They say our sense of smell is the strongest link to memory we have. Just a whiff of cotton candy takes us back to the boardwalk we used to visit every summer growing up. A blast of fresh pine trees in the air reminds us of camping trips with friends. And there’s something about the smell of rain that transports us to our favourite coffee shop in the big city.
As part of our Travel Sensations series, we asked 1,200 Canadians which scents and places reminded them the most of vacation. Here are the top answers!
Is there anything that reminds us more of summer holidays than sunscreen? Didn’t think so!
- Sydney, Nova Scotia – Nothing smells quite like summer more than the tropical balm of sunscreen. This scent is in full force as you gob it on before hiking up to Low Point Lighthouse.
- Parksville, British Columbia – If you’re traversing Upper Falls, you can’t miss the sweet scent of sunscreen wafting in the air.
Maybe it was a solo adventure or a family trek through the forests, but either way, the sharp scent of trees has a way of sticking in our memory banks.
- Aurora, Ontario – Close your eyes and inhale the spicy perfume of trees as you walk through Sheppard’s Bush Conservation Area and Aurora Community Arboretum.
- Waskesiu Lake, Saskatchewan – Fill your lungs with the woodsy aroma of pine when you hike through Prince Albert National Park near Waskesiu.
When you’re tucked away in a favourite bookshop or coffee shop, a little bit of rain is a beautiful thing.
- Hope, British Columbia – The smell of rain is never better than when it’s dripping off wooden picnic tables and tree branches. And when you pair it with the scent of freshly ground coffee beans at a spot like Blue Moose Coffee House, you’ll know that Hope is the perfect place for rainy days.
- Vancouver, British Columbia – Vancouver is one of the best places to enjoy a rainy day. Take in the crisp scent of rain cascading from your umbrella spokes before huddling into perfect wet weather haunts like the Vancouver Art Gallery.
One of the most popular scents of vacation is the smell of the sea—to the surprise of no one!
- Nanaimo, British Columbia – Let the fragrance of salt water and damp sand wash over you when you walk around Nanaimo’s shores. Or let the sea mist kiss your cheeks on a whale watching trip.
- Souris, Prince Edward Island – Inhale the sea scents perfuming the air when you’re walking around scenic Basin Head Beach.
Tulips, roses, lilies, oh my! “Fresh flowers” was a hugely popular answer in our survey, with lavender a top-cited scent.
- Ogden, Quebec – The sweet and aromatic scent of lavender is a holiday on its own. Get your fill when you visit one of the most famous fields in Canada: Bleu Lavande in Ogden.
- Campbellville, Ontario – Lavender’s aroma can only mean one thing: relaxation. Unwind as it envelops you at Terre Bleu.
Rodeos, carnivals, and fairs are where so many sweet memories are made, so it was no shock how often cotton candy was mentioned in our survey.
- Dunnville, Ontario – The sweet wafts of cotton candy as it’s rolled on a thin paper cone is what summer—and Dunnville festivals—are all about.
- Calgary, Alberta – Cotton candy might just be the official scent of Calgary, considering the sugary wisps of summer are everywhere at events like the Calgary Stampede.
The smoky smell of campfires is just as memorable when you’re a kid making s’mores as a grown-up making, well, s’mores.
- Comox, British Columbia – The rustic earthy smell of campfires stay in our memories forever. Let the scent envelop you when you build one in Goose Spit Park.
- Rocky Mountain Park, Alberta – Crackling campfires are what vacations are made of when you’re roasting logs (and gooey marshmallows) at Crimson Lake Provincial Park.
There are few things that can bring a smile to your face than a hot dog stand when it’s 2 a.m. and your new favourite pub has just closed for the evening.
- Toronto, Ontario – Whether you’re grabbing a dog from a cart vendor or popping into the famous Soloways Hot Dog Factory, nothing beats the smell of roasting meat drenched with pungent sour mustard.
- Richmond, British Columbia – Let the scent of singed meats and sour kimchi direct you to the famed hot dog stand Japadog in Richmond.
Sometimes simple fresh air puts you in vacation mode—especially if you’re travelling out of a big city.
- Timmins, Ontario – Breathe crisp fresh air when you’re taking part in the exhilarating Great Canadian Kayak Challenge and Festival.
- Deer Lake, Newfoundland and Labrador – Take in the fresh clean oxygen while walking along the Deer Lake Trail System or snowmobiling at top speeds.
The sulphur smell of a hot spring is a sure sign you’re on an epically relaxing vacation.
- Fort Nelson, British Columbia – Soak up the smelly sulphur air as you dip into the popular Liard River Hot Springs.
- Canal Flats, British Columbia – Some might say sulphur smells like old eggs; we think it smells like vacation. Decide for yourself when you get pruney in Lussier Hot Springs.
For more Travel Sensations, check out our homepage, and don’t forget to share your favourite articles with the #CometoYourSenses hashtag!
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