Banff and Lake Louise, Alberta
Set inside the borders of the vast Banff National Park, the area that surrounds these two towns is a Rocky Mountain wonder, a place of electric blue glacial lakes, waterfalls, abundant wildlife (from elk to bighorn sheep to grizzly bears) and breathtaking grandeur. Stay either in Banff, the busy hub of the area and home to classic hotels like the Fairmont Banff Springs, or pursue some solitude up at Lake Louise, where hiking trails up into the mountains-and beautiful silence-are just steps away.
Kluane National Park, Yukon
Home to Canada’s tallest peak (Mount Logan, altitude 19,551 feet), this giant national park in the western Yukon-22,000 square kilometres of blue glaciers, lush valleys and untamed territory-can be seen from the sky, aboard a helicopter or an airplane equipped with skis (which allow high-altitude snow landings). Or, even better, hike it using the park’s vast network of trails-you could walk for days without seeing another person.
Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland
Sitting on the coast of western Newfoundland, this is a truly unique park, a place that packs an astounding amount of geological diversity (coastal lowland, soaring peaks, precipitous cliffs, untouched lakes, waterfalls and even a former fjord, now cut off from the ocean) into a place that you can visit in just a couple days. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Gros Morne is also a geological wonder, an area where the earth’s mantle is exposed, clearly displaying the process of continental drift.
Long Beach, Tofino, British Columbia
Named “the best surf town in North America” by Outside magazine, Tofino, a beautiful beach town clinging to the wild west coast of Vancouver Island, has, despite its relatively remote location, been drawing surfers, nature-lovers and those with wandering souls for years. Located just south of town, Long Beach is an almost mystical place, a broad and-yes-long beach of great waves and breathtaking beauty.
Cavendish Beach, Prince Edward Island
A spread of reddish sand skirting cool Atlantic waters, backed by dunes and geen, rolling hills, there are few places more pleasant to spend a summer’s day than Cavendish. But while the temptation to linger on the beach may be strong, a trip to this beach would not be complete without exploring the historic sites nearby, including the Green Gables Heritage Place, the muse of Lucy Maude Montgomery and home to the Island’s most famous fictional resident.
Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick
Recently shortlisted in a massive international competition to name a new seven wonders of the natural world, the tides on this big bay, which separates New Brunswick from Nova Scotia, are truly a sight to behold-the most extreme on earth, they rise and fall more than 50 feet in some places. These can be seen most dramatically at a place like Hopewell Rocks, unique stone formations that, at low tide, form towers on dry land but become bona fide islands as the water rises.
Set on the shores of Hudson Bay, this subarctic town has earned international fame as the polar bear capital of the world. So plentiful are the bears that the town actually has a “polar bear jail,” which holds wayward bears that wander into town until they can be released back into the wild. Seen on foot, from the air or from a boat (local tour companies venture into the mouth of the Churchill River in Zodiacs), encountering a polar bear in the wild is an unforgettable experience.
The Muskoka Lakes, Ontario
One of National Geographic’s Best Trips of 2012, the Muskoka Lakes-Toronto’s favourite cottage country-have long been a destination for weary weekend warriors from the city. And while, in the past, the ability to spend more than just a day here depended on whether (or not) you had a place on the lake (or access to one), the recent addition of some great luxury properties-including a lovely JW Marriott on Lake Rosseau-have opened up the area to non-cottagers. Shop and eat in the charming villages that dot the region, then log some serious time on Joseph, Rosseau, Muskoka or any of the other, smaller lakes in the area.
CN Tower, Toronto
Although its luster has dimmed somewhat as the records it once held have tumbled at the feet of taller towers in Asia, this Toronto landmark-the former tallest freestanding structure on earth-is, at 1,815 feet, still one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World and the world’s tallest tower. And despite the fact that some of its glory has passed, the allure of a visit here is perhaps greater than ever, with the addition of its vertiginous glass floor and the installation of extra entertainment features, such as the EdgeWalk, which dares people to walk along the abyss on a five-foot wide span atop the tower’s main observation deck, 116 stories above the ground.
The oldest walled city in North America, Quebec City holds both European charm and sophistication alongside its unmistakable French Canadian character. It also bears the distinction of being the place where, as every good Canadian history student knows, Wolfe defeated Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham, securing Canada for the British Empire. Home to the iconic Chateau Frontenac, poutine, the clip-clopping of horse-drawn carriages on cobblestone streets, as well as the New France Festival (held in August) and, of course, a world-famous winter carnival, there’s always plenty to do, see and eat in the capital of La Belle Province.