Vacay.ca Editors and Writers Adrian Brijbassi, Rod Charles, Claudia Laroye, Petti Fong, Linda Barnard, Kate Robertson, Ming Tappin, and Shelley Cameron-McCarron contributed to this report; Brijbassi edited it.
The Vacay.ca 20 Best Places to Travel in Canada is annually laden with big cities, major festivals, and significant celebrations such as the JUNO Awards and anniversaries. For 2021, while the nation will remain plagued by the COVID-19 crisis for at least a few more months, the focus is on trips for hodophiles that lead to nature escapes and small towns that have creditably managed to keep the coronavirus from overwhelming their population.
The ranking, a survey of travel journalists from across the country, is sponsored by Trippzy, the mobile trivia game that rewards knowledge with exclusive discounts. Atop the list is the South Okanagan, which is marketing itself as a destination for the first time. Consisting of Penticton in the north and Osoyoos in the south, and six small municipalities in between — Naramata, Peachland, Summerland, Okanagan Falls, Oliver, and Kaleden — the wine region offers a mind-boggling amount of quality for travellers:
- wide expanses of gorgeous scenery;
- tours of wineries that are home to the nation’s best-quality vineyards;
- a growing bounty of culinary offerings;
- a broad showcase of year-round nature activities encompassing lakes and mountains;
- Canada’s only desert region outside of the territories;
- family-friendly resorts;
- and Indigenous culture that connects it all.
On top of that, the region managed to avert the worst of COVID-19, though it did suffer breakouts at long-term-care homes in recent months that spiked its case numbers.
“We are thrilled to receive this recognition,” says Brad Morgan, marketing director of Travel Penticton and managing partner of Visit South Okanagan. “The diversity of experiences and the connectivity of the partner communities is what attracts visitors to the South Okanagan. We have something for everyone and the scenic route that connects us makes for a day-tripper’s paradise.”
Vacay.ca Managing Editor Adrian Brijbassi adds: “This year, given what the world is going through, South Okanagan was a clear choice for the No. 1 spot in our rankings because of all of the outdoor activities it offers and the sense of safety you feel once you’re there.”
While British Columbia places five locations on the list, the other side of the country enters six. Atlantic Canada, the region whose stance against COVID-19 was for much of 2020 the hallmark of public-health response in the country, features locations from all four eastern provinces. Prior to the second wave of the pandemic, the “Atlantic Bubble” regulations demanded that visitors quarantine for 14 days before beginning explorations of the region. The cases spiked when winter temperatures arrived and the provinces took a stricter approach, dismantling the Atlantic Bubble. But while it was fully in place the provincial residents were able to travel within Canada’s East, one of the most beautiful regions in the world, featuring a multitude of beaches and the warmest waters in the country.
Traditionally, the Vacay.ca rankings have proven to be a predictor of tourism interest. The pandemic hindered that trend as the leading destination in 2020, Banff National Park, struggled for overnight visitors in the summer and has been hampered by Alberta restrictions despite outstanding snowfall early in the ski season. The destination ranks third for 2021, with expectations growing for a significant rebound for iconic places once the vaccinations roll out more efficiently and the risk of infection plummets.
1. SOUTH OKANAGAN, British Columbia
Why You Should Go: While recovery is the word that will dominate the conversation in tourism in 2021, “resiliency” is the prevailing sentiment in the Okanagan Valley. The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association launched its Resiliency Program as it planned its post-pandemic strategy. Among its covenants are the advancement of stewardship over the environment — aligning colonial governments with the millennia-old practices of the many Indigenous communities in the region — and the pledge to respect residents before the desires of visitors.
Those standards of responsible tourism are showcased in the South Okanagan’s new marketing initiative that guides travellers between the desert climate of Osoyoos near the United States border and north to Penticton and its neighbouring small communities. The integration of these municipalities helps visitors to understand a fascinating area filled with lakes and microclimates that help define the British Columbia wine industry’s four sub-geographic regions within the Okanagan Valley.
And it is wine that is the No. 1 reason to visit. More than 70 wineries operate in the 100-kilometre (60-mile) stretch between Peachland and Osoyoos. They range from family-owned businesses that have been running for decades to the $100-million newcomer, Phantom Creek Estates, with world-class art and industry-leading facilities in an architectural marvel overlooking the terrain. Less extravagant but still innovative is bold and creative Okanagan Crush Pad in Summerland. It produces four brands, including Free Form that creates wines using amphorae, large clay pots similar to what winemakers in ancient Greece and Rome relied on. This summer, Canada’s first wine village is scheduled to launch with 16 artisan producers participating. The District Wine Village will be located in Oliver and include food and entertainment offerings.
Most of the area’s wineries congregate around 120-kilometre-long (75-mile) Lake Okanagan and smaller Skaha Lake, which meet in Penticton, and spread along the arid but fertile Black Sage Bench and Golden Mile Bench in Oliver, which is split in two by the thin Okanagan River that flows into Lake Osoyoos. All combined, it is scenery created to melt hearts and mesmerize eyes. And to put feet in motion.
The enormous outdoor activities to be enjoyed include the Kettle Valley Railway Trail, which provides miles of hiking and cycling opportunities, making the vision of Penticton’s emission-free vacation a possibility. The hope is to develop programming that encourages travellers to leave the cars in park once they arrive and explore the lakes and mountains on foot or bicycle.
So much exercise — and winery merriment — requires quality places to rest. In 2020, the area added a sterling enchanter to its accommodations offerings. The Naramata Inn, a historic property, reopened with executive chef Ned Bell shifting from Vancouver to wine country and bringing a Gatsby-esque feel to the valley. The resurrected inn is stylish and about as glam as it gets in a part of the world dominated by farmland and endless scenery. (Discover More: Comfort, Cuisine, and Culture in Naramata)
Perhaps the greatest reason to look forward to experiencing South Okanagan in 2021 is tied to the anticipated end of the COVID-19 crisis. British Columbia’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, predicts the province will be in “a post-pandemic world by the summer,” meaning harvest season in the land of vinifera and sustenance will have what could be its most joyous celebration in a lifetime. Who wouldn’t want to be there for that?
Vacay.ca Contributor Linda Barnard Writes: “Moving to British Columbia from Ontario gave me the keys to a new life — and the wine cellar. Every bottle I opened in my new home province was a discovery, excellent wines are made here that rarely make it beyond the BC border. So, it seemed like a good idea to head to the Okanagan Valley to say thank you in person. Turns out, South Okanagan is a road-tripper’s dream and an incredibly rare destination: It’s safe to visit, above all, with wide open spaces to explore, an exotic climate, and conscientious businesses that have managed the pandemic well.”
Trippzy Travel Trivia: The restaurant The Bear, The Fish, The Root and The Berry is named for the Four Food Chiefs of the Syilx people, the Indigenous forebearers whose descendants form many of the First Nations communities in the South Okanagan. The flagship restaurant at Hyatt’s Spirit Ridge Resort presents a delicious dining experience that also educates guests on pre-colonial ingredients. The Four Food Chiefs honour the elements that are most significant to the cuisine. The chief of all animals, Skimxist, the Black Bear, represents leadership and giving; the Chinook salmon (Ntytikxw) symbolizes hard work and determination; Bitterroot (Speetlum) recognizes the importance of plants; and Seeya is the Saskatoon Berry, which connotes growth and community.
Discover More: What a First-time Visitor to the South Okanagan Experiences
2. CAPE BRETON ISLAND, Nova Scotia
Why You Should Go: Any place with a giant fiddle on its waterfront has to be a place with rhythm. If the jaw-dropping natural beauty of Cape Breton doesn’t grab your heart and put pep in your step, we promise the music will.
The World’s Largest Fiddle, a fitting tribute to the folk music and traditions of the province’s Celtic community, reaches a height of 18 metres (60 feet) and is located on the Sydney waterfront. Nowhere is the musical tradition more on display than during the Celtic Colours International Festival. For nine days in October, visitors are treated to hundreds of events and activities taking place in communities across the island.
Yet music isn’t just in the halls, pubs, and theatres of Cape Breton — it’s in the fabric of nature. One great place to get close to the sweet notes of the landscape is at Cape Smokey. Located between Cape Smokey Provincial Park and Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Cape Smokey features skiing and a marvellous new Tree Walk that soars 30 metres (19 feet) above the mountain.
For Destination Cape Breton CEO Terry Smith, nature is a big part of the charm. “When I think about exploring Cape Breton Island, my mind jumps to kayaking in North Harbour of Aspy Bay or hiking through the Mabou Highlands to breathtaking ocean viewpoints,” says Smith, adding that Cape Breton has done a good job keeping COVID-19 numbers low, with less than 70 cumulative cases in the Eastern Zone of Nova Scotia at the end of 2020.
“And after a day of adventures, I’d head to a pub for a pint of Black Angus, an IPA from local craft brewery Breton Brewing, while enjoying some toe-tapping tunes from one of our many talented fiddlers.”
Notably, Indigenous culture predates the Celtic culture and can be experienced at one of the five reserves of the Miꞌkmaq Nation: Eskasoni, Membertou, Wagmatcook, Waycobah, and Potlotek/Chapel Island. Eskasoni is the largest in both population and land area while Membertou has a large hotel and conference facility, the Hampton Inn by Hilton, and sports and entertainment complexes. At its cultural heritage centre, visitors can participate in sweat-lodge ceremonies and learn about historical finds.
Vacay.ca Contributor Darcy Rhyno Writes: “Since they opened in 2011 and 2015, respectively, Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs have consistently placed among the world’s top courses, including the latest ranking by Golf Digest of the World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses (Cliffs at 11 and Links at 35). To add to the already impressive mix is The Nest, a 10-hole, par-3 layout that opened in the summer. It spills across the rollicking terrain, on the bluffs overlooking Cabot Cliffs and the ocean.”
Trippzy Travel Trivia: Italian explorer John Cabot visited the island during his 1497-98 voyage. His historic trip is commemorated on Cape Breton with the Cabot Trail, a 298-kilometre (185-mile) scenic roadway around the northern part of the island that is easily among the best drives in the world.
Discover More: Cape Breton Adds More Marvels for You to Savour
3. BANFF & LAKE LOUISE, Alberta
Why You Should Go: Beyond the miraculous beauty and bliss of the jewel of Canada’s parks system, Banff National Park and Lake Louise are always improving the visitor experience. Lake Louise Ski Resort added 480 acres of new terrain for the 2020-21 season, the first time in 25 years it has expanded its ski and snowboard runs. The West Bowl opening includes a rapid Summit Chair lift that carries passengers to the peak in four minutes. It has 17 new marked “zones” with the longest being 4.7 kilometres (2.9 miles). Previous side-country and back-country slopes found just beyond the former ski resort limits are now accessible to guests.
In the fall, the SkiBig3 resorts of Norquay, Lake Louise, and Sunshine Village opened earlier than ever and incorporated COVID-19 protocols focused on guest health and safety, including: pass reservations, contactless payment systems, capacity restrictions, and physical-distancing measures.
While the pandemic demolished foreign visitation, Banff and Lake Louise have adapted to marketing to Canadians and finding creative ways to continue with festival programming. SnowDays kicked off 2021 with a scaled-back edition that still included the festival’s signature snow sculpture competition.
Should large events return by summer, hundreds of runners will race through one of the most scenic and rugged landscapes in Canada during the Banff Marathon (September 12). Organizers work each year to ensure the competition remains the “greenest marathon in the world” — a claim supported by the event being named Canada’s first UN Sports for Climate Action member. The Banff Whiskey Experience is set to return in 2021, featuring more than 300 delicious whiskies from some of the finest distilleries in the world, including Banff’s own Park Distillery.
For the time being, the stunning natural surroundings of the Rocky Mountains will be available exclusively for Canadians to enjoy, admire, and appreciate. The absence of international visitors — and appeals to support local and discover our own backyards — means Canadians can enjoy Banff and Lake Louise in ways never dreamed of, which is good news for visitors, and for the local fragile mountain environment. Banff, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is partnering with Roam Transit and Parks Canada to bolster both the frequency and quality of public transportation offerings to and from some of the area’s most sought after locations, such as Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, the Banff Gondola, and Johnston Canyon. Less vehicle activity means less risk of human-wildlife conflict, and Banff aims to have zero human-big mammal conflict incidents by 2022.
In recent years, Banff has emerged as a culinary destination as well as a marvel of outdoor thrills. The town of 9,000 people saw about as many restaurant openings in 2020 as big-city Calgary. Among the newcomers were Three Bears Brewery, which debuted in November, and Shoku Izakaya, which opened in December, adding to established gems such as Buffalo Mountain Lodge, Chuck’s Steakhouse, and Three Ravens at Banff Centre. Meanwhile, the beloved Rundle Bar at Fairmont Banff Springs reopened after a $5-million renovation. The bar features an airy space with stunning views of the Bow Valley and inventive craft cocktails.
Vacay.ca Editor Claudia Laroye Writes: “With visits by international guests severely limited during the pandemic, Canadians have had a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rediscover the country’s iconic natural places, free from foreign competition and overwhelming crowds. I noticed this outcome in the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, where French-speaking Quebeckers were dominant, and car licence plates were exclusively Canadian. It was evident on the local trails as well, which were steady with people but not overrun as in a normal season.”
Trippzy Travel Trivia: Sunshine Village uses fences to snow farm — the process of collecting snow to create a cold pack, ensuring good enough conditions to ski even when temperatures are warm. It is a creative way to ensure there’s snow on the mountains when skiers and snowboarders expect there to be. Partly for this reason, Sunshine opened on October 26, the earliest date in its history.
Discover More: The Allure of Banff and Lake Louise
4. DAWSON CITY & TOMBSTONE TERRITORIAL PARK, Yukon
Why You Should Go: Dawson City’s lure doesn’t just come from its colourful Klondike Gold Rush history and the unique characters who were attracted to it as they chased overnight fortunes in this hard-to-reach outpost. There’s the magic of nature in a place located at a latitude of over 64 degrees north and 240 kilometres (145 miles) below the Arctic Circle. Like the extreme darkness and lightness that happens at either end of the solstices, or the aurora borealis that you can see more nights of the year than not. Or the thriving local food scene, sustained by the long summer daylight growing hours.
Then there’s the magical Tombstone Territorial Park, Canada’s Patagonia, with its dramatic sub-arctic tundra-scape, just a short drive or a chopper ride away with Trans North Helicopters. No matter what strange and magical wonders you get out to explore, this tiny town has comfortable boutique-style accommodations like Bombay Peggy’s or Dawson Lodge to relax in at the end of the day. And just because only 1,800 people live here, doesn’t mean you won’t find good eats whipped up with local ingredients, like the amazing dishes at the cute little eatery, Bonton & Co. If you’re not quite ready to call it a night, when it’s all said and done, you can head to the Downtown Hotel, where you can partake in the ritual of the Sourtoe Cocktail Club — but to become the newest member you have to let the black, shrivelled human toe bump up against your lips. Strange things done under the midnight sun, indeed.
Vacay.ca Contributor Kate Robertson Writes: “For many a year, the ‘strange things done in the land of the midnight sun’ have provided the material to weave a good yarn. Most notable, of course, are Robert Service’s epic poems, like the Ballad of Blasphemous Bill or the Cremation of Sam McGee — the latter, supposedly based on a story Service had heard about a Dawson City man who cremated his friend. More recently, Canadian writer, Elle Wild, bases her modern-day thriller Strange Things Done in Dawson City, a place where truth is often stranger than fiction, and magic is around every corner.”
Trippzy Travel Trivia: The largest mammal migration in the world, the porcupine caribou, with herds of more than 200,000 racing over 4,000 kilometres (2,400 miles), happens in Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Alaska. The caribou typically spend spring calving near the Beaufort Sea, then herds migrate south to winter on the flat ground along the Blackstone River in Tombstone Territorial Park.
Discover More: The Wonders of Dawson City
5. VICTORIA & COWICHAN VALLEY, British Columbia
Why You Should Go: Few places in the world are as focused on environmental stewardship as Vancouver Island. Its largest city, Victoria, in many ways leads the tourism industry’s green movement in urban spaces. The British Columbia capital has committed to being carbon-neutral by 2030 and is actively developing sustainable practices, including the growth of a Food Eco District that drives sustainability within the culinary industry.
Meanwhile, nearby Cowichan Valley continues its artisan boom. In 2020, its winery industry became the first outside of the Okanagan Valley to receive a British Columbia sub-geographic indication ranking. All wines with the designation affirm they contain at least 95 per cent of grapes grown in the local area. Even without the designation, the Cowichan Valley, the first slow-food community in North America, is rapidly emerging as one of Canada’s leading viticulture areas. It smartly has focused its marketing around a single varietal, Charme de l’isle, a prosecco-style sparkling wine. Pinot noir and Marechal Foch are other grapes that do well in the area that is within a temperate rainforest. (Discover More: Cowichan Valley Wines Sparkle)
To reach the valley, you drive about 45 minutes north of Victoria on the Malahat Highway while eagles soar overhead. There are few places in Canada where you can go from urban environment to agricultural oasis as quickly or soothingly as this drive. The town of Cowichan Bay has a maritime feel to it as well as a number of inventive entrepreneurs, including a perfume-maker, Wild Coast, whose scents are reminiscent of island locales, and a burgeoning arts community supported by an affluent demographic.
If you’re day-tripping, Victoria has a number of outstanding hotels to book and some offer tours to the Cowichan wine country. Several, including the Parkside Hotel & Spa, the first hotel in Canada built to LEED standards, are also environmental stalwarts.
Vacay.ca Contributor Linda Barnard Writes: “Victoria is known for its afternoon tea services. At The Fairmont Empress Hotel, tea has been a tradition since 1908, and you should go, but there are other less-publicized options that will also impress. A hidden gem that serves an excellent tea overlooking a magnificent garden comes with a royal love story. Abkhazi Garden is on a quiet street in a residential Victoria neighbourhood. It was the home of Shanghai-born Peggy Pemberton-Carter and exiled Georgian Prince Nicholas Abkhazi. They met in Paris in 1922. Separated by the Second World War, they finally reunited in 1946, married and settled in Victoria, turning the one acre around their home into a lush garden that reflected their exotic travels. Filled with magnificent flowers and trees, the garden even has a green grass river winding through it.”
Trippzy Travel Trivia: More than 100 buildings in Victoria are haunted, according to the guides at Ghostly Walks, which provides nightly tours of locations such as the Fairmont Empress Hotel and St. Ann’s Academy, a former convent. Victoria may be the most haunted city in Western Canada. During the Gold Rush era of the 19th century it saw a rapid rise in population. Desperate prospectors brought unruliness to town and as a result there was death, and reputedly unsettled souls. Colonialists also desecrated sacred Indigenous spaces and several ghost tales are linked to inexplicable events involving business owners who were disrespectful to hallowed land.
Discover More: Visit These Places as Vancouver Island Reopens for Tourism
6. PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY, Ontario
Why You Should Go: Stretching just over 1,000 square kilometres (600 miles), Prince Edward County is a jewel of an island strewn with riches in every corner. Nature abounds here with vast open spaces while the charming communities of Picton, Wellington, and Bloomfield delight visitors with artisan shops, farmers markets, and global cuisine.
Most famous for being Ontario’s fastest wine-growing region, Prince Edward County is home to almost 40 wineries. But beyond wine is a wealth of family-friendly attractions and activities that honour the County’s natural beauty and agricultural roots. Wrapped within 800 kilometres (495 miles) of shoreline are sandy beaches, provincial parks, wildlife observatories, conservation areas, the mysterious Lake on the Mountain, and the 49-km (30-mile) Millennium Trail.
Many of the sprawling farms and orchards offer tours. At Littlejohn Farms, learn the sustainable practices of growing crops, raising farm animals, and processing food, complete with hands-on workshops and a farm-to-table meal. Over at Curious Goat General Store, discover the life cycle of bees and their importance in food production with The Bee Experience.
You won’t be able to do it all in one day, so spend the night at unique and innovative accommodations — the lack of brand name and chain hotels adds to the charm. Rustic options include campgrounds, RV parks, and motels. But if you want funky, try way-cool B&B “sweets” made from converted shipping containers at the Acres at High Shore. Or for a little indulgence, there are two-bedroom luxury lakefront cottages at Wander the Resort, which opened in February and is already booked through summer.
A destination for all seasons, Prince Edward County beckons visitors with events such as the Countylicious dining promotion, PEC Jazz Festival, art studio tours, and, of course, wine festivals. Waupoos Estate Winery, Rosehall Run Vineyards, Huff Estates Winery, Lighthall Vineyards, and Three Dog Winery are among the businesses that will mark their 20th year in operation in 2021. The notable anniversaries offer a chance to get in on limited-edition vintage releases and special celebratory events.
For those who can’t get to the County until the pandemic eases, a new wine club, Vinnified, delivers curated boxes of rare selections from the area’s boutique producers. It’s a great way to get a taste of the region and plan your itinerary for when you can visit.
Vacay.ca Contributor Ming Tappin Says: “The outdoor activities and natural beauty of the County make it a logical vacation getaway. My favourite time to visit is during the off-season when the air is cooler and the crowds are thin — an appreciated bonus right now. Spring in the County brings blooming fields, budding vines, and newborn farm animals, and winter serves up maple-syrup treats, snowshoeing, and hot chocolate (or mulled wine!). As COVID-19 vaccinations are completed, this autumn will likely be an opportune time for a trip to view fall foliage, enjoy harvest dinners, and join in the Wassail wine celebrations after the vines have been put to bed for the year.”
Trippzy Travel Trivia: Prince Edward County was once known as Canada’s Garden Capital, responsible for canning one-third of the country’s tomatoes and pumpkins. The canning industry proliferated in the County between the 1920s and 1950s, with about 35 factories canning the region’s bounty, which also included peas, corn, and a variety of fruit. Today, remnants of the canning history can still be seen at the Wellington Heritage Museum.
Discover More: Enchanting Southeastern Ontario Trails
7. GASPEREAU & ANNAPOLIS VALLEYS, Nova Scotia
Why You Should Go: The Annapolis Valley in many ways is the heart of contemporary Nova Scotia. It’s home to Wolfville, a vibrant small city that stays youthful thanks to Acadia University and its influence on the arts. Devour! The Food Film Festival was launched in Wolfville more than a decade ago and has gone international, though its largest event is still held annually in its hometown (October 19-24). Outside of Wolfville, the winery industry thrives, particularly in the Gaspereau Valley, a short drive south of the town. Benjamin Bridge, which opened a new patio in 2020, is among the leading locations where visitors can tour the vineyards and sample exceptional sparkling wines.
A one-hour drive northwest of Halifax, the wine country of Nova Scotia teems with culture. The history of Acadians — including the abuses the British perpetrated on them — can be explored at numerous sites. Grand Pré National Historic Site uses multimedia programming to chronicle the events that culminated with the expulsion of the Acadians, who had settled in the area from 1682 to 1755. For a more haunting experience, guided candlelight treks are available with Annapolis Valley Graveyard Tours.
The northern towns of the region skirt along the Bay of Fundy and numerous intimate B&Bs and cottages are available for rent, and shellfish is abundant.
In 2021, several new accommodations will be available. Debuts include Inn at the Winery at Grand Pré, which opens next door to the national historic site. Owned by a Swiss-born family, the inn will feature six rooms and wine-paired meals at its Chef’s Table Dining Experience. In spring, Valley Sky Luxury Camping will open five new geodomes to provide year-round glamping in 32 acres of nature. Nearby, Parks Canada plans to install eight of its oTENTiks in Grand Pré.
New winery experiences include recently launched 1365 Church Street Vineyard & Winery in Annapolis Valley.
Vacay.ca Contributor Darcy Rhyno Writes: “As an alternative to a group tour, head out on the Nova Scotia Good Cheer Trail, Canada’s first winery, brewery, cidery, distillery, and meadery trail. Traditional method sparkling wines at Benjamin Bridge are a highlight of any tour, especially when they’re enjoyed on the sunny, new patio overlooking the vineyard.”
Trippzy Travel Trivia: The story of Evangeline was made famous by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Published in 1847, “Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie“ is a lyrical retelling of star-crossed lovers who are separated during the Great Upheaval, the term used for the British ejection of the Acadians from their homes, which pushed them south to the United States. After traversing the U.S., Evangeline eventually finds her beloved Gabriel on his deathbed. The story has transcended beyond folklore to be considered fact by many. An Evangeline statue, built in 1920, stands prominently in the Victoria gardens at Grand-Pré National Historic Site. But the story is fiction, a work of the imagination of one of the 19th century’s finest poets.
Discover More: A Sweet Trip Through Nova Scotia’s Wine Country
8. QUEBEC CITY & TADOUSSAC, Quebec
Why You Should Go: Those old fortified walls and the history behind them are an eternal draw. Fairmont Le Château Frontenac stands guard over several historic properties, streets, and restaurants. Quebec City is also one of those places that has a knack for getting visitors in shape, despite its gastronomic indulgences. If you are feeling adventurous, rent a bike and enjoy the natural beauty of Quebec City on one of its many trails.
Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec will feature a corpus of 77 works by Picasso (June 17 to September 19). “Picasso à Quebec” will honour the master with an exhibition organized in collaboration with the Picasso Museum Paris.
A permanent attraction is the oldest set of stairs in Quebec. Dating to the beginning of the French colony, the “Breakneck Staircase” gets its nickname because of the slippery falls that can happen during the winter. No worries in warmer weather, though. The architectural feature has 59 steps that connect côte de la Montagne to rue du Petit-Champlain. It’s a great place to take photographs and burn a few calories at the same time!
When you’re ready to hop in a car, road trip north to Tadoussac for a fun and educational experience. Tadoussac is home to Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, where up to 13 species of whales and marine mammals thrive. While most parks are on land, Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park is unique for being underwater. The park has more than 120 research and monitoring projects and various protective measures to reduce the risk of collisions and disturbances of whales.
Tadoussac is also the gateway to the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, featuring fjords, marine activities, and more culture and cuisine.
If the pandemic ebbs in time, the 37th Festival de la Chanson de Tadoussac will run from July 1-4. The celebration promotes French songs and features close to 40 acts on several stages, making the entire village of Tadoussac a big giant party — and couldn’t’ we all use one of those?
Vacay.ca Contributor Jennifer Merrick Writes: “A trip to Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean is the ideal place to introduce kids to real-world French and have a fun vacay at the same time. Not only is the region 97 per cent French speaking, it’s incredibly scenic and has a slew of family-friendly activities to enjoy. A two-hour drive north of Quebec City, the area is known for its forest and waterways, most notably Lac Saint Jean and the Saguenay Fjord. Deep glacial waters stretch from Saint Fulgence to Tadoussac at the north of the St. Lawrence River, making for a beautiful landscape. Our family has laughed through wonderful road-tripping adventures in this gorgeous region.”
Trippzy Travel Trivia: Looking for some redemption? Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec (“Our Lady of Quebec City”), is the oldest church in Canada. Located within Old Quebec, Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame was designated a National Historic Site in 1989. In 1984, Saint John Paul II began his pastoral visit to Canada with a time of prayer inside the cathedral.
Discover More: Family Fun and French Education in Saguenay
9. ST. JOHN’S & IRISH LOOP, Newfoundland & Labrador
Why You Should Go: If you are searching for a good reason to visit the Atlantic coast look no further than the Irish Loop that circles the Avalon Peninsula of southeastern Newfoundland. This 312-kilometre (194-mile) meandering drive encompasses more than 400 years of history and is a must for anyone visiting the province.
The Irish Loop features so many charming stops you’ll be spoiled for choice. One of them is Ferryland, which regularly hosts summer musical events and dinner theatre productions with a strong local flavour and Irish culture. The Colony of Avalon, also located in Ferryland, was established in 1621 and is widely recognized as the best preserved early English colonial site in North America.
Elsewhere, the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Mistaken Point is a perfect spot to nourish your inner scientist and see rare fossils that date 575 million years and showcase the earliest forms of deep-sea life on the planet.
Searching for more awesome reasons to visit? From April to October, 22 species of whales and dolphins can be spotted on boat tours at Bay Bulls. If you aren’t in the mood for a ride, no problem. Many areas offer land-based whale watching at St. Vincent’s Beach.
No trip to St. John’s would be complete without a visit to The Rooms, where visitors can immerse themselves in the heritage of Newfoundland & Labrador’s largest public cultural space that unites the Provincial Archives and the Art Gallery and Museum.
Vacay.ca Contributor Debra Smith Writes: “The narrow highway of the Irish Loop skirts the shore of the cold Atlantic on its way south, then pulls back into the safety of pines, black spruce, balsam fir, and birch as it rounds Trepassey Bay and heads north. The drive can hold some challenges — fog, potholes, and the more than occasional moose — but the rugged beauty of the land lures you on to memorable vistas, cozy coves, and tiny enchantments. “
Trippzy Travel Trivia: Signal Hill National Historic Site, which overlooks St. John’s, is famous for the first transatlantic wireless transmission. On December 12, 1901, the Morse code transmission (originating from Poldhu Wireless Station in Cornwall, United Kingdom) was received by Guglielmo Marconi.
Discover More: Driving the Irish Loop
10. CHARLOTTETOWN & EAST PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
Why You Should Go: Looking to drive a highway to happiness? That’s what you will find journeying through eastern Prince Edward Island and provincial capital Charlottetown. Ocean breeze and coastal beauty highlight days spent savouring prize-winning seafood chowder, browsing artisan studios, and getting outside to hike, bike, kayak, and swim. Enjoying the outdoors comes naturally along Points East Coastal Drive, home to 50 beaches including the island’s highest sand dunes at PEI National Park-Greenwich and the splendid “singing” sands at Basin Head (named “Best Beach in Canada”). The region has six lighthouses open to the public, including Cape Bear (recipient of the Titanic’s distress signal), Point Prim (PEI’s oldest), and East Point Lighthouse (with views of colliding tides and crazy-good ice cream at Cherry on Top Creamery).
PEI is Canada’s Food Island so expect good eats, especially the Fireworks Feast at chef Michael Smith’s Inn at Bay Fortune. New, hands-on experiences at Orwell Corner Historical Village give visitors a chance to bottle-feed lambs, make Mi’kmaq baskets, even take a carriage ride down red-clay roads. Year-round glamping comes to Nature Space Eco Resort in 2021 and rustic cabins modelling traditional fishery shacks shine at Shanty Stay on the Souris waterfront.
In town, Charlottetown is made for walking. You can explore independent boutiques and the thriving arts scene, admire 18th-century architecture, and wander personality-packed, pedestrian-only Victoria Row, alive with patios, shops, and music. Order a scoop (or two!) of Cow’s Ice Cream, check out the new floating food court on the waterfront at Peake’s Quay, or visit Founders Food Hall, a recent waterfront addition that brings together 20 vendors from an oyster bar to a pottery shop. Other buzzy new offerings include Slaymaker & Nichols Gastro House, a restaurant with boutique suites upstairs, and the budget (and music) friendly Arts Hotel, a modern, minimalist retreat that also houses a performing venue in the Trailside Music Hall.
Vacay.ca Contributor Shelley Cameron-McCarron Says: “There’s a special pull to PEI, that’s even more welcome now. On the island — filled with farms, friendliness, and fab restaurants, character-rich towns, sunsets, and seashores — you can find the adventure you crave and the relaxation you need.”
Trippzy Travel Trivia: For a back story that includes Canadian history and circus fun, research the name behind Slaymaker & Nichols Gastro House. The story goes that in August 1864, Slaymaker & Nichols Olympic Circus rolled into Charlottetown, creating quite the buzz — so much that the arrival of the Fathers of Confederation in the Charlottetown Harbour went unnoticed! But all’s well that ends well: It’s said the nation may never have happened without the party atmosphere in the city, allowing delegates to let their guard down and communicate amicably.
Discover More: Why PEI Is ‘Food Island’
11. GOLDEN & REVELSTOKE, British Columbia
Why You Should Go: The small mountain towns of Golden and Revelstoke punch above their weight in the realm of epic outdoor adventure. Whether it’s heli- or cat-skiing, carving runs on phenomenal slopes, or enjoying warm weather pursuits like birding, canoeing, and hiking through fields of summer wildflowers and huckleberries in the Purcell, Selkirk, and Cariboo mountains, these charming destinations in eastern British Columbia offer something for everyone of every age and ability.
In addition to stunning natural surroundings and active adventure opportunities, both Golden and Revelstoke boast some of the finest food and craft beer and spirits in the region. Sip an ale from Golden’s Whitetooth Brewing Co. at Canada’s most elevated dining experience, Eagle’s Eye Restaurant, which sits at 7,700 feet and on top of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Enjoy the modern menu — and the mountain views — at Revelstoke’s Old School Eatery or rendezvous for après at the Rockford Bar & Grill or River City Pub.
Even in pandemic times, the region is planning for the future. The Revelstoke Wildflower Festival (August 1-31) celebrates the town’s alpine blooms. Plus, Revelstoke is welcoming two new accommodation properties to town: Basecamp Revelstoke, a boutique hotel resort designed for families and adventure-seekers; and Cabot Revelstoke, the western iteration of the Cape Breton golf/resort group, developing a new experience in partnership with Revelstoke Mountain Resort.
Vacay.ca Editor Claudia Laroye Writes: “Located on the Pacific Flyway, Golden’s Columbia River is a British Columbia Heritage River. As part of the BC Bird Trail, the Columbia Wetlands is the largest intact wetlands in North America, providing a support system for hundreds of thousands of birds, fish, reptiles, and mammals. Paddle through the wetlands on a self-guided canoe tour, and bring binoculars to spot and identify the many bird species when you’re out on the water.”
Discover More: For Thrill-Seekers, Revelstoke Delivers
12. NIAGARA REGION, Ontario
Why You Should Go: The big story out of Niagara Falls is the redevelopment and adaptive reuse of the Canadian Niagara Power Generating Station. The provincial government has loaned $25 million to the Niagara Parks Commission to redevelop the historic building into a one-of-a-kind, made-in-Ontario attraction.
The project will transform the preserved decommissioned facility into a multi-faceted visitor experience, creating an iconic attraction for Niagara Falls. Phase 1 of the project is set to open in July.
“By day, visitors can explore the preserved interior of the historic power station, transformed with new exhibits and guest amenities, while each night, an immersive sound-and-light experience will bring the building to life through state-of-the-art projection mapping technology,” says David Adames, CEO of Niagara Parks.
Obviously, the Falls are a major draw all on their own, but don’t stop there. The Niagara Parkway spans 56 kilometres (34 miles) from Fort Erie to Niagara-on-the-Lake with incredible gardens, vistas, and viewing points, picnic areas, and bike paths.
Niagara Region also has several historic sites that will educate and inspire. Learn more about the War of 1812 all along the Niagara River from Old Fort Erie to Brock’s Monument and north to Fort George National Historic Site, and retrace the heroic journey Laura Secord undertook to warn troops of the American invasion. Visitors can also step into the footsteps of freedom-seekers — escaped slaves from the United States — who fled to Canada on the Underground Railroad or pay respects at the Six Nations and Native Allies Commemorative Memorial.
Vacay.ca Contributor Paul Knowles Writes: “Niagara wineries fall into two highly unofficial categories — the big and the small. The big wineries offer a gamut of experiences — tours, tastings, special events, wine sales — but tend to charge for everything, and can be rather impersonal. The small operations are usually delighted that you dropped by, and you are likely to go away with great wine, and some new friends.”
Trippzy Travel Trivia: Jean François “Blondin” Gravelet became the first person to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope in 1859. About 25,000 gawkers arrived by train and steamer and dispersed on the American or Canadian side of the Falls to watch the spectacle. More recently, American acrobat Nik Wallenda crossed the Falls on a tightrope in 2012. The first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel was a 63-year-old schoolteacher from Michigan named Annie Taylor, in 1901, and she survived. What’s even nuttier is she did this stunt on her 63rd birthday. Most of us would be happy with a piece of cake.
Discover More: Small Wineries with Big Thrills in Niagara-on-the-Lake
13. GEORGIAN BAY, Ontario
Why You Should Go: Happy birthday to Blue Mountain Resort, which kicked off its 80th ski season in December. The resort is operating with heightened attention to safety in relation to COVID-19. That means new protocols; for example, skiers and snowboarders need to wear a face covering and gloves in lineups and on lifts. And to manage capacity, priority hill access is given to season-pass holders and guests who have purchased a lift ticket online.
While Blue Mountain is filled with restaurants and family fun, there is a less commercial feel outside of the village. Venture to Collingwood to the east or Thornbury to the west for quality dining and excellent galleries to browse. Collingwood even has an annual Elvis festival that is a wacky good time.
Georgian Bay is also home to a UNESCO biosphere region, spectacular scenery near Lake Huron, and year-round outdoor activities. The region’s beauty and nature have been even more of a draw for Torontonians during the pandemic as getting away from the big city has proven to be conducive to physical and mental health.
The Georgian Trail is an all-season, hiking, and biking destination. It stretches from Collingwood in the east to the magnificent waterfront of Meaford Harbour in the west.
Manitoulin Island on the northwestern edge of Georgian Bay is one of the most unique geographic locations in Canada. It includes an island within the island, as well as waterfalls and immaculate landscapes staring out to Lake Huron.
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor Rod Charles Says: “There is no bad time to drop in on Georgian Bay. Whether you like winter sports, hiking, or a lovely evening in an outstanding restaurant, Georgian Bay is an ideal location. One of my favourite places to visit is Scandinave Spa. Why? Three words: eucalyptus steam bath. Not only is it refreshing and soothing, but the steam bath allows you to disappear into a warm mist so thick you literally can’t see your hand in front of your face. The perfect place to just shut down, relax, and meditate.”
Trippzy Travel Trivia: Canadian First World War flying ace Billy Bishop was born in Owen Sound, a city located at the mouths of the Pottawatomi and Sydenham rivers on an inlet of Georgian Bay. Bishop was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious medal of the British honours system. Today, tourists can visit the Billy Bishop Museum, located in the house he grew up in.
Discover More: March Break Revelry at Blue Mountain Resort
14. GASPESIE, Quebec
Why You Should Go: Quebec’s government announced in December it had designated 34 new protected areas in the eastern and northern parts of the province. Among those areas is the Gaspé region, home to the Chic-Choc mountain range, an area of almost 200 square kilometres (77 square miles) in the back-country near Matane in the Lower St. Lawrence region. The protected status underscores the value of nature to the area known for languid seaside drives and spectacular Atlantic coast sunsets.
Among the events that celebrates the oceanic culture is Festival La Virée Trad in Carleton-sur-Mer (October 8-10). The program will highlight cultural roots, including Gaspésian, Acadian, and Québécois heritage. Gaspé’s Festival Musique du Bout du Monde (August 5-8) is a unique and diverse festival featuring local artists and big-name world musicians. All events take place under big tents, in the village streets, at local establishments, and even in backyards.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of the inauguration of the UNESCO Global Geopark of Percé. The attraction offers geology buffs, adventure lovers, and thrill-seekers a unique opportunity to discover 500 million years of Earth’s history.
Chaleur Bay, a member of the Most Beautiful Bays of the World Club, is a popular stop for tourists with several beaches and sandbars with delicious choices for seafood lovers. Another worthy place to add to your itinerary is Banc-de-Pêche-de-Paspébiac Historic Site, which showcases the history of the region and its relationship to cod. Another attraction is its collection of 11 period buildings dating to 1766.
Vacay.ca Contributor Chris Ryall Writes: “No seaside drive would be complete without lighthouses. Many can be seen along Route 132, including Cap-des-Rosiers, the tallest lighthouse in Canada. Dotted along Route 132’s northern shores, mesmerizing winding roads open up to spectacular seascapes.”
Trippzy Travel Trivia: The Musée de la Gaspésie features a monument to French explorer Jacques Cartier that depicts a replica of the cross he erected in 1534. Cartier is regarded as the first European to navigate the St Lawrence River; his were the first recorded footsteps of an Old World visitor in Canada.
Discover More: Life Is More Than a Highway in Quebec’s Maritime Region
15. SOUTH SHORE, Nova Scotia
Launched at Lunenburg in 1921, the Bluenose is Canada’s most acclaimed sailing vessel. Nicknamed the “Queen of the North Atlantic”, the Bluenose was one of the fastest and most famous ships on the planet. The schooner became a national icon when she raced undefeated for the International Fishermen’s Cup. The ship, featured on the Canadian dime, was later sold and sadly hit a reef and sank in 1946. Built in 1963, Bluenose II is an exact replica.
Celebrations for the centennial kick off on March 26. For now, most events scheduled will be virtual but that could change depending on the status of the public-health crisis. There are no in-person events planned right now due to the pandemic. The Bluenose II will sail around ports of NS this summer but no cruises are planned for the public at this time. The historical information will all be shared via virtual events. Same for festival.
Lunenburg is only the beginning. What makes Nova Scotia’s South Shore special are the small towns, each with its own distinct personality and vibe, including:
- Peggy’s Cove, popular for being the site of Peggy’s Point Lighthouse
- Barrington, which proudly declares itself the Lobster Capital of Canada (although there has been some debate over the claim; see entry No. 16 below, for example)
- Liverpool, a lovely destination with award-winning accommodations like White Point Beach Resort and Quarterdeck Beachside Villas & Grill, where beaches are just steps away.
Vacay.ca Contributor Darcy Rhyno Writes: “Nova Scotia is Canada’s ocean playground — it says so right on every licence plate — and the South Shore is where the kid in all of us can mess about in boats of all kinds. The region’s bold oceanfront, endless white-sand beaches, quiet inlets, countless islands, colourful waterfront towns and villages, and wild lakes and rivers stretch from iconic Peggy’s Cove in the northeast nearly 300 kilometres (195 miles) to the busy fishing ports of Cape Sable Island in the southwest. Getting out on the water is almost compulsory on the South Shore.”
Trippzy Travel Trivia: Bluenose came to symbolize Nova Scotia’s prominence in the fishing and ship-building industries and represented Canada around the world. In 1933, Bluenose appeared at the Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago, and made an appearance at England’s Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935. All of the feats of Bluenose I and Bluenose II are prominently recognized during the centennial year.
Discover More: Set Sail for Nova Scotia’s South Shore
16. SAINT JOHN & SHEDIAC, New Brunswick
Why You Should Go: Above all, New Brunswick is a welcoming place so don’t be surprised if you’re treated like a returning friend as you travel the province, stopping into restaurants, shops, and attractions. In these times when community is ever-important, it’s heartwarming to experience that generosity of spirit, of feeling at home — even when you’re on the road. It’s also easy to escape the crowds in this Maritime province that’s rich in natural wonders. Be sure to take a quiet minute on any number of hiking trails, while walking a shoreline or sitting, gazing into the bay.
The final section to Fundy Trail Parkway, giving access to Fundy National Park, is expected to open in 2021, while history will come alive when Place Fort La Tour opens on the Saint John waterfront (scheduled for June). The recreation of what was once a centre for the French fur trade four centuries ago is almost on the exact site of the original.
In Saint John, where the fog rolls in from the bay, expect to be charmed by residents’ passion for the city. Their optimism is not only catchy, it’s fun too. In the Uptown area, with the reclamation of the Trinity Heritage District, you can walk to a dazzling amount of fine wine bars and craft brewpubs, restaurants, cool coffee shops, and more, many in historic buildings that have been repurposed while maintaining the original 19th-century character. A once gritty city is reclaiming its pride and that’s a treat to witness.
Vacay.ca Contributor Shelley Cameron-McCarron Writes: “Packed full of unexpected finds, from artisan chocolate to sea caves, from hip coffee shops down an Instagram-darling brick alleyway to solitary seashore strolls and top hiking, the allure of a New Brunswick road trip is never knowing what cool or quirky gem awaits around the next bend.”
Trippzy Travel Trivia: While travellers may be familiar with the “World’s Largest Lobster” sculpture in Shediac — after all, the behemoth is 10.5 metres (35 feet) long, 4.5 metres (15 feet) high, and nearly 200,000 pounds — lesser known is the fact that sculptor Winston Bronnum’s other work can be seen at a site called Animaland. Now a strange campground, it was originally a park featuring Bronnum’s concrete animals, including “Blowhard,” the emaciated horse sculpture at the entrance.
Discover More: In Southeastern New Brunswick, Maritime Merriment Awaits
17. TOFINO & PACIFIC RIM PARK, British Columbia
Why You Should Go: After a year filled with lockdowns, it’s easy to find yourself dreaming of Tofino, a place known for splendid isolation.
Nature is on a grand scale in the village situated at the end of the road on Vancouver Island’s west coast in the UNESCO-designated Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve. Wide, sandy beaches, and pounding ocean waves are a surfer’s dream in any season. In winter, storm watchers arrive to experience the wild wind and rain that comes barrelling across the open Pacific Ocean.
Feel immersed in the calming beauty of the forest on the two boardwalk loops of the Rainforest Trail in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. The easy passages include short stair climbs that make it feel like you’re walking up amid the trees.
Even during difficult times, human activity kept chugging. There was a surprising amount of new businesses in 2020, many of them focused on food. “Super-natural grocer” Gaia Grocery debuted in May while Ouest Artisan Patisserie opened with an offer of a slice of Paris on the coast.
A fun and funky new hotel, the latest stay in the British Columbia-based, retro-themed Hotel Zed chain, opened in summer 2020. Its second wing debuts in 2021. A restaurant and mini-golf course join in the mini-disco, old-school arcade, and cozy psychic den at the hotel. The Tofino + Marina and Resort, which launched in 2017, underwent several changes, including a new hotel management team.
Surf Grove, the first new campground in Tofino in more than 20 years, opened Phase 1 of its operation at Cox Bay in 2020. Phase 2 follows this spring. The on-site surf shack has rentals and lessons with Pacific Surf School.
An ambitious new outdoors opportunity is scheduled to open by summer with the completion of ʔapsčiik t̓ašii (a Ucluelet word pronounced ups-cheek ta-shee), a multi-use pathway running along a 25-kilometre (15.5-mile) stretch of Pacific Rim National Park. Located in the traditional territories of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ (Ucluelet) First Nation, the scenic route for pedestrians and cyclists links with existing bike paths, as well as beach access roads. The dark brown pathway mimics the forest floor, hugging the Pacific Coast Highway in places and also meandering in and out of the forest.
Vacay.ca Contributor Linda Barnard Writes: “The great natural spectacle of Tofino, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, soothes as it energizes. Remote and wild, Tofino is home to passionate surfers, summer idylls, rainforests, and stunning beaches. A robust and creative culinary scene, relaxed, nature-loving vibes, and a multi-generational undercurrent of hippie sensibility combine to make Tofino one very cool place.”
Trippzy Travel Trivia: Tofino’s nickname is Tough City (also spelled Tuff), which references its historic days as a remote logging and fishing frontier town. That we-got-this spirit lives on among the resilient, outdoor-loving locals. Look for the moniker on a range of businesses, including the local FM radio station and a bike skills park near Tofino Community Hall. But residents of Tofino are not called Toughys. They are Tofitians. Find out more over a coffee at the Tofitian Café on Pacific Coast Highway.
Discover More: Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Your Dreams of Tofino
18. SASKATOON & PRINCE ALBERT PARK, Saskatchewan
Why You Should Go: Elk Ridge Resort, one of the main attractions in Prince Albert National Park, has been purchased by a group from Saskatchewan after it had gone into receivership early in 2020 — a victim of the pandemic. Limited operations resumed during the winter and full hotel operations are expected to begin in May after a comprehensive upgrade. The in-house restaurant, a favourite in the region, has been rebranded as The Wyld. On the edge of the park, Elk Ridge is a big draw for the area and locals are thrilled to see it open again.
Closer to Saskatoon, Wanuskewin Heritage Park continues to improve. Located 13 kilometres (8 miles) north of the city, Wanuskewin closed during the COVID-19 crisis and reopened with a new look following the completion of a $40-million renovation. Wanuskewin has been part of a program to bring back the Plains bison to its natural prairie home. In 2020, a baby bison arrived and no doubt it will be eager to greet adoring visitors this year.
In Saskatoon, Remai Modern, a widely recognized gallery featuring Picasso lithographs, is open to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis to ensure new capacity guidelines aren’t exceeded. It’s recommended that guests purchase their admission tickets in advance. Another attraction where fun and education come together magically is the Western Development Museum. It features more than 75,000 artifacts, including a Rauch and Lang electric car from the early 1900s, and is an essential spot to learn about the history of the province.
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor Rod Charles Writes: “Prior to European settlement, the prairies were home to millions of free-roaming bison but by the 1880s the large herds that once roamed were nearly gone. The return of these majestic animals is a triumph for conservation efforts in Canada and Saskatchewan’s tourism industry will benefit from their presence for generations.”
Trippzy Travel Trivia: Wanuskewin Heritage Park is a National Historic Site because of the importance of its archaeological resources representing nearly 6,000 years of history of the Northern Plains Indigenous communities.
19. KELOWNA, British Columbia
Why You Should Go: It may be some time yet before Canadians fly to Europe as they did before COVID-19, which elevates a destination such as Kelowna into broader consideration for travellers. Located on Lake Okanagan, Kelowna is divided into an east and west side, with wineries populating its entirety. Mission Hill Family Estate Winery incorporates the Austrian roots of proprietor Anthony von Mandl in its appreciation for art and architecture. CedarCreek Estate Winery, also owned by von Mandl, includes new facilities such as Home Block, one of the leading winery restaurants in Canada. Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery debuted its contemporary building in June 2020 with another fabulous restaurant, The Modern Butcher, and an elegant tasting room that looks onto the lake. Nearby, Frind Estate Winery, owned by the tech entrepreneur who created the Plenty of Fish dating site, also launched in spring 2020 along the lakeshore. In 2021, influential wine consultant Jason Parkes is debuting Crown and Thieves in West Kelowna. And in the city’s downtown, von Mandl’s group is converting the 111-year-old building that was once home to the Kelowna Daily Courier newspaper into a wine-focused complex with a tasting room, education centre, laboratory, and 60-seat rooftop patio.
It’s not all viticulture and vineyards, though. The central part of the Okanagan Valley is a draw for outdoor lovers. Aquatic activities like kayaking and paddleboarding complement the hiking, mountain biking, and golfing opportunities in the area. Two ski resorts — Big White and Silver Star — are within an hour’s drive of Kelowna.
For accommodations, the new Hyatt Place Kelowna is extremely conscientious about COVID-19 protocols, making it a dependable choice for travellers who have safety at the top of mind. Kelowna has been a stubborn hot spot for the coronavirus, so travellers need to be mindful of the active case numbers when planning their trip. However, as the region showed, even in pandemic times, the good life and safe experiences are plentiful throughout the Okanagan Valley.
Vacay.ca Managing Editor Adrian Brijbassi Writes: “In the absence of a Euro trip, Canadians may be more enticed than ever to visit the Okanagan Valley, which can provide a facsimile of the bliss and flavour of places like Italy, France, and Spain. Yet, it is not derivative. The Okanagan is still the west coast of Canada, after all, full of heartiness and humour, reverence for green space, and a refreshing lack of stuffiness that seems suited to a time of crisis when we want to unmask our anxiety and exhale into nature. Kelowna is especially attractive because it has several wineries that have the space to physical distance, and restaurants and scenery that complement the high-quality wines.”
Trippzy Travel Trivia: The foundation of the Summerhill Pyramid Winery on the east side of Kelowna is precisely aligned with the North Star and is a skueomorph of Egypt’s Great Pyramid (at 8 per cent of the size). Summerhill ages some of its wine in the pyramid and says there is a marked improvement in structure, aroma, and taste versus wines stored in a traditional barrel room.
Discover More: Can’t Get to Europe? Go to the Okanagan Valley Instead
20. PUKASKWA NATIONAL PARK, Ontario
Why You Should Go: Located 3.5 hours east of Thunder Bay, Pukaskwa National Park is a thriving natural wonder that lives on the edge of the world’s largest freshwater lake.
The park features several campgrounds, scenic trails, and beaches, and is a dream destination for nature lovers during summer, when all services are available. Pukaskwa’s Hattie Cove and its wilderness views are a major draw for anyone who just wants to float around and forget their troubles on peaceful waters. A wealth of amazing landscapes can be viewed on day hikes from Hattie Cove.
Parks Canada travel media and travel trade relations officer Eric Magnan says visitors who love nature are making Pukaskwa a high priority.
“We don’t know how 2021 will look amid the current pandemic, but for those who are looking for a great road-trip destination within the province of Ontario, something different in a remote area, with lots of great hiking and camping opportunities, then Pukaskwa National Park should be on top of your list,” Magnan says.
Other highlights at Pukaskwa include the White River Suspension Bridge over Chigamiwinigum Falls. There are several options for people who enjoy paddling and hiking, including a boardwalk that leads to Horseshoe Beach.
Vacay.ca Contributors Robin and Arlene Karpan Write: “What impresses us most about Pukaskwa National Park is it offers outstanding remote wilderness while being easy to access. Roughly halfway between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie, the park preserves the wildest and most scenic stretches of the Lake Superior shoreline. It’s only a 15-kilometre (9-mile) drive off the Trans-Canada Highway to reach this wonderland of ancient granite bedrock, rocky headlands, golden sand beaches, and stunning vistas at every turn.”
Discover More: Wandering in the Wilds of Pukaskwa National Park