Exploring Canada

Living in Minnesota, Canada’s an easy international destination, the first foreign country when my family headed north for a vacation when I was a child. While I’ve visited a range of destinations within the county, there are many places I’d like to get to (including Quebec City, the Queen Charlotte Islands, and the Arctic) and many others I’d like to return to (pretty much every place).

Canada - where I've been June 2014

Vancouver Island and Victoria

This is an island of contrasts, where ancient landscapes and highly manicured gardens, Native and old-world British culture sit side by side. It is a place where you can spend the morning on a wilderness adventure in an landscape that would have been familiar to the island’s original inhabitants and then spend the afternoon enjoying high tea amid the trappings of Victorian Britain.

Victoria is the island’s main city and the provincial capitol of British Columbia. It’s a city that holds tightly to the traditions of the British settlers who founded it in 1843. Much of the historic city still remains, making it a delightful place to wander aimlessly or just sit and enjoy the view of the parliament buildings from the marina. It isn’t quite the same as a trip to England, but a visit to Victoria is a suitable substitute in a pinch, so come prepared to  stock up on your favorite English snacks!

The city is also filled with and surrounded by gardens, from the small private gardens found everywhere to the highly manicured plantings at Butchart Gardens.

Beyond the city of Victoria, the island is largely a wooded wilderness, with small towns. The Coast Salish, Nuu-chah-nulth and Kwakwakawa’wakw people who have always lived on this island have a rich cultural tradition. Traveling around the island provides opportunities to really see and engage with this still thriving culture.


Canada’s major west coast city, Vancouver is regularly cited as one of the most livable cities in the world. It’s a lively place in a stunning location, but we love it most for its rich culture, Native art, and lush gardens. . . and of course, its stunning location at the foot of the coastal mountains.

It’s one of our favorite cities.

Farther afield, Whistler offers far more than winter skiing, with a range of activities throughout the year.

The Canadian Rockies: Banff, Jasper, Yoho, and more

The heart of the Canadian Rockies straddles the boundary between British Columbia and Alberta. We traveled here in summer 2014, but I still don’t have much posted.

Exploring the heart of the Canadian Rockies


About 8 hours directly north of my home is the home of the fabulous Inuit art collection at the WAG (Winnipeg Art Gallery), making it an occasional destination for us. Winnipeg also has a wonderful park system, vibrant neighborhoods, and a downtown that was – last time I visited – ripe for residential development and renewal that would make it a 24-hour city. Despite all that, I haven’t been there in a few years now.

Clearly I need to make a return visit soon in order to remedy that situation.


Toronto cartoon Toronto is a city of contradictions: a huge metropolis with lively neighborhoods and a gleaming, but walkable downtown core; a city with its back to the lake that serves as the city’s summer playground, a financial center with an artistic and slightly counter-culture heart, a city of sleek corporate towers and abundant street art, a city of trendy expense-account restaurants that only serve locally-sourced foods, a city of huge highways with a complete transit system . . . whatever it is you prefer, you can find it in Toronto.

There is always something to do here.


Ottawa is the capital of Canada. Despite this distinction, I remember it as a small city, pleasant and walkable with lively neighborhoods, wonderful museums, and welcoming public parks. However, it’s been a long time since my visit, so it’s time for a return trip.

The Maritime Provinces

The Canadian Maritimes form the country’s east coast, and are generally considered to consist of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island . . . and sometime Newfoundland and Labrador.

One fall about 20 years ago we drove north Boston, through New Brunswick along the Bay of Fundy, and then on through Nova Scotia and part of Newfoundland. It was a wonderful trip. I had the best lobster bisque in the world in New Brunswick; we felt so at home in picture-perfect Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, that we looked (at least briefly) at real estate there; I was deeply moved by the thought of being a woman at the isolated Viking settlement in Newfoundland; we couldn’t get enough of the rugged, slightly desolate, scenery of Newfoundland; and we still great each other on rainy days with “It’s a beautiful day. . . in Newfoundland” and laugh at the warmth of the people who saw the beautify even in damp, grey weather. I want to go back here.

A Few Resources

Canadian Holidays is an official site of the Canadian Tourism Commission. It includes travel information for all of Canada.

Leigh McAdam, the blogger behind Hike Bike Travel, lives in Canada and traveled at least a bit of the entire county. Although her focus is on outdoor activities (if you want to know the best place to hike, bike, or paddle, she’ll know where you should go), she covers a broad range of what there is to see and do in her home county.

Canadian Flag

6 thoughts on “Exploring Canada”

    1. Hey, you are a GREAT resource for anyone traveling to Canada! I’m glad the formatting makes at least a little sense. . . it’s so hard to figure out how to arrange info for a whole country, and especially since many of my trips were before I had the blog.

  1. We feel in love with Canada. I visited for the first time in 2016 and we’ve been back 3 times since and planning a 4th trip. Spring 2016 was Victoria and Vancouver, we hike some of the Juan de Fuca trail. Summer 2016 we went to Montreal to visit my Parisian friends and eat our hearts out, food was great. Fall 2017 was back to Vancouver Island to hike the Juan De Fuca again, visit Avatar in Port Renfew, and go on a grizzly tour. Now we’re thinking of going to Banff for winter fun. Like your list here and give us ideas for future trips :)

  2. Very comprehensive post about Canada. I’ve seem some of the beautiful provinces and cities you mention here, like Banff National Park, Vancouver and Toronto. I recently took a trip to Quebec City and I absolutely loved it too. Haven’t seen the maritime provinces yet. I would particularly like to explore Nova Scotia (although I am not a great fan of the lobster bisque).

    1. Thank you, Anda. I haven’t gotten to Quebec City yet — it’s one of the few gaps in my southern Canada travels and your lovely post reminded me that I need to get it on my travel list! I love the Maritimes – and they don’t force you to eat the lobster bisque :-) Lunenburg is one of my favorite cities in the world, but I love all the wild places the most! (How are you with mussels? They have wonderful mussels in Nova Scotia!) I hope you get there soon!

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