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Islands made for exploring

Framed by Newfoundland in the east, Vancouver Island in the west and Baffin in the north, Canada is home to a diverse collection of islands, says Rupert Parker

Islands made for exploring

Framed by Newfoundland in the east, Vancouver Island in the west and Baffin in the north, Canada is home to a diverse collection of islands, says Rupert Parker

I start my journey on Prince Edward Island, which lies off the east coast of New Brunswick and wasn’t accessible by road until the eight-mile Confederation Bridge was completed in 1997.

islands princeedward

In its tiny capital, Charlottetown, I explore Victoria Row, a pedestrianised street whose red brick buildings house several bars and restaurants. Fresh seafood is on the menu as the waters around here are stacked with lobster, mussel, oysters and tuna.

The island is picture-postcard beautiful and its lush green gentle hills are surrounded by some of the best beaches in the world. Author Lucy Maud Montgomery set her now-famous 1908 children’s book Anne of Green Gables here and not much has changed since. You can still see her typewriter in the restored 19th century farmhouse Green Gables Heritage Place.

I follow the East Coastal Drive, which is light on traffic, and stop at Greenwich National Park to see the largest sand dunes in PEI as well as rare plants and animals.

I carry on to the beaches on the far side of the island. Red Point Provincial Park has the winning combination of red cliffs, emerald green forest and cobalt ocean. Nearby are the ‘Singing Sands’, which squeak as you walk along the beach.

My final stop is Victoria-by-the-Sea, once a busy port but now a sleepy fishing village with colourful clapboard houses. In the 1900s, steamers would bring trippers escaping the cities; the theatre built to entertain them is still going strong today.

Here are some other Canadian ‘islands’ to recommend to clients

Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

islands breton

On Canada’s Atlantic coast, Cape Breton is crammed with meandering rivers, rolling hills, waterfalls and lakes. It’s the ancestral territory of the Mi’kmaq people and home to bald eagles and migrating whales. In the 19th century, Scottish migrants arrived with their Gaelic traditions and today Celtic music remains the island’s soundtrack. Don’t miss the 300-kilometre Cabot Trail, which winds and climbs around the northern coast.

Newfoundland & Labrador

islands newfoundland new

Newfoundland is the most easterly point of North America, blocking the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River, creating the world’s largest estuary. The island has miles of untouched coastline, where the stars are often breaching whales and majestic icebergs. St John’s, the oldest city in Canada, has lively restaurants and bars echoing to folk music. From here, explore tiny fishing villages, some only accessible by boat, and try kayaking, camping, fishing and hiking. Across the Strait of Belle Isle, Labrador has a strong sense of ancient Inuit and Innu traditions.

Baffin Island, Nunavut

The largest island in Canada, Baffin is the homeland of the Inuit – and all steep fjords, spectacular glaciers and high mountains.

This vast Arctic wilderness is populated by snowy owls, caribou, narwhal, belugas and polar bears. Ski amid the peaks of Auyuittuq National Park or travel by dog sleds or snowmobile across ice floes into Qaummaarviit Territorial Historic Park. Baffin is also a renowned centre for Inuit art.

Thousand Islands, Ontario

More than 1,800 islands sit in the St. Lawrence River, stretching about 50 miles downstream from the mouth of Lake Ontario. In the late 19th century, the islands were the fashionable retreat for the rich and famous but today they are a playground for fishermen, hikers and outdoors enthusiasts.

They are also home to two UNESCO designated sites: the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve and the Rideau Heritage Route, an historic canal running over 200 kilometres from Ottawa to Kingston.

Manitoulin Island, Ontario

In Lake Huron, Manitoulin has over 100 inland lakes, some with their own islands. White quartzite and granite outcrops are split by spectacular waterfalls.

Six different Indigenous groups account for 40% of the population of just 12,000 – and they are developing a range of experiences for visitors. Encourage clients to explore the Great Spirit Circle Trail with an indigenous guide. Options include a sunset canoe voyage, a torch or drum-making workshop and a tobacco or smudge ceremony.

Vancouver Island, BC

Residing in the Pacific Ocean, the island is home to logging and fishing communities and divided by a range of snow-capped mountains, with wilderness to the west and sheltered lowlands to the east. Visitors are attracted by its parks and the chance to marvel at orcas and black bears.

Hike the long-distance West Coast Trail, relax on a beach at Parksville Bay and Quailicum and explore BC’s capital, Victoria.

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