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4 Active Canadian Island Getaways

If your island getaway usually involves lounging poolside while soaking up tropical rays, consider heading to a more temperate, and affordable, locale where kicking back can also mean getting fit. There are loads of island options in Canada.

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Tofino, located on Vancouver Island, B.C., is Canada’s most popular surfing spot.

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1. Northern Exposure

1. Northern Exposure

Hike to the highest ridge on La Grande Basque Island, Sept-Îles, Quebec

Sept-Îles are located in the mouth of the Gulf of St-Lawrence and are comprised of seven rugged islands. From a base in the town of Sept-Îles you can set out for Grand Basque where you can camp for a week or just stay for the day. Once there you’ll find a gray granite shoreline etched smooth by long ago glaciers and 11 kilometers of trails winding through scrubby pine forests. Take the trail to the highest peak-and scan the waters for minke and finback whales, as well as puffins and herons.

 

In your spare time: The Canadian Shield is stunning from above-only then do you really understand how vast and wild it is. A 20-minute helicopter ride up the Moisie River and over La Grande Basque is only $40.

 

If you go: This is seafood territory and fresh lobster, snow crab and halibut come to your table at their simple and causal best at Les Terrasses du Capitaine.

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2. Pedal Power

2. Pedal Power

Biking on Prince Edward Island

It’s billed as the island that was built for biking and P.E.I.’s 273-kilometre Confederation Trail, which runs tip-to-tip from Tignish to Elmira, is the way to go. The trail is a converted railway bed-so it never gets too steep. Instead the trail meanders along the seashore, through forests, across farmland and through villages.

 

In your spare time: Check out one of P.E.I.’s new “Hands On Experiences,” where you can partner up with a local expert and dig your own clams for dinner, collect seaweed for a different kind of feast or learn a new skill with a local artisan.

 

If you go: You’ll find sturdy bike racks, patch kits and pumps, larger meals and trail maps at inns, hotels, B&B’s and restaurants listed in the “Confederation Trail Cycling Guide.” Accommodations listed in the guide are part of the province’s “Cyclists Welcome Program.”

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3. Surf's Up

3. Surf’s Up

Surfing Tofino, Vancouver Island, B.C.

Although surfers have been heading to Tofino for years (even Pierre Trudeau pulled out a board and caught a bit of air, back in the day), until recently, the crew consisted of a few hardcore dudes and beach bettys who hung at Cox Bay, rippin’ down juicy waves and using lingo that sounds silly coming from anyone who’s not leashed to a board. Then the news of Tofino’s 35 kilometres of pristine beach break got out. It turns out that despite the mist and rain, the coastal town has excellent year-round surfing, with waves that suit everyone from beginners to pros.

 

In your spare time: Head to Meares Island and explore the Big Tree Trail. The vast forest was the flash point in BC’s “war of the woods” environmental protests of the early 1990s. Today the forest is a serene reminder of those tumultuous days.

 

If you go: Catch a wave with Pacific Surf School (888-777-9961; www.pacificsurfschool.com) Surf Sisters (877-724-7873; www.surfsister.com) or Westside Surf (250-725-2404; www.westsidesurfschool.com).

 

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4. Circumnavigate an Island

4. Circumnavigate an Island

The 20 or so islands that make up the archipelago are nestled against the sheltered southeastern coast of Vancouver Island and are bordered by the Georgia Straight. With a balmy climate that’s been compared to the Mediterranean, the Gulf Islands are a favorite retreat for kayakers. You can choose a multi-day trip that takes you from island to island, a shorter trip (a day is enough time to make it around some of the smaller islands), or simply end a leisurely weekend with a sunset kayak paddle where bioluminescence lights up the water and stars light up the sky.

 

In your spare time: Go wine touring. Vancouver Island and the adjacent Gulf Islands are fairly new to wine making but the area now boasts over 30 wineries-with more cropping up each season. The wines are made from grapes with musically unfamiliar names like Ehrenfelser, Ortega, Auxerrois and Madeleine Sylvaner.

 

If you go: You can rent kayaks from numerous outfitters, but be selective. Fibreglass ocean kayaks are more comfortable (and drier) than the plastic sit-on-top type. Look for an outfitter with well-maintained equipment, good safety gear and a wealth of local knowledge.

 

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