Canada 150: 15 Great Canadian Destinations


Second largest nation by land area, Canada ranked just 17th for annual number of international tourists (2014), before Macao and after Poland. Not known for sun holidays (though the summers can be amazing) or for huge casinos and massive cities, there is a vast amount to see in Canada – with the emphasis on vast.

I asked friends and family about their favourite Canadian destinations, either places they’ve been or places they’ve always wanted to visit. I combined that with an online search of top destinations and unsurprisingly, the two lists were pretty similar. So from sea to shining sea, from south to the true north, with cities, wilderness, and a lot of water, here are the results:

Click on place names for map links.

  1. The Maritimes are a must!” Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail, New Brunswick’s Bay of Fundy, and Nova Scotia rate highly amongst travellers. There were certain spots that got particular mentions, though:
  2. Prince Edward Island – “for the red sand beaches” – was high on a lot of lists, both for those who’ve been and those who are longing to go. Canada’s only tiny province looms large in the Canadian imagination, and I’m sure Lucy Maud Montgomery’s alluring descriptions of the island’s red roads and rolling hills have contributed to that.
  3. Newfoundland (“the entire province”) but also Gros Morne National Park for everything: fjords and forests, beaches and bogs, crags and cliffs, plus wildlife.

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    St Catherine Street, Montreal. Postcard sent to my grand aunt, Marion Gates, by her friend Mary on 16 March 1946.
  4. Centrally, Old Montreal is a must,
  5. and Quebec City is a UNESCO World Heritage site; unlike most North American cities, it has a very European feel.
  6. Tadoussac, Quebec, a small village at the confluence of the St Lawrence and Saguenay Rivers, “for the belugas.”

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    Almost whales at Big River, Saskatchewan. “This is no fish story either!” from Minnie, to Marion and her husband, Roy, 24 October 1944.
  7. One person said they’d love to return to Sioux Lookout, a north western Ontario town of 5,000 (who live in an area of 536 square kilometres; about a third of that is water). “It was remote, beautiful, and the people were really friendly:” here’s to all those remote and beautiful places across the land.

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    Mountain Lake, Lake Superior. Postcard sent to ‘Gatesy’ from Mitch, 10 July 1943.
  8. Of course you can’t have a list of top Canadian destinations without mentioning Niagara Falls, for sheer drama, amazing nature, and a lot of touristsnearby Great Wolf Lodge has caught the attention of the local 11 year old. However, Canada has many more waterfalls than Niagara: Nailicho (Virginia Falls), in Nahinni Natural Park Reserve, North West Territories, means big river falling in the South Slavey language: these falls are twice the height of Niagara. Kakabeka Falls (Ojibwe for waterfall over a cliff) west of Thunder Bay, Ontario, looks spectacular and has some of the world’s oldest fossils. Bridal Veil FallsMontmorency FallsHelmcken Falls and Athabasca Falls are just a few other options for anyone with a hankering to see water plummeting over mountainsides.

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    Natural bridge, Yoho National Park, July 1971
  9. Another very Canadian destination is the Rockies, for “hiking and scenery” — a brilliant understatement. Best places are Jasper, Banff, Columbia Icefields, Lake Louise

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    The Great Divide, the boundary between BC and Alberta, Yoho National Park. Card sent to Marion Gates by her friend Kathy, 28 July 1950.
  10. The road trip I’m longing to do, which is a favourite with many, is up to the Yukon (“in the summer”) (The same friend adds, “In the winter: hunker down on the southwest coast and wait for the weather to change everywhere else.”), especially Dawson City, but also Whitehorse, Atlin and even Yellowknife (yes, I know that’s not in the Yukon). I’ve been reading Pierre Berton’s Drifting Home and Klondike and Laura Beatrice Berton’s I Married the Klondike, fuelling my ’98 Gold Rush fascination which most likely began back in primary school watching the grainy film footage of a long line of men struggling up the Chilkoot Pass with astoundingly huge packs.
  11. On the west coast, best places named were the Sunshine Coast, including Skookumchuck Rapids and
  12. Long Beach, Vancouver Island’s endless stretch of sand and old growth forest (another national park) looking out over the Pacific. Tofino, for “surfing and tacos” at Tacofino, goes hand in hand with Long Beach. Another Van Isle destination was French Beach for camping.

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    Englishman River Falls, Vancouver Island, July 1969
  13. In BC, the Fraser Canyon is a favourite, especially for a road trip to Blue Lake Resort or “with the sunroof open and Pachelbel’s Canon blaring.”
  14. It’s “hard to choose just one Gulf Island so, — all of them,” although Hornby Island and its magnificent Tribune Bay got a special mention. I love them all too, and as their names roll through my head, I see cool forests, sunny beaches, clear, fresh air, quirky shops and cafes, and relaxed Island folk: Quadra, Denman & Hornby, Gabriola, Galiano, Salt Spring, Pender… 
  15. For the complete Canadian experience, the classic rail journey. One friend wants to go “coast to coast by rail! East to west to see the Rockies rising out of the prairies.” VIA Rail does a four day trip, The Canadian, from Toronto to Vancouver travelling 4,466 kilometres and timed for great daylight viewing through the Rockies.  The Rocky Mountaineer has luxury train rides from Alberta west through the Rockies, and throughout BC. Without having to drive, this journey would give some scope to the vastness and beauty that is Canada.


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Winnipeg, Manitoba. Postcard to Marion, “Dear Girl,” from Roy, 18 February 1946.

Cover postcard: Railway through Jack Fish Tunnel, Lake Superior, Ontario. From Marion’s friend, Connie, on 10 July 1943.

Thank you to all who responded! Happy trails to you!

This is the fourth in the series of 15 things about Canada, that will eventually add up to 150 things in honour of Canada’s 150th anniversary. The first one lists our Canadian adventure highlights, the second one gives you some quirky facts about this place, and number three features yummy Canadian treats.

8 thoughts on “Canada 150: 15 Great Canadian Destinations

  1. I feel so fortunate to have seen so much of Canada. I’ve been across its entirety by rail, by car, by plane, more than once. You are right, it’s vast! In terms of distance I measure each journey like a true Canadian, in hours or days rather than miles or kilometres. I’ve yet to travel to the Yukon, NWT or Iqaluit – I’d love to see polar bears and narwhal before they disappear forever. Grizzlies, not so much:))

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know! Me too – though actually polar bears from a safe distance… That’s so true about measuring the journey by time. I really want to go north and we were just looking at the distance today and thinking, Wow. But we need to do it (okay, I need to do it and I’ll drag a few others with me!). Hope your travels bring you this way sometime soon!


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