Canada is the world’s second-largest country and from the east to west coast, there are beautiful lesser-known spots ready to be discovered. Here is our list of our favourite hidden gems of Canada.
Lake Erie Shoreline, Ontario
Muskoka, Georgian Bay, Lake Huron and now Prince Edward County get all the headlines. But the north shore of Lake Erie in Ontario, sometimes called Ontario’s forgotten shoreline, has charm to spare. And zero city attitude. Port Stanley and Port Dover both offer fantastic beaches with warm, shallow water in summer.
There’s also great food to be found and wonderful wines. Try Burning Kiln near Turkey Point or Oxley Estate in Harrow, Ont. Also excellent is Muscedere, not far from Windsor. Don’t forget to check out Point Pelee, the southernmost point of mainland Canada.
This is one surprising little city on the prairies. The annual Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan Festival is cheeky and fun, with excellent acting. Ayden Kitchen and Bar is one of my favourite restaurants in Canada, with a very urban, Toronto-Montreal feel.
There’s an excellent riverside park system, or you can go canoeing or kayaking down the South Saskatchewan River. There’s even a nude beach.
There’s a very artsy feel to this area, a couple hours east of Quebec City in a natural valley. The main street in Baie St. Paul is lined with galleries and fun shops. Try golfing, or take a whale watch cruise on the St. Lawrence River, which slices through the region.
Also pretty is the Parc national des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Riviere-Malbaie, where tour boats will take you up a narrow lake hemmed in by tall, rocky cliffs. Tour guides delight in finding odd shapes among the rocks.
Charlottetown gets more tourists, but Summerside has a ton of charm. Look for handsome, brick buildings with tons of character, tree-lined streets, a nice waterfront shopping area with a wooden boardwalk called Spinnakers’ Landing, and lots more. Be sure to look for Norman Zeledon’s food truck (it’s called The Galley) often parked across the street from the centre. He does a great job melding Canadian classics with influences from his native Nicaragua.
Don’t miss an ice cream cone at nearby Holman’s, housed inside a historic building with lovely gardens. Not far away from Summerside is Cap Egmont, home to one of two small villages in PEI fashioned out of old wine bottles.
They grow them tough in the Yukon, a territory where people put up with stunningly difficult winters but manage to survive with a smile. There are several good restaurants in town, with everything from Italian to southeast Asian to Jamaican. Try the scones and excellent coffee at Baked Café.
Also check out the lively MacBride Museum of Yukon History, which lays out the colourful (and then some) history of this frontier town and also talks about the trials and triumphs of pioneer women in the region. Be sure to take in a walk along the Yukon River in Miles Canyon, where you’ll find easy walking trails, large bluffs overlooking the water and a pretty suspension bridge built in 1922.
Woody Point, Newfoundland
This is a town that’s getting more attention of late thanks to its annual Festival of Writers and Music. They’ve managed to attract such names as Margaret Atwood, so it won’t be a secret for long. Woody Point is a colourful village on the shores of Bonne Bay, with good restaurants and lively pubs and cafes. Bonne Bay is fantastic for exploring in a boat or a sea kayak. Stunning Gros Morne National Park is only a few minutes up the road.
Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta
Most foreign visitors (and Canadians) head to Banff and Lake Louise or Jasper. While these are breathtaking destinations in Canada, they can get fairly crowded. Consider exploring Waterton Lakes. Located a few hours south of Calgary, you’ll find magnificent mountain scenery and wonderful roads that are great for a drive in your car.
Better yet, rent a moped in town and explore Red Rock Canyon or head up the Akamina Parkway to quiet and calm Cameron Lake, where you can rent a canoe or kayak. Don’t miss a ride on the tour boat that takes you down Waterton Lake and into U.S. waters.
Sunshine Coast, B.C.
This is a tad hard to reach, as you have to take a ferry from West Vancouver to get here. You’ll get off in the town of Gibsons, which is home to Molly’s Reach. Molly’s is known to many Canadians as the café feature on the TV show, The Beachcombers. There is a nice patio and good food, and it’s a cute town with a lively main street and a pretty marina. But don’t stop there.
Continue on up the road to Sechelt, where you’ll find wonderful kayaking on Sechelt Inlet. The folks at Pedals and Paddles do a great job. Or try a cruise boat around lovely Pender Harbour and admire the mountains and waterfront homes.
Thunder Bay, Ontario
This is a fun town with fantastic nature all around. Kakabeka Falls isn’t as high as the Niagara Falls, but the water positively thunders over the rocks and down a narrow, beautiful canyon. There are excellent hiking trails.
Also impressive is Ouimet Canyon, just east of the city. Not far from there is Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, with tremendous views of Lake Superior and wonderful hiking trails for all levels of hiker. And don’t miss a chance to check out the Terry Fox Monument, a fitting tribute to a Canadian hero that’s located just a few minutes east of Thunder Bay, just off the Trans Canada Highway.
In town, be sure to check out the legendary Hoito, a Finnish spot famous for pancakes and hearty breakfasts. They’ve done a lovely job with new waterfront parks. Bight Restaurant is on the water and serves up lovely meals in a bright, airy building. There’s a sleek art gallery next door, too.
Fredericton, New Brunswick
Fredericton isn’t a big city, but it’s one of the hidden gems of Canada. There are some excellent places to eat, including 540 Kitchen and Lunar Rogue, a casual pub that features more than 600 types of whisky.
Take a walk along the river at sunset for lovely views and check out the outstanding art collection at the Beaverbrook Gallery, a Canadian cultural gem. Better yet, come on Acadian Day and watch the relatives of French settlers party like it’s 1699.
That wraps up our list of some hidden gems in our great country. If you’re ready to explore Canada, use Skyscanner’s flight search to compare prices with our 1,200+ partners.