With Canada covering 6,204,391 square miles and encompassing three oceans—and a huge variety of landscapes and cultures between them—there is plenty to see and do in the country. That’s especially true in the summer, when the sun reveals all sorts of spots hidden during the winter.
It’s hard to whittle down such an immense and diverse country to just a handful or two of places, but here are eight of our favorite locations to spend a summer in Canada.
1. Prince Edward Island
Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island is a delicious summer cocktail of sweeping coastal views, red sandstone cliffs, and pristine beaches blended with fresh maritime cuisine and welcoming towns.
While many of the island’s beloved sand dunes suffered severe erosion as a result of Hurricane Fiona in 2022, the opening of the Canadian Centre for Climate Change and Adaptation in St. Peters Bay provides reason for hope. Explorers can also enjoy the Island Walk, a 435-mile route opened in 2021. Circumnavigating the perimeter of the island, it takes in beaches, PEI’s red dirt roads, scenic viewpoints, and ocean paths. With 32 sections, it’s easy to jump on and off for a bit of exploration and culinary indulgence in foods like lobster rolls.
Where to stay
- Book now: The Great George
Plan to stay in Charlottetown? The Great George has 54 rooms and suites spread among 17 restored heritage properties in the city’s historic district.
2. Churchill, Manitoba
It’s not only polar bears that are worth seeing in the “polar bear capital of the world.” In summer, 60,000 beluga whales—the highest concentration in the world—migrate to places like the Churchill River Estuary in Hudson Bay.
To get up close to the whales, it’s possible to kayak among the congenial creatures, but imagine being able to view them from beneath the water. Beginning summer 2023, visitors will be able to thrill at the animals’ subaquatic behaviors aboard the Matonabee, Lazy Bear Expeditions’ brand new vessel featuring 12 submerged windows. On a coastal boat tour, it’s possible to see many other local animals on the shore, such as Arctic foxes and Arctic hares. Polar bears can sometimes be seen, too, sunbathing on boulders, swimming in the water, or rolling in fields of wildflowers.
Where to stay
- Book now: Lazy Bear Lodge
Lazy Bear Lodge is a cozy log cabin made of timber reclaimed from a boreal forest fire and recycled wavy glass windows from a 19th-century Hudson Bay Trading Post.
3. Métis Crossing, Alberta
Canada’s first major Métis cultural destination, Métis Crossing, is a gathering place and interpretative center for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike, the perfect place to foster cultural understanding and reconciliation.
Summer visitors can learn traditional Métis crafts such as beading, ribbon skirt-making or embroidering from Knowledge-Keeper Lilyrose Meyers. Outdoor activities include a guided visit to the wildlife park, home to elk, horses, and three types of bison; stargazing and Métis storytelling; or paddling in a replica Voyageur canoe down the North Saskatchewan River, just as Indigenous fur traders once did. It was also one of AFAR’s places to go in 2022.
Where to stay
- Book now: The Lodge at Métis Crossing
Overnight guests can camp in traditional trapper tents or bed down in style at the Métis-designed 40-room boutique lodge, opened in December 2021. Beginning summer 2023, amateur astronomers will be able to contemplate the stars from the comfort of their beds in the new sky watching dome accommodations.
4. Halifax, Nova Scotia
Cities may not be top of mind for travelers seeking the great outdoors. Mild-weathered Halifax, however, is an exception to that rule. With gorgeous beaches (some with surf schools), provincial parks, and islands aplenty in and around Halifax, this city of 420,000 comes to life in summer.
These days, however, the former Atlantic backwater is upping its sophistication game as its foodie, wine, and craft brewery and distillery scenes grow. Recently, $200 million of private investment in the region brought a major makeover and expansion of the waterfront district. Unveiled in November 2021, the Queen’s Marque is a premier arts, dining, and shopping destination with world-class galleries and public art installations. Dining and drinking options include Drift, a refined, contemporary take on classic Atlantic Canadian dishes; Peacock, an intimate bistro and wine bar; Bar Sofia, showcasing Argentinian and Peruvian dishes; and Daryâ, a restaurant highlighting eastern Mediterranean flavors.
Where to stay
- Book now: Muir Halifax
An AFAR 2023 Stay List pick, the Muir Halifax is Atlantic Canada’s first five-star boutique hotel. It even offers guests private tours of Halifax’s coastline aboard its 36-foot yacht or high-speed 24-foot motorboat.
5. The Fundy Trail Parkway, New Brunswick
You’ve likely heard of Cape Breton Island’s Cabot Trail. But what about the Fundy Trail Parkway? Built over a 25-year span and completed in 2021, the Parkway is not only a beautiful 18-mile drive along the Bay of Fundy’s rocky coastline but also a nature park. The park encompasses five beaches, four waterfalls, 22 miles of hiking and cycling trails, and almost two dozen scenic lookouts and observation decks.
Take a First Nations–guided walk in the bay’s tides (the highest in the world) to discover the history and culture of Wolastoq and Mi’kmaq peoples and learn about their stories and traditional medicines. Over at Cape Hopewell, wander the Hopewell Rocks, 600 million years old, and—if you dare—kayak among these astounding geological formations after dark—and at high tide—with Baymount Adventures.
Where to stay
- Book now: Beach Street Inn
Anchor yourself in the Bay of Fundy at the new Beach Street Inn in the small fishing village of St. Martin’s. The stay features homey touches like a terrace, a garden, and in-room fireplaces.
6. Kootenay Rockies, British Columbia
With three mountain ranges, six national parks, and 47 provincial parks, there is no shortage of natural beauty in the remote Kootenay Rockies of British Columbia, the first region in Canada to implement a community-driven strategy to build a clean transportation network in a rural setting. Mountain towns bearing names like Golden, Trail, Fernie, and Revelstoke are becoming increasingly trendy among alpine ski fanatics, backcountry skiers, hikers, and nature-loving creatives and the food scene has followed suit.
There is much for outdoor enthusiasts to do here: Go mountain biking on steep trails. Splash around waterfalls. Soak in hot springs. Spot birds and mammals by kayak or canoe in the water world that is the Columbia Wetlands in summer. Visit Boo, a 20-year-old orphaned grizzly bear, at the Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Refuge.
In Golden, thrill seekers will appreciate Golden Skybridge, a new outdoor adventure park spread around the rim of a rock canyon. Opened in 2021, the park is home to two suspension bridges, the highest in Canada, dangling above a deep abyss.
Where to stay
- Book now: Heather Mountain Lodge; Purcell Mountain Lodge
Get an immersive stay within British Columbia’s natural splendor and savor gourmet cuisine at Heather Mountain Lodge or Purcell Mountain Lodge—the latter only accessible by helicopter.
7. Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
Ontario’s Niagara peninsula is home to the border-crossing Niagara Falls, but there’s more to the region than the natural wonder: sun-splashed rolling vineyards and award-winning wineries, the sandy beaches of Lake Erie, soothing spas, championship golf courses, scenic hiking and cycling trails, and pretty towns and villages. The crown jewel of these is Niagara-on-the-Lake, a town of 18,000 with boutique shops, lovingly maintained Victorian buildings, cast-iron planters cascading with flowers, and, of course, the acclaimed Shaw Festival.
Founded in 1962, the Shaw is an international destination for theater lovers. The season runs until November, with this year’s lineup featuring 13 plays, including The Playboy of the Western World, The Amen Corner, Prince Caspian, and The Shadow of a Doubt. The Spiegeltent, open only in summer, will run Mother, Daughter and The Game of Love and Chance. Another outdoor performance space will put on other shows and events.
Where to stay
- Book now: 124 Q Hotel & Spa; Riverbend Inn & Vineyard
In the Old Town, try the newly revamped and expanded 124 Q Hotel & Spa. Housed in a Georgian mansion, the Riverbend Inn & Vineyard is a good bet for those wanting to be surrounded by vineyards.
8. Bas St. Laurent, Quebec
Quebec is not only about Montreal and Quebec City. On the south shore of the St. Lawrence River lies the Bas Saint-Laurent (the Lower St. Lawrence), a distinctive maritime region east of Quebec City.
No trip along Route 132 is complete without a stop in Kamouraska. Dubbed le doux pays (“the sweet land”), by locals, Kamouraska is a picturesque tableau of meadows and farmlands sweeping down to the river, colorful Victorian homes with gabled roofs and wraparound verandas, and a main street lined with attractive boutiques and restaurants.
Also worth stopping for along the way are cities and municipalities like Notre-Dame-du-Portage, Saint-Pascal, and Sainte-Flavie, the gateway to the Gaspésie. Sainte-Flavie features the Centre d’Art Marcel Gagnon, a quirky art gallery whose exterior resembles a Gaudí confection. The beachfront, meanwhile, is the site of Le Grand Rassemblement (The Great Gathering), an art installation made of 80 concrete sculptures fixed into the water.
Whale watching is popular here. Tours are available from Croisières AML and depart from Rivière-du-Loup.
Where to stay
- Book now: Auberge du Portage
The Auberge du Portage resort has an outdoor heated saltwater pool, tennis court, a walking trail, and a patio perfect for drinks at sunset.