Say the word ‘Canada’ and it’s likely that a desktop background-esque scene springs to mind: towering mountain peaks, dazzling blue lakes, and forests as far as the eye can see. The reality, well, is exactly that. One of the largest countries in the world and surely one of the most ruggedly picturesque, it’s no wonder Lonely Planet named it the best country to visit in 2017.
This beauty spreads across all 10 provinces and three territories and, quite frankly, could be discussed in wonder all day. But because we don’t have all day, we got in touch with a bunch of proud Canadians (from Intrepid Travel staff to travel bloggers, outdoorsy MEC ambassadors to Urban Adventures managers) to discover their favourite parts of the country.
There’s no better time to share this expertise than on Canada Day, particularly one that celebrates the Great White North turning 150. As you read, you’ll see why so many contributors chose to focus on the country’s stunning, diverse nature. Enjoy the ride, and don’t blame us if it makes you want to book a trip ASAP…
Montmorency Falls, QC
When people think of waterfalls in Canada, Niagara Falls is often viewed as the star of the show. But Montmorency Falls in Quebec is, to me, even more spectacular. The location helps – it’s just a 15-minute drive from picture-perfect Quebec City – but the site itself is also magical. You won’t find tons of tourists here, but you will be able to gaze at the 83-metre-high waterfall via cable car. An unmissable stop on any road trip. And did I mention the waterfall itself is higher than Niagara?
^Recommendation from Bex Shapiro, the North America Managing Editor for Intrepid Travel. She has lived in both Vancouver and Toronto and had the pleasure of putting this article together.
Seven Mile Bay beach, PE
No matter what direction you drive on P.E.I., sooner or later you’ll hit the beach. I take every chance I can get to visit the beach in Seven Mile Bay, where I spent many summers growing up, in order to feel the sand between my toes, breath in the fresh, salt-laden air, and light up a bonfire as the illuminated Confederation Bridge sits in the background.
^Recommendation from Evan Ceretti, a freelance journalist based out of, and from, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
Icefields Parkway, AB
My favourite drive in the world is down the Icefields Parkway in Alberta, the road that joins Jasper and Banff National Parks and is lined with snow-capped mountains. Thanks to the Athabasca Glacier, Peyto Lake, Tangle Falls and all the wonderful hikes on offer, this 240km drive should take at least a full day.
^Recommendation from Thornhill, ON-born Shayna Zand, the North America Head of Business Development for Intrepid Travel.
Wolfville Magic Winery Bus, NS
The Wolfville Magic Winery Bus is a hop-on hop-off double-decker bus that takes you to around five wineries near Wolfville in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. You can make a day of it in summer, sampling wines and having lunch at the edge of a vineyard.
^Recommendation from Marie-France Roy, a freelance writer and blogger at bigtravelnut.com from Montreal and based in Toronto.
Algonquin Park, ON
I love Toronto, but my favourite Canadian experience is escaping the city and driving up to cottage country right around Algonquin Park. Up there the air is fresher, the stars are brighter and the lakes beckon. When you’re there make sure you grab a paddle and go for a canoe ride because it’s the best way to take it all in.
^Recommendation from Toronto-based Heather Kelly, Intrepid Travel’s North American Marketing & Partnership Specialist.
I love to wake up early in the morning, put on my trail running shoes and climb up Mount Sainte-Anne, a ski resort located in the located in the town of Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges. When I reach the top, I sit down to admire the view: the vast St. Lawrence River in front, the Orleans Island and Quebec City on the right, the Charlevoix Massif to the left and the old Laurentians range behind me. It’s perfect!
^Recommendation from MEC Ambassador, Louis Rousseau.
Sea to Sky Highway, BC
There’s nothing quite like the journey from Vancouver to Whistler, driving along the Sea to Sky Highway. It’s by far one of the most stunning highways in the world. Stop along the way to grab breakfast at Fergie’s Cafe in Squamish (gluten-free treats and bennys with a view of Diamond Head). Then spend the day swimming or lounging at beautiful Alta Lake in Whistler, surrounded by the snowy-capped mountains.
^Recommendation from Missy Shana, the Vancouver-based Digital Content Specialist at MEC, Canada’s go-to place for outdoor gear.
Nothing is so quintessentially Canadian as Winter, and Winnipeg loves to celebrate it with the Festival du Voyageur. It’s all about the unique French-Canadian and Metis cultures that helped build the area in the days of the fur-trade, and I promise you’ll have so much fun you won’t even realize it’s -40 out!
If you don’t visit at that time, go to Le Marché St. Norbert Farmers Market instead. The best part about it is how local it really is; everything on offer is grown, produced, and crafted in Manitoba.
^Recommendation from Jaan Narvanen, the Customer Relations Specialist for Intrepid Travel North America. He grew up in Bathurst, New Brunswick; Thunder Bay, Ontario; and Winnipeg, Manitoba before moving to Calgary and then Toronto!
Horseshoe Canyon, AB
You don’t really understand how big this great nation of ours is until you drive across – from Halifax to Vancouver takes at least eight days. The prairies seem to go on forever, but there is something magical about the big open skies, the fields of wheat, and the empty road stretching out straight into the horizon.
Just outside Drumheller is Horeshoe canyon. Alberta’s answer to the Grand Canyon (on a small scale), it’s beautiful and has great hiking opportunities. If you’re lucky you might stumble across real dinosaur fossils. And if you’re after something a little bizarre check out the Gopher hole museum in Torrington, Alberta. Its full of taxidermy gophers in dioramas.
^Recommendation from Megan Bailey, Head of Sales & Customer Experience for Intrepid Travel North America. She was born in Toronto and grew up in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains in Calgary, Alberta.
St. Catharines, ON
The Niagara Grape & Wine Festival in September is one of my favourite things to do every year. We make some seriously good wine in Ontario, and for me, the best way to cap off a summer is with the outdoor wine/food tastings and live music at Montebello Park in St. Catharines.
^Recommendation from Tottenham, ON-born Tammy Burns, the Content Marketing Specialist for Urban Adventures, a sister company of Intrepid Travel that offers day trips worldwide. (For a range of incredible day trips in Toronto, check out their site.)
I really like spending time around Whistler, I can get out in the morning and ride the easiest or hardest trails I want on my bike, head to Rainbow Beach to play volleyball and swim, then finish the day off with a beer or two on a patio in the village.
^Recommendation from MEC Ambassador, Joe Schuster.
Nova Scotia, where I’m from, is perfect. Favourite memory of a perfect day: breakfast of prosciutto croissants and French press coffee at Two If By Sea in Dartmouth, driving out to rent kayaks at Happy Dudes, paddling through the Atlantic Ocean, stopping for the famous deep fried clams (no chips = more clams) at John’s Lunch in Dartmouth, hiking the trail along Duncan’s cove, and finishing off with the freshest dozen oysters at Lot Six and the very best rosé from Wolfville, Benjamin Bridge NOVA 7.
^Recommendation from Chloe O’Brien, a Business Development Representative for CrowdRiff.
About an hour drive away from Calgary is Canmore – a pocket-sized Banff with less throngs of tourists. It’s my fave spot for a day trip out of the city. I love going beer sampling at The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company, hiking the nearby trails (Ha Ling Peak is a classic!) and paddle-boarding on Barrier Lake.
^Recommendation from Calgary-born Libby Shabada, Intrepid Travel’s Social Media & Content Specialist.
I have a special spot in my heart for Sudbury. It’s the earliest travel memory I have as my family took a road trip there when I was about six years old. I clearly remember seeing the Big Nickel (a nine-metre replica of a 1951 Canadian nickel) and thinking it was the craziest thing ever! Plus, staying in a motel for the first time was pretty cool. I plan on doing the same trip with my child one day.
^Recommendation from personal finance & budget travel expert, Barry Choi. He is based in Toronto and blogs at moneywehave.com.
Perhaps my favourite place on the entire planet is the confluence of the Tatshenshini and Alsek Rivers in northern British Columbia, where four massive valleys merge and glaciated peaks line the horizons. Sitting amid these gravel flats, sipping tea (or whisky) beside a campfire, one cannot help but be reminded of how truly wild a country Canada remains.
^Recommendation from MEC Ambassador, Bruce Kirkby.
Wow, what a beautiful country. Do it justice on our range of small group adventures in Canada.
(Image credits from top to bottom: iStock, Rebecca Shapiro, iStock, Heather Kelly, iStock x3, Libby Shabada, iStock)