On 01 October 2022, Canada removed all its COVID restrictions, and in doing so, put the country and its impressive array of landscapes, world wonders and wildlife back on the map. Since there’s never been a better time to travel to the Great White North, our experts have picked out five of their favourite bucket list experiences, the list including everything from legendary locations to Canada’s more obscure, but still highly prized sites.
Being with Icebergs In Newfoundland
In Canada’s Atlantic region, the journey really is the destination, especially for those heading to the historic Quirpon Lighthouse. Located off the northernmost tip of Newfoundland, the 1922 light-keeper’s home sits on the deserted Quirpon Island, the surrounding waters boasting the longest iceberg-viewing season in the province. Getting there is all part of the adventure, a 30-minute boat ride taking you through the otherworldly iceberg alley – the Labrador current carrying the ice south. Like a floating art gallery, you can expect to see glorious streaks of blue running across the massive bergs, and sometimes caves and tunnels, waterline notches and even large rocks embedded within.
When these great mountains of ice roll and break up, it’s bucket list central, birds usually taking flight just before you hear the resounding crash. Where the whales and the seals play, opt to see the marine life and the icebergs close up on an exhilarating zodiac tour (best viewed mid May to mid July), complete with the kind of storytelling Newfoundlanders are famous for. Or, alternatively, kick back in the whale watching hut with a glass of wine while watching the sun set. From towering Fjords to quaint fishing communities, expect Mother Nature and the people of Newfoundland to leave you wanting to return.
The Greatest Light Show On Earth
In 1619, the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei coined the term “Aurora Borealis,” the northern lights continuing to captivate hearts and minds to this day. Once shrouded in mystery and folklore, the First Nations people originally interpreted the swathes of colour as the spirits of ancestors engaged in a celestial ball game involving a walrus skull. Canada is at the top of the bucket list when it comes to watching this incredible spectacle, Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest territories, lying directly beneath the aurora oval: the area with strongest geomagnetic activity producing the world’s brightest and most frequent displays.
Blachford Lake Lodge is located just far enough away from the city’s artificial light to ensure its claim as a world class northern lights viewing hub (late August until early October, and early December until early April the best times to go), and as this sought after sight is visible directly above the lodge there’s no need to head out on a bus or shuttle. Marvel at the beautiful dancing waves of light in all their colourful glory, from one of the decks, from the hot tub, or from the comfort of your own room while snuggled under your duvet. Don’t want to miss out on this bucket list experience? There is even an overnight wake up service so you can catch the Northern Lights at their best.
Rocky Mountain Window Music
Many of us are keen to rediscover the romance of rail travel, and where better to enjoy window music (railroad slang for passing scenery) than Canada. Train travel that allows you to savour all the scenery, the Rocky Mountaineer only operates by day. Next level luxury, savour the grandeur of the Canadian Rockies through a glass-domed train car, and head from Vancouver to Jasper. The first leg of the journey takes you along the Sea to Sky Corridor, the railway hugging the shoreline and winding past the scenic fjords of Howe Sound. Then it’s onward through the Coast Mountains and onto Whistler. Watch in wonder, as emerald lakes, coastal rainforests, desert canyons, and Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, pass you by.
Of course there’s no finer way to travel than in Gold Leaf Service, which gives you access to the Bi-level glass-dome coach for 360 degree panoramas, a separate exclusive dining car, and a large exclusive outdoor viewing platform: our tip, opt for the last carriage for truly unobstructed sight seeing. With Michelin-trained chefs on board, the gourmet breakfasts and lunches pack a culinary punch, dishes often served with farm to table flair, the chefs sometimes sourcing locally owned produce en route.
Meet the King of the Arctic in Manitoba
Much of the ongoing conversation related to global warming is focused on the plight of the beloved polar bear, so it’s no wonder that viewing this majestic mammal appears on our Canada bucket list, the country home to 60% of the world’s total population. Deep in the Canadian arctic, the remote town of Churchill in Manitoba province (located at the intersection of three different eco-zones including arctic marine, subarctic tundra and boreal forest), is known as the Polar Bear Capital of the World. While the only way of getting here is by train, boat or plane, it’s the most accessible place to spot polar bears on the planet, the town of fewer than 1,000 people perched on the edge of Hudson Bay. Better still, Churchill lies on their migratory path, and come summer, when the tundra transforms, flowers, birds and polar bears dot the landscape, while beluga whales swim in the cool waters just offshore.
A fascinating marine safari, catch sight of curious belugas from your zodiac and listen to their whale song through the hydrophone. Back on terra firma climb aboard your tundra buggy.The luckiest of travellers might well eye to eye with a polar bear – the inquisitive King of the Arctic known to stride sure footed towards the vehicles and peer inside. Stay with us and you might even score the hatrick, polar bears, belugas and even grizzly bears reportedly making an appearance back at the lodge.
World Wonders In Ontario
Ontario’s Niagara Falls are arguably the world’s most famous falls, and viewed from the Canadian side they have what can only be described as a spellbinding pulsating power: 3,160 tonnes of water flowing over the rim every second. Located in Niagara Falls City (linked with the U.S. by the Rainbow Bridge), on the western bank of the Niagara River, there are a multitude of ways to enjoy seeing the world wonder. Now a historic tourist attraction, Niagara Parks Power Station offers a unique perspective, the Beaux-Arts-style building once harnessing the fierce flow of the Niagara River to bring electricity to western New York and southern Ontario. The refurbished tourist attraction features a walkable tunnel (opened in July 2022) that ends at a large platform with unobstructed views of the entire Niagara Gorge.
Descend by glass elevator to the wheel pit for close-ups of Horseshoe Falls, the cascades’ most expansive section, the soundtrack of rushing water demonstrating the sheer strength of this all-powerful force of nature. Take a gentle stroll along Niagara Fallsview Boulevard for any number of fabulous vantage points (and equally alluring places to wine and dine), zipline through the mist or book an evening Niagara City Cruises,’ Voyage to the Falls catamaran trip (complete with mist poncho), and see the illuminated falls complete with music, cocktails and a spectacular fireworks display (select days, May to October). Oenophiles should head to the falls in September and combine the legendary world wonder with the Niagara Grape & Wine Festival, Canada’s largest wine festival.