This month, Parks Canada turns 100. Our national parks system was the first in the world of its kind, starting with the very first national park in 1885, Banff. And with more than 200 sites to choose from -- whether it's a national park, a national historic site or a marine conservation area -- Canada's got the biggest and most beautiful backyard in the world.
Here are some of our favorite hidden (and not-so-hidden) gems across the country:
- Fathom Five National Marine Park in Ontario: Off the clear waters of Georgian Bay lies this gem of a park -- with shipwrecks viewable from the surface (though the truly brave can scuba-dive), you'll also see the hauntingly beautiful "flowerpot" islands. I plan to spend Canada Day picnicking at this site.
- Forillon National Park in Quebec: Get jaw-dropping views of the Gaspé Peninsula from the tallest lighthouse in Canada.
- L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland: The oldest known Viking settlement in North America is at the very tip of Newfoundland -- discover the ancient mysteries of this unique site.
- Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site in British Columbia: Head to the Queen Charlotte Islands to learn more about the Haida culture and coastal life.
- Bay of Fundy National Park in New Brunswick: See the world's highest tides at work -- they fluctuate up to nine meters -- and walk onto the sea floor at low tide.
- Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta: This Rocky Mountain park has all the charm and beauty of Banff, without the crowds.
- Famous Canadians Alexander Graham Bell, the fictional Anne of Green Gables, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Norman Bethune, Louis Riel and other prominent Canadians have national historic sites dedicated to their lives and memories.
Check out some amazing travel deals across the country at this week's Parks Canada Destination of the Week page and kick off the centennial in style.