Canada Montreal bicycle under snow


Travel Obsessions: Canada

Published September 29th, 2014

Canada, eh? Dig out your Canadian tuxedo (that’s double denim to the uninitiated) and pay homage to the most bacon-centric country in North America. Aussies have a natural affinity with Canada and the Canucks where the outdoorsy lifestyle mirrors our own pursuits, albeit on the wintry tip.


Snowboarder in Whistler, British Columbia.


Yep, Canada’s winters are long, cold and dark, particularly above the Arctic Circle where permafrost and polar bears lie. The 13 provinces each have their own breathtaking terrain, jaw-dropping natural sights (hello Northern Lights!) and animals that are equal parts majestic and redonkulous –  whales and grizzly bears versus beavers and moose, anyone?


Black bear cubs in Jasper National Park, Alberta.


Making sure that Canada’s amazing landscape doesn’t hog all the attention, the cities have each cultivated their own hipster appeal from the Francophile haven of Montreal to the Asian influences in Vancouver, plus there’s more festivals and cultural events than poutine stands in Québec (that’s hot chips liberally doused in gravy and cheese curds, FYI). Think the Ottawa Bluesfest, Just For Laughs in Montréal, Calgary Stampede, NXNE, Osheaga Festival Musique et Arts and Squamish Valley Music Festival, just for starters.



While your Roots sweatshirt, Lululemon yoga pants, and yes, ironic double denim will keep the memory of your Canada trip or working holiday alive, the sheer epic-ness of the Great White North will have you counting your pennies and the days until you return. It’s just that good.


Niagara Falls from the Canada side.


Travel snapshot:

Best time to visit: With such a vast space to explore, there’s no wrong time to visit Canada. Time your trip to suit your travel style and interests. Keen to carve it up on the slopes? Travel to Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and the northern territories during the long winter season. You can also head to the ski resorts in the summer months to traverse the same trails by mountain bike or hike on foot. Keen for culture, shopping and eating? Summer is also a good time to see the cities like Toronto, Ottawa and Montréal after the winter thaw, while March to May and September to October sees less tourists and cheaper prices. Over on the west coast, Vancouver is good to go all year round.


Canoeing Lake Maligne in Jasper National Park, Alberta.


Know: Heaps of your fave actors in US TV shows and films actually hail from Canada, not to mention the country is the background double for many city and town locations south of the border. Movie star-wise, you can thank Canada for the Gos (new baby daddy Ryan Gosling), Jim Carrey, Rachel McAdams, Ryan Reynolds, Seth Rogen and Ellen Page plus, Cobie Smulders (a.k.a. Robin Scherbatsky on How I Met Your Mother, really is from Canada - Vancouver to be precise!



Places to go:
Vancouver – The Pacific Northwest may be known for its wet winters, but it also doubles for many a US city on TV too. Add a mild year-round climate and its close proximity to the mountains where you could ski and swim in the same day, and it’s easy to see the outdoorsy appeal of Vancouver.


Canada’s most multicultural city Toronto has plenty of superlatives to get fashionable folk frothing. How about the world’s longest street, Yonge Street, or the 30 kilometres of PATH downtown Toronto subterranean pedestrian walkway that’s also the largest underground shopping complex on Earth? And did we mention the Canadian dollar is pretty much on par with the Aussie dollar? Sold!


Banff – Powder hounds and ski bunnies aren’t the only animals populating the pristine wilderness of Alberta, but come winter, the slopes and lakes of Mount Norquay and Banff National Park are more or less peopled with wintersport enthusiasts searching for the ultimate run and après-ski fun.


North America’s largest and most popular ski resort is the twin mountains of Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia. Whistler has over 3,000 hectares of varied terrain that draws skiers and boarders for the long ski season and reliable dumps in winter, and bikers and hikers in summer.


Prince Edward Island – Remember Anne of Green Gables? Canada’s Prince Edward Island (PEI) over on the east Atlantic coast brings the beloved book penned by PEI resident Lucy Maud Montgomery to life. Fans (kindred spirits) of the fictional novels can tour Avonlea Village and Green Gables Heritage Site – BYO red hair.


Calgary – Also known as Cowtown, Calgary in Alberta is where the legendary Calgary Stampede throws down every July. Dubbed the ‘Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth’, North America’s rodeo celebration of all things country and western is also the place to get more bacon in your diet. How much more? If you can batter it, deep-fry it and add bacon to it, you’ll find it here.


From bacon to poutine, the fries smothered with hot gravy and cheese curds may be Canada’s culinary gift to the world and Montréal is the place to indulge your inner Francophile. Stroll (or bike – Montreal is ranked as the best North American city for cycling) down the cobblestone streets and architecture of Old Montréal and the Old Port for a history lesson in a vibrant neighbourhood.


Top of the totem pole to you in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Cassandra Laffey

Consumed with unrequited wanderlust, I get my fix in 24/7 cities and hippie retreats. I'm still looking for the ultimate combo of secluded beach and major metropolis, and my happy place is a 5-star hotel room all to myself - sigh.