badlands are a renowned strip that stretches from southern Saskatchewan and northern Montana along Big Muddy Creek. Badlands are a type of dry terrain where soft sedimentary rocks and clay-rich soils have been eroded by wind and water, and are made up of steep slopes and minimal vegetation. The Big Muddy Badlands are particularly iconic thanks to their popularity with U.S. outlaws in the 1890s and early 1900s, who would often use the trails, and hide themselves in the big Muddy Caves.
Ever fancied yourself a bit of an outlaw? Then trace the trails once taken by these historical figures, and take a tour in the outlaw caves. Many of the outlaws also spent their time looking out for authority in the 70-meter high Castle Butte which sits on the trail. Along the valley you can also take in some mysterious ancient aboriginal stone effigies, adding another element of magic to the area. Tours are on offer from the nearby town of Coronach, and you can choose from half-day shorter tours, to a full day-long tour, depending just how interested you are in reliving those marauder's footsteps.
Since the area drives in so many tourists each summer, there are plenty of places to stay. In nearby Bengough is Big Muddy Inn, a 16-room hotel which also offers free WiFi, a restaurant and bar. Or if you want something a little cozier, try Country Flavor B&B which sits on a neighbouring ranch. However, for a real taste of life in The Big Muddy Badlands, visitors can camp or park in an RV at the fully serviced campground in Coronach.
5. Pingualuit Provincial Park, northern Quebec
If you want to look prehistoric life in the face, then head to Pingualuit provincial Park, in northern Quebec. Amidst this vast expanse of nature is the park’s namesake-the Pingualuit Crater. Around a million-and-a-half years ago, a meteorite burned through the Earth’s atmosphere and left an almost perfectly circular lake in the centre of what is now the park.
A trip to Pingualuit isn’t for the fainthearted, and there will be much hiking ahead of you-in fact to trek the entire park takes about 23 days! If you think you’re up to the challenge, though, you can take part in either a guided or self-guided journey across the entire park with several opportunities to stop off and camp along the way. Although it is quite remote, the park does offer cabins with showers, toilets and even WiFi, so you can stay in touch with the outside world even when basking this deep in nature. The trek around the Pingualuit Crater itself is about 12 km, and there is only one spot where it is safe enough to descent and touch the rainwater that fills it.
It is probably enough just to stare in amazement at the natural beauty of this pristine national park, however there are plenty of activities to fill your time with, too. Take part in fishing, landscape and wildlife observation and sea kayaking among other things. No matter what, be sure to bring your camera because the picturesque views are something you won’t want to forget.
6. Whistler, British Columbia
If you want a real Canadian experience-think lakes, trees, mountains and breathtaking views then Whistler is your one stop shop. Although Whistler is famous for its winter activities, it’s also an amazing place to visit in the summer, and a comparatively different experience. Whether you’re an adventure seeker or heading on vacation with the family, Whistler’s quaint resorts can cater to all. There are plenty of opportunities for hiking, with 50 km of trails ranging from beginner to expert-each rewarding you with an unforgettable vista at the end. Or if you aren’t quite up to the challenge, why not take a ride in the Peak 2 Peak Gondola? If you have the kids in tow, check out the Family Adventure Zone at the base of blackcomb mountain, which includes bungee trampolines and bouncy castles.
Take in the beauty from above, and explore The Adventure Group’s treetop course which even offers a separate activity trail just for the kids. Thrill seekers should head to Ziptrek Ecotours, a popular attraction that has five zip-lines, letting you explore the environment in an exciting and unique way. Plus the entire course is built with the ecosystem in mind, meaning that nothing is harmed as you fly through the leaves. Head to the water, rent a canoe or kayak and try your hand at paddling the River of Golden Dreams which leads across Alta Lake, along a glacier river to Greek Lake, passing through Whistler’s wetlands on the way. If you aren’t an expert paddler, there is the option to sign up for a private tour.
When it's time to chill out, relax at one of the sandy beach areas dotted along the shores of Whistler’s multiple lake; pack a picnic and watch the sun set. At the end of a long day, there is even the option of heading back to a luxurious room and living like royalty at the town’s famed Fairmont Chateau Whistler hotel.
6. Algonquin Park, Ontario
A trip to Algonquin Provincial park is bound to be jam packed with activity, so if you’re hoping for a quiet retreat, it might not be for you. What this trip guarantees, though, is an abundance of nature and natural heritage stretching back generations. Established in 1893, Algonquin Park is Canada’s oldest provincial park and is roughly the same size as Jamaica. Filled with over 2,400 lakes and 1,200 kilometres of rivers and streams, you are destined to become at one with the water here. Canoeing, kayaking, swimming and fishing are all on the menu, plus there are some amazing spots to camp, which let you emerge each morning to the stunning waters.
The park has its own visitor centre, so whether you need some helpful hints and tips on how to make the most of your visit, or you want to find out more about the parks robust history, there will always be an expert on hand to help. And if you’re interested in art, the park even has its own art centre, which features nature-inspired art. Sit back and enjoy a sweet treat or cup of joe in the centre’s cafe, while the little ones get messy at one of the craft workshops.
7. Eastern Townships of Quebec, Quebec
Cottage country in Ontario is what the Eastern Townships are to Quebec-a quaint, country retreat. Made up of a collective of picturesque towns and villages dotted along the US border, the Eastern Townships are enjoyed by tourists, and city folk escaping the 9-5 hustle of Quebec and Montreal.
It goes without saying that nature is at every turn, so whether you are talking an early evening stroll down a country lane, or visiting the vast forests of Mont-Orford National Park, you can make the most of the great outdoors. The area is also home to the largest zoo in Quebec, Zoo de Granby, which features a mini fairground for the little ones, as well as a waterpark in the summer months.
If you want a bit more of a relaxed trip, you’re in luck, as the region is home to world-class wineries, breweries and restaurants, as well as weekly local markets where you can take your pick from an array of local produce. Or, for a history lesson with a sweet twist, there’s the Musée du Chocolat in Bromont. When your appetite is fully satisfied, head back to the cozy porch of your rental cabin, curl up in a muskoka chair and watch the sun set.
8. Victoria, British Columbia
Victoria, just off the southern tip of Vancouver, is a city on an island and the perfect escape of urban convenience and natural beauty. Named after Queen Victoria, who once ruled over British North America, the city is one of the oldest in the Pacific northwest. Plus, the locals will make you feel right at home, since it was actually voted one of the top 15 friendliest cities in the world! A mishmash of history, culture, accessible wildlife and amazing food and drink, you can check off all the boxes on this trip.
Since Victoria is the capital of B.C. you can stop off at the parliament buildings, which are not only rich in political history, but also boast some breathtaking architecture that has a heavy European influence. Stop off for some quintessential afternoon tea at the famed Fairmont Empress Hotel, which has hosted royalty and celebrities to its traditional tea room since 1908.
Although Victoria is known for being the sunniest city west of the Canadian Rockies, it still endures its fair share of rain, so if the precipitation does hit, take shelter at the Royal BC Museum. Not only can you learn all about the effects of climate change on Western Canada’s eco system, the museum is also hosts a large collection of indigenous First Nations artifacts, and a giant Wooly Mammoth. If you’re a keen cyclist, then make sure to rent a bike while your there and check out the entire city on two wheels. Victoria is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the country.
Of course, being an island there isn’t much escape from the surrounding Pacific Ocean, and there are plenty of opportunities to take in the view on a waterside deck. For a truly unique experience, take part in one of the whale sighting tours and get up close and personal with some of the world’s biggest mammals in their natural habitat.
9. Township of Muskoka Lakes, Ontario
Muskoka is Ontario’s famous cottage country made up of 1,600 lakes, 14,000 kilometres of shoreline, rivers, beaches and forests. While many of its annual visitors own their own cozy family cottages up there, you don’t have to look far for a quaint cottage. In the summer, Muskoka is the place to enjoy Canada’s golden months, and kick back in a stereotypical red, Muskoka chair with a glass of locally sourced wine-perhaps from the Muskoka Lakes winery.
Despite the thousand of lakes that span Muskoka’s territory, it is most known for the beautiful Lake Muskoka, Lake Joseph, and Lake Rosseau. It goes without saying that if you do get the opportunity to visit Muskoka, then you have to hit the water. Perhaps you will opt to grace the crystal waters in a traditional canoe, or maybe you’ll battle the current on a kayaking adventure. It is not uncommon to see families out cruising in the late evening on their speed boats or pontoons, or an excitable flock of youths on jet skis. And if you’re a real water baby, the water’s are perfect for a swim, especially when the sun is at its hottest.
On land, there is still plenty of action to be had. Take in the surrounding nature on one of the various cycling routes or hiking trails-you never know what wildlife you might spot along the way. If you have the kids in tow, take them to Santa’s village which, despite the name, provides fun for the whole family year round. The activity park, near to Bracebridge, has a miniature train, splash pads, a go-karting track, arcade and turns out Santa lives there year-round!
For some local shopping, head to Port Carling-also known as the “Hub of the Lakes”-which is home to all kinds of boutiques selling everything from unique fashion to cottage decoration. If you don’t want to stay in a cottage, there is the option for a more luxurious stay at the Marriott Rosseau Muskoka Resort and Spa.
10. Corner Brook, Newfoundland
History and hockey go hand and hand at this whimsical ocean side city. Corner Brook located on the Bay of Islands, is the smallest of Newfoundland’s three cities. It’s a perfect mix of city living, Canadian landscape and ocean vistas; plus it is home to an eclectic range of wildlife that you probably won’t see on the daily.
In the summer months Corner Brook is warmer than its sibling city, St John’s, and although Newfoundland is known for its rainy months, it has been known to remain fairly dry from April right through until July. For the nature lovers there are plenty of winding trails that pass through the downtown area and further beyond. Take a stroll along the Corner Brook Stream Trail, which is used year-round by hikers, runners and snow-shoers. The trail also bypasses a pond, home to a group of swans who won’t say no if you want to drop off some bread for them.
If you’re from a family of hockey lovers, then you must visit the Newfoundland Hockey Hall of Fame where you can learn about some of the east coast's best players. History lovers can take a journey back to the 1700s, when visiting Captain James Cook History Site, where you can learn all about the man who discovered the area. The site also boasts some pretty spectacular views of the ocean and city.
Of course, being right on the shores of the Gulf of St Lawrence, there are a bunch of boat tours you can take which give you a one-of-a-kind view of the city from the water, as well as an opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the marine life native to the area.
No matter what kind of vacation you are looking for, Canada can offer you a trip to remember. While there is a lot of planning to do to ensure you have a memorable experience, make sure you remember the important stuff too. Just because you are staying in Canada doesn’t mean you should skip out on travel insurance. If you’re planning on leaving your home province, your provincial health care will only stretch so far, and its best to be covered for any unexpected events. Plus, travel insurance will also protect any cancellations, luggage and personal items. There are all kinds of packages available, so have a look around and find one to suit you.