CANADA’S 1 5 TOP TREATS
Fifteen top treats in a year of celebrations
1. TACKLE THE GREAT TRAIL
Canada will soon be home to The Great Trail, the world’s longest recreational route, which will stretch a mammoth 24,000km through all 13 provinces and territories when completed this year. The epic track, already 93 per cent connected, can be tackled by bicycle, cross-country skis, snowmobile, kayak, via horseback, or on foot. Open year-round, the trail links new scenic pathways with more than 400 existing networks. One of the best stretches is Fundy Trail Parkway in New Brunswick. It’s a challenging 10km route that hugs cliffs and crosses gorges. Dreamt up in 1992, The Great Trail will be celebrated on August 26 at Major’s Hill Park, Ottawa, and there are more than 200 other festivities being held around the country to mark the trail’s opening during Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations. ALSO TRY: Check the Vancouver Trails site for myriad walks and cycling options on marked trails graded by level of difficulty, time, distance and season. More: thegreattrail.ca; vancouvertrails.com.
2. MAKE A BEE-LINE
With beekeeping one of the buzziest new urban pastimes, Vancouver’s Fairmont Waterfront hotel is adding its own sophisticated twist to the trend. The hotel has a “bee butler” who educates guests on the importance of honey bees and pollinators during daily hive and garden tours at its apiary. It’s all part of Fairmont’s Bee Sustainable program, rolled out at various properties in the Fairmont portfolio. There’s also a Bee Green package, which includes a private tour of the apiary, a guestroom that opens into the garden, and a three-course “pollinator” dinner, featuring 13 foods that require pollination. ALSO TRY: Fairmont Chateau Whistler’s bee-inspired cocktails are made with delicate wildflower honey harvested from the hotel’s four hives. More: fairmont.com.
3. GET OUT AND ABOUT
With heli-skiing, alpine hiking, cycling, ice fishing and snowmobiling all popular pastimes, Canada really is the country to visit for outdoor fun. One of the best towns to experience it all is Golden, British Columbia. Founded on the rail industry, this town has such a lumberjack vibe that many city visitors dream of packing up house and moving to the Rockies. In winter, ski the challenging terrain at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort or head into the back-country on a snowmobile. In summer, go river rafting, swimming or tandem paragliding. ALSO TRY: Make Canmore, Alberta, another of Canada’s top outdoor recreation hubs, your base. It’s where in-the-know-travellers go to steer clear of the holiday hordes in nearby Banff. More: tourismgolden.com; canmorealberta.com.
4. OLD GOLD
One of the quirkiest places imaginable is Dawson City, Yukon. The former First Nations camp was the epicentre of the 19th-century Klondike gold rush, and there is still a tangible frontier vibe. Old timber homes and stores hunch on ageing foundations that have fallen victim to the permafrost. Although the prospectors are long gone, plenty of hardy types still live here, even when temperatures drop to a biting minus 30C and the historic Klon- dike Spirit paddle-wheeler is trapped in the frozen Yukon River. Visit in February and you’ll see the town come alive with wild-at-heart mushers (and their barking sled dogs) as they take well-deserved breaks during the Yukon Quest. Call into Downtown Hotel to join the Sourtoe Cocktail Club (a touristy but fun tradition of consuming a shot of alcohol with a real preserved human toe in the glass). ALSO TRY: Visit The Dawson City Museum to learn more about the gold rush and the city’s pioneers. More: dawsoncity.ca.
5. TRIP THE WHITE FANTASTIC
This year marks the 75th birthday of North America’s storied Alaska Highway. The 2232km route begins in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, and travels through Yukon on its way to Delta Junction, Alaska. The Yukon section is one of Canada’s most picturesque drives, edged with emerald lakes, soaring mountains and fields of pink fireweed. You’ll travel through eight Yukon communities, including Whitehorse, learn about the territory’s gold and silver mining history, and view amazing wilderness. The best time to travel is summer; hire a car, RV or camper trailer near Whitehorse International Airport. ALSO TRY: Yukon’s other famed touring route, the 740km Dempster Highway, continues into Northwest Territories and crosses frozen rivers in winter. More: travelyukon.com.
6. RIDE THE RAILS
The Rocky Mountaineer is the most famous Canadian rail journey but if you prefer to mix with locals you’ll want to hop aboard one of VIA Rail’s locomotives. The prettiest route is from Vancouver to the mountain town of Jasper aboard what is affectionately known as the “snow train”. Book a sleeper cabin in winter and view white-blanketed forest and frozen waterfalls from the glassdomed lounge car. ALSO TRY: A longer cross-country journey passes through the yellow farmland and prairies of Alberta and Saskatchewan. More: viarail.ca.
7. BACK TO NATURE
To celebrate Canada’s 150th, Parks Canada is offering free admission to all its national parks. Move beyond the most popular, such as Banff and Jasper, and seek lesserknown but equally beautiful destinations. Wood Buffalo National Park, in Alberta-Northwest Territories, is Canada’s largest and the perfect place to see bison, wolves and black bears. If that sounds too remote, head to stunning Yoho National Park, in British Columbia, for top hiking and sightseeing. ALSO TRY: Visit at least one of the national historic sites that also have free entry with the Parks Canada Discovery Pass. A fascinating choice is Grand-Pre National Historic Site, where visitors can learn about Nova Scotia’s Acadian culture. More: pc.gc.ca.
8. BEARS OUT THERE
Get up close to the world’s largest land predator, the polar bear, in Manitoba’s northern reaches. Adventurers and nature lovers will be in their element on Churchill Wild’s new summer and autumn dual-lodge safaris. Visit the frontier town of Churchill before flying to Seal River Heritage Lodge, on the shores of Hudson Bay, to spend days walking among polar bears. On day six, you’ll head to sister wilderness property Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge for the chance to see wolves, moose and Arctic fox in their natural habitats. Don’t forget to keep your camera at hand in case the Aurora Borealis lights up the sky.
ALSO TRY: Meet orphaned polar bear cubs at Assiniboine Park Zoo, Winnipeg, and watch them swim and splash in The Journey to Churchill exhibit. More: churchillwild.com; assiniboinepark.ca.
9. HUB AND HAPPENING
Ottawa, Ontario, is the hub this year for all things to do with Canada 150, and one of the most interesting events this year is La Machine, from July 27-30. Think urban street theatre with animatronics, including a 12m-high combo of dragon and horse and a giant spider, all making their way through the streets of downtown Ottawa.
ALSO TRY: Time your visit to the capital to see the illumination of centrally located Chaudiere Falls. The light and music display is a tribute to Canada’s indigenous peoples and will run from late September to early November. More: ottawa2017.ca.
10. FLY OR FLOAT
There is much more to Ontario than Parliament Hill and Justin Trudeau and one of the best experiences is flying high above the 1000 Islands, in the province’s southeast, with 1000 Islands Helicopter Tours. Despite the name, the archipelago consists of 1864 islands but if a chopper ride doesn’t appeal, explore the region aboard a tripledecker vessel with Gananoque Boat Line, a company that used to ferry passengers across the St Lawrence River as part of its island mail run in the mid-1900s. There are cruises of one, two or five hours, including the shipwreck-themed Lost Ships.
ALSO TRY: Consider a guided half or full-day kayaking tour of the Admiralty Group of Islands, with 1000 Islands Kayaking Company. More: fly1000islands.ca; ganboatline.com; 1000islandskayaking.com.
11. PARTY IN MONTREAL
Cobblestoned laneways, the exquisite Notre-Dame Basilica, great coffee shops and colourful produce markets make Montreal, Quebec, a top choice for an east-coast stopover. Oozing French architectural and cultural V1 - AUSE01Z10TR Grand-Pre National Historic Site, Nova Scotia, top; Old Montreal, top right; Peggy’s Cove, Novia Scotia, centre; exploring the Northwest Passage by Zodiac, centre right; Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland, above left; polar bears in Manitoba, above; Aurora Borealis, above right charm, there are lovely streets to wander, international cuisine and fashionable boutiques. As well as celebrating Canada 150, there’s a host of events in recognition of Montreal’s 375th birthday and the 50th anniversary of the hosting of Expo 67. One of the biggest parties will be on August 19, when three city orchestras will perform at Montreal Symphonique, a free concert at Mount Royal Park under the direction of Simon Leclerc.
ALSO TRY: Coincide your visit with Canada Pride Montreal, August 10-20, celebrating the national LGBTQ movement. More: mtl.org; fiertemontrealpride.com/en; 375mtl.com.
12. SITE FOR SORE EYES
Hire a car in Halifax and follow Nova Scotia’s tree-lined highways and byways to the preserved fishing village of Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and winner of the Communities in Bloom most beautiful small town in Canada. It’s home to the famous racing schooner Bluenose II and your first port of call, as it were, should be the harbourfront and the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. Stroll the picturesque streets, browsing homewares stores and galleries, before popping into The Savvy Sailor Cafe for haddock chowder; be sure to grab a balcony table if the sun’s out. In the evening, head to The Old Fish Factory (open May-October) for steamed lobster or lobster tacos, accompanied by a local rum or blueberry liqueur.
ALSO TRY: On a behind-the-scenes tour of Ironworks Distillery, sample local vodka made from Annapolis Valley apples. More: explorelunenburg.ca; ironworksdistillery.com.
13. PRETTY AS A PICTURE
A photographer’s favourite, Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia, is quaint maritime Canada at its best. Picture timber shin- gle homes, stores selling nautical memorabilia and a squat lighthouse standing on the edge of granite boulders worn by eons of wild weather. The red-capped Peggy’s Point Lighthouse (also referred to as Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse) was built in 1915 and, rain or shine, doesn’t disappoint the flocks of tourists who visit every year.
ALSO TRY: Tour along Nova Scotia’s so-called Lighthouse Route, which starts at Peggy’s Cove, takes in Louisbourg Lighthouse in northern Cape Breton, and ends at Port Bickerton Lighthouse. More: novascotia.com.
14. THE INN THING
Fogo Island Inn, off the remote northern coast of Newfoundland, is one of Canada’s most remarkable hotels, with an enviable reputation for style, beauty and its rare location on the “edge of the Earth”. The hotel, with just 29 suites, sits partly on stilts on a rocky outcrop battered by the North Atlantic Ocean. Its environmental imprint is light and well-considered; only sustainable and locally sourced materials were used in the construction and there’s a focus on regional, organic food.
ALSO TRY: Try cod potting on a working vessel off Fogo Island and learn how Newfoundlanders have turned to sustainable fishing; tours run in summer. More: fogoislandinn.ca; nationalgeographiclodges.com.
15. AHOY THERE
For Arctic immersion, consider an expedition cruise that ventures to the near-mythical Ellesmere Island, as well as multiple Royal Canadian Mounted Police outposts. Next year, One Ocean Expeditions will operate a 10-day High Arctic Explorer & Ellesmere Island itinerary with fantastic wildlife-spotting opportunities for the likes of polar bears, caribou, musk ox, ringed seals, and seabirds. The itinerary also includes a shore excursion to Beechey Island to see the graves of the crew of HMS Erebus.
ALSO TRY: One Ocean’s East Coast Fins & Fiddles cruise, departing Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, includes fabled Sable Island, with its wild horses and shipwreck history. More: oneoceanexpeditions.com.
Buffalo graze along the Alaska Highway, Yukon Territory, main; Three Sisters mountains in Canmore, above; La Machine festival, Ottawa, below