Canada travel: Guide to all provinces, territories and best places to visit
O Canada. The world's second-largest country has no shortage of beautiful landscapes and interesting sights for travellers to explore. From coast to coast to coast, Canada spans six times zones and features a diverse set of travel and vacation destinations, from the cosmopolitan streets of Toronto to the mountain peaks of the Canadian Rockies, and all sorts of vibrant and culturally rich cities and towns and incredible natural wonders in-between.
Canada's unspoiled natural beauty is matched only by its dynamic cities. Split time here among the magnificent mountains, sophisticated Montreal, sprawling Great Lakes, and scenic Vancouver. This is a place where polar bears, poutine and epic panoramas predominate. Canada's wilderness beckons adventure-seekers from the world over, while the country's cultural attractions, culinary marvels, hockey rinks, and artistic landmarks thrill visitors of all stripes.
Travelling through Canada affords visitors various opportunities to enjoy culture, nature, adventure, sightseeing, and all kinds of activities. As tourists traverse the country they will find incredibly diverse landscapes, a mix of cultural influences, unique cities, and interesting attractions.
British Columbia is where the Canadian Rockies meet the Pacific Ocean, creating an enticing mountains-to-ocean mix of awe-inspiring backdrops, outdoor adventure options, and seafaring First Nations history and traditions. Along with lakes, islands, rainforests, beautiful stretches of coastline, picturesque cities and world-class skiing and snowboarding, it's little wonder why it's one of the country's most popular destinations.
Most visitors to B.C. (as locals call it) begin their trip in Vancouver, the largest city, which makes a great starting point for touring the rest of the province. A short flight or ferry trip from here will take you to Vancouver Island and the provincial capital, Victoria.
A two-hour drive up the stunning Sea to Sky highway from Vancouver is the resort town of Whistler, a renowned winter ski destination and brimming with adventure in the summer season.
In the interior of BC, the Okanagan Valley is another year-round hot spot stretching from Osoyoos in the south to the central city of Kelowna and Vernon in the north end. It's here that you can enjoy beaches, golf courses, abundant wineries and ski resorts.
Alberta is where the Canadian Rockies meet the Great Plains in a series of spectacular landscapes. The province is all about wide-open spaces and it enjoys the most sunshine of all the Canadian provinces. From the mountains to the martian-like Badlands, there are six UNESCO World Heritage sites and five national parks that protect the province's natural wonders and inspire wanderlust in every type of traveller.
The glaciers and turquoise lakes of Banff and Jasper National Parks are unforgettable sights and mountain towns like Jasper and Banff celebrate mountain culture. Alberta's two largest cities, Calgary and Edmonton are similar in size with individual character. Calgary has become cool, with top museums and cocktail bars, not to mention the world-famous annual Calgary Stampede, while Edmonton’s fringe theatre festival is the world’s second-largest.
Endless flat, golden wheat fields as far as the eye is the image most people conjure up when thinking about Saskatchewan. And it's largely true when you base your perception of the province on the Trans Canada Highway experience, which can feel like neverending sameness.
However, contrary to popular belief, the province has a lot more to offer than just farming. Long overlooked as both a desirable place to live and visit, Saskatchewan is a diverse place and divided into two distinct regions. Southern Saskatchewan is home to all of the major cities as well as the flat prairie wheat fields for which it is so famous. Regina is the provincial capital while fast-growing Saskatoon has picked up attention for its arts and culture scene as well as a recent culinary infusion.
The landscape of the province’s northern section, which includes the hub of Prince Albert, however, includes many forests and several of the 100,000 crystal-clear lakes. Approximately 1,500 of these bodies of water are situated within Prince Albert National Park, one of the unofficial boundary lines separating the southern urban prairie from the forested north.
"Friendly Manitoba," as its license plate slogan reads, the prairie province is among Canada's most underrated travel destinations. Manitoba may not have mountain peaks, oceans, or world-famous landmarks of other Canadian places, however, visitors who make time for an in-depth visit to this prairie wonderland will encounter surprising expanses of forested wilderness, abundant wildlife and world-class arts and cultural experiences.
The place where prairie meets metropolis, the provincial capital of Winnipeg is a hub for museums, cultural attractions and entertainment. Winnipeg is home to North America’s longest operating ballet company, Canada’s oldest regional theatres in both English and French, and a stately concert hall that hosts frequent symphony orchestra and opera performances.
This land of 100,000 lakes includes plenty of beautiful beaches along its sandy shores, including Grand Beach, which regularly lands on the list of the world's best beaches. Venture far north and you can watch polar bears in the wild in Churchill and experience the dazzling northern lights.
As Canada's most populous province, Ontario is home to the nation's largest city, Toronto, and the capital city of Ottawa, and yet, with vast wilderness areas and over a thousand waterways and pristine lakes. It also has one of Canada's most treasured and visited natural attractions, Niagara Falls, along with neighbouring Niagara-on-the-Lake and wine country. This huge province offers plenty of room to roam — and unlimited opportunities for discovery, adventure and family fun.
During the hot summer months, people visit Ontario to relax at lakeside resorts in the cottage country of Muskoka, sip wines and enjoy the charming towns in Prince Edward County, spend family time at some of the country's biggest amusement parks, camp in provincial parks and see some of the country's most iconic landmarks, like the CN Tower.
In winter, while some venture outdoors to enjoy the ski hills, skating rinks, snowmobiling, and winter festivals, most turn their attention indoors to hockey games, some of Canada's top museums and art galleries, plus shopping, dining, Broadway shows, and other cultural attractions.
- Ontario Travel Guide
- Niagara Falls & Niagara Wine Country Travel
- Prince Edward County
- Ontario Staycation Tax Credit
The largest province in the country, Quebec covers diverse landscapes from shimmering lakes and Canadian shield to sweeping beaches and islands to vast forests and the isolated Arctic tundra. The St. Lawrence River, almost 1,200 kilometres long, runs through the most populated regions of the province.
It's the only place in Canada where English is not the most commonly spoken language. The over seven and a half million Quebecois are proud of their ability to preserve their French language and culture despite being vastly outnumbered by English speakers in the rest of the country.
Montreal is both Quebec’s biggest city and the world's most populous predominantly French-speaking city outside of Paris. The provincial capital, Quebec City, was founded in 1608, and is as close to Europe as it gets without crossing the Atlantic, with original city walls and well-preserved historic buildings.
While most visitors head for the two main cities, Montreal and Quebec City, there are many things to do throughout the province, including historical sites, cultural institutions, festivals and beautiful natural areas. Quebec also contains Canada’s most popular skiing destination east of Alberta, the billion-year-old Saguenay Fjord, among North America’s most imposing, and Montmorency Falls, which tower almost 100 more feet above the ground than Niagara Falls.
- Quebec Travel Guide (Member sourced recommendations for things to do in Quebec)
- Looking for more ideas on what to do in Montreal? Check out our blog post on making the most of Montreal, and free hidden gems to enjoy in Montreal without spending a dime.
- Say Bonjour to Quebec (Ceros Blog)
- If you're looking for more things to do in Quebec city, visit our blog post on a tour guide's guide to Quebec City. Whether you are an art lover or an adrenaline junkie, there is a Quebec for every kind of traveller. Check out our blog for activities and sight-seeing tips.
New Brunswick is the least densely populated of Canada’s four Atlantic provinces — and that means its many attractions are pristine and seldom crowded. The scenery here is varied and beautiful — a mix of rugged coastline, wooded hills, and deep valleys, all within a few hours of one another. Visitors can do much more than watch their vehicles magically pull themselves up Magnetic Hill or marvel at the Saint John River flowing backwards thanks to a series of rapids known as the Reversing Falls. Its natural wonders include the world's highest tides at the Bay of Fundy, colourful fall foliage, sea caves, sand dunes and rock towers, plus the province boasts many historic sites, awesome whale-watching and delicious seafood.
The westernmost of Canada’s three Maritime provinces is best known as the country’s only officially bilingual (English-French) region. The largest cities are Saint John, Moncton, and the provincial capital, Fredericton. Forests cover much of the interior — more than three-quarters of the province — and most of its top attractions are close to the coast. Fredericton sits alongside the St. John River, which flows southeast through beautiful, rich farmland to join the Bay of Fundy in Saint John.
Nova Scotia's license plates proclaim the Maritime province “Canada’s Ocean Playground,” and the sea is definitely among the main attractions. Almost completely surrounded by water, Nova Scotia is deeply connected to all things ocean, from its rich maritime history and fishing traditions to the abundant marine life off of its shores.
Canada’s second-smallest province contains a disproportionately large amount of the country’s history. The small Annapolis River fishing community of Port Royal was the country’s first permanent European settlement, while the capital of Halifax became Canada’s first permanent British city in 1749. Halifax’s huge natural harbour and imposing Citadel Hill were the two main reasons why British general Edward Cornwallis chose to establish his settlement there.
Its lengthy coastline — some 10 times the size of its land mass — is dotted with fishing villages, sandy beaches and gorgeous islands. The scenery varies greatly, from the foggy Atlantic Ocean in the southeast to the tidal salt marshes of the Bay of Fundy in the west and Gaelic highlands of Cape Breton to the north. Cape Breton is merely the largest of the 3,800 coastal islands surrounding mainland Nova Scotia, whose small border with New Brunswick is the only strip of land connecting the peninsula province to the mainland.
Prince Edward Island
Tip to tip, Prince Edward Island is only about 225 kilometres long. And its population — just over 165,000 as of 2021 — is less than that of a small city. But Canada's smallest province punches well above its weight with its outsized personality, charming towns, a historic capital city, a sprawling national park and lots and lots of lobster.
Prince Edward Island became famous as the location of the initial 1864 Charlottetown Conference where the Fathers of Confederation first met to discuss creating the new country which would eventually become Canada. Today, visitors are lured by the island’s delicious food scene, sparkling harbours and stories in Anne of Green Gables, which was set in the fictional town of Avonlea.
The rural charms of a rolling green patchwork of farms paired with a coastline of sandy beaches and wildly eroded cliffs studded with lighthouses is a hard combination to resist. Add attractions like the home and setting for one of the most beloved characters in children's literature, the seaside Prince Edward Island National Park, and a bicycling trail from one tip of the island to the other and PEI has rewarding things to do for every type of tourist.
PEI boasts more than a couple of dozen golf courses, many of which rank among the world’s finest. Although many Prince Edward Island visitors stay within the province’s central region between its only two cities of Summerside and Charlottetown, golfers may wish to travel east for a stay at Rodd Crowbush and play the links at Crowbush Cove or west to Mill River Golf Course, two of the area’s most challenging courses.
Newfoundland and Labrador
There is no place quite like Newfoundland and Labrador, a place off the beaten path, a place with its own unique flavour. From the people and culture, to the natural beauty and surroundings, it's a region a millennium in the making. The first strip of North American land ever viewed by European eyes was the northeasternmost tip of the island of Newfoundland. Only remnants of the original L’Anse aux Meadows Viking colony established around the year 1000 exist today, but the providence of Newfoundland and Labrador continues to be the location of many North American firsts.
The island of Newfoundland is the most easterly part of Canada, while the vast region of Labrador is largely inaccessible. Newfoundland and Labrador's varied landscape was shaped by the ice ages, leaving a ragged coastline of deep fjords and high coastal cliffs that plunge into the sea. Inland are miles and miles of moorland and forest studded by lakes and inhabited by moose and herds of caribou.
St. John's, the capital of Canada’s youngest province, is also the continent’s oldest British-founded city, North America’s easternmost major city, and situated just a brief drive away from Cape Spear, North America’s easternmost strip of land. Guglielmo Marconi chose Signal Hill as the site of his historic transatlantic wireless transmission, the world’s first, in 1901. St. John’s is home to Water Street, North America’s oldest street, and George Street, the street with North America’s largest per capita number of places to grab a drink.
From the majestic coastline to eerie, ancient landscapes and the brightly coloured houses in St. John’s to historic Viking settlements, landing sites of early European explorers, landmarks of early flight pioneers, and tangible relics of prehistoric populations, Canada’s most easterly province is ripe for adventure.
"It's the great, big, broad land 'way up yonder, it's the forests where silence has lease; it's the beauty that thrills me with wonder, it's the stillness that fills me with peace," iconic poet Robert W. Service once wrote about the Yukon and the thousands of fortune-seekers who descended upon the frontier during the 1896 Klondike Gold Rush. Today, visitors to Yukon Territory are far more likely to seek either peaceful relaxation or unbridled adventure in one of North America’s most sparsely populated regions.
Yukon, formerly called Yukon Territory and sometimes referred to as the Yukon is the smallest and westernmost of Canada's three territories. It also is the second-least populated province or territory in Canada. However, Whitehorse, the territorial capital, is the largest settlement in any of the three territories. Yukon offers an abundance of historical, natural and cultural sites that will amaze visitors with their diversity. Most people associate the Yukon with the history of the Gold Rush and, while that helped shape the territory into what it is today, there is plenty more to discover. From the Ice Age era to the present, ancient tribes to the current First Nations, there is plenty to see and experience while you are traversing this large territory.
The Northwest Territories covers an immense tract of Canada that lies north of the 60th parallel and almost reaches the North Pole. This vast and thinly populated wilderness, where most four-legged species far outnumber humans, is more than five times the size of the U.K. yet is one of the most sparsely populated places on the planet. Although the NWT's population is small in population, it's rich in diversity. English, French, Métis, Inuit, and at least six prominent First Nations groups are all represented here, which recognizes nearly a dozen official languages.
This land of towering mountains, mighty rivers, and treeless tundra is harsh and the varied landscape in the Northwest Territories is rivalled only by the diversity of its people, much to the surprise of visitors expecting a remote land of nothing but ice and snow. Northwest Territories waters are pristine, filled with giant fish waiting to be tempted, and offer thrilling outdoor activities like canoeing along the Mackenzie River, Canada’s longest river and whitewater rafting past Virginia Falls, about twice as tall as Niagara Falls.
Summers may be brief, but temperatures can climb just as high as those in southern Canada, and darkness doesn’t set until well into the night, if at all. These extra long days have given the region its nickname, the "land of the midnight sun." Conversely, in winter it remains dark virtually around the clock, the so-called "polar night," a boon for those in search of the flickering northern lights. Yellowknife is one of the best places on earth to observe this phenomenon, thanks to its remarkably clear skies on most nights of the year.
Canada’s youngest, largest, and northernmost territory of Nunavut spans three time zones across a region as large as Western Europe. Officially established in 1999 and once part of the Northwest Territories, Nunavut means “Our Land” in Inuktitut and encompasses the traditional lands of the Inuit, the indigenous peoples of Arctic Canada.
Nunavut is an immense region of uninhabited islands and frigid ocean that exists on the planet's geographic extremes. Its isolated location, notoriously frigid winters, and sheer physical size may intimidate many travellers, but those who make the long and expensive trek will be greeted by some of the world’s most pristine landscapes and the warm, friendly people who call this untamed land their home. Few other places on Earth give visitors the opportunity to build and camp in igloos during a dog sledding excursion, experience the midnight sun and the northern lights or watch whales, seals, and icebergs from the edge of a floating ice floe while travelling on the northern edges of the continent.
Most of Nunavut is situated above the tree line, in a region of predominantly Arctic tundra with dwarf shrubs, grasses, mosses, and lichens. Fjords cut deep inland from the coast. Nunavut’s caribou population ranks among the world’s largest at over 500,000, and greatly outnumbers the territory’s human population. Nunavut’s capital and largest community, Iqaluit, has a population of just over 7,000 people.
The vast majority of Nunavut’s tourists arrive during the very short summer season, which lasts as little as a month in some regions. This still gives visitors plenty of time to fish in some of the planet’s most unpolluted waters or navigate them by kayak. Walrus, polar bears, caribou, and muskoxen can all be hunted, photographed, or admired from safe distances.
Accommodations, like everything else in Nunavut, cost several times more than their southern Canadian counterparts, especially during the short summer season. Luxury hotels are unheard of and visitors may have to share facilities with other guests at some establishments. Iqaluit contains most of Nunavut’s full-service hotels, but more adventurous visitors may prefer to stay at isolated hunting lodges with welcoming Inuit families, or even camp miles away in any of Nunavut’s huge and isolated national parks.
Flying is literally the only way to enter Nunavut, which has no road links with the rest of Canada, and it is the only way to travel between the territory’s 26 incorporated communities. The first landmark all visitors will see is the bright yellow Iqaluit Airport, whose flights from Ottawa, Montreal and starting in summer 2022 from Toronto are Nunavut’s only direct connection to southern Canada. Bus and rail lines are non-existent and the entire road network consists of streets around Iqaluit and a brief 13-mile stretch between two northern Baffin Island communities, Nanisivik and Arctic Bay.