Get ready to book your plane ticket!
It's that magical time of year when the sun is shining and you get to hear your two favourite words: 'summer vacation.' Considering it's already July, your holiday time is probably just around the corner. So for those of you feeling a tad adventurous, why not take a trip to one of the many amazing destinations Canada has to offer?
Although you may not think about it, because you live here, our home and native land is often rated one of the most sought-after vacation spots in the world. In your own backyard there are some of the globe's most coveted lakes and national parks not to mention fascinating cities, food, people and unique cultures.
The Weather Network spoke to globe-trotting connoisseur Chris Robinson, host of the Chris Robinson Travel Show, about his recommendation for each province and territory across our great land. Who knows? You might be convinced to pack your suitcase and visit one of these spectacular (and surprisingly exotic) places this summer! Click on the destination name to find out more information online.
Although it was difficult for Chris to choose just one, he went with the west coast because “...it's such a glorious place and you could easily spend a week there.” He says the definite highlight is at the top of the coast and it's L'Anse aux Meadows. “It's the only bonafide remains of the pre-Columbian/European nations in North America -- where the Vikings came ashore.” Chris thinks it's a fantastic spot because it's on the very northern most peninsula, right above the tree line, exactly where the Viking's chose to camp out. The area has been reconstructed, and locals dress up during the summer as Vikings. “It lets you imagine what it was like to be a Viking a thousand years ago.”
And if that's not enough, further down the coast, you can take a visit to Gros Morne National Park where Chris says there's so much to see and do. “Gros Morne Mountain is a great hike and by the time you get to the top of the 3,000 ft. mountain you can look down on the fjords, and they are truly spectacular.” And if wildlife is your thing, you can maybe see a caribou up close and personal - Chris says there are lot wandering around.
Located on the Atlantic coast of the country, Chris went with the Bay of Fundy because he believes it's the 'icon' for this province even though it's shared with Nova Scotia. Regardless, he believes it's the shining star of New Brunswick. Firstly, Chris recommends you visit the Fundy National Park, and he says that although it's a small treasure, the coastline is fabulous and definitely worth your while.
So what makes the Bay of Fundy so special? “It has the highest tides in the world. Everyday the tides will come in and go out (around) 40 feet. Although it's difficult to imagine, you can literally walk on the bottom of the ocean at low tide and then come back a few hours later and kayak over where you've been previously walking amongst the cliffs.” Chris recommends the Flower Pots if you really want to experience the tides.
**The Bay of Fundy is one of 28 finalists competing by popular vote through 2011 to become one of the New7Wonders of Nature.
Chris says that this historical national park was one of the make work projects of the 1930s. He believes that it's “..the most stunningly successful reconstruction of a fortress in Canada today,” and better still, you can easily spend the whole day there! To reinforce the history, there are also costumed guides at the fortress so you can get a feel for the history. “If that's too much, you're right on the door step of the Cape Breton Highlands which is another national park and one of the world's greatest drives.”
Chris doesn't think that Canadians trumpet loudly enough about our achievements. Which is why he made the Confederation Bridge his pick for Prince Edward Island. “The linking of P.E.I to the rest of Canada is a huge achievement of Canadian ingenuity -- not because it's one of the most massive bridges that exist in the world, but for the fact they had to work out how to deal with the breakup and formation of ice in the channel.” The bridge has been specially engineered so that the structure breaks up the ice as it passes underneath. “Also the very graceful curve that they built into it makes it a beautiful piece of man-made engineering that doesn't get recognized enough.”
Because Quebec is bigger than most countries, it was difficult for Chris to pick just one spot. However, his choice is an accessible one for the massive province (just a few hours drive outside of Quebec City in fact). “It's a true fjord like you would find in Norway, but on a massive scale! On a scenic level it makes you feel humble, because you're so small in comparison.” Even better, Chris says white whales come up the fjord, and there's even a little isolated pod of these Beluga whales around the same area. Although it can be difficult to find, there are one or two places where you can get down into the fjord. He says it makes for a spectacular experience if you can kayak amongst the 1,000 ft. cliffs.
“Of all the shorelines of all the Great Lakes, The North Shore is by far the most scenic, stunning, and the most wild,” gushes Chris about his favourite Ontario spot. There's also a national park that tucks up in there and the road follows quite closely to the shore, so you can access it easily. “If you took a picture of the beach you would think you were in the Caribbean or South Pacific somewhere, very often there's nobody else on them -- you can walk for miles and miles. The landscape is so untouched.” But unlike the South Pacific, pretty frigid for swimming in he adds. Thunder Bay acts as a great base if you're psyched to see the north shore, and from there you can explore Sleeping Giant, (which juts out into Lake Superior) another fabulous place for camping.
Chris says his pick for Manitoba will surprise you. “You think of Manitoba and you think flat Prairie, but Riding Mountain National Park is anything but that.” What makes this place so interesting and vacation worthy? “It unexpectedly just comes straight up from the flats all around and it's this huge kind of massive mountain of lakes and forests that just sits amongst this horizontal landscape.” Chris believes it's a memorable and beautiful place, and it's also where the famous author and conservationist Grey Owl had his 'Beaverlodge' cabin. Overall, Chris says the park is fantastic for camping, hiking, canoeing, cycling, picnicking, fishing and boating.
“This location is a true mixture of scenery and history,” he says. The Cypress Hills are located in the extreme southwest part of the province and boast the highest point of land in Saskatchewan (approximately (4,816 ft) along beautiful grassy slopes that look across the Prairies forever. Make sure you bring your camera here Chris says because the sight lines are just amazing. Fort Walsh and Fort Whoop-Up are also found here. “These forts are where the Mounties came into being. It's where Canada had to assert its authority over the wild Americans coming up from the south who were pillaging the Natives. “If your thing is history and scenery then this is definitely the place for you!
To travel the Icefields Parkway is one that every Canadian should experience. It stretches 230 kilometers, between Lake Louise and the Jasper National Park and is a world-class journey through the Canadian Rockies. As Chris says, it's a completely different road in the summer and winter, but each time it's absolutely magnificent. “You've got these amazing blue lakes, glaciers and the chances of seeing wildlife are huge! -- generally you can see bear and coyote on the drive.”
The Peak 2 Peak is another iconic attraction in Canada. It's a tri-cable gondola lift that links Whistler's Roundhouse Lodge with Blackcomb Mountain's Rendezvous Restaurant. It's the world's longest free span gondola in the world. It's approximately 1,430 feet above the ground and is 3 km in length. “It's a great example of Canadian expertise but married to the breathtaking mountainous landscape.”
For those adventurous to ride it, but not necessarily fit enough to climb the mountain, the gondola allows you to be apart of the high mountains without having to hike up there. And now is the best time to go says Chris, “With the Olympics taking place there recently, the infrastructure has been improved, and it's a fabulous place to ski and hike the mountains. Its got some of the world's most beautiful hotels and it's quite the celebrity haunt to boot”
“It's like you stepped out of a time machine 100 years ago,” Chris marvels about the city in Yukon. If you've ever wondered what an authentic gold rush town looks and feels like, you might want to take a jaunt out to the Canadian north. It may be far, but this northern city is exactly what you would expect to find during the gold rush at the turn of the century. “The streets are dirt, the sidewalks are wooden, most of the buildings are made out of wood, it's perched beside a river overlooked by mountains on all sides, and the gold bearing creeks are all coming down into the town.” And then there's the people. “It's such a fun place to be, and each and every single one of them is a character, it's really a great place to spend some time!” emphasizes Chris.
For Chris this is an easy choice. “Of all the national parks across the country, that I've had the pleasure to travel, this is simply the most stunning, most breathtaking, most fabulous national park in the country.” This park is pristine and practically untouched, actually less than 1000 people visit Nahanni each year. “It's a mixture of high mountains and glaciers and the Virginia Falls have to be the most perfect waterfalls on the surface of the planet,” Chris says in total awe. He adds that if you're an avid rafter or a fan of canoeing then it's a place you must experience. Wow, sounds like a sure-thing to me!
You wouldn't normally think of Nunavut as a vacation spot, but being one of the world's largest islands, it's got a lot to offer. As Chris mentions, “It's an island that has everything the arctic sings to you about. Its got great glaciated peaks, fabulous fjords, and history.” Chris recommends taking the time to visit Kekerten Island, which is an uninhabited island located in the Cumberland Sound. “There's an old abandoned whaling station (about 100 years old) that still contains the boiling pots the whalers used to render down the blubber, the open graves of whalers are still there, and it's all amongst the blossoming alpine flowers and tundra.”
And there's more! Almost next door to Kekerten is Auyuittuq National Park with Mount Thor at the centre point. Renowned for being one of the most impressive granite mountain faces anywhere in the world, Chris believes it's a magical, amazing glaciated valley and it's a must for any nature lover to see.
Chris's Honourable Mentions:
“Although it's on the doorstep for many Canadians, it's not visited enough.” It has one road that goes through it, so as soon as you step off of it, you're on the trails. It's just full of gorgeous wilderness and it's so big!” Did you know the region is roughly the size of the country of Wales? So get out there and start kayaking!
This is Chris's very favourite city in the country and he recommends it because the people are just so much fun! “The people literally invite you into their homes, the bars are world renowned, there's beautiful landscape and the city's harbour is fantastic.” And you can't leave out the history of the headlands and Quidi Vidi of course!
For Canadian dining Chris says that without a doubt, it's all about Quebec City! “I think they know how to eat and drink properly in Quebec,” laughs Chris.
So the question remains, where will you be travelling this summer?