Every town has a story to tell. There are countless untold tales of forbidden romances, celebrations that brought the city together, and events that changed the course of history in Canada. The real question is: Which historic towns should you visit first?
We took a look at cities with unique origin stories and places with historic sites you can still visit today. Here’s our list of the most charming historic towns in Canada.
The name comes from a First Nations translation of “where there are rushes on the other side of the river,” and this storybook area has been a sleepy fishing haven ever since. Today, this quaint town in Canada is still a great spot to unwind, admire the sea, and connect with the past.
- Where to Stay: Book a night at Auberge des Iles Holiday Rentals, which started as a family home over a century ago.
- What to Do: Make a stop at the Kamouraska Museum, which is located in an old convent dating back to 1851, and now houses memorabilia from the town’s history.
It was known as a humble settlement in the woods, when the fur trade was still the law of the land. Then the railroads came, and the people came, and by the 1930s, this slice of pristine Alberta was protected as Jasper National Park. Today, nearly 3 million visitors make a pilgrimage to Jasper, where the air is still crisp, the mountains still towering, and the past doesn’t feel so far away.
- Where to Stay: Spend the night at the historical Athabasca Hotel. It’s been around since the 1930s, and has hosted names like Marilyn Monroe and Bing Crosby.
- What to Do: Take a tour at the Jasper-Yellowhead Museum & Archives, where you can see photographs, antique books, and manuscripts that contain the history of town.
Powell River is a town built from ink and parchment. In the early 1910s, the Powell River Paper Company was founded by the river’s edge to generate power for its mill. A neighbourhood for the workers soon sprang up. The area was so successful it became the largest newsprint mill in the world. Today, the town is known for its tranquil waters and prime boating excursions around the shore.
- Where to Stay: The Old Courthouse Inn, which is located in the National Historic District and once housed the local jail and courthouse.
- What to Do: Explore Patricia Theatre, the oldest British Columbia theatre that’s still in operation.
You can’t talk about Canada’s history without mentioning Kingston, Ontario. This city was the first capital of the united country, and home to the first prime minister. Today, Canada pride is still alive and well, with tons of museums, historical sites, and art galleries.
- Where to Stay: Spend the night at Hotel Belvedere, which was built in 1880 and continues to exude a stately presence.
- What to Do: Take a tour through Bellevue House National Historic Site to check out where Canada’s first prime minister (Sir John A. Macdonald) called home.
It began as a fishing town, and it’s never forgotten its roots. St. Anthony maintains a strong outdoorsy culture that traces back to its founder, French explorer Jacques Cartier. Today, travellers come to town to enjoy scenic views of icebergs and migrating whales.
- Where to Stay: Stay at Grenfell Heritage Hotel & Suites, which originated as a nursing residence in the early 1900s and has been open as a hotel since 2007.
- What to Do: Tour the L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, where you’ll see archaeological remnants of a Viking encampment—one of the most unique historical sites in Canada.
Settled by ex-pats and led by Rear Admiral Sir Robert Digby, the city (named after the admiral) has long been seen as a place of safe harbour. Even today, the calm waters provide tranquility, peace, and, best of all, fresh scallops and shellfish.
- Where to Stay: Spend the night at Digby Pines Golf Resort and Spa, an impressive hotel that overlooks Bay of Fundy and has been open since 1929.
- What to Do: Learn more about the town’s seafaring past when you visit the Admiral Digby Museum, which is housed in a mid-1800s Georgian home.
With a history honouring the British Crown, St. Andrews still has streets named after King George. That said, everyone, including non-royalty, is invited here. Kayaking, whale watching, and golfing are top attractions. Just make time to walk along Water Street, a favourite Canada historical site, which was named a top street for its architecture, economic importance, and murals.
- Where to Stay: Stay at the postcard-pretty Algonquin Resort, which first opened in 1889.
- What to Do: Go for a walk through Kingsbrae Garden, which has been named one of the top 10 gardens in the country and features 50,000 perennials.
Nelson’s always had a sparkle to it—starting with the silver rush in the 1880s, which brought in miners and dreamers to this sleepy area of British Columbia. Today, the town’s beauty is complemented by its strong arts scene, with murals, sculptures, and live theatre and music almost daily. If you want to see history and culture of Canada up close, a stop in Nelson is a must.
- Where to Stay: Hume Hotel and Spa, an elegant hotel that was built by a local pioneer family back in 1898.
- What to Do: Take a seat on the historical street car, and don’t miss a stop at the Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History.
You can say that Trinity’s been around the block—and we mean that as a huge compliment. Its history spans nearly 500 years! These days, the town is known for adorable bed and breakfasts and easy living.
- Where to Stay: Originally built in the late 1800s, the Eriksen Premises features charming guest rooms in the heart of town.
- What to Do: Get to know the area’s extensive history when you take a Trinity Historical Walking Tour.
Get to know the country’s foundations with a trip to any of these top historical cities and villages in Canada. Between fishing piers and architectural marvels, you may just walk away with new memories when exploring the country’s past.