The best things to do in Canada: The ultimate bucket list

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Canada stole a piece of my heart the first time I went, and honestly, I think it’s going to steal yours too. If you’ve booked your trip and you’re looking for the best things to do in Canada, or you’re just getting inspiration and putting your Canada bucket list together, this is a blog post you’re going to love.

I first visited Canada well before my blog was my career, when I visited Jasper and Edmonton, as well as the Columbia Icefields. I was then lucky enough to spend a week on Vancouver Island before spending some of my summer in Banff, including a Canadian Rockies road trip through Banff. The Rockies took a piece of my heart and I was lucky enough to visit the Kootenay Rockies in summer, as well as squeezing in a trip to Vancouver in early fall.

Being frank, I’ve been to Canada many times but barely scratched the surface. In case you aren’t aware, Canada is HUGE. There are so many epic things to do in Canada, and one day I might just move here to explore in more depth. In the meantime, my Pinterest board of destinations and my Canada bucket list grows and grows…

It was really hard to make this list a readable size; I could have kept writing for days. Canada is so big, so this is just a tiny snapshot of the fun that can be had there.

The ultimate Canada bucket list: 40 of the best things to do in Canada

1. Road trip through the Canadian Rockies.

The Canadian Rockies span over 5 Canadian National Parks – Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay and Waterton – and I reckon you could spend weeks, if not months, driving through the National Parks and experiencing everything the Rockies has to offer. For a small fee you can camp in many of the National Parks, if you fancied road tripping in a van or taking a tent with you!

If you’ve never planned a road trip in Canada, check out my guide here.

2. Take the cross Canada train from coast to coast.

Yes, that’s right, you can take a train across the whole of Canada. ‘The Canadian’ gives you views of lakes, prairies, mountains and the Pacific, and you can stop off and explore as you take the journey. It’ takes over 5 days if you travel non stop, but you should stop off and explore the likes of Jasper, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Saskatoon on your journey. What’s more, the ‘Canada pass’ is a rail pass that allows you to travel coast to coast between Halifax and Vancouver (the whole Via Rail network) for up to 60 days.

Find out more and buy your tickets or rail pass here.

3. Say hi to the polar bears and kayak with Beluga whales in Churchill, Manitoba.

Take the 40-hour train from Winnipeg up to Churchill and experience the ‘polar bear capital of the world’. This magical town in northern Canada is the best place to experience the Arctic, from seeing the polar bears in winter, to joining the pod in Hudson Bay and kayaking with the Belugas in spring and summer (find out more here). Churchill is also one of the best places in Canada to see the Northern Lights, so check them out if you’re there during their peak from January to March.

The only way to get to Churchill is by air or rail, so factor that time/cost into your Canada budget!

4. Complete the Cabot trail in Nova Scotia.

I’m yet to explore Canada’s east coast, but I can’t wait to! Nova Scotia is a 580km long island on the east coast of Canada, and the Cabot trail makes 297-kilometer loop around a sizeable chunk of the island. Whether you want to spend a whole holiday hiking, cycling or driving around it, exploring on the way, or just want to choose part of the trail to hike for the day, you’ll have a great time.

If you’re driving, allow at least 3 days to drive and explore (driving the loop non-stop takes 8 hours).

If you’re looking for part of it to hike, the Cape Breton Highlands National Park has many trails on and just off the Cabot trail. The Skyline trial, Fishing Cove trial and Acadian trail are most popular, but you can see all the hiking trails in Cape Breton Highlands National Park here. 

5. Go whale-watching on Vancouver Island.

Book a 3-4 hour tour to explore the deep blue and see these magnificent creatures explore their home from your boat. Pure magic.

While you’re on Vancouver Island, make sure you don’t miss exploring Tofino, soaking up the sun on Long Beach, or hitting the surf.

Check out my guide to Vancouver Island here.

6 days on Vancouver Island: A travel guide
A guide to planning an epic British Columbia road trip, Canada

6. Try poutine and maple syrup.

Poutine is Canada’s signature dish. It’s made up of chips, gravy and cheese curds and originates from Québec, but you can eat it all over Canada.

And don’t even get me started on the maple everything here. Nowhere in the world does maple better than Canada!

7. Watch the sunrise in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Watching the sunrise from the easternmost part of North America is truly magical. The best places to watch the sunrise here include the Burin peninsula (Placentia Bay or Cook’s Lookout Trail), Signal Hill, Cape Spear, Fort Waldegrave and King’s Cove Head.

See my top tips for staying safe when travelling solo here.

8. Take on the Toronto Edgewalk.

Experience the world’s highest hands free external walk on the CN Tower, with views across the whole of Toronto. If you’re looking for an adrenaline kick, this is the Canadian adventure for you! Book your Edgewalk experience here.

While you’re in Toronto, make sure you also cycle around Lake Ontario, visit the Royal Ontario Museum and Casa Loma, enjoy a micro-brewery tour, and take a picnic to High Park. You should also time your visit with Toronto International Film Festival (September) if you’re into cinema!

Citymapper is a great way to navigate public transport in Toronto (and other cities such as Montreal and Vancouver). For more useful travel apps, check out this blog post.

9. Build an igloo and sleep in it in Nunavut.

Learn about Inuit culture, Inuit people and Arctic geography in Nunavut with Inukpak Outfitting. Nunavut stretches out for miles and miles and is the perfect place for an authentic Arctic experience. I love the idea of learning how to build an igloo and then spending the night in it, but Inukpak Outiftting also offer snowmobiling, snow sailing, hiking, canoeing, sea kayaking, narwhal watching and much more.

Check out the Inukpak Outfitting website and book your excursion here.

Bear in mind that Nunavut is huge, about the size of Western Europe. You can only get there by ship or plane, and it’s not ‘touristy’, so hotels are far and few between and quite expensive.

10. Explore the city of Vancouver

From soaking up the city views from Grouse Mountain, to cliff jumping at Lion’s Bay, as well as exploring the backstreets and local markets, I’d love to move to Vancouver one day and explore it in more depth. Vancouver has the perfect balance of nature and city life, and I’d love to experience it for more than a week!

Check out my ultimate guide to exploring Vancouver here.

  • A guide to visiting Vancouver during the summer months
  • A guide to visiting Vancouver during the summer months
  • A guide to visiting Vancouver during the summer months
  • A guide to visiting Vancouver during the summer

11. Marvel at the Niagara Falls.

Perhaps the most epic thing to do in Canada, as well as one of the most popular. The Canadian side of the falls offers views of all three falls, something the USA side doesn’t have. You can see them for free from the Table Rock welcome Centre, or by walking the mile-long path along the gorge, or you can get a better view by paying to go up the Skylon Tower or Skywheel, or enjoying the Journey behind the falls experience!

12. Watch an ice hockey game in Montreal.

Known simply as ‘hockey’ in Canada, Montreal is where ice hockey began! You can watch the national sport of Canada at the Bell Centre, but be quick as tickets sell out fast. Check the NHL schedule and buy your tickets here.

Montreal is also famous for its art and cinema scene, so make sure to check that out while you’re there as well.

13. Go ice-skating on the Rideau Canal Skateway, Ottowa.

At 7.8km long, the Rideau Canal in Ottowa becomes the world’s largest ice rink in winter. Visit between February and mid-March (weather permitting), rent a pair of skates, and you can skate from downtown Ottowa to Dows Lake.

Check the conditions on the Rideau Canal Skateway website here.

For advice on travelling on a budget, check out these top tips! 

See how solo travel changed me here.

14. Stargaze in Jasper National Park.

Jasper’s Dark Sky Preseve makes for an awesome space to watch the night sky light up as you camp. It’s the second-largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world, and it’s pretty much guaranteed that if it’s a clear night, you’ll see the stars.

The best places in Jasper to stargaze include Medicine Lake, Pyramid Lake, Lac Beauvert, the Columbia Icefields, Maligne Lake & Canyon, Athabasca Falls, Mount Edith Cavell, Tonquin Valley, and Lake Annette.

For all of the best things to do in Jasper National Park, check out this blog post.

15. Get that shot of Lake Louise.

Perhaps one of the most iconic photography spots in Canada, and a destination on every Canada bucket list, Lake Louise in Alberta is simply stunning. Whether you want to hike around the lake or canoe on the lake, make sure you visit in your lifetime. The turquoise hue takes even the most seasoned traveller’s breath away.

Top tip: if you want to canoe on Lake Louise, it’s much cheaper and quieter to join the sunrise canoe run by the Fairmont hotel! Find out more here.

Check out my complete guide to Banff here.

How to budget for a road trip through The Canadian Rockies

16. Visit Lake Louise’s rival, Lake Moraine!

Equally as beautiful (although some people think it’s more scenic!) but a bit smaller and less visited, Lake Moraine is a must-do in Alberta, Canada.

17. See the Northern Lights in Yukon.

Although they are visible from mid-April to mid-August, your best chance of seeing the Northern Lights is in the first few weeks of winter (November/December). Get the Aurora Forecast app which will tell you what the viewing conditions are like before you head out of town to watch the show!

In Yukon you can choose whether you want to see the Northern Lights alone, or on one of the several group tours on offer. You can even see them from an outdoor hot tub at Takhini Hot Springs, or on a dog-sledding tour!

On a clear night you can see the aurora borealis from all over Yukon, but for the best viewing spots head about 20 minutes outside of the capital of Whitehorse (away from the light), or to Campbell, Klondike, Kluane or Watson Lake.

See my solo travel vs. booking onto group tours benefits here.

18. Kayak in the Bay of Fundy

Experience the highest tidal paddling on Earth at the Bay of Fundy, between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Located halfway between the equator and the North Pole, here you can marvel at the rock formations, find dinosaur fossils and even see multiple species of whale, such as the Humpback, Finback and Minke.

19. Try the world’s best lobster in New Brunswick.

New Brunswick is famous for its seafood and in particular its lobster. Lobster fishing is at the heart of many of the coastal communities in this province, so make sure you try it at least once! The Sheldiac lobster festival in July is also a fun week of lobster filled activities and events! Find out more about the lobster festival here.

20. Relax in Canada’s natural hot springs.

Sometimes you just need to take a few minutes to relax and reflect, and there’s no better place for that than a hot spring. Canada is full of natural hot springs, including these ones I relaxed in in the Kootenay Rockies, so grab your swimwear and take some time to relax.

A 1 week road trip itinerary through the Kootenay Rockies, Canada
A 1 week road trip itinerary through the Kootenay Rockies, Canada

21. Stay at the ice hotel in Québec.

Québec is the perfect city to enjoy a magical, snow-filled winter, and where better to spend that than an ice hotel! The “Hôtel de Glace” is one of a kind in North America, and changes its theme every year, so you’ll never have the same visit twice! Book your visit here. (Note: you can only stay here during winter). 

If you’re looking for a unique place to stay in Québec but don’t fancy the chill, you can also stay in Chateau Frontenac. Québec City has an amazing food and drink scene, so check that out while you’re there, and the wider province of Québec has loads of skiing spots, so check those out too!

22. Camp and canoe in Ontario.

You can camp for a very small fee (or for free if you’re a Canadian resident) across Canada’s crown lands, which make up about 90% of the country! Algonquin National Park is one of the best for camping, as there are a wide variety of campsites on offer: drive-to campsites, hike-to campsites and paddle-to campsites! Algonquin is also one of the best places to see the famous Canadian moose, and has over over 2,000 kilometres of canoe routes in the Park backcountry to explore the variety of Algonquin’s landscapes.

23. Try winter ziplining in Whistler.

An activity I knew we could do in summer (and you can in Whistler, too) but who knew it could be winter friendly?! Dress as if you were going skiing, go up Rainbow Mountain and then fly through winter wonderland as you descend through the snow-lined landscape.

Book your winter ziplining experience here.

24. See grizzly bears in their natural habitat.

Canada is bear paradise; brown bears, black bears and grizzly bears are everywhere. Don’t get too close as they’re dangerous animals, but they’re beautiful to watch from a safe distance. You can even see the Kermode ‘spirit bears’ in the Great Bear Rainforest, the only place in the world to see the 400 that are left in the wild.

I snapped this bear family on my trip to the Kootenay Rockies, and I also got to visit a grizzly bear refuge in Banff!

10 photos that will make you want to visit Kootenay Rockies, British Columbia

25. See the unique Calgary stampede.

This outdoor rodeo festival happens every July. It is unique to Calgary and features on many people’s Canada bucket lists. As the rodeo show takes place, the audience is filled with denim and country legends take to the stage. Find out more about it here.

If the stampede isn’t your cup of tea, Calgary is still worth a visit. Spend the day visiting museums and enjoying the city parks, as well as a walk over Peace Bridge.

26.  Hike the West Coast Trail.

This 6-8-day backpacking adventure really is the hike of a lifetime! This iconic backcountry trail features on many, many Canada bucket lists. The 75-km route is for experienced hikers only, since it covers a lot of rough terrain and lasts several days, and stretches from the Gordon River trailhead outside Port Renfrew on it’s southern end and goes north for 75km to the town of Bamfield.

Find out more about the West Coast Trail on the Pacific Rim National Park website here.

27. Go wine tasting in the Okanagan Valley.

I had no idea that Canada was famous for wine! Okanagan Valley wineries are rich in tradition and character, consistently ranking among the world’s best at international competitions. Try the world-class wine during your Canadian adventure.

Check out all the wineries in the Okanagan Valley here.

28. Drive the Icefields Parkway.

This 230km mountain road goes through the heart of Banff and Jasper National Parks and runs between Lake Louise and Jasper. It takes 3 hours to drive one-way non-stop, but if you can, take the time to stop off and explore, and drive it in both directions.

See my experience of driving the Icefields Parkway here.

29. Athabasca Glacier Skywalk.

It’s as intense and exciting as it sounds. As you drive the Icefields Parkway, stop off at the Athabasca Glacier. Take on the Glacier Skywalk, a walk suspended in the air from the cliff face, on which you can experience an intense walk over a 280m drop where only a sheet of glass can save you!

See my experience of the Glacier Skywalk here.

30. Relax on the red sand beaches of Prince Edward Island.

Prince Edward Island is not only famous for Anne of Green Gables, or for being the smallest Canadian province, but also for the the warmth of the 500-mile Red Sands Shore. The welcoming rosiness of the sand comes from iron in the sandstone. Red sand beaches you cannot miss when you visit PEI include Argyle Shore, Tea Hill Park, Canoe Cove and Thunder Cove.

If you’re worried about making friends while you’re solo travelling, here are all my top tips!

31. Take on the Mt Norquay via ferrata in Banff National Park.

Step out of your comfort zone and enjoy 360 views of the Canadian Rockies! With everything from beginner 1-2 hour routes to whole-day adventures for avid climbers, via ferratas make for an awesome active adventure so put this one on your Canada bucket list!

Check out routes and prices on the website here.

How to spend 48 hours in Banff in the summer

32. Try heli-skiing or heli-hiking!

These active adventures do not involve jumping out of a helicopter and hitting the slopes! Think of the helicopter as the ultimate cable car that can take you to the freshest powder anywhere in the region. And then, you can ski or hike!

Heli-skiing and heli-hiking trips happen all over Canada, so check with your local tourism board for the best companies to go with!

33. Visit the ‘Big 4’ on a polar safari in the Northwest Territories.

In the Northwest Territories you can see the Canadian ‘Big Four’: muskoxen, caribou, moose and bison.

You can also go dog-sledding, skiing in a forest, and have picnic at the top of the world (on the Arctic Circle!).

34. Road trip through Quebec and Newfoundland & Labrador.

For a wild road trip, get a camper (or a car and a tent) and road trip through Quebec and Newfoundland & Labrador. With landscapes that rival those in Iceland, this road trip is for those of you who want a survival adventure in the wilderness!

35. Explore the Haida Gwaii archipelago.

There are no chains or big brands here, so on these islands you can live slowly, learn about the indigenous Haida Nation, and experience British Columbia’s ragged wilderness.

36. Enjoy Edmonton, Canada’s underdog.

Edmonton isn’t often mentioned alongside the likes of Vancouver, Quebec and Montreal, but it’s still a city in Canada you should visit. Edmonton’s gorgeous downtown landscapes, trendy neighbourhoods, humungous shopping mall and close proximity to Jasper National Park are merely a few of the highlights I discovered about Canada’s hidden gem. Fall in Edmonton is truly stunning and you can enjoy the blue skies in the city among the reds and oranges in the trees.

Check out my complete guide to Edmonton here.

  • A guide to exploring Edmonton, Alberta

37. Discover the heart and soul of Halifax.

Steeped in maritime history, this city is well worth exploring. Visit the Citadel National Historic Site and grab lunch from the Farmer’s Market to enjoy in the Public Gardens.

38. Visit the sand dunes on the prairies of Saskatchewan.

There’s more to the prairies than farmland! The Great Sand Hills are largely unvisited and remind you that Canada really does have everything in terms of landscapes. The Athabasca sand dunes are more well-known but less accessible, and serve as the most northernly active sand dunes.

39. Head to Squamish, ‘the adventure capital’.

Another area I’m yet to visit, and it’s accessible as a day trip from Vancouver or great for a holiday in itself. Here you can bask amongst a wealth of activity including and not restricted to: rock climbing, kiteboarding, mountain biking, cross country skiing, bouldering. Let me know which you try first!

40. Visit Manitoulin Island.

Manitoulin Island is the largest freshwater island in the world! With over 100 inland lakes on the shores of the island, this small-town feel place is the perfect place for a getaway. The Manitoulin Island lifestyle embraces a close mutual relationship with the environment and resources of the land, making it a peaceful and spiritual place.

Have you been to Canada?

What’s on your Canada bucket list? I’d love to know!

Love as always and happy adventuring,

Mollie.

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The best things to do in Canada: The ultimate bucket list
The best things to do in Canada: The ultimate bucket list
The best things to do in Canada: The ultimate bucket list
The best things to do in Canada: The ultimate bucket list

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