Hidden Gems of Canada: 12 Incredible Attractions You’ve Never Heard Of
Think you've seen everything the Great White North has to offer? Think again! From nearly-forgotten natural wonders to one-of-a-kind accommodations, these little-known Canadian attractions are worth adding to your bucket list.
Hidden Gems Worth Exploring
The World’s Smallest Desert
Carcross Desert, Yukon
Yes, one of Canada’s greatest hidden gems is a desert—albeit the world’s smallest. The dry climate and fierce winds of the Yukon have resulted in the creation of 540 acres of sand dunes in a region that was once the bottom of a large glacial lake. Today, the dunes of the Carcross Desert stretch to the shores of beautiful Bennett Lake, where beach-goers can sunbathe on its fine white sand.
An Underground Slide Ride
Horne Lake Caves, British Columbia
Vancouver Island has the highest concentration of caves in Canada (there are more than 1,400 of them). One of the most stunning places to go on a subterranean adventure is at Horne Lake Caves, where you can spelunk to your heart’s content through absolute darkness. If that isn’t enough of an adrenaline rush, you’ll also have the chance to barrel down the only underground slide in Canada—and rappel through a waterfall!
Good Knights Medieval Encampment, Alberta
Step back into medieval times and camp like royalty at the Good Knights Medieval Encampment in the Canadian Badlands. Wannabe lords and ladies don’t haul out the RV. No, they bed down in a lavish, medieval-style tent kitted out with queen beds, wooden floors and electricity. You’ll even have access to the throne room (AKA, your very own ensuite bathroom with flushing toilet). Lap up the royal treatment with in-tent breakfasts, archery lessons and medieval feasts.
Discover more great places to go glamping in Canada.
Mysteries Embedded in Manitoba’s Legislature
Manitoba Legislative Building, Winnipeg, Manitoba
There’s more than debating going on in Manitoba’s Legislative Building. Hidden gems like hieroglyphic inscriptions, numerological codes and Masonic symbols have been concealed so expertly within the building’s imposing architecture, their presence went unnoticed by historians and visitors for nearly a century. From April to October, weekly Hermetic Code Tours led by Dr. Frank Albo, a local architectural historian, shed light on the cryptic symbols throughout the building.
Here are more must-see historical landmarks across Canada.
A Bunker Built to Withstand a Nuclear War
During the Cold War, the Feds built an underground bunker for senior members of government should there be a nuclear attack. Although then-Prime Minister John Diefenbaker never visited his “Diefenbuker,” you can. Serving as Canada’s Cold War museum—and one of the country’s most unique hidden gems—the National Historic site is located in the small town of Carp, just west of Ottawa. In the 100,000 square foot labyrinth, you’ll find the Prime Minister’s personal suite, a massive bank vault, as well as the world’s largest escape room experience.
Looking for something even creepier? Check out Canada’s most haunted places.
The Chance to Sleep With a Pack of Wolves
Parc Oméga, Quebec
It’s easy to answer the call of the wild in Quebec’s Outaouais region. Here, at Parc Oméga, wildlife enthusiasts can actually spend the night surrounded by wolves. Fear not—you’ll be safely ensconced in a luxurious lodge while the wolf pack stands guard in the grounds outside. Peep through the cabin’s panoramic windows to see what they’re up to, or head to the observation lookout to get a bird’s-eye view of the majestic animals in their natural habitat.
Don’t miss these unforgettable day trips from Montreal.
A Safari—For Caviar Connoisseurs
Carters Point, New Brunswick
Forget those pricey Russian imports! Not only is premium caviar now being produced in Carters Point, New Brunswick, but you also have the chance to sample it firsthand on a “caviar safari.” Each July, scientists with Acadian Sturgeon & Caviar take guests on the ultimate gastronomic tour of the region. In addition to multi-course caviar tastings, you’ll witness sturgeon harvesting, assist in research (they’re doing incredible work restoring the local sturgeon population), and tuck into a sturgeon barbecue on the beach.
Check out 10 more essential experiences on the east coast of Canada.
The Oldest Lighthouse in North America
Sambro Island, Nova Scotia
No, the oldest lighthouse in North America is not to be found in Maine; nor is it in the Caribbean, where Columbus made landfall. Instead, this claim to fame is held by Nova Scotia’s Sambro Island, one of the nation’s most picturesque hidden gems. Although the historic red-and-white striped beacon can be reached by sailboat, nothing beats a helicopter expedition with Heli-Picnic Island Escape. Lifting off from Halifax Harbour, you’ll take in the striking jagged coastline before enjoying a champagne picnic near the lighthouse with your own personal sommelier.
Afterward, explore these great day trips from Halifax.
North America’s Largest Reconstruction
Louisbourg, Nova Scotia
Once one of the busiest harbours in North America (and a strategic French outpost in the New World), a visit to the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site is like stepping back in time. North America’s largest reconstruction began in 1961; today, a quarter of the original town, including its fortifications, streets, homes and gardens have been painstakingly recreated. Throw in character reenactments, and the Louisbourg experience feels genuinely ’40s—the 1740s, that is.
For more legendary Canadian structures, check out the most famous house in every province.
Basin Head Provincial Park, Prince Edward Island
You’ve heard about Prince Edward Island’s famed red sand beaches, but what about its singing sands? At Basin Head Provincial Park, the beach is made up of caramel-coloured sand that, well… Squeaks. Some say it sings, others claim it whistles—however you want to describe the sound, you’ll definitely hear it. Since P.E.I. also enjoys the warmest ocean water north of the Carolinas, you likely won’t be spending too much time on that musical sand anyhow.
Discover the best beaches in Canada—as voted by you!
A Bird’s-Eye View of Icebergs
Iceberg Nest, Quirpon Island, Newfoundland
It’s one thing to go on a boat excursion to view Newfoundland’s famed icebergs. It’s quite another to see them float underneath you. One of Canada’s greatest hidden gems, the Iceberg Nest on Quirpon Island looks like a glass box with transparent walls, ceilings and floors. In addition to marvelling at the frozen skyscrapers gliding down Iceberg Alley, you’re also likely to spot whales and dolphins (22 species migrate here each year) swimming a dizzying 100 feet below.
Marvel at more of Canada’s awe-inspiring natural wonders.
Annual Reindeer Migration
Tundra North Tours, Northwest Territories
Not only do you have an excellent chance of catching the aurora borealis in the Northwest Territories, you can witness the annual reindeer migration, too. With Tundra North Tours, you’ll follow a herd 3,000 strong as they quietly cross the tundra towards their spring calving grounds. As if that weren’t cool enough, you’ll learn how to smoke fish and can drive your own dogsled to the igloo you helped build. It could very well be the most Canadian travel experience of them all.
Now that you’re familiar with the hidden gems of Canada, find out the 10 places in Canada every Canadian needs to visit.