When I think of an epic bucket-list destination, it won’t make the grade without a spectacular view, which may or may not be a breathtaking landscape. Any scene that stops you in your tracks, puts a smile on your face, or simply makes you gasp with wonder is worth a visit in my book.
Canada is rife with heart-stopping views from the mountains of the Yukon to the wild polar-bear habitat of Manitoba and everywhere in between. The country is a treasure chest of unforgettable (and perhaps unexpected) views. The only problem you’ll have is deciding where to go.
Here are just a few of the places you might want to consider.
The Yukon Territory
Soaring snow-covered peaks, the world’s largest non-polar ice field, and the spectacular Kaskawulsh Glacier are just a few of the wonders to be found in the St. Elias Mountains in Kluane National Park and Reserve, a favorite stomping ground for campers, backcountry hikers and serious climbers. The best way to get a sense of the park’s breadth and beauty is to see it from above. Outfitter Icefield Discovery Tours offers the only flightseeing excursions from the turquoise waters of Kluane Lake to the toe of the Kaskawulsh Glacier and west to its source. One minute you’re over a summer landscape, and the next you feel as if you’re in the Arctic – all in the span of about 10 minutes. Weather permitting, you may even be able to land on an ice field.
***The best time to visit is from May to September.
Quebec’s Maritime Regions
At the convergence of the Saguenay Fjord and the St. Lawrence River is the little-known village of Tadoussac, one of the most prolific destinations in the world for whale viewing. Minke, blue, beluga and humpbacks love to eat the krill churned up by the area’s deep and turbulent waters. You can often see them from the shore, but for those who want a closer look, there are plenty of boat tours available. Better yet, rent a kayak. There are rules about how close you can get, but without the roar of a noisy motor, curious whales may come to you.
***The best time to plan a trip is from May to October.
You’ve never seen a city skyline quite like Ontario. Visitors of Toronto’s famed CN Tower will have the view of a lifetime during its EdgeWalkurban adventure. For 30 minutes, you’ll walk hands-free on a 5-foot ledge around the roof’s circumference, 116 floors up. If you have a fear of heights, fret not: You won’t fall. You’ll be connected by a trolley and harness system, though acrophobics may want to pass. But if you’re game, your bravery will be well documented with a keepsake video, photos and a certificate of achievement.
***For optimal conditions, visit from April to October.
Travelers are accustomed to the idea of seeing polar bears from a ship or vehicle. But for a unique perspective, check out polar bears on foot. The Seal River Heritage Lodge, accessible via a half-hour flight from Churchill to the subarctic Tundra on the coast of Hudson Bay, takes guests on walks twice daily to observe polar bears in the wild at eye level. It’s the only walking safari of its kind in Manitoba. If you’re lucky, you may even see a mother bear and her cubs.
***Visit from July to November for ideal viewing conditions.
There’s nothing more beautiful than an evening filled with glittering stars, but for most of us, light pollution limits what we can see. At Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, however, you can enjoy the sky in all its glory. One of several Dark Sky parks in Canada, Cypress Hills’ light restrictions makes it easy to see what Mother Nature intended. For diehard stargazing enthusiasts, the Royal Canadian Astronomical Society hosts a special five-day “Star Party” every August, attracting astronomy lovers and astral photographers from far and wide who camp, eat, stargaze and share their passion for the night.
***Best of all, beautiful views can be observed year-round.
Prince Edward Island
The harbor in the tiny fishing village of French River may look familiar as one of the most popular painted scenes on Prince Edward Island. Set on an inlet off the Gulf of St. Lawrence, its colorful buildings and fishing boats, against a backdrop of rolling hills and historic homes, is a setting straight out of “Anne of Green Gables.” As part of the Island’s Green Gables Shore touring region, French River is just one stop among many on a route featuring breathtaking locations that inspired scenes from Lucy Maud Montgomery’s beloved series.
***Plan a trip from May to October for the best scenery.
Who hasn’t fantasized about walking through a magical world of myths and legends? Thanks to Doris and Ernest Needham, the dream has become a reality. Years ago, the Needhams took Doris’ handmade, large-scale storybook figurines and created a whimsical, 8-acre fantasyland they dubbed the Enchanted Forest. Nestled in one of the world’s few temperate inland rainforests, located 20 miles from Revelstoke, the Needhams’ labor of love is a quirky panorama.
***Travel from May to September for ideal conditions for exploration.
In Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park’s Milk River valley, surrounded by rugged prairies, sheer cliffs and mushroom rock formations called hoodoos, you’ll find the largest concentration of First Nation petroglyphs (rock carvings) and pictographs (rock paints) in North America. There, you’ll catch sight of historic images scratched or sketched into the sandstone with animal bones or a paste made of red ochre and bison fat. The art depicts humans, animals, flora, even wagons, and guns belonging to early settlers that span hundreds of years. The best examples are found in the park’s archeological preserve, which is off-limits unless viewed on a guided tour that’s offered three times daily. If joining a tour is not your thing, the largest petroglyph in the park called “Battle Scene” is on a public trail of the same name.
***Travel from May to September for ideal conditions for exploration.
The Northwest Territory
The aurora borealis is widely viewed as one of the most spectacular natural occurrences known to man. But unless you hedge your bets, you may never see it. At the eco-friendly Blachford Lake Lodge, if you stay five days, the hotel promises a 99 percent chance you’ll see the Aurora, and their wake-up service will make sure you don’t miss it. That’s pretty close to a guarantee. Not to mention, you can view it from a hot tub. And if you’re worried about the cold (it can go as low as 31 degrees Fahrenheit), Blachford has winter gear you can rent.
***The best times to visit are from mid-August to mid-October and mid-December to mid-April.
At the north end of the Bay of Fundy at Hopewell Cape sits Hopewell Rocks, the centerpiece to one of the most fascinating views of the ocean. Massive tides considered the highest in the world, send over 1 billion tons of water through the cape twice daily. Fascinating formations carved by the water’s force are affectionately known as the Flowerpot Rocks. Walk the beach at low tide, and stay to watch the water change to high tide. You’ll be amazed how fast the water comes in and how little of the rocks there is left to see. If you’re not sure how to plan your visit, check out the tide chart on the attraction’s website.
***Visit from May to October for optimal conditions for exploration.
Share your favorite great Canadian views in the comments below!
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