Canada is vast and diverse, covering 3.8 million square miles as the world’s second-largest country. It offers exciting cities with booming culinary scenes and cultural attractions as well as remote wilderness with scenery that includes everything from soaring mountains and magnificent coastlines to wide-open prairies and Arctic tundra.
What are the best places in Canada to visit?
The best destinations in Canada for an unforgettable vacation include:
- Banff National Park, Banff, Alberta
- Vancouver, British Columbia
- Victoria, Vancouver Island, British Columbia
- Whistler, British Columbia
- Quebec City, Quebec
- Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
- Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland
- Fundy National Park, New Brunswick
- Niagara Falls, Ontario
- Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario
- Toronto, Ontario
When it comes to the best places to vacation, you’ll have many alluring spots to choose from, including these top destinations in Canada.
Banff National Park, Banff, Alberta
Canada’s first national park is its most visited, with stunning scenery that’s been overwhelming visitors with its beauty ever since it opened in 1885. Nestled in a valley surrounded by gem-like turquoise lakes, dramatic mountains, canyons, and hot springs, this is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise with the beautiful town of Banff in the heart of it all.
Visitors can spend their days hiking, floating down a river, biking, climbing, fishing, or zip-lining. Or, to take in the jaw-dropping landscapes without a lot of effort, ride the Banff Gondola for a bird’s-eye view that includes breathtaking Lake Louise. There’s an abundance of wildlife to watch for too, including bears, elk, and bighorn sheep.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Set between the Pacific Ocean and the Coast Mountains, there are few cities that can compare to Vancouver, with its world-class museums, historical attractions, and food scene – many publications have named it among the world’s best destinations for foodies.
Restaurants here offer cuisine from across the globe, thanks to its diverse population, with everything from French, Greek, Spanish, and Italian to Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, and more. But it’s also a place that’s all about embracing the outdoors. Sprawling Stanley Park is just minutes from the downtown core, popular for walking, jogging, and biking the 5.5-mile-long seawall that hugs the waterfront.
Swimming is popular during the summer at beaches like Kitsilano and skiing can be enjoyed at Grouse Mountain, less than 20 minutes away.
Victoria, Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Located on Vancouver Island just a 90-minute ferry ride from the city of Vancouver, Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and pays tribute to Canada’s British heritage. One of its most picturesque cities, it’s surrounded by mountain and ocean views while hosting elegant tearooms for afternoon tea, double-decker buses, and horse-drawn carriage rides.
It’s internationally renowned for its colorful gardens, with Butchart often named among the world’s most beautiful, as well as being an international hub for art, culture, and food.
Take a tour of the magnificent Parliament Buildings or get a history lesson at the Royal British Columbia Museum. There’s lots of natural beauty to explore along with abundant marine life too, including whales that can be spotted just offshore or on one of the many boat tours available from the harbor.
Whistler, British Columbia
Whistler was put on the map after hosting many of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games but it’s a great place for an adventure vacation in every season. Winter provides some of the planet’s most reliable snow for skiing and boarding, while the warmer months are ideal for hiking, mountain biking, golfing, and whizzing across ziplines like the 1.2-mile-long Sasquatch that links Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains.
For extreme thrill-seekers, Bungee jumping is possible too. Whistler Village is the top spot for spending downtown, whether taking in the fantastic après-ski scene, exploring the locally owned shops, or indulging in luxurious spa treatments.
Quebec City, Quebec
Quebec City is unlike any other in North America, charming visitors with its Old-World European charms. It’s the only walled city north of Mexico, with the UNESCO-listed historic center filled with winding cobblestoned streets and grand, centuries-old buildings while the aroma of espresso brewing and fresh-baked bread wafts through.
By visiting the Citadel, you might witness the Canadian troops stage a military city, while Chateau Frontenac offers a lovely place for afternoon tea. A trip to Montmorency Falls Park nearby brings views of a 272-foot-tall waterfall and when hunger pangs hit, do as the locals do by indulging in poutine which was birthed in the province.
Here, you’ll find it served dozens of different ways, with the basis French fries doused in gravy and cheese.
Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
Cape Breton Island is one of the most scenic places in Canada, ideal for a summer getaway with picture-postcard beaches on its world-famous coastline, best explored with a scenic drive on the 185-mile-long Cabot Trail.
The highway winds along oceanside cliffs, passing rural fishing villages and forested river canyons with many lookout points along the way. There are more than two dozen hiking trails for getting out and exploring on foot, including Middle Head Trail which offers some of the most awe-inspiring Atlantic views.
All sorts of wildlife can be seen, including bald eagles, puffins, seals, dolphins, and whales. And, you’ll never be far from a steaming plate of lobster, fresh from the chilly ocean waters.
Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland
Located on the west coast of Newfoundland, Canada’s easternmost province, Gros Morne National Park may be one of the less-visited parks in the country but that just means you’re more likely to enjoy the scenery all to yourself.
It stretches across nearly 700 square miles in the Long Range Mountains and includes everything from dramatic cliffs and freshwater fjords to roaring waterfalls, lush forest, and spectacular shorelines.
It’s also home to some 5,000 moose which means there’s a good chance you’ll spot at least one. Visitors can hike, canoe, kayak, fish, and take the Western Brook Pond boat tour, a 2-hour excursion that cruises between the massive, billion-year-old cliffs laced with waterfalls cascading into the park’s largest lake.
Fundy National Park, New Brunswick
Fundy National Park is located in New Brunswick, one of the maritime provinces. It’s home to over 75 miles of scenic trails for hiking that meander through lush valleys, forest, and mountains, passing crystal-clear streams and waterfalls.
Visitors can hike to the world’s highest tides at Hopewell Rocks, rent a kayak or canoe to paddle around picturesque Bennett Lake, or even snorkel in the Bay of Fundy. The park hosts three campgrounds and a heated saltwater pool, providing a perfect way to relax after a day enjoying one of more of the many outdoor pursuits.
Niagara Falls, Ontario
While Niagara Falls can be visited on the U.S. side, many feel the view is best from the Canadian side with multiple walkways that wind along the river from the Canadian Falls to the Rainbow Bridge, connecting the two countries.
There’s a lot more to do than just stand in awe of the cascades. You might take a boat trip that will bring you close enough to get drenched by the spray or join a helicopter tour for a bird’s-eye view.
Enjoy a meal from the Revolving Dining Room at the Skylon Tower while taking in a magnificent view of the falls from 775 feet above and then, after dark, the falls will be illuminated in an array of brilliant colors with fireworks providing a dramatic backdrop.
Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario
Located at the edge of Georgian Bay, Bruce Peninsula National Park is made up of two parks, one on land and one under the remarkably clear blue-green waters. It’s a paddler’s paradise but those who scuba dive can dive down to explore the marine park which includes natural diving obstacles and shipwrecks.
On land, there are many hiking trails and lots of wildlife to watch for, including white-tailed deer, black, bears, and foxes. Unique flora can be spotted too, including more than 40 orchid species.
Canada’s largest city is sometimes referred to as a “New York City run by the Swiss.” It’s very diverse with more than 50 percent of its residents born outside of the country and entire sections are devoted to its various cultures, such as Koreatown, Little Portugal, Little India, and Little Italy. That results in a restaurant scene that’s incredibly impressive, with cuisine from just about everywhere in the world found here.
It also offers world-class shopping and theater, an interesting history that includes a castle, and opportunities for recreational activities. Head to the Toronto Islands which include the major islands of Centre, Ward’s, and Algonquin. They’re connected by boardwalks, paths, and bridges, accessed via a short ferry ride, and even have beaches for summer swimming.