Flowers are blossoming, warm breezes are blowing and with the increase in COVID-19 vaccinations, Canadians are starting to think about vacationing again. Staying closer to home is still the recommendation from public health experts, so let’s look at a few outdoor summer destinations across our beautiful country.
Vancouver Island has no shortage of beautiful places to visit. You’re likely familiar with destinations such as Nanaimo and Courtney on the eastern side of the island but the western side also offers wonderful destinations such as Tofino. Tofino is in the UNESCO Clayoquot Sound Biosphere region and offers a diverse array of wildlife from wolves and bald eagles to gray whales, orcas, and sea lions. This little seaside town is also a surfer’s paradise. There are several places in town to rent equipment or to book a lesson.
Surfing is not the only outdoor activity to enjoy; you can also enjoy ziplining, biking, hiking, fishing, kayaking and golfing. An assortment of restaurants, breweries, distilleries and bakeries provide locally sourced products. Just remember to enjoy the area mindfully.
Yoho National Park is located on the west side of the Rocky Mountains. The area was named for a Cree expression of awe and wonder. The nearest town and the home of the Yoho visitor centre is Field, British Columbia. From here you can take the Yoho Valley Road to visit Takakkaw Falls, one of the highest in Canada. You can also drive to Emerald Lake and hike the 5 km trail around the lake, half of which is accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. Another beautiful spot to see is Wapta Falls on the Kicking Horse River. There are several guided hikes that you can take as well. Guides will take you to the restricted Walcott Quarry or Mount Stephen fossil sites to view history up close or on a ‘species at risk’ hike to see many endangered plants and animals. Both require a reservation so book early. The National Park includes 28 mountain peaks so don’t forget to bring your camera.
Waterton Lakes National Park is as south as you can get in Alberta. The hamlet of Waterton Park is located where Upper and Lower Waterton Lakes meet. Here is where you will find canoe and kayak rentals, electric bikes, stand up paddle boarding and fantastic cruises on the lake. And don’t forget about the ice cream! I recommend Big Scoop Ice Cream Parlour! One of the main reasons to visit the area is for the world famous hiking trails. There’s everything from short hikes around the townsite to multi-day adventures for the hard-core hikers. The backdrop is mountains, wildflowers, and waterfalls. You can stay in one of the convenient campgrounds, one of the town’s rustic bed and breakfasts or stay at the Prince of Wales Hotel high on the bluff overlooking the town.
Moving eastward, we run into the city of Winnipeg. The city is full of interesting and artsy neighborhoods and activities. A highlight is The Forks, a National Historic site located where the Red River meets the Assiniboine River. This area was originally used as a rest stop for many aboriginal groups as they moved to warmer climates and later as a trading post for fur. Today, The Forks is the location of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, one of only two national museums located outside of the National Capital Region. It is also home to the Forks Market and the Johnston Terminal building, both great places for souvenir and antique shopping. There are also many outdoor activities and festivals that occur in Winnipeg, such as Folklorama and the Manito Ahbee Festival, both in August. St. Boniface is Winnipeg’s French Quarter and is just a short walk from the Forks over the Esplanade Louis Riel Bridge. The best way to visit the area is to take a guided walking tour. The Assiniboine Park Zoo is best known for its polar bear exhibit, Journey to Churchill. Approximately one hour out of town you will arrive at Gimli where you can enjoy the beautiful beaches of Lake Winnipeg, as well as the historic Viking traditions and festivals they like to call ‘New Iceland’.
Let’s head to Lake Country and visit Prince Edward County (PEC) on Lake Ontario. The white sand beaches and accessibility to water create the perfect storm for people who are looking to spend as much time in the water as possible. Kayaking, boating, wakeboarding and sailing are popular activities. The area is also a top culinary destination known for its ever-changing farm-to-table menus, as well as more than forty wineries, artisan cheese shops, and even a few distilleries. A visit to the charming Prince Edward County Lavender farm is also a necessity. Take a tour of the fields of lavender in the month of July to experience the peak flowering period and browse hand-crafted lavender products in the boutique. The music festivals and live theatre are another motivation to visit the area. The PEC professional summer theatre company provide a season of theatre for adults in July and August. In July you can also experience chamber music in unique environments with the Classical Unbound Festival. August brings the annual Jazz Festival and the Country Jamboree and September offers the 50s and 60s Rock ‘n Roll festival.
Driving the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia is an excellent way to experience the natural beauty of the Cape Breton Highlands. The highway is 298 km long and meanders its way through Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The park is known for its breathtaking coastlines and mountain views and is best experienced by the 26 hiking trails located along its journey. There are also five ocean beaches and two freshwater lakes to enjoy. Visit the Acadian village Chéticamp to shop for unique handmade treasures or to listen to lively Acadian music. Wildlife viewing is an important part of the trail as you can experience aquatic life such as humpback whales, dolphins and harbor seals along the coastline but also obscure birds, mammals and reptiles. If you are a history buff, in Baddeck you can visit the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic site and in Glace Bay you can visit the Marconi National Historic site. If you are a hard-core bicyclist, you will want to do the six-day, self-guided bicycling tour along the Trail.
There is something magical about Prince Edward Island in the summer. Maybe it is the sun shining off the red sand beaches or the scenic farmland located farther inland. In Charlottetown, you won’t want to miss the Confederation Centre of the Arts, an art gallery and five theatres located on a full city block. Enjoy an
authentic PEI experience by watching Anne of Green Gables – The Musical or come for the Charlottetown Festival, the largest musical theatre festival in Atlantic Canada. Take the North Cape Coastal Drive on PEI’s Oyster Coast to learn more about the thriving Mi’kmaq culture or spend some down time on the beautiful beaches in the area. Thunder Cove Beach on the north shore is the perfect location to view towering sandstone cliffs and in Greenwich, you can see the biggest sand dunes in the province. Green Gables Heritage Place in Cavendish is a popular tourist attraction which explores the setting for Lucy Maud Montgomery’s novel and
highlights the heritage of the area. If you are a golfer, The Links at Crowbush Cove was named one of the top two courses in Canada by SCORE Golf magazine and has been played by many popular golf professionals.
These are just a few Canadian destinations that would make for a fantastic summer vacation in 2021. It has been a long, lonely winter and you all deserve an escape.
Text by Heidi Lawrie, B-Side Travel