Travel without the crowds

July 28, 2021

As restrictions lift and stress is eased, our love of travel will be coming back with a vengeance. After being stuck at home, our need for adventure, culture, relaxation and gastronomic delights is itching to be scratched. For those who are still cautious about travelling far from home or being surrounded by crowds at popular sites, we’ve picked out some Canadian locales that are a bit less popular than the big tourist spots like Banff or Niagara Falls or Montreal, but are just as worthy. Fewer people means you can roam more safely and comfortably while you get your travel feet under you once again.

Vancouver Island, British Columbia

While Victoria is a treasured city, with charming scenery and sites, including Butchart Gardens, Craigdarroch Castle and Victoria Butterfly Gardens, the island beyond BC’s capital city has equally breathtaking locales. Clayoquot Sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean on the island’s westside, is a rare coastal temperate rainforest. The area is home to coniferous trees (some of the world’s largest and oldest trees), making it unique from other temperate rainforests. Head east to Campbell River and walk through Elk Falls Provincial Park to spot the thundering waterfall of the same name from the suspension bridge that hangs more than 60 metres above the canyon. Go on a tasting trail through Nanaimo to savour the Canadian favourite Nanaimo bar treat. When you’ve had enough of the sweet treat, catch your own fresh seafood for a feast. Visitors can also enjoy a whale watching tour, see harbour seals and watch the daily cannon firing ceremony on the waterfront.

Kananaskis Country, Alberta (pictured)

Just south-east of the more popular Banff National Park is another perfect site for those wanting to go off the beaten path. Enjoy the picturesque mountains and foothills any time of year: Go hiking, mountain biking and fishing in the summer, and skiing, snowshoeing and dog sledding in the winter. There’s even a golf course and horse trails to enjoy. For those seeking adventure, try your hand at scrambling – a term to describe using your hands when you’re walking a steep terrain. It’s something between hiking and rock climbing. However you get around, wildlife is plentiful, including grizzly bears, cougars, bighorn sheep and golden eagles. Nestled amongst the majestic mountains, find an abundance of lodging options to suit all sleeping preferences, from campgrounds and cabins to hotels and vacation homes.

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

This Prairie city is an up-and-coming hot spot with a relaxed, welcoming spirit. Saskatoon has seen an influx in restaurants and breweries for gourmet experiences with local flavours, such as the Saskatoon berry, beef, wild rice and lentils. After a big meal, walk it off on the pretty river trails along the South Saskatchewan River. Appreciate the province’s –and Canada’s – rich Indigenous history at the Wanuskewin Heritage Park. The area holds some incredible archaeological finds that pre-date even Egyptian pyramids. Find more arts and culture in the many festivals, galleries and museums throughout, including the Western Development Museum, Saskatchewan Railway Museum and the relatively new Remai Modern. For camping, hiking and biking adventures, head out of town to Antelope Lake Regional Park or Blackstrap Provincial Park. Those with little ones will enjoy Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park & Zoo, Beaver Creek Conservation Area and the Nutrien Wonderhub

Churchill, Manitoba

Okay, so Churchill is actually one of the most popular Canadian spots, but surprisingly very few Manitobans ever visit this world-class destination in our own backyard. Understandably, many would prefer to spend their vacation time and money to head for sunshine and beaches, but a visit to Churchill will warm your heart. (Cheesy line required to accurately describe just how amazing this place is.) Whether you go during beluga whale season in the early summer or polar bear season in the fall, the town will make you forget about weather reports. Put on a dry suit (warmer than a wet suit) to go scuba diving in the frigid waters with beluga whales or head out on the tundra buggy for encounters with polar bears. For history buffs, see the ruins of Cape Merry and the shipwrecked Miss Piggy. This is a trip of a lifetime that is too close to ignore.

Dawson City, Yukon

Get the most of your vacation days in the land of the midnight sun. When the sun does set, watch the northern lights dancing across the sky (best viewed between the end of August until April). During the day, be immersed in the history and culture of this town (yes it’s a town, not officially a city). While the Klondike Gold Rush put Dawson City and Yukon on the map in 1898, these days the area brings in more tourists than prospectors. Enjoy fun festivals, go panning for gold, visit the many National Historic Sites and learn about the customs and traditions of the area’s First Nations people before the gold rush. Plus, the natural surroundings can’t be beat. Located between the Yukon and Klondike Rivers and at the base of Tombstone Mountain, there are ample options for hiking, camping and wildlife viewing.

Fredericton, New Brunswick

New Brunswick is often the forgotten Atlantic province as Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island more often capture the tourists, but it shouldn’t be ignored. It has the things one looks to when they head east, including fresh seafood, beautiful scenery and incredible entertainment. Fredericton can cater to everyone’s needs, whether you’re after arts and culture, family fun or the great outdoors. Tour Mactaquac Biodiversity Facility, one of the largest Atlantic salmon conservation hatcheries in the world or go on a nature treasure hunt through woods and beaver ponds of Mactaquac Provincial Park in the Great Canadian Beaver Pond Voyage. Military buffs will appreciate Officers’ Square and the NB Military History Museum. The city is also known for its craft brewing, with 26 craft alcohol producers in the region. Enjoy (responsibly) the Fredericton Taproom Trail as you sip your way through pints and flights from an abundance of taprooms.

Whenever you leave the province, don’t forget to purchase travel coverage. Even within Canada, you are not fully covered for injuries and illnesses away from home. You can purchase coverage from Manitoba Blue Cross in minutes.

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