Beaches? Castles? Canada has that, too!
When you live in a country as big as Canada, it’s bound to be diverse. So it shouldn’t be surprising (though it often is) to learn that many of the types of attractions we travel abroad to see, exist, in one form or another, in our own country. There’s the obvious. We have mountains, forests, waterfalls, glaciers and lakes galore, plus multicultural neighbourhoods and buildings by star architects (Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, Mies van der Rohe and Santiago Calatrava) in Toronto, and a hint old Europe in Quebec City for starters. With Canada Day here, it’s an ideal time to sing the praises of this country’s under appreciated gems. (QMI Agency)
When you live in a country as big as Canada, it’s bound to be diverse. So it shouldn’t be surprising (though it often is) to learn that many of the types of attractions we travel abroad to see, exist, in one form or another, in our own country.
There’s the obvious. We have mountains, forests, waterfalls, glaciers and lakes galore, plus multicultural neighbourhoods and buildings by star architects (Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, Mies van der Rohe and Santiago Calatrava) in Toronto, and a hint old Europe in Quebec City for starters.
With Canada Day approaching, it’s an ideal time to sing the praises of this country’s underappreciated gems.
Canadians pay hundreds of dollars to fly to great beach destinations in the Caribbean, Florida and Hawaii every year. But when was the last time you enjoyed a summer day on one of Canada’s great beaches?
We have ocean beaches such as Cavendish Beach on Prince Edward Island — great for family frolicks and clam digging; Long Beach on Vancouver Island; and Parlee Beach — New Brunswick’s “Favourite Beach Destination,” according to a sign near the entrance. Or enjoy long sandy stretches along one of our lakes such as Grand Beach on Lake Winnipeg; Wasaga Beach along Ontario’s Georgian Bay (the world’s longest freshwater beach at 14 km); Sauble Beach on Lake Huron (the second- longest freshwater beach at 11 km long); or the endless dunes at Sandbanks Provincial Park on Lake Ontario.
Mention the word castle and chances are it conjures up an image of a grand mansion with turrets located in Europe.
Did you know Canada has more than a dozen castles? Okay they may not fit the traditional definition — fortified structures built by nobles — but they are castles in name and were once owned by prominent Canadians.
Ontario has Casa Loma in Toronto and Dundurn Castle in Hamilton. The Chateau Frontenac Hotel in Quebec City is castle-like and you can spend the night there. In Victoria, there’s Craigdarroch Castle, built between 1887-1890 for Robert Dunsmuir, a Scottish immigrant who made his fortune from Vancouver Island coal. Now a National Historic Site, visitors can take a self-guided tour of 39 rooms, see stained glass windows, Victorian-era furnishings and climb the stairs to the tower for views of Victoria, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains.
Can’t make it all the way to Israel or Jordan to experience the Dead Sea? Then head to Saskatchewan’s Little Manitou Lake, which has equally salty waters. Like the Dead Sea, you can float without effort in these mineral-rich waters (magnesium, carbonate, potassium, mineral salts, sodium, calcium, iron, silica and sulphur) which can help alleviate a variety of ailments, including aching joints. You can also soak in an indoor pool, which takes its water from the lake, at the Manitou Springs Hotel and Mineral Spa. Visit Tourism Saskatchewan at sasktourism.com.
You don’t have to go all the way to the Sahara, Gobi or Kalahari to experience a desert. Canada has a small desert of its own.
It’s a 100-hectare “pocket desert” in Osoyoos, B.C. — Canada’s driest spot, which gets less than 300 mm of precipitation a year. The landscape is dominated by sand, sagebrush and the endangered antelope brush ecosystem, which features an ever-changing display of flowering plants from spring through fall, not to mention rattlesnakes, lizards and other desert dwellers. The area is a northern tip of the Sonoran Desert. Learn more at the Osoyoos Desert Centre or take a guided or self-guided tour along a 1.5 km elevated wooden boardwalk. Check hellobc.com/osoyoos.
GEMS AND MINERALS
Rockhounds from around the world flock to Tucson, Ariz., every February for the biggest gem and mineral show in the U.S. But we have a similarly impressive show in Bancroft, Ont., called the Rockhound Gemboree (Aug. 1-4 this year). More than 100 dealers from across the globe display and sell gem and mineral specimens, jewelry and lapidary supplies. The event attracts thousands of collectors, rockhounds, geologists and enthusiasts of all ages who will come for the show and field trips to collect minerals. Bancroft is known as the “Mineral Capital of Canada” for the variety and quality of the mineral species found here. Check bancroftdistrict.com/gemboree.
Island lovers aren’t short of choices in Canada. In fact we have so many it seems no one has ever counted them all, but the total number, says the Canadian Encyclopedia, is “very large.”
In addition to our island provinces (Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island) the shore of Georgian Bay alone has about 30,000 islands. We have the world]s fifth-largest island (Baffin Island), and many that are popular tourism destinations. B.C. has Salt Spring, Galiano and Haida Gwaii (part of the Queen Charlotte Islands) and more, while Ontario boasts Manitoulin Island — said to be the largest freshwater island in the world with hiking trails and First Nations cultural programs — and tranquil Pelee Island, which has the distinction of being Canada’s southernmost point. On the east coast, Newfoundland has dozens of islands, including Fogo while New Brunswich has Campobello, Grand Manan, Deer, Miscou and more. Nova Scotia is also blessed with islands with notable ones including Sable Island, the permanent home of five people and about 400 wild horses.
If a trip to the Bard’s hometown in Stratford-upon Avon, England, is not on your agenda we have the next best thing — Stratford, Ont. Like its namesake, it has a river named Avon and is known for staging Shakespearean plays. Visit during the Stratford Shakespeare Festival from April to October for 12 plays in four theatres. This year’s highlights include Romeo and Juliet, the Merchant of Venice, Othello and Measure for Measure, and unShakespeare-like musicals Tommy and Fiddler On The Roof. Check welcometostratford.com.
Visiting a UNESCO World Heritage Site is often at the top of many travellers’ itineraries. Canada has 17 — counting the Red Bay Whaling Station in Labrador, a new one added just last week. And Alberta has five — more than any other province. These include Dinosaur Provincial Park, Head Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, and a few that are shared with neighbouring provinces, territories and states — Wood Buffalo National Park (Canada’s largest national park shared with NWT); Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks (with B.C.) and Waterton Glacier International Peace Park (with Montana).