Canada, the world’s second largest country, has no shortage of beautiful landscapes and interesting sights for visitors to explore. The country is home to vibrant and culturally rich cities as well as incredible natural wonders from coast to coast.
The Rocky Mountains, the Okanagan Valley, and the cities of Vancouver, Victoria, and Calgary are among the best places to visit in Western Canada and frequently dominate itineraries. Niagara Falls, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec City are among the most popular tourist destinations in Central Canada.
The beauty of Gros Morne National Park, as well as the cities of Halifax and St. John’s, provide their own distinct character to those who venture out to Canada’s Atlantic Provinces in the east.
The Niagara Falls
The most famous natural attraction in Canada, Niagara Falls, attracts millions of visitors each year. These massive falls, located just over an hour’s drive from Toronto along the American border, drop approximately 57 metres. The falls can be seen from several key points at an astonishingly close distance.
For well over a century, tourists and daredevils have been drawn to Niagara Falls and the Niagara Gorge. There were numerous attempts between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries to plunge over the falls in various types of homemade boats and barrels. This, along with tightrope walkers and other attractions, resulted in the adjacent town of Niagara Falls developing a carnival-like atmosphere that is still present today.
Families will enjoy a stroll down Niagara’s infamous Clifton Hill, which leads to the gorge and falls. A cruise to the base of the falls, a trip up the Skylon Tower for a fantastic aerial view, and a look from the bottom of the falls on the Journey Behind the Falls experience are all popular things to do here.
The Rocky Mountains and Banff National Park
Banff National Park is located in Alberta’s majestic Rocky Mountains and features some of the country’s most beautiful scenery. The park’s turquoise lakes, snowcapped peaks, and glaciers are all easily accessible. Take a scenic drive or go on one of Banff’s best hikes.
The park’s crown jewel is Lake Louise, whose green waters reflect the surrounding mountains and glaciers and where visitors can easily stroll around the shores. Moraine Lake, another impressive alpine lake with an even more dramatic setting, is only a short distance away.
The Icefields Parkway, which connects Lake Louise and Jasper, is another popular attraction in Banff. Banff, located at the park’s southern end, offers a wide range of accommodations, shopping, dining, and nightlife options.
The CN Tower in Toronto
The iconic CN Tower, one of Canada’s most famous landmarks, stands on the shores of Lake Ontario in Canada’s largest city. The tower, which stands 553 metres tall, dominates the skyline.
Fine dining is available at the top in the revolving 360 restaurant, where you can enjoy a meal while looking out over the city and lake. The LookOut and the Glass Floor provide stunning views of the surrounding area. Consider stepping outside the enclosed area onto the metal walkway for the CN Tower Edgewalk for an added thrill. You’ll be harnessed in and able to walk around the building, which stands 116 stories or 356 metres (1,168 feet) above the ground.
Even those who do not wish to climb the tower will find themselves stopping to gaze at the structure, which can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. The tower is illuminated in various colours at night.
Old Quebec is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a historical treasure of Canada. This area contains the city’s most historic buildings and is spread across the Upper and Lower Towns of Quebec. The Lower Town, located along the St. Lawrence River, is the original settlement and home to the magnificent Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, among other treasures. The Citadel, the Plains of Abraham, Place d’Armes, and the Parque Historique de l’Artillerie are all located in the Upper Town, which is perched on 100-meter-high cliffs.
Old Quebec is one of Canada’s most popular historical areas, and it has a thriving tourism industry. Other highlights include artists displaying their works on Rue du Trésor, interesting museums such as the Musée de la Civilisation, and unique shops and restaurants.
Whistler Blackcomb, a famous ski resort and year-round resort destination, is only a two-hour drive from Vancouver. While Whistler has always been a popular winter sports destination, it has also evolved into a popular summer destination, with golf, mountain biking, and a lively town atmosphere regardless of the season.
The village gained international attention in 2010 when it was chosen as one of the venues for the Winter Olympics. The area has world-class skiing, hotels, and dining options, as well as a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities and stunning mountain scenery.
Parliament Hill in Ottawa
Ottawa’s Parliament Hill rises high above the Ottawa River and is dominated by Neo-Gothic-style Parliament buildings constructed in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The Peace Tower, which divides the House of Commons and the Senate on either side, is the most visible feature. The Centennial Flame, lit in 1966 to commemorate the centennial of Canadian Confederation, stands in front of the Parliament buildings, and a sculpture garden lies behind them.
Weather permitting, the Changing of the Guard takes place on the front lawn of the Houses of Parliament during the summer. A lovely walk runs alongside the Ottawa River beneath Parliament Hill.
Signal Hill National Historic Site in St. John’s
Signal Hill National Historic Site is located at the entrance to St. John’s harbour, overlooking the city and the sea. The first wireless transatlantic signal was received here in 1901. Although the current fortifications were built during the hostilities of 1812, it also played a strategic role in the Seven Years War with France.
One of Signal Hill’s most important landmarks is the Cabot Tower. It was built in 1897 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of Newfoundland. It also commemorates Guglielmo Marconi’s reception of the first transatlantic radio telegraphy signal, which was transmitted over a distance of 2,700 kilometres from Poldhu in England, here in 1901.
Exhibitions on the history of Signal Hill and communications are housed in the tower (with a special section on Marconi). From the top, you can see panoramic views of the city and the coast all the way to Cape Spear, North America’s most easterly point.
Old Montreal, with its beautiful historic buildings, is a great place to go for shopping and fine dining. While Montreal is a vibrant modern city, Old Montreal, down by the waterfront, is the place to be to soak up the atmosphere.
Rue Bonsecours and the landmark Marché Bonsecours in the old town hall building, the interior of the beautiful Notre-Dame Basilica, the lively Place Jacques-Cartier, and the 1870s City Hall are all must-sees in Old Montreal.
Churchill, Manitoba Polar Bears
The polar bear migration, which takes place near the town of Churchill in Northern Manitoba, is one of Canada’s most unique attractions. These magnificent creatures make their way from land to the ice in Hudson Bay.
Every autumn, this small town welcomes visitors. Visitors are taken out in tundra buggies with caged windows for close encounters with polar bears on tours. The best viewing is in October or November, when the bears wait for the water to freeze before venturing out onto the ice.
The Island of Vancouver
Despite being only a two-hour ferry ride from the mainland, Vancouver Island can feel like a world away. Most people visit Victoria, British Columbia’s capital city, for sightseeing and culture, but if you travel north into the island’s wild and remote landscapes, you will encounter some unexpected and unforgettable experiences.
Nature lovers can explore the best hiking trails on Vancouver Island and camp in some stunning locations. Those seeking greater comfort can stay at one of the island’s lodges or resorts.
The old-growth forests of giant trees, some of which are over 1,000 years old, are one of the island’s most incredible sights. The ancient trees of Eden Grove, near the town of Port Renfrew, are a day trip from Victoria. If you’re heading up the island, you can also visit Cathedral Grove, which is near the town of Port Alberni, or travel all the way to Tofino to see even more massive trees.
As you drive up to Tofino on the rugged west coast, a magnificent scene of sandy coves and dramatic rocky shores unfolds. In the nearby Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, you can find incredible hiking trails, some of Canada’s largest trees, endless beaches, great surfing spots, camping, and places to simply soak up nature in peace.
Tofino is a year-round destination, though during the storm season, which runs from November to March, many visitors come to admire the massive waves crashing ashore; some come to surf, while others simply come to cosy up next to a fire in one of Tofino’s lovely resorts overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Other places to visit on the Island include Nanaimo, Parksville, and Qualicum Beach, which are all on the eastern shore and look out onto the Salish Sea. If you really want to get away from it all, visit Cape Scott Provincial Park in the island’s far north.