Top 10 must-see things to do in Canada
8 August 2016 by Patrick Griffin
When considering a trip to the world’s second largest country, you could be forgiven for getting lost in its vast remotes or spun around in its cities where historic sights and gastronomic delights are to be found around every corner. That’s why we’ve collated this list of the finest activities and destinations that will help you get the most out of your Canada holiday. Of course, there’s more than a sprinkle of luxury thrown in for good measure.
Forming the colossal hunched backbone of continental America’s west, the Rocky Mountains’ snow-capped peaks, lake jewels and twin national park gems – Banff and Jasper – comprise some of the continent’s most arresting landscapes. Explore it all on a luxury train ride that crosses raging rivers on wooden trestle bridges and skirts dramatic lakes as eagles soar on thermal currents high overhead.
Spot grizzly bears on guided forest treks and giant whales on ocean cruises or simply relax on its deserted beaches, reached by kayak tours from this sublime western section of Vancouver Island. And, hidden among the rainforest and scattered along the water’s edge, Clayoquot Wilderness Resort’s canvas prospector tents feature wood burning stoves, antique furnishings and underfloor heating. It’s a stark contrast to the inhospitable beauty of its surrounds.
While it’s not the world’s tallest, Niagara tops the charts for sheer volume; millions of litres crash over its dramatic precipice each and every second. And the only way to truly appreciate its enormity is from the air. Alternatively, get as close to the spray as your captain dares with a falls cruise. Whichever you choose, be sure to head on to Niagara-on-the-Lake for vineyards that are garnering international attention for their innovative – and signature – ice wine.
Subarctic Yellowknife is the pioneering gateway into the Northwest Territories’ remote wilderness where swathes of Arctic Tundra butt up to boreal forests five times the size of the UK. Come the long winter nights, it’s the picturesque setting for the ethereal greens and raking reds of the aurora borealis. Head out on a guided tour to watch as entire skyscapes light up in what is the world’s most impressive visual phenomenon.
Something of a frontier outpost, Churchill is hidden away on the shores of Hudson Bay. Originally established as a 17th century fur-trading hub, today it’s best known for its indigenous polar bear population. Take a custom-built tundra buggy out to track their annual migration with a chance to spot Arctic foxes and hares along with the majestic caribou. You’ll also find beluga whales off its coast.
Having long lived with an oil baron’s swagger – some dinosaurs weren’t lucky enough to see out their days in Alberta’s museums – Calgary’s annual festival is a brash, lively celebration of all things rodeo. Each July, 1.2 million visitors are treated to everything from high-octane wagon racing and colourful parades to live music and amusement park attractions. You’ll also have the chance to experience First Nations’ culture in its Indian Village, enjoy barbecued foodie delights from gourmet food trucks and watch as bucking broncos compete for a share of the $2 million prize money. Read our visitor's guide to the stampede.
Often billed as the world’s most multicultural city, Toronto’s astounding diversity manifests itself in a full range of culinary treats. Tuck into oriental favourites in one of the city’s six Chinatowns, Caribbean spices in Eglington West and European classics in its Little Italy. However, for a dining experience with a difference, head to its iconic CN Tower where high-end cuisine is served to revolving views over the entire city.
Atlantic Canada’s coastal jags and wild interiors are as visually arresting as they are remote. And Quirpon Lighthouse – dating back to 1922 – is perched on Newfoundland’s northern island tip meaning room views out over crashing waves and, yes, lazily drifting icebergs. It’s also not uncommon to spot orcas, seals and humpback whales.
In the Yukon, animals outnumber man and frontier outposts dot the country’s five tallest mountains and the world’s largest subarctic lake. This is gold country. Trace its pioneering tradition with a drive along the Klondike Highway to experience alpine scenery as you call into gold rush towns, emerald lakes and river vistas.
10. Experience Montreal and Québec City
It’s a shame to have to group these two French Canadian jewels, especially considering their diverse appeal. In Québec City, cobblestone streets lead to 17th century residences, sidewalk bistros and grand churches in its UNESCO-listed Old Town while Montréal looks forward in cutting edge art houses and theatres. Sum up its futurism in the Underground City where everything from performing art venues and cinemas to offices and convention halls are linked by a vast complex of interconnecting tunnels.