The following is a first-person account of multiple adventures right here in Canada! Join our writer as she takes us through her favourite places and experiences in the country, whether it’s ice cream at a general store or hiking in the Rockies.
I spent the first twenty-three years of my life in Ontario (with a few adventures to Quebec) and the last two years in British Columbia. I’ve trained from Vancouver to Toronto. I’ve seen more of my country than many of my friends and family, but when I sit down and think about my Canadian journey, all I can think is I’m not even close to finished. Canada is a huge and beautiful country with completely different regions, cultures, and scenery in each province. Scratch that, in each city. I intend to explore all that this country has to offer (at least, as much I can). Of the little that I have seen, here are my favourite places in Canada so far.
The Sunshine Coast is a region north of Vancouver, on the east side of the Strait of Georgia. It’s cheaper to get to than Vancouver Island and with fewer cities and tourist attractions. It reminded me of cottage country in Ontario. Essentially, it’s just small towns and coastal cottages. This was my first real trip in B.C. and it blew my mind. I had never seen trees so tall! As we drove from the interior to the coast, the trees just got taller and taller and mossier and mossier. I stared out the window in awe, unable to see the tops. It was February, but it’s called the Sunshine Coast for a reason. It was humid and warm and I was perfectly content to shed my parka and walk around in jeans and a light hoodie.
We rented an adorable little cottage on Airbnb in Halfmoon Bay. It was lovely. My favourite part of this trip was Burnett Falls in Sechelt. British Columbia is home to some of the most gorgeous waterfalls I’ve ever seen, and no one cares what TLC says, British Columbians love chasing waterfalls – and so do I. The hike to Burnett Falls was really easy. A short, 30-minute max walk on an upward trail led to a small lookout. The trail was mossy and covered in green and was a little buggy. Can you imagine, mosquitoes in February?? It was unheard of to me! After a few spectacular pictures of the falls, it was time for further exploring. The trail followed a river which was completely covered by fallen trees, moss-covered rocks, and vegetation. We went back down the trail and made our way back towards the falls via the river. It took another hour or so to pick our path across rocks and tree trunks so we could see the falls up close. After a while, the trees and obstacles made way to the waterfalls and the pool at the bottom of them. It was incredible. The roaring falls, dense air, and water spray was invigorating. I screamed in excitement and breathed it all in as my partner took a dip in the pool. Swimming outside in February… again, unheard of. To be fair, it was really cold, he’s just a little crazy.
After four days, I knew I was born to be a coastal girl. It had all the things I love about Ontario’s cottage country (water, sunshine, Muskoka chairs), but it has those things all of the time! It was the first time I realized a Canadian region could be warm in the winter and how different Canadian climates could be.
I’m a little embarrassed to say that the two favourite parts of my Vancouver trip were the stops along the way before we even got there. I absolutely love Vancouver, so it’s saying a lot that I’m not picking it for this list. Othello Tunnels is maybe my favourite spot in British Columbia. The old train tunnels feel like you’re walking through a castle in a fairy tale. The moss-covered stonework is beautiful, not to mention the fast water runoff and falls on either side. You walk through dark, almost creepy (but in an exciting way) tunnels and come out to bright, beautiful openings where you can see the river.
The next stop is Bridal Veil Falls. These waterfalls cascade over a rock face and are completely awesome. This hike was a little challenging. Although it was short (only 30 minutes to an hour) it was slippery and at a surprising/awkward elevation. 100% worth it though. These elegant falls left an impression on my heart.
A trip to the Canadian Rockies in January isn’t always the most advisable idea. You miss out on the crystal blue waters of Lake Louise, the active wildlife, and the warmth of other seasons. However, I’d go crazy if I couldn’t adventure all winter, and I wasn’t going to let a little snow stop me. Okay, a lot of snow, scary icy roads, and minus 30 degrees cold, but that’s beside the point. Winter months are actually a great time to travel in Canada because everywhere is less touristy. So, just after New Year’s, my partner and I were driving from Kamloops B.C. to another Airbnb in Golden, B.C. where we planned on exploring Yoho National Park, Banff National Park and city, and the stunning Rocky Mountains. The standout was Yoho National Park. First, we drove to the natural bridge on Kicking Horse River in Field B.C. (part of Yoho). Just off the TransCanada Highway, the unique erosion around the river has created a natural bridge. In winter, it completely freezes over and creates more of a cave than a bridge. I felt like I was Elsa in Frozen. I’ve never seen anything so fascinating. Tip: good boots aren’t enough, you need ice cleats as well to feel sturdy.
After exploring the bridge/cave, we walked along Kicking Horse River, checked out the viewpoints from the actual bridge, and took in the mountains around us. Next, we drove a little further into Yoho and stopped at Emerald Lake. We also stopped at Lake Louise and Moraine Lake later in the trip – but Emerald was definitely my favourite. Emerald Lake is smaller and more isolated than Lake Louise, so there were fewer tourists but also fewer things to do (Lake Louise had an ice bar, snow sculptures, and lots of man-made beauty). Without the tourists and attractions, Emerald Lake Lodge made for the perfect focal point in pictures and was completely breathtaking. I loved the natural beauty and quaintness of Emerald Lake. It helped that we arrived just around sunset so the orange sky and sun peeking from behind the mountains really enhanced the beauty of the lake. After our long drive and these two stops, it was time to find our Airbnb. We ended up driving further for gas and got stuck driving in the dark which I do not recommend. There aren’t many lights along the highway, places to stop, or clear roads. However, there are impatient truck drivers, slush, ice, and terrifying conditions. So if you want my advice, just don’t drive Between Lake Louise and Golden after dark in January.
Since I haven’t spent enough time in northern Canada or the prairies, I’ve got to skip along to Ontario. And since it’s my home province and I’m very familiar with it, this list is getting hard to narrow down! Here it goes…
Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake are the perfect Ontario destinations for an amazing weekend. In Niagara Falls, you can see the awesome waterfalls. On the Canadian side is Horseshoe Falls. I recommend taking the Maid of the Mist tour so you can get up-close and personal with the falls. Just embrace the poncho – try to look cool without it and you’ll get soaked. Make sure to check out the SkyWheel, the floral clock, and botanical gardens while you’re in the city. After Niagara Falls, head to Niagara-on-the-Lake. This town sits on Lake Ontario at the mouth of the Niagara River. Walk along Queen Street for some views of amazing architecture and tons of things to do. There are quite a few museums, parks, historical sites, breweries – and best of all, wineries. Some of Ontario’s most famous wineries found here include Peller Estates Winery and Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery and Distillery.
If you’re looking for the best ice cream in the world (Kawartha Dairy, obviously), look no further than Enniskillen Genny. The most fun part of any trip is deciding what kind of ice cream to get. They have so many favours to choose from! After you decide, a small price gets a generous portion. The small-town store is in the middle of nowhere (actually, it’s in a one-horse town North of Oshawa, but you get the picture), but totally worth the trip to the country. In addition to great ice cream, they have interesting and unique knick-knacks, signs, and gifts – perfect for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and summer birthday shopping (I’ve even started early Christmas shopping there). A perfect afternoon in the summertime is getting ice cream and walking through Enniskillen Conservation Area while eating it and catching up with friends.
Ottawa has a special place in my heart. Maybe it’s because winter feels like it lasts forever in Ottawa, the summers feel that much sweeter – and there’s no better place to be than Ottawa in summertime.. The ByWard Market in the summer is always bustling with fresh fruit and veggies, flowers, maple syrup, and great energy. Walking along the canal is another one of my favourite activities in Ottawa. Canada Day is one of my most beloved days of the year (yes, I like it more than my own birthday) and there’s nowhere better to be than Ottawa on July 1st. Canada Day on Parliament Hill symbolizes everything I love about being a Canadian – a sea of people in red and white bumping into each other and apologizing for it, smiling at each other, and enjoying performances and fireworks together.
Last year, my friend got heat-stroke at the gate and fainted. We were brought into the Hill (even though they were pretty much at capacity) to the med booth. After she started feeling better, we left the med booth but were still stuck inside the gates because the parade was blocking us. However, my friend really needed some food and water. Unsure what to do, we debated asking our fellow Canadians for help, but really didn’t want to bother anyone. Eventually, we got the courage to ask a couple with a cooler if they had any snacks to spare since our friend had just passed out. They smiled and enthusiastically waved off all apologies and offered us choices of snack bars and juice boxes. People nearby overheard and opened their coolers to us as well. It’s such a small thing, but these gestures are always what I think of when I think of Canadians.
Whale Watching on the St Lawrence River
The best place to go whale watching is in Tadoussac, Quebec. It was an unforgettable experience. Even though I got seasick, I still managed to see a couple different types of whales (Humpbacks and Belugas). A lot of people don’t expect Quebec to be a great place to go whale watching, but from Spring to Fall, the St Lawrence River is a hub of whale activity. Thirteen different species of whales pass through the St Lawrence. These whales are Atlantic white-sided dolphin, Beluga, Blue whale, Fin whale, Harbour porpoise, Humpback whale, Orca whale, Long-finned pilot whale, Minke whale, North Atlantic right whale, Northern bottlenose whale, Sperm whale, and White-beaked dolphin. I can’t remember what tour company we went through, but there are lots to choose from for any group or adventurer – from large ship tours to kayaks, there’s a whale watching adventure for everyone. The Saguenay Marine Park is supposed to be one of the best spots for whale watching, and since it’s a provincial park, it actually works to protect whale ecosystems while also being an educational and scientific site.
I’m sad to say that Quebec is the furthest East I’ve travelled. So, this is the end of my Canadian Journey …for now.
Check out ‘My Dream Canadian Journey’ to see the places in Canada I can’t wait to go.
Our Canadian Travel Guide also highlights some of our staff’s favourite places in each province and territory.
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