25 Reasons to Visit Canada

From majestic natural wonders to some of the world’s coolest cities (featuring food that’ll knock your socks off), Canada is the place to visit in 2017 - for everyone. Here’s why.

Canada has some of the world's most amazing natural wonders

With 16 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, there’s a lot to marvel over - and Instagram - in Canada. Head to Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, where you’ll find fossils up to 75 million years old, or ski the slopes at Whistler, Canada’s premier ski and snowboard resort (which, incidentally, is open seven months a year - one of the longest ski seasons in the world).

In summer, you can take a glass-bottom gondola around the majestic mountains and in winter - of course - you can enjoy fresh dumps of powder-white snow daily. But there’s more to Canada than Whistler - you could visit Gros Morne National Park, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, in Newfoundland.

With diverse landscapes that cover beaches, mountains and even glaciers, this place is truly something to behold. At almost 2000 square kilometres, there’s so much to see and do here - spectacular fjords, heavenly hiking trails, and tablelands that appear to stretch for days.

Or you could get off the beaten track and head to the Bay of Fundy, a UNESCO Biosphere, where you can walk the ocean floor at low tide, or coast along the Dempster Highway, North America’s all-season highway to cross the Arctic Circle.

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Even if you’re not normally a sports fan, it’s worth checking out a game of ice hockey in Canada. It’s one of two national sports (the other is lacrosse) and watching a live game at a stadium is a true spectacle. Catching a National Hockey League game should definitely be on your Canadian to-do list - the games are wild and intense, and we bet you’ll soon find yourself cheering along for “your” team.

You'll love the food

Few foods are so inextricably linked to Canada as poutine, a dish of chips smothered in gravy and topped with cheese curds (trust us, it tastes a lot better than it sounds).

Think of it as the late-night kebab of Canada, and enjoy it after a night of craft brewed Canadian ales.

For a doughnut fix like no other, head to Tim Horton’s, a popular cafe chain that sells great glazed doughnuts (in flavours like chocolate glazed, apple fritter and Canadian maple).

Sweet tooths should lookout for Beaver Tails (croissant-style pastry topped with berries and whipped cream) and Nanaimo bars (similar to our caramel slice, but with custard instead of caramel). And of course, there’s maple syrup everything in Canada - it’s only natural, considering Canada produces 85 per cent of the world’s supply.

The dining scene is unreal

Eating out in Canada is exceptional - the dining scene is vibrant, diverse, and most importantly, delicious. In Montreal, many restaurants have French influences (try Le St-Urbain and La Recolte, two of the city’s hottest restaurants right now), but there are also world-class Italian joints and plenty of hip farm-to-table places.

In Vancouver, head to the buzzy neighbourhood of Gastown for cool cafes (like The Birds and The Beets), swanky wine bars (L’Abattoir) and craft beer breweries (Alibi Room).

Seafood lovers will find their nirvana in British Columbia - here, seafood is sublime and relatively inexpensive. Try oysters at Blue Water Cafe and fresh Dungeness crab at Rodney’s Oyster House, both in Vancouver.

Photo Credit: Granville Island
Photographer: Dominic Schaefer

Liberal Politics means friendly locals

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

With strict gun control, publicly funded health care and legalised same-sex marriage, Canada has strong social values that make for a friendly visit.

In fact, Canadians are known for their friendly demeanours and helpful natures - so if you find yourself lost, a Canadian is bound to be able to help you out with directions, and maybe even a suggestion for your next lunch stop.

Canada is really safe!

Renowned for its friendly locals, Canada is one of the safest countries in the world.

In fact, police-reported crime has consistently been in decline for more than two decades here.

Tourists can feel safe knowing that property and violent crime rates are both very low.

The Royals love to visit

Canada is part of the British commonwealth, meaning the Royals get to drop by when they like.

Just after their 2011 wedding, Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge visited Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Charlottetown, Summerside,Yellowknife, Calgary and Slave Lake.

This year, they’ll visit again, and it’s rumoured that Prince George and Princess Charlotte will be making the trip with them. Prince Edward and his wife, Sophie, also made the trip this year, visiting Saskatchewan and Winnipeg.

Want to see the Northern Lights? No problem. Almost everywhere in Canada promises a great view of aurora borealis.

There are some spots that are especially stand-out, though, like Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories, which is directly under the auroral oval, providing unobstructed views.

Yellowknife also has very low precipitation rates, making for clear views (most of the time!).

But there’s more than that. You can sail Haida Gwaii, the so-called “Galapagos of the North”. For those willing to step off the beaten track, Haidi Gwaii offers a first-hand look at one of the world’s oldest and most advanced indigenous cultures.

The Haida are one of the indigenous peoples of Canada, and here, their culture comes alive. The Gwaii Hanas National Park Reserve makes up more than one third of this archipelago (it’s made up of 450 small islands) and was named one of the top parks in North America by National Geographic Traveler. As well as majestic rainforests, you’ll see bald eagles, bears, sea lions and even orca whales.

Then there’s Liard Hot Springs, on the Alaska Highway. This is a must if you’re headed through Canada to Alaska. As well as soaking your tired muscles (after long days exploring Canada, you might need it), you look out to the lush forest that surrounds you. Even better? A day pass will set you back just $5. What are you waiting for?

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It has a robust wine industry

Though it’s known for its harsh winters, Canada produces some truly amazing wines. The best known regions are the Niagara Peninsula,south of Ontario, and the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.

Both are excellent for wine tours, but if you don’t have enough time, be sure to seek out Canadian wines when you eat out.

Look for merlots, pinot noirs and petit verdots from British Columbia, and malbecs, rieslings and vidals from Ontario.

Also, be sure to give ice wine a go - it’s a sweet dessert wine made with frozen grapes, which give the wine its distinctive concentrated flavour.

The Skiing is superb

There are plenty of places to ski in Canada, but one of the best spots is Banff, Canada’s first national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

With breathtaking mountains and rivers, Banff is beautiful for a summer or winter visit, but the town truly comes alive in the colder months, when locals and tourists alike make the most of the amazing runs.

If you happen to be there in summer, though, you’ll get to see Bow River in all its glory - with its glass-like surface and verdant surrounds, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re looking at a painting.

Canada is rich with French heritage

French Canadians make up about 20 per cent of Canada’s total population, meaning you’ll get to soak up plenty of French culture during your stay.

Most French Canadians are concentrated in Quebec, where much of the architecture is similar to what you’d find in France itself.

Walk around Old Quebec and take in the sights - Notre Dame de Quebec Basilica Cathedral and the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, stop for a shopping spree along the rue Saint-Jean and of course, grab a bite at one of the city’s many traditional French patisseries (La Boite a Pain is top of our list).

Want to see a baby bear riding on its Mum’s back? An elk crossing a highway? A reindeer on the slopes? How about a polar bear? Head to Canada (where, FYI, 50 per cent of the world’s polar bears live). Canada’s fauna is amazingly diverse, and strong conservation efforts mean that uniquely Canadian wildlife like mountain lions, muskrats and black bears can continue to thrive in their native lands.

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The arts scene is alive and well

Canada has a thriving arts and cultural scene, with so much on that you’re bound to see some amazing exhibits during your time there.

In Ottawa, the capital, the National Arts Center is home to the National Orchestra, the National English Theatre, the National French Theatre and the National Dance Company - there’s always something to see here.

The NAC also hosts live music, and in 2017, will celebrate Canada Day with the Canada Scene Festival. With over 1000 artists performing 150 events over 45 days, it’s going to be like nothing the country has seen before.

Also in Ottawa, you’ll find the National Gallery of Canada, home to stunning collections of Canadian (including indigenous), Asian and international art.

For contemporary art, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA) in Toronto is a must, as well as Diaz Contemporary (also in Toronto) and the Art Gallery of Ontario.

There's always something to celebrate

Canadians love a festival. For theatre lovers, there’s the International Fringe Theater Festival (the world’s second largest), in Edmonton, which has been running since 1982. Each year the festival attracts more than 800 performers who take part in 200 shows.

In Montreal, the annual Jazz Festival is the biggest of its kind in the world, with more than 2.5 million visitors every year. If pyrotechnics are your thing, head to the Vancouver Celebration of Light, a fireworks competition that’ll blow you away.

The Calgary Stampede, held in July, celebrates all things rodeo, while the Montreal Just for Laughs Comedy Festival features some of the world’s leading comedians. In 2017, it celebrates its 35th anniversary - and the party is bound to be big.

Film lovers should head to the Toronto Film Festival, and music lovers shouldn’t miss the Edmonton Folk Festival, where performers live Joni Mitchell, Norah Jones and Van Morrison have graced the stage over the years.

OK, so Niagara Falls isn’t the world’s tallest waterfall. In fact, it’s only the 50th tallest in the world. That doesn’t matter though, because what it lacks in height, it makes up for with volume.
Here, more than a million bathtubs of water rain down - every second. Even in winter, when ice freezes the edges solid, and occasionally stops the waterfall altogether, it’s still a remarkable sight to behold.

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It's great for the kids

The locals are friendly and the country’s as safe as they come, which means you can head to Canada with the kids without a moment’s hesitation.

Canada is all about wide open spaces and fresh air, so make the most of it with your little ones. Most cities are good for cycling (or have parks where you can cycle safely), and the Canadian National Park system has a map of easy hikes all over the country.

If you’re near a lake, hire a canoe or kayak. Near the coast? Give surfing a go - the waves are very gentle, so they’re great for little ones learning to hang ten. And of course, most ski resorts offer classes for kids.

Camping is popular in Canada, too, which is ideal if you’re with kids and on a budget.

It's affordable

Unlike the US, where the Aussie dollar rarely stretches very far, we’re basically at parity with the Canadian dollar. Budget hotel rooms start from around $65, and many cities are more affordable than their US counterparts. Ottawa, for instance, was named the most affordable North American city.

It's made for a road trip

Canada is vast, but it’s also blessed with the Trans-Canada Highway, which stretches over 8000 km, from Newfoundland to British Columbia.

Hire a car (or buy a used one, if you’re lucky enough to have a few months in Canada) and hit the road. You could travel down the Atlantic coastline and visit lighthouses, quaint storybook-perfect villages and excellent B&Bs (they’re everywhere).

Start in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and travel south through the Bay of Fundy and Lunenberg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famed for its distinctive 18th and 19th century architecture.

Or you could drive the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia, where you’ll watch lakes become oceans as the cliff-top roads lead you on and on. The best part of the trail is Cape Breton Island, where the views truly need to be seen to be believed.

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It's easy to communicate with the locals

While Canada has two national languages - English and French - more than 85 per cent of Canadians speak English, so getting around is no trouble. Forget miscommunication with your hotel or missing out on a booking at the restaurant you were dying to try - the ease of communication here will make everything a breeze.

Canadian's are patriotic

From wearing the national symbol - the maple leaf - on just about everything, to eating maple syrup itself by the truckload, to cheering for their favourite ice hockey team, to proudly using their national slang (make sure you Google “two-four” and “gitch” before you head), Canadians love their country. And if they love it so much, chances are, you will too.

It’s perfect for any season

Yes, winter in Canada will fulfill all of your white Christmas fantasies (and then some). But Canada is beautiful all year long.Make the most of summer by exploring the Yukon - you can canoe in a wild river, hike the iconic Cottonwood trail, ride a horse or grab a mountain bike and pedal across an alpine meadow (yes, really - it’s that picture-perfect).

Autumn and spring are the perfect times to visit Canada’s bigger cities, like Quebec, Montreal and Vancouver - the weather will be warm, but not oppressively so.

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You can visit the only walled city in North America

Did you know that Quebec is a walled city? What’s more, it’s the only walled city remaining in North America. Two of the walls date back as far as 1694, when Canada was still a French colony.

The gates have mostly been rebuilt, due to damage over the years, but they still offer a glimpse of Old Europe in North America. And what’s inside them is even better - Quebec is a diverse, vibrant city perfect for walking and exploring.

You can - and should - visit a maple syrup farm

Maple syrup doesn’t grow on trees… oh wait, it does! And you can tour the farms that cultivate these trees, and as well as learning about the syrup-making process, sample some of the goods (because we know that’s why you’re really here).

You can visit "cottage country"

“Cottage country” is Canadian for towns and villages near lakes and by the coast, perfect for weekend getaways.

If you’re in Toronto, it’s well worth a visit to Muskoka Cottage Country, about two hours north of the city. Yep - just two hours’ drive from Canada’s busiest city lies a tranquil natural wonderland.

With countless waterfalls and lakes around the 17 towns and villages that make up Muskoka, there’s room for everyone. This is the summer holiday you always dreamed of - campfires, canoeing, beach volleyball.

Imagine ice skating across Lake Louise, or skiing down theslopes at Whistler on December 25. Canada really comes into its own at Christmas time, when the mountains slip on their winter coats, fairy lights sparkle across villages and the locals dress their homes for the silly season.

In Toronto, head to the Cavalcade of Lights, an annual holiday tradition where the official city Christmas tree is lit for the first time - it’s magical.Catch a performance of The Nutcracker by the National Ballet of Canada, see a real reindeer and enjoy a snow-filled white Christmas.

Presented by Destination Canada in association with the Australian Women's Weekly.