Finding the best places to visit in Canada is no simple task. Even a seasoned Canuck can be left in a state of noggin scratching. Do you head straight for the Yukon Territory where you can join the Sourtoe Club (it’s even weirder than it sounds, but more on that later), or make a beeline for Manitoba and say “Hello there” to some polar bears? The Great White North is your oyster. Even though you can’t really go wrong, we enlisted the help of some travel experts to find out which Canadian destinations they most recommend. If you’re itching to explore a new place this year, here are the experts’ recommendations (in no particular order):
“At certain times of year, there are more polar bears than people living in and around the town. In the summer months, return to see the beluga whales—they are so friendly that it is possible to snorkel or kayak right alongside them.” – Dalene Heck of Hecktic Travels
You’re not exactly Steve Irwin, but you are interested in getting close to some of the world’s most intriguing animals. You know, the kinds of creatures you won’t find loitering around your front stoop. We’re talking polar bears, not the common house cat. If you’re nodding your head about now, it’s time to pack your bags for Churchill. Grab a seat on a tundra buggy and head out into the Churchill Wildlife Management Area to see polar bears in their natural habitat. The best viewing happens between October and November, when the bears are on the move. Come back to Churchill in the summer, and beluga whales are ready to play. Your friends who are spending their vacation on a Netflix binge will be asking you for travel tips in no time.
Explore more of Manitoba
Dawson City, Yukon and Greater Yukon Territory
“Dawson City offers something you don’t find in many cities: a quirkiness mixed with a colorful history…and there is plenty to do.” – Leigh McAdam of HikeBikeTravel.com
Don’t keep your eyes peeled for Dawson Leery or his creek, because they can’t be found around these parts. Sorry, ladies. What you will discover on a trip to Dawson City is the Klondike Spirit paddle wheeler, a sprawling golf course, the Discovery Claim gold panning site…and that Sourtoe Club we mentioned earlier. How do you become a member? Just show up at the Sourdough Saloon ready to drink from a shot glass that contains your liquor of choice and a dehydrated toe of the really real variety. If it makes you feel any better, a man named Captain River Rat serves it up, so you know the club is exclusive. Always remember the slogan, “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips have gotta touch the toe.” Party on, Dawson City.
Don’t want to limit yourself to a single city in the Yukon Territory? Take this recommendation from Tamara Elliott of Globe Guide and explore it all! “The territory boasts spectacular landscapes including sparkling lakes and soaring mountain peaks, without the crowds.” Continue your adventure at Kluane National Park, Yukon Wildlife Preserve, Takhini Hot Springs, and beyond.
Learn more about the region in our Yukon Destination Guide
St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador
“St. John’s greets you with thick fog, ocean air, cliffside views and colourful row housing. The friendly people and unique architecture add to the rich culture…I was instantly captivated.” – Chris Amat, of chrisamat.com
We need you to take off your “Type A” hat when you arrive in St. John’s. Deep breaths, it’s gonna be OK. When you leave your itinerary at home and wander the streets, you never know what kind of colourful café or shop you might discover. Look at you, practically a modern day Magellan. Need a jumping off point? Try The Battery, a harbourfront neighbourhood. If you bring your hiking boots, we suppose you may as well put them to good use. Set off on the North Head Trail, which descents about 500 feet along the shore.
Read this St. John’s Travel Guide before you go!
Prince Edward Island
“Prince Edward Island may be Canada’s smallest province, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t lots to do. Whether your idea of a fabulous vacation involves a day at the beach, an active adventure such as cycling or sea kayaking, golfing, dining on delicious fresh food, or discovering the culture and history of a destination…you are bound to fall in love with the island’s natural beauty and the friendly islanders.” – Lisa Goodmurphy of Gone with the Family
Like a firecracker aimed toward the stars, Prince Edward Island is a small thing that packs a lot of punch. In this case, it’s of the tourism variety. During your visit you can witness the red sand beaches of PEI National Park by morning, then walk in the shoes of Anne of Green Gables at (where else?) Green Gables Heritage Place. You’re bound to burn some calories on the island. After all, those waters aren’t going to snorkel themselves. Luckily, Prince Edward Island is also known for some of the freshest seafood on the planet. So tie on your lobster bib and prepare to crack some shells. We can smell the warm butter from here.
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Montreal and Greater Quebec Province
“The streets [of Montreal] are a pleasure to stroll, parks and green spaces abound, and the delicious cuisine will have you going back for seconds.” – Samuel Jeffery of Nomadic Samuel
Gastronomy gold mine, artistic haven, and festival hub…these are just a few of the ways folks might describe Montreal. We say it’s all of the above. While you’re in town, go ahead and take a tour of the impressive Biodome (Pauly Shore sighting not included). You’ll walk through replicas of four eco-systems, including tropical forest and polar conditions. After your quick trip around the world, sink your teeth into a big ole’ plate of poutine or a Montreal smoked meat sandwich. You know you want to.
Of course, the Quebec Province is about more than just Montreal. Jennifer Dore Dallas of Moi, mes souliers urges travellers to experience the whole province. She says, “Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a lover of sports of all sorts, more of a city person or even a foodie, Quebec should be on everyone’s bucket list.”
You know what that means: Time to create a “Quebec Road Trip” playlist. Stops at Bas-Saint-Laurent, Gaspesie, Laurentides, and Quebec City are just the beginning! Pro tip: Stand beneath the Cap-des-Rosiers Lighthouse in Forillon National Park and you’ll feel like you’re standing at the end of the Earth.
Check out our Guide to Quebec before you set off!
The Kawarthas, Ontario
“The natural beauty of the Kawarthas is what captivates you, but it is the wealth of activities that families will love.” – Kerrie Mendoza of FamilyFoodandTravel.com
Just like your favourite brother/sister singing duo, the Kawarthas are a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll. Well, a little bit city, anyhow. On the country side of things, you can enjoy the festivals at one of the local maple syrup farms between February and April. And yeah, you can also gear up for your foray into Olympic events while you’re in the Kawarthas. Swimming, cycling, and skiing are just a few of the outdoor sports here. On the metropolitan side of things, local theatres, the Whetung Ojibwa Centre, and the Canadian Canoe Museum give you a quintessential Kawarthas experience.
See more of the Kawarthas area
Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia
“Nova Scotia is the perfect place for a road trip and one of our most famous drives is the Cabot Trail. It offers awe-inspiring coastal views, highland scenery, outdoor adventure combined with warm Celtic and French Acadian hospitality.” – Martha Stevens, A/CEO, Tourism Nova Scotia
The Cabot Trail is big among cyclists of both varieties: You’ll find Lance Armstrong wannabes sharing the road with Harleys. And while a trip along the trail is scenic to be sure, you should definitely make some stops along the way. Explore Cape Breton Island, the perfect venue for hiking, whale watching, and golfing. Go for a hike at Highlands National Park. Attend the Celtic Colours International Festival on Cape Breton Island each October, and feel the air come alive with comradery and music.
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Bonus International Destination: Cinque Terre, Italy
“Whatever you do, this region is not meant to be rushed. Take a leisurely stroll around the historic towns and completely absorb the picturesque landscape of the Cinque Terre.” – Lauren Yakiwchuk of Justin Plus Lauren
So you want to escape across the pond for a while? Visit the Cinque Terre region where you can hike the coastal trail between Monterosso Al Mare and Vernazza, or take the ferry between postcard-perfect towns. The vibrant homes built into dramatic cliffs will take your breath away! When you come down from the natural high, have a drink at Riomaggiore’s A Pié’ de Mà overlooking the sea and try to track down the best gelato in the region. I mean, there’s only one way to find out: Eat all the gelato in sight.
Learn more about Cinque Terre
Will your next vacation take you to an exciting Canadian destination or beyond? Take our experts’ word for it, these spots will deliver a trip to remember!