Last week I put together a list of five Canadian adventures to take in 2017. Since I haven't been out to Atlantic Canada for nearly a decade, I thought it would be a great trip down memory lane to write about it first. While this tour covers several destinations in Canada's most eastern provinces, it doesn't even scratch the surface of places worth visiting. Please use this guide as a reference, but remember to book your own side trips as well!
A cultural mix of French and English, Atlantic Canada embraces a more modest approach to Canada that replaces roaring highways with roaring oceans and light pollution with lighthouses. Known for its seafood, friendliness and small town vibe, Atlantic Canada is one of our country's most hidden gems.
This tour starts off in Fredericton, New Brunswick, the capital of Canada's only bilingual province. While here, take a stroll through the city's 230-year-old Garrison District and watch a re-enactment of the events that created the Canadian military. You can also take a tour of Government House, one of the original Government Houses' in Canada. For shopping and nightlife, Downtown Fredericton has you covered with scores of shops, restaurants and pubs. If you're into spine-tingling ghost stories, you can even take several lantern-led haunted hikes.
A short two-hour drive away is the immaculate Hopewell Rocks and the Bay of Fundy! Home to the highest tides in the world (over 16 feet!), this is the perfect place for kayaking or canoeing. Low tide offers a dramatically different experience where visitors can walk the ocean floor and witness the most magnificent geological formations in Canada. The park even gives out two-day passes so that guests have an opportunity to see both the high and low tide version of the rocks. Just remember to check out the official website to view the tide timetables before visiting. For anybody travelling to Atlantic Canada, Hopewell Rocks are a must-see!
A two-hour drive from Hopewell Rocks brings you to the 13-kilometre long Confederation Bridge. After crossing the bridge, and with a little more driving, you'll eventually end up in Charlottetown, the Birthplace of Confederation. Take your time to explore this city and its many theatres, restaurants and shopping boutiques. An incredibly walkable city, Charlottetown is a great place to rest and relax.
If you're a lover of literature, Avonlea Village – a life-size recreation of Lucy Maud Montgomery's Avonlea – is only a 40 minute drive away from Charlottetown. Explore the village of Anne of Green Gables, meet the real life actors and enjoy a world forever stuck in the early 20th century. While you're here, be sure to sample some raspberry cordial, dress up in period clothing and sing along with Anne and Gilbert at the town hall.
After another two-hour hop, this time with a ferry ride in the middle, and you'll arrive in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Oozing with history, you could easily spend several days in this city. While you're here, be sure to take a tour of Citadel Hill, a fort built to protect Canada from the invading United States. If you managed to get there before noon, you might even get a chance to watch them fire the noon cannon! Fairview Cemetery is another popular destination as it is the gravesite of over 120 victims of the RMS Titanic.
If you want to get out of the city, Peggy's Cove is an hour drive away and offers a view unlike any other. A picturesque getaway, Peggy's Cove is an outdoorsman and photographers delight. With a dynamic and rugged landscape, surrounded by the roaring Atlantic Ocean, Peggy's Cove's lighthouse has become one of Canada's most iconic structures. Just remember to watch your step as the footing can be treacherous if you aren't paying attention.
Another four hour drive brings you to Cabot Trail, the most scenic drive in Canada, the home of Cape Breton Highlands National Park! Here you can hike, camp, beach and golf on the third most beautiful island in the world. If you're planning to stay longer than a day, remember to pack some food as civilisation seemingly disappears upon entering the island. If you risk staying the night, take a moonlit stroll as you might even catch some fireflies!
A quick drive down the east side of Cape Breton will get you to North Sydney. If you're a World War II buff, you'll recognise this former town's name. It is the location where the SS Caribou left port before being torpedoed by a German U-Boat on October 13th, 1942. This attack took the life of 136 passengers.
If you aren't ready to leave Canada's Ocean Playground just yet, an hour south of North Sydney is Louisbourg, an 18th-century French fortress. It was recommended by one of my readers and it sounds really interesting!
From here you can take a ferry off Nova Scotia, across the Gulf of St. Lawrence and into Channel-Port aux Basques, Newfoundland and Labrador. Here you can witness the dynamic and breathtaking Newfoundland landscape. Explore this quaint seaside town before heading out for a 6 hour drive to Canada's most easterly National Park, Terra Nova. Here you can camp beside the sea, hike in the lush forest, paddle on the edge of the country and one of Canada's greatest untouched regions. You can even visit the local Touch Tank where you can pick up and hold some of the ocean's aquatic beings.
A two hour drive ends our journey in St. John's, the provincial capital. Here you will find some of the most colourful houses in Canada, punctuated by the sharp blue icebergs floating in the harbour. Explore this 500-year-old city by visiting their famous urban and costal walking trails. While you're out hiking the many trails in the region, don't forget to visit the strategically placed Signal Hill, which overlooks the harbour and gives a breathtaking view of the city! To end your journey, take a trip out to Cape Spear and be one of the first people in North America to see the sunrise!
150 years ago, Canada became a country, albeit a much smaller one. Since then, Canada has grown much in size, reputation and as a favorite for travellers from around the world. Lonely Planet recognized these accomplishments last year and ranked Canada as the #1 travel destination in 2017. With the addition of free National Parks all year long, 2017 is the perfect time to visit the Great White North!
I am always interested in Canadian adventures, so I thought I'd check out G Adventure's website to see what tours they have planned this year. Since G Adventures is a Canadian based travel company, I figured they would have something going on this year to celebrate our sesquicentennial. Instead, all I saw were the same eight tours as last year, and the year before. Thinking maybe there was some big announcement coming for 2017, I emailed G Adventures asking about it, hoping, praying, that maybe there was something, something, anything at all… but I received no response.
Now, don't get me wrong. G Adventures has eight great Canadian tours, and they all look really awesome, but they only show off a small sliver of what Canada has to offer. In fact, four of the tours are almost exactly the same:
As I stood in the courtyard of Fort Henry, I heard screams emanating from within. Fort Henry was constructed to protect the Kingston Royal Dockyard from the invading American forces during the War of 1812. The threat was so real that the capital of Canada – which was then Kingston – was moved to Quebec to protect it. The docks are all that stood between the United States and the St. Lawrence River and both countries were all too familiar with how easily it would turn the tides of battle.
As the screams from inside Fort Henry faded, I turned to the man beside me. He had come with his family. We got talking, trying to calm our nerves as bloodied clowns and undead mimes began wandering out from inside the fort.
Among the tombstones of the Regina Cemetery are little blue and white flags. In 1993 the Regina Ethnic Pioneers Cemetery Walking Tour put together their first tour, which focused on the city's founding fathers. In 1999 they then put together the second tour, which focused on the diversity of immigrants that live within the city. The blue flags mark the path of the first tour and the white flags mark those of the second.
The walking tours are self-guided, and can be purchased at the Riverside Memorial Park Cemetery for $2. Together, they offer over eighty different locations to visit.
For this project I teamed up with Patti Haus from I Heart Regina. She's another local blogger that has just broken into the scene and blogs about food, drinks and things to see around the Queen City. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. She provided many of the pictures for this article.