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!
If you've ever passed through Medicine Hat, or you're spending a few days in the area, you've probably wondered what to do there. To most people outside the city, Medicine Hat might seem like a sleepy little prairie town in the Canadian Badlands; but for those who live in Hell's Basement, they'll tell you that this city is one of the most exciting places you can explore in all of Alberta.
I've gone to Medicine Hat three times in the past two years, and while I'm no expert on this thriving city, I know where the hidden gems are. If someone I know is passing through the area, I tell them they need to visit Medicine Hat. To help explain why, I put an article together for anyone else interested in visiting the Hat.
If you're spending 24 hours in Medicine Hat, you'll need somewhere to sleep. Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park is a little under an hour away and a great place to camp. Camping in Cypress gives you the choice to explore the park, the city, and everywhere in between.
Just over a year ago I wrote an article about the glockenspiel that once stood in downtown Regina. I had fond memories of the glockenspiel as a child and was sad when they took it down to renovate the park. I was even more sad when they didn't put it back up, and I was angry when I discovered it was sitting in a junkyard (sorry, outdoor "storage facility") for the past ten years. That article got a lot of attention, from both the public, the city and the press. Today, efforts are being made to restore the bell back to its original location.
I'm telling you this because preserving heritage – may it be a 25-year-old bell, or a fourth century building – is important. Without heritage, we lose who we are. Often, the desire to move society forward steps over the heritage and causes it to get lost. As impressive as tall glass buildings might be, nothing is better than a smoky red brick structure.
Saskatchewan is beginning to realize how important this is – and thankfully it's happening now and not in a few decades after everything is gone. But, our neighbours have been on the heritage preservation band train for several years now, especially in Alberta.
A few months ago I entered a contest for a trip for two to visit Philadelphia on Two Bad Tourists. Normally contests like this are limited to United States residents so when I saw this one was open to Canadians I jumped at the chance. I've never won something like this before, so I actually forgot about it until I got the emailing saying I had won. Two Bad Tourists then worked alongside Visit Philly to organise the trip for me and my mother to explore Philadelphia for three days. Visit Philly paid for our flights, hotels and gave us a VIP Pass to experience the city to our heart's content. It is thanks to them that this trip is possible.
Several movies and television shows have tried to capture the essence of Philadelphia over the years – from the boxing Blockbuster Rocky, to the paranormal thriller The Sixth Sense, to It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and even Boy Meets World – but each described the city differently. There is no easy way to approach a city as dynamic as The City of Brotherly Love. With countless layers of art, history, religion and the paranormal, Philadelphia is a city unlike any other throughout the United States.
One thing that surprised me the most about Philadelphia was the history. The city was founded and designed by William Penn, who is also the state of Pennsylvania's namesake. Born in London, England in 1644 he lived through The Great Fire of 1666 and The Great Plague of London from 1665-1666. Both events shaped Penn's life so he designed the city to be strictly stone buildings (to stop fires from spreading) and to have plenty of space between the buildings (as to prevent illness from spreading). This led to the older areas of the city to have winding corridors between old stone walls.