Mighty mountains, sprawling lakes, lush forests, fertile farmlands, world class cities, charming towns – Canada has too many different types of adventures to count. We’re not even going to try! Instead, we’re going to share a few of our favourite reasons that have put Canada on the map, and should sit right at the top of your trip hit list.
This much-debated national food treasure comes in many different shapes and forms, but purists will tell you not to mess with the original – fries, cheese curds and gravy. First dished up in the province of Quebec back in the 1950, you’ll find some of the best poutine at Snack Bar Saint-Jean in Quebec City.
The battle of the bagel rages strong between Montreal and New York City. Both lay claim to the best – Montreal-style bagels are typically sweeter and smaller than NY bagels. To try some of the best, make a beeline to St-Viateur Bagel Shop. Be prepared to wait, these babies have been popular since 1957.
3. Alberta Beef
If you like good meat, get yourself to Calgary pronto. Alberta is world famous for the quality of its beef and the local paddock to plate sentiment means you can try the local produce in more places than most. Head to CharBar, in the historical Simmons Building, to try dry aged beef that’s cooked to perfection. The former mattress factory is the epitome of industrial chic, and the perfect place for a big glass of red and a perfectly cooked steak.
What do several world presidents have in common beyond politics? Beavertails. The beaver tail-shaped deep fried cinnamon pastry has been the snack de jour for plenty of politicians who pop down the hill in downtown Ottawa to the historic ByWard market.
5. Pop up gastronomy
Winnipeg might not pop up in your memory as a fine dining destination, but you should put it on the map right now. Celebrity chef Mandel Hitzer’s local restaurant Deer + Almond attracts plenty of celebrities, but his pop up food festival RAW:almond draws plenty of crowds. Especially when they hear the ‘restaurant’ will perch on the frozen Assiniboine River.
6. Dog sledding n the Yukon
If you’d rather feel the wind in your hair than fill your belly out on frozen ground, sign up for dog sledding in the wilds of the Yukon. Ok it’s not too wild if you sign up to be trainer for a day with Muktuk Adventures. You’ll spend the day out on Frank Turner’s 40 hectare property outside of the Yukon’s capital city Whitehorse.
7. Winter wonderland
You can’t go to Canada in winter without a day on mountain – you’re absolutely spoilt for choice when it comes to ski and snowboard terrain in this snow-blessed country. Aussies love the convenience of Whistler Blackcomb, which is just under three hours drive from Vancouver in British Columbia and has a vast 3,307 hectares of skiable terrain and an excellent apres scene. If you’re after ski in ski out and top notch powder, put picturesque Silver Star Mountain Resort on your list. A 45 minute flight north east of Vancouver, the brightly coloured buildings of this small village are straight out of Santa’s workshop. For those who don’t mind the cold, Banff National Park in Alberta is home to three ski resorts. The views are stunning, the snow excellent and the fairytale Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise a real treat when the lake freezes over and the ice skating starts.
8. Ice hockey
You can’t skip a chance to see Canada’s national sport up close. Edmonton’s Rogers Place stadium plays host to plenty of big games throughout the season, seating up to 18,500 spectators. Opening just a couple of years ago, the stadium is state of the art and another building that puts Edmonton on the map – the Alberta city is also famous for being home to one of Northern America’s largest shopping malls.
Clear skies and cold nights are a winning formula if you’re chasing the aurora borealis, but that’s not the only thing you’ll see out in Jasper National Park. The park is a dedicated Dark Sky Preserve, which means residents make a conscious effort to reduce light pollution at night so that star gazers get the best chance of seeing the universe in all its glory. Year round head across the bridge to Pyramid Lake’s tiny island to look out at the stars over a stunning setting or join the crowds of astronomically-minded during the Annual Jasper Dark Sky Festival taking place each October. Symphony under the Stars sessions with astronauts and astronomers and special star gazing just scratch the surface of the popular event.
10. Northern lights
Nothing will prepare you for the spectacle of seeing the night sky light up in brilliant greens, pinks and purples. You have plenty of options when it comes to viewing spots from Whitehorse in the Yukon to Newfoundland and Labrador. Venture further north to Churchill in Manitoba, where you’ll marvel at polar bears, belugas and foxes in the day and look up in wonder at the night.
11. Whale watching
Wild about whales? Many travellers make a beeline for Vancouver Island. As the name suggests, this small island sits off the coast of Vancouver and is accessible by plane, sea plane or ferry from the mainland. The Prince of Whales Whale Watching tours head out right from Victoria Harbour – rug up and get ready to see Orcas, humpback, minke and gray whales. On Canada’s Eastern coast, in Quebec’s northern region of Charlevoix, whale watching tours depart from the quaint town of Baie-Sainte-Catherine on the mighty St Lawrence. Croisières AML runs cruises on the enormous river system, where you’ll spot beautiful white belugas, blue whales, minke and humpback whales.
12. Zip lining
Looking for a little adrenalin? Head to Montmorency Falls Park outside Quebec City for an extra special zip line experience. Forget flying through the trees, here you’ll be hurtling 300m alongside the thundering falls, which stand 30 metres higher than Niagara Falls. We said you’d get an adrenalin fix! If that’s not your speed, take the cable car to the top of the falls, walk across the bridge spanning the falls or down the staircases on either side.
13. Horse riding
Most Aussies associate Banff with snowsports, but the National Park is actually most popular during summer. Hiking, biking, fishing and horse riding bring crowds of travellers each year. Hop on a trail ride to spend an hour or two exploring the forests with Banff Trail Riders. They have horses for even the most timid travellers and will lead you through the forest, past hot springs and the beautiful Bow River.
14. Mountain biking
Grab some wheels and head out into the wilderness in almost every one of Canada’s provinces. Whistler Blackcomb is always popular for those looking to get some serious time on the trails but enthusiasts should also consider St. John’s in Newfoundland and Labrador. You’ll find spectacular trails along the coastline in the villages outside of town, forming part of the 540km long East Coast Trail.
15. Bear watching
Keen to see these majestic creatures up close? British Columbia has long been known as one of the best spots to catch a glimpse. Dedicated spotters will head to the bear lodges tucked into remote forests and tiny islands. There’s even a grizzly bear sanctuary, Khutzeymateen, where just a few tour operators will head out to observe the roughly 50 grizzlies on site. Tofino on Vancouver Island’s western coast is top notch if you want to spot Black Bears, but there’s also plenty of spots in the Rockys like Elkford where you’ll see plenty of wildlife.
Keen to start planning your Canada trip now? Click here.