What comes to mind when you first think of Canada? The crashing waters of Niagara Falls? The towering skyscrapers of Toronto? The friendliness of the Canadian people? Poutine? Whatever it might be, you’re likely to come across it in one of these eight Canadian travel spots. From laid-back surf communities, to natural marvels, to gold rush-era towns, Canada offers extreme diversity in terms of places to visit depending on what it is you’re looking for. Take a look at these eight spots across Canada — one of them just might be your next destination.
1. Tofino, British Columbia
Yes, you can surf in BC. The laid-back vibe of the country’s preeminent surf town, located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, stems from the hippie roots of the area, which brims with artisan boutiques and health-conscious restaurants. In the winter, high winds whip the wild coastline, making storm watching a favorite pastime.
2. St. Andrews by-the-Sea, New Brunswick
The entire town is a designated Historic District, upping the charm quotient of this already enchanting spot on the Atlantic. Aquatic delights include a warm saltwater cove for bathing and whale watching. Don’t miss a visit to historic Minister’s Island and the renowned — and reportedly haunted — Algonquin Hotel.
3. Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
Ties to the criminal underworld of the Prohibition era make for some seriously shady history in southern Saskatchewan. Guided tours reveal the nefarious goings-on in the Tunnels of Moose Jaw. You can step into the shoes of a bootlegger circa 1929 during “The Chicago Connection” tour, which reopened in July 2021, and head underground with one of Al Capone’s goons.
4. Banff, Alberta
Can’t get enough majestic mountain vistas and bright blue glacier-fed lakes? Escape to this alpine enclave in the Canadian Rockies. Hiking, biking, and kayaking fill summer days. In the winter, groomed trails and Champagne Powder lure skiers and snowboarders from around the globe. Year-round, enjoy world-class restaurants and bumping nightlife.
5. Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia
You’ll find a gracious welcome in this pretty harborside town, known for its colorful Victorian houses, long seafaring history, and maritime hospitality. After browsing the many galleries and shops hawking handcrafted wares, swill a pint of locally brewed ale at Saltbox Brewing Co. Every September, the Scarecrow Festival features 250 life-size scarecrows and other events.
6. Tobermory, Ontario
Under the towering cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment and bordered by two national parks, this lakeside town flaunts natural beauty in spades. Hike the trails along Lake Huron, or get a different perspective out on the water. Paddle your own craft, or take a tour to picturesque Flowerpot Island. You can even suit up for a dive to explore underwater cliffs, caves, and 20-plus shipwrecks.
7. Dawson City, Yukon
This quintessential boomtown was built by fortune-seekers during the Klondike Gold Rush (you can learn more about it at the Dawson Historical Complex). Pan for riches just north of Bonanza Creek, then catch a cancan show at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Gambling Hall, Canada’s oldest casino. Finally, don’t miss Bombay Peggy’s Pub, where the cocktail names (the Bloomer Remover, the Tempter) harken back to to its origins as a brothel.
8. Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec
This petite package packs a big culture punch. A short drive from Le Massif de Charlevoix ski resort, this charming town boasts several blocks of locally owned shops and galleries, plus restaurants that have garnered buzz in the formidable Quebecois foodie scene. Many visitors ride the Charlevoix train to or from Quebec City for a more intimate view of the region and its coastal villages.
A version of this article appeared in our partner magazine, Best Small Towns, in 2022.