The world believes we are polite, humble, and peaceful people who live in a land of snow and ice while playing hockey 12 months of the year. I suppose most of that is true. Heads down, we work and play in the security of a nation with oceans on three sides and a neighbour we made peace with 203 years ago.
By landmass, we are the largest democracy on the planet. The first place Europeans discovered in North America, when in 985 CE Erik the Red and his Vikings landed on our shores. And while the name Christopher Columbus is synonymous with European discovery of North America, he never actually landed on the mainland. After the Vikings, it was John Cabot who landed in Newfoundland in 1497, providing the basis for British claims to North America. The subsequent 520 years, including the official formation of our country in 1867, is a long history of contributions to the world, by a nation of scientists, artists, adventurers, athletes
It’s time for a fireside chat on how to spend a year (which isn’t enough time) to share our stories, visit our parks and monuments, dance at festivals, sing songs and indulge in an orgy of patriotism. We can be humble again next year.
The Canada Parks Pass could be the greatest gift of the sesquicentennial celebration. The Discovery Pass will allow Canadians and visitors from around the world, free admission to Canada’s National Parks and National Historic Sites.
You can get yours online here: www.commandesparcs-parksorders.ca/ webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/en/parksb2c
There are 38 National Parks and eight National Park Reserves, which are designed to be representative of both spectacular as well as distinctly unique landscapes. A reserve is an area that is intended to become a national park pending settlement of native land claims. The primary goal of the parks is to preserve the ecology, and secondary goal is to allow us to enjoy their natural splendor. Clockwise around the country starting in Newfoundland, the province that marks the origin of our modern history, and stopping in each province and territory, here are our featured national parks.
1. GROS MORNE NATIONAL PARK, NEWFOUNDLAND
Not only is it a national park but it’s also a UNESCO world heritage site. Glacially carved fjords with 600 metre cliffs drop to meet sandy beaches as you hike awestruck past forests, waterfalls, bogs and barren lowlands. The geology helped proved the theory of plate tectonics – how continents move. Wildlife throughout the park include Moose, Woodland Caribou, Black Bears, Red Fox, Arctic Hare and innumerable bird species. There are over 100 kilometres of trails; let the explorer in you indulge in sea kayaking and trekking adventures, take a fishing charter for cod, herring, halibut or shark, or try your hand at lobster trapping followed by a lobster boil on the beach.
In addition to the natural attractions, the surrounding seaside communities are a fertile ground for festivals and the arts, museums and cultural centres.
Gros Morne has three reservable campgrounds on their system: Trout River, Berry Hill and Shallow Bay (1-877-7373783 or www.reservation.pc.gc.ca). Or try;
Gros Morne RV/Campground Toll Free: +1 (877) 488 3133 email@example.com www.grosmornervcampground.com
And there is a complete listing of campgrounds and RV parks at www.newfoundlandlabrador.com.
Check out a list of festivals and other trip planning tools at
2. CAPE BRETON HIGHLANDS NATIONAL PARK, NOVA SCOTIA
Hikers come here to stare at the steep cliffs and catch glimpses of wildlife like the elusive Canada Lynx, moose, bald eagle, rock vole and Gaspe shrew. But you can also enjoy the park on a bike or through your RV windshield, as part of the Cabot Trail scenic highway hugs the coastline where Nova Scotia rises from the North Atlantic. Numerous viewpoints allow you to stop and take photos, breathe in the sea air and perhaps catch sight of a minke or pilot whale. Or be enthralled with views over the tablelands, the flat-
topped mountains of the Highland Plateau.
Sandy beaches offer respite from full days of hiking, kayaking, golfing, cycling, fishing and sightseeing.
Broad Cove Campground (Parks Canada) (902) 224-2306 This and more campgrounds at; www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ns/cbreton/activ/ camping.aspx#A5
MORE PARK INFO; www.parkscanada.gc.ca/capebreton
3. PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND NATIONAL PARK, PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
10,000 year old archaeological digs, unique dunes towering over white sand beaches, 50km’s of hiking/biking trails to explore when you’re not camped on the ocean, and uniquely Canadian cultural experiences like Green Gables, part of L. M. Montgomery’s Cavendish National Historic Site, and Dalvay-bythe-Sea National Historic Site – what are you waiting for? Cavendish Campground firstname.lastname@example.org (877) 737-3783 www.reservation.parkscanada.gc.ca
MORE PARK INFO; www.parkscanada.gc.ca/pei
4. FUNDY NATIONAL PARK, NEW BRUNSWICK
At the head of the bay, the highest tides in the world reach a dramatic 16 metres, the height of a four-story building. At low tide, visitors can hike over a kilometre into the inter-tidal zone to see the seabed without scuba gear. And although the Bay of Fundy is the major draw of this park, the forested Caledonia Highlands Plateau rises 300 metres from the coast encapsulating the bogs, birds, amphibians and reptiles that call this Acadian forest home.
120 kilometres of hiking/walking trails pass waterfalls and clear running streams as well as captivate with stirring coastal views. Canoe or kayak on Bennet Lake, tee off on Fundy National Park Golf Course, enjoy a skit or square dance at Molly Kool’s Kitchen Party at the park entrance, or for a truly unique experience snorkel with salmon at the famous Black Hole, an Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon research site.
Try either Chignecto North or Headquarters Campgrounds, both of which have pullthrough sites; www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/nb/fundy/activ/ camping.aspx 506-887-6000
MORE PARK INFO; www.parkscanada.gc.ca/fundy
5. THE MINGAN ARCHIPELAGO NATIONAL PARK RESERVE, QUEBEC
Just a short (geologically) 500 million years ago, the region was a tropical sea, ahh the good ol’ days in Canada. Calcium rich sea creatures lived then died, sinking to bottom creating sedimentary limestone deposits. When the continents shifted, the sea drained, then wind and wave erosion created the largest concentration of erosion monoliths in Canada along a 150-kilometre stretch of the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
You can visit from June to September to wander and wonder among the rare plants, view marine birds including puffins, razorbills, guillemots, terns, and kittiwakes, and experience the otherworldly geological features in this unique Canadian national park.
There are roughly 40 main islands filled with walking/hiking trails accessible by boat or kayak. Unfortunately you can’t camp there with your RV but the islands and islets are accessible by boat for water tours and day trips with tours leaving from Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan and Havre-St.Pierre. Water taxis allow overnight tent camping at one of 42 campsites spread over six islands.
Web: www.parkscanada.gc.ca/mingan Nearby RV Park; Camping de la Minganie 109, rue de la Mer Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan G0G 1V0 866-949-2307
email@example.com For more parks visit www.campingquebec.com
6. BRUCE PENINSULA NATIONAL PARK, ONTARIO
The Niagara Escarpment provides the eroded cliffs that drop into the waters of Georgian Bay. It is home to more than 300 species of birds and wildlife including black bears, porcupines and white tailed deer. Walking and hiking trails are rated from easy to expert so stop in at the visitor centre in Tobermory for maps and information. The centre also provides info on Fathom Five National Marine Park – a popular scuba dive area with wrecks and caves, some of which are visible from glass bottom boat tours.
The area is rich in experiences including canoeing, kayaking, swimming, climbing, and bouldering. Pack your picnic basket, grab your camera and choose your adventure. Make sure you hit the two iconic Bruce Peninsula sights, the ‘Flower Pot’ and ‘The Grotto’.
There are no serviced sites in campgrounds within the parks. The drive-in campground is Cypress Lake Campground. Reservations are strongly recommended. They can be made on-line at www.reservation.pc.gc.ca or by calling 1-877-RESERVE (877-737-3783)
MORE PARK INFO: www.parkscanada.gc.ca/bruce
MORE VISITOR INFO: www.explorethebruce.com
NEARBY RV PARK: Lands End Park 59 Corey Cres Tobermory, Ontario, N0H 2R0 Phone: 519-596-2523 http://www.landsendpark.com
For more campgrounds in Ontario visit www.campinginontario.ca
7. RIDING MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
I originally choose Wapusk National Park, Manitoba as it is a subarctic area perfect for polar bear sightings, arctic foxes, arctic hares, wolves, caribou and wolverine as well as more than 200 bird species. How Canadian is that. However, it is a two-day train ride, or a flight to Churchill, where experienced tour operators are required to enjoy what the region has to offer. Visit www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/parks/ wapusk-canada-park/ for more information.
Instead I decided to feature a park you can RV to in Manitoba. Riding Mountain National Park is 3000 sq km of rugged Canadian boreal forest filled with wild black bear, elk, moose, and lynx. You’ll also be able to see plains bison that live in an
enclosure by Lake Audy.
There is an extensive trail network for hiking, biking, birding and horseback riding.
But for all the natural terrain, it is one of only five national parks that also include a resort town, in this case, Wasagaming, which is on the shore of Clear Lake and offers a civilized break of shops and restaurants, along with beaches and boat rentals.
NEARBY RV: Wasagaming Campground is with walking distance of Wasagaming and has pullthru sites with power. www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/mb/riding/ activ/activ2/activ2_i.aspx www.reservation.pc.gc.ca or by calling 1-877-RESERVE (877-737-3783)
MORE PARK INFO: www.parkscanada.gc.ca/riding
MORE VISITOR INFO: http://discoverclearlake.com
8. GRASSLANDS NATIONAL PARK, SASKATCHEWAN
No Canadian Parks feature would be complete without Grasslands National Park, a park dedicated to preserving the 70 different species of grass and over 50 different species of wildflowers in the native prairie grassland. We think of the prairies as immense, reaching beyond the visible horizons. But the native grasslands is an endangered biome, reduced by 80% over the last century.
Hiking is all encompassing, from family-friendly walks to extreme backcountry adventures in the hoodoos. Take the Ecoscenic tour and on your Saskatchewan Safari watch out for bison and prairie dog colonies, and explore an archaeological dig. Live the western lifestyle on a horseback ride, try your hand with a lasso and take a wagon ride. After watching a spectacular prairie sunset, sit by the campfire until the last of the daylight fades to reveal the twinkling cosmos overhead. You are in Canada’s darkest dark sky preserve looking back in time at the light of a million stars. NEARBY RV: Frenchman Valley Campground, West Block has only 20 electric sites with three pull thru’s, while Rock Creek Campground is undergoing upgrades to provide electric service. Best to reserve ahead. 1.877.737.3783
MORE CAMPGROUND INFO: www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/sk/grasslands/activ/ activ4/activ4a.aspx
MORE PARK INFO: www.parkscanada.gc.ca/grasslands
9. BANFF NATIONAL PARK, ALBERTA
Canada’s first national park can be the polar opposite of many other national parks, as rustic camping is complemented by five star resorts and gold medal dining. But at its very essence, it is still the great Canadian outdoors where snow-capped mountains that reach to Olympus rise from peaceful turquoise lakes. Hike, bike, horseback, canoe, kayak, fish in summer then return for winter for skiing, tobogganing, skating and snowshoeing in winter.
Canadian culture can also be enjoyed in the museums, which pay tribute to our natural and modern history. From golf to gondolas, and dogsledding to dining, this Canadian treasure almost has it all.
Tunnel Mountain Trailer and Lake Louise Trailer offer fully serviced sites within the
park. 1-877-RESERVE (737-3783)
MORE INFO ON ACTIVITIES AND ATTRACTIONS: https://www.banfflakelouise.com www.parkscanada.gc.ca/banff MORE INFO ON CAMPGROUNDS: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/banff/ activ/camping.aspx
10. PACIFIC RIM NATIONAL PARK RESERVE, BRITISH COLUMBIA
50 km’s of sandy beaches and rugged coast hem in the temperate rainforest of this park on the western edge of Vancouver Island. From interpretive walks to the 75 km backcountry Westcoast Trail, you can choose the level of difficulty to suit your own personal adventure. The Broken Group Islands provide a boatin-only experience while the nearby towns of Tofino and Ucluelet satisfy more civilized pursuits, and guided marine adventures. You can strike off virtually every water activity from your bucket list here including kayak surfing, surfing, kite boarding, paddle boarding, saltwater sportfishing and more.
Immerse in the First Nation culture through interpretive walks and artisanal work.
MORE PARK INFO: www.parkscanada.gc.ca/pacificrim
The campgrounds operated by Parks Canada are notoriously busy. So try these well-reviewed private RV parks:
Crystal Cove 1165 Cedarwood Place,Tofino, BC 1 877 725 4213 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.crystalcove.ca
Pachena Bay Campground 90 Anacla Reserve, Bamfield, BC Phone:(250) 728-1287
11. KLUANE NATIONAL PARK AND RESERVE, YUKON TERRITORY
This is the national park of ‘…est’. Here you’ll find 5959-metre Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak, as well as Canada’s largest icefield and most diverse grizzly population. As you can imagine, backcountry trekking is at its most extreme here but hiking, biking and walking trails are highway accessible from Kathleen Lake, where you can also explore the natural and cultural history from the visitor centre.
Aside from the mountaineering and multiday treks, you can raft past glaciers on the Alsek River, or take a spectacular flight-seeing tour. Bring your mountain bike to explore trails and old mining roads, your fishing rod to target lake trout, arctic grayling and rainbow trout, and your canoe, kayak or motorboat to enjoy the waters of Kathleen and Mush Lake.
You won’t find serviced or pullthru sites in the area but the experience more than makes up for the rustic campgrounds.
MORE CAMPGROUND INFO: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/yt/kluane/ visit/2/b.aspx#k3 More park info: www.parkscanada.gc.ca/kluane
12. NAHANNI NATIONAL PARK RESERVE, NORTHWEST TERRITORIES
National Geographic ranks the South Nahanni River trip among its top 20 tourism adventures in the world. This is a park for extreme outdoor adventurers and is considered a paddlers paradise for its deep river canyons and thrilling whitewater.
If words like portage and food cache are part of your daily vocabulary, you’ll be right at home. This is Canada’s land of the midnight sun and home to the aurora borealis, something every Canadian should experience. Wilderness and river adventure companies can help you safely explore the region, showing you the wonders of everything from migrating caribou to the astounding Virginia Falls, which is twice the height of Niagara Falls.
Now the bad news. There are no public roads in Nahanni National Park Reserve. Most visitors travel to the park by chartered floatplane from Fort Simpson and Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, Muncho Lake in British Columbia, and Watson Lake, Yukon.
MORE PARK INFO: www.parkscanada.gc.ca/nahanni
Licenced outfitters to help you enjoy the trip of a lifetime: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/nt/ nahanni/visit/visit3.aspx
13. AUYUITTUQ NATIONAL PARK, NUNAVUT
This time I’ll start with you can’t RV to here, but that doesn’t mean you should give up, just focus on getting close. It’s the land of narwhals and polar bears, the only national park north of the Arctic Circle. Extreme hikers and backcountry campers are drawn to the area. Your best bet for an astounding experience is through a licenced guide or tour operator, for a current list contact the Park Office in Pangnirtung at 867-473-2500
MORE PARK INFO: www.parkscanada.gc.ca/auyuittuq
CANADA 150 Top to Bottom: View from the top of Gros Morne Mountain, Cabot Trail in Cape Breton and Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
CANADA 150 Clockwise: Near Cavendish Beach, Fundy National Park and the Mingan Archipelago National Park.
CANADA 150 Top: Bruce Peninsula, Bottom: Bruce Peninsula National Park.
CANADA 150 Top: Grasslands National Park, Bottom: Banff National Park.
CANADA 150 Top: Pacific Rim National Park, Bottom: Kluane National Park.
CANADA 150 Top: Nahani National Park, Bottom: Auyuittuq National Park.