Whale watching – killer opportunity: From zodiac boat excursions to kayaking tours, whale watching is available on both coasts. In British Columbia, humpbacks, orcas (killer whales), grays and minkies are the levitahan stars, with Victoria and Vancouver two of the biggest bases for boat trips. In central Canada, operators such as Lazy Bear Expeditions showcase the massing of Beluga whales in Hudson Bay and the Churchill River each July and August. In the maritime reaches of Québec’s St. Lawrence river, up to 13 species of whale are often found between May and October. lazybearlodge.com; bonjourquebec.com
Driving ambitions: Whether taming the all-season Dempster Highway linking Dawson City with Inuvik in the Arctic Circle or driving among Ontario’s Niagara wine country, Canada’s scenic highways are made for road trippers. British Columbia’s scenic ‘Sea to Sky’ highway from Vancouver to Whistler is classic drive while Alberta’s iconic ‘Icefields Parkway’, dissecting Banff and Jasper National Parks, 232 km stretch of double-lane highway that winds through soaring rocky mountain peaks, icefields and vast sweeping valleys. Come autumn, vibrant colours provide the backdrop to drives in Atlantic Canada, such as the coastal Cabot Trail around Cape Breton Island.
Make like a Voyageur: Grab an oar and follow the intrepid French-Canadian voyageur traders who criss-crossed Canada’s interior in their wooden canoes. Options range from quick lake paddles to multi-day excursions in replica multi-person canoes, as on British Columbia’s Fraser River or the Yukon’s Big Salmon and Yukon rivers. Resort options include BC’s Murtle and McGillivray lakes (the latter is an excursion offered by Sun Peaks resort), and Ontario’s Ottawa River. In Algonquin provincial park, enjoy wildlife viewing, fireside cook-ups and storytelling.
Canada’s Galapagos’: Tours of British Columbia’s Haida Gwaii archipelago centre on Haanas National Park Reserve, with guided hikes, kayaking excursions and scenic seaplane over photogenic landscapes. visits to the Unesco World Heritage Site of SGang Gwaay tell the story of the Haida Nation. At Skidegate, a Haida community, visit the Haida Heritage Centre and hike the Spirit Lake Trail. gohaidagwaii.ca
Get high in the Canadian Rockies: Drink in the majestic Canadian Rockies in British Columbia and Alberta, encompassing the National Parks of Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay and Waterton. The peak summer months bring optimum hiking and rafting conditions, while winter sees snowsports lovers swell resorts in Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper.
Soar over Niagara Falls: Experience Canada’s most famous natural wonder via a scenic helicopter flight. The 775-feet-high Skylon Tower also offers lofty views over the falls from its observation decks – or drink in the panoramic vistas from Queen Victoria Park. New since summer 2021, visitors can tour the historic Niagara Parks Power Station (there’s an immersive, illuminated night-time experience).
Gaze at the Northern Lights: Northern Canada’s dark skies showcase the Northern Lights (or Aurora Borealis). Viewable for much of the year, options range from two-hour excursions to multi-day packages. Top spots include Nunavut, Alberta, and, in the Northwest Territories, Great Slave Lake and Aurora Village near Yellowknife. At Takhini Hot Springs, Yukon, visitors can soak up the celestial light show in their swimwear.
travelyukon.com; spectacularnwt.com; travelmanitoba.com; destinationnunavut.ca
Snap polar bears on safari: Each October and/or November hundreds of polar bears gather close to the town of Churchill, Manitoba, accompanied by a secondary migration of snap-happy tourists who flock to capture this phenomenon from open-air viewing vehicles. The world’s polar bear capital offers accessible experiences, with specialists such as Churchill Wild ensuring visitors get close to the action. More exclusive packages are offered by remote, fly-in Manitoba lodges.
Rocky Mountaineer/The Canadian Rocky Mountaineer is a luxury rail experience that offers a combination of fine dining and a window on the passing wondrous scenery. The train’s glass-domed observation carriages provide a prime seat to view British Columbia and Alberta’s epic landscapes. Choose between Silver or Gold Leaf service and four memorable routes. Another classic rail journey sees Via Rail’s historic The Canadian travel from Toronto to Vancouver, a four-night/three-day adventure. rockymountaineer.com; viarail.ca/en
Track wild animals – bear essentials: Glimpse grizzly, black and brown bears in the wild: the animals begin to appear in the spring, as they emerge from hibernation. Between August and October, look for them foraging and hunting salmon. Popular viewing spots include Vancouver Island, Great Bear Rainforest and the Cariboo and Chilcotin Mountains in British Columbia, where the lodges are served by floatplanes. At Bear Cave Mountain, Yukon, the grizzlies become ‘ice bears’: the thermal waters and freezing conditions sees ice form in their fur.