If ever there was a time to take a Canadian stay-cation and explore the Great White North, 2017 is it. From coast-to-coast Canadians will be celebrating Canada's sesquicentennial -- a grand party for our nation's 150th. And what better place to mark the celebration than in the great outdoors?
Tourists flock to our airports each year, with their sights set on visiting our near-mythic lakes, mountains and backcountry wilderness. This year join their ranks and be a tourist in your own backyard. Here are five incredible outdoor adventures to get you started.
Picnic at Ferryland Lighthouse (Ferryland, Newfoundland)
No trip to Newfoundland is complete without a stop at one of Canada's most scenic picnic spots. An hour drive south of St. John's on the Avalon Peninsula is the tiny (as of the last census there were 465 residents) town of Ferryland, home of the Ferryland Lighthouse (circa 1870). A gentle two-kilometre hike up to the still-operational lighthouse is rewarded with incredible views of the stunning Atlantic coastline and icebergs in the distance.
Pick a spot for your picnic blanket (provided) and then indulge in gourmet fare prepared in the lighthouse's own tiny kitchen. Freshly-squeezed lemonade, crab cakes, chutney-glazed ham and brie on freshly baked bread and curried chicken with mango are among a few of the in-season delicacies. Plan to spend the afternoon looking for whales, reading a book or taking a nap in the sea air. Make your reservation early as space fills up quickly in peak season.
Glamping at Clayoquot Wilderness Resort (Tofino, British Columbia)
Wilderness adventures need not be of the cheap and cheerful variety. In fact, a visit to the Clayoquot Wilderness Resort -- a 30-minute boat ride from Tofino, British Columbia -- is anything but (start saving your pennies, rates start at $2,000 per person, per night). This stunning 5-star eco-resort is the definition of glamping. Luxury tents raised on wooden platforms are nestled under the rainforest canopy at the water's edge and feature all the comforts you'd expect at a high-end hotel in the city.
Guests dine on mouth-watering, locally-sourced Coastal Cascadian dishes such as prosciutto-wrapped halibut and oyster chowder. The Resort serves as your personal basecamp for both land and water-based adventures: river and ocean kayaking, fishing, whale watching, horseback riding, mountain biking, rock climbing and more. There's a reason "ScarJo" and Ryan Reynolds got married here. While families are welcome, children must be six-years-of-age to stay.
Sea Kayak Fathom Five National Marine Park (Tobermory, Ontario)
Fathom Five National Marine Park in Tobermory, Ontario is a National Marine Conservation Area. The Park's crystal clear Lake Huron waters are home to 22 shipwrecks, which can be viewed from the comfort of a boat or up close by scuba dive. Bruce Peninsula National Park is a great camping base for day kayak adventures, but experienced paddlers can make the most of this Park by tackling the 6.5-kilometre paddle out to Flowerpot Island for an overnight stay.
For less than $10 (per person, per night) you can book one of just six campsites on the Island (reserve well in advance). Once on the Island you can take in the unique flowerpot rock stacks, hike the looped trail or cool off with a refreshing swim. No trip to Flowerpot would be complete without a visit to the historic light station's observation deck. Expect to pack in everything you'll need for a night on the island -- and a couple more. Bad weather means you could be stuck here for a few extra days.
Bike Quebec's Aerobic Corridor (Laurentian Mountains, Quebec)
Starting in the quaint Laurentian town of Morin Heights (about an hour drive from Montreal), the 58-kilometer Aerobic Corridor is an old CN railroad converted into a wide, hard-packed, forested cycling trail suited to cyclists of all levels. The trail runs north to the town of Saint-Rémi-d'Amherst. Despite its mountainous location, the trail is relatively flat, with small rolling hills.
The trail offers Laurentian views and passes farm fields, valleys and meadows, but the real attraction is the stunning lakes, streams and rivers that the dot the route. Bird watchers will particularly enjoy the section between Huberdeau and Montcalm, with birdhouses maintained by the local ornithological society. The trail is part of Quebec's Route Verte and is free to access. A mountain bike or hybrid is recommended. Cross-country ski the trail in winter.
Horseback Riding in Banff National Park (Banff, Alberta)
Banff National Park is one of Canada's most beloved and well-known parks. Mecca to outdoor enthusiasts, the park boasts myriad of activities from hiking to climbing, biking to snowshoeing, not to mention incredible wildlife viewing. But seeing the Canadian Rockies from the back of a steady steed offers a unique and memorable all-Canadian adventure. Horses are permitted on most of the park's trail (with a few exceptions) and can graze at designated sites for up to three consecutive nights.
Guided day tours or multi-day packing trips are available through several area outfitters, or BYOH (bring-your-own-horse) and choose your own adventure. If travelling on your own, be sure to carry the appropriate park permits. Be sure to detour and ride the Ya Ha Tinda Ranch, a nearly 4,000 hectare working ranch managed by Parks Canada.
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