The Best Small Town in Every Province
Monday mornings: The pop of your spine as you stretch awake, the bitter aftertaste of breakroom coffee grinds, and the surprise reminders of meetings you forgot you accepted. Isn’t it time to embrace those PTO days? There’s an outside world ready to be unspooled by your own curiosity. So, go! And if you need suggestions for which places to add on your to-do list, we know some top small towns you can’t miss.
We searched every province for places that offer a range of welcoming charm, unique festivals, historical significance, and rigorous activities. Plus, to keep things fair, we kept our selections under a 6,000-person population size. Ready? These are the best small Canadian towns to explore in each province.
How can you not be in a good mood when you’re walking around a city named Fernie? This small town in British Columbia has all the charm you’d hope for in a place surrounded by forest. With pine-scented air, wooden signs swinging lightly in the breeze, and cafes where you’ll find swirls of cream inside freshly brewed cups of coffee, this place is serenity personified.
- Historic downtown – Downtown Fernie along 2nd Avenue is where you’ll find classic 1900s brick buildings that now host a swath of locally owned cafes and boutiques.
- Beanpod – Peer through the looking glass as famous Fernie chocolate bars are made, and allow the sweet aromas to draw you inside the shop. Varieties include honeycomb milk chocolate, dark chocolate mint, and white chocolate with macadamia nuts and cranberries.
- Fernie Brewing Co. – Want to stop in for a beer? Sure, you can do that. Or you can take the Fernie Brewing Co.’s “Trail to Ale” challenge. This is where you hit the summits of three peaks, whether by foot or bike, in 24 hours (and yes, you need time-stamped photos next to the Trail to Ale signs for proof). Once you’ve completed the task, head to the brewery and get a reward of a pint and medal.
You’ve probably heard about Jasper National Park, but what about the town of Jasper itself? Pencil in this spot on your travel list, because this mountain village won’t let you down. Crisp air, cozy restaurant booths, and access to big mountains just outside your hotel all add to the picture-perfect atmosphere. Oh, and fun fact: Nearby Jasper National Park is the second largest dark-sky preserve in the world.
- Jasper SkyTram – Hold your breath as the SkyTram lifts you up Whistlers Mountain to an elevation of 2,277 m above sea. From here, you can see the jagged thumbs of mountain ridges all the way to the end of the earth.
- Jasper Planetarium – Being so close to a dark-sky preserve, this town knows a thing or two about the stars. Check out the planetarium, where you can learn more about the constellations and peek through the largest telescope in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
- Jasper-Yellowhead Museum & Archives – Learn more about the history of the area when you stop into the local museum. You’ll encounter antique ice picks, canoes, and musket balls, to name a few.
With a slogan like “Where past is present,” you can count on the town of Maple Creek to honour its Wild West roots. With tons of festivals, historic buildings, and friendly folks, this is the kind of place where you might run into a horse rider on your way to a fine arts gallery.
- Food and cowboy festivals – Maple Creek loves festivals, and you won’t want to miss some of the highlights, like Ranch Rodeo, Taste of Maple Creek, and Maple Creek Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Western Art & Gear Show.
- Maple Creek Heritage District – This downtown area features a ton of old-time buildings, little shops, and colourful murals. It’s basically where you can get a history lesson along with freshly baked cookies—and that’s a win in our books.
- SW Saskatchewan Oldtimers’ Museum & Archive – Established in 1926, this historical museum has a lengthy history, itself. It’s said that the oldest museum building in the province was established to house this centre’s growing collection. And what a collection. See antique cars, scales, and photographs.
What do Manitoba and Viking culture have in common? The town of Gimli! In fact, the town name represents the Norse place of the gods. And if you had any questions about the love this unique place has for the great land across the ocean, just check out the 4.6 meters-tall statue of a proud Viking welcoming you to town.
- Gimli Viking – Unveiled in 1976, this hulking statue depicts a Viking standing tall and watching over the town. Don’t miss taking a pic in front of this giant.
- Icelandic Festival of Manitoba – One of the pinnacles of summer in Gimli is the Icelandic Festival, which has been taking place in some way or form since 1890. The event includes rides, authentic food, live music, and most importantly, the game of Islendingadunk, which features two players trying to knock each other off a soaped pole. Don’t knock it until you try it!
- Gimli Film Festival – Film festivals are best under the stars; wouldn’t you agree? Make your way to town in late July for the Gimli Film Festival, which takes place on the beach after dark.
If you prefer flippers over shoes, we know exactly where you need to visit next: Tobermory, Ontario—the freshwater scuba diving capital of the world. That said, goggles aren’t the only fashion statements around here. As an outdoorsy hot spot, beards and flannel fit in like a hipster in an avocado shop.
- Fathom Five National Marine Park – Ready, set, swim. This marine park encompasses 20 islands, 130 square kilometres of water, and over 20 shipwrecks. The jewel of the area is the L. Wetmore (ironically named, we know), which kissed the ocean floor in 1901. And if you’d prefer a glass bottom tour instead of going solo, companies like Bruce Anchor make frequent strides into the water.
- Bruce Trail – For pretty Instagram photos, kick up the dust on Bruce Trail. This popular stretch of dirt winds along the Niagara Escarpment with arresting views of Georgian Bay.
- Edmunds Township Museum – Built in 1898, this quaint museum holds on to dozens of artifacts from the earliest days of town. There are also pieces of shipwrecks on display.
Where can you find equal parts shorelines and scarecrows? Mahone Bay. Home to white-paned windows and tangerine sunsets, this small town in Nova Scotia is the pinnacle of vacation living. If you haven’t been here yet, you don’t know what you’re missing.
- Mahone Bay Scarecrow Festival & Antique Fair – It’s the largest fall fair in Canada’s Atlantic. Now 21 years and counting, this funky festival features over 150 hand-made scarecrows, along with a “pumpkin walk” (with hundreds of pumpkins lining the avenue), and tons of hot cider bubbling in cauldrons.
- Mahone Bay Museum – Get to know this pretty town when you visit this museum, which features exhibits related to the first settlers and shipbuilding.
- Kayaking – Life is better at the other end of an oar. Slip into a kayak with a local company like Cape LaHave Adventures and see the bay from a whole new angle.
Tiny but mighty, Victoria-by-the-Sea is ready to nestle its way into your heart. This small town in Prince Edward Island is home to PEI’s largest tree (and yes, there was a fierce competition, thank you very much). This spot is also known for local theatre and a beautiful setting to simply get away from it all for an extended holiday.
- Victoria Playhouse – This little theatre puts on a wide-range of productions, culminating in its annual summer festival. Additionally, you can get your ears spinning and toes tapping every Monday, with their rotating live music Monday calendar.
- Victoria Seaport Museum – See the world from a taller point of view when you pop into the Victoria Seaport Museum, which happens to be an operating lighthouse.
- Kayak – When you’re this close to the water’s edge, it’s only right to paddle on the currents. Local tours like By-the-Sea Kayaking can get you set up with your own oars and life vests.
The creak of wood planks as you walk through the lush wetlands only adds to the atmosphere of bright flowers and darting wildlife. You’re in Springdale, Newfoundland and Labrador, and when you add in local attractions with the welcoming setting, you’ll wonder why you haven’t been here before.
- Springdale Waterfront – This is where you want to be for a firsthand view of whales slicing through the bay, eagles cascading past cumulus clouds, and the occasional iceberg standing proud in the waters.
- Boating – If you want to see the icebergs up close or the shoreline from a distance, rent a jet boat and dash into the crests. Green Bay Eco Tours is a popular company for rentals on the seas.
- Springdale Wetlands – We hope your Instagram followers are ready for this, because the boardwalk stroll through the Springdale Wetlands is a sight for the ages.
If you walk around with an easel by your side and a pencil in your back pocket, Hudson is likely on your radar already. This small arts community in Quebec welcomes all types of creative thinkers and expressionists.
- Hudson Music Festival – It’s one of the highlights of the year, with all sorts of genres and instruments featured on the big stage. You may just want to pick up a fiddle or snare drum yourself, after watching the performances.
- Finnegan’s Market – If you’re looking for artistic treasures to take home, pop into Finnegan’s Market. This Saturday flea market has antiques, home goods, and oddities that stand out from the crowd. Additionally, 2 Barn Owls, a gallery run by two of the most esteemed artists in Hudson, regularly features exquisite pieces for sale.
- Hudson Village Theatre – You can’t leave town without catching a show at the local theatre. Hudson Village Theatre is celebrating 25 years and counting, and routinely puts on productions that make you laugh, cry, and think.
It’s a place that lives and breathes the sea. With bobbing ships keeping time of day and aquarium exhibits aglow in the late morning, this relaxed town is a welcoming refuge for all sorts of visitors.
- Fundy Discovery Aquarium – Seahorses, salmon, and two harbour seals named Loki and Snorkel make the local aquarium a hit for the little ones and anyone who wants to Snapchat with a pair of cute seals (so, everyone).
- Whale watching – Witness sea life doing its thing when you take a whale watching tour outside of the harbour. Fundy Tide Runners is a well-esteemed tour for spotting the big creatures.
- Kingsbrae Garden – One of the top attractions in town is this elegant garden. Spanning 27 acres, with 2,500 plant species, it more than earns its reputation of “masterpiece.”
Why don’t we travel as much as we should? With a world of beauty, mystery, and sweets so good they make your lips curl in happiness, there’s no reason to stay stuck in routine. Make a date with any of these top small towns in Canada and get to know another side of life.
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