More and more, Canadians are choosing to stay close to home for their vacations. In fact, Statistics Canada recently revealed that Canadian travel to the U.S. was down 4.1 per cent in February, compared to January. Overseas travel also decreased by 1.4 per cent.
While world events may have factored into Canadian's decisions to stay local, I'd like to think it had more to do with the fact that more of us are choosing to discover just how amazing this country really is.
There are so many things to do in Canada and while you may think you've heard of them all, here are some that don't get the attention they deserve.
Skookumchuck Narrows. Flickr photo by Maurice King
See whirlpools and whitecaps in the rapids at Skookumchuck Narrows. The narrows are located at the entrance of the Sechelt Inlet on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast, where the direction of the rapids changes twice a day, forming standing waves and some of the highest river tides in the world. The trek to the narrows is as beautiful as the destination. You'll have to take a 10-km hike (return) through the province's coastal rainforest where you'll see 1,000-year-old western red cedar and Sitka spruce trees as high as 300 feet.
Waterton Lakes National Park
Waterton Lakes from Bear's Hump. Flickr photo by Jeremy Bradford
While Banff National Park may get most of the glory in Alberta, the lesser-known Waterton Lakes National Park is equally breathtaking. Here, in the southwest corner of Alberta, the Prairies meet the Rocky Mountains. It has been designated a Biosphere Reserve by the UN and an International Peace Park because it shares an unguarded boarder with Glacier National Park in Montana. Climb to Bear's Hump to get a panoramic view, and head to Cameron Falls to see rapids cascading over 1.5-billion-year-old Cambrian rocks. You can also head to Cameron Lake and rent a paddleboat and paddle right over to the U.S.
The Big Muddy Valley
The Badlands are known as the land of dinosaurs -- a place they called home 70 million years ago. But beyond dinosaurs, the terrain is truly unique. The Big Muddy Valley is one of the most scenic areas, featuring canyons, buttes (tall, isolated hills) and steep cliffs. You'll feel like you've stepped back to prehistoric times as you gaze on Castle Butte, a 230-ft. sandstone marvel that overshadows the surrounding flat lands. An interesting tidbit: the Big Muddy was also the northern end of the "Outlaw Trail," used by American outlaws, including the Sundance Kid, to escape to Canada.
Churchill: Beluga Watching
There's more to see than polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba. While the city is world-famous for polar bear-spotting, it's also a mecca for beluga whale-watching. The nearby waters of the Hudson Bay are home to 60,000 beluga whales every summer -- the highest concentration in the world. Take a boat tour of the area and listen to their conversations using hydrophones or, if you're brave, choose to go kayaking or even snorkelling along the gentle giants. Talk about a bucket list adventure.
Georgian Bay Grotto
Inside the cave at the Georgian Bay Grotto. Flickr photo by Alex Indigo
You'll be forgiven if you come across the Georgian Bay Grotto and think you've found paradise. This natural sea cave, on the shores of the Bruce Peninsula National Park, was carved out by waves hitting the shore for over thousands of years. The hike to the Grotto takes about a half hour and includes walking on rugged limestone and climbing down a 40-ft. cliff, but if you're adventurous enough to do it, you'll see one of Canada's most beautiful, hidden natural wonders.
Mingan Archipelago Park
Monoliths at Mingan Archipelago National Park. Flickr photo by Guillaume Cattlaux
Mingan Archipelago National Park, on the remote north shore of the Saint Lawrence River, boasts about 40 limestone islands and more than 2,000 granite islets, not to mention some of the oldest fossilized coral reefs in the world. But there's more to see here than stunning monumental monoliths. The waters are home to colonies of seals, dolphins and whales, while the shoreline is scattered with Atlantic puffin and other sea birds, making it worth the 10-hour drive from Quebec City. Stay at a nearby hotel, or bring your tent and settle in on an island of your choice.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Torngat Mountain Base Camp
Torngat Mountains. Flickr photo by DJANDYC.COM
When you go to Labrador, make time to see the Northern Lights. Why have you never heard that before? About 200 kilometres north of Labrador's most northerly community of Nain, you'll find the Torngat Mountains, a majestic range that is the highest in mainland Canada, east of the Rockies. The Base Camp and Research Station comes alive in the summer with international researchers, as well as travellers who want a unique Canadian vacation. Here, you can experience Inuit life, rugged Canadian landscapes and breathtaking views of the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis.
Laverty Falls, Fundy Park
Laverty Falls. Flickr photo by Emmanuel Milou
Most Canadians have seen photos of the Hopewell Rocks at the Bay of Fundy in Fundy National Park, but fewer have seen the nearby Laverty Falls. To see them for yourself, you have to take a 2.5-km hike on the Laverty Falls. The path is carved through the mixed forest, dotted with summer flowers and bubbling streams. Stop for a picnic before continuing your hike. Just one kilometre beyond Laverty Falls, you'll find the even more remote Third Vault Falls.
The Annapolis Valley Wineries
For a flavourful glass of wine, head to wine country in Nova Scotia. The Annapolis Valley is one of the first areas to cultivate grapes in North America, with a history of growing grape vines dating back to the 1600s. In the past 25 years, it has solidified itself as a centre for Canadian wine production, with local vineyards producing everything from sparkling wine to numerous white and red varieties and even ice wine. Drive along the meandering country lanes to visit one of the 11 local wineries. Pair your vintage with local goat cheese or the province's famous smoked salmon.
Luckett Vineyards. Flickr photo by Gavin Langille
Prince Edward Island
East Point Lighthouse
Prince Edward Island is the land of lighthouses, with almost thirty structures scattered around the island. While the most famous may be the West Point Lighthouse, it's worth heading east, to the eastern tip of the island, to see the East Point Lighthouse. The 64-ft. tower was erected in 1866, at the point where the Saint Lawrence meets the Northumberland Strait. Amongst the churning tides, you can see black-backed whales, seals and various sea birds.
Kathleen Lake, Kluane National Park
Kathleen Lake. Flickr photo by Gerode_
Canada has countless lakes but Lake Kathleen, in the Yukon's Kluane National Park and Reserve is a must-see. The lake's turquoise-green, crystal clear water contrasts against the majestic Kluane mountain range, with its snow-capped peaks. You can kayak, canoe or even swim in the water or take a hike along the two back-country trails. For those who want to stay a while, the Lake also has a public campground.
Nahanni National Park and Reserve: Virginia Falls
Mason's Rock at Virginia Falls. Flickr photo by Mike Beauregard
Virginia Falls in Nahanni National Park and Reserve is more than twice the height of the more famous Niagara Falls. This stunning waterfall has been carved through the limestone rocks over several centuries. In the middle of cascading water is a resilient mass of rock named Mason's Rock, after Bill Mason, a famous Canadian canoeist, filmmaker and author. Plant lovers will also find several rare orchid species that thrive thanks to the constant mist from the falls. The Nahanni National Park and Reserve is among the world's first four natural heritage locations chosen as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
Mount Thor through the clouds. Flickr photo by Mike Beauregard
Baffin Island's towering Mount Thor, in Auyuittuq National Park, is one of Canada's true natural wonders. At almost 5,500 feet tall, it also has the world's greatest vertical drop (4,101 feet -- the height of two CN Towers). Also known as Thor Peak, the mountain attracts adventurers from around the world who seek to reach its imposing peaks. If you're not bold enough to take on Thor, choose one of the park's hiking trails and pay homage to the granite giant from a vantage point that's a little closer to sea level.
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Best time to travel: April, May, September, October Average price: $700 to $900 Why you want to go: Even if the Euro scares you more than the U.S. dollar does, Spain is still considered a budget-friendly country with low accommodation costs. "Spain has something for every traveller's needs whether it be a relaxing beach vacation in Malaga, exploring the Alhambra Palace in Granada or visiting the famed Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Spain is also famous for their tapas and you can get tapas and drink for $5," says Rishi Modi of travel deal site Next Departure.
Best time to travel: April, May, September, October Average price: $700 to $900 Why you want to go: For Canadians, Lisbon is one of the cheaper European cities to fly into. "It's a lively city with delicious seafood and cheap drinks. Take advantage of its inexpensive public transit to visit the historic Sintra, go to a winery in Porto and enjoy the Mediterranean weather on a beach in Faro."
Best time to travel: December to March Average price: $900 to $1,200 Why you want to go: Getting to Thailand can be pricey depending on the time you go, but once you're there, everything can fit into your budget. "Food from street vendors and markets costs you $4 to $5 and accommodations can run you as low as $20 a night [depending where you stay]. Thailand has tons of attractions to offer travellers, from trekking in the jungles of Chiang Mai to relaxing on tropical islands like Ko Samui."
Best time to travel: October to May Average price: $900 to $1,200 Why you want to go: Marrakech was named Tripadvisor's number one destination in 2015, according to travellers. "Explore the ancient palaces, shop in the markets of Marrakech and stay overnight in the Sahara desert. Food is inexpensive in local restaurants and street stalls, while accommodations are reasonably priced."
Best time to travel: Depending if you go north or south, you want to avoid cold or rainy seasons. Late December is usually the best. Average price: $900 to $1,100 Why you want to go: If you're an urban explorer or nature lover, Vietnam offers both. "Vietnam is another South Asian destination that continues to be budget-friendly with beautiful sights, including cruising along Halong Bay and visiting the rice terraces. Food is remarkably cheap — a meal and beer can cost under $3."
Best time to travel: April, May, September, October Average price: $900 to $1,100 Why you want to go: If you want to go to Europe and still have spending money, Modi suggests avoiding popular destinations like France and Italy and opting for Eastern Europe instead. "From Hungary to Romania to Bulgaria, these Eastern European countries are rich in diverse culture and its modern and historical architecture."
Best time to travel: April, May, September, October Average price: $700 to $900 Why you want to go: "Peru is known for its geographic diversity, from exploring the vast Amazon jungle to hiking the Inca Trail to relaxing on the beach coast," he says. But Peru’s most famous attraction is the ancient site of Machu Picchu — a must-see if you decide to go to this South American country.
Best time to travel: April, May, September, October Average price: $1,000 to $1,200 Why you want to go: Indonesia has thousands of islands and Bali is one of the most luxurious and popular ones. "Food and hotels are extremely cheap, where you can enjoy tasty meals from $1 to $2 and spend as little as $20 per night on accommodations." However, if you do plan on renting out a villa or eating on Seminyak's main tourist strip, it can feel like dining and living in a major Canadian city.
Best time to travel: January to March; September to November Average price: $600 to $1,000 Why you want to go: If you haven't been to Cuba, you probably know several Canadians who have — the Caribbean island is one of the most popular beach destinations for Canucks. "All-inclusive packages are affordable and offer a bang for your buck. If you’re really flexible, you can often find last-minute cheap deals on flights and all-inclusive packages."
Best time to travel: January to April; September to December Average price: $350 to $650 Why you want to go: We're not saying you should head to pricey destinations like Hawaii or Las Vegas, but some U.S. spots have taken advantage of our falling currency. "Myrtle Beach, Kissimmee, and Scottsdale are starting to offer deep discounts — around 20 to 30 per cent off accommodations, free meal vouchers and discounts off activities. Also, expect major airline carriers alongside the low-cost carriers stateside such as Allegiant and Sprint to offer discounts and seat sales as well." And when you look at your budget as a whole, many U.S. destinations tend to be cheaper than leaving the continent.
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