COVID-19 has been heartbreaking for Canadian tourism. Between the lockdowns, restrictions, enhanced protocols and now staffing shortages, too many unique experiences have not survived, and we’re a poorer nation for it. Still, in a clear sign of the industry’s resilience and dream-big attitude, dozens of new adventures and attractions have launched during the pandemic, many of which are worthy of anyone’s Canadian bucket list. Below are some hand-picked examples.
Both the vision and execution of Vancouver Island’s newest bucket list attraction take your breath away. Combining pristine nature and family-fun thrills, the Malahat Skywalk and its forest boardwalk is a must-stop roadside attraction on the highway between Victoria and Nanaimo. The skywalk spirals 10 storeys high and 250 metres over the gorgeous Saanich Inlet, and looks like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Inside the unique wooden structure is a 20-metre-long twisting metal slide, with the top platform offering 360-views, a nerve-rattling Adventure Net, and information about the region’s fauna, flora and Indigenous history.
Perfectly situated for road-trippers between B.C and Alberta, the Golden Skybridge has Canada’s two highest suspension bridges, giving us jaw-dropping views of the Rocky and Purcell Mountain ranges and a thundering waterfall in the Columbia Valley below. The attraction also has a Treetop Village Play Park for kids, a Canyon-Edge Challenge Ropes Course for all ages, and a 300-metre-long, 150-metre-high zipline. Easy walking trails and an on-site restaurant ensure there’s something here for everyone, with views that don’t quit.
Open Top Touring
Get a chauffeured experience of the Rockies with old-world charm thanks to Open Top Touring, a 1930s-inspired open-roof coach complete with a guide dressed in period costume. Don’t be fooled by its antique appearance: the coach also boasts modern comforts such as USB ports to keep your phone charged for all those wonderful photos. Excursions include a one-hour Castle, Gardens and Waterfall tour, a 90-minute Family Tour, and a 3.5-hour Moonshine and Microbrews Tour (no doubt popular with weddings and events taking place in Banff and Jasper).
Cloud Wolves of the Kaska Coast
Churchill Wild has long been one of the premier operators of polar bear safaris on Hudson Bay. This November, the company launches an eight-night wilderness safari focused on a more elusive Canadian predator. The resident packs of cloud wolves that live on the Kaska Coast of southern Hudson Bay – an area ten times the size of Yellowstone National Park – have never been hunted. This makes a bucket list wolf encounter far more likely, amidst the polar bears, moose, and other boreal wildlife you’ll encounter along the way. Based out of the Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, the itinerary includes daily excursions, educational presentations, field research, howl surveys, sky gazing for Northern Lights, and tips from National Geographic photographer-on-assignment, Jad Davenport.
Zip between the provinces
As with real estate, the world’s best ziplines are all about location, location, location. The world’s first interprovincial zipline opened for business in June 2021, bridging the provinces of Ontario and Québec with a bucket list aerial adventure. Interzip Rogers swoops you over the Ottawa River at 40 km/hr, travelling from Gatineau, Québec into the capital city on twinned ziplines that are more than 400 metres long. It’s a 40-second one-way trip, but the views of Parliament, downtown Ottawa and Gatineau give you bragging rights to last a lifetime.
Bucket lists often dream big, but this quirky new attraction is heavy on the small stuff. Launched in July 2021, Little Canada takes visitors on a journey across the country in highly detailed, mesmerizing miniature. Inspired by similar attractions in Europe and over a decade in the making, Little Canada combines model-making, electronics and visual arts to present Canada like you’ve never seen it before. It’s a world that operates on a 15-minute day; then, darkness falls and the 30,000 LED lights of Little Toronto, Petit Quebec, Little Ottawa and others switch on. Some 180,000 work hours have already been invested in this miniature dream, and the exhibit is constantly expanding to include more tiny glimpses of our very large nation.
Savour the Sea Caves
Walking the ocean floor of the Bay of Fundy has always been unique, but it’s never been delicious. A new Ocean Floor Culinary Adventure lets us dine on fresh locally-sourced New Brunswick fare, served alongside stories of the region’s natural and cultural history. Paired with drinks from local breweries and distilleries, the five-course dinner takes place on a secluded beach in the St. Martin’s Sea Caves, and the chef is Atlantic Canada’s Culinary Ambassador, the Kilted Chef Alaine Bosse. Adding to this unique dining location is the fact that the sea caves are part of the UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve, as well as the Stonehammer UNESCO Global Geopark.
Bison on the Plain
Shuttered by the pandemic, Saskatoon’s Wanuskewin Heritage Park has seen a rebirth in more ways than one. Having been hunted almost to extinction, a dozen plains bison were reintroduced in late 2019. In spring 2020, four healthy baby bison calves were born to the herd, and more calves are expected. Accompanying the success of this conservation herd is a $40 million renovation of the heritage park. Visitors can now enjoy a new bison viewing platform, entrance plaza, gift shop, art gallery, trail system and kids’ playground. An additional conference centre and permanent art exhibits are scheduled to open in the fall. The reintroduction of bison, a keystone species of the Great Plains, will undoubtedly remain a highlight.
Prince Edward Island
The Island Walk
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Cycling from tip-to-tip across Prince Edward Island is a highlight of my Canadian Bucket List. If you have more time on your hands and good shoes on your feet, consider the new 700-kilometre walking trail that loops around the island. Inspired by the Camino de Santiago (expect more seafood and fewer pilgrims), it takes approximately 32 days to complete a circuit of the Gentle Island, walking about 20 to 25 kilometres a day. For the less ambitious, break the trail up into any of its 32 sections, and spend more time exploring lush regions like Cavendish or the dramatic red coast of PEI National Park. Either way, the Island Walk is sure to make waves in the world of long-distance walking adventure.
Shark tagging with the Shark Co.
Ocean fishing in Northern Bonavista Bay is beautiful, especially when you throw in a shark conservation adventure. Depending on the season, you’ll be looking to catch a blue or porbeagle shark with aptly named local angling outfitter, The Shark Co. Both sharks are under threat: blues are being hunted for fins and leather, while porbeagles are categorized as vulnerable due to overfishing and bycatch. Once you land a shark on the hook and reel it towards the boat, you’ll name, measure, categorize and tag the animal before releasing it back into the ocean, contributing to the study and hopeful survival of these apex ocean predators.
Mount Logan Lodge
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Many tourism businesses have had to adapt or die during the pandemic, some with greater success than others. Located outside of Haines Junction and offering impressive views of Kluane National Park, Mount Logan Lodge has evolved into an eco-lodge with unique experiences, including a two-level glamping tent, an aurora-viewing yurt, and a Gold Rush-era cabin. It also opened up a “pod” barrel for accommodation (see above) with views of the mountains, and if you’re lucky, a view of the aurora borealis from the comfort of your queen bed.