Canada is a relatively new country in the grand scheme of things and isn’t usually considered as a historical tourist destination. Most people who visit Canada come for the expansive, diverse and stunning landscape, and for good reason; Canada has some of the most impressive natural wonders in the world. But Canada does have an important and rich history, and you would be remiss to explore Canada without a visit to one of the nearly 1000 national historic sites and landmarks found across the country.
10. L.M. Montgomery’s Home -Cavendish, Prince Edward Island
Readers of the Anne of Green Gables series, one of Canada’s most well-known literary works, will be familiar with the National Historic Site. Located in rural Prince Edward Island, near Cavendish, is this quaint landmark; included in the historic site are the Green Gables house, the Cavendish home and the surrounding landscapes, including several lovely hiking trails ideal for a relaxing stroll. Even those who are not familiar with the books or the author will appreciate this beautiful home and the scenery typical of Prince Edward Island; plan for the day and bring a picnic to enjoy on the grounds!
9. Rideau Canal -Ottawa, Ontario
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Rideau Canal in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa is an impressive feat of engineering and architecture, and is a favorite destination among both tourists and locals. Officially connecting Kingston to Ottawa, this 202 kilometers of canals is a beautiful chain of lakes, rivers and canals perfect for a day out canoeing or sight-seeing. The exact location of the UNESCO site is in Ottawa; originally built for military purposes in the 1800’s, the series of lock stations and fortifications are architecturally impressive and still completely operational- many still hand crank operated! It is a favorite for locals too; during the winter months you can strap on some skates and travel nearly the entire canal- make sure you grab a beaver tail and some hot chocolate at one of the many kiosks set up along the way!
8. Batoche, Saskatchewan
Established in 1872, this Métis settlement was the site of the historical Battle of Batoche during the Northwest Rebellion of 1885 and is now a National Historic Site in Canada. Situated in the heart of the prairies on the South Saskatchewan River, it is here that Louis Riel was infamously defeated and a new country was formed. Walking through this historical landmark, you realize what an important moment this was for Canadian history; in fact, you can still see some of the bullet holes from the final battle. Not just for history buffs, take the family and spend the day walking in the shoes of Métis settlers on the shores of the river and learn how the old way of life disappeared and a new one began.
7. L’Anse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland and Labrador
Visit the L’Anse Aux Meadows National Historic Site on the tip of the island of Newfoundland and you can see evidence of the very first European settlers to set foot on North American soil. Scattered amongst this striking landscape is evidence of an 11th century Viking settlement; the only known location of a Viking settlement in North America, this site holds a tremendous amount of historical importance in terms of migration and discovery. Spend some time looking for the excavated remains of the wood-framed turf buildings (like the ones found in Iceland and Norse Greenland), and wandering around the site. The scenic, yet unrelentingly harsh landscape makes it all the more impressive that an entire culture managed to settle and live here hundreds of years ago.
6. Fortifications of Québec -Québec City, Québec
As the only fortified city north of Mexico, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is rich in history and architectural beauty, akin to historical cities scattered all over Europe. Walk the walls around Old Québec, nearly 4.6 kilometers in length to marvel at the views of the city and beyond, and to marvel at the military engineering of the fortifications developed in the early 1600’s. Old Québec is a beautiful city to explore by foot; many pedestrian only streets make it easy to get around, and the slower pace makes it easier to take all your pictures! There are also plenty of delicious cafés and quaint shops (although venture off the main streets for a less touristy experience), and plenty of maple syrup inspired treats to keep you going during the day!
5. Dawson, Yukon Territory
Way up north, in the harsh, unforgiving, stunningly beautiful landscape of Canada, you will find Dawson, Yukon, the heart of the Klondike Gold Rush and a charming town, well preserved and rich in history. Although small, there is plenty to do here; adventure enthusiasts will enjoy the outdoor landscape made for hiking and rafting, yet those searching for a more relaxing visit will enjoy the traditional pubs and boardwalks through town. Those feeling lucky can try their hand panning for gold in the Klondike Gold Fields and enjoy a tour through some of the still operational gold mines. Dawson is worth the trek up north, but given its remote location, be sure to stay awhile and enjoy the surrounding areas to make the most of your trip!
4. Fort Garry Hotel -Winnipeg, Manitoba
Those afraid of ghosts may want to skip the Fort Garry Hotel- the infamous Room 202 is said to be haunted by the ghost of a woman, but those brave enough won’t want to skip a visit to this landmark. A National Historic Site located in downtown Winnipeg, this famous hotel is one of Canada’s grand railway hotels, and built in 1913, it was the tallest structure in town upon completion. The architecture is reminiscent to other chateau style hotels in Canada, like the Fairmont Chateau next on the list, and is a unique and beautiful addition to the industrial core of Winnipeg.
3. Fairmont Chateau Frontenac -Québec City, Québec
One of the most beautiful and grand buildings in all of Canada, the Fairmont Château Frontenac in Québec is considered as one of the most photographed hotels in the world, in part because of its sheer size and grandiose nature on the Québec skyline. Designated as a National Historic Site in 1980, this hotel was built for the Canadian Pacific Railway company in the late 1800’s to promote luxury travel and tourism; it was a hotspot for wealthy travelers and those searching for a glamorous experience. This is the most prominent building in Québec and surely can’t be missed when exploring the area; spend some time exploring the glitzy, over the top décor inside and the intricate architecture on the outside- bring an extra memory card for your camera when visiting this landmark!
2. Terry Fox Memorial -Thunder Bay, Ontario
All Canadians are familiar with Terry Fox; in fact, he is probably one of the most well-known Canadian icons, recognized nationally and around the world. Visiting the Terry Fox Memorial, overlooking Lake Superior, you can’t help but be overwhelmed by this man’s courageous and inspirational quest to make the world a better place. Terry Fox was a humble young man who has inspired generations of Canadian’s to raise money and improve the lives of cancer patients worldwide; because of him, hundreds of millions of dollars has been raised for cancer research. All Canadian’s can find something to relate to in Terry Fox and the life he led; because of this and his relatability, this Terry Fox memorial is possibly one of the most emotional and inspirational in all of Canada.
1. Fortress of Louisbourg -Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
Located on the Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, this National Historic Site is one of the most important sites in defining Canada as it is today. The Fortress of Louisbourg was settled in 1713 and fortified later in the mid-18th century, and was the site of historic Anglo-French battles crucial to our history. Enter the fortified city and feel what it was like living in a fishing, port city during the 1700’s. Take one of the many walking and guided tours available, or spend some time exploring on your own; whatever you choose you will be sure to leave with a better understanding of how the original settlers of Canada lived hundreds of years ago.