Explore The Great White North
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30 Best Summer Travel Destinations in Canada

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Explore The Great White North
bgsmith/istockphoto

Explore the Great White North

Whether you're into outdoor adventures and wildlife, sprawling music and food festivals, historical and cultural landmarks, spectacular wineries, or a relaxing beach vacation, there's a Canadian destination sure to appeal. We spoke to Canadian travel writers to help track down the must-visit destinations, as well as what to do and where to stay when you get there. From beautifully diverse national parks to bustling cityscapes, these are the best spots to visit in Canada this summer.

Tofino, British Columbia
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Tofino, British Columbia

Summer is particularly special on Vancouver Island and Tofino offers the ideal escape from city life. From Tofino, you can take in gorgeous mountain and ocean views from the charming Wickaninnish Inn or nestled in the forest adjacent to a beach at Green Point Campground.

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, British Columbia
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Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, British Columbia

If you're looking for Pacific Ocean kayaking adventures, whale- or bear-watching boat tours, beachcombing, soaking in a hot springs cove, or hiking the rugged West Coast Trail in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, this West Coast destination on Vancouver Island makes for the perfect getaway to connect with nature.

Alaska Highway, Yukon
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Alaska Highway, Yukon

For sparsely populated territory and strikingly beautiful wilderness, head north to Yukon. "We're often guilty of only thinking of the provinces as places to travel and explore within Canada, but the North has a lot to offer as well," says Caleigh Alleyne, Toronto-based travel journalist and editor of Travel and Design. "Yukon is connected through the Alaska Highway, making it a really accessible place to road trip and to enjoy the natural beauty of Northern Canada."

Kluane National Park and Reserve, Yukon
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Kluane National Park and Reserve, Yukon

Along the Alaska Highway, nature lovers will appreciate stopping for the towering mountain ranges of Kluane National Park and Reserve as well as glaciers and icefields. Home to 17 of Canada's 20 highest peaks, the park is renowned for its wilderness recreation, including hiking, backcountry camping, rafting past glaciers on the Alsek River, and mountaineering through some of the largest icefields outside of the polar ice caps. Not up for climbing? Book a flightseeing tour for a bird's-eye view of the ice fields.

Bowron Lake Provincial Park, British Columbia
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Bowron Lake Provincial Park, British Columbia

For a truly Canadian summer experience, hop in a canoe on the world-renowned Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit, which encompasses a chain of lakes, waterways, and connecting portages near the Cariboo Mountain Range. "The best canoe trip we have ever done was on the Bowron Lakes in northern British Columbia," says Canadian travel bloggers Dalene and Pete Heck, who've chronicled their Bowron Lake canoe adventures on HeckticTravels. "The lakes form almost a perfect square route and offer up so much stunning scenery. We'd do that trip again in a heartbeat."

Vancouver, British Columbia
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Vancouver, British Columbia

Get some fresh air at Vancouver's sprawling Stanley Park, a green oasis in the middle of the city and North America's third largest park. The urban park's hiking trails offer scenic views of water, mountains, and majestic trees along its famous seawall. Vancouver also has plenty of cultural attractions — from city tours and art galleries to lively outdoor markets and quirky neighborhoods like Granville Island, a former industrial area now filled with artsy shops, cafes, and bookstores. In the summer, free seasonal festivals and art walks, as well as public gardens and beaches, keep things affordable.

Whistler, British Columbia
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Whistler, British Columbia

World-class alpine skiers frequent the slopes of this well-known Canadian resort town in the winter, but Whistler is also a destination for hikers, bikers, and thrill-seekers in the summer. Two hours north of Vancouver in the Coast Mountains, the town boasts everything from bear tours and record-breaking gondola rides to whitewater rafting and bungee jumping, plus hiking and biking trails. Visitors can also unwind lakeside along sandy beaches or in the village bistros, or visit Wanderlust Whistler, a celebration of mindful living. Bonus: chalets and chateaus are usually a steal this time of year.

Kelowna, British Columbia
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Kelowna, British Columbia

In the heart of Okanagan Valley, Kelowna's many outdoor attractions and food and wine scene draw visitors from all over. People flock to the shores of Okanagan Lake as well as the region's more than 40 wineries within a 20-minute drive of town. Book a full-day tour of the valley's vineyards or embark on a self-guided wine trail to sample a range of highly-ranked wines like Riesling, the region's specialty. Pro tip: Visit in August to pick your own ripe peaches and plums at local fruit orchards.

Banff National Park and Jasper National Park, Alberta
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The Canadian Rockies

Visiting the Canadian Rockies is a no brainer for outdoor adventure seekers. Banff National Park — Canada's first national park — and Jasper National Park (in addition to their less visited neighbor Yoho National Park) are prime mountain destinations, where visitors can spend their days hiking, biking, and camping in some of the world's most breathtaking mountain scenery.

Golden, British Columbia
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Golden, British Columbia

After exploring the Rocky Mountain peaks, opt to stay in nearby Golden — conveniently located in the middle of six national parks — for a true mountain town experience. "For a fun group trip, you can't beat spending some time in the mountains. While the Rocky Mountains (Banff National Park and Jasper National Park) should be number one on your Canadian bucket list, heading west to Golden, Revelstoke, and Rossland, British Columbia will give you a more authentic mountain experience," travel writer Caleigh Alleyne says.

Canadian Badlands, Alberta
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Canadian Badlands, Alberta

Dinosaur Provincial Park is ripe for exploration. You can search for and often find (but not pocket) real dinosaur bones. More than 150 full dinosaur skeletons and more than 50 species have already been unearthed here, which is why it's been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For spectacular views, hike the Badlands Trail, which winds through hoodoos, pinnacles, and sandstone ridges. Later, make the two hour drive to the Royal Tyrrell Museum, which houses one of the world's largest displays of full dinosaur skeletons.

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
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Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

With the South Saskatchewan River flowing through Saskatoon, water is an integral part of city life. Run, walk, or bike along the riverfront Meewasin Trails or explore the city of bridges via paddleboard, canoe, kayak, or aboard a Prairie Lily riverboat cruise. The city is also an unexpected hotspot for foodies. "This city in the Prairies has really ramped up their food scene in the last few years with the opening of Ayden Kitchen and Bar and Little Grouse on the Prairie, led by Top Chef Canada Winner Chef Dale Mackay. This has spurred a culinary movement within the city," says travel expert Caleigh Alleyne. Other notable restaurants include Odd Couple and The Hollows.

Inuit Culture in Arviat, Nunavut
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Arviat, Nunavut

Discover Canada's Inuit culture and art — from hunting and fishing to sewing and crafts like soapstone and antler carving Z — on Arviat, one of the most accessible Inuit communities in Nunavut. Travelers can chat with Inuit elders in their homes, see traditional music performances, and try customary meals like Arctic char, tuktu (caribou), and muktaaq (beluga whale). Arviat is also rich in wildlife, including pods of beluga whales, which are often spotted in the many small bays near the community.

Fundy National Park, New Brunswick
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Fundy National Park, New Brunswick

Get a taste of Atlantic Canada culture and explore miles of untouched coastline — and the world's highest tides — from Fundy National Park or The Hopewell Rocks, where you can walk around the famous "flowerpot rocks" at low tide then watch them slowly disappear. Walk the otherworldly sea floor at low tide or paddle in a kayak as the waters rise 12 metres high. Unique camping options feature comfy yurts with a skylight dome to take in the starry nights.

Churchill, Manitoba
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Churchill, Manitoba

As the "polar bear capital of the world," Churchill, Manitoba deserves a spot on animal lovers' bucket lists. Churchill is one of the few human settlements where polar bears can be observed in the wild, even in the summer, and more than 57,000 belugas gather in the region between mid-June to mid-September. While there aren't any paved roads leading into the tiny town, the plane or train ride may well be well worth the expense. In the summer, you can snorkel or kayak alongside belugas in the Hudson Bay and Churchill River.

Toronto, Ontario
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Toronto, Ontario

Canada's largest city is a multi-cultural destination bursting with things to do year-round, especially in the summer. Its many diverse neighborhoods, enticing green spaces, and a thriving food scene make it an attractive city for a weekend or week-long getaway. In the summer, Toronto-based travel writer Caleigh Alleyne likes to stick around. "For hiking, I go out to the Bruce Trail, biking in Niagara Parks along the Niagara Parkway, camping in Algonquin Provincial Park, festivals — there are so many in and around Toronto," she says. "And you can't beat the Distillery District in Toronto for outdoor dining."

Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario
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Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario

Just outside of Toronto, city dwellers and visitors can embark on even more unique adventures. The wilderness of Algonquin Provincial Park offers plenty of family-friendly outdoor activities — from camping to canoeing and mountain biking. The Algonquin Logging Museum gives visitors a glimpse into the history of logging.

Niagara Falls, Ontario
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Niagara Falls, Ontario

Plan a family vacation to Niagara Falls this summer to witness North America's iconic waterfall. Hop aboard a cruise boat to get up close with the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls, plummeting over the 188-foot drop at up to 68 mph. If you have some time to spare, taking a combination tour between Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls is also a great way to see the Niagara area. Other popular attractions include the 175-foot-high Niagara Skywheel, a stroll near the water on the self-guided White Water Walk, and the Butterfly Conservatory at the Botanical Gardens.

Ottawa, Ontario
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Ottawa, Ontario

When it comes to history and culture, Canada's capital Ottawa has much to offer. The Canadian War Museum and Parliament Hill (don't miss the summer Changing of the Guard ceremonies) will appeal to history buffs, while the National Gallery of Canada is a draw for art aficionados, and the Rideau Canal and Gatineau Park is often a hit with nature lovers. At the ByWard Market, foodies can try a truly Canadian pastry, Beavertails, from the original location.

Eastern Townships, Quebec
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Eastern Townships, Quebec

The Eastern Townships of Quebec (Montreal's cottage country) are a collection of small towns and villages along the U.S. border revered for their foodie culture and outdoor excursions. "One of the most Canadian things you can do is plan a summer weekend away at 'the cottage.' There are a number of areas within driving distance of major cities where Canadians will go to get away from the city and enjoy some time in nature," says Toronto-based travel expert Caleigh Alleyne. It's possible to taste your way through the region's farmers markets with local cheeses, milk bars with old-fashioned sundaes, and vineyards — Quebec's only wine route offers a taste of renowned ice wines, rosés, and ciders.

Montreal, Quebec
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Montreal, Quebec

Montreal is packed with tons of arts and culture for a European-esque experience, particularly for those traveling alone. "There's always a festival or something going on in the city," says travel blogger Caleigh Alleyne. "There is also a range of accommodation options perfect for any budget and delicious restaurants to try," Check out the Notre-Dame Basilica and roam the Montreal Botanical Gardens, then head to the city's major cultural district, Quartier des Spectacles, for activities and seasonal fests.

Quebec City, Quebec
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Quebec City, Quebec

"For the ultimate romantic getaway, I'd recommend going to Quebec City, where you are transported back in time wandering along romantic cobblestone streets," says travel writer Caleigh Alleyne. For those in the U.S. and Canada, Quebec City is a budget-friendly alternative to a European vacation. Explore the French Canadian city's cobbled streets, cathedral spires, and top-notch cuisine. Notable sights in Quebec's capital include the castle-like Chateâu de Frontenac, Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica, and the historic neighborhood of Old Quebec. This summer, visitors can catch a new free circus show outdoors from July 16 to September 1.

New Brunswick
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New Brunswick

For a budget-friendly destination, Canada travel expert Caleigh Alleyne suggests planning a trip to a province like New Brunswick. "New Brunswick is stunningly beautiful, but filled with smaller, more affordable cities," she says. "You can get the best of both worlds heading to the Bay of Fundy to explore a natural wonder while staying in quaint cities like Saint John, Moncton, or Fredericton to explore the cultural activities and markets."

Prince Edward Island
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Prince Edward Island

With its rolling green hills, red sandstone cliffs, and fresh seafood, Canada's smallest province, Prince Edward Island, makes for a relaxing getaway destination. Explore the house that inspired the setting of the book "Anne of Green Gables" and the first lighthouse to receive the SOS from the Titanic, or try activities like clam digging and lobster boat tours. Hike woodlands or cycle a seashore path in Prince Edward Island National Park, which features over 25 miles of coastline with beaches, wetlands, and forests for kayaking, picnicking, and bird watching.

Halifax, Nova Scotia
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Halifax, Nova Scotia

Start your day at the Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market, the oldest continuously operating farmers' market in North America, then learn about the city's seafaring history — including its role in recovering artifacts from the Titanic — at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. For adventure just outside the city, visit Peggy's Cove, a fishing village with an iconic lighthouse, then embark on the Lobster Trail for a taste of Nova Scotia's incredible seafood. Consider a guided Voyageur canoe journey in Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site, too.

Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
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Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

Cape Breton Island might just be Canada's best kept secret. The scenic Atlantic spot is consistently lauded for its seafood, sprawling coastline, and dramatic cliffs. For an abundance of scenic overlooks, drive the 185-mile Cabot Trail or take a guided bicycle tour. The coastal highway winds through the island's diverse seaside communities while hugging the rocky northern shoreline and looping inland through Cape Breton Highlands National Park before passing along the salmon-filled Margaree River.

Newfoundland and Labrador
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Newfoundland and Labrador

Summer is an ideal time to visit Newfoundland and Labrador. "Small fishing villages are sprinkled along the coast, offering you a glimpse into their long-standing culture in these regions," says Canadian travel journalist Caleigh Alleyne. "It's best to visit in the summer, as many of the restaurants and tourist attractions are only open seasonally. Summer is when the weather is best and the towns are in full bloom." Want to hike? The rust-colored Tablelands in Gros Morne National Park or the island's boreal forest in Terra Nova National Park are great options.

Auyuittuq National Park
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Auyuittuq National Park

Ever wanted to snowmobile or snowshoe around the Arctic Circle? While you may not be able to bring your summer clothes, visit this northern corner of Canada in (relatively) warm weather to see waterways teeming with narwhal and ringed seals, and you may actually see wildflowers.

Tobermory, Ontario
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Tobermory, Ontario

Four hours north of Toronto, you'll find Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula. The seaside town has the turquoise waters and beaches of Bruce Peninsula National Park and the Fathom Five National Marine Park — the freshwater scuba capital of the world — which is home to more than 20 historic sunken wrecks.

Elk Island
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Elk Island

Want to get up close and personal with some wildlife that may remind you of the Old West in the U.S.? Located 35 minutes east of Edmonton, Elk Island is a bucolic refuge for bison, elk, and more than 250 bird species. Elk Island National Park is also an escape for city-weary visitors who want to picnic by day and camp by night.