The pandemic has shut borders and paused international travel—but that doesn’t mean you can’t experience the world. Don’t give up on your beach vacation or wilderness exploration just yet. No matter where in this big, beautiful country you reside, local culture and unique attractions abound. From surfing to safaris, here’s how to travel the world without stamping your passport.
Note: Follow all destination and health regulations, including requests for out-of-towners not to visit yet.
For Surf and Sand…
Visit Tofino, BC
For gnarly waves and laid-back island vibes, Canadian travellers should head to Vancouver Island’s wild west coast. This adventure-lover's hippie hangout features some of the best sunsets, storm watching and salty waves in the world. Surfers won’t confuse Tofino’s cold water for the tropics, but the swells yield incredible surf for both experts and beginners. Slip into a hooded wetsuit, gloves and booties and sign up for a morning lesson. Not about to dive into the frigid Pacific? Join spectators around a campfire on the long, misty, sandy beach. Come prepared for slick rain, wellness culture, fresh ocean air, tree-lined campgrounds, muddy hiking trails, craft beer imbued with kelp and endless tacos from the famous food truck Tacofino.
To Reach Out and Touch History…
Tour Annapolis Royal, NS
Hit the road and discover the rich history of Acadia along the Atlantic Ocean. Port-Royal was the first permanent European settlement in North America north of St. Augustine, Florida. In 1605, it became the French military and administrative centre until 1749, when Halifax was established as the new capital. Control swapped between English and French forces seven times in 105 years. Visitors can tour well-preserved heritage buildings and sleep in creaky historic hotels. Don’t miss the Candlelight Graveyard Tours at Fort Anne National Historic Site—this spine-tingling after-dark thrill recites local deaths and decodes gravestones by the light of hand-held lanterns. To experience Acadia in the daylight, join the Acadian/Mi’kmaq Tours and learn the history of colonization, deportation and the recipe for a traditional Rappie Pie. Both tours are led by Alan Melanson and have been postponed due to COVID-19, so check the website for updates.
For Architecture and Culture…
Head to Quebec City, QC
If COVID-19 cancelled your European holiday plans, Old Quebec is as close as you can get without leaving Canada. Intimate cobblestone streets, aromatic cafés and cozy restaurants ooze romance and old-fashioned flair. Indulge in flaky butter croissants and wander through the castle-like Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, even if you’re not staying there. Visit the Plains of Abraham, the epic battlefield where Canada’s fate was sealed during the Seven Years’ War. Today, the manicured gardens evoke a serene escape and double as a popular destination for outdoor exercise. Next door is La Citadelle, which offers a stunning view over Quebec City from the fortress walls.
For Spectacular Natural Wonders…
Venture North to Yellowknife, NWT
While many people travel to Scandinavia to watch the northern lights, the night-time phenomenon can be seen right here in Canada. Fun fact: Yellowknife is the aurora capital of the world. In the chilly autumn and winter months, watch Granny Smith apple-green, sunflower yellow and watermelon pink ignite the sky in waves of diaphanous colour. Mother Nature paints in broad, lively strokes, promising you’ll never see the same design twice. The dazzling sky is complemented by an eerie quiet, a lively community, rugged wilderness and spectacular wildlife. Pick up recycled glass artwork made from discarded bottles found on the shores on Great Slave Lake at Old Town Glassworks, invest in an original local painting from the Aurora Emporium Art Gallery or snap your own souvenir image of the aurora borealis on a photography night tour.
For Big City Lights…
Check into Toronto, ON
New York City is eclectic, crowded, dynamic and not a good place to travel to anytime soon. Find big city life, skyscrapers and increased safety measures in Toronto. Visit Kensington Market for trendy cafes, admire colourful street art in Graffiti Alley and sail to the Toronto Islands via a 10-minute ferry ride from the Harbourfront. When it’s hot and humid, dip into restaurants, shops and bars as they crack their doors: a myriad of multicultural places to eat and drink will delight curious travellers eager to dive into the city’s multifarious options. It is impossible not to feel like a tourist at the CN Tower, but the view and experience are worth it, anyways.
For a Wildlife Safari…
Trek to Churchill, MB
Although you won’t get the chance to spot lions, tigers or elephants, Canada’s north offers abundant opportunities to view rare wildlife. The most popular tours in Churchill comb the sub-Arctic tundra for polar bears. Fall is the best time to spot the massive bears, as melting ice forces them ashore. No wild animal viewing is ever guaranteed, but lynx, moose, fox and seals are also often seen by eagle-eyed travellers. In summer, thousands of majestic beluga whales fill Hudson Bay. Kayakers can paddle alongside the friendly mammals, interacting and adventuring together through the fog-coated waves. Birdwatching tours offer a glimpse of over 250 species including falcons, hawks, tundra swans and snowy owls.
PS. This article originally appeared in our Summer/Fall 2020 print issue
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