2017 is the year of Canada’s 150th Anniversary! As such, Canada is giving out free National Park passes which you can select (not buy) online and have it mailed to you for free. I got my parks pass mainly because it was free and it would a great way to plan day trips. Since then, I’ve looked into the National Parks across Canada, and my bucket list has suddenly gotten a whole lot longer. These National Parks are jam packed with absolutely stunning views, deep history and experiences you’ll only have once in your life. Have you heard of Sable Island? Probably not. It’s a more recent National Park in Canada and you won’t believe what it takes to get there, and what waits for you when you arrive. Thousand Islands National Park is located in Ontario and is suddenly my number one destination this summer. Why? You’ll have to read on to find out, but I can guarantee you’ll want to go there at some point as well. Canada’s National Parks typically take a few days to explore and will envelope you in beautiful little worlds where fresh, crisp air, the well protected peaceful animals and sunshine will rejuvenate your soul.
1. Georgian Bay Island National Park – ONTARIO
Just a fifty minute drive from Barrie, Ontario, Georgian Bay National Park looks like it belongs in the Caribbean. Rent a sweet little cabin and be immersed in stunning blue skies, swim, canoe or jet ski through clear, azure waters and get some stunning photos on a daily hike up the surrounding cliffs. This location is famous for it’s Flowerpot Island (pictured here) and endless water to sky horizon.
2. La Mauricie National Park – QUEBEC
Get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and escape to La Mauricie National Park. This insanely beautiful Canadian National Park covers 207 square miles in the Southern Canadian Shield and borders on the edge of the Saint Lawrence Lowlands. Two hours from Montreal, it is a picturesque location to camp, swim, hike and canoe. In the fall, the trees turn incredible shades of red, yellow and orange and reflect off the serene lake like a mirror.
3. Jasper National Park – ALBERTA
Mountainous and sprawling with evergreen trees and clear rivers, Jasper National Park is an accessible, family friendly destination for the summer or winter holidays. Take the Jasper SkyTram 2 kilometres up to the summit of Mount Whistler and view six mountain ranges all in one trip. Not a fan of heights? Explore the Athabasca River by going on a Raft tour and experiencing the ebb and flow of Jasper Park the most natural way possible.
4. Cape Breton National Park – NOVA SCOTIA
Cape Breton National Park will never disappoint. The Cabot Trail is one of the most scenic trails you will explore, looking out over the ocean and giving a perfect viewing place for sunsets. There is also 185 miles of roadway if hiking isn’t an option for you or your family members. With a rugged terrain and lush forests, you will want to add Cape Breton National Park to your bucket list.
5. Bruce Peninsula National Park – ONTARIO
No, this is not a photo of Mexico or California, this is Ontario! How incredible is this stunning aquamarine water and perfect cliffs for jumping? Bruce Peninsula National Park not only has a beautiful terrain, but also contains two shipwrecks which can be viewed aboard a glass bottom boat. Located four hours from Toronto, this National Park will be a highlight of your summer and will definitely be a perfect place to post some incredible Instagram photos.
6. Wood Buffalo National Park – ALBERTA AND NORTHWEST TERRITORIES
Looking to get away from it all? Looking to see some incredible wildlife and explore where very few have gone before? Check out Wood Buffalo National Park in Northern Alberta and Southern Northwest Territories. With over 5000 Wood Buffalo roaming this well protected land, you can have endless days to explore the 44,000 square kilometers of beauty. It also has the world’s largest beaver dam, which is just one of the fascinating natural sights in this National Park. Remember to bundle up and prepare well for an adventure on these lands created to specifically protect the Buffalo.
7. Prince Edward Island National Park – PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
Have you ever seen Anne of Green Gables? Of course you have. This is where all the magic happens, not only at Green Gables (which you can visit by the way) but also on the rocky red shores of the ocean. Set up camp at Prince Edward National Park and explore these earthy beaches and historic little towns with your family. The perfect mix of tourist attractions and nature will keep every family member entertained for days while providing a scenic environment to relax.
8. Forillon National Park – QUEBEC
Located on the top of the Gaspe Peninsula, ten hours from Quebec City, Forillon National Park offers a diverse range of activities and experiences. Visit fascinating and historic fishing villages that are a testament to the lifestyle Fishing Families led in years past. Catch a glimpse of wildlife including seals and whales swimming in the bays of water and try taking a dip yourself! This National Park offers a serene getaway to get back in touch with nature.
9. Banff and Lake Louise – ALBERTA
This is a trip you absolutely must take at some point in your life. With skiing and dog sledding in the winter, you will never get bored or have a shortage of activities. In the summer, go on a hike up Sulphur Mountain or take a dip in a natural hot spring. If you are looking for a more luxurious vacay, book a few nights at the Lake Louise Fairmont Hotel where you will wake up to the emerald Lake Louise every morning.
10. Sable Island – NOVA SCOTIA
This is the gem that no one knows about. Sable Island is a tiny island, approximately 13 square miles and is located 186 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia. With 150 shipwrecks nearby, it is nicknamed “The Graveyard of the Atlantic” as it has sandbars that extend far out into the ocean, causing many ships to crash onto it’s shores. In the early 1800’s, it was turned into a life saving station for victims of the wrecks and had several families living on the island. Sable Island is home to the world’s biggest colony of grey seals, and, at any one time, there can be between 150- 450 wild horses roaming the island. They are suspected to come from Acadian groups who had their horses taken away during The Great Expulsion. It is extremely difficult to get to the island due to the distance from the mainland, weather conditions, sandbars and much more. Once you are there, strict rules apply to protect the wildlife and ensure the island is maintained for generations to come. It is a costly trip, but well worth it! To find out how you can go on the 9-day Sable Island Excursion, click here.
11. Thousand Islands National Park – ONTARIO
Thousand Islands National Park is located 3 hours from Toronto in Southern Ontario. There are exactly 1864 islands, big and small, that straddle the Canadian/American boarder. To call a piece of land an island, it is required to be 1 square foot and must support one living tree. As such, there are many islands that hold one singular cottage. As shown in the photo below, this cottage has a bridge right on the Canadian and American boarder. If you happen to cross to the boarder, the American side has the stunning Boldt Castle to explore. It was a dream home built by a millionaire for his wife. Sadly, his wife died months before it’s completion and as a result, the owner closed it for 70 years. It is now open to the public and is comparable to European castles.
12. Prince Albert National Park – SASKATCHEWAN
Nestled in Saskatchewan, this peaceful park is home to the famous Grey Owl Cabin where the naturalist, author and orator, Grey Owl, lived out his days. The hike to the cabin is best experienced over two days, with a night of camping in between. You are also able to canoe and swim at this location and experience the peaceful quiet that Grey Owl left behind.
13. Gwaii Haanas National Park – BRITISH COLUMBIA
Have you heard of this location before? I sure hadn’t. Now that I know about it, I want to explore! Accessed by boat or plane only, this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site contains historic monuments and discoveries. More than 500 ancient discoveries have been made at Gwaii Haanas including villages and burial caves. The ocean life is bursting with color, and can be explored with a snorkel and wet suit – the water is chilly!
14. Fundy National Park – NEW BRUNSWICK
A jaw-dropping location to take your partner or family, Fundy National Park is located in New Brunswick. Set up a campsite and go for a scenic hike to discover the world famous Hopewell Rocks (pictured below). Afterwards, take a swim in the heated saltwater pool to sooth your muscles and prep you for a long deep sleep under the stars.
15. Yoho National Park – BRITISH COLUMBIA
Located just twenty minutes from the lovely quaint town of Golden, Yoho National Park is sure to stun any guest with it’s grandeur. Flowing aquamarine rivers, cascading waterfalls, gargantuan mountains and protected wildlife, this trip will be one that will be talked about for years to come. Rent a canoe and camp in this masterpiece of a park to fully experience the power and beauty of Yoho National Park.