As the crisp air settles in, branches bare their spindly frames, and snow starts to fall, Canada enters its sacred season. Cue snow-covered peaks, icy lakes, and snowflakes that meander into our steamy hot chocolates.
As much as Canadians revel in the outdoor glories of wintertime, we also delight its indoor warmth: coming in from the cold, cracking open a book, and getting comfy by a fire. The Scandinavians call this “hygge.” And while we don’t have a cool name for our version of setting a cozy scene, we are still skilled in the art of creating a relaxing environs—whether in our homes or cabins, hotels, or inns that host our sacred season getaways.
In celebration of escapes steeped in warm hearths, Hudson’s Bay-striped blankets, and reading windows overlooking Canada’s breathtaking scenery, we’ve rounded up five cozy retreats that will make your heart as toasty as a hot toddy.
Please check provincial and federal guidance for safe travel as protocols continue to evolve. Find out what to expect and how to find flexible travel on the Expedia COVID-19 travel guide.
Far from the hustle and bustle of city life find Tofino, a nature-centric town stretching along Canada’s Western shoreline. Here, where the coastal rainforest edges the Pacific Ocean, the weather is always wild, which creates a symbiotic relationship between outdoor play and indoor hygge.
In this coastal hideaway where surfers, chefs, and artists dwell (and many of Hollywood’s elite hide away), the 2020 concept of physical distancing comes naturally due to the vast landscape, location at the cusp of Vancouver Island, and small number of residents.
Along its far-reaching beaches (many, the size of several football fields) and quiet inlets, water-themed activities set the vacation tone; think: year-round surfing, fishing, whale-watching, beachcombing, and coastal hiking. And, beachfront lodgings set the cozy scene, from cabins to family-friendly hotels, and inns to world-renowned boutique stays.
Some of my favourite stays are Pacific Sands Beach Resort’s beach houses (perfect for families), or on the upscale end, the Wickaninnish Inn—sitting so close to the water, the ocean’s spray kisses the windows. Don’t miss private rental cabins, too. Hot tip: Filter your search by “cabin” and “hot tub,” for an extra dose of Canadian warmth.
Next Stop: Alberta’s alpine, deep in Rocky Mountain territory.
While most guidebooks will regale you with the beauty of Banff’s edgy mountain peaks, well-curated eats, and roadside bear sightings, there’s a lesser known town just 20 minutes away that’s equally magnificent. Meet Canmore: Home to world-class sports, the world’s largest, per-capita concentration of winter olympians, and local Rocky Mountain culture.
Within Canmore there’s a large swath of stays within walking distance to restaurants and shopping. One of the coziest and most intimate options is the five-room Paintbox Lodge. Owned by winter Olympians Sara Renner and Thomas Grandi, this timber-frame retreat clad in plaid, is the perfect place to savour the season, and includes complimentary house-made breakfast, and brew from the lodge’s Miele coffee station.
Farther afield find Mount Engadine Lodge, a backcountry retreat nestled in the heart of Canada’s high alpine. Featuring lodge rooms, glamping tents, and private cabins, here it’s just you and the wilderness that surrounds on every side. Afternoon tea and gourmet meals served by one of several stone-built fireplaces add a pinch of cushiness, and rooms without phones solidify this isolated gem as a legitimate escape from it all.
If you look at map of Saskatchewan there’s a lot of blue dotting the green boreal forest and farmland that blankets the province. Home to more than 100,000 lakes and rivers, the Land of Living Skies comes alive when cozy season starts transforming into a snow globe of activity with skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing (dinner is served!), and crackling bonfires.
Countless cabins and resorts can be found in the woods or lakeside throughout the region, but one area that embodies the song “walking in a winter wonderland” is Waskesiu Lake within Prince Albert National Park. Here, less than three hours from Saskatoon, you can find all the ultra-Canadian winter activities, plus Lost Creek Resort, a collection of comfortable country-style cottages with a central fire pit and hot tubs to warm up when Jack Frost settles in for the season.
Just a hop-skip over the 12.9-kilometre Confederation Bridge connecting Prince Edward Island to Atlantic Canada’s mainland, reawaken your child-like wonder in a grown-up treehouse. At Treetop Haven, an all-season wellness retreat set in an enchanting forest, five geodesic domes—each with their own private hot tubs—elevate cozy to new heights.
If you make it beyond the confines of your glamping getup—we would’t blame you if you stayed in the whole time—Treetop Haven is close to beaches and trails, and in winter, offers complimentary snowshoes to guests. Don’t miss PEI’s lunar-like red-sand beaches, roadside lobster shacks, picturesque towns, or the Confederation Trail: a 400-kilometre path etched into the island. And, if you’re up for a splash of the maritime province’s famous seaside cuisine, check out Charlottetown, a 45-minute drive away.
Sitting at the top of Canada between British Columbia and Alaska, the Yukon is a big and bold territory about the size of California. Filled with 24-hour sun in summer, and the Northern Lights in winter, it feels faraway, and yet, its capital is on a similar latitude to Stockholm—a chic and well-traveled city in Scandinavia (read: Whitehorse is Canada’s answer to Stockholm, and much closer than it seems!).
Often referred to as “a small city with a big backyard,” Whitehorse is enveloped by nature. Not far from its downtown, hot springs abound; 700 kilometres of marked trail meanders through thick forest; and the town’s newest stay is just a stone’s throw away. Comprised of cabins built with materials such as Yukon spruce, hay, and kaolin clay, the Black Spruce Hotel is constructed using Passive House principals—a world-leading standard for energy-efficient construction.
Inside, a petite kitchen and bathroom with heated marble floors ensure you have the comforts of home, while the pièce de resistance is the bed siting right in front of a large picture window showcasing the North’s natural assets.
Now, please excuse me while I pack my bags, head to one of these escapes, and ponder a term for Canada’s version of hygge.
What is your go-to cozy escape in Canada?
[Photo credits: Feature: Travel Alberta; BC: Pacific Sands Beach Resort; Alberta: Mount Engadine Lodge; Saskatchewan: Lost Creek Resort; PEI: Tourism PEI Paul Baglole; Yukon: Black Spruce Hotel]