From mountains and lakes to vibrant cities and charming towns, Canada is as vast as it is multifaceted. Whether you’re in the market for days spent in nature exploring one of the country’s many beautiful national parks, heading towards the coast to feast on freshly-caught seafood and hit the beach, meander through small towns soaking up local life, or museum and gallery-hopping across one of the country’s many diverse and unique cities—there really is something for everyone in this friendly and inspiring country.
Though a small city compared to others across the country, Canada’s capital city is worth a visit at any time of year. For those interested in art and culture, Ottawa is home to seven of nine national museums, including the National Gallery of Canada. Visitors will also want to spend some time along the Rideau Canal, Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can walk or cycle along the banks in the warmer months and in the winter the canal transforms into the world's longest skating rink. Rounding out the city’s offerings, Ottawa is home to a growing craft beer scene, many great restaurants, and numerous water-based activities on the Ottawa River.
Eastern Townships, Quebec
There are many reasons to visit the Eastern Townships in Quebec, one of which is the food and drink. The Eastern Townships offering orchards, wineries, maple syrup producers, cheesemakers, and microbreweries—making this an ideal destination for a foodie-focused weekend. But that’s not all. If you’re not hopping from winery to winery sipping on local wines, or picking your own fresh fruit at an orchard, there are many museums to visit, great shopping, excellent dining options throughout the region, and a wide array of outdoor activities to enjoy (from hiking to cross-country skiing).
No matter what time of year you visit, Banff does not disappoint. Active travelers will be especially enamored with the many opportunities for hiking and biking, canoeing, rafting and skiing. In addition to both winter and summer sports, the region is also home to the Banff Upper Hot Springs where you can relax in the hot mineral waters in the highest operating hot spring in Canada. And for exceptional views, don’t miss a gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain for 360-degree views of six mountain ranges. The town of Banff itself is also where you will find cozy bars and restaurants as well as galleries and shops to browse.
Great Slave Lake is one of the largest lakes in the world as well as North America’s deepest lake, with a maximum depth of more than 2,000 feet (615 meters). The lake is a haven for anglers looking to nab a big one and offers the chance to hook a trophy-sized fish. Great Slave is also an ideal spot for kayaking, canoeing, and even paddleboarding, as well as a great destination for bird-watching and wildlife viewing (including caribou and bison). And if you’re craving fresh fish, this is the perfect area to fill up on locally caught trout, pickerel, and whitefish. When you’re not getting active outdoors, spend time discovering the charms of colorful Yellowknife.
If there was ever a place that has the power to almost immediately captivate visitors, it’s Quebec City. For starters, the city’s picturesque Old Town also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site offering charming surprises down every winding cobblestone street. In addition, Quebec City is the only North American fortified city north of Mexico whose walls still exist. This is a city made for aimless wandering, getting lost among scenic architecture and friendly cafes. You’ll also find myriad museums, a scenic locale on the St. Lawrence River, and a calendar full of festivals and fun events year-round.
Niagara Region, Ontario
The Niagara region is brimming with things to see and do for all ages and interest levels. For starters, there are the Niagara Falls themselves, which millions of people visit each year. Simply gaze out at the powerful flow of water, or opt for a closer look with a boat tour that gets you right into the mist. Niagara is also home to Clifton Hill where you’ll find attractions galore including the Niagara SkyWheel offering excellent views of the Horseshoe and American Falls, the Niagara River, Niagara Parks, and other landmarks. If you’ve got time, head into Niagara wine country for some tastings (including the area’s famous ice wine).
Lake Louise, Alberta
If it’s a picturesque destination you’re looking for—and one that also happens to boast a whole host of things to do—Lake Louise will likely fit the bill. Once you’re there, it will become immediately apparent why this is one of the most photographed locations in the world. Gaze out over emerald-hued water and rugged peaks and try not to snap countless photos. Once you’ve taken in the natural beauty, there are seemingly endless options for outdoor fun in any season. You can canoe on the lake or go for hikes in the summer, enjoy ice skating, skiing, and ice sculptures in the winter, and then feast at one of the area’s farm-to-table restaurants.
Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
For many reasons, Cape Breton Island is one of the world’s top island destinations. Located on the northeastern tip of Nova Scotia on Canada’s East Coast, this idyllic destination is home to some of the best and freshest seafood you can find, from lobster and mussels to snow crab and oysters. Active travelers will have no trouble finding a hiking trail to suit their skill level or a scenic bike path to take advantage of. There are also opportunities to paddle, camp in untouched nature and you don’t want to miss a visit to Cabot Trail. This 185-mile-long (298-kilometer) winding road takes you past ocean vistas, vast forests, and charming villages.
One of the best ways to discover Toronto is by way of its eclectic collection of unique neighborhoods, each with its own set of charms and attractions. Whether you’re shopping for vintage goods in Kensington Market, museum-hopping or shopping in the downtown core, stocking up on foodie finds at St. Lawrence Market, or enjoying the buzzing energy of the waterfront, this is a city with something for everyone. Toronto really comes alive in the summer, yet also offers many interesting things to see and do year-round. There are numerous museums and art galleries to visit, leafy parks to explore, dining options to suit every taste and budget, and attractions for almost every interest and budget.
Known as the Polar Bear Capital of the World, Churchill Manitoba is not just a spot to visit for polar bear viewing (best done in November), but also an excellent destination for spotting beluga whales (June to September) and for catching a glimpse of the epic Northern Lights. The northern Manitoba community is known as one of the best places in the world for seeing the aurora borealis (February and March). In addition, there are plenty of opportunities for adventure in the form of rock and ice climbing, kayaking, hiking, fishing, and more.
Fundy National Park, New Brunswick
If experiencing the world’s highest tides is on your bucket list, you might want to add Fundy National Park to your upcoming travel plans. Twice a day, up to 3,937 feet (12 meters) of water or more rush in and out, roughly equivalent to the height of a four-floor building making this spot a unique chance to explore the seafloor at low tide. There are also more than 62 miles (100 kilometers) of hiking and biking trails that run through the Acadian forest, leading to waterfalls (of which there are more than 20), lakes, and river valleys. Fundy National Park is also a Dark Sky Preserve with some of the best starry night skies in the region.
Tofino, British Columbia
Tofino is a small coastal village at the western edge of Vancouver Island that charms all who visit. Located on the traditional territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation at the heart of the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region, Tofino is a nature lover's paradise. Hike through an old-growth rainforest or along one of the area’s many scenic trails. If you prefer to be on the water, there are plenty of chances to canoe and kayak. Not to mention, Tofino is known as Canada’s surf capital, with 21.7 miles (35 kilometers) of beaches making it ideal for surfers of all skill levels. Long Beach, located in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, is 9.9 miles (16 kilometers) in length and perfect for anyone who wants to spend time strolling a scenic stretch of sand (you may even spot a whale or two, if you’re lucky).
If you’re looking for a Canadian destination that packs an exciting punch, but one that also provides the laid back charm of a smaller town, Charlottetown fits the bill. Friendly locals are always willing to recommend something to see and do or simply bend your ear about what their city offers. If you find yourself walking the city’s downtown, you’ll find many Victorian-era houses and buildings, adding to the enchanting atmosphere and inspiring many a photo. The harbor area and picturesque waterfront boardwalk also make for a pleasant place to spend some time, and no matter what you’re in the mood for, Charlottetown is home to a range of accommodations, beautiful beaches, numerous festivals and events, local breweries to try, and fresh seafood galore.
Saskatchewan's largest city is also known as the "Paris of the Prairies" for its eight bridges spanning the South Saskatchewan River, which winds through the downtown area. You can enjoy the river via canoe or paddleboard or on a river cruise (a nice way to get to know the city). There are more than 200 parks here so spending quality time outdoors won’t be hard. Saskatoon is also a burgeoning culinary hub, with young and innovative chefs taking full advantage of the bounty the area offers in exciting ways. Sip your way through a brewery or distillery tour or stop by a local market to browse seasonal goods.
If you’re looking for a Canadian destination with an incredible food scene and buzzing nightlife, myriad museums and art galleries, leafy parks, and Instagram-worthy architecture—Montreal might just be the place you’ve been searching for. Foodies will want to make a beeline for Marché Jean-Talon to browse everything from cheese and produce to freshly baked bread. Anyone looking for excitement will enjoy the many events and festivals that take place year-round. And you can’t leave without exploring the historic cobblestoned streets of Old Montreal and feeling as if you’ve been whisked away to Europe.
Vancouver is one of those places that tends to get under people’s skin—in the best way possible. They visit and then dream of going back (or even of moving there). How can you not fall in love when you’re surrounded by mountains, ocean, and rainforests? Outdoor pursuits are on offer year-round, from hiking to snowboarding. The city is also home to Stanley Park, one of the biggest urban parks in North America. Vancouver is home to excellent shopping, a diverse food scene, and great nightlife. The city also gives you easy access to Whistler, the Canadian Rockies, Victoria, and Vancouver Island.
Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario
Ontario's oldest and second-largest park is a paradise for nature lovers that attracts more than 500,000 visitors each year, and for good reason. The park offers a vast expanse of pine forests, numerous lakes, trails, and the chance to camp, hike, fish, and paddle. Drive-in campsites are available for those who wish to enjoy the park’s many trails and its wildlife without too much effort. Or you can explore the interior of Algonquin Park by canoe or on foot and spend some time in the backcountry where you’ll feel far away from city life. The park is also a great spot for moose viewing (they tend to hang out along Highway 60), as well as birdwatching.
Whistler, British Columbia
Located just two hours north of Vancouver, Whistler is an all-season destination for everything from skiing and snowboarding in winter, to hiking, swimming, and mountain biking in warmer months. When it comes to winter (and snow sports), Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort offers the most skiable terrain of any resort in North America. To go between the two, you’ve got the Peak 2 Peak Gondola which gets you from Whistler to Blackcomb in just 11 minutes. When you’re not swooshing down the slopes, Whistler Village is the pedestrian-only neighborhood at the base of the mountains filled with bars, restaurants, shops, and cafes.
Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland
This impressive UNESCO World Heritage Site covers 697 miles (1,805 square kilometers) of western Newfoundland and is the second-largest national park in Atlantic Canada. Here you will find more than 62 miles (100 kilometers) of trails with hikes for every skill level. Any aspiring geologists might be interested in the fact it was here that geologists proved the theory of plate tectonics. Regardless of how you spend your time—be it camping by the sea, exploring the epic scenery via boat tour, strolling a windswept sandy beach, photographing towering cliffs, or checking out a local fishing village—Gros Morne National Park is truly a unique destination.
Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
Okanagan Valley stretches across 112 miles (180 kilometers) and is home to orchards and numerous wineries and made up of a slew of small towns and cities well worth stopping in. Even if you just visit to hop from one winery to the next (there are over 70 wineries operating in the Okanagan Valley), stopping at markets and fruit stands along the way—you won’t be disappointed. In addition, this area is home to more than 60 provincial parks to explore as well as numerous hiking and mountain biking opportunities. If you love fresh-picked fruit, the Okanagan Valley is bursting with options (there are even tree fruit tours). Or spend your time by Okanagan Lake, known for its more than 30 beaches covering the region.