9 Charming Historic Towns in Canada

Historic street in Canada

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.

9. Kamouraska, Quebec

Kamouraska, Quebec, one of the most historic towns in Canada

Attributions: Top: MPIX/Shutterstock.com Bottom left: Gilles Douaire/Flickr Bottom right: Gilles Douaire/Flickr

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.

8. Jasper, Alberta

Jasper, Alberta, a top historic town in Canada

Images via the Jasper Museum

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.

7. Powell River, British Columbia

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.

6. Kingston, Ontario

Kingston, Ontario, a top historic town in Canada

Images via Tourism Kingston

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.

5. St. Anthony, Newfoundland and Labrador

St. Anthony, Newfoundland and Labrador, a top historic town in Canada

Images via Town of St. Anthony

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.

4. Digby, Nova Scotia

Digby, Nova Scotia, a top historic town in Canada

 Images via Digby Area Tourism Association

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.

3. St. Andrews, New Brunswick

St. Andrews, New Brunswick, a top historical town in Canada

Images via Chris G. Flemming

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.

2. Nelson, British Columbia

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.

1. Trinity, Newfoundland and Labrador

Trinity, Newfoundland and Labrador, a top historical town in Canada

Images via Trinity Historical Society, Inc.

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.

 

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About Author

Jennifer Cuellar

Jennifer Cuellar is a writer, an avid explorer, and fan of all things Games of Thrones-related. When she’s not sipping tea in a café by the beach, she’s off writing about wondrous cities you simply have to visit. From mountain peaks to downtown streets, there’s a world of adventure waiting to be explored. She spotlights top cities to tour, which attractions you’ve got to see, and off-the-beaten path activities to try during your next vacation. Let’s go travel!

16 Comments

  1. The Patricia Theatre is the oldest theatre in CANADA, not just BC. And don’t forget the ocean. Powell River is right on the ocean with exquisite views and the entrance to Desolation Sound, the most fabulous boating area in Canada

    Reply
  2. No Lunenburg, Nova Scotia? It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Sight, The downtown core is a National Historic Site of Canada, founded in 1753, home of the Bluenose.

    Reply
  3. We LOVE Digby! Centrally located to go exploring such places as Digby Neck for whale watching and hiking, Annapolis Royal’s history, heritage, shops and restaurants, Bear River for the arts, etc. The perfect destination just to enjoy the wonder of the Bay of Fundy!

    Reply
  4. Dear Fudgesicle,

    I’m surprised the article doesn’t credit the photo or place with the umbrellas. If I had to guess, I’d say it looks a lot like a street I know in Quebec City, which in my opinion wins the Canadian ‘charm offensive’ hands down. Since technically Quebec city is a city, not a town, I understand its exclusion, so I’ll propose the nearest thing to a town, which would be Ile d’Orlean right across the bridge from Quebec City–the food there is to die for. I think it should be on everyone’s bucket list. Otherwise, the place to see in Canada is Cheticamp which sits at the foot of the Cape Breton Highlands and is spectacularly beautiful around this time of year when the fall leaves start to change. Happy travels…Dina

    Reply
  5. I was very surprised to see that Annapolis Royal was not on this list! This town is a treasure trove of history. The historic core of Annapolis Royal was designated a “National Historic Site of Canada” in 1994 and the town contains the largest registered historic district in Canada.

    Reply
  6. I left Digby as a small girl ,I go back to visit my family that have moved back ,it’s such a nice place to see and I see things now I didn’t see before ,love the place .

    Reply
  7. I’ve been to a few of the amazing places and live in one of them. With an article about “Charming Historic Towns in Canada” I expect photos of the charming historical towns. Not the ferry or bridge or even the mud flats but the actual historical part of the towns featured.

    Reply

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