As one of the largest countries on earth (when measured by land mass) it should come as no surprise that there is no shortage of weird and wonderful places to visit when it comes to Canada. From off the beaten path to less frequented destinations that remain well worth a trip, here’s your ultimate guide to the best hidden gems and secret spots in Canada.
- Rideau Falls, Ottawa
- Canso Plane Crash, Tofino
- Eagle’s Eye Restaurant, Golden, British Columbia
- Wells Gray Provincial Park
- Point Pelee National Park
- Abbaye de Saint Benoit du Lac, Quebec
- Manitoulin Island
- Haida Gwaii
- Hole in the Wall in Port Alberni
- Houseboating on Shuswap Lake, British Columbia
- Liard River Hot Springs
- Parc National du Bic
- Abraham Lake in Winter
- Salt Spring Island, BC
- Montmorency Falls
- Killarney Provincial Park
- Britannia Mine Museum in Squamish
Rideau Falls, Ottawa
By Sophie of solosophie.com
So-called thanks to their ‘curtain-like’ resemblance, Rideau Falls (known in French as chutes de la rivière Rideau) can be found in Ottawa, and are located at the point where the Rideau River pours into the River Ottawa itself.
Situated along the expansive body of water of the River Ittawa and best-seen at sunset, Rideau Falls are easily one of the best-kept secrets of Ottawa, which is the capital city of Canada.
Located at the edge of Rideau Falls Park, to the North of Bywater Market, the twin falls are just one of the many things to see and experience in the green space. There’s car parking in the park itself, which is lucky since the falls are a little way out of town, in the Embassy district of the city.
Next to the most Southerly of the falls, there’s a café/ restaurant (The Tavern on the Falls) which offers outdoor seating and offers one of the best views in Ottawa. The perfect spot to watch the sunset, you can see all the way to the other side of the River Ottawa and, thus, the province of Quebec (the border between Ontario and Quebec is drawn across the middle of the river).
If you wish to learn even more about the city together with a guide and love cycling, then you might consider a guided tour like this one.
Canso Plane Crash, Tofino
By Casandra Karpiak of Karpiak Caravan Adventure Family Travel
The wild and rugged terrain of Tofino on the west coast of British Columbia is a magical place, with endless sandy beaches and shorelines full of surfers. It is also home to some pretty spectacular hikes, offering stunning views wherever you look.
The Canso Plane Crash is the perfect hike for travellers who want to not only experience beautiful scenery but also get a glimpse into history. Visitors to the site will be able to see the inside of a Royal Canadian Air Force Canso 11007 that has been untouched since 1945, which crashed shortly after takeoff.
It is a moderate 5km hike that can get quite muddy at times so it is important to come prepared with proper footwear. The hike starts from the parking lot at Radar Hill, follows the brand new ʔapsčiik t̓ašii (pronounced: ups-cheek ta-shee) trail that connects Tofino with Ucluelet and then veers off into the woods towards an old bunker.
What is really cool about this hike is that the trail goes through the old bunker and continues on the other side of it. You will come to a series of newly constructed boardwalks that lead you right to the crash site. The crash site itself is where it can get quite muddy but it is easy to find a dry path around the muddy sections.
You can explore all around the crash site including inside if you are feeling adventurous. The plane is surprisingly well-intact after all these years. The hike follows the same route back and although there is a small section of navigating the tree roots uphill, it is an enjoyable hike for people of all ages.
One important tip is to make sure you purchase a parking ticket from the machines in the lower parking lot before heading out on the hike. It is in the Pacific Rim National Park which requires a day pass and is enforced daily. A day pass costs $20 which can also be purchased at the visitor centre at the Highway #4 Junction to Ucluelet.
Eagle’s Eye Restaurant, Golden, British Columbia
By Bailey of Destinationless Travel
Who doesn’t want to dine high in the sky with mountain views? Imagine, eating a delicious meal while you sip a glass of wine, and in every direction you look, there are panoramic views of Canada’s Rocky Mountains – simply stunning!
The best place to have this experience is at Eagle’s Eye Restaurant, which is in fact, Canada’s highest elevation restaurant. Set at 7,700 feet above sea level, the views from this restaurant are unlike any other. Eating here is definitely a noteworthy experience.
Eagle’s Eye Restaurant is located above Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Golden, British Columbia. It’s often considered one of the best things to do in Golden and is easily one of the best places to eat. To get to the restaurant you must ride the gondola from the base of Kicking Horse Resort up to the top of the mountain where the restaurant is located.
If you book in for dinner, the gondola is free to ride. However, if you visit for lunch or at any other time of day expect to pay around $20 CAD for the gondola – which is a discounted price from $50 CAD. Hours and opening days do vary seasonally and sometimes the restaurant is closed for special events. Be sure to call ahead and book a table to avoid disappointment.
Wells Gray Provincial Park
By Debbie Fettback of WorldAdventurists.com
One of the best places to go chasing waterfalls is in British Columbia’s Wells Gray Provincial Park. Often overlooked for the popular National Park destinations of Jasper and Banff, Wells Gray remains a Canadian gem you will want to discover.
Wells Gray is part of a volcanic field that began forming 3.5 million years ago. This undeveloped outdoor paradise was formed from the interaction of layers of volcanic eruptions and glacial activity.
It carved the mountains and river canyons, revealing breathtaking waterfalls. Today, some volcanoes within the park are still labeled as ‘potentially active’. Kostal Cone is one of the latest known eruptions, happening only 400 years ago. Pyramid Mountain last erupted 12,000 years ago.
5000km² of mostly untouched wilderness that includes dramatic peaks, alpine meadows, pristine glacier-fed lakes, and 41 named waterfalls, Wells Gray is a slice of Canadian heaven. Companies also offer opportunities to join a wilderness safari or take an aerial tour for an eagle’s perspective of the volcanoes.
The most popular waterfalls are accessible with a short walk or hike from the parking lot. The most popular falls are Helmcken Falls, Spahat Falls, Moul Falls, and Dawson Falls. Helmcken Falls is the fourth largest waterfall in Canada. You can walk behind Moul Falls to witness the power of nature.
While exploring Wells Gray Provincial Park can be done on a day trip to see the most popular falls, staying overnight gives you the chance to see and experience more.
There are three campsites to choose from, or several lodges nearby for a more luxurious stay. Summer is the best time to experience Wells Gray Provincial Park.
Point Pelee National Park
By Erin of Pina Travels
This Canadian National Park is in southern Ontario, about a 4 hour drive from Toronto, or 1 hour drive from Windsor. Point Pelee National Park is special because it’s at the most southern point in Canada, known as “the point” because the park is a peninsula that tapers out into a long, sharp point, surrounded by the waters of Lake Erie.
The name of the park “pelée” is French for “bald point.” It earned this name in the 1600s, when French explorers called it pelée because of the region’s lack of vegetation. But before Europeans discovered the park, it was home to First Nations.
Point Pelee National Park is located on the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee and Miami peoples. As early as 600 CE, First Nations had summertime settlements around the park’s marshlands. In 1918, Point Pelee National Park was officially created.
The Park has since become a popular spot for camping, swimming, hiking, cycling, bird watching and stargazing. Perhaps what makes Point Pelee special is its unique ecology and location. It’s southern position makes it one of North America’s most renowned spots for birdwatching.
In the spring, you can watch bird and butterfly migrations, and attend the annual Festival of Birds, where you can learn all about the park’s species of birds and their migration patterns. Point Pelee is also a designated Dark Sky Preserve. On specific nights of every month, you can stay late in the park to gaze at the stars.
If you’re looking for a beautiful place to relax, head to Point Pelee during the summer. The park has 20 kilometers of sandy beaches on both the west and east sides of the peninsula, and 8 self-guided walking trails that range from 15 minute to 2 hour long hikes. Regardless of when you visit Point Pelee, be sure to hike out to “The Point” so that you can officially stand at the most southern point of Canada!
Abbaye de Saint Benoit du Lac, Quebec
By Melinda of Mel on the Go
If you’re in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, stop by the Abbaye de Saint Benoit du Lac (St. Benedict Abbey of the Lake). Historically significant, architecturally stunning, and with an excellent in-house cidery, this abbey is not your ordinary monastery. Even for Quebec.
Exiled monks from France bought the property in this now bustling vacation district over 100 years ago, and currently about thirty of them live and work there. They brought with them many of their French customs and traditions, including the recipe for their Benedictine blue cheese.
The abbey’s gift shop rivals many epicurean markets and makes this monastery unique. The brothers grow apples in the orchard, use local farmers’ whole milk to make artisanal blue cheeses, and also sell fruit compotes, hard apple ciders, and much more.
The abbey is located overlooking Lake Memphremagog and the buildings and grounds are beautiful. In addition to apple orchards, the property features nature trails and a forest for peaceful contemplation.
TIP: Go to the monastery before lunchtime, inspect the architecture, visit the chapel, and make a picnic from the provisions at the shop. Finish your visit enjoying a delicious picnic on the beautiful grounds overlooking Lake Memphremagog. It will probably be one of your most memorable meals in the Eastern Townships.
Guided tours are available daily, but must be booked in advance. If you visit the abbey in the fall, take the opportunity for apple picking in their orchard.
The Abbeye is a beautiful and unique place to visit in this charming part of Canada and one you won’t soon forget.
By Candace of A Journey Inspired
Manitoulin Island is the largest freshwater island in the world! You can retreat to a quiet paradise, lie on the beach, go fishing, and do water sports to your heart’s content.
The island is rich with First Nations history, and The Great Spirit Circle Trail is a wonderful opportunity to learn and engage with nature from an Indigenous perspective.
The town Manitowaning on Manitoulin Island is where Canada’s first European settlement and the Anishinaabe settlement are located. Further, Wikwemikong, one of the six Indigenous reserves on Manitoulin, is Canada’s only unceded reserve (meaning that the land was never signed away to the Crown or country).
Toronto is the closest major city to Manitoulin Island and is approximately a 6-hour drive away. To get to the island, you can either drive directly (this will take you around the Georgian Bay where you will pass many beautiful destinations like the French River and Killarney Provincial Park), or take the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry across from the Bruce Peninsula.
The first option will be cheaper and less time consuming, but if you have not visited the Bruce Peninsula and have a week’s time for a road trip, option 2 would also make an incredible road trip through Ontario.
A must-do activity is the Cup and Saucer hike, which has different trails suitable for hikers of any level. The trail is part of the Niagara Escarpment with 230-ft cliffs and stunning views, particularly in the fall.
If you enjoy adventure, there’s a trail made just for you – the “Adventure Trail”! It’s full of surprises like ladders and steep rocky climbs. Wear hiking boots with good tread as the terrain is fun but tricky. You can find an in-depth 3-day itinerary for Manitoulin Island on ajourneyinspired.com.
By Trijit Mallick of Dog Travel Buff
Located 80 km west of the British Columbia coast, Haida Gwaii is truly a hidden gem in Canada. Getting to Haida Gwaii is challenging but worth the trip. Haida Gwaii can be accessed only by plane or ferry.
Air Canada offers daily service from Vancouver International Airport to Sandspit. Else, you can take the ferry ride from Prince Rupert to Skidegate. There is no public transportation in Haida Gwaii. Therefore, you have to rent a car to get around Haida Gwaii.
Most of the population and activities can be found on the two largest islands: Graham and Moresby. From the tropical wilderness, an abundance of wildlife, to the rich history and delicious local food, there is something for every type of traveler to enjoy in this magical place.
Visit the Haida Heritage Center and learn the woodcarving and canoe making which is their specialties. Try the local seafood at Charters Restaurant or hike through the dense green forests and enjoy the stunning wilderness and ocean landscapes in British Columbia. The Naikoon Provincial Park features a picturesque landscape, coastal rainforest, a vast shoreline, and diverse wildlife.
Haida Gwaii trip is incomplete without visiting Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve. Visitors can experience the remote rainforest, thousand-year-old trees, wildlife, ancient carved totem poles, and fallen longhouses of the Haida First Nations people.
For a more relaxing experience, you can book a whale-watching tour. Orcas, humpback whales, gray whales are frequent in this area year-round. Kayak tours are also available and you can explore the place at your own pace.
Hole in the Wall in Port Alberni
By Luke of Wild About BC
Vancouver Island is home to many beautiful places but one that is a little more off the beaten path is the Hole in the Wall in Port Alberni. This is a huge rock face with a giant hole right through the middle of it.
It is actually a man-made phenomenon as the hole was drilled to accommodate a pipeline. These days the pipeline has been removed and what is left is a beautiful hidden gem in the forest where water flows through the Hole in the Wall and into a crystal-clear creek below.
The trail itself is quite well hidden and you could drive past it every day and not even realise it is there. It is located just off the side of the Alberni Highway, almost directly opposite Coombs Country Candy.
A short 10 – 15-minute walk along a gravel trail will take you down to this little oasis. In the summer the creek at the base of the hole is a great swimming spot and you can actually walk right through the hole and have the water running between your legs which is a cool experience.
As this is at a low elevation you can complete this hike year-round which is another reason it is so great. There are several trails that criss-cross through the forest here so you can explore some more of the lush green forests of Vancouver Island during your visit.
This includes trails on the other side of the Hole in the Wall if you do climb through. This is a short and easy trail with a really unique reward at the end and is an awesome stop to enjoy while exploring Vancouver Island.
Houseboating on Shuswap Lake, British Columbia
By Nicole of Go Far Grow Close
One of the most beautiful places in the world is Shuswap Lake in British Columbia and one of the most unique and incredible experiences that you can have is houseboating on it.
Shuswap Lake describes itself as the “houseboating capital of the world”. It is an enormous lake at 309.6 km² or 76,000 acres. It is surrounded by towering mountains covered in forests that dive into the lake. Many parts are provincial parks, and completely undeveloped.
It is 447 km north of Vancouver and takes approximately 5 hours to drive. Depending on what route you take, this drive could be equally beautiful through mountain ranges and along rivers.A houseboat is, in essence, a house that floats on water.
They come in various sizes (some over 2000 sq feet with 5 bedrooms over three floors), with various amenities (hot tubs, flat screen tvs and water slides), and from budget to luxury.
They do not go very fast – around 6 knots or 7 miles an hour – but the idea is really not to go anywhere, at least not fast. You float throughout the day and then, at night, you beach the houseboat on land.
You can attach all sorts of toys to your houseboat. Most people add a jet ski or a paddleboard. Some might even tow a speedboat for water skiing, tubing, or exploring. One of the coolest things on Lake Shuswap is the floating restaurant in the middle of the lake called the Shark Shack.
Think about the 1995 movie “Waterworld” with Kevin Costner and you will understand the set up. You boat up to the dock, someone helps you secure your boat, and then go upstairs to enjoy cold cocktails and a burger.
Liard River Hot Springs
By Agnes of The Van Escape
Liard River Hot Springs
Liard River Hot Springs is a hidden gem in north British Columbia. It is located in the middle of a dense forest at kilometer 375 of the Alaska Highway. They are the second-largest hot springs in Canada. But the most fabulous natural springs in the country.
The area of Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park is breathtaking. Steam is in the air due to the high water temperature, which rises from 108°F (42°C) to 126°F (52°C). It is most beautiful at sunrise.
There are also fewer people around in the misty morning. The hot springs are rustic. There’s a wooden changing room and a shallow pool. Besides the pool, visitors can also descend to the hot wild river and walk among its meanders and tree roots. There is a smell of sulfur in the air.
When chilling in hot springs, it’s important to cool off and drink water frequently to avoid dehydration. A wooden boardwalk leads through the wetlands to the hot springs. In the swamp, moose are feeding. What’s more, dozens of bird species can be found among the trees.
There are also black bears in the area, so be careful, especially on the trails. The complex is next to the Liard River Hot Springs Campground, where visitors can stay for a night. There is no electricity, flush toilets, or showers. But on the other side of the highway is Liard River Lodge with facilities and a restaurant.
Parc National du Bic
By Cosette of KarsTravels
In Quebec on the southern banks of the Saint Lawrence River is a small, unique park. It’s 15 kilometers southwest of Rimouski. The park offers capes, bays, islands, mountains and coves.
The sunset in the park is amazing and ranks among the world’s most beautiful ones. Come here to feel the wind coming from the St. Lawrence River. Or to smell the sea. It’s what gives the park its uniqueness, the atmosphere is like nowhere else.
The park is perfect to explore on bike. It’s not that large and you can explore every corner easily on a bike. There’s 15 kilometers of bike trails throughout the park. Tip is to rent a bike at the park.
As well as biking, hiking is also popular. There’s 25 kilometres of trails available, which are accessible from sunrise to sunset. Biking and hiking are perfect to see this mesmerizing coastal park.
Other activities at the park are kayaking, snowshoeing, cross-country and backcountry skiing and geocaching. In winter the park is covered in a layer of snow. Next to beautiful nature landscapes, there’s also fauna to admire. Watch out for seals, chipmunks, white tailed deer, gray seals and sea birds.
Parc National du Bic was founded on 17 October 1984, and measures 33 km². The site has been occupied by humans as far back as 9000 years ago. The Pic Champlain (highest point in the park with 346 meters) was a recognizable point in the surroundings, so this made the area popular among the first settlers in America.
Abraham Lake in Winter
By Jenifer of The Evolista
Abraham Lake, located in the Canadian Rockies is a spectacular winter site. What makes it so special are the methane gas bubbles rising from the lake floor that get trapped as the lake freezes. The result is an icy landscape of stacked bubbles that is mesmerizing.
In 1972, the installation of the Bighorn Dam on the North Saskatchewan River flooded the Kootenay Plains covering more than 20 square miles creating Abraham Lake as we know it today.
On the lake floor, decaying plants release methane gas that can’t be seen in the turquoise summer lake but creates a magical effect in winter. This Canadian hidden gem is well known by photographers.
They travel from all corners of the earth to see the ice and capture it at dawn, sunset and even the middle of the night. Most people happen upon Abraham Lake photos and make the two hour drive from Banff and Jasper National parks.
While 4 hours of round trip driving in the dead of winter on Canada’s icy roads may not seem like it’s worth the trek, it absolutely is! Visiting Abraham Lake ice bubbles in winter requires some planning.
The best time to visit is December or January before snow accumulates and obscures the bubbles. Warm clothing including the warmest winter gloves are a must.
It’s absolutely freezing as the wind whips across the ice. You will also need ice cleats on your shoes to be able to walk out on the ice and avoid slipping. You can even bring skates to make the most of your visit.
Salt Spring Island, BC
By Cecily of Groovy Mashed Potatoes
Between Vancouver and Vancouver Island you will find Salt Spring, a free-spirited island with a unique creative community and artisan culture. It’s where city dwellers love to escape to for a weekend to unwind in nature and experience the islander way of life.
Salt Spring Island is enchanting with its rugged mountains, lush forests, serene lakes and ocean vistas. Its name comes from cold salt-water springs located on the north end of the island.
Although it only has a population of 11,000 people, there are so many fun things to do on Salt Spring Island. Start your morning with a coffee from Switchboard cafe, a quirky locals’ spot with a lovely outside patio.
If you are there on a Saturday, don’t miss the Saturday Market where over a hundred vendors sell local products. For lunch, enjoy farm-to-table cuisine and a cider tasting at Salt Spring Wild Cider. It’s a delightful setting with their picnic tables overlooking the farm and valley.
Afterwards, explore the southern end of the island starting with a goat cheese tasting at the Salt Spring Island Cheese Farm. Make sure to walk through their barn so you can see the cute goats.
Next, visit Garry Oaks Winery and Salt Spring Vineyards for a wine tasting. The setting is beautiful overlooking the vineyards. If you don’t like wine, there is also an excellent brewery located in the forest nearby called Salt Spring Brewing Co.
The best way to explore Salt Spring Island is by car so you can easily discover artist studios, wineries, cideries, farm stands and sustainable farms peppered throughout.
There are multiple ferries that leave each day from the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal near Vancouver. Make sure to book your ferry reservation in advance during summertime to avoid having to wait for the next one if it’s full.
By Sophie of solosophie.com
Higher than the ever-famous Niagra Falls and just a few minutes from the outskirts of downtown Quebec City: a visit to Montmorency Falls is most definitely a must-see on any visit to Quebec’s capital city.
The falls themselves were named by Samuel de Champlain for the Duke of Montmorency in 1613. And the Battle of Beauport, which is also known as the Battle of Montmorency, was fought in the area between the British and the French in the mid-18th-century.
As well as admiring the beauty of the falls themselves, there are a myriad of beautiful things to see and do in the local area. In addition to a cable car offering panoramic views, there’s also a restaurant and visitor centre.
Those who enjoy adventurous activities will be delighted to discover that, in the winter months, there’s snowshoeing, while at other times, hiking trails (which are often closed due to ice in the winter) and children’s playgrounds are open. Book your Montmorency Falls with Cable Car Ride ticket here in advance.
Killarney Provincial Park
By John of Your Destination is Everywhere
Situated on the Northern shore of Georgian Bay, Killarney Provincial Park is hands down one of Canada’s best hidden gems. It is home to numerous crystalline blue lakes, pink and white quartzite mountains, lush forests, and very diverse wildlife.
You can expect to come across everything from beavers and chipmunks to larger animals like moose and bears. It’s not hard to see why Killarney is a paradise for all those who love nature.
The area’s captivating beauty has inspired the famous Group of Seven artists to petition the government to establish it as Killarney Provincial Park in the 1950s. There is a large campground with heated yurts and other front country amenities, but Killarney Provincial Park is mainly known for its extensive backcountry networks.
This park offers some of the best hiking and canoeing routes in all of Canada, and in fact, many of its best lookouts and campsites can only be accessed this way. If you’re up for the challenge, try to tackle the 80 km La Cloche Silhouette Trail (one of the most iconic backpacking routes in Canada).
For those who wish to experience the beautiful, rugged landscape of Killarney but can only afford a day, considering hiking the trail to Topaz Lake! Dark Sky Preserve, the first park in Ontario to receive that recognition.
Killarney is an excellent location to gaze at the night sky because it is far enough away from the bright city light. If you still have time to spare, drive over to historic Killarney Village (a French trading post from the 19th century) and check out the lighthouse nearby.
Britannia Mine Museum in Squamish
By Marcie of Marcie in Mommyland
One of the best hidden gems in British Columbia is the Britannia Mine Museum in Squamish. This National Historic Site was actually truly hidden away for many years and the only way to get there was by a boat from Vancouver.
The community was called Britannia Beach and it was completely self-sufficient. These days, it’s an easy stop along the Sea to Sky Highway that runs from Vancouver to Whistler.
The Britannia Mine operated from 1904-1974 and became a museum in 1975. In the late 1920s, this was the biggest copper mine in the British Empire and extracted more than 50 million tons of copper!
This British Columbia museum offers hands-on experiences, multimedia exhibits, and tons of historic collections of Canadian mining life. There’s even a short train ride that takes visitors into the mountain to fully experience what mining for copper in the 1900s was like.
One tip that you’ll definitely need is to layer clothing. The inside of the mine is quite chilly and it helps to put on a sweatshirt or jacket to stay warm. There are tons of fun things to do at the Britannia Mine Museum, including panning for real gold, seeing an interactive presentation, riding a mining train, and more.
Plus, they have one of the coolest gift shops! There’s even a café that makes a great first stop. Exploring the Britannia Mine Museum is definitely one of the best things to do in Squamish, BC. It’s located less than an hour from Vancouver, BC and makes a great day trip.
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