Oh Canada: 22 Reasons Why Your Next Holiday Has To Be Here

10 July 2017
Read Time: 11.7 mins

From majestic mountain ranges to are-you-sure-that’s-real turquoise lakes, Canada is one of the world’s overachievers when it comes to pristine wilderness. In a country that spans six time zones, that’s a whole lot of nature just waiting to be explored. Whether you like the idea of an in-depth escorted journey or prefer to travel your own way, one thing’s for sure: there are so many reasons to visit this beautiful country.

1. Ottawa

Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada Each morning during summer, the Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place on the front lawn of Parliament Hill. Image: Getty

If you’re travelling to Canada, you have to make time for its impressive capital, Ottawa. The imposing Gothic Parliament buildings dominate downtown, and if you only have a few days in the city make your way to the National Gallery of Canada to admire the world-class art, then wander or cycle along the picturesque Rideau Canal – a UNESCO World Heritage site.

2. Totems of Gwaii Haanas National Park

Gwaii Haanas totems, Canada Gwaii Haanas is an archipelago of 138 islands. Image: Getty

Amongst the islands you can find the hauntingly beautiful totem poles left by the Haida people, whose oral history recounts legends of the arrival of the first pine tree.

3. Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, Canada Horseshoe Falls are the most expansive part of Niagara Falls, and lie on the border of the USA and Canada. Image: Getty

Not the highest waterfall in the world, but one of the widest and certainly one of the most breathtaking. Niagara Falls is actually three waterfalls in one, and more than 168,000 cubic metres of water falls over the crest line every minute in high flow. Now that’s (hydroelectric) power – from the mist on your face to the roar of the falls, this is something you just have to experience in person.

4. Toronto

The largest city in Canada and one of the most multiculturally diverse on the planet, Toronto is located on Lake Ontario in the heart of the Great Lakes region. It’s a city with everything, including 1,600 public parks, a glittering skyline and a sailboat-dotted marina. Make sure you stop in to the hip area of Queen Street West with its cool cafes, bakeries and restaurants, and the iconic CN tower is definitely worth a visit (love those 1970s glass elevators). 

5. Jasper National Park

Spirit Island in Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park, Canada A photographer's dream: Spirit Island, Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park, Canada. Image: Getty

Hello, Canadian Rockies. World heritage listed Jasper National Park is a breathtaking 10,878 square kilometres of mountain wilderness just waiting to be hiked, walked, photographed, skied, soaked-up, breathed-in and generally appreciated for the global wonder that it is.

6. 1,000 Islands

The Thousand Islands – that’s how you say it – is a cobalt-blue waterway dotted with 1,864 islands. Some are havens of lush, untouched woodland while others are home to Victorian houses and villages. The area is a boatie’s paradise, so get out on the water and breathe in the fresh, invigorating Canadian air.

7. Quebec City

Chateau Frontenac Hotel,Old Quebec City, Canada Chateau Frontenac Hotel, the icon of Old Quebec City, Canada. Image: Getty

From its narrow cobblestone streets to the 17th- and 18th-century houses and fairytale backdrop of Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City is the romantic heart of Quebec province. Give yourself at least two days here if you can, and take your time wandering the Old Town. This was where the French first established themselves in 1608, making it one of America’s oldest and most intriguing settlements. While this is a thoroughly modern city, the spirit of Old Europe survives.

8. Maple Syrup

One of Canada’s greatest gifts to the world, and to pancakes, is maple syrup. First collected by the indigenous peoples of North America, the practice was eagerly adopted by European settlers and is now a staple at any restaurant worth its bacon. If you have time, find your way to a traditional Sugar Shack and learn how the real thing is produced. You’ll have to sample some, of course. Anything else just wouldn’t be right.

9. Bay of Fundy

Bay of Fundy, Canada Walk around the Hopewell Rocks at low tide, and then watch them disappear. Image: Getty

Phenomenal is about the only way to describe this wonder of North America. The highest tides on earth, the rarest whales in the world and Triassic age dinosaur fossils. Go beachcombing at New River Beach Provincial Park or experience a billion years of Earth’s history at Stonehammer Geopark. No matter what you choose, there’s no place like the Bay of Fundy.

10. Wolves

Yes that’s right. Time your trip right and you could get to see the annual summer Wolf Howl in Algonquin Park. Rangers take centre stage, and call out to the area’s packs with their best howls. The packs return the call, then under expert guidance, car caravans set out to try and catch a glimpse of the magnificent animals up close. 

11. Fairmont Banff Springs

Fairmont Hotel Banff Springs, Canada After a day out in the wilderness, Willow Stream Spa in the Fairmont Hotel will wash any weariness away. Image: Getty

The Castle in the Rockies, as it is known, is a year-round luxury resort and picture-perfect home-away-from-home while you’re in the alpine town of Banff, Alberta. Like something out of a Wes Anderson movie (with less eccentric staff) staying at the iconic Rockies hotel is a dream come true for many people.

12. That Viking feeling

An ancient Viking village that predates Columbus by 500 years, L’anse aux Meadows is remote, located at the northernmost tip of the island of Newfoundland. Don’t let that deter you, however. This one-time home to Eric the Red’s son Lief is a National Historic site and is brimming with aspects of Viking life, from the Viking Interpretive Centre to the fully recreated Viking trading port Norstead. Join a Viking for dinner inside a replica sod house and listen to stories about life in 1000 B.C. from a costumed interpreter. You’ll have plenty of good stories to take home after this little adventure.

13. Glacier Bay National Park 

glacial ice, Glacier Bay National Park, Canada Ice that has fallen off the face of the Sawyer ice glacier, Glacier Bay National Park. Image: Getty

OK so technically Glacier Bay National Park is part of Alaska (it really is) but don't let a detail like that stop you from seeing this area of jaw-dropping dramatic beauty on a trip to Canada. It’s home to more actively calving tidewater glaciers than anywhere else in the world, as well as wildlife that includes moose, seals and whales as well as brown and black bears. This 24-million-acre wilderness is a World Heritage Site and the world’s largest internationally protected area. Love being blown away by nature’s majesty? You need to see this.

14. Whales

Orca off Haida Gwaii archipelago, British Columbia, Canada Orca swimming off Haida Gwaii archipelago, British Columbia. Image: Getty

Humpbacks and orcas are plentiful in the waters of Glacier Bay National Park and surrounds. 

15. Lake Agnes 

Lake Agnes Tea House, Canadian Rocky Mountains Lake Agnes Tea House in the Canadian Rockies has some of the best scenery in the Rockies. Image: Getty

Lake Agnes, Lake Louise and Mirror Lake are often referred to as the ‘Lakes in the Clouds’ due to their high altitude. Take the 3.5 kilometre hike to the tea house or, for a slightly less strenuous journey, horses are available for hire in Lake Louise. Either way, that steaming hot cup of Almond Madagascar Spice tea alongside a side serve of Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf will be well deserved.

16. Bears

If there’s one thing Canada does exceptionally well, it is bears. Black, Grizzly, Spirit – all these bears roam the Canadian Rocky and Columbia mountains, and the northern town of Churchill, Manitoba, located on Hudson Bay, is considered the polar bear capital of the world. 

17. Vancouver 

Totem poles, Vancouver, Canada Carved by First Nations artists, these totem poles at Brockton Point, Stanley Park, depict traditional themes of thunderbirds, bears and wolves. Image: Getty

This Pacific city, just up the road from its like-minded neighbour Seattle, is progressive in every sense of the word. Its Chinatown is one of Canada’s largest, the craft beer scene here is booming and some would argue that it’s the best foodie city in North America. Oh and snow-capped peaks ring the horizon. Did we mention the parks and the beaches? The skiing? Vancouver will win your heart.

18. Cathedral Grove

Douglas Fir trees in Cathedral Grove, Vancouver Island Canada Cathedral Grove is a tree hugger's paradise. Image: Getty

This European name refers to the rare and endangered remnant of an ancient Douglas fir tree forest on Vancouver Island which First Nations people looked after for thousands of years. The biggest trees in the Grove are about 800 years old and measure about 9 metres in circumference. If you want to feel humbled by Mother Nature, this is surely the place to do it. 

19. Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake, Banff, Canada Peyto Lake is named after Bill Peyto, an early trail guide and trapper in the Banff area. Image: Getty

One of the most beautiful lakes in the world is located in Banff National Park, approximately 40 kilometres northwest of Lake Louise. Is it really that colour? Yes it is. The lake gets its colour from large amounts of glacier rock flour (silt-sized particles of rock) that flow into it during the summer months. The colour varies by the season and even the time of day. If you’re a keen instagrammer, note that the lake is best seen from Bow Summit, the highest point on the Icefields Parkway. 

20. Montreal

Tulips in Montreal, Canada Tulips start blooming in Montreal around early May. Image: Getty

Is it the mouthwatering mix of cosmopolitan cuisine? The buzz that comes from being a city with a fervent passion for the arts? Whatever makes a city dynamic, captivating and creative, Montreal has it in abundance. Home to more than 90 festivals –including possibly the world’s most popular jazz festival – Montreal is where life is all about living exceptionally well. A trip to Canada isn’t complete without trying this city on for size.

21. Athabasca Glacier

Athabasca Glacier, Canada The Athabasca Glacier is part of the Columbia Icefield and is currently receding at the rate of about 5 metres per year. Image: Getty

How often do you get the chance to walk out onto a 10,000-year-old sheet of ice? Exactly, which is why a trip to Athabasca Glacier is a must. Board a massive Ice Explorer and ride onto the surface, out to where you can walk on, feel, and drink from this mighty, pristine glacier. 

22. Prince Edward Island 

Covehead Harbour Lighthouse, Prince Edward Island Canada Maritime heritage everywhere you look. Covehead Harbour Lighthouse, PEI. Image: Getty

Whether you’re a fan of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic Anne of Green Gables or not, you’ll fall in love with PEI’s rugged coastal landscape and characteristic island friendliness. Seafood is abundant so find yourself a table with a view at the Point Prim Chowder House and settle in for a Maritime good time.

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Erin Bennion

Based in Brisbane, Erin is a writer with a penchant for using fancy old French words wherever possible and an insatiable hankering for trawling through vintage markets in small Scandinavian towns (no really). One of her dreams is to take her family to see General Sherman in Sequoia National Park and give that old guy a group-hug. Don’t follow her, she could end up anywhere. Twitter @erinbennion