It’s the first month of a whole new year, which for me always includes making travel resolutions, as well as the usual promises to myself to be kinder, read more and lose weight of course! The sad news is that the Canadian dollar seems to be on a downward spiral, so travelling has become very expensive, but the good news is that Canada is outrageously beautiful, from sea to sea to sea. With that in mind, here is a list of 5 exceptional Canadian trip ideas for you to consider taking this year:
Island Hopping in Southern Gulf Islands, British Columbia
Between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island, you will find a group of gorgeous islands that are prime for visiting for nature enthusiasts, hikers, kayakers, art lovers and organic food devotees. Check out BC Ferries to help plan your route.
Perhaps the most well-known of these islands is Salt Spring Island, where a stay at the Hastings House is always a luxurious experience, or try one of the cottages at Foxglove Farm. A visit to Salt Spring would not be complete without a trip to the Saturday Market, if you are there from April – October. On quieter Pender Island, stay in an Airstream at the quirky WOODS on Pender, and enjoy some of the island’s hiking trails. Visit Galiano Island with its gorgeous Montague Harbour and interesting annual events such as the upcoming Galiano Literary Festival. Romantic Mayne Island will require your attention as well to round out your island hopping adventure. (Check out this Airbnb property on Mayne Island which is apparently one of the top 10 “wish-listed” in their inventory!)
For some additional ideas for Vancouver, Whistler and Tofino, look here.
Beaches and Wineries in Prince Edward County, Ontario
Ten (maybe even five) years ago if you mentioned Prince Edward County, a native Torontonian may have responded with “Where’s that?”. This is no longer the case because the wines that have been a staple of the region for years are more widely recognized and in part due to the exciting opening of Jeff Stober’s Drake Devonshire in Wellington last year (which was featured as an “Indie darling” in Travel + Leisure). The County has been discovered and it’s time to go if you have not yet visited.
Head to the dunes at Sandbanks Provincial Park for a day you will not forget on Lake Ontario. Stay at a charming bed and breakfast, such as the Manse Boutique Inn, or the wonderful family-run Angeline’s Inn and enjoy quaffing at wineries such as Norman Hardie, Huff Estates, The Grange and The Old Third. Staying for an extended period of time? There are some terrific vacation rental properties in the area, such as the Hideaway House. The dining is one of the big draws of this area. For a bistro experience, you have some wonderful places to try including: Blumen Garden in Picton, East & Main in Wellington and Agarian in Bloomfield. Also, the Stache on Main is a little County secret – an intimate, friendly art gallery and piano bar right on the main drag in Wellington (and walking distance from the Drake).
Urban Adventure in Montreal, Quebec
Montreal has long been the premier city in Canada to experience the boutique hotel phenomenon – with some of the best ones located in gorgeous Old Montreal. The newcomer that I am most excited to visit is the Epik Hotel, with its sleek but cozy rooms with fabulous views of the cobblestoned streets. (Note: There are no elevators at this small property so if you have difficulty with stairs I would look elsewhere.)
For ideas on where to dine in this foodie mecca, look to Lesley Chesterman of the Montreal Gazette for fabulous ideas. There is always something exciting happening in Montreal, such as the upcoming Montreal en Lumiere festival, which celebrates winter activities, the performing arts and gastronomy. My favourite lunch place in Old Montreal is Olive + Gourmando, and I have just learned that the owners opened a dinner spot called Foxy that is getting rave reviews.
For some other ideas from my last trip to Montreal, look here.
See the Northern Lights in Yellowknife, NWT
Unfortunately, the BEST time to see the Northern Lights is in January and February when the temperatures can hover around -30 Celsius. Luckily, that is not the only time to go and see the aurora borealis, a bucket list wish for many of us. Mid-March is a good time to go as there are other events to enjoy in Yellowknife, such as the Snowking Winter Festival. Mid-August through September is also known as a good viewing period.
Visit the Aurora Village site for a plethora of useful information, and the chance to book winter and summer tours such as dog-sledding and hiking to Cameron Falls. The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre has displays of important documents, photos, recordings, artifacts, and other materials detailing the rich history of the northern region.
Cool Fact: Daylight hours range from around 5 hours of sun in December to 20 hours in June so if you are going in the summer make sure that your accommodation has blackout curtains, like the popular Explorer Hotel.
Cycling Adventure, Prince Edward Island
Known for its gorgeous red sand beaches, potatoes, mussels and Anne of Green Gables, the smallest Canadian province is also a remarkable cycling destination. In 1989, when the provincial railway was abandoned, the idea for the Confederation Trail was born. It is 435 kilometers of rolled stone dust trail with gentle gradients ideal for all types of riders. The Main Trail starts in Tignish at kilometer 0 and ends in Elmira at kilometer 273, with branches along the route – one right into the capital of Charlottetown. The section from Morell to St. Peters is considered one of the prettiest sections of the trail as it meanders along the picturesque coastline of St. Peters Bay.
If you don’t want to plan your own route, there are several outfitters to help you. McQueen’s Bike Shop & Island Tours will happily set you up on an independent tour of the Confederation Trail or for a fully-supported tour with a guide, look to the specialists at Freewheeling Adventures.
Images: Barn in Prince Edward County by Deborah Winer; Hastings House, courtesy of Hastings House website; Sandbanks Provincial Park in Autumn by Deborah Winer; Epik Hotel, courtesy of the Epik Hotel website; Aurora Borealis, courtesy of Aurora Village website; Cycling on the Confederation Trail, courtesy of www.tourismpei.com.