8 Historic Canadian Forts That Still Exist Today

Canadian forts offer a glimpse into the past, built over the last two centuries to defend the young country. Nowadays they stand as a testament to the history of Canada and offer visitors a chance to go back in time. Many of these historic forts have been rebuilt time and time again, in order to give visitors access to them. Beautiful views, fun activities and a great lesson in Canadian history await visitors to these eight historic Canadian forts.

8. Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site, Victoria, British Columbia

This coastal artillery fort was built in the 1890’s, intended to defend Victoria and the Esquimalt Naval Base. The site is adjacent to Fisgard Lighthouse, the first lighthouse on the west coast of Canada. Visitors here have the chance to tour secret bunkers, military command posts, and original 19th-century buildings.

Hear personal stories of soldiers and their families, explore the nearby tide pools and bring a picnic and spend the whole day here. Known for its breathtaking views, the fort overlooks the beautiful coastline and out into the mountains. Open every day except Christmas, most visitors choose to visit the fort and the lighthouse in the same visit.

7. The Citadel National Historic Park, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Fort George is the fortified summit of Citadel Hill, first fortified in 1749, the year when Halifax was founded. A series of four different defensive fortifications have occupied the summit of Citadel Hill. While it was never attacked, the Citadel played an important part in the defense of the Halifax Harbor and its Royal Navy Dockyard. The star-shaped structure offers an incredible view of the city and the harbor.

Visitors should plan on taking a guided tour to learn more about the fort’s history from 1749 through WWII. Make sure to visit the Army Museum while you are here to view over 70,000 artifacts chronicling Atlantic Canada’s military history. Visit in July and be a part of the Great Canadian Backyard Campout where you can set up camp inside the walls of the citadel.

6. Fort Chambly National Historic Site, Chambly, Quebec

This imposing stone structure has been guarding part of one of the largest navigable waterways in North America for more than two centuries. It was first constructed in 1711 to defend the colony and three wooden forts preceded the stone fortification. For many years this fort was the main footing of the defensive chain of fortifications along the Richelieu River, which was the easiest route into New France.

The fort was lost to the British in 1760 in The Conquest of New France, captured by American forces in 1775 and finally restored in 1882 by a citizen of Chambly. Today visitors can see a fully reconstructed version of the fort where they can learn more about New France history and culture.

5. Fort St. James National Historic Site, Fort St. James, British Columbia

It was one of the first permanent fur trading posts in the West, built in 1805-1806 and has been rebuilt a total of four times. Visitors here will get a good look at life in 1896 that includes a fur warehouse, storage facility, trade store, and gardens. It displays the largest group of original wooden buildings representing the fur trade in Canada and the story here revolves around the relationships and interactions between the fur traders and Native Peoples of the region.

Its location on Stuart Lake offers fun for outdoor enthusiasts including hiking, sailing, fishing and mountain biking. Special event days happen throughout the year including Salmon Day with its ‘iron chef’ cook-off and Harvest Day.

Via Salmon Trails | Northwest BC Culture

4. Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site, St. Andrews, Manitoba

The original Fort Garry was destroyed in 1826 by a devastating flood, leading the Hudson’s Bay Company to search for a higher ground to build the next fort. Thus Lower Fort Garry was built, 32km north of the original in 1830. What makes this fort so significant is the fact that Treaty 1 was signed here.

Visit here from May to September when costumed interpreters recreate like at Lower Fort Garry in the early 1850’s. Original buildings and walls, hands-on activities and original-to-era furnishings are all a part of the experiment. Around Halloween, candlelight tours are offered through the fort, along with hot chocolate around a campfire.

Via National Post

3. Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada, Amherstburg, Ontario

It was formally known as Fort Amherstburg, built in 1795 by Britain in order to ensure the security of British North America against any potential threat of American Invasion. It here where Sir Isaac Brock and Tecumseh met during the War of 1812 to plan the siege of Detroit. Unfortunately, this border fortification was torn down after the War of 1812. The fort was rebuilt and it’s the second structure that survives today.

Ideally located along the Detroit River, visitors here are privy to some true Canadian flora and fauna including sugar maples, swans, and geese. Throughout the year there are special events such as the haunted fort tours during October and Christmas celebrations that show visitors how soldiers over two hundred years ago celebrated the holiday.

Via Ontario’s Southwest

2. Fortress Louisburg, Louisburg, Nova Scotia

The original settlement was made in 1713 by the French and developed over several decades into a thriving center for fishing and trade. Fortified against the threat of British Invasion during the time of empire building, Louisburg was besieged twice before finally being destroyed in the 1760’s. Luckily for visitors, archeologists have reconstructed the fortress as it was in the 18th century.

Today the site features more than a dozen buildings to explore as well as daily demonstrations recreating life at the fort that includes cooking, dancing, music and military drills. This is more than just a fort to explore, with its three 18th-century restaurants as well as a delicious bakery to explore. One of best things about visiting this fortress is the help you are giving the local economy, which has struggled economically with the decline of the North Atlantic fishery.

1. Old Fort Erie, Niagara Falls, Ontario

It is known as Canada’s bloodiest field of battle, due to more than 3,000 troops who lost their lives during the Siege of Fort Erie from August 3rd to September 21st in 1814. The original fort was built in 1764 and was the first British fort to be constructed as part of a network developed after the Treaty of Paris concluded the Seven Years’ War. The fort was first a supply base for British troops, before the War of 1812, a base for troops during the American Revolution and later an important crossing point for the Underground Railroad.

The annual Siege of Fort Erie takes place on the second week of August each year and is most definitely the favorite time to check out this historical fort. It is then that re-enactors from all over North America descend on the fort to re-create the historic battles, complete with plenty of firepower.

Canada’s 10 Most Beautiful University Campuses

Canada is blessed from coast to coast with incredibly beautiful and unique university campuses. While some feature historic buildings and castles, others are blessed with lush landscapes and an abundance of flora. Canadian universities have done their part to keep up these beautiful landscapes and as more modern buildings are created, they are done so in environmentally friendly ways. From the bustling metropolis of Montreal to the quiet paths of Thunder Bay; here are our top 10 choices for the most beautiful university campuses in Canada.

10. McGill University -Montreal, QB

McGill doesn’t just have one beautiful campus but two, both of them gorgeous in their own ways. The downtown campus features the lush greenery from the slopes of Mount Royal, combined with over 70 state of the art buildings. Macdonald Campus on the other hand is located on the very tip of the island of Montreal and features 100 year old buildings, numerous bike and walking paths, an awesome arboretum with skiing trails and just steps away from the mighty St. Lawrence River. Expect buildings here that have commanding stone walls, copper roofs, impressive stained glass windows, concrete plazas that have been turned into gardens. A shuttle runs between the two campuses and no matter where you study, or visit, it will be downright beautiful.

McGill University

9. University of Toronto -Toronto, ON

The University of Toronto offers three different campuses but it is no contest when it comes to which one is the most beautiful of them all. St. George’s campus is located right downtown and manages to blend incredible historical architecture with green space. Visitors should make their way to Victoria College and check out the Old Vic building, the oldest of the college and perhaps the most beautiful. Head over to University College, the founding college of the University of Toronto and check out Laidlaw quadrangle, which looks more like a medieval courtyard than a university campus. The Mississauga campus on the other hand is located on 225 hundreds acres of protected green space on the Credit River and provides a beautiful background for students and visitors alike.

University of Toronto

8. Queen’s University -Kingston, ON

Think limestone buildings, stunning architecture and waterfront; as that is exactly what Queen’s campus offers students and visitors. Fall is one of the best times to visit this campus as the leaves turn into brilliant shades of red and orange, making for a striking scene against the historic buildings. Students here spend a lot of time at Douglas Library and it’s not hard to see why, as not only is the building stunning but it features a pretty awesome fourth floor which houses a “Harry Potter” room. Although this campus isn’t as large as others on this list, the students and faculty make up for that as school spirit is high. Part of what make this campus so beautiful is the sense of community that is felt; expect to see a lot of blue, red and gold worn around campus as students show off their school spirit.

Queen's University

7. Western University -London, ON

Western offers the best of both worlds, historical architecture mixed with modern buildings and amenities. The campus is situated along the banks of the Thames River in London and offers trails both throughout the campus and along the Thames River. London isn’t the most exciting city on this list which means that students have created their own fun and expect to see them whipping down University Hill on skis and snowboards in the winter. The gothic style buildings have been restored to remain charming while the insides have been renovated, giving students the best of both worlds. This university also signed a pledge a few years ago to transform the campus into a model of environmental responsibility. Plans are in the works to add more buildings to this campus and expect great things in the years to come.

Western University

6. Bishop’s University -Sherbrooke, QB

This small liberal arts university in the tiny town of Sherbrooke offers a lot in term of beauty. Founded in 1843 the goal of this university is to educate the whole person, not just focusing on one subject. The campus is spread over 500 acres, at the junction of the St. Francis and Massawippi rivers and features some of Quebec’s most historic buildings. Many weddings are held at this university campus as St. Mark’s cathedral provides and absolutely stunning setting to say “I do”. This historical chapel features intricate woodwork inside and beautiful stained glass windows. McGreer Hall is the oldest building on campus and stands out as a stunning red castle like building, which looks even more amazing when white snow surrounds it. School spirit and community only adds to the beauty of this school and students who attend Bishops make lasting friends and family.

Photo by: QUT
Photo by: QUT

5. Mount Royal University -Calgary, AB

Mount Royal has a beautiful campus, there is no denying that, especially during the warm seasons when the ponds are shimmering and the gardens are blooming. One of the most notable features of this campus is the outdoor amphitheatre where the students and the community can gather for events, such as plays and concerts. Mount Royal is working hard to do their part in being environmentally friendly and in 2006 opened its first certified LEED building, and has since dedicated to making every new building on campus LEED certified. Make sure to head to the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts, a beautiful modern looking building in which you can take in a fabulous performance or take some time to reflect in one of the many green spaces throughout the campus.

Photo by: Under Western Skies
Photo by: Under Western Skies

4. McMaster University -Hamilton, ON

Located in the residential neighborhood of Westdale in Hamilton, Ontario; McMaster is beautiful both inside and out. There are amazing trails to be found throughout the campus and in the surrounding areas, as well as conservation areas and a plethora of waterfalls to explore. The main campus itself is both bicycle and pedestrian friendly with wide paved paths throughout, making it easy to get from one place to another. Make sure to have lunch at the Refectory, one of the original buildings on McMaster, as the top floor features a restaurant that looks over a beautiful treed ravine. One of the highlights on this campus is Cootes Paradise, a wildlife sanctuary owned by the Royal Botanical Gardens which features an abundance of flora and fauna. With a mix of original architecture, new buildings and lush landscape, this university is downright stunning.

McMaster University

3. Lakehead University -Thunder Bay, ON

Lakehead University has two campuses, one based in Orillia and the other in Thunder Bay and it is here in Thunder Bay where you will find one of the most picturesque campuses in the country. Spread out over 116 hectares, under the steep cliffs of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, this campus features 39 buildings and an abundance of green space. What you won’t find here is the rows upon rows of historical buildings like many of the campuses on this list. Instead you will find stunning nature, all around you. Buildings were designed with floor to ceiling windows so both faculty and students could feel like they were outside. With gardens overflowing with beautiful flowers and Lake Tamblyn running through the campus it is easy to see why in the warm months, classes are often taught outdoors.

Photo by: Lakehead University
Photo by: Lakehead University

2. University of British Columbia -Vancouver, BC

It is arguably one of the most beautiful university campuses across the country with incredible surroundings and breathtaking views. The Vancouver campus is located at the western tip of the Point Grey Peninsula, surrounded by forest, ocean and mountains. Getting to downtown Vancouver takes just twenty minutes and there are numerous beaches just a short distance away. To add to this awesome campus are the ultra cool buildings situated here. Visitors should definitely head to the UBC farm and check out the yurt, one of the only yurts on a university campus in the world. The library is light and airy, featuring literary quotes on the outside of the building while the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health is sleek and modern with glass windows and a unique shape. Whether you are viewing this campus by air, walking through it or attending as a student, it is simply breathtaking.

University of British Columbia

1. Royal Roads University -Victoria, BC

Up until 1995 this University was actually a Military College and features an impressive main building, the Hatley Castle. The castle was completed in 1908 and was once meant to house the Royal Family, but instead they remained in the UK as the world was at war. Lucky for students and visitors alike, this campus is now a public university spread over 260 hectares of parkland with incredible surroundings. Walking through this campus gives visitors gorgeous views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the impressive Olympic Mountain Range. Walking, hiking and biking trails wind throughout the campus and you will come across an incredible Japanese Garden, among other hidden treasures. The entire campus is a part of the Hatley Park National Historic Site and between the incredible buildings and extensive gardens; it is clear why this truly is the most beautiful campus in the country.

Royal Roads University

15 Amazing Hotels Around The World For Under $100

While it is very easy to spend a lot of money when staying at a nice hotel there are some places around the world that have world class service and rooms that easily fit into any budget. With a little searching you can find hotels that offer luxury accommodations, great facilities and locations. Next time you are looking to get away for a weekend getaway, head out on a business trip or even once in a lifetime family trip, you don’t have to settle for a small room in a substandard hotel because you are afraid it might break your budget. Take some of these suggestions for amazing hotels that you can book for under $100 a night.

15. Chatrium Hotel Riverside -Bangkok, Thailand

The Chatrium Hotel Riverside is a multiple award winning hotel located adjacent to the Chao Phraya River, just 30 km from the International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand. A Grand Room with a city view is under $80 and comes with a private balcony. At 60 sq. meters the room comes complete with a kitchenette and dining area, coffee and tea making facilities, bathrobe and slippers. The hotel offers a business center that includes everything necessary if you just can’t leave work behind. A 35 meter infinity pool overlooking the river with an outdoor Jacuzzi awaits along with a fully equipped fitness center. Head to the Nemita spa on the ground floor and get a relaxing massage or do pick up some items in the shops. Also on the premises is a Starbucks Coffee Shop and the Saizen Japanese Restaurant. The hotel also has facilities for meetings and weddings.

Photo by: Chatrium Hotel
Photo by: Chatrium Hotel

14. Sri Bungalows -Ubud, Bali

For under $100 you can book a suite at the Sri Bungalows. The bungalows located in Ubud Bali comes with handsomely appointed suites with a private balcony overlooking the rice terraces. The rooms are stylishly appointed and other facilities include two swimming pools, restaurant and full service spa so you can enjoy a Balinese massage. The bungalows cover two floors and are surrounded by gardens and terraces. The hotel is only a short walk to the Ubud Market and the Monkey Forest. For a relaxing stay in a tropical paradise the price is hard to beat.

Photo by: Sri Bungalows
Photo by: Sri Bungalows

13. Radisson Blu Hotel -Cebu, Philippines

Located in the second largest city in the Philippines, Cebu is a popular destination because of the proximity to beautiful beaches and laid back lifestyle. The number one rated hotel in Cebu can also be had for under $100. The Radisson Blu, located 11 kilometers from the International Airport is conveniently located near all the popular tourist sights. With rooms offering goose feather pillows and duvets the Radisson will surely please. The hotel’s restaurant, Feria, offers both à la carte options and a buffet and with five master chefs the food runs the gamut of Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Mediterranean and International cuisines. The hotel has a large tropical pool outside along with a fully equipped state of the art fitness center and spa. For those staying in a business class room or suite the business class lounge is open daily. The hotel also has a 180 seat lobby bar a pool bar and a tea bar serving 21 different teas from Sri Lanka, China, Japan and South Africa.

Photo by: Radisson Blu
Photo by: Radisson Blu

12. Riad Viva -Marrakech, Morocco

Located in the city center, 15 minutes from the airport, the Riad Viva Hotel offers visitors a relaxing stay in beautifully appointed rooms. The hotel offers guests a wide range of amenities including free WiFi, 24 hr. room service and airport transfers. With a combination of Moroccan style and luxurious amenities guests can be assured of a royal stay. The hotel has a pool along with a steam room and restaurant. The friendly staff can also help in arranging tours to the Ourika Valley, a Berber village, the magical city of Essaouira or point you to the best shopping in town. You can also check out the cooking classes offered by the hotel so you can learn how to use all those aromatic spices and flavors to impress your friends when you return home.

Photo by: Venere
Photo by: Venere

11. Hilton Anatole -Dallas, Texas

You don’t have to travel half way around the world to get a good hotel deal. The Hilton Anatole in Dallas offers the business traveler or visitor to the city comfortable rooms with all the amenities. A room with a King Size bed can be had for under $90 and has just about everything you need as a traveler. The hotel has a full business center and conference facilities and also offers an ATM, currency exchange, clothing store, onsite convenience store and concierge serve. Feel like getting a little exercise? Head to the Verandah Club with fully equipped fitness center, 25 meter lap pool, cross training and boxing gym or enjoy racquet ball the jogging track or basketball courts. The V Spa is the perfect place to get a relaxing massage or spa treatment. In addition to room service there are 5 dining establishments at the hotel including SĒR Steak + Spirits serving up tender steaks and fresh seafood on the 27th floor.

Photo by: Hilton Hotels
Photo by: Hilton Hotels

10. Hotel Paseo Del Arte -Madrid, Spain

Located just a 100 meters from the Atoche Train Station, the Hotel Paseo Del Arte is a 4 star hotel in the heart of Madrid. Comfortably appointed rooms are tastefully furnished and offer a panoramic view of the interior garden or the city. Complete with desk, free WiFi, flat screen TV with international channels, and marble bathroom guests are in the perfect spot to explore the city. The hotel has a fitness facility, shops, coffee shop and bar. The restaurant serves a breakfast buffet and along with regional and international cuisine. With 260 rooms the hotel is less than 15 km to the airport making it easily accessible. The hotel is located in the area known as the Arts Triangle and within walking distance to several museums, parks, shopping, restaurants and the famous Madrid nightlife.

Photo by: Hotel Paseo Del Arte
Photo by: Hotel Paseo Del Arte

9. Century Plaza Hotel and Spa -Vancouver, B.C.

The Century Plaza Hotel and Spa is a family owned and operated located in the center of downtown Vancouver. The hotel prides itself on providing the best service possible. With a business center, conference facilities and indoor pool, the Century Plaza is the perfect place for business travelers and families visiting the city. Since opening the Absolute Spa at Century Plaza Hotel 12 years ago, the Spa has received over 50 awards and is the favorite of celebrities like Zac Effron, Elle McPherson and Gwyneth Paltrow when in town. With an ozonated swimming pool, eucalyptus steam room and relaxation lounge the Spa is the perfect place to get pampered. The hotel also features the C Prime Italian Steak and Wine Restaurant. Using locally sourced meats, vegetables and seafood Chef Bruce Woods has made the restaurant one of the hottest destinations in Vancouver. A coffee shop, salon and Vancouver’s iconic comedy club The Comedy Mix are also available to guests.

Photo by: Century Plaza Hotel
Photo by: Century Plaza Hotel

8. Sana Hotel -Berlin, Germany

The Sana Hotel is a 4 star Superior Class hotel located on the west side of Berlin. With 203 rooms including suites and apartments the Sana offers a wide choice of accommodations. A double room can be booked for less than $100 and prices go up from there. Facilities include a breakfast room, restaurant serving Portuguese cuisine, two bars, terrace garden, fitness center and massage services. The F8/eight Bar & Lounge seats 50 and guests can relax with fine wines and spirits while listening to live jazz. A smoking bar also exists for those that enjoy a fine cigar. In addition to massage services the wellness area on the 7th floor offers an indoor swimming pool, sauna and Turkish bath. The Sana Hotel is also centrally located for sightseeing with the Brandenburg Gate less than 5 km. away, as well as the zoo, museums and cultural facilities being nearby.

Photo by: Sana Hotel
Photo by: Sana Hotel

7. The Signature at MGM Grand -Las Vegas, Nevada

Located just off the famed Las Vegas Strip, The Signature at MGM Grand offers an elevated level of personalized service. Luxuriously appointed suites start at just under $100 and have all the amenities you might expect in luxury hotels costing much more. With a private pool complete with personal cabana and in suite spa services to the spacious suites with granite and marble bathrooms and kitchenettes the hotel does everything possible to pamper the guests. The hotel concierge will ensure you get tickets to the best shows and hard to get restaurant reservations and has a gourmet delicatessen on the premises. Whether you are hitting the Las Vegas Strip, spending the day golfing or seeing the sights you can relax and unwind in your private suite at night and get the rock star treatment from a dedicated staff that does everything the ensure you have the ultimate Las Vegas experience.

Photo by: Signature at MGM Grand
Photo by: Signature at MGM Grand

6. Golden Tulip Amsterdam West -Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam is known for offering cheap backpacker accommodations with over 180 hostels in the city. For those not wanting budget sleeping arrangements with noisy neighbors there is an alternative. Conveniently located to Schiphol Airport and the city center the Golden Tulip Amsterdam West makes exploring the city easy. With rates under $100 you can have the comfort of a spacious room with heated floors, a rain shower and free internet access. Comfortably appointed rooms have been designed to be soundproof so guests can get a good night’s sleep uninterrupted by the wild Amsterdam nightlife. The buffet restaurant seats 300 and is open for breakfast and dinner and the modern bar is a great place to relax and have a cocktail, cup of coffee or a slice of homemade pie. The tram stop is a mere 50 meters from the hotel for easy commute to the famous sights such as the Anne Frank House and Van Gogh Museum.

Photo by: Golden Tulip Hotels
Photo by: Golden Tulip Hotels

5. Relais Spa Chessy Residence -Paris, France

Visitors to Paris know hotels and pretty much everything else can be pricey. With a little searching you can find gems such as the Relais Spa Chessy Residence near Disneyland Paris. A premium room with free WiFi, unlimited spa access and shuttle to Disney Land can be scooped up for under $100. The rooms have a small office area and a discreet kitchen with hot plate. Hotel amenities include pool, steam room, sauna, gym and spa treatments. The Franklin Bar makes for a cozy place to relax with friends for a drink while the Brasserie Flo restaurant serves up sophisticated French cuisine. The hotel staff strives to ensure each guest gets the VIP treatment.

Photo by: Realis Spa
Photo by: Realis Spa

4. Chateau Victoria -Victoria, B.C.

Sitting on the location of a former mansion the Chateau Victoria is a boutique hotel offering a touch of opulence to guests. The hotel has a colorful past due to a parrot that inherited the old mansion that previously stood there and some swear they have seen the well-dressed ghost of Victoria Jane, the previous mansion owner, roaming the halls. Whether you see a ghost or not one thing you can be assured of. The hotel goes out of the way to make to feel comfortable and the rooms complete with free WiFi and big comfortable beds await the tired traveler. The hotel’s Vista 18 restaurant offers regional cuisine and has an extensive wine list. The hotel bar, Clive’s Classic Lounge, has been listed as one of the top hotel bars by several publications. The hotel offers in room spa treatments and massages and the hotel has a lap pool, hot tub and fitness center.

Photo by: Trip Advisor
Photo by: Trip Advisor

3. Grand Nikko Tokyo Daiba -Tokyo, Japan

While Tokyo has its share of pod hotels, where you get to sleep in what resembles a submarine torpedo tube, there are other options. One such option is the Grand Nikko Tokyo Diaba Hotel, a 5 star resort located just 20 minutes from Haneda International airport on 15 minutes from downtown Tokyo. A superior Double room can be booked for under $100 during the week and the hotel comes with such amenities as an outdoor terraced swimming pool with fantastic views of Tokyo, a wellness salon, acupuncture center and has a medical clinic on the premises. The hotel fitness center is fully equipped and has trainers on staff and the hotel has several shops on site. There are eight restaurants at the resort including sushi, Chinese and Italian and the Ruy Lopez Bar stocks liquor from around the world along with fine cigars.

Photo by: Jalan
Photo by: Jalan

2. Lancaster House -Bogota, Colombia

Lancaster House in Bogota Colombia is a boutique hotel designed in the art deco style. The 4 star hotel has two bars, restaurant, gym and sauna. Gatsby Restaurant serves traditional Colombian and International food while the more relaxed Bistro 106 is a great place to relax and get a lighter meal or dessert. Relax in the piano bar with a game of billiards or a cocktail before heading up to your luxurious room. The Junior Suite comes equipped with a living and dining area, work space and kitchen. The hotel also offers a mobile spa service so guests can book a massage or just relax in the sauna. Located in an upscale neighborhood close to embassies and near the major shopping areas the Lancaster is centrally located for easy access to all the city has to offer.

Photo by: Lancaster House
Photo by: Lancaster House

1. Kaani Village and Spa -Maldives

The Kaani Village and Spa located in the beautiful Maldives offers guests a pampered option to staying at a discounted beach hotel. With a Double Deluxe room overlooking the pool that comes with a breakfast included the hotel makes a perfect base to enjoy the island. The Sampa Spa at the hotel offers tradition Thai massage as well as aroma massages performed by two masseuses at once. The hotel has a pool and restaurant and the hotel staff can arrange activities such as fishing, dolphin watching, scuba diving, snorkeling or an island tour complete with picnic. Rated number 3 out of 40 small boutique hotels by TripAdvisor the Kaani Village and Spa does everything possible to pamper guests and make your stay memorable.

Photo by: Kaani Village & Spa
Photo by: Kaani Village & Spa

10 Must Visit Spots in the Seychelles Islands

The Seychelles islands form an archipelago off the southeastern coast of the African continent. The islands are home to some of the world’s most pristine environments and unique species; they are also home to white sand beaches, tropical rainforests and mountains. With so much natural beauty to recommend them, the Seychelles truly are a tropical paradise. And since there are more than 100 individual islands to explore and discover, it can be difficult to pick just one Seychellois destination. We’ve selected 10 of the best to help you narrow down your choices.

10. La Digue

La Digue is one of the larger islands in the Seychelles archipelago, belonging to the Granitic Island group. La Digue is very popular with tourists and is one of the islands that has a cap on the number of tourists who visit each year. The island itself is only 10 square kilometers and biking is the primary mode of transportation on the island. It is famed for its white sand beach, Anse Source dArgent, where ominous granite formations loom behind swimmers and sun-bathers. If you’re lucky, you might catch sight of the rare paradise flycatcher, an endangered bird that inhabits only a few islands in the Seychelles; it is most commonly spotted on La Digue. While you’re visiting this island paradise, don’t forget to sample the local cuisine: fried octopuses, lobsters with garlic and La Digue’s most intriguing indigenous dish, bat curry.

La Digue

9. Mahé Island

Mahé is the largest island in the Seychelles, and home to the country’s capital city, Victoria. Part of the Granitic Islands, a group of 45 islands made up of some of the world’s oldest granite rock, Mahé is renowned for its dense tropical forests, its white sand beaches and its mountain peaks. The tallest mountain in the Seychelles archipelago, Morne Seychellois, is located on this island. Hiking through some of the island’s national parks is a must. Climbing to the summit of Morne Blanc takes about 45 minutes and offers some of the best views of the Indian Ocean. Also popular is a visit to Sainte Anne Marine National Park, the largest marine park in the Seychelles. If you visit Mahé, be sure to visit the capital city to get a taste of Seychellois cultureincluding its unique blend of cuisine.

Mahe

8. Silhouette Island

Silhouette Island is renowned for a couple of reasons. The first is its magnificent coral reefs, which offer excellent opportunities for snorkeling and diving. More than 1,000 species of fish inhabit the clear, warm waters surrounding many of the Seychelles islands, which makes these coral reefs rife for exploration. On the terrestial side of things, Silhouette Island is one of the most mountainous in the archipelago, with 5 peaks soaring over 1,600 feet above sea level: Mont Dauban (2,464 ft), Mont-Pot-a-Eau (2,037 ft), Gratte Fesse (1,690 ft), Mont Corgat (1,647 ft) and Mont Cocos Marrons (1,600 ft). With all those peaks, you can imagine that Silhouette Island offers up some of the most dramatic landscapes in the Seychelles; be sure to bring a camera if you plan to visit.

Silhouette island

7. Bird Island

At first glance, Bird Island may not seem to have much to recommend it. It is the northernmost island in the Seychelles archipelago, approximately 60 miles from Mahé. The island itself is less than 1 square kilometer and is made up of coral, unlike the 45 Granitic islands to the south. Bird Island is also a private island resort, with just 26 bungalows renting to curious visitors. Nonetheless, Bird Island is renowned for its avian populationhence the name. Sooty terns, fairy terns and common noddies all inhabit the island, which provides an important breeding ground for them. Two species of turtles, the Hawksbill and the Green, are also common on Bird Island. If you want to do some bird-watching, Bird Island is your stop; don’t forget your binoculars and your camera.

bird island

6. Praslin

Praslin is one of the bigger islands of the Granitic group and, as such, is one of the more popular tourist destinations. Along with Mahé and La Digue, it is one of the islands that has the number of visitors capped. It is also one of only 2 islands in the world where the famed Coco de Mer palm tree grows. Praslin is also home to a market where you can buy the fruit of the palm, which is a national symbol of Seychelles. The island is also one of the best places to see and watch birds, functioning somewhat like a bird sanctuary for many of the Seychelles’ threatened and endangered avians. The Vallee de Mai is one of most famed parks in the country, and is home to many indigenous plants, such as the vanilla orchid.

Vallee de Mai

5. Frégate Island

Frégate Island was named for the frigate birds that once flocked to its shores. These days, you’re more likely to find tourists than the namesake avian (although the island is still an important nesting site for them). But Frégate Island hasn’t had to have numbers of tourists legislated like some of the other islands in the Seychelles. That’s because the island is privately owned and operated as a luxury resort. Only 20 residences are available at a time, which means you’ll have to book early and be prepared to pay if you want to make this island your Seychelles destination. Many people are ready and willingperhaps because the island boasts what the Times calls the world’s best beach, the Anse Victorin. Aside from lounging on the beach, snorkeling is a popular activity for those who make a stop on Frégate Island.

frigate bird

4. Moyenne Island

This tiny island was once uninhabited, until it was purchased by a former newspaper editor, Brendon Grimshaw. Grimshaw, who died in 2012, dreamed of making the island a national park in its own right and planted some 16,000 trees. Visitors could come ashore for 12 euros, tour about and eat at the Jolly Roger restaurant, which Grimshaw ran. The island is rumored to be host to hordes of pirate gold, but, despite evidence of human activity, none has ever been found. With Grimshaw’s death, the island returned to being uninhabited, although the government has now turned the 34-million-dollar island into Moyenne National Park, realizing Grimshaw’s lifelong dream. Come ashore and see birds, plants and even some Seychelles giant tortoises, once endangered, but now making a comeback throughout the islands.

 Photo By Camera Eye from UAE (A side of Moyenne Island) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo By Camera Eye, via Wikimedia Commons

3. Shark Bank

One remarkable feature of the Seychelles archipelago is the clear and warm waters of the Indian Ocean that surround most of the islands. This, coupled with the coral reefs and abundant marine life, make the Seychelles an ideal destination for snorkelers and scuba divers. Among the popular locations for getting under the sea is Shark Bank, a granite plateau that shelters an amazing array of fish and other aquatic life. Here you can encounter shoals of brightly colored tropical fish swimming alongside enormous stingrays and Napoleon fish. If you’re lucky, you might even stumble upon the odd whale shark, the biggest fish in the sea. And, despite the name, you needn’t worry about shark attacks out here; although some shark species do swim in these waters, attacks are relatively rare events.

reef

2. Aldabra Atoll

The Aldabra Atoll is the second-largest coral atoll, a ring-shaped reef that encircles a lagoon. It is located in the Aldabra group of islands, south of the Granitics. Relatively undisturbed by human activity, the coral atoll has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site on account of its biodiversity and pristine ecosystemswhich says something in a country renowned for its attention to environmental concerns. The Aldabra Atoll is home to innumerable bird species, as well as endemic plants and lizards. Perhaps the most famous residents of the atoll are the Aldabra giant tortoises. Once thought to be almost extinct, these tortoises are now found on islands throughout the Aldabra area and most other islands of the Seychelles, although Aldabra remains far and away the best place to see them in their natural habitat.

Aldabra Atoll

1. Victoria

Victoria is the capital city of the Seychelles, located on the Granitic island of Mahé. While it might seem strange not to simply lump it in with the island, Victoria has enough charm to demand its own entry on a list of must-visit spots. The city, which has a population of less than 30,000, is the center of Seychellois culture. As such, it is home to landmarks like the 3-winged bicentennial tower, constructed to mark the 200th anniversary of the city’s founding. Victoria is also the de facto shopping capital of the country. While perhaps not as cosmopolitan as other capital cities, Victoria’s markets feature local handicrafts and represent the island-nation’s blended heritage. One of the most popular items to purchase at the market is a sarong; picking one up is almost a rite of passage for those who visit the Seychelles.

view from victoria

The Best Urban Parks in Canada

Canada is known for some of its incredible National Parks but often what gets overlooked in this great nation are the incredible urban parks that have popped up from coast to coast. What makes one urban park better than another? Great access to activities, varied landscapes, incredible scenery and plenty of things to see and do, are what sets these eight urban parks above the rest. From the famous Stanley Park in Vancouver to the largest urban park in Canada to lesser known parks in the east coast; here are the best urban parks in Canada.

8. Assiniboine Park, Winnipeg

This park is considered to be one of Winnipeg’s crown jewels and offers over 113 hectares of woodland and plains along the River’s south side. Attractions here include the park zoo whose star attraction is the Polar Bears and the comprehensive exhibit that they are housed in. Known to be one of the most comprehensive zoological exhibits of its kind in the world, visitors have the chance to watch the playful bears in a stimulating environments inspired by their natural habitat. The park boasts more than just the zoo though, including gardens, playgrounds, restaurants, nature trails, a steam train and more. The park conservatory boasts over 8,000 flowers, trees and plants while the Gallery Museum features local artists and a permanent Winnie the Pooh artifact collection.

Assiniboine Park, Winnipeg

7. Beacon Hill Park, Victoria

Located on Victoria’s southern shores, Beacon Hill Park is an oasis of both landscaped and natural beauty, offering spectacular views during every season. The outer rim of the park is where nature lovers flock to, to Oceanside bluffs where paragliders and kite enthusiasts often can be seen. The inner park is where visitors will find most of the activities though. Wander through the manicured gardens and over bridged streams while music drifts out of the Cameron Bandshell. Or take the kids the the miniature golfing or petting zoo. Wildlife is abundant throughout the park with over a hundred species of birds, river otters, painted turtles and more. This park also happens to have the important status of being the western terminus, the Mile “0” of the 8,000km Trans-Canada highway and so happens to be a very popular tourist photo opp.

Mile 0

6. Pippy Park, St. John’s Newfoundland

At the northern boundary of St. John’s lays one of Canada’s greatest urban parks, Pippy Park, abundant in scenery and breathtaking views. The 27-hole golf course features some of the spectacular views of both the oldest city in North America and miles of rugged coastline, chances are you might even see an iceberg or whale while walking this course. If visitors want to spend more than just a day exploring this awesome park, the campground offers 216 sites on private treed lots that are steps away from playgrounds and the Botanical Gardens. There is a plethora of scenic trails that allow visitors to explore a variety of landscapes including wetlands, rivers, parklands and more. The rare Leopard march orchid can also be spotted here in the Botanical Gardens and offers visitors a once in a lifetime opportunity to see it up close and in person.

whale

5. Fish Creek Provincial Park, Calgary

It is the largest urban park in all of Canada, and just so happens to be one of the best, located in the southern part of Calgary and over three times the size of Vancouver’s famous Stanley Park. Fish Creek flows the entire length of the park and joins the Bow River at the east side, offering visitors a plethora of wildlife viewing opportunities. Visitors here will be privy to 200 bird species, deer, owls, beavers and coyotes which all call this park home. One of the most popular features of the park is Sikome Lake, a man-made lake where thousands of people flock to each summer to swim. A variety of unpaved walking, hiking and bicycle trails are also prevalent throughout Fish Creek Park. Two restaurants are located here, one which offers fine-dining and the other a bakery and café and an Artisan Garden is located in the east end. There are a ton of things to see and do here and if you happen to be a resident of Calgary, consider yourself lucky that you get to enjoy this park anytime at your leisure.

deer

4. Rockwood Park, St. John New Brunswick

This park offers an abundance of activities to enjoy in an unspoiled setting where unusual topography and geography are prevalent. The billion years of history here can be seen in unique rock formations, caves and waterfalls and this park often refers to itself as an all-season natural amusement park. Sports enthusiasts will enjoy the opportunity for hiking, fishing. Boating, climbing, camping, golfing and mountain biking while those looking for something a little more low key can visit the Cherry Brook Zoo, located in the north section of the park. Other awesome amenities include beaches, gardens, stables, campgrounds and picnic sites, along with 890 hectares of forest and the beautiful Lily Lake.

rockwood park NB

3. High Park, Toronto

It is Toronto’s largest public park and in recent years the city has invested a lot of time, energy and money into making it one of the greatest urban parks in Canada. High Park is home to a greenhouse, zoo, restaurants, off-leash dog park and more. The signature Sakura cheery blossom trees in Hillside Gardens are the star attraction during April and May when they are in full bloom. Grenadier Pond is the place to head for fishing off the south rim while visitors who want to swim or skate can head to the designated pool and rink. From wandering through the nature trails to playing on one of many playgrounds to taking in a sport at one of the great facilities, there is certainly no shortage of things to do here.

high park

2. Mt. Royal Park, Montreal

It is the best urban park in all of Montreal and so happens to be one of the best in all of Canada, laying in the midst of Montreal island and including 200 hectares and the highest spot in the city. The park is home to over 180 species of birds and 20 mammals and enough hiking and biking paths to keep any active visitor busy. In the winter time enjoy the 20km of cross country trails, horse drawn carriage rides and an awesome tubing and tobogganing run. Other features of this impressive park include Beaver Lake, a sculpture garden, Smith House – an interpretative center, and two belvederes. Designed by famous architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed New York City’s Central Park, visitors can assure that there is no shortage of spectacular views of the city below and varied landscapes to explore.

mt royal

1. Stanley Park, Vancouver

It is known for being one the best parks around the world, and recently held the title of “best park in the world” by Trip Advisor, therefore no trip to Vancouver should be complete without visiting Stanley Park. This lush green space covers over 400 hectares of parkland and west coast rainforest. Things to do at this park include visiting the indoor/outdoor aquarium, walking the 8.8km stretch of seawall and discovering the Brockton Point’s First Nations totem poles. The park is also absolutely loaded with gardens, beaches, landmarks, sculptures and lookout points, along with a golf course and a Lost Lagoon. Whether you spend an hour, a day or three days exploring this park, one thing is for sure – it is easy to understand why this is truly the best urban park in Canada.

totem

 

Canada’s 8 Coolest Museums

Canada is fortunate enough to be loaded with awesome museums, whether you are interested in learning about the dinosaurs that once ruled the badlands of Alberta or the first people that set foot in British Columbia. Perhaps you are interested in weapons and counterfeit money, or what happened during the Holocaust-don’t fear, Canada has you covered. From coast to coast impressive museums continue to amaze visitors and while some may be suited for adults, there is plenty of fun for the kids too! Check out the 8 coolest museums in Canada, and why you should drop everything and visit them today.

8. Canadian Museum of History – Gatineau, Quebec

It is Canada’s national museum of human history, and its purpose includes collecting, studying, preserving and presenting material objects that illuminate the human history of Canada. One of the most impressive parts of the museum is the Grand Hall where a beautiful wall of windows gives way to a picturesque view of the Ottawa River and Parliament Hill. The museum attracts over a million visitors a year to gaze at the collection of huge totem poles, First Nation artifacts, streetscape galleries and life-size replicas recreations such as an airport lounge circa 1970. In addition, this awesome museum to home to the Canadian Children’s and Postal Museum, along with an IMAX theatre making this attraction super family friendly.

mikecphoto / Shutterstock.com
mikecphoto / Shutterstock.com

7. Canada Science and Technology Museum – Ottawa, Ontario

It is the largest of its kind and located in the capital city of Canada, Ottawa. This museum displays all sorts of cool exhibits, focusing on the past, present and future of science and technological developments in Canada. What makes this museum so cool is the fact that much of it is hands-on, climb-on and walk through exhibits. Currently the museum is closed and undergoing a major renovation, expected to open in 2017 and is thought to be bigger and better than ever. Visitors should expect five main galleries including a Children’s Gallery, Artifact Alley and Crazy Kitchen. From trains, planes, automobiles, rockets and space travel simulation; this museum will offer a plethora of excitement.

Science and Tech Museum, ottawa

6. Royal Tyrell Museum – Drumheller, Alberta

This popular Canadian tourist attraction is both a museum and a centre of paleontological research. Hosting more than 130,000 fossils, this museum is located in the middle of the Late Cretaceous Horseshoe Canyon Formation. Visitors will love wandering through the ten signature galleries devoted to paleontology that include 40 dinosaur skeletons, including one huge T. Rex. There are plenty of hands on experiences to be had here including strength tests where you will discover how strong these fascinating creatures really were. Visitors can also watch actual technicians prepare fossils for research and display, fossils that happened to be found right in Alberta. As well, visitors can join the Dinosite program which allows you to search for real fossils, see real dinosaur remains still in the ground and learn about ancient Alberta during the 90-minute hike through the badlands.

Ronnie Chua / Shutterstock.com
Ronnie Chua / Shutterstock.com

5. Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) – Toronto, Ontario

It is considered by many to be one of the best museums in Canada and also happens to be one of the coolest. Located in Toronto, this museum is dedicated to art, world culture and natural history and attracts over a million visitors a year. Visitors will want to spend an entire day discovering the 40 some odd galleries that feature over 6 million items including a notable collection of dinosaurs, minerals and meteorites. The CIBC Discovery Gallery is where you can get “hands-on” at the ROM and although geared towards children, adults will also enjoy the interactive activities including digging for dinosaur bones and touching different specimens and artifacts. Expect awesome interesting exhibits that are constantly changing, slumber parties for adults and plenty of tours and workshops to keep everyone interested.

Andres Garcia Martin / Shutterstock.com
Andres Garcia Martin / Shutterstock.com

4. Human Rights Museum – Winnipeg, Manitoba

This impressive museum is the newest on this list, opening in September of 2014, dedicated to exploring the subject of human rights with a special emphasis on Canada. Offering a journey from darkness to light, visitors start off on the ground level and gradually make their way up seven floors that reveal more and more daylight. With a total of six levels of exhibits and 11 galleries and one Tower of Hope that offers panoramic views of Winnipeg, expect to spend at least a day here. Galleries include “Examining the Holocaust”, “Rights Today” and “Canadian Journeys”, just to name a few. Interactive presentations, multimedia technology and world-class design make this an amazing encounter with human rights.

winnipeg

3. Royal British Columbia Museum – Victoria, British Columbia

It is known as one of the world’s top regional museums, one of Canada’s most visited and located on the picturesque Inner Harbor in Victoria. Three permanent galleries trace the natural and human history of British Columbia and include life-sized mammoths, live tidal pools and replica streets and shops. The First Peoples Gallery is especially impressive with its ceremonial masks, totem poles and full-sized log house recreation. Visitors here can even watch as native carvers work on new totem poles in a long house located just behind the museum. Featuring the largest IMAX in BC, numerous family events throughout the year, interactive exhibits and more; it’s an easy choice calling this one of the coolest museums in Canada.

Doug Schnurr / Shutterstock.com
Doug Schnurr / Shutterstock.com

2. Vancouver Police Museum, Vancouver, British Columbia

It is North America’s oldest police museum and houses over 20,00 artifacts, photos and documents. Located in a heritage building that was once the Coroner’s Court, the morgue, autopsy facility and crime laboratory; this museum brings in visitors of all ages. A self-guided tour will take visitors through the history or crime and law enforcement in Vancouver. Exhibits include an extensive gallery of confiscated weapons, gambling devices, prohibited drugs and counterfeit money, a true crime gallery with real evidence and photos, and an intact and authentic autopsy suite. Kids will love playing dress up with the real police uniforms where as adults can take in one of the “movies in the morgue” features.

Photo by: Kim Werker via www.vancouverisawesome.com
Photo by: Kim Werker via www.vancouverisawesome.com

1. Biosphere Environment Museum – Montreal, Quebec

It is the only environment museum in North America and both kids and adults go crazy for this unique attraction that is both indoors and out. This architectural masterpieces and symbol of Expo 67 invites visitors to learn more about meteorology, climate, water and air quality and other environmental issues in a fun way. An outdoor Artic photo exhibit celebrates the regions biodiversity and beauty while educating visitors on the environmental changes that are happening there. The immersive show “Design the Future” on the other hand invites visitors to reconnect with the natural environment around us to grasp the importance of climate change and how we will adapt to that. An abundance of games, hands-on activities and galleries await visitors to this unique museum in Montreal.

meunierd / Shutterstock.com
meunierd / Shutterstock.com

The 12 Best Rooftop Bars and Patios in Canada

Canada…often known as the land of ice and snow actually gets enough warm weather in the summer time across the country to house some pretty epic rooftop patios and bars. While you won’t find very many year round pools, you will find handcrafted cocktails, live music and lively atmospheres. Locals and visitors come together on these patios to drink, dine in style and escape the busy streets below. From Victoria to Toronto to Halifax, here are our top 12 choices for the best rooftop bars and patios across the country.

12. Bovine -Toronto, Ontario

It is Queen West’s most enduring rock bar, a smorgasbord of music, junkyard memorabilia and plenty of tourists but in recent years an incredible addition was added to the roof. Although this rooftop patio took a long time to happen, the result is a hidden tropical oasis complete with a tiki hut serving as a bar, picnic bench seating and a jungle of tropical plants. No need to look any further than here if you are craving tropical drinks as this bar serves us pina coladas, mai tais and hurricanes, along with a rum collection that tops out at 50 different kinds. Expect live music events throughout the summer, drink specials and a whole lot of Hawaiian like fun! If it is rock music you are craving though, you will have to head indoor for that.

Photo by: The Joy Architects
Photo by: The Joy Architects

11. Reflections -Vancouver, British Columbia

This outdoor restaurant and lounge is situated within the inner courtyard of the Rosewood Hotel’s fourth floor. This oasis offers a laid-back vibe featuring infinity water features, a central fire pit, private cabanas, beautiful lanterns and oversize teak seating. Guests here will find specialty cocktails and menu that revolves around shared plates of salads and items from the grill. Local fare is on the menu here and most of the menu focuses on ingredients found nearby, as well as the wine list host an abundance of BC wines. Although it appears to be swanky and snobbish, rest assured that this bar invites people of all walks of life to enjoy. On cold nights they provide warm blankets and heaters to warm guests up.

Photo by: Rosewood Hotel Georgia
Photo by: Rosewood Hotel Georgia

10. “Flight Deck” at The Pilot -Toronto, Ontario

It is a Yorkville rooftop patio at its finest and Flight Deck at The Pilot is one of the most beloved outdoor spots in the city of Toronto. Simple seating that encourages conversations, prompt and attentive service and retractable awnings for any types of weather makes this rooftop patio a winner in our eyes. The entire bar is decked out in stainless steel and metal, including the tables and chairs which make it an unusual atmosphere but combined with the lively groups of people that are found here, makes it work for this cool and hip patio. The menu here is mostly pub fare and includes such favorites as the fish tacos, pilot nachos and handmade burgers. With a huge beer and wine list, it is easy to see why so many people flock here for after work drinks and dinner.

Photo by: The Pilot Toronto
Photo by: The Pilot Toronto

9. Thompson Rooftop Lounge and Pool -Toronto, Ontario

This chic and exclusive rooftop lounge provides breathtaking views of the Toronto Skyline and Lake Ontario. Although you have to be a guest of the hotel or a lounge member to visit here, it is well worth it to experience this swanky rooftop. By day you will find guests swimming in the beautiful infinity pool and relaxing on sun loungers. Comfortable oversize couches, cabanas and a bar provide the perfect atmosphere when the sun goes down. Enjoy hand crafted cocktails, an extensive wine list and small plates to share. If you do plan on coming up here at night make sure you have your smart evening attire on as there is a fairly strict dress code.

Photo by: Thompson Hotels
Photo by: Thompson Hotels

8. Hilton Montreal Bonaventure, Rooftop Garden -Montreal, Quebec

Located 17 stories up this rooftop is loaded with lush gardens, paths and streams loaded with resident goldfish. It also happens to feature an impressive year-round outdoor pool complete with poolside bar during the summer months. The hotel itself is located just a stone’s throw away from major attractions and incredible shopping. The catch here is that rooftop visitors have to be guests of the hotel, a bonus for those who are planning on staying a few nights in the city. Guests up here are treated to lunch, dinner or late night snacks and as many cocktails as they can handle while soaking up the hot sun. With terraces, a pond with resident ducks, friendly service and year round swimming; this rooftop bar is a must visit.

Photo by: Hilton Hotels
Photo by: Hilton Hotels

7. Argyle Bar & Grill -Halifax, Nova Scotia

Head to the East side of Canada to eat and drink with the locals at this spectacular rooftop patio located in the heart of downtown Halifax. Plenty of large trees and flowers create an incredible atmosphere at this large rooftop patio, giving visitors the sense that they have stepped into another world. The biggest days to come out and play here are Thursday and Saturday nights when this heated patio gets packed with both locals and visitors. During the day huge patio umbrellas are opened to beat the heat and a large shaded bar area is provided. One of the best things about this patio has to be the rooftop bathrooms, where you can avoid walking down the stairs after one too many mojitos. This bar and grill also has an awesome sidewalk patio in case the roof becomes too crowded.

Photo by: The Coast
Photo by: The Coast

6. The Drake Hotel Sky Yard -Toronto, Ontario

This rooftop patio can be visited during the summer or winter months, a welcome change to most others in Canada who only offer summertime hours. In the summer expect to enjoy a variety of hand-crafted cocktails that make up the 24-page cocktail menu. More of a snack bar than a restaurant, the food here is incredible and unique with dishes such as lobster nachos and truffle fries. During the winter time the patio is decked out with canvas tents, heat lamps and decorated with vintage skis and toboggans. A fire pit sits in the center with thick logs around it, perfect for sitting on and sipping one of the amazing seasonal cocktails, such as the Brown Butter Maple Old Fashioned. If you prefer sitting inside up here, head on it to “The Tunnel”, a long enclave of couches decked out in blue and orange patterns, with a flat screen showing retro cartoons. One of the coolest and hippest places to be, summer or winter is the Sky Yard at the Drake Hotel.

Photo by: The Edito
Photo by: The Edito

5. Terrasse sur l’Auberge -Montreal, Quebec

If you are looking to dine in style with incredible views of the Old Port and the St. Lawrence River, head no further than this amazing rooftop. As an added bonus the month of July offers guests the chance to see the spectacular fireworks light up the sky during the International Fireworks Competition that takes place every year. Food wise, guests here will be delighted in local cuisine, hand-made dishes and an incredible array of choice. We suggest trying the smoked duck breast salad and Quebec cheese platter. As far as cocktails go, this rooftop bar has an impressive wine list along with an array of spirits and handcrafted drinks. Opening hours tend to be from 2pm-11pm and on Thursday nights a local DJ spins the hottest tracks of the summer. With a variety of seating choices, a hip crowd and unbelievable views of the city, this is one of the hottest rooftop patios in Canada.

Photo by: Terrasse sur l’Auberge
Photo by: Terrasse sur l’Auberge

4. Surf Club, The Strathcona -Victoria, British Columbia

This unique rooftop bar has a laid back Vancouver Island feel to it and features some pretty epic amenities, such as two full sized volleyball courts. The atmosphere is always pumping here with a DJ spinning live beats and a disco ball to match. With a view of the city on all sides, it seems this is one epic place to party. Delicious West Coast fare is served up alongside signature cocktails and local brews. Enjoy food such as fresh local steamed mussels, fish tacos, an array of burgers and more. With weekly specials including oyster bars, $5 off pizzas and more; any day of the week is a good time to visit. Weekly events are held all summer long with club nights and other special entertainment. With impeccable service, awesome views and the right atmosphere, the Surf Club offers one of the best summer vibes.

Photo by: Tripadvisor
Photo by: Tripadvisor

3. Roof Lounge, Park Hyatt -Toronto, Ontario

This legendary roof lounge is located eighteen floors up and although mostly enclosed, it does offer a heated outdoor area. Known for being only the second Toronto bar to receive a cocktail license, the history here goes back a long way, and during the 40’s was a hot hangout for Toronto literati. The most famous thing to sip on up here is one of the famous cocktails such as the Yorkville Squeeze or the Neighborhood Negroni, as well as smoke a Cigar, just like back in the day. The view is beyond comparison and sunset is a popular time to head up here to watch as the sky changes dramatic colors. Whether you come for brunch, a martini or a taste of incredible culinary fusion, chances are you won’t be disappointed.

Photo by: Park Hyatt
Photo by: Park Hyatt

2. Terrasse Nelligan -Montreal, Quebec

If you are looking to hang with the cool crowd on top of a rooftop make sure to head into Old Montreal and visit Terrasse Nelligan, the seasonal groovy rooftop terrace at Hotel Nelligan. Although this posh patio is only open until 11pm, it is well worth a visit to take in the views of the Old City and the St. Lawrence River. You won’t have to worry about the weather up here as retractable awnings allow guests to enjoy whether rain or sun. Thirst-quenching cocktails, a fresh menu and a hip young crowd all contribute to the lively atmosphere found here. Happy Hour is the most popular time of day to visit and make sure to try one (or two) of their delicious freshly made mojitos. Colorful plants, bright umbrellas and comfortable tables and chairs set the stage for the ultimate Montreal rooftop patio experience.

Photo by: Terrasse Nelligan
Photo by: Terrasse Nelligan

1. Harvest Kitchen -Toronto, Ontario

This tree-canopy rooftop patio caters to just about everyone visiting the city and although you may be tempted by the lovely inside décor, make sure to head upstairs as this patio should not be missed. Brunch and dinner are the busiest times here and the electric menu and commitment to ethical sourcing brings both vegetarians and meat lovers to this patio. Make sure to give their wine on tap a try, as it is not only more environmentally friendly but also friendly to your wallet being only 99 cents an ounce. Although this rooftop patio is only open 10am-10pm, it is well worth visiting during those hours. A casual walk in restaurant, guests here can wear anything from formal wear to yoga clothes and it is a welcome change from many of the restaurants in this city. Local beer, local wine, handcrafted cocktails and fresh food make this our favorite rooftop patio across Canada.

Photo by: 30 Day Adventures
Photo by: 30 Day Adventures

Canada’s Top 15 Best Value Cities to Visit in 2015

A recent study by the popular hotel booking site Trivago, released the top 15 best value cities in all of Canada to visit in 2015. The study took the average price of a hotel room, combined it with the satisfaction of hotel guests and looked at everything there was to do in that city. What they found was 15 cities that boasted incredible value, amazing hotels and plenty of things to do whether you are looking for romance, family vacation or just an escape to a new city.

15. Toronto, ON

With the Pam Am games making its way to Toronto this summer, we were actually surprised to see this city still end up on the list as hotel prices in the city jumped. Luckily it seems that Toronto is home to enough hotels, rentals and other accommodations that the prices don’t seem as astronomical as one might think. With access to professional sports fields, the CN Tower, the new Ripley’s Aquarium, the five-star restaurants and festivals throughout the city; there is certainly no shortage of things to do. Public transportation got a facelift for the Pan Am games and getting around the city is cheap and easy. The average accommodation price per night in the city is $179 with lots of deals to be found online, making Toronto a perfect place to visit this year.

Toronto

14. Vancouver, BC

Vancouver is one of the most expensive places to live in Canada, but quite affordable if you just want to visit for a few days. With an average hotel price of $179, this city is a prime spot for tourists from all over the world. Summertime brings visitors who walk along the seawall, dine on delicious seafood and explore the nearby towns. One of the best times to head here is in the fall, when the hotel prices drop significantly, the leaves start changing color and the weather is still nice enough to enjoy the outdoors. Vancouver transit makes it easy to get around the city at a reasonable price and there are plenty of free activities for everyone to enjoy, including Stanley Park, walking the beaches, visiting the many art galleries and visiting Granville Island.

Vancouver from the Water

13. Ottawa, ON

The capital of Canada makes this list with an average price of accommodation being just $155 a night, a bargain considering more than 80% of travelers are happy with their hotel stays. Visiting Canada’s capital is something everyone should do as the city of Ottawa is full of history, excitement and spectacular architecture. The summer is the absolute best time to head here as the warm weather and festivities make the city feel alive and buzzing with excitement. It also happens to be when hotel prices are at its highest though. It is a good thing then that the city offers incredible value. Tour the parliament buildings for free, head over to the RCMP stables for a chance to look around and perhaps a musical performance if you are lucky or spend an afternoon at one of the city’s beaches. Ottawa is teeming with markets, bike paths, picturesque picnic areas and outdoor art throughout the city for you to enjoy.

Ottawa, Ontario

12. Calgary, AB

It is one of the most expensive places to live on this list but visiting here gets you good bang for your buck and promises an unforgettable vacation, minutes from the beautiful mountains. A hotel room in this city goes for an average of $172 a night and many travelers choose to make Calgary their home base while they explore the city and the surrounding mountains. Plan your vacation around one of the many free summer festivals and you won’t have to reach deep into your pockets to explore all this city has to offer. Besides festivals, visiting the numerous attractions here cost little to nothing, including one of the world’s largest indoor botanical gardens, the plethora of art galleries, shops and the free entertainment during the stampede. Ride a portion of the CTrain for free, grab an inflatable tube and float down the Bow River or simply explore the downtown area and all its charm.

Calgary, AB

11. Niagara Falls, ON

Niagara Falls is home to the most inexpensive average hotel room on this list, coming in at $112 a night. If you have never been to the Canadian side of the falls, there is no better time to visit than 2015. Besides getting an incredible deal on hotels, Niagara Falls is packed full of activities, many of which can be done at little cost. Cruise the streets down by the falls which are packed with wacky fun houses, arcades and rides that are lit up with flashing lights and sounds. Visit one of the casinos and try your luck at one of the many games or slots. Walking along the falls and watching the spectacular firework show that happens in the summer won’t cost you anything either. Surrounding this area also happens to be a large number of wineries that you can tour for free, with tastings only costing a few dollars.

Niagara Falls 1

10. Montréal, QC

The city of Montreal is a perfect getaway, whether you are looking for a romantic escape or heading there for the slew of incredible music festivals and culture. With an average nightly price for accommodation being $172, one can enjoy this city while not breaking the bank. Exploring the city is best done on foot, whether you are traversing the streets of Old Montreal, taking the Golden Square Mile tour or curbing your hunger in many of the city’s most appetizing attractions. Montreal is also loaded with opportunities to try something new for free, including outdoor yoga classes and ballroom dancing. The city teems with rooftop patios and sidewalk cafes; perfect for people watching and relaxing. Take in one of the many free concerts and performances that happen throughout the city year round and enjoy one of the finest cities in all of Canada.

Montreal Canada

9. Edmonton, AB

It may not be the first place you think of when you think vacation in Canada, but Edmonton has a lot to offer and at the average price of just $151 a night, you can’t go wrong heading to this city. If you are looking to explore the outdoors, Edmonton might be just right for you. The city is famous for its North Saskatchewan River Valley, which offers over 100 kilometers of recreational trails, wildlife viewing, city views and Canada’s largest historical park, Fort Edmonton Park. One thing to splurge on when visiting here is the West Edmonton Mall. It is the largest shopping and entertainment complex in North America complete with amusement park, artificial beach, indoor wave pool, casino, movie theatres and an indoor lake. If you happen to visit here in the winter, head outside the city away from the lights and look for the Northern Lights. They are often visible from December to March.

Ronnie Chua / Shutterstock.com
Ronnie Chua / Shutterstock.com

8. Québec-City, QC

It is one of the most romantic cities to visit in all of Canada and with an average room price of $161 a night; many couples choose to visit Quebec City anytime of the year. In the winter the city comes alive with Christmas lights, turning the historic part of the city into a true winter wonderland. In the summer, the cobblestone streets are full of tourists, outdoor cafes and festivals. There are many historic churches that boast incredible architecture, an impressive number of parks and green space and a plethora of boutiques and shops to discover. The cuisine in the city is incredible, the people are friendly and strolling through the walled city of Old Quebec anytime of the year promises to be absolutely charming. For free entertainment, one should head down to the boardwalk along the St. Lawrence that is always full of buskers and entertainers during the summers.

Quebec City

7. Victoria, BC

It is one of the most beautiful cities on this list if you are into stunning mountain views, ocean harbors, colorful houses and natural beauty. It also happens to be a bargain when you look at the average nightly price of accommodations only being $143. The city is full of things to do and see, whether you want to splurge and visit the famous Butchart Garden or the Royal BC Museum, or whether you are looking to stick within a budget. Strolling the causeway, home to breathtaking views of the water, parliament and skyline is a popular activity for both locals and tourists. It is here when you can snag a seat on the Harbour Ferry and discover floating restaurants, historic homes, classic yachts and shipyards during the 45-minute narrated tour. Between the parks, mountains, beaches and art; there is no shortage of things to discover in this city.

Victoria coast line

6. Mississauga, ON

If you want to be close to the city of Toronto but don’t want to shell out the money, Mississauga is the absolute perfect place to stay. With an average room price of just $123 a night, spending less on a hotel means more spending money in your pockets. Many vacationers choose to make Mississauga their home base and travel into the city to explore the many activities and sights that Toronto offers. If you are looking for things to do in Mississauga though; why not head to the parks in Port Credit or feel like a kid again at Playdium Arcade. Mississauga is also home to a wealth of restaurants featuring cuisine from all over the world and it pays to check them out heading into Toronto for a great meal. Whether you are staying here for the city itself or looking to spread your budget by staying outside of Toronto, Mississauga is a great value city.

Atomazul / Shutterstock.com
Atomazul / Shutterstock.com

5. Kelowna, BC

Kelowna’s location along the eastern shoreline of Okanagan Lake creates a diverse landscape where outdoor recreation thrives and people from all over the world flock to this incredibly beautiful city. The lake itself draws many tourists interested in boating, kayaking and swimming while the rolling terrain is great for hikers, golfers and bikers. In the wintertime skiers and snowboarders head to Big White Mountain. The plethora of outdoor sports is what makes this city so affordable to visit. Pack a picnic, grab your kayak rental and head out for the day. Perhaps strap on a pair of snowshoes and explore the region. Head out and visit the wineries where they offer free tours and cheap tastings. With an average nightly room price of just $140, Kelowna is the perfect natural outdoor getaway.

Kelowna BC

4. Winnipeg, MB

Winnipeg is a diverse city that combines breathtaking architecture with ample green space to create this unique backdrop for a vibrant city. Visitors here will find warehouses that have been converted to restaurants and shops, outdoor festivals and concerts and an abundance of art and culture. The city is home to over 1,100 restaurants and is known for its top notch food scene that is well-priced. One of the most popular things to do in this city is head to The Forks, a downtown area where the two rivers meet that is home to the market, artisan shops and interactive fun. With an average room price of $141 a night, this cultural melting pot beckons visitors from all over the globe. It is recommended you head here in the summertime because the winter here can be downright freezing cold!

Winnipeg, MB

3. Mont-Tremblant, QC

This city located in the Laurentian Mountains is most famously known for its ski resort located at the foot of Mont Tremblant Mountains. Winter sports enthusiasts flock here to downhill ski, snowboard, snowshoe, dog-sled and cross-country ski in some of the best snow in the country. But winter isn’t the only season that flourishes here. Summertime brings eco-adventures, hiking, canoeing, cycling and fishing with Lac Tremblant at the centre of most of these. An average room price in this city will run you $189 a night, keeping in mind that winters are the most expensive. Many of the hotels offer discounts if you book early in the season and work with the ski resort to combine lift tickets with hotel prices. Book early, pay once and enjoy this awesome destination, summer or winter.

Mount Tremblant

2. Kamloops, BC

Kamloops is a hidden treasure amongst the West coast of Canada and with a highly affordable average nightly room rate of just $119; it won’t stay hidden for long. Home to the 5th best golf course in Canada, one of BC’s biggest ski hills and an abundance of outdoors to explore; visiting Kamloops and sticking on budget is easy. Many of the activities and restaurants are lower priced than the surrounding areas such as Vancouver or Kelowna, making this city incredibly budget friendly. Popular activities include a visit to the BC Wildlife Park, a hike to the waterfall, a visit to the farmers market and taking in the largest cowboy festival in Canada. There are endless possibilities for winter or summer, making this the number two valued city in all of Canada.

Kamloops
Philip Bird LRPS CPAGB / Shutterstock.com

1. Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON

It is the city with the most expensive average accommodation on this list at $203 a night, but seeing as Niagara-on-the-Lake is known as one of the prettiest towns in all of Canada; it comes as no surprise that it can be pricey. You won’t find high rise hotels here either; instead you will find historic homes, charming B&B’s and beautiful cottages that offer luxury amenities. This 19th-century village is home to award-winning restaurants and wineries and world-class theatre. Strolling the charming streets, touring the wineries and walking along the river won’t set you back anything. This romantic getaway is often visited by those looking for an intimate experience, complete with fine dining, great wines and cozy accommodations; which are exactly what they will find in the charming town.

Niagara On The Lake

2 Days in Downtown Victoria B.C.

Many people visit Vancouver Island each year for its beautiful scenery, friendly people and laid back west coast attitude but not everyone has the time to see the whole island. Those visiting Vancouver and making a ferry trip across for a short stay in Victoria can still have fun, even on a tight time frame. This guide offers you a sample of some great things to see and do if you only have 48 hours and want to stick to downtown Victoria. The city is full of great places to eat, beautiful parks and lots of history so get ready for an action packed 48 hours!

1.  Jam Cafe

Start your day on this beautiful island off right with a delicious and hearty breakfast at Jam Café. Near the intersection of Harold and Government Streets in Old Town is where you’ll find this charming local favorite. Jam Café serves up breakfast and lunch daily and the menu includes many unique items like fried chicken benedict and ‘The Three Little Pigs’ which are maple sausages dipped in pancake batter and fried till golden brown.  This spot is definitely a favorite among locals so be prepared to wait for a table unless you show up right when they open at 8am.

Jam Cafe

2. Market Square

After your satisfying breakfast, explore more of Old Town and check out Market Square. It’s a fun open air shopping complex in a very historic setting (the building dates back to late 1800’s). There are many unique local boutiques to check out and you’re almost guaranteed to find something cool to bring home. The open air courtyard in the middle of the complex is often host to special events including fresh food markets and live music and performers so you never know what you’ll find wandering through here!

Market Square

3. Harbor Walk

You’re on an island so a walk around the harbor is a must while exploring the heart of Victoria. While the harbor is definitely a hot spot for tourists making it a pretty busy place, you’ll smell the salty sea air and hear the sounds of the harbor traffic and forget about everything else. The harbor is the spot to go if you want to do any tours while in Victoria including many whale watching charters and seaplane tours. If you’ve never flown in a seaplane before, Victoria offers a beautiful first experience.

Victoria Harbour

4. Red Fish Blue Fish

While on the west coast, seafood lovers can take advantage of the great fresh fish and shellfish the area has to offer and there’s one spot in the harbor that’s got a notorious reputation. Red Fish Blue Fish serves up fresh sustainable sourced seafood out of a shipping container turned quick service restaurant right on the wharf and is the perfect spot for lunch. If you’re a traditionalist there’s several options of classic fish and chips or for those who like something different they also serve ‘tacones’ which are hand roll style tacos with imaginative fillings like jerk fish and grilled oysters. This place always has a line as it’s been featured on several notable food shows over the years but waiting in a beautiful surrounding like the harbor isn’t so bad right?

Red Fish Blue Fish

5. Explore the Streets

Some of the best times you can have in a new city are had while just out walking and exploring the streets. You never know what will turn up and in a vibrant west coast city like Victoria you’ll probably find something, whether it be a street art festival, farmers market, or maybe you’ll stumble upon some Canadian aboriginal art like the many totem poles hiding in the city parks. And if nothing’s happening on the streets that’s okay too because you can spend time just admiring the architecture of the handsome old buildings of this provincial capital city.

sidewalk art

6. Butchart Gardens

While Butchart Gardens is not located right in Victoria, we didn’t feel right leaving out the famous botanical gardens from this list. Located north of Victoria (towards the airport) it’s about a 30 minute drive out of the city. The gardens are open year round and can also be accessed by public transit route 75 or shuttle bus from downtown Victoria via CVS Sightseeing. Originally starting as a quarry in 1904, the Butchart family transformed their exhausted limestone quarry into the spectacular sunken garden that remains a park highlight today. For nature enthusiasts, photographers and those just looking to be surrounded by beauty, there’s no better afternoon spent than at Butchart Gardens.

LehaKoK / Shutterstock.com
LehaKoK / Shutterstock.com

7. Yates Street Taphouse

After your first day of exploring this city you’re probably looking for a good place to relax and enjoy a beverage and the Yates Street Taphouse on (surprise surprise) Yates Street, offers a great spot to do just that. This pub has a long history of providing good meals and good company since 1862. These days they offer over 40 brews on tap, many of them being local craft beers from around the area and a menu full of pub classics with a twist. It’s a great place for a bite, a beverage and a casual night out in Victoria.

Beer samples

8. Ocean Island Inn

Time to rest after your first exciting day in Victoria and the Ocean Island Inn provides a great budget friendly place to lay your head. This hostel is perfectly located in the heart of downtown and only about a 10 minute walk from the harbor and offers much more than just the typical backpacker dorms. They’ve also got private single, double, twin and family rooms all equipped with your basic amenities. The staff here are friendly and the facility also has a large shared kitchen if you want to cook your own meals, free computers in the lounge and Wi-Fi access, and a bar downstairs serving cheap food and drinks.

Ocean Island Inn

9. Blue Fox Café

Breakfast is a meal that gets a lot of attention in this city and the Blue Fox Café on Fort Street is doing it with passion. The attention to detail and fresh quality ingredients is evident in their menu which is loaded with options for everyone including 10 twists on the classic eggs benny and several sweet griddle cake creations. The Blue Fox Café even goes so far as to make their own delicious homemade jams for your toast! Fair warning: this is a popular spot so unless you arrive right when they open be prepared for a line-up. There’s no better place to start off your second day in the beautiful city of Victoria.

Blue fox cafe resized

10. Beacon Hill Park

After breakfast it’s time for some more exploring and after seeing the city sights yesterday, today it’s time for some nature. Beacon Hill Park lies south of downtown Victoria and boarders the southern shore of the city on the Juan de Fuca Strait. The park is filled with beautiful scenery including a small lake, lawn bowling club, children’s animal farm, as well as the world’s tallest totem pole. The 160 foot totem pole was carved from cedar in 1965 and is definitely worth checking out for yourself. This park is a relaxing place for a walk or a bike ride any time of day.

Beacon Hill Park

11. Royal BC Museum

Let’s not forget that Victoria is the provincial capital of British Columbia and as is the case with many capital cities, there’s plenty of museums and attractions where you can learn about the city and its history. A favorite is the Royal BC Museum, located just beside the Parliament buildings on the harbor. The museums mission is ‘to promote an understanding of the living landscapes and cultures of British Columbia’ and they do this well with exhibits on natural and modern history and first peoples galleries as well as temporary exhibits like Vikings –Lives Beyond the Legends. The museum also an IMAX theater featuring educational documentaries and Hollywood blockbusters.

Victoria BC
Doug Schnurr / Shutterstock.com

12. Mo:Le Café

After a few hours strolling the park and exploring the museum you’ll probably be ready for lunch. Head to Mo:Le Café near the corner of Pandora Ave and Government St for food made with care from quality, locally sourced ingredients. If you didn’t get enough breakfast food yet, they do an all-day breakfast menu featuring their famous Mo’s biscuit; scrambled eggs, bacon, basil, roasted red peppers and havarti on a buttermilk biscuit. If you’re don with eggs for the day, their lunch menu has creative dishes like the cold smoked tuna salad, yam wrap, and the Macho Man Andy Sandwich.

Mole Cafe

13. Victoria Chinatown

Since you’re in the neighborhood, it’s definitely worth checking out Victoria’s Chinatown which predominantly occupies the 500-600 block of Fisgard Street. It’s the oldest Chinatown in Canada, dating back to the late 1800’s and is second in age only to San Francisco’s Chinatown in North America. After the BC gold rush started in 1858 there was a mass influx of miners from California, about 1/3 of which were Chinese and settled in the area now known as Chinatown. Today you can find many great restaurants, art and gift galleries, Asian import shops and unique architecture.

vic chinatown resized

14. Dallas Road Waterfront Trail

Seeing as it’s your last day in the city you might as well soak up some more of that famous west coast nature and scenery and the Dallas Road Waterfront Trail is the perfect place for walking, jogging, cycling or rollerblading. The 9.7 mile trail runs along the southern coast of the city and also takes you through the southern end of Beacon Hill Park. There’s both paved and unpaved sections so running shoes are recommended and the trail also has some sections with steps down to the water’s edge for amazing coastal views.

Victoria coast line

15. The Docks

If you’re looking for one last taste of fresh west coast seafood before you leave the island but you’ve spent most of your budget, have no fear because The Docks restaurant located on Wharf St in the harbor has you covered. All day everyday they offer $1 oysters in the Oyster Bar, as well as half off small plates from 3-6pm and after 9pm. The small plates menu includes favorites like albacore tuna sliders, calamari, and a crab cake burger. The Docks proves you don’t have to spend a fortune to get great seafood in the city.

oysters

16 Tips for Hiking the West Coast Trail

The West Coast Trail is a breathtakingly beautiful 47 mile (75 km) backpacking route on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island, BC. The trail was originally called the Dominion Lifesaving Trail because it was built in 1907 as a way to rescue shipwreck survivors along the coast. The trail is now a part of Pacific Rim National Park and outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world make the pilgrimage to the island to hike what’s widely considered one of the world’s best hiking trails. Be forewarned, this trek is not for beginners due to its length and difficult terrain and each year many hikers are evacuated from the trail due to injury, illness and hypothermia. If you’re planning on taking on this most rewarding challenge here are some tips from experienced hikers who’ve done the trail to help with your planning:

1. Waterproof Everything

If you’ve ever bought waterproof hiking equipment you already know it usually comes with a hefty price, but in this case it’s worth it. BC is widely known to get lots of annual rainfall and the old growth forests in which the trail runs through are actually rainforests (Yes, rainforests in Canada!). So be prepared for wet days with a good breathable rain jacket, rain pants, waterproof boots (Gortex is a good option) and a rain cover for your pack. It’s also recommended that you line your pack with a garbage bag and make sure your sleeping bag is in a waterproof dry bag or compression sack. Also, be mentally prepared because being wet for days on end can take its toll on the most experienced hikers.

Hiking in the rain

2. Blisters Will Happen

If they don’t, consider yourself lucky! Chances are though that you’ll experience a few of these while out on the trail. Good boots can help minimize your discomfort but some feet just blister more easily than others. Some ways to help this are to use moleskins which are pre-cut fabric bandages that can be built up around an un-popped blister to minimize friction. Duct tape is also very handy and it seems to stay put on your feet longer than a bandage alone. In the morning before putting your boots on for the day, carefully pop and drain the fluid from any un-popped blisters, put on some antibiotic ointment and cover with a bandage, then use duct tape over the bandage to help keep it on longer. For the most part, the beautiful scenery of the trail will distract you from thinking about those sore feet!

hiking boots

3. Your Body Will Hurt

You can prepare for this by training and getting ready fitness-wise but after having a 30-40lb pack on your back for 7 or so days, things are bound to get sore. Feet, shoulders and back are common complaints and trudging through sand and gravel on the beach routes will really work your legs but your body should adjust a little after the first couple days of carrying this heavy load. Just another mental challenge to overcome as when one thing seems to stop aching you’ll find an entirely different one has come up. Just remember pain is temporary and your WCT memories will last a lifetime.

Ladders WCT

 

 

 

 

4. Love Your Pack

It’s going to be both your best friend and your enemy for the next 7 or so days so it’s advised you select your pack wisely. Taking along one you’ve had for a while is great because you should know its fit and how it feels on you but if you’re buying a new one, get professional help with fitting from the store staff. Not every pack will work on every body type and bags often come in short, regular and tall sizes. Before heading out on the trek, put some weight in your pack and take a couple walks with it on to get a feel for the weight and help identify any areas of discomfort.

Backpacking

5. Invest in a Good Tent

Getting a decent night’s rest is important when you’re hiking all day every day, so investing in a good quality tent is important. While borrowing a friend’s tent or using that old one you’ve had for years might save money, you don’t know what you’re getting performance wise so if you go this route make sure you test it out beforehand. Something good in the rain is important because there’s nothing worse than waking up in the night with a wet sleeping bag. We recently tested the Tadpole 2 by The North Face out on the trail and found it performed extremely well, especially on the rainy days. It was quick and easy to set up and fit 2 adults quite comfortably. Best of all, while others in our group woke up with a wet tent, ours kept us dry and warm.

The North Face Tadpole 2

6. Selecting the Right Sleeping Bag

This one is almost as equally important as choosing the right tent because the right sleeping bag can mean the difference between a good nights rest or walking up cold in the night. When chosing between a down or synthetic bag, consider the possability of wet weather is very high and if a down bag gets wet it will no longer keep you warm. While the major disadvantage of a synthetic bag is heavier weight and more bulk in your pack, we believe it’s worth it to ensure a warm sleep. On the trail we brought the Dolomite 20/-7 by The North Face, which is a 3 season synthetic bag and found that even when it got a bit wet from condensation, it still kept us toasty warm. Another benefit was the space this bag offered with its tapered rectangular shape which provides more room to stretch than compared with a mummy-style bag.

The North Face Dolomite

7. Importance of Good Meals

You’ll burn A LOT of calories out there hiking the rugged terrain of the West Coast Trail so to keep your energy levels up it’s important to consider your meals carefully. Many outdoor stores sell the easy freeze-dried backpacker meals and while these are simple, lightweight and deliver a generous calorie count, they often lack balanced nutrition. Yes carbs and protein are important while hiking but that doesn’t mean fruits and vegetables aren’t. If you have the time (and enthusiasm) try dehydrating your own fruits and vegetables for the trail as you’ll get great nutrition without the preservatives of store-bought dried fruits and veg. Fruits can be eaten straight up or added to oatmeal for simple delicious breakfasts while vegetables can be rehydrated and added to pasta, rice and beans or couscous.

Dried Vegetables

8. Animal Encounters

The West Coast Trail is both remote and wild so it’s no surprise you’ll be sharing the space with some beautiful but dangerous animals. Black bears can be common throughout the Pacific Rim Park so care should be taken as they will defend their cubs and their territory if threatened. The bigger concern on the trail is cougars. These large cats while elusive are at the top of the food chain and have historically attacked and consumed humans. One small animal not mentioned in many WCT guides are the mice that inhabit the campsites of the trail. Keep your pack closed up or you might just get a little surprise when you reach in as they’re looking for any crumbs they can find. To protect yourself from the more dangerous animals, you can carry bear spray (which can also be used on cougars), hike in a group and make lots of noise, ensure all food and other scented products are properly stored in bear bins at night, and most of all respect these creatures and their space.

Bear Tracks

9. North-South vs. South-North

Hikers have the option of doing this trek in either direction; by starting north from Pacheena Bay near Bamfield and heading south or starting at Port Renfrew in the south and heading north. The southern part of the trail is notoriously challenging, much more so than the flatter boardwalk sections in the north end. Which way you choose to go is really a personal preference. Some say doing it north to south will ensure your pack is lighter once you get to the ladders and elevation down south however we opted to do it south to north and were happy to have gotten through the most challenging parts while our energy levels were at their highest. No matter which approach you choose you’re guaranteed a challenging and rewarding experience.
Port Renfrew

10. Water Filter

Since water weighs a lot, you can’t carry more than a couple bottles on your back while hiking those long days. You’ll be filling up your bottles at the many rivers and streams that run through the trail but it’s important not to drink the water without treatment because it can carry many different viruses and pathogens that can cause illness and disease such as Giardiasis. There’s several options for water treatment; boiling your water can be done in the evenings while at camp but while hiking it’s really a choice between iodine tablets or a water filter. Tablets are easy and light but won’t get rid of any particles that might come out of the stream and they also take 30 minutes to be fully effective. We chose to use a water filter, specifically the Saywer Squeeze filtration system. We loved this filter for its light weight and ease of use. All you do is fill up the pouch in the stream, screw on the filter and squeeze the water through right into your bottle. It filled up a standard Nalgene bottle quite quickly and best of all it has the highest filtration level on the market at 99.9999999%.

Sawyer water filter

11. Poles or No Poles

Most advice you’ll find on the WCT will say that poles are a must and we won’t really disagree with this though our experts were split as some of them used them and some didn’t. Here are the pros of using trekking poles on the trail: they help with balance on slippery rocks and logs, help spread the workout to your upper body while going up or down the big hills and help you navigate where to step through the thick (and often deep) mud bogs. The cons: There are apx. 38 ladders on the trail that you must ascend or descend and the poles can get in the way (you can collapse them but this takes time and they can still get in the way). The poles can also get jammed up with sand and mud preventing them from collapsing when you need to. In our opinion the pros outweigh the cons on this one.

Hiking with poles

12. Mid-trek Treats

Yes the rumours are true…you can get a burger on the West Coast Trail. At km 45, just south of Carmanah Lighthouse you’ll find Chez Monique’s; serving up burgers (both beef and veggie), snacks and drinks to many ravenous hikers. Prepare yourself though because this burger comes with a price tag of $20 for a regular one or $25 for a ‘loaded burger’ with cheese, bacon and mushrooms. You’ll probably pay the hefty bill and not think twice about it because at that point any fresh food is just amazing. The second of the trail treats is a little more what you might expect in this kind of setting; at Nitinat Narrows where you must cross the water by ferry to continue the trail, you’ll find a First Nations family serving up the freshest seafood possible…including succulent crab pulled right from the water you ferry across. It’s a culinary experience that’s hard to pass up.

Chez Monique's

13. Campsites

There are 13 ‘official’ campsites along the West Coast Trail with some other unofficial sites along the way as well. It’s recommended you camp at an official site rather than making your own and we agree that this is just easier because the sites provide bear bins so you don’t have to hang your food and outhouses for well…you know. Most sites are right on the beach but some have sites into the tree cover. Be careful of where you set up your tent on the beach because tides will fluctuate throughout the night. The most southern site known as Thrasher Cove offers an amazing sunrise while Tsusiat Falls in the north has a large waterfall and offers a reasonably good spot to bathe.

Trasher Cove

14. Transportation

Even though the West Coast Trail is in a pretty remote location, there are several options for transportation to/from it. One of the cheapest options is to drive yourself as vehicles can be left at a number of locations near both the north and south trailheads. If you don’t want the hassle of driving yourself or if you’re traveling from elsewhere specifically to do the trail you can take a scheduled bus. The West Coast Trail Express shuttle bus service provides transportation from Victoria and Nanaimo to both north and south trailheads. With either land route option just be prepared for a long and bumpy ride as the northern route is a gravel logging road. There’s also the option of a ferry boat service between Bamfield and Port Renfrew which helps shorten some of the time spent on those bumpy logging roads.

Hand cart

15. Timeframe

The amount of time it takes to hike the West Coast Trail varies greatly depending on your speed (or that of your group overall) and on your individual approach to the trek. If you’re looking to break records and test your fitness abilities, some people have been known to run this trail in a day with the record being just over 9.5 hrs by a male in the summer of 2014. The average time for doing the WCT however is 6-7 days which is moving at a more leisurely pace that we feel allows time to stop and appreciate all the natural beauty you’re surrounded by because isn’t that why we’re all out here?

Seaside WCT

16. Aboriginal Lands

The West Coast Trail passes through the reserve lands of 3 different First Nations groups: Pacheedaht, Ditidaht and Huu-ay-aht. Each group has a guardian stationed along the trail to help monitor and patrol the area. If you get the chance to talk with any of these guardians during your trek it’ll be a great experience as they’re always willing to share stories of their time on the trail, the area and their own culture. Always make sure you respect all signs while trekking through reserve lands as these are considered private property and hiking though these lands is considered a privilege, not a right. If you’re interested in learning more about the First Nations groups of Vancouver Islands west coast, there are many opportunities available through the Pacific Rim National Park Reserves.

Reserve Lands