100 Places to Visit in Canada This Summer
By Leigh McAdam
on February 8, 2018
Canada is the second largest country in the world. From St. John’s, Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia it’s roughly a distance of 7,400 kilometers. And from Vancouver heading north to Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory, it’s 2,400 kilometers. Add another 1,200 kilometers to reach Inuvik, the last community of any size before the Arctic Ocean.
My point is Canada is huge. It’s best to focus on just a few areas if you plan to visit.
So here are 100 places to visit in Canada by region.
- Vancouver is at its best in the summer. Don’t miss a walk or a bike ride around Stanley Park, a trip up Grouse Mountain by aerial tram or via the Grouse Grind or a visit to Granville Market. For more ideas check out 27 things to do in and around Vancouver.
- The drive to Whistler along the Sea to Sky Highway is one of Canada’s most scenic when the sun is shining. And there’s plenty to do in Whistler in the summer – hiking in the high alpine, mountain biking, rafting, even skiing.
- Take the ferry from Tsawwassen to Schwartz Bay (or vice versa) for a scenic look at the southern Gulf Islands. You can go as a walk-on, take your bike or drive on, but make a reservation for your car if it’s over a summer weekend.
- The Butchart Gardens close to Victoria are definitely worth a visit. They boast over 55 acres of gardens including the famous sunken gardens. Fifty full time gardeners, 12 part time gardeners and 550 staff in peak season keep the gardens in fantastic shape. Allow a minimum of 1 ½ hours.
The Sunken Gardens at Butchart Gardens
- Victoria is another city that’s much beloved by visitors. Stroll the inner harbour, have tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel and eat at Red Fish Blue Fish for a budget friendly meal. Check out Gillian Duffy’s advice of what to in Victoria from a local’s perspective.
- Head to the hot and sunny Okanagan in BC’s interior for wine tasting. There are in the order of 100 wineries so there’s no shortage of wines to taste. The Mission Hill Winery is one that’s well known for hosting outdoor summer concerts. I’d also suggest a bike ride on the Kettle Valley Railway especially in the Myra Canyon area.
- Head north to Tweedsmuir Provincial Park and the surrounding area. It boast some one of my all-time favourite hikes in the Rainbow Range, first class fishing, peaceful mountain lakes and if you want a thrill drive The Hill towards Bella Coola on the coast where grades reach 17%.
Pretty hiking in the Rainbow Range
- Wells Gray Provincial Park in the central region offers beautiful scenery in an unspoiled environment. Check out Helmcken Falls, the fourth highest waterfall in Canada, raft the Clearwater River or plan a multi-day canoe trip on Murtle Lake.
- Yoho National Park ranks as one of the most beautiful in Canada. Its part of the Canadian Rockies World Heritage site boasting 28 peaks about 3000 meters. Hiking is superb especially on the Iceline Trail and anywhere in the Lake O’Hara region.
- Haida Gwaii, formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands is a great destination if you like kayaking, fishing, whale watching and pristine beaches. Try and visit the standing poles at SGang Gwaay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Head for the Calgary Stampede taking place this year between July 5th and 14th. In addition to rodeo events and the exhibition you can try and get tickets for KISS, The Dixie Chicks and Tim McGraw.
- Dinosaur Provincial Park boasts some of the most impressive Badlands scenery you’ll ever see. It boasts more complete dinosaur skeletons than anywhere else in the world. And it’s a photographer’s dream.
The Badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park
- Waterton Lakes National Park, located on the border with Montana is in a spectacular setting. Enjoy world class hikes including the famous Crypt Lake Trail – offering a ladder, tunnel and chains or paddle a boat on beautiful Cameron Lake.
- Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park is very popular. Boat rides to Spirit Island – one of the most photographed sites in the world are popular. But you can leave the noise behind and paddle to the end of the lake and stay for a few nights.
- Banff National Park is one of the most visited in the world. And if you get away from Banff and Lake Louise you quickly lose the crowds. But where to go? There is a lifetime’s worth of hiking in the mountains so best it’s best to check with the National Park office in downtown Banff to choose something that matches your interest and ability. No matter what, don’t miss a stop at Moraine Lake.
Moraine Lake in Banff National Park
- In Jasper National Park the Columbia Icefields are a big draw. You can hike to a glacier or take a tour that actually takes you out on the glacier.
- I’d call it Canada’s most scenic drive – the 290 kilometers that start in Banff and finish in Jasper. Take a few days to do it so you can enjoy all the side trips.
- Edmonton offers the internationally renowned Fringe Festival. This year it’s on from August 15-25th.
- Wood Buffalo National Park located in northeastern Alberta and the southern Northwest Territories is the largest national park in North America. It protects the world’s largest herd of free roaming wood bison. It’s possible to camp, canoe, fish, hike and view wildlife – though access is via Fort Smith in the Northwest Territories.
- Head for Grasslands National Park in the south central part of the province to discover a world of big skies and high grass prairie. It’s also Canada’s darkest Dark Sky Preserve. Look for the Black-tailed Prairie Dog – the only place to see them in Canada.
Big skies of Grasslands National Park
- Go north to Prince Albert National Park, formed to protect a slice of boreal forest. Hike, canoe, fish, camp and visit Grey Owl’s cabin.
- In western Saskatchewan in the Cold Lake area plan a hike on a section of the Boreal Trail.
- Saskatchewan is famous for its fishing. Visit a northern lake and check it out for yourself.
- Canoe the Churchill River – one of the classic paddles to do in Saskatchewan.
- Catch the Saskatoon jazz festival between June 21 and July 1st. Or watch a Shakespearean play on the Saskatchewan River between July 10th and August 25th.
- Hop on a train up to Churchill. Go looking for birds, polar bears and beluga whales – with a guide for this one.
- Get your fill of festivals in Winnipeg in July. The Winnipeg Folk Festival goes from July 10-14th and the second largest Fringe Festival in North America takes place from July 17-28th.
- With over 100,000 lakes and rivers there are a lot to canoe. Some worth thinking about are theBlood Vein River in the wilderness and the Red and Assiniboine Rivers close to Winnipeg.
- Check out Riding Mountain National Park for hiking, canoeing and a chance to discover the forested parkland surrounded by prairie.
- Caribana – the largest festival of its kind celebrating Caribbean culture – takes place this year from August 1st to 4th in Toronto. It’s been called North America’s largest street festival.
- Niagara-on-the-Lake is famous for its Shaw Festival Theater. Book a show and then take a wine tasting tour. Or check out all 15 things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
- Cycle the Niagara Parkway from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Niagara Falls. It’s an easy 25 kilometers.
- Take a boat tour of the Thousand Islands. Or if you have time take a multi-day kayak tourthrough the Admiralty Islands.
- Head for the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. Dive in Fathom Five National Marine Park or hike a trail through Bruce Peninsula National Park out to the Georgian Bay to admire the cliffs and shoreline.
The Grotto, Bruce Peninsula National Park
- Raft the Ottawa River.
- For a weekend of slow travel visit Point Pelee Island – the southern most inhabited place in Canada. Accessible via ferry from the mainland, plan to come and relax though there is a winery, some hiking trails and a bike rental outfit.
- Rent a cottage in the Muskoka region. Or book a room in a lodge in Algonquin Park.
- Paddle the French River.
- Hike the white quartzite cliffs of Killarney Provincial Park. It’s an incredible place for canoeing too.
- Visit Manitoulin Island, the largest lake island in the world. Rent a cottage, camp but whatever you do be prepared to do it at a relaxed place. Don’t miss a visit to Misery Bay Provincial Park; it’s not anything like its name suggests.
- Visit Science North in Sudbury. Exhibits are compelling and hands-on – and not just for kids. The Wildfire movie is not to be missed. Or the excellent on site restaurant Curious Thymes.
Theater with the show Wildfire playing (Photo credit: Science North)
- The north shore of Lake Superior is an excellent destination for adventurous types. Try all or part of the Coastal Trail in Pukaskwa National Park. Or head for Lake Superior Provincial Park and hike in the Agawa Canyon.
- Canoe in remote and unspoiled Quetico Provincial Park.
- Montreal is famous for its summer festivals. The Jazz Festival is the most famous attracting over two million people in a 10 day time frame.
- Quebec City has a 400 year history set against the backdrop of a walled city filled with narrow, winding cobbled streets. The place oozes history and charm in a manner reminiscent of old European cities. Set aside a day or two to walk the city and absorb the culture.
- Cycle the Blueberry Route around Lac St. Jean.
- Take a boat tour in the St. Lawrence River to see whales.
- Kayak the Saguenay Fjord.
- Drive to the end of Highway 138 – just to see what lies there.
- Head for the Gaspe Peninsula. Poke about in the small fishing villages. Hike to the top of Mt. Jacques Cartier and look for caribou. Hike to the tip of Forillon National Park. Photograph Percé Rock.
- Bike the Green Route through the Eastern Townships.
- Ferry over to the MagdalenIslands. Check out the largest amateur sand castle buildingcompetition in August. Windsurf. Ride your bikes. Hang out at the beach. Eat at any number of fabulous restaurants all over the island. And take your camera with you everywhere you go. This is one photogenic island.
- Take the ferry to Grand Manan in the Bay of Fundy for a few days of hiking, kayaking and relaxing.
- Visit the Mary’s Point Bird Sanctuary. It’s a major stopover for two to three million shorebirds every summer – all because of the Fundy shrimp.
- Bike the paths of Kouchibouguac National Park.
- Pole a canoe on the Miramichi River.
- Explore Hopewell Rocks on foot and by kayak.
- Bike Deer and Campobello Islands – two of the small but inhabited Fundy Isles.
- Check out Magnetic Hill near Moncton – an optical illusion created by rising and descending terrain.
- Explore the coastal trails of Fundy National Park.
- Hike to the peak of Mount Carleton – the highest point in New Brunswick.
- Visit St. Andrew’s By the Sea – a town you can easily spend a week in. Whale watching, golf, kayaking, museums, galleries – all the makings of the quaint town that it is.
- Halifax is the biggest city and one that’s full of history. It’s also got more pubs per capita than any other city in Canada. Don’t miss the Public Gardens or Point Pleasant Park.
- Cape Breton Island is full of history and charm. Check out the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck. Drive or bike the Cabot Trail. Hike in Cape Breton Highland’s National Park.
- Visit the Fortress of Louisbourg and see what life looked like a few hundred years ago.
- Kayak through the islands off the south shore.
- Look for antiques in Hubbards.
- Visit Peggy’s Cove, Blue Rocks, Lunenburg and The Ovens.
- Hike the boardwalk in Kejimkujik National Park at the seaside.
- Hike the dykes around Wolfville.
- Make the trek out to Cape Split near Blomidon.
- Canoe the lakes of Kejimkujik National Park – for a day or for a week.
- Discover the small towns that line the route of the Evangeline Trail.
**Some great New suggestions by a Nova Scotia reader**
- One is Tidal Bore River Rafting on the Shubenacadie River. The Shubenacadie (largest river in NS) is a tidal river that empties into the Bay of Fundy (home to the highest tides in the world). When the tide comes in a tidal bore (wave) moves up the river temporarily reversing its flow. As the river fills up it generates crazy rapids and rafting companies take groups out in motorized Zodiac boats to ride the waves. It’s the only place in the world you can experience this thrill ride.
- Another result of the Fundy tides in Nova Scotia is the erosion that has revealed some of the oldest dinosaur bones in Canada as well as the fossilized remains of the first reptiles to walk the earth. Joggins Fossil Cliffs is a UNESCO World Heritage site with fossils dating back 300 million years and the first evidence of the evolution from ocean dwelling to land dwelling creatures.
- I should also mention the Northumberland Shore of Nova Scotia for the warmest salt water beaches in Canada.
Prince Edward Island
- Go to the beach. This is what PEI is famous for. The waters are warm and generally safe for kids. The Greenwich Dunes section of PEI National Park is absolutely lovely.
- Eat lobster – in any way shape or form. Fresh is good, so are lobster rolls.
- The same goes for pie.
- Bike the Confederation Trail for the length of the island – or at least part of it.
- Watch the Anne of Green Gables Musical in Charlottetown – now playing for it’s 49th season.
- Visit the house where the fictional Anne of Green Gables lived.
- Head off for a day of deep sea fishing. Even tuna are caught off the shores of Prince Edward Island.
- Be the first in North America to watch the sun rise at Cape Spear.
- Kayak with icebergs.
- L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site at the tip of Newfoundland is the most famous Norse or Viking site in North America. It’s a fascinating spot to visit.
- Bike the beautiful Avalon Peninsula.
Fishing village near the tip of Newfoundland
- Hike a section of the East Coast Trail. Two hundred and sixty five kilometers are of a world-class hiking standard.
- Visit Trinity, one of the best preserved communities in the province.
- Take a boat ride to Witless Bay to admire the teeming bird and sea life.
- Do one of the day hikes in Terra Nova National Park.
- Take the ferry for a day over to Labrador. Keep an eye open for whales.
- Plan some time in the city of St. John’s – one that’s famous for its bars and night life. Read moreabout what local Candice Walsh has to say about what there is to do in the city.
- Take a boat ride down the fjord in Gros Morne National Park.
Gros Morne NP boasts a rugged landscape
The Yukon Territory
- Hike the Chilkoot Trail – though really it’s in BC and Alaska but often you stage the hike from Whitehorse.
- Pan for gold.
- Backpack in the Tombstone Mountains.
- Visit the town of Dawson City at the heart of the world famous gold rush. The place is still full of characters.
- Drive the Dempster Highway. It connects the Klondike Highway in the Yukon to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories. Be warned – it isn’t paved.
The Dempster Highway
- Visit Kluane National Park. Go with a group as this is big time bear country.
Northwest Territories and Nunavut