If you’re on long-term disability and looking for things to do in Canada or places to visit in Canada this summer, here’s our list of hidden gems across the country.
Waterton Lakes National Park (Waterton Park, Alberta): If you’re looking to check out the mountains of Alberta but would prefer to stay away from busy parks like Banff, search no further than Waterton Lakes National Park. The peaks of the Rocky Mountains are just as gorgeous here and you’ll have fewer people in the background of your photos.
Elk Island National Park (Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta): One of the few places left to still see wild bison in their natural habitat, Elk Island is a unique preserve that includes Astotin Lake, the surrounding wetlands, aspen woodlands, and prairie meadows that are filled with wildlife. Most notable among this collection of wildlife is a herd of wild storied plains bison that have been brought back from near extinction.
East Sooke Regional Park (Vancouver Island, British Columbia): This secret beach has rocks instead of sand, but it’s one of the most breathtaking spots you can go to experience fresh, ocean air and watching the waves. There is over 50 km of trails nearby so this is the perfect place to visit if you love outdoor adventuring.
French Beach Provincial Park (Juan de Fuca, British Columbia): One of the most unique and little-known beaches in the province, French Beach is great for camping and the sunsets are unreal. Explore this expansive, blindingly white sand beach at your leisure this summer for an unforgettable time.
Steep Rock Beach (Steep Rock, Manitoba): Located on the beautiful shores of Lake Manitoba, Steep Rock offers the most amazing sunsets and fantastic cliff and rock formations. You may feel like you’re in Mexico or somewhere with palm trees, but really it’s the prairie’s hidden gem. Take a self-guided tour and explore the many private coves, beaches, and ATV-riding and walking trails. Steep Rock Beach Park offers an experience you’ll never forget!
Little Limestone Lake (Division No. 23, Manitoba): The ever-changing levels in calcium carbonate-rich marl cause dramatic colour changes in the lake. The source of the calcite is underground limestone deposits—which have been slowly dissolving into the water for centuries. The landscape features sinkholes, caves, and other features typical of so-called “karst” (or limestone) geology—the result of the rock being eroded over time.
Ministers Island (Saint Andrews, New Brunswick): When you visit Ministers Island, take note. During low tide, visitors can drive (or walk) across a seemingly innocuous road to get to their destination. During high tide, however, Bar Road (the island’s only access to the mainland) is covered up by 20 feet of water. Bar Road, in fact, is not a road so much as the seafloor, which sometimes exposes itself to the air and operates as a pathway.
Hopewell Rocks (Hopewell Cape, New Brunswick): Caused by the ever-moving tide off the Canadian coast, these rocks have spindly bases and arches that continue to be gnawed away at by the sea. The tidal movement is drastic enough, during the two low tides and two high tides every day, that if one plans a visit right, during a low tide, one can walk the beach at the base of the stones. As part of the Bay Of Fundy, home to the world’s highest tides, you are looking at a whopping 46-50 feet depth of change, twice daily.
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
Twillingate (New World Island Area, Newfoundland and Labrador): If you want to chase icebergs, get close-and-personal with whales and have fun with friendly fishermen, then hunker down in Twillingate. It is accessible by travelling over short causeways along Newfoundland’s northeast coast. Every summer starting in May and ending by October, icebergs dot the seascape not just in Twillingate but all around Newfoundland’s North Atlantic coast.
L’Anse Aux Meadows (Saint Lunaire-Griquet, Newfoundland and Labrador): Situated at the northernmost tip of Newfoundland in Canada is a village settled by the Vikings and estimated to have been established around AD 1000. In order to protect the site, the Canadian government buried the excavation in white sand and covered it with sod. They built replicas of the buildings nearby, with a boardwalk surrounding them. The climate at the site is sub-Arctic, and icebergs can be seen off the coast in June and July, as can whales.
Inuvik Community Greenhouse (Inuvik, Northwest Territories): This former hockey arena includes a 4,000-square-foot commercial greenhouse and 180 individual plots maintained by community members. People grow plants not usually found in the arctic: spinach, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, strawberries, squash, and even occasionally watermelon. Flowers are also a common find. The greenhouse’s growing season lasts from May to late September.
Great Bear Lake (Deline, Northwest Territories): At more than 12,000 square miles (larger than the country of Belgium), Great Bear Lake is the eighth largest lake on Earth and the largest in Canada. It is also the purest and untouched of the world’s lakes, despite the active fishing community of Deline, the only town on its shores. The lake straddles the Arctic Circle and is frozen most of the year. It also experiences the midnight sun during the summer months.
Gypsum Mine Quarry and Trail (Inverness, Subd. A, Nova Scotia): With its turquoise waters and surrounding cliffs, you may just think you’re in British Columbia rather than Nova Scotia at the secluded Gypsum Quarry. Follow the hiking trail beginning along the Cheticamp Back Road, and it will take you to this stunning quarry, where the visitors enjoy swimming, sun tanning and swinging from the rope swing.
The Kauzmann Trail (St. Margaret Village, Nova Scotia): This trail is so well hidden that you can explore this beautiful headland all by yourself. This trail has an easy hike with an expansive view at the top waiting just for you: right at the water’s edge and 1,000 feet above the sea! If you are adventurous, getting there at sunrise is the best way to experience a breathtaking view of the Atlantic Ocean. You can follow the ridge for quite a while, and a geocache is located near the end of the trail.
Auyuittuq National Park (Pangnirtung, Nunavut): Auyuittuq National Park is home to Mount Thor, which is famous for being the mountain with the highest vertical drop in the world — over 4,000 feet! Experts might put summiting Mount Thor on their bucket list, but for everyone else Auyuittuq National Park is full of amazing experiences including tours into the Arctic Circle, traversing fjords, skiing and hiking.
Prince Leopold Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary (Baffin Region, Nunavut): From late May until mid-September, over 200,000 pairs of birds use the limestone cliffs here to lay their eggs and raise their young. Other non-avian animals pass by the area, too. Beluga whales, narwhals, and walruses are known to swim through the water surrounding the island. Polar bears will occasionally traipse across the ground beneath the cliffs, searching for an unsuspecting bird to snack on.
Waterfront at Downtown Burlington (Burlington, Ontario): Bring your model sailboat to Burlington Rotary Centennial Pond, a 10,000 square-foot year-round water feature. Stroll the promenade at Spencer Smith Park or enjoy breathtaking views on the Brant Street Pier. You can even build sandcastles at Beachway Park.
Flowerpot Island (Northern Bruce Peninsula, Ontario): Catch a boat from Tobermory and find yourself in an amazing spot for a day of picnicking, swimming and hiking. Flowerpot Island is part of one of Ontario’s most fascinating freshwater ecosystems, Fathom Five National Marine Park. Discover the ancient dolomite rock formations, sunken shipwrecks, and trails of this beautiful island in Georgian Bay.
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
North Cape Nature Trail (Lot 1, Prince Edward Island): Nature lovers, rejoice. If you like to admire nature in its purest form, then you’re really going to enjoy visiting Prince Edward Island’s North Cape, situated on the most northern tip of PEI. This spot happens to boast one of the most beautiful natural phenomena: a natural rock reef, which you can stroll when the tide is low enough and admire all the marine life. Also, during the summertime, you can see Irish moss being harvested.
Robinson’s Island (Brackley Beach, Prince Edward Island): It’s not as well-known as some other PEI destinations, so this low-key spot tends to be perfect for a quiet getaway. This pristine island is generally at its best when it’s being explored, but swing by the beach and take a little dip in the water if you’re in that island mood.
Trou de la Fée – Protected Bat Cave (Saint-André-du-Lac-Saint-Jean, Québec): The first thing you notice about the Trou de la Fée cave park is that it’s mostly above ground. Rickety walkways take visitors and scientists along hillsides and across rushing rivers and gentle waterfalls. It seems far more like a pleasant parkland than a cave of spooky, flying mammals. That’s because, as with most bat habitats, the entrance to the lair is very small, just barely hinting at the vast network of caves below the surface.
Les Chutes du $5 (Notre-Dame-de-Montauban, Québec): Les Chutes du $5 is a well-kept secret. Just upstream from a small town in Québec, they offer a rare public access point to the Batiscan. There’s a bridge that offers beautiful views of the falls, and even a walkway that takes people to a tiny island in the middle of the rapids. The nearby public park offers walking trails, one of which is a segment of the Great Trail. You can spend an afternoon staring at the hypnotizing rapids and listening to the rushing water, legally camp at the nearby campsite, or even try your hand at fishing.
Little Manitou Lake (Manitou Beach, Saskatchewan): Known as the “Dead Sea of Canada,” Little Manitou Lake has a salinity content five times higher than the ocean, or approximately half that of the Dead Sea in Israel and Jordan. Fed by underground springs, the lake waters are high in sodium, magnesium, and potassium salts, allowing swimmers to float effortlessly.
Great Sand Hills (Prelate, Saskatchewan): The Great Sand Hills in southwestern Saskatchewan are a spectacular active sand dune anomaly in the prairies. These dunes are very lightly visited, and many western Canadians don’t even know they exist. Yet the dunes are very accessible, within an hour’s drive of the Trans-Canada Highway. This unique spot is definitely worth a detour from the very long prairie drive and is also a worthy destination on its own.