It’s hard to comprehend just how big Canada is. Sandwiched between the Pacific, the Atlantic and the Arctic Oceans, it’s the second-largest country in the world, pipped only by Russia, and over 80 per cent of the land is uninhabited. Yet even in its vastness, it is very easy to navigate.
Encompassing snow-capped mountains, beautiful archipelagos, lush green valleys, sandy deserts and everything in between, Canada offers so many chances to connect with the land – be it through adventure sports, hiking, kayaking or simply choosing to stay a night near the water. Here we profile five of our favourite awe-inspiring places to pause and take time to reconnect with Mother Earth.
Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia
A scenic 200km drive south from Halifax International Airport, Kejimkujik National Park is easily accessible by car. The picturesque region gets its name from the Indigenous Mi’kmaq, a people who have called it home for thousands of years, the name referring to the exertion needed to paddle across the lake at the park’s centre.
The dark and ancient hardwood forests plunge visitors into a wondrous and prehistoric-looking landscape: one perfect for fishing, bird watching and cycling, among other outdoor pursuits. Atlantic Canada offers an exceptional opportunity to spot unique wildlife, so you’ll be rewarded for swapping your smartphone for a pair of binoculars and increasing your chances of sighting a ribbon snake or a Blanding’s turtle, rarities among others of their kind. Black bear, mink, flying squirrel and red fox also call the area home.
Access the park via one of two villages that border it. Caledonia and Kejimkujik Seaside offer opportunities to explore the area, with camping, hiking and canoeing being some of the more popular pursuits, while Parks Canada runs interpretive tours offering the chance to find additional meaning through the park’s indigenous history. The area has also been designated a Dark Sky Preserve, restricting the use of artificial light in most areas, making it a stargazer’s paradise.
Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta
Perfectly positioned in the Valley of the Ten Peaks in Banff National Park, Lake Moraine is a mere two-and-a-half hour drive west of Calgary, Alberta and offers an opportunity to feel dwarfed by nature. With the tranquil turquoise-blue lake reflecting the majestic mountains that border its edges, you would be forgiven for thinking you had stepped into an impressionist painting.
During the summer, the glacier that feeds the lake starts to melt, permitting visitors to explore the distinctly blue waterways before it freezes over for the winter – the blue hue originating from the light that bounces off rock flour suspended in the water. Owing to the area’s spectacular changing seasons, Parks Canada can make recommendations so you can see the best of the region during your stay.
Powell River, British Columbia
Sometimes we just need to let nature heal. Powell River is the perfect place to do so, an area marked by lush green mountains on one side and the sea on the other, an eclectic arts-based community on the Sunshine Coast, north of Vancouver, boasting fjords, waterfalls and lakes. Experience a land of gravitas and open your senses as you hike Willingdon Beach and the Sunshine Coast Trail or make the 100-step climb to the top of Valentine Mountain to really connect with the land. Feel a desire to take to the water? Rent a kayak in Copeland Islands Marine Provincial Park and watch the world slide by at a river’s pace.
You can find the Duck Lake mountain-bike trails and the floating cabins on Powell Lake just a short journey from the city itself. From here, you can make the short hop to Vancouver Island too; regular 90-minute ferries run between Comox on Vancouver Island and Powell River.
Parc de la Chute Montmorency, Québec
Just 13km outside old Québec you will find Montmorency Falls, a magnificent waterfall that stands 30m higher than the famed Niagara. During the spring and summer months, the area is bustling with walkers, hikers and photo enthusiasts, all looking for better angles with which to take in the vast array of watery views. There are many ways to witness the water cascade into the St Lawrence River below. You can climb the 480 or so wooden stairs peppered with viewing platforms, take in the views of Québec City and Ile d’Orleans from the suspension bridge that runs over the top or take the cable car to the top and enjoy a leisurely stroll back down.
In the summer, you’ll find many locals picnicking on freshly baked croissants and nibbling on local Québec cheeses they’ve brought along. In the winter, the area takes on a more magical feel. Icicles form around the waterways and snow covers the ground, making it a beautiful place to hike or snowshoe.
1,000 Islands, Ontario
Scattered along the St Lawrence River and crossing into the United States of America, there are more than 1,800 individual islands to visit and explore, many of which have distinct attractions all of their own. There are historic manor houses and lighthouses to visit and stay, multiple museums to sate cultural interests and copious waterfront restaurants to dine at. Kayak along the narrow waterways, bathe in the bays or pause to drop a line and spend a few hours fishing.
The Islands themselves sprawl a vast area and Canadian-side towns like Kingston, Johnstown, Lansdowne, Rockport, Morrisburg and Westport are popular places to stay when exploring the area. A particular favourite of ours is Gananoque, a gateway to the islands on the north shore of the St Lawrence River and one of eastern Ontario’s most stunning waterfront communities, easily accessible from Toronto, Montréal and Ottawa. Check in at The Woodview Inn and charter a boat to spend a few hours reconnecting with nature.
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