Celebrating travel in Canada this summer, I’ve curated an unusual and entirely memorable experience from each province and territory. If they’re nearby, get going. If not, it’s never too late to plan the journey and the destination.
Bullet down an alpine coaster
Ski resorts are reinventing themselves as four-season getaways, but if you don’t mountain bike or hike, options can be pretty limited. Take your seat on a bobsled-like alpine coaster, braking for your nerves as you twist and bank on a narrow rail down the slopes. Alpine coasters are exhilarating, family friendly and currently found at Revelstoke and Cypress Mountain Resorts.
Stretch for a heli-yoga class in the Rockies
I lay my mat out, stretch, close my eyes and listen to my instructor calmly telling me to breathe. Good luck with that. We’re at the top of a mountain among the snow-capped peaks of the Rockies. The view is literally breathtaking. Operated by Rockies Heli Canada, heli-yoga is a true bucket-list yoga class. Namaste.
Explore the Big Muddy Badlands
’Twas a time when desperados roamed these parts, horse thievin’ on a trail that stretched all the way south to Mexico. A road trip into Big Muddy’s sandstone badlands delivers striking scenery, big sky and Wild West history. Gather your posse to explore the caves and hideouts of legendary outlaws Sam Kelly, Butch Cassidy and Dutch Henry.
Catfish on the Red River
The mutant catfish I saw swimming in the river next to the Chernobyl nuclear reactor were babies compared to the monsters that patrol the sandy depths of Manitoba’s Red River. Fishing guides use on-board GPS to locate your opponent, who will sap every ounce of your strength as you attempt to haul them up for a better look. Pay your respects to a trophy-sized 37-incher before you release it to live, swim and grow another day.
Go Underground inside the Diefenbunker
Should you need a reminder of what a true existential threat looks like, enter the blast tunnel of this former top-secret nuclear bunker outside of Ottawa. Today, the massive underground facility operates as a bone-chilling Cold War museum, reminding us just how close we were — and are — to mutually assured global destruction.
Canopy cycle in the forest
Ziplining is fun, biking is fun and tree-top canopy tours are fun, so let’s combine all three into a peculiar contraption called VéloVolant. Located in a four-season resort near the town of Sutton, welcome to the world’s highest suspended bicycle ride, allowing you to pedal along a one-kilometre circuit into a canopy of maple and pine forest.
Zipline over a raging waterfall
Ziplines are all about the environment in which you experience them. Here at Zig Zag Ziplines there are dual lines that span 150 metres across a gorge, with a raging whitewater below and one of the largest waterfalls in Canada to your left. Once your feet kick off the wooden platform, you’ll make the zip at 30 to 40 kilometres per hour. Located in the bilingual town of Grand Falls-Grand-Sault, rest assured your whoops and smiles translate well into any language.
Raise a Glass of Bubbly
With no disrespect to Champagne, the best glass of sparkling wine I’ve ever had was in Nova Scotia. The small vineyards that sit between the Atlantic and Bay of Fundy benefit from a climate that produces exceptional, globally-acclaimed sparklers. It’s also an exceptionally fetching part of the province, with all the gourmet and lifestyle trappings one would expect of a world-class, yet little-known wine destination.
Cycle from tip to tip
I salute those who commit to cycle from Tofino, B.C., to St. John’s, but my bucket list ride has few hills, gorgeous scenery, abundant food, lovely attractions and flowing beer. All of which are found on the tip-to-tip route across Prince Edward Island, making it an ideal multi-day cycling adventure. Pedal along a decommissioned railway track that meets up with smooth asphalt bikes lanes buttressing the red-sandy coastline. Brake for oysters, lobster and famous Atlantic hospitality.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Stroll the Wonderstrand
The Trans-Labrador Highway has some fascinating roadside attractions. Take a day tour from Cartwright to hike along the 54-kilometre sandy beach known as the Wonderstrand. Look out for icebergs, breaching whales and juicy orange bakeapples at your feet. Feel that sweet Atlantic breeze and you’ll quickly understand why so many travellers consider Labrador a hidden gem in itself.
Fly-in hiking in Ivvavik
Mount Everest receives more visitors each year, so just imagine the remoteness to be found in this 16,000-square kilometre national park. All the more to appreciate that Parks Canada has set up fly-in hiking camps, complete with hot showers, flush toilets, bear fencing and cooked meals. Day hikes to Ivvavik’s dramatic tors, the gemstone-coloured Firth River and along treeless valleys delivers pure backcountry nirvana.
By Odin’s beard, who can pass up the opportunity to hike, climb or photograph the highest uninterrupted rock face on the planet? Thor Peak is the star attraction of Auyuittuq National Park on Baffin Island. This one requires a lot of planning (and a decent budget), although tour operators take care of the logistics. Check out Royal Canadian Geographical Society Fellow Cory Trépanier’s Into the Arctic, an outstanding documentary about his adventures to Auyuittuq.
Visit a Pingo
There… was a hill on the per-ma-frost and Pingo was its name-o. If you find yourself in Inuvik or Tuktoyaktuk, consider flight-seeing or taking a boat tour to a unique geological formation known as a pingo: a mound of frozen earth that can rise up to 70-metres high and up to 600 metres in diameter. Resembling upside down teacups, there are 1,350 hills in the region, the most striking of which are protected at the Pingo National Landmark.