7 Small East Coast Towns with Big Appeal (Canada)

The east coast of Canada is known for its charming seaside fishing villages, hospitable people, and amazingly fresh seafood. From New Brunswick all the way to Newfoundland, small towns are everywhere. Despite popular opinion that these small towns all over the same, they are in fact quite unique and different from one another in a variety of ways. Discover the birthplace of Canada, colorful floating houses, icebergs right at your fingertips and miles of endless beach in these 7 small east coast towns that offer up a big appeal to visitors.

7. Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

This town of just over 2,000 people is touted as being one of the most beautiful towns in all of Canada. The location itself is simply amazing, along with a harbor and bordered by beautiful dramatic hills. Add in the fact that this town is dotted with pastel color buildings from the 18th and 19th century and you will soon understand the draw here.

Lunenburg also happens to be a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, winner of the prettiest painted places in Canada and located just one hour from Halifax. The downtown area buzzes with activity from art galleries to boutique shops to fresh seafood restaurants. Walkable streets, friendly people, an interesting history and some of the best lobster in the country all await you here at this small town with big appeal.

6. Twillingate, Newfoundland and Labrador

This town located on the northeast coast of Newfoundland is home to around 2,000 residents. This small fishing village features friendly locals, stunning coastline, and quiet scenic roads. The town also happens to be located right next to Iceberg Ally, a corridor of the ocean that runs down from Greenland and is home to whales, dolphins, and seals, and of course icebergs. Fishing boats, colorful fishing stages, wharves and dories dot the coast of this town.

Hiking trails, museums, beaches, coves, an astronomy observatory, a winery, lighthouse and plenty of cozy cafes set the mood for this quaint charming town. Visit in the right season (May to July) and come up close and personal with the incredible icebergs, or spot one of 22 species of whales that live in the area.

5. Cavendish, P.E.I

This small rural town located on the tiny Prince Edward Island is home to only 300 residents, give or take, although summer tourism makes that number jump up. The claim to fame here is that this particular town was home to Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of the famous Anne of Green Gables. Visitors here flock to this town to check out her home and surrounding landscape, which the books are based on. But Cavendish offers so much more than just one famous house.

Red sandstone cliffs, sand dunes, warm crystal blue waters and endless stretches of beach set the stage for a magnificent setting. Activities range from world-class golfing to deep sea fishing to touring the art galleries to parasailing or even fine dining. Treat yourself to an ice cream as you walk the quaint streets, stopping to talk to the friendly locals as they ask you how your vacation is going. After all, this is the east coast, where some of the friendliest people reside.

4. St. Andrews, New Brunswick

This charming seaside town has a population hovering around 2,000; although summertime months bring many people to the area. This dreamy little town in New Brunswick boasts scenic architecture, rich marine life, and stunning scenery. Designated as a National Historic District you can be sure that the turn-of-the-century charm awaits you, along with a slew of modern amenities.

Dine on delectable lobster rolls and the catch of the day, sink your feet into the white sand and warm ocean and don’t miss out on the art galleries and museums. The local farmer’s markets and boutiques offer handmade one of a kind creations and the downtown is bursting with independent shops. From whale watching to touring gardens to festivals; there is something happening all year round.

3. Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia

Known as Canada’s birthplace, this small town is home to just 500 residents. If you are looking to dive into Canadian history, this is the place, as it features over 150 historic sites and heritage buildings. The town is nestled between mountain and sea offering visitors a spectacular waterfront setting for dining, shopping and staying. The town is home to St. George, Canada’s oldest street, on which you’ll also find the country’s oldest wooden house.

Guided tours of the area are a great way to learn more about the fascinating history of this town and make sure to do the National Historic District Tour and the Candlelight Graveyard Tour. A waterfront boardwalk teems with shops, a farmers market shines out with fresh produce and handmade arts and crafts and the people are as welcoming as one would expect.

2. Trinity, Newfoundland

Located three hours from St. John’s, this 18th century fishing port is home to just around 200 residents, with a slew of visitors coming to discover this charming town. Historic buildings, art galleries, museums, old churches and a beautiful scenic harbor are what draw visitors here. Hiking trails lead hikers up granite slopes and through beautiful beaches, while whales, birds, and icebergs float by in the distance.

The people of Trinity are really the forefront of what makes this place so spectacular though, known for their genuine hospitality and talent in entertainment and performing arts. Visitors should not miss out on taking the scenic walking tour where you are whisked back to the past. Make sure to stay in one of the charming B&B’s, cottages or guesthouses located throughout the town.

1. Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

This picture perfect marine town is home to just over 900 people and sits in the perfect location, a bay with access to over 100 different islands. The surroundings are simply stunning, protected waters and magnificent vistas, perfect for sailing, kayaking, hiking, and cycling. There are 100 miles of groomed trails, world-class beaches, and islands galore to explore. The main street is lined with charming shops, boutiques and unique eateries.

Local art studios are open and invite visitors to watch as they create masterpieces, whether it is rug hooking, sculpting or painting. The town is full of 19th century architecture but what draws visitors here are the three iconic churches along Edgewater Street that are one of the most photographed views in Canada. Great scenery, welcoming locals and an abundance of things to see and do make this one awesome small town with a big appeal in Eastern Canada.

Things to See and Do on Prince Edward Island

The beautiful island of Price Edward Island is just a small speck in Canada, but offers much in the way for visitors. Made famous from Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables book, this island draws visitors from all over the world. The charming and relaxed atmosphere combined with dramatic red stone cliffs and stunning landscapes makes this a perfect vacation destination. From 25 incredible golf courses to sandy beaches to charming seaside towns, discover 10 things to see and do in P.E.I.

10. Get Your Golf On

It is Canada’s number one golf destination, whether you are a beginner or dreaming of becoming a professional. With a tremendous amount of courses, lower fees and friendly people, there is no better place to hit the green. There is a total of 25 island courses, although the island itself is pretty much a golf course with its rolling green hills, sand and water traps and woodlots. Located all within 45 minutes of each other, it’s easy to play these world-class greens all vacation long. Play on the same greens as masters just as Mike Weir, Jack Nicklaus and Lorie Kane. Beginners will want to head to Glen Afton, one of the island’s best classic 18-hole golfing values which feature beautiful coastal views and a challenging back nine. Experts on the other hand will love tackling Glasgow Hills where a varied terrain provides a challenging course.

golf course canada

9. Go Lobster Fishing

It is a must on any trip to the island, to put yourself in the day of a lobster fisherman, some of the hardest working people on the island. You have to visit during lobster season though and visitors should be aware that this is no walk in the park. Expect to get up the wee hours of the morning and spend anywhere from 3-10 hours on the water, hauling up traps and plucking out lobsters, all while the viscous little snappers are trying to bite your fingers off. Prepare to get wet, have plenty of laughs and get to dine on your delicious catch. Depending on what kind of experience you are looking for will depend on the tour operator you go with. Some cater towards visitors and offer shorter sailings throughout the day complete with fancy on-board dinners. Others run 10 hours long, start at 4am and are run by a real lobster fisherman. The choice is yours, just make sure you try this awesome Canadian Bucket List experience.

Lobster Fishing

8. Hit the Beach

P.E.I. is certainly blessed with its fair share of beaches featuring warm sand, white capped waves, beautiful sandstone cliffs and miles of shallow water. This island boasts a whopping 90 beaches, some supervised and some unsupervised offering everything from white to red sand, clams, singing sand and more. The favorite amongst locals and visitors is the Singing Sands Beach in Basin Head Provincial Park, where white sands set the tone. In addition to the signing sand, this beach boasts a boardwalk, showers, lifeguards and the Fisheries Museum. Other popular beaches around the island include Cavendish Beach, Cedar Dunes and Belmont Provincial Park. Whether you want to build sandcastles, bathe in the sun or discover how far out the sandbars go; P.E.I. has the beaches for you.

Basin Head Provincial Park

7. Walk the Confederation Trail

When Prince Edward Island’s railway was abandoned in 1989 the islanders were quick to notice a unique opportunity that awaited. Instead of leaving the railway unused and thus useless they turned it into a shared use walking and cycling trail in the summertime and a snowmobile trail in the winter. Thus the Confederation Trail was born and is the Island’s portion of the Trans Canada Trail. Running 435 kilometers, the trail offers beautiful rolling hill scenery, quaint villages and breathtaking seascapes. One favorite part of the trail to do is the first long section between Tignish and Kensington that is 125-km. The trail takes visitors through a beautiful restored stone railway station in Kensington to the Harborfront Theatre in Summerside and onward to Wellington and the heart of the Acadian Community. Whether you can manage to walk or cycle the 125km or choose another route, make sure to experience this historic trail while you are on the island.

Confederation Trail

6. Experience Anne of Green Gables

You cannot visit P.E.I and not visit the site that inspired L.M. Montgomery’s famous Anne of Green Gables novel. Personalized tours of the site are the best way to learn everything about Green Gables House and interpretive programs keep visitors of all ages entertained. Visitors to the site are welcome to stroll through the Haunted Woods and Balsam Hollow trails, as found in the book. If that isn’t enough “Anne” for you, head to Avonlea Village, a rural community that has been recreated based on the village where Anne lived in the book. At Gateway Village people of all ages are invited to dress up as Anne and have their picture taken. Enjoy music shows, unique shops and an authentic PEI kitchen dance party. And if that’s not enough, visit the Anne of Green Gables Museum or the Anne of Green Gables Store, where you can find just about anything “Anne” you are looking for.

Anne of Green Gables House

5. Drink the Moonshine

P.E.I had prohibition longer than anywhere else in Canada, and thus pretty much everyone on the island knows someone in their family that used to produce illegal spirits. Luckily for any visitors to the island now, moonshine is indeed legal and available to all who wish. Myriad View Distillery is who to thank for legalizing this drink as they realized both how to make it legal and have turned moonshine into a brilliant business model. If you aren’t too sure about this beverage, hearing stories of people going blind and what not from the illegal stuff, you can start off with their tamer stuff, Strait Shine, which is only 50% alcohol. If you want bigger, bolder and more numbing, make sure to pick up the 75% Strait Lightning. Either way, make sure to at least try a sip of this infamous stuff.

Photo by: Myriad View Distillery
Photo by: Myriad View Distillery

4. Points East Coastal Drive

Points East Coastal Drive explore the eastern edge of the Island, away from the crowds of tourists, away from the boardwalks and amusement parks. It explores a place on the island that takes you back to the rural charm of the area, where beautiful beaches, rare dune systems and lighthouses mark the coastline. Here visitors will experience the friendly locals, small communities and diverse natural beauty. During the drive make sure to stop at Orwell Corner Historic Village where a late 19th century setting has been recreated, featuring a historically furnished farm, shingle mill, church, store and community hall. Also worth stopping at is the Elmira Railway Museum, which was once the end of the line for the island railway and feature photographs and artifacts from the rail-era. At the end of the drive is East Point Lighthouse, which provides views of mixing tidal waters and serves as a lookout point for red foxes that are often seen in the area.

east point lighthouse prince edward island

3. Attend the Cavendish Beach Music Festival

This annual music festival runs for one weekend in the summer, hosting over 30 country music acts that play for over 70,000 visitors in the coastal community of Cavendish. Along with big names such as Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Blake Shelton and many more, this festival also features many up and coming artists on smaller stages. Along with the hottest of musical acts, this festival features song-writers circle, sampling sessions and food demos; plus, an epic beer garden, VIP sunroof, food and merchandise vendors and country-themed programming throughout. Make sure to get your tickets early as in 2015 the festival did sell out. Plan on a lot of country music, a lot of laughs and one epic festival experience.

Photo by: Cavendish Beach Music Festival
Photo by: Cavendish Beach Music Festival

2. Have an Authentic Lobster Dinner

So you want the lobster dinner but you don’t want to have to go out on the boat and catch your own? No problem, as this island is loaded with places you can dine on this delicious seafood. Now the best way to get a taste of true island life is to take part in a traditional lobster supper where visitors and locals indulge in the best of food from the island. There are a few places on the island that offer this traditional sit down supper including the most popular one, the New Glasgow Lobster Supper, held in a 500-seat hall. It is here where you will be fed endless mussels, all you can eat seafood chowder, warm rolls, salad and the size of the lobster you want. Pies and ice-cream are provided at the end, that is if you have room. Done a plastic bib, dig in and enjoy the succulent lobster in front of you.

Photo by: New Glasgow Lobster Suppers
Photo by: New Glasgow Lobster Suppers

1. Discover Charlottetown

Head to the capitol of the island discover a city teeming with things to see and do, a city that is called the Birthplace of Confederation after the historic 1864 Charlottetown Conference which led to Confederation. Here you will find the amazing Confederation Centre of the Arts which is home to the award-winning musical Anne of Green Gables. It is in this city where you will find the biggest display of fireworks east of Ottawa and the International Shellfish Festival in the fall. Discover the city by the numerous walking trails and boardwalks as you wind your way by craft shops, restaurants and golf courses. Take a carriage ride, a boat cruise or even a guided walking tour and discover all that this city has to offer.

Charlottetown prince edward island

10 Historical Landmarks Every Canadian Should Visit

Canada is a relatively new country in the grand scheme of things and isn’t usually considered as a historical tourist destination. Most people who visit Canada come for the expansive, diverse and stunning landscape, and for good reason; Canada has some of the most impressive natural wonders in the world. But Canada does have an important and rich history, and you would be remiss to explore Canada without a visit to one of the nearly 1000 national historic sites and landmarks found across the country.

10. L.M. Montgomery’s Home -Cavendish, Prince Edward Island

Readers of the Anne of Green Gables series, one of Canada’s most well-known literary works, will be familiar with the National Historic Site. Located in rural Prince Edward Island, near Cavendish, is this quaint landmark; included in the historic site are the Green Gables house, the Cavendish home and the surrounding landscapes, including several lovely hiking trails ideal for a relaxing stroll. Even those who are not familiar with the books or the author will appreciate this beautiful home and the scenery typical of Prince Edward Island; plan for the day and bring a picnic to enjoy on the grounds!

Anne of Green Gables House

9.  Rideau Canal -Ottawa, Ontario

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Rideau Canal in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa is an impressive feat of engineering and architecture, and is a favorite destination among both tourists and locals. Officially connecting Kingston to Ottawa, this 202 kilometers of canals is a beautiful chain of lakes, rivers and canals perfect for a day out canoeing or sight-seeing. The exact location of the UNESCO site is in Ottawa; originally built for military purposes in the 1800’s, the series of lock stations and fortifications are architecturally impressive and still completely operational- many still hand crank operated!  It is a favorite for locals too; during the winter months you can strap on some skates and travel nearly the entire canal- make sure you grab a beaver tail and some hot chocolate at one of the many kiosks set up along the way!

Rideau Canal Ottawa

8. Batoche, Saskatchewan

Established in 1872, this Métis settlement was the site of the historical Battle of Batoche during the Northwest Rebellion of 1885 and is now a National Historic Site in Canada. Situated in the heart of the prairies on the South Saskatchewan River, it is here that Louis Riel was infamously defeated and a new country was formed. Walking through this historical landmark, you realize what an important moment this was for Canadian history; in fact, you can still see some of the bullet holes from the final battle. Not just for history buffs, take the family and spend the day walking in the shoes of Métis settlers on the shores of the river and learn how the old way of life disappeared and a new one began.

Batoche, Saskatchewan

7. L’Anse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland and Labrador

Visit the L’Anse Aux Meadows National Historic Site on the tip of the island of Newfoundland and you can see evidence of the very first European settlers to set foot on North American soil. Scattered amongst this striking landscape is evidence of an 11th century Viking settlement; the only known location of a Viking settlement in North America, this site holds a tremendous amount of historical importance in terms of migration and discovery. Spend some time looking for the excavated remains of the wood-framed turf buildings (like the ones found in Iceland and Norse Greenland), and wandering around the site. The scenic, yet unrelentingly harsh landscape makes it all the more impressive that an entire culture managed to settle and live here hundreds of years ago.

L’Anse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland

6. Fortifications of Québec -Québec City, Québec

As the only fortified city north of Mexico, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is rich in history and architectural beauty, akin to historical cities scattered all over Europe. Walk the walls around Old Québec, nearly 4.6 kilometers in length to marvel at the views of the city and beyond, and to marvel at the military engineering of the fortifications developed in the early 1600’s. Old Québec is a beautiful city to explore by foot; many pedestrian only streets make it easy to get around, and the slower pace makes it easier to take all your pictures! There are also plenty of delicious cafés and quaint shops (although venture off the main streets for a less touristy experience), and plenty of maple syrup inspired treats to keep you going during the day!

meunierd / Shutterstock.com
meunierd / Shutterstock.com

5. Dawson, Yukon Territory

Way up north, in the harsh, unforgiving, stunningly beautiful landscape of Canada, you will find Dawson, Yukon, the heart of the Klondike Gold Rush and a charming town, well preserved and rich in history. Although small, there is plenty to do here; adventure enthusiasts will enjoy the outdoor landscape made for hiking and rafting, yet those searching for a more relaxing visit will enjoy the traditional pubs and boardwalks through town. Those feeling lucky can try their hand panning for gold in the Klondike Gold Fields and enjoy a tour through some of the still operational gold mines. Dawson is worth the trek up north, but given its remote location, be sure to stay awhile and enjoy the surrounding areas to make the most of your trip!

Pecold / Shutterstock.com
Pecold / Shutterstock.com

4. Fort Garry Hotel -Winnipeg, Manitoba

Those afraid of ghosts may want to skip the Fort Garry Hotel- the infamous Room 202 is said to be haunted by the ghost of a woman, but those brave enough won’t want to skip a visit to this landmark. A National Historic Site located in downtown Winnipeg, this famous hotel is one of Canada’s grand railway hotels, and built in 1913, it was the tallest structure in town upon completion. The architecture is reminiscent to other chateau style hotels in Canada, like the Fairmont Chateau next on the list, and is a unique and beautiful addition to the industrial core of Winnipeg.

Photo by: Fort Garry Hotel
Photo by: Fort Garry Hotel

3. Fairmont Chateau Frontenac -Québec City, Québec

One of the most beautiful and grand buildings in all of Canada, the Fairmont Château Frontenac in Québec is considered as one of the most photographed hotels in the world, in part because of its sheer size and grandiose nature on the Québec skyline. Designated as a National Historic Site in 1980, this hotel was built for the Canadian Pacific Railway company in the late 1800’s to promote luxury travel and tourism; it was a hotspot for wealthy travelers and those searching for a glamorous experience. This is the most prominent building in Québec and surely can’t be missed when exploring the area; spend some time exploring the glitzy, over the top décor inside and the intricate architecture on the outside- bring an extra memory card  for your camera when visiting this landmark!

Chateau Frontenac

2. Terry Fox Memorial -Thunder Bay, Ontario

All Canadians are familiar with Terry Fox; in fact, he is probably one of the most well-known Canadian icons, recognized nationally and around the world. Visiting the Terry Fox Memorial, overlooking Lake Superior, you can’t help but be overwhelmed by this man’s courageous and inspirational quest to make the world a better place. Terry Fox was a humble young man who has inspired generations of Canadian’s to raise money and improve the lives of cancer patients worldwide; because of him, hundreds of millions of dollars has been raised for cancer research. All Canadian’s can find something to relate to in Terry Fox and the life he led; because of this and his relatability, this Terry Fox memorial is possibly one of the most emotional and inspirational in all of Canada.

"Terry Fox" by Richard Keeling - Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Commons.
Terry Fox” by Richard KeelingOwn work. Licensed under GFDL via Commons.

1. Fortress of Louisbourg -Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

Located on the Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, this National Historic Site is one of the most important sites in defining Canada as it is today. The Fortress of Louisbourg was settled in 1713 and fortified later in the mid-18th century, and was the site of historic Anglo-French battles crucial to our history. Enter the fortified city and feel what it was like living in a fishing, port city during the 1700’s. Take one of the many walking and guided tours available, or spend some time exploring on your own; whatever you choose you will be sure to leave with a better understanding of how the original settlers of Canada lived hundreds of years ago.

LunaseeStudios / Shutterstock.com
LunaseeStudios / Shutterstock.com

The Bucket List’s 13 Canadian Towns You Must Visit

The common old saying, ‘the best things come in small packages’ holds true when it comes to Canadian small towns. Visiting small towns isn’t normally at the top of our bucket list, but we’ve come up with a list of great towns that are perfect just the way they are, which is often quiet and out of the way, typically passed by on highways and main roads, tucked neatly away on the outskirts of a city. This list is a baker’s dozen compiled small towns to love, we’ve covered all our bases including one from each province and territory. What are you waiting for? Get going!

13. Nelson, British Columbia

For a town of under 10,000 people there is a whole lot going on in Nelson. The skiing in the Kootenay Rockies is sensational. When it’s time for water skis, Lake Kootenay offers any activity you want on and under the water. There are thermal and natural baths and less than an hour away, as is the beginning of the province’s fabulous wine country. Nelson is something of an artistic community with a surprising cache of Victorian, Queen Anne and Beaux Arts architecture. The town website claims more restaurants per capita than San Francisco. It also likely has more hippies per capita as the counterculture is bred by American draft dodgers during the Vietnam War and continues on today.

Nelson British Columbia

12. Legal, Alberta

A proud little town whose website says it “puts unity back into community”. It’s close enough to be considered a suburb of Edmonton, but it retains its separate identity with its old rural charm intact. Still bilingual, it was founded as a French-speaking settlement in 1894, before Alberta was a province and less than a decade after French Canada’s champion Louis Riel was hanged for treason. The stop signs still say ‘Arret/Stop’. Legal is renowned for its 28 French murals and its summer Fete Au Village, or Town Festival.

Photo by: Town of Legal
Photo by: Town of Legal

11. Forget, Saskatchewan

This town is nothing like it sounds, rather it’s sure to give you an unforgettable experience. It is a one of those places through the Canadian and American Midwest that serves as a reminder that French explorers were the first Europeans to pass through and that many of the early post-Confederation settlers were from Quebec and their descendants still proudly call themselves Saskinoises, as did Canada’s first woman to serve as Governor General, Jeanne Sauvé. Despite its minuscule size (at last count 104) it has become known as an artists’ colony. The old Rectory built in 1904 is now The Ananda Arthouse.  Its French Catholic roots are evident in the name of a much-praised hangout and kitchen called The Happy Nun. And should you go there, please recall it’s pronounced for-JAY.

Saskatchewan

10. Flin Flon, Manitoba

There are few more quintessentially Canadian towns than Flin Flon.  A sub-Arctic hardworking mining community with a stellar hockey history. Six hundred miles northwest of Winnipeg in the Manitoba Lake District, it boasts a big trout festival and wilderness activities in summer and with the exception of downhill skiing, a full range of winter sports. It is one of Canada’s hockey factories, having sent a number of big stars to the NHL, including Bobby Clarke, Reggie Leach and Blaine Stoughton. And there is of course its iconic name with a minor literary pedigree, the only town named after Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin, a character in a 1905 science fiction book The Sunless City. The venerable American cartoonist Al Capp was so intrigued by the story, he created the statue of the town’s namesake that still stands.

Flin Flon, Manitoba

9. Port Hope, Ontario

Sixty miles east of Toronto, Port Hope is a pretty little town with a lovely and well preserved 19th century downtown. The Capitol Theatre opened in 1930 and is one of a dwindling collection of ‘atmospheric theatres’, an ornate style movie house that resembles a palace. It has been cited for the province’s Community Leadership award for exemplary “leadership in heritage conservation and promotion”. The antique shopping is renowned as is the fly-fishing in the Ganaraska River. A timeless scene of Victorian Ontario.

Photo by: John Vetterli via Flickr
Photo by: John Vetterli via Flickr

8. Hudson, Quebec

Hudson is a picturesque, historic place set on the Lac des Deux Montagnes that dates back to New France and celebrates its 150th birthday as a town in 2015. Now it’s also known as where the late Jack Layton called home. Forty miles west of Montreal, it has long been known as a wealthy Anglophone enclave with a Yacht Club dating back to 1909 and a polo club from 1901.  It re-established in the 1990’s as the Club Nacional and is was well-known for its star players that included some of the great Montreal Canadiens from the teams that won five Stanley Cups in the 1980’s. Now it has a nice arts scene, great antiques. It’s not a place you would spend a week, but perfect as a weekend destination or day trip. It just might even leave you trying to figure out ways to move there for good.

Photo by: Hudson Yacht Club
Photo by: Hudson Yacht Club

7. Victoria-by-the-Sea, Prince Edward Island

When it comes to flat out, good old fashioned small town charm, it’s very hard to beat the Maritimes. Victoria lies on the island’s south coast just 20 miles from Charlottetown. It was once an affluent, busy trading port and the pretty houses and stores don’t seem to have changed much, except for fresh coats of brightly colored paint. Another charming little (population: 200) place that attracts artists and craftspeople. The Victoria Playhouse has been written up by no less than the New York Times. The mandatory red sand beaches and Lighthouse museum are present and accounted for. Sea kayaking in the Northumberland Strait is the main offshore activity. The town website almost brags that when the Trans Canada Highway passed the town by, so did the malls, fast food joints and tourist traps.

Victoria-by-the-sea, PEI

6. Saint Andrews, New Brunswick

The town was settled by Loyalists from Maine in 1783. Thirteen of the streets are named after the offspring of George lll (aka Mad King George) not to mention King, Queen and Prince of Wales Streets. Like much of the region, its economic apogee passed with The Steam Age. After decades of bad times, the onset of the railway plus, the ocean breezes and natural beauty, brought well-to-do visitors seeking respite from the heat and filth of the industrial northeast. Saint Andrews became the country’s first resort and was rewarded for its economic stagnation with unspoiled downtown and surroundings that became their major industry and engine of growth.  The legendary Algonquin Hotel remains a wonderful example of CPR hotel architecture (or ‘Parkitecture). Kingsbrae Gardens is an award winning masterpiece of horticulture and whale watching has been added to the array of watery attractions.

Photo by: Douglas LeMoine via Flickr
Photo by: Douglas LeMoine via Flickr

5. Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

Another coastal gem, Mahone Bay was founded in 1754 and was a shipbuilding center for over a century. The shelter of the Bay encourages sailors, kayakers, and fishers to explore the 365 islands that dot the waters of Mahone Bay, including Oak Island, with its legend of buried treasure. It’s a summertime boom town, attracting visitors for its beaches, biking and ski trails, along with a rich history and oceanfront location. Not to mention that fresh, fresh seafood.

Mahone Bay NS

4. Trinity, Newfoundland and Labrador

Fisherman were summering in relative safety in trinity bay since the early 16th century. It is full of heritage buildings of saltbox architecture dating from the 1850’s. All the towns on this list are scenic, but only The Rock combines mint conditioned, brightly colored historic buildings with rugged beauty of the unforgivingly harsh Newfoundland rock face which is a base for hiking and boat tours to see whales and icebergs. Its preserved perfection of houses from the 1850’s attracted the makers of The Shipping News and there are tours of where the famous cast shot scenes and stayed, some of them were so taken by the land and people, they bought houses or cottages nearby!

Photo by: Brian Summers via Flickr
Photo by: Brian Summers via Flickr

3. Dawson, Yukon

You can still pan for gold and have the famous Sour Toe cocktail. For a more satisfying taste – attempt to make it yourself! It was parodied by a Dawson banker named Robert W Service in the “Ice Worm Cocktail” a story of a gullible Englishman who downed one with great trepidation and comic results. The romance of the Gold Rush, even more than a century come and gone remains. Such was the transient wealth, it was called the Paris of the North. Heritage buildings from its 15 minutes of wealth and fame abound. And yes, you can see the can-can girls at Gambling Gerties, but it’s not a one-trick pony. Cruise the Yukon River and/or hike 1700 feet up the Midnight Dome and take in the views of it and the Klondike Valley. Parks Canada has a nice tour from Crocus Bluff to Service’s cabin in the hills, conducted with excerpts from his legendary poetry.

Josef Hanus / Shutterstock.com
Josef Hanus / Shutterstock.com

2. Rankin Inlet, Nunavut

In Inuktitut, it’s called Kangiqtiniq – ᑲᖏᖅᖠᓂᖅ, meaning ‘deep inlet’. It has become the gateway to the territory for civil servants, mining execs, scientists and adventure travel aficionados, hence the cell phone service and golf courses not common to the rest of the region. There is a thriving Inuit art scene, especially in ceramics and carving. For exploring the stunning, pristine Iqalugaarjuup Nunanga (‘the land around the river of little fishes’) Territorial Historic Park has hiking, fishing and fauna that you won’t see south of 90 degrees north. There are also habitations and graveyards from the 13th century. To celebrate spring Pakaluk Time there is a festival which includes music dancing and the famous, unique Inuit sport competitions.

Photo by: Electronker via Flickr
Photo by: Electronker via Flickr

1. Fort Smith, Northwest Territories

Fort Smith deserves a place on the bucket list if for no other reason than it being a place that is a gateway to the remote, spectacular World Heritage Site, Wood Buffalo National Park. The northern boreal plain and forest is home to endangered species like wood bison, whooping cranes and peregrine falcons. Seemingly endless acres of pristine natural beauty that are a paradise for the outdoor enthusiast. Its name in Chipewyan is Thebacha or ‘beside the rapids’, and those rapids on the Slave River are a major attraction for white water buffs today.

Photo by: Ansgar Walk via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Ansgar Walk via Wikimedia Commons