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outdoor activities

Canada’s 10 Best Island Holiday Destinations

By KAT TANCOCK

Cape Breton Island (Photo: Nova Scotia Tourism)

When we think of island vacations, the tropical always springs to mind: hot sun, sand, flip-flops and a fruity drink with an umbrella. But Canada has islands on offer, too, with a lot more to attract visitors than you might think. Here are 10 picks to consider for your next vacation.

Start the slideshow of top island destinations »

6 Places to Enjoy the Outdoors in Calgary

Enjoy Southern Alberta's big blue skies and warm weather this summer. Courtesy Blue Devil Golf Club.

Take in Alberta’s big blue skies and warm summer weather (Photo: courtesy Blue Devil Golf Club)

Alberta’s mountain parks are well known recreational destinations, but a wide variety of warm-weather outdoor fun can be had in and around Calgary. (more…)

12 Best Places to See the Northern Lights

Labrador, on Canada’s east coast, is one of the best places to see the northern nights

We admit it, we’re a bit aurora borealis obsessed here at Where.ca. But can you blame us? Canada is one of the best places on Earth to see the northern lights in all their glory. Travellers interested in seeing the show should know that the phenomenon is most vibrant in winter, though they can be seen all year in certain spots. In this gorgeous slide show, we’ve singled out the best places to see the northern lights from coast to coast.

• Start the slide show for the best places to see the northern lights »
• See a map of all the best places to see the northern lights »

Hot Entertainment: Easy Cycling in Whistler

Cycling photo by Chad Chomlack courtesy Tourism Whistler

Spinning your wheels in Whistler? Tired of other tourists? Rent a bike in the village from a supplier such as Salomon, pick up a trail map from the Tourism Whistler Information Centre and pedal to the quiet side of Whistler. The peaceful Valley Trail (pictured) winds under Highway 99 and away from the village, through grassy parks and leafy residential neighbourhoods, and around placid lakes dotted with red and yellow canoes. En route, kids clamber on jungle gyms as parents set out snacks on picnic tables. Rent for an hour—maybe cycle to Alta Lake and back—or go for longer to cover more of the 40-km (25-mi) route. It’s wheely fun!—Louise Phillips

Wildlife Viewing Tips in the Canadian Rockies

By Peter A. Dettling

Although archeologists have determined that First Nations used the Canadian Rockies regularly for 11,000 years, the idea that bears, cougars and other ‘predators’ were vermin to be eliminated was a European notion that arrived with the explorers in the late 1700s. As the non-Native presence in the Rockies grew, over hunting brought these large carnivores to the brink of extinction, and also depleted the ungulate population including elk and moose.

Thanks to the creation of protected areas, re-introduction efforts, hunting restrictions and changing attitudes towards large carnivores, we now find all pre-European settlement species in the Rockies, except free roaming bison. But don’t take a grizzly or wolf sighting for granted. Seeing large animals in their natural habitat is a privilege.

Since you are a visitor in their home, treat animals with respect by giving them space to decide what to do and where to go. When viewing wildlife from your car, pull off of the road, shut off the engine and silently enjoy the sighting. Stay in your vehicle, especially when watching wolves or bears. It will ensure a safe and pleasant experience for both you and the animal you’re observing.

Wildlife sightings in our mountain parks are frequent and widespread occurrences. Elk are common. In fall, visit Vermillion Lakes, Lake Minnewanka Loop or Golf Course Dr near the town of Banff, or Athabasca River flats near Jasper, to see bugling elk. Your best chance to see bears is in early summer north of Lake Louise on Icefields Parkway’s avalanche slopes and in roadside dandelion patches, or beside Jasper’s Maligne Lake Road (Map 5, 5P). Elusive wolves can sometimes be spotted early summer west or south of the Jasper townsite. Kananaskis Country often hosts moose, bears and wolves.

Try walking scenic mountain trails to feel truly connected with your surroundings and yourself. It is especially exhilarating to see animals on slopes and meadows away from the road.

Editor’s Note: Peter Dettling owns Canmore’s Terra Magica gallery and is the author and photographer of The Will of the Land. Visit TerraMagica.ca for details on his award-winning work.

Summer Activities in Whistler

View from atop the High Note Trail. Photo by Steve Rogers courtesy Tourism Whistler

Whistler may be best known for skiing and snowboarding, but an abundance of warm-weather activities attract outdoor adventurers even when the perfect powder is long gone

By Sheri Radford

No matter what type of summer adventure you’re after, Whistler has it.

(more…)

Haliburton County: Ontario’s Little-Known Adventure Gem

By LIZ BRUCKNER

Photo: Theodore Smith

Contrary to popular belief, you need not board a plane to score your next adventure fix. Head two-and-a-half hours north of Toronto to the Haliburton Highlands for a hearty dose of the Ontario outdoors.
(more…)

10 Unusual Off-the-Grid Accommodations

By Waheeda Harris

Tired of the conventional beige box hotel room? Get off the beaten path with these unusual places to stay. (more…)

Hot Attraction: Skiing in Gatineau Park

Gatineau Park makes for a serene skiing destination. Photo credit: National Capital Commission.

Want to get outdoors, but don’t want to go far? Look no further than Gatineau Park. Located just 15 minutes from downtown Ottawa, this conservation park has more than 50 cross-country ski trails ranging in both length (7.9 km- 40 km) and level (beginner to advanced). There’s nothing like gliding over fresh snow on a winter morning. Marvel at the forests and open fields as you fly by, then warm up by a wood burning stove at one of the 10 shelters, which are outfitted with picnic tables so you can enjoy a snack from home.

The Newest Mobile, Interactive Bird-Watching Guides

BirdsEye app

Are you a bird nerd? Well, there’s never been a better time to be one.

Smartphone apps for bird-watchers are improving daily. One of our favourites is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s BirdsEye, an app that allows users to upload recent sitings and pins them to a map, so you can see where particular birds have been spotted recently. You can also search for birds, see photos and descriptions and hear birdsongs and bird calls. It’s pricey ($19.99) but serious birders say it’s worth it. Plus it’s available for iPad, and in a “lite” version ($1.99), which has a fraction of the species of the full version. (more…)

Hot Entertainment: Serenity Now

Waterfront Yoga at Canada Place

Even if you don’t know a dosha from a chakra, you’re welcome to practice your poses during Waterfront Yoga at Canada Place (to Sep. 19). Not only can you work on improving your body while gazing at the scenery, but you can work on improving your soul, too: proceeds from the program help feed local children.—Kristina Urquhart

The Great Outdoors

Grab a paddle, lace those hiking boots and ready that fishing pole: Where‘s headed to the North Shore

By Jennifer Patterson

Meghan and Mat glide through the water in brightly coloured rentals from Deep Cove Canoe & Kayak. Photo by KK Law

Get Wet

Water babies feel right at home in picturesque Deep Cove, a short drive from downtown Vancouver and a haven for water sports enthusiasts. Rent a kayak at Deep Cove Canoe & Kayak and glide through the water, up picturesque Indian Arm, to Granite Falls. This photogenic park offers camping spots for multi-day trips. A growing trend with both celebs and weekend warriors: paddle boarding. Stand upright on a long, flat, surf-style board and use a long paddle to manoeuvre through the calm waterways.

Grab a fishing pole and head into the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve for some peaceful trout fishing around Rice Lake. The main dock is usually busy but the three-km- (1.8-mi-) long path around the lake is filled with hidden benches and quiet corners.

Learn about the culture and history of the Coast Salish First Nations on a guided canoe trip through Indian Arm with Takaya Tours. The traditional wood canoes are 7.6 m (25 ft) in length and tours can be customized to include drumming, songs and stories. End your day on the water with a grilled salmon feast, available by request.

Stay Dry

Landlubbers seeking an outdoor escape head north of downtown to kick up dirt on the tree-covered mountains. The 48-km- (30-mi-) long Baden-Powell Trail, a winding stretch through the North Shore Mountains, starts in Horseshoe Bay and ends in Deep Cove. Don’t feel pressured to complete the entire route in one go—an ambitious venture, indeed—as the trail has multiple entry points and smaller trails branching off along the way. A couple of route highlights: the famous Grouse Grind, also known as Mother Nature’s StairMaster; the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge; and Quarry Rock lookout in Deep Cove.

Those with a need for speed grab a mountain bike and burn rubber on backwoods trails. Mt. Seymour, Mt. Fromme and

Meghan and Mat make their way back from Quarry Rock viewpoint on a well-established trail. Photo by KK Law

Cypress Mountain offer paved, gravel and plank-covered paths ranging from relaxed cross-country to extreme downhill. If you’re a first timer looking for a little guidance, companies such as Endless Biking (page 64) can set you up with an instructor and guide.

If a city bike is more your style, 10 km (6 mi) of paved trails await on the car-free Seymour Valley Trailway. Do you have some energy to spare? Peddle the paved roads all the way to the top of both Cypress and Seymour.

Head a little further north, to the Stawamus Chief Park, for hard-core rock-climbing on the second largest granite monolith in the world (think sheer rock face with nowhere to go but up). If you prefer pounding the dirt to dangling from ropes, make your way up and through the mountains via trails, ladders and stairs to either the first, second or third peak. The climb is a bit challenging but the 360-degree views from the top make it well worth the sweat. Before heading back into Vancouver, visit neighbouring Shannon Falls, the third-highest waterfall in British Columbia.

Up in the Air

Challenge your fear of heights on the 137-m- (450-ft-) long Capilano Suspension Bridge, hanging 70 m (230 ft) above the rushing river. This popular attraction with both visitors and locals added a jaw-dropping new feature this year: the Cliffwalk, a cantilevered and suspended walkway that juts out of a granite cliff face. The faint of heart may balk at the glass-bottomed sections, which offer crystal-clear views of the canyon far below.

Feel the wind beneath your wings as you set flight from the top of Grouse Mountain on a tandem paragliding ride with an elevation drop of 1,000 m (3,300 ft). No experience is required but a sense of adventure is a must.

Gear for Here
Stock up on clothing and equipment, for outdoor adventures both big and small, at Mountain Equipment Co-op and the Arc’teryx Factory Store.