Canada is huge. It’s the second largest country in the world so it’s best to focus on just a few areas if you plan to visit Canada in summer. From St. John’s, Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia it’s roughly a distance of 7,400 km. And from Vancouver heading north to Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory, it’s 2,400 km. Add another 1,200 km to reach Inuvik, the last community of any size before the Arctic Ocean.
Here are 100 exceptional places to visit in Canada in summer by region. Don’t try to overdo it or you’ll be traveling all the time. Savour an area. And come back. Again and again.
Where to visit in British Columbia
Vancouver is at its best in the summer. Don’t miss a walk or a bike ride around Stanley Park, a trip up Grouse Mountain by aerial tram or via the Grouse Grind or a visit to Granville Market.
The drive to Whistler along the Sea to Sky Highway is one of Canada’s most scenic when the sun is shining. And there’s plenty to do in Whistler in the summer – hiking in the high alpine, mountain biking, rafting, even skiing.
Take the ferry from Tsawwassen to Schwartz Bay (or vice versa) for a scenic look at the southern Gulf Islands. You can go as a walk-on, take your bike or drive on, but make a reservation for your car if it’s over a summer weekend. If you’re a cyclist, I highly recommend the bike ride on the Galloping Goose Trail to Sooke from the ferry.
The Butchart Gardens close to Victoria are definitely worth a visit. They boast over 55 acres of gardens including the famous sunken gardens. Fifty full time gardeners, 12 part time gardeners and 550 staff in peak season keep the gardens in fantastic shape. Allow a minimum of 1.5 hours.
Head to the hot and sunny Okanagan in BC’s interior for wine tasting. There are over 100 wineries so there’s no shortage of wines to taste. The Mission Hill Winery is one that’s well known for hosting outdoor summer concerts. I’d also suggest a bike ride on the Kettle Valley Railway especially in the Myra Canyon area.
Head north to Tweedsmuir Provincial Park and the surrounding area. It boast some one of my all-time favourite hikes in the Rainbow Range, first class fishing, peaceful mountain lakes and if you want a thrill drive the Hill towards Bella Coolaon the coast where grades reach 17%.
Wells Gray Provincial Park in the central region offers beautiful scenery in an unspoiled environment. Check out Helmcken Falls, the fourth highest waterfall in Canada, raft the Clearwater River or plan a multi-day canoe or kayak trip on Murtle Lake.
Yoho National Park ranks as one of the most beautiful in Canada. Its part of the Canadian Rockies World Heritage site boasting 28 peaks about 3000 m. Hiking is superb especially on the Iceline Trail and anywhere in the Lake O’Hara region.
Haida Gwaii, formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands is a great destination if you like kayaking, fishing, whale watching and pristine beaches. Plan a kayaking trip that includes the standing poles at SGang Gwaay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Summer in Alberta
Head for the Calgary Stampede. It takes place every year for 10 days beginning the first Friday after July 1st.
Dinosaur Provincial Park boasts some of the most impressive Badlands scenery you’ll ever see. It is home to more complete dinosaur skeletons than anywhere else in the world. And it’s a photographer’s dream.
Waterton Lakes National Park, located on the border with Montana is in a spectacular setting. Enjoy world class hikes including the famous Crypt Lake Trail – offering a ladder, tunnel and chains.
Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park is always popular. Boat rides to Spirit Island – one of the most photographed sites in the world are one of the must-do activities. But you can leave the noise behind and paddle to the end of the lake and even stay for a few nights.
Banff National Park is one of the most visited in the world. And if you get away from Banff and Lake Louise you quickly lose the crowds. But where to go?
There is a lifetime’s worth of hiking in the mountains so best it’s best to check with the National Park office in downtown Banff to choose something that matches your interest and ability. No matter what, don’t miss a stop at Moraine Lake. One of my favourite hikes is the Big Beehive above Lake Louise.
In Jasper National Park the Columbia Icefield is a big draw. You can hike to a glacier or take a tour that actually takes you out on the glacier.
I’d call it Canada’s most scenic drive – the 290 km that start in Banff and finish in Jasper. Take a few days to do it so you can enjoy all the side trips.
Wood Buffalo National Park located in northeastern Alberta and the southern Northwest Territories is the largest national park in North America. It protects the world’s largest herd of free roaming wood bison. It’s possible to camp, canoe, fish, hike and view wildlife – though access is via Fort Smith in the Northwest Territories.
Summer in Saskatchewan
Head forGrasslands National Park in the south central part of the province to discover a world of big skies and high grass prairie. It’s also Canada’s darkest Dark Sky Preserve. Look for the Black-tailed Prairie Dog – the only place to see them in Canada.
Go north to Prince Albert National Park, formed to protect a slice of boreal forest. Hike, canoe, fish, camp and visit Grey Owl’s cabin on foot.
In western Saskatchewan in the Cold Lake area, plan a hike or backpacking trip on a section of the Boreal Trail.
Saskatchewan is famous for its fishing. Visit a northern lake and check it out for yourself.
With over 100,000 lakes and rivers there are a lot to canoe. Some worth thinking about are the Blood Vein River in the wilderness and the Red and Assiniboine Rivers close to Winnipeg. The Caddy Lakes Tunnelsin Whiteshell Provincial Park also offer a memorable experience.
Check out Riding Mountain National Park for hiking, canoeing and a chance to discover the forested parkland surrounded by prairie.
The Peeks Toronto Caribbean Carnival, formerly Caribana – the largest festival of its kind celebrating Caribbean culture – takes place every summer in Toronto. It’s been called North America’s largest street festival.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is famous for its Shaw Festival Theater. Book a show and then take a wine tasting tour.
Take a boat tour of the Thousand Islands. Or if you have time take a multi-day kayak tourthrough the 1000 Islands.
Head for the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. Dive in Fathom Five National Marine Park or hike a trail through Bruce Peninsula National Park out to the Georgian Bay to admire the cliffs and shoreline.
Raft the Ottawa River.
For a weekend of slow travel visitPelee Island– the southern most inhabited place in Canada. Accessible via ferry from the mainland, plan to come and relax though there is a winery, some hiking trails and a bike rental outfit.
Rent a cottage in the Muskoka region. Or book a room in a lodge in Algonquin Park.
Hike the white quartzite cliffs of Killarney Provincial Park. It’s an incredible place for canoeing too.
VisitManitoulin Island, the largest lake island in the world. Rent a cottage, camp but whatever you do be prepared to do it at a relaxed place. Don’t miss a visit to Misery Bay Provincial Park; it’s not anything like its name suggests.
Montreal is famous for its summer festivals. The Jazz Festival is the most famous attracting over two million people in a 10 day time frame.
Quebec City has a 400 year history set against the backdrop of a walled city filled with narrow, winding cobbled streets. The place oozes history and charm in a manner reminiscent of old European cities. Set aside a day or two to walk the city and absorb the culture.
Head for the Gaspé Peninsula. Poke about in the small fishing villages. Hike to the top of Le Mont Albert and look for caribou or hike to the tip of Forillon National Park. Photograph Percé Rock.
Bike the Green Route through the Eastern Townships.
Ferry over to the Magdalen Islands. Check out the largest amateur sand castle building competition in August. Windsurf. Ride your bikes. Hang out at the beach. Eat at any number of fabulous restaurants all over the island. And take your camera with you everywhere you go. This is one photogenic island.
What to do in summer in New Brunswick
Take the ferry to Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy for a few days of hiking, kayaking and relaxing.
Visit the Mary’s Point Bird Sanctuary. It’s a major stopover for two to three million shorebirds every summer – all because of the Fundy shrimp.
Bike the paths of Kouchibouguac National Park. After go for a swim in water that’s actually warm.
Canoe or kayak the lakes of Kejimkujik National Park – for a day or for a week.
Discover the small towns that line the route of the Evangeline Trail.
**Some great new suggestions by a Nova Scotia reader**
One is Tidal Bore River Rafting on the Shubenacadie River. The Shubenacadie (largest river in NS) is a tidal river that empties into the Bay of Fundy (home to the highest tides in the world). When the tide comes in a tidal bore (wave) moves up the river temporarily reversing its flow. As the river fills up it generates crazy rapids and rafting companies take groups out in motorized Zodiac boats to ride the waves. It’s the only place in the world you can experience this thrill ride.
Another result of the Fundy tides in Nova Scotia is the erosion that has revealed some of the oldest dinosaur bones in Canada as well as the fossilized remains of the first reptiles to walk the earth. Joggins Fossil Cliffs is a UNESCO World Heritage site with fossils dating back 300 million years and the first evidence of the evolution from ocean dwelling to land dwelling creatures.
I should also mention the Northumberland Shore of Nova Scotia for the warmest salt water beaches in Canada.
Places to visit in Prince Edward Island, Canada in summer
Go to the beach. This is what PEI is famous for. The waters are warm and generally safe for kids. The Greenwich Dunes section of PEI National Park is absolutely lovely.
Eat lobster – in any way shape or form. Fresh is good, so are lobster rolls.