I Backpack Canada » Sightseeing http://ibackpackcanada.com A backpackers travel guide to Canada Mon, 26 Jan 2015 19:54:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 Kayaking with Belugas in Churchill, Manitobahttp://ibackpackcanada.com/kayaking-with-belugas-churchill-manitoba/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/kayaking-with-belugas-churchill-manitoba/#comments Fri, 16 Jan 2015 15:58:32 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5362 The tip of my paddle sliced through the cold arctic waters of the Hudson River, a loud burst of air and mist erupted from the water. I watched as a smooth, silky white body of one of Churchill Manitoba’s yearly visitors, the belugas, gently peeked out of the water. As I swivelled my head I […]

Kayaking with Belugas in Churchill, Manitoba is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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The tip of my paddle sliced through the cold arctic waters of the Hudson River, a loud burst of air and mist erupted from the water. I watched as a smooth, silky white body of one of Churchill Manitoba’s yearly visitors, the belugas, gently peeked out of the water. As I swivelled my head I realized I am completely surrounded. I let out a nervous laugh & quickly decided that it was time to make friends with these 2000 lb cetaceans.

kayak-beluga-hudson-bay

Paddling with Churchills Belugas

My sea kayak glided towards a pod of belugas headed straight for me. I worried that I found myself in an arctic version of chicken that I have yet to learn the rules to. Thankfully, they all dove before impact and barrel rolled underwater, studying the kayak and no doubt wondering what this cold, wet, bearded fellow above is all about.

I soon discovered that belugas love playing cat and mouse. Chasing a colourful kayak through these cold waters is considered a good time by belugas, and judging by how much I abided, I have to admit it’s my kind of game as well. After an hour of padding with pods of these magical creatures, encouraging as many to follow in my wake, they had all but completely wore me out.

beluga-petting-hudson-mb

An Encounter with an Infant Beluga

As I rested, watching the 4 other paddlers in my group laugh at the excitement of seeing belugas at every angle, I dipped my hand into the cold waters, hoping to get my newfound group of underwater friends attention. A grey juvenile beluga swam closer, inspecting my hand. We maintained eye contact, starring into one another’s eyes, studying. I held still, hoping with all my might that this young beluga might see me as friend and not a foe. The juvenile gracefully floated closer, nudging my hand with his nose. Suddenly he (or she) swam away, only to return a few seconds later to touch my hand again. “Hello to you too“, I quietly said. I pulled my hand from the water in shock, and yelled to the group “I just touched a beluga!“. Jealousy erupted in our group, as I spent the last hour kayaking in complete disbelief, laughing and shaking my head, wondering how I got so lucky. This was hands down one of the highlights of my life!

Polarbears & Belugas

While many people head north in search of polar bears, I traveled north to Churchill for the belugas. Not only because summer is their high season, but because as a child I was Raffi’s biggest fan, belting out the words to “Baby Beluga” louder than Axl Rose could scream. Despite being such a huge fan of his hit song, I had never seen a beluga in real life. I was convinced that this summer was to be the one that changed that, looking back, that was one of the best goals I had set in a long time.

kayaking with belugas in churchill

Churchill’s Kayak & Beluga Experts

The folks at Sea North Adventures offer travellers a wide range of adventures, including kayaking & snorkelling with belugas, exploring the Churchill Fort, or hopping on a zodiac in search of polar bears. The staff at Sea North Adventures have to be some of the hardest (and friendliest) workers in Churchill. When you don’t see them touring people through the frigid waters of the Churchill River, you might find them serving guests at the Tundra Inn Pub.

beluga-pod-manitoba-canada

VIA Rail from Winnipeg to Churchill

I boarded VIA Rail’s “Hudson Bay” train from Winnipeg to Churchill, a 40 hour ride that let’s you truly experience the vast distances and picturesque landscapes of the Canadian prairies, the boreal forest, and the sub-arctic tundra. This is by far the cheapest way to get up to Churchill, and despite the long hours on board a train, you’ll find that it’s just part of the journey. Part of what makes Churchill so intoxicatingly alluring! Be sure to try and remember your fellow VIA Rail passengers names as you’ll likely be seeing them throughout town when you arrive. While flying is an option to get to Churchill, VIA Rail is significantly more friendly on the budget, and in my opinion a better way of traveling to this small northern Canadian town.

churchill-manitoba-beluga-whales

Churchill is for the Adventurous

Churchill brings about a certain type of traveller. You’ll find that they all have something in common. Whether it’s their desire for the great outdoors, an insatiable quench for adventure, or a passion for arctic wildlife, you’ll come to realize those you meet in the small town of Churchill are here for a lot of the same reasons as you. What’s more shocking than this is the fact that residents of Churchill continue to possess these same qualities, and best of all, they’re willing to share their slice of heaven with visitors from all over the world. With a population of under 1000 people, you’ll come to find that each and every one of them have a story worth listening to. Be sure to take the time to listen, next to the belugas and polar bears, they’re the most interesting form of life this far north.

Special thanks to the folks at Frontiers North Adventures, Sea North Tours, and the warm folks at Tundra Inn for helping out with my Churchill Adventure. Another thanks to the helpful staff at Travel Manitoba for bringing me in to cover the region.

Please forgive the Instagram quality photos in this post, I wasn’t brave enough to haul my DSLR out for this kayak trip and I only ended up having my Waterproof Case for my iPhone to snap these.

Kayaking with Belugas in Churchill, Manitoba is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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16 Winter Activities to Enjoy in Canadahttp://ibackpackcanada.com/16-winter-activities-canada/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/16-winter-activities-canada/#comments Wed, 07 Jan 2015 18:25:00 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=6856 Short on things to do in Canada during the winter? Check out some of these popular winter activities in Canada. Winter is a tough time of the year for everyone. It’s sometimes easier and more appealing to just hunker down in the warmth of your home and avoid the cold outdoors. Pushing yourself in the […]

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Short on things to do in Canada during the winter? Check out some of these popular winter activities in Canada. Winter is a tough time of the year for everyone. It’s sometimes easier and more appealing to just hunker down in the warmth of your home and avoid the cold outdoors. Pushing yourself in the winter to try new things, or pickup new winter hobbies is a great way to stay sane in these long winter months. This list below should hopefully kick you in the butt to get outdoors and learn how to embrace the cold and have some fun!

snowboarding-fairmont

Snowboarding / Skiing

One of the most popular winter activities in Canada. Snowboarding and skiing is available nearby just about any major city centre. Most people end up road tripping to the mountains, or the nearest ski/snowboard hill. Even in places like Regina, SK, my hometown, you can make a quick 45 minute jaunt over to Qu’Appelle Valley and enjoy the cute little valley resort of Mission Ridge. These little micro resorts aren’t exactly the best Skiing or Snowboarding you’ll come across in Canada, but provide a great weekend day trip.

Look for more information on Snowboard / Skiing in Canada?

Cross Country Ski Canada

Cross Country Skiing

The first time I went cross country skiing I was 13. It may look like an easy way to spend a sunday, and I’m sure it is if you do it often enough, but I still to this day think Cross Country Skiing is one of the most intense workouts you can do in the winter. Cross country ski rentals are available in many towns, and can be picked up very cheap at used sporting good stores or online at websites like Kijiji. Most Canadian cities also have Cross Country Ski clubs, where you and a group of similar aged people will head out and explore nearby trails.

Snowmobile Canada

Photo by Jordan Cameron – CC Licensed via Flickr

Snowmobiling

Snowmobiling, snow-machining, skidooing, same diff. Whatever you call it, just know that it’s one of the best winter activities you can get into. While there’s a high barrier of entry to snowmobile, if you can make friends with a snowmobile owner, or join a group or find a snowmobile rental company that can get you out on the trails, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much fun you’ll have, despite the cold.

Want more information about Snowmobiling in Canada?

Dog Sledding Canada

Dogsledding

Nothing says rugged Canadian winter sport like Dogsledding. Dogsledding is a little harder to just pick up as a hobby, but you can certainly find tour operators across Canada that are experts in the subject. Head out on a weekend trip and experience one of the most unique Canadian winter activities you can find. Bundle up, and explore the great outdoors with your own team of dogs. Mush!

Find out more about Dogsledding in Canada

Ice Skating the Oval

Ice skating

Many Canadians proudly claim to have learned to skate before they could walk. While I’m not sure exactly how that’s possible, it’s safe to say that we’re all a big fan of this winter passtime. Ice Skating is probably one of the cheapest, easiest ways to get outside and enjoy the fresh winter air. Most cities have free skate rentals at local outdoor skating arenas. Nearly every Canadian school has an Ice Rink near the playground. Outdoor rinks are almost always community run, allowing any ordinary person to enjoy this awesome winter activity.

Mount Pleasant Tobogganing in Saskatchewan

Tobogganing

Nothing says Canada quite like hurling yourself down on a hill with no form of steering. Despite the occasional injury, it’s still one of the best things to do in the winter across Canada. Find a local hill, rent, borrow, or buy a Toboggan, GT, Saucer, or Crazy Carpet, and let the fun begin. I was having a tough time tracking down hills last winter here in Regina, SK, so I decided to create a website dedicated to Regina Toboggan Hills. Hop on google and see if you can find something similar near you.

shopping canada

Photo courtesy of Mack Male – CC Licensed via Flickr

Shopping

While it’s not exactly the most adventurous thing to do in the winter, shopping is a great time killer, and on top of that, it’s great for the economy (let’s ignore that it’s hard on the wallet). Mall visitors greatly increase in the winter months, and with the weather being so cold, you have an excuse to shop for multiple layers.

Ice fishing Last Mountain Lake

Ice fishing

Ice fishing isn’t exactly the most exciting winter sport, but I have to admit, there is a peaceful serenity to cutting into the ice, dropping a line, and catching food in the face of -30 degree celcius weather. Hop onto your local tourism board’s website and look for ice fishing outfitters that can walk you through the process. Or make friends with an old fisherman. If they don’t ice fish, chances are they know somebody that does.

Want more on Ice Fishing?

Polar Plunge winter swim

Image courtesy of Suzanne Schroeter – CC Licensed via Flickr

Polar Bear Dips

Probably not everyones idea of a good time, winter swims are growing in popularity across Canada. Most of the time polar bear dips are done to support a fundraising event or charity, and it’s typically supervised by professionals or emergency services. I wouldn’t recommend this activity unless you’re nuts. Or like the idea of yours shrinking.

Warning: Please don’t attempt to swim during the winter alone. Hypothermia can kill you. Stay off thin ice too. That stuff is not good for your health.

Want more on Polar Bear Dips?

Check out the Courage Polar Bear website for more information.

ice climb canada

Image courtesy of Laurel F, CC Licensed via Flickr

Ice Climbing

Every wanted to climb an ice wall? Ice climbing is a fast growing sport in Canada, and challenges not only your strength and endurance, but also your fear of heights. Ice climbing courses are available with Whistler Alpine Guides, Yamnuska, and Summit Mountain Guides. Again, this isn’t exactly a “head out on your own” winter activity. You’ll need proper training, instruction, and safety in order to turn this into a regular pastime.

Pond Hockey Canada

Pond Hockey

The sound of blades slicing through hard ice. Pucks echoing off sticks, snow spraying stops. Pond hockey can be heard from miles away, and joining a game is just a matter of bringing a pair of skates and a stick out and introducing yourself. Most pond-hockey spots are privately maintained on public lakes or ponds. If you can’t track down an authentic pond-hockey arena, you’ll have to make due with the local outdoor hockey arenas that are free to play, and easily found near schools and parks.

ice wine canada niagra grapes

Image courtesy of Mya – CC Licensed via Flickr

Icewine Festivals

Ice wine is a sweet, very concentrated wine, made from frozen grapes. This curious type of wine is typically enjoyed as a dessert drink. While purchasing quality bottles of it can set you back quite a bit, icewine festivals allow you to sample multiple types of this very Canadian, very unique wine without having to spend an arm and a leg on one singular bottle.

Check out the Niagara Ice Wine Festival on January 23rd, 24th, and 24th (2015) at the Scotiabank Convention Centre. Or check out the Winter Wine Fest on January 9th, 10th, and 11th (2015).

sleigh ride canada

Photo courtesy of bambe1964 – CC Licensed via Flickr

Sleigh Rides

The winter variety of a horse-drawn carriage, sleigh rides might not be as popular as they once were 60 years ago. But you’ll often find local farmers that arrange sleigh ride tours within or around the community. I’d recommend talking to your local tourism board. Some sleigh ride operators require that you book a group, rather than singing up just yourself. But in Late December you’re more likely to squeeze yourself in.

snowshoe-canada-cypress-hills-sk

Snowshoeing

Little is known about the history of snowshoeing. Most experts claim that they appear to be an invention older than the wheel. Regardless of when humans figured these bad boys out, it’s safe to say it was a good invention, as they’re still regularly used by hunters, trappers, and outdoor enthusiasts.

Snowshoes can be purchased for fairly cheap, but tour operators and outdoor outfitters will typically rent out snowshoes by the hour or by the day. Exploring winter trails by snowshoe provides you with the ability to get some tremendous winter photos that you wouldn’t have been able to get in ordinary boots.

peak to peak gondola whistler

Photo by Jon Wick – CC Licensed via Flickr

Gondola Ride

Sore from all the other fun winter activities you’ve enjoyed? Sometimes a relaxing gondola ride is all you need in order to make your day feel a bit more exciting. Whistler’s Peak to Peak Gondola, or Banff’s Gondola up Sulphur Mountain are terrific ways to view the mountain terrain. While they’re not exactly the cheapest activity to enjoy, it’s worth it in photos you can score.

kiteboarding ski

Photo courtesy of Jamie McCaffrey – CC licensed via Flickr

Winter Kiteboarding / Kiteskiing

Kiteboarding is a growing sport. Harness yourself into a giant kite, strap on your snowboard or skis, and let the power of wind propel you as you sail over snow drifts and icy terrain. You’ll easily hit the speeds that you’d experience when enjoying downhill ski or snowboarding. While the gear may be a bit out of your price range, kiteboarding tour operators are popping up all over the place. Allowing you to sample this winter sport without the initial cost.

Want more information on Kiteboarding / Kiteskiing?

Missing any of your favourite Winter Activities? Share them in the comments below!

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My favourite Canadian Architectural Wondershttp://ibackpackcanada.com/canadian-architectural-wonders/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/canadian-architectural-wonders/#comments Wed, 24 Dec 2014 16:03:37 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=6798 Canada is known by most to be scenic view after view of wild and rugged nature. Surprisingly enough though, this nation is also home to some incredibly designed buildings. A couple of which were even included in the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, a list started by The American Society of Civil Engineers. I’ve always had a strange […]

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Canada is known by most to be scenic view after view of wild and rugged nature. Surprisingly enough though, this nation is also home to some incredibly designed buildings. A couple of which were even included in the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, a list started by The American Society of Civil Engineers. I’ve always had a strange fascination with awe-inspiring buildings, perhaps from that one drafting class I nearly failed in High School. Either way, when I’m on the road, I love making an extra special effort to check out buildings. These are my current four favourites that I came across during my last cross Canada road trip.

banff-springs-hotel

Banff Springs Hotel

Starting in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta is one of the most iconic hotels in Canada and has stood proudly as a destination of the highest quality for over 100 years. Designed by Bruce Price in a Scottish Baronial style, the resort has over 750 guest rooms, yet still manages to offer an incomparable peace surrounded by the mountains and woodland. Built between 1887 and 1888, it became one of Canada’s grand railway hotels and at one point was even the tallest building in Canada.

cn-tower-city-view

CN Tower

Of course that’s now eclipsed by the magnificent CN Tower, standing over 1,800 feet high and overlooking the country’s largest city – Toronto.

The tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere, it was completed in 1976 and to this day still holds a number of records including the world’s highest bar, largest revolving restaurant, longest metal staircase with 2,579 steps, and that’s not to mention being able to walk along the edge of itIt’s a truly spectacular building and is one of the most iconic buildings in Canada.

casino-montreal

Casino de Montreal

Shifting our focus down a thousand feet or so is the Montreal Casino, the largest casino in the country and one of the most interesting pieces of architecture in Montreal.

Opening in 1993, it consists of three interconnected buildings and is famed by its unconventional features which include low ceilings and even windows. The casino itself has never been more popular with gaming hitting new heights in the country both online on the likes of Canadian Royal Vegas games, and on the casino floors of this incredible building. Situated on the banks of the Fleuve Saint-Laurent, the casino also has an even more interesting feature, in the fact it’s surrounded by the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve – home of the Canadian Grand Prix.

chateau-frontenac

Chateau Frontenac

Another of Canada’s magnificent hotels, the Chateau Frontenac has been welcoming visitors to Quebec City since 1893, and is another of Bruce Price’s grand railway hotels.

Overlooking the Saint Lawrence River, this uniquely designed hotel has been the favoured stay of the likes of Sir Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and many other popular figures throughout history. The building’s Chateauesque architecture cuts a very imposing figure in Quebec’s skyline with its tall chimneys and steeply pitched roofs.

It’s both ideal for a look or a stay if you’re planning a visit one of the oldest cities in North America.

Have you visited any of these buildings? Can you think of other awesome buildings throughout Canada? Comment below and let me know!

My favourite Canadian Architectural Wonders is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Not Your Average Road Trip: 4×4, Skidoo, ATV & Dogsled Trailshttp://ibackpackcanada.com/road-trip-4x4-skidoo-atv-dogsled-trails/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/road-trip-4x4-skidoo-atv-dogsled-trails/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 21:28:01 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=6781 Road trips are great. They can be a fairly inexpensive way to see the country. But what if you want more than simple sights? Somewhere that cruise control isn’t even an option. If you really want to feel the terrain, you’re going to have to get off of the highways, and explore the world where […]

Not Your Average Road Trip: 4×4, Skidoo, ATV & Dogsled Trails is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Road trips are great. They can be a fairly inexpensive way to see the country. But what if you want more than simple sights? Somewhere that cruise control isn’t even an option. If you really want to feel the terrain, you’re going to have to get off of the highways, and explore the world where the pavement is no more. Where machine meets dirt, hills, ruts, gullies, and obstacles. Canada is home to world class trails that are perfect for those interested in something a bit more extreme than heated seats.

off-road-truck-canada

CC Image Courtesy of Mike Agiannidis on Flickr

Ontario’s 4×4 Trails at The Concession Lake Trail

Proud truck owners unite from Spring to Fall on Concession Lake Trail in Ontario to test the limits of their trucks, be they GMC Sierra’s, 4×4 Jeeps, Lifted Chevrolet Silverado’s, or frankenstein 4×4’s crafted in some guys garage. This Canadian 4×4 trail is a relatively open trail with a few tight sections, some large rocks and obstacles to navigate over, around, and through. The Concession Lake Trail length is 20.47 km long, and is a surefire way to get a little mud between your nails.

Check out the Concession Lake Trail for more information.

Snowmobile Canada

CC Image courtesy of Jordan Cameron on Flickr

Saskatchewan’s Skidoo / Snowmobile Trails in Big River, SK

There’s nothing quite like tearing through miles of wide open trails, hitting jumps, leaning into sharp turns, and powering through piles of fresh powder. Saskatchewan is famous for its world class Snowmobile Trails, with more than 10,000km/6,000mi of trails spread across the province.Consider heading up to Big River, where more than 300 km’s of trail are waiting for you and your snow machine. Big River is famous for its scenic forest rides, many of which expand into abandoned logging roads that make for some memorable rides throughout winter.

Check out Tourism Saskatchewan’s Big River Snowmobile Trails page for more information.

atv-ironhorse-canada-trail

CC Image courtesy of Poo Dog on Flickr – ps: hilarious name

Alberta’s ATV Trails along The Iron Horse Trail

Rocky mountain views meet rugged terrain. The Iron Horse Trail in Northern Alberta, is one of the go-to destinations for Alberta ATV enthusiasts. With over 300 km’s of trail spread across a wide variety of topography, this rugged Canadian ATV Trail makes for a unique way to see parts of Alberta that are way harder to access by foot. This trail is used by cyclists, horseback riders, and hikers, so be sure to share the trail. There are several staging areas, and multiple campout locations, making this a superb trail to explore over a long weekend.

Staging areas are located in the small town of Smoky Lake at the “Tee” intersection of Main St & Railway Ave. There’s also staging areas at Abilene Junction, Mallaig, Glendon, Moose Lake, Ardmore, Cold Lake, St Paul, Elk Point, and Heinsburg.

Check out the Iron Horse Trail for more information

dog-sledding-canada

CC Image Courtesy of Jeff Nelson on Flickr

Northern Canada Dogsledding with MukTuk Adventures

Most people don’t own a team of trained dogs capable of sledding. This sort of activity isn’t exactly something you can just do yourself. But Dogsledding is such a wild type of “roadtrip” that I am obligated to include this amongst these other exciting types of travel. There are countless places across Canada that provide Dogsledding. If you’re going to participate in Dog Sledding, no place is more authentic than Dog Sledding in the Yukon.

Featured in the popular in-flight travel magazine enRoute, MukTuk Adventures is the perfect place to experience Canadian Dog Sledding. Their tour operation is located 20 minutes north of downtown Whitehorse. Their dogs are lovingly cared for, and they’re praised by their guests as being “bucket list” worthy. Muktuk Adventure’s winter tours include a dog sled across a frozen river and into the Takhini Valley, where you’ll be surrounded by mountains and wild, untamed wilderness.

Check out Muktuk Adventures for more information.

Have you experienced any “out-there” road trips in Canada? Share your stories below!

Not Your Average Road Trip: 4×4, Skidoo, ATV & Dogsled Trails is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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5 Jaw Dropping Canadian RV Road Tripshttp://ibackpackcanada.com/5-jaw-dropping-canadian-rv-road-trips/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/5-jaw-dropping-canadian-rv-road-trips/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 13:57:25 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5804 Canada is a mecca of jaw-dropping road trips, from east to west, to way up north, there’s something for everyone. Given an appropriate amount of time, it’s hard not to enjoy yourself on the highways of this large nation. Unfortunately, many of us are limited to a couple of weeks off per year, and every […]

5 Jaw Dropping Canadian RV Road Trips is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Canada is a mecca of jaw-dropping road trips, from east to west, to way up north, there’s something for everyone. Given an appropriate amount of time, it’s hard not to enjoy yourself on the highways of this large nation. Unfortunately, many of us are limited to a couple of weeks off per year, and every day counts. Covering an entire country is not for the time-constrained, so in an effort to help point you in the right direction, I’m going to share some of my favourite Canadian Road Trips, perfect for RVer’s or anyone with a set of wheels.

Winnibego - J-Jay - RV motor home road trip

Big J-Jay The Motorhome – Photo by Trent Fraser

My RV Motor Home Experience

I have a long standing love affair with RV Road Trips. My first taste of extended travel occurred at a young age. I would have been around 8 or 9, maybe 10 (those early years all blur together unfortunately). My Dad surprised my Mom and us kids by bringing home a 1972 Winnibego Motor Home. Straight out of the Griswolds Family Vacation (Remember Cousin Eddie’s Motorhome?), or the early meth-cooking episodes of Breaking Bad. We jokingly called it a box on wheels. It was an absolute eyesore, and I’m sure our neighbours were none too pleased when he pulled it into our driveway. My mom, laughing, shook her head in disbelief, and I recall my siblings and I climbing into the RV and running around the interior, crawling into the brown faux-leather lined top bunk, jumping on dual-purpose furniture, and admiring the 1970’s yellow shag carpet found throughout the interior.

During the first 5 years of ownership, it became a tradition to spend a few weeks on the road throughout the summer. Be it camping, exploring the Rockies in Alberta and BC, or heading south to the Black Hills of South Dakota. We grew up with that motor home, and it grew old with us. Those Motor Home trips are likely what caused my love affair with extended travel, history, and run down beat-up vehicles.

Road Trip #1 – The Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia

nova scotia shore

My first visit to Nova Scotia included a superb trip on one of Canada’s most famous Road Trips. The Cabot Trail is located in Northern Victoria County & Inverness County on Cape Breton Island. While not necessarily an Island (it is connected to Nova Scotia after all), you’ll be hard pressed to believe it, as the highway follows the coastal hills and cliffs of the Cape Breton Highlands with a near constant view of the Gulf of St Lawrence.

The Cabot Trail measures 298km (185 miles) and loops around the tip of the the island, passing through Baddeck, St. Anns, Ingonish, Chéticamp, Dingwall, and the world famous Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Expect to see a tremendous amount of wildlife, some world class panoramic views, and some traditional maritimes towns. Note that from Halifax, a route to and from the Cabot Trail will be closer to 935km as seen in the map below.

Recommended amount of days to spend in the area: 3 – 4 days

Cabot Trail Road Trip Map

Road Trip #2 – Coast Cariboo Circle Route, Vancouver/Vancouver Island BC

bc road trip

The Coast Cariboo Circle Route is a whopping 2110.86 km (1311.63 miles) Road Trip is sure to keep you busy and experiencing all that BC has to offer. This stunning adventure takes you from Vancouver through small coastal Vancouver Island villages, exploring the remains of the Gold Rush Trail, hiking on volcanic mountains, and experiencing some of the best beaches in Canada.

This route is guaranteed to provide you with ample photo opportunities of wildlife, amazing sunsets, and really provide you with a thorough understanding of why BC folks are so laid back.

Recommended amount of days to spend on the road: 7 – 10 days

Coast Cariboo Circle Route Road Trip Map

Road Trip #3 – Southern Saskatchewan Discovery Loop

Sask Road Trip

The flatlands are often overlooked as your typical Road Trip destination. People immediately think of flatlands and think boring. But spend any more than a few hours off the trans Canada and you’ll soon realize why it’s on this list. Explore rural Saskatchewan towns, quaint cafés and hotel bars, scenic panoramas of valleys, miles upon miles of flax, canola, wheat, and barley, and discover what western Canada really looked like before agriculture dominated the land.

The Southern Saskatchewan Discovery Loop is 1,659km (1,030.85 miles) of driving. This route is a bit of a DIY route that I regularly share to friends, family, and curious Saskatchewan visitors.

From Regina head south to the Big Muddy Badlands. This scenic transition from flatlands, to rolling hills, to desolate badlands shows you the stark contrast of Southern Saskatchewans topography. Climb Castle Butte (vaguely similar to Uluru of Australia), a world famous landmark carved by ice ages thousands of years ago. Sid Cassidy and the Sundance Kid once roamed these parts, relive it by riding horses at one of the ranches in the area. Continue on to the Val Marie & the Grasslands National Park, home to a wild herd of Bison, and countless other critters, both large and small. Don’t forget to camp out at Grasslands National Park under the Milky Way and shooting stars at one of Saskatchewans best kept secret dark sky preserves. Wake up slow and find work up a thirst, then stop for a beer and a burger at the Cadillac Hotel and catch some live country music.

Continue on to Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, and partake in Ziplining, hiking, or relaxing at the lake. Head north to Leader, and explore the Great Sand Dunes of Saskatchewan, a tremendous and curious sight to see amongst all the farmland. Start your trip back to Regina, but be sure to stop at Moose Jaw to explore the historic downtown, cheese it up at the Moose Jaw Tunnels, and don’t forget to stop at Bobby’s Place, my favourite Moose Jaw pub. Make the final trip back to Regina and pat yourself on the back for seeing more of Saskatchewan than most locals ever get to see!

Recommended amount of days to spend on the road: 4 – 5 days

Southern Saskatchewan Discovery Loop Road Trip Map

Road Trip #4 – St Johns to Central Newfoundland

central-newfoundland-panorama-2

I had the pleasure of exploring Central Newfoundland with Candice of Candice Does The World, and Riley of Riles for Miles. It was one of the most memorable road trips I’ve had out East. I will never forget how many times I said “Wow” during our five day trip. It was this road trip that led me to not only fall in love with this province, but also admit to falling in love with Riley – we’ve been together since and recently got engaged.

This trip is approximately 1,401km (870.54 miles) in total, and lets you experience world famous icebergs, small fishing villages, cod kissing kitchen parties, delightful Newfoundland dishes like Lobster Chowder, or more curious (but equally delicious) dishes such as Cod Tongues and Fish and brews. You’ve probably seen those famous Newfoundland commercials at the movie theatres and on TV. Central Newfoundland is featured several times throughout those spots, and you’ll see why as you explore the area.

From St Johns, travel to Twillingate to explore the small Maritime town made famous by countless folk songs. Get your stomping feet and kissing lips ready for a good ol’ fashion Kitchen Party and Screechin’ In at the Anchor Inn Hotel & Suites then sleep off the hangover and revel in the laughs from the night prior.  Sample wine at Auk Island Winery, and find out why the Wine Connoisseurs are taking notice on Newfoundlands exports. Get your sea legs on, and begin ferry hopping from Farewell, Newfoundland. Stay in quaint bed & breakfasts on Fogo Island, and check out the growing arts scene,but whatever you do, don’t forget some of the most breathtaking hiking trails, including BrimStone Head, one of the four corners of the world according to the Flat Earth Society. Nurse your sore legs and body on the way home to St Johns and revel in seeing some of the most unique and traditional Newfoundland sights.

Recommended amount of days to spend on the road: 5 – 7 days

St Johns to Central Newfoundland Road trip Map

Road Trip #5 – Calgary, Banff and Jasper Trip

banff jasper road trip

While easily one of the most popular road trips in Canada, you’ll soon realize it’s popular for a reason. The Calgary-Banff-Jasper trip covers just about everything you could want from an Alberta road trip. Wildlife, blue shale lakes, a mountain backdrop, world class hiking, and some of the best sights in Western Canada.

This ~953km (592.16 miles) road trip can be built upon to create anything form a 3 – 7 day road trip, depending on how many stops you make and how busy the season is. Something to be very wary of is that in the busy summer months, tour buses and RV Holiday Tourists can slow down highway travel, and the dreaded bear-traffic-jams are all but too frequent. But despite the crazy busyness, once you’re off the highways and have found your own solitary place amongst the mountains, it’ll be all too easy to forgot the chaos that can sometimes be seen on the roads. This region is setup great for extended travel. Both Jasper and Banff have something unique to offer. Either or can be a great temporary headquarters to branch out and explore the Rockies. Calgary is a great place to stop and pickup an RV Rental if you want a bit more room for this trip. There are countless RV Parks and Camp sites setup for RV Vacationiers and tent campers, as well as several discount hostels, budget hotels, and enough high-end hotels to keep all types of travellers happy.

Recommended amount of days to spend on the road: 3 – 7 days

Calgary, Banff and Jasper Road Trip Map

Road Trip #6 – Quebecois Rivers, Mountains, Lakes & Fjords

quebec road trip shipwreck

I’ve had a long standing crush on Quebec. I truly feel that if Canada ever lost Quebec, a large part of Canada’s cultural identity would go with it. As many people know, nothing breaks down barriers like travel. I strongly feel that if more western Canadians would brush up on their french and give this region a go, we’d be able to bridge the divide in language and culture and I wouldn’t have to listen to so many gomers that think the french are all jerks. Someone once said you can’t fix stupid though, so maybe it’s pointless. For those more refined in the art of tolerance, this trip is for you!

I’m fortunate in that I’ve been able to explore Quebec several times, each visit is a constant reminder of the beauty of this region. The Quebecois Rivers, Mountains, Lakes & Fjords Road trip is filled to the brim with culture. From delightful microbrews, luxurious wine, delicious foods, friendly people, stunning views of the Gulf of St Lawrence, and countless museums and art galleries.

This trip can be anywhere from 7 – 16 days, and is approximately 1,600 km (994.19 miles).

Quebecois Rivers, Mountains, Lakes & Fjords Road Trip Map

There is absolutely no shortage of road trips and routes to check out in Canada. These are just a handful of my favourites that I think about often. If you have any other ones you recommend checking out please be sure to leave a comment below or let me know by Twitter!

5 Jaw Dropping Canadian RV Road Trips is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Mountains and Stunning Adventure in the Columbia Valleyhttp://ibackpackcanada.com/mountains-stunning-adventure-in-the-columbia-valley/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/mountains-stunning-adventure-in-the-columbia-valley/#comments Mon, 10 Nov 2014 00:21:00 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5748 It’s feeling colder and colder each day. As winter fast approaches, I’ve decided to head into my archives and find something winter related to share. Something to remind me that while this burst of cold is kind of not fun, in another month or two, we’ll be knee deep in snow. My last trip to […]

Mountains and Stunning Adventure in the Columbia Valley is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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It’s feeling colder and colder each day. As winter fast approaches, I’ve decided to head into my archives and find something winter related to share. Something to remind me that while this burst of cold is kind of not fun, in another month or two, we’ll be knee deep in snow. My last trip to BC seems like a good fit!

I sometimes find weekend trips to be too short. I suppose it all depends on the time allotted for what you want out of the trip. In this particular trip, I wanted to relive my love affair with snowboarding, and truly capture what it means to snowboard in Canada. Bruises, sore muscles, and that burning desire to do “one more run”. After 3 days in BC last winter, it was safe to say I relived it all. And I have the photos to prove it.

British Columbia is known across the world for its stunning panoramic views the snowy mountains. A mecca for all things ski and snowboard, it’s hard to keep your camera down.

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A skier prepares for a downhill decent as snowboarders prepare to disembark from the chairlift.

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This is me. Just headin’ up the mountain, I’m surprised my beard isn’t frosty yet.

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Keeping warm as I snowboard. Despite taking a few years off of snowboarding, no nasty falls were had.

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Where trees meet the top of mountains. I love comparing mountains, and seeing which mountains have trees all of the way to the top, and which are higher than the tree line. This fellow is a bit smaller. But still breathtaking!

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After a few hours on the slopes, warming up by a fire while sipping on a hot coffee provides just enough relaxation to push through the rest of the afternoon.

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Kristian coming to a safe stop. It might be her 4th time snowboarding, but she’s getting the hang of it!

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Snow covered fir trees provide some fresh blasts of powder that are always fun riding through.

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Beautiful chalet in Columbia Valley. Their bar is superb and the fireplace lounge chairs are very much worth a sit. I get excited about comfy chairs, so what?

Mountains and Stunning Adventure in the Columbia Valley is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Curious Mysteries at The Winnipeg Legislative Buildinghttp://ibackpackcanada.com/curious-mysteries-winnipeg-legislative-building/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/curious-mysteries-winnipeg-legislative-building/#comments Tue, 20 Aug 2013 14:06:03 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5628 Dan Browns famous novel “The Da Vinci Code” mixes history, mystery, and a curious plot that keeps pages turning. Whether you love it or hate it, I personally remember putting that book down several times while reading it and thinking “Woah, it all makes sense!“. That feeling of “what the…” is hard to come by. […]

Curious Mysteries at The Winnipeg Legislative Building is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Dan Browns famous novel “The Da Vinci Code” mixes history, mystery, and a curious plot that keeps pages turning. Whether you love it or hate it, I personally remember putting that book down several times while reading it and thinking “Woah, it all makes sense!“. That feeling of “what the…” is hard to come by. Sometimes it shows up in a book, a movie, a well written blog post, but rarely does it happen in real life. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to experience this feeling out in the wild. Found right under your nose in downtown Winnipeg, the local Legislative Building has a strange history that has to be seen in order to fully believe.

Sphinx on Winnipeg Legislative

The Hermetic Code Tours

Dr. Frank Albo takes you on a tour through this historic landmark explaining such mysteries as “What the heck is a sphinx doing on top of a building in the middle of the prairies?“, “What’s with all of the freemason imagery, and what does it all mean?” and “How come all of this in Manitoba?“. This hour & a half tour through an architectural wonder is a breathtaking experience. A curiosity that makes you question history in Canada, and the prominence in Freemasons as late as the 1930’s.

Dome Ceiling
I would love to share more about this unique experience and tell you all of it’s wonders, but the delivery of this incredible information is best seen on the tours, surrounding by marble floors & stunning art & with the superb narration of Dr. Frank Albo. In short, you’re going to see some mind boggling things, hear some crazy stories, and be presented with answers to some mysteries you never knew existed.

Special thanks to Tourism Manitoba for blowing my mind by putting me on this tour.  

Curious Mysteries at The Winnipeg Legislative Building is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Safari in Saskatchewan at Grasslands National Parkhttp://ibackpackcanada.com/safari-saskatchewan-grasslands-national-park/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/safari-saskatchewan-grasslands-national-park/#comments Fri, 16 Aug 2013 14:46:41 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5591 Finding wildlife in Saskatchewan isn’t particularly hard; however, one will note that cattle and horses often spot the prairie fields and pasture land more often than those more wild. Finding eagles, osprey, bison, moose, bears, and coyotes sometimes takes hours upon hours of driving, and usually quite a bit of luck. For the animal enthusiast, […]

Safari in Saskatchewan at Grasslands National Park is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Finding wildlife in Saskatchewan isn’t particularly hard; however, one will note that cattle and horses often spot the prairie fields and pasture land more often than those more wild. Finding eagles, osprey, bison, moose, bears, and coyotes sometimes takes hours upon hours of driving, and usually quite a bit of luck. For the animal enthusiast, it can be slightly disheartening. Given the size of Saskatchewan (651,900 km²), it’s to be expected. With that being said, there is a clever way to guarantee seeing some unique wildlife.

grasslands-national-park-sunset

Grasslands National Park

Grasslands National Park is a Saskatchewan staple. While it does require some driving (it is Saskatchewan after all), it does mean you have a much higher chance of seeing something photo worthy. Four and a half hours south west of Regina, a stones throw from Montana, USA, Grasslands National Park is one of the truest forms of prairie landscape. This preservation is not only home to some beautifully unique flora, it’s also home to countless species of birds, wild bison, rattlesnakes, pronghorn antelope, prairie dogs, short-horned lizards, black footed ferrets, and many more.

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Untouched Prairie Beauty

The drive south from Regina will lead you through some of the flattest lands, which evolve into gentle rolling hills, only to be suddenly changed into a grass valley carved out by ancient glaciers. Dry cliffs and rocky buttes poke out from the landscape, creating a beautiful view that many would describe as “non-saskatchewan”. What many people often forget is that before large scale agriculture was introduced to Saskatchewan in the late 1800’s, much of the Saskatchewan landscape was exactly what you see at Grasslands National Park. Raw, untouched prairie beauty. A topography that evolved hand in hand with the flora and fauna of the region.

Frenchman River

A Hiker’s Paradise

During the day, there are countless hikes for every skill level, from quick jaunts, such as the Rock Creek Trail (2km loop) to the more skilled trails, such as the Butte Creek / Red Buttes Trail (16km loop), or the Zahursky Point Route (11km loop). There’s also countless square kilometers of back country hiking for those interested on exploring the park without trails. Each hike offers a different view of this beautiful locale. From stretching landscapes of the badlands of Saskatchewan, to creek crossings and surreal views of the Frenchman River.

Pro Tip

For more information on Hiking Trails at Cypress Hills, grab a copy of the Grasslands National Park Visitors Guide at Parks Canada.

Saskatchewan’s Darkest Dark Sky Preserve

Come nightfall, you’ll be in for one of the starriest nights of your life (clear skies depending of course). The Grasslands National Park is the Darkest Dark Sky Preserve in Canada. For astronomers & amateur stargazers, this is one of the best places to be on a clear night. The recently announced Dark Sky Preserve is not only good for bringing in additional tourists, it’s also good for the habitat of nocturnal species, such as the black footed ferret, which was recently re-introduced into the area.

Grasslands Macro

Snakes, Safety, and Friendly Park Staff

My girlfriend and I had the pleasure of camping in the Park a few weeks back. Park staff at Val Marie were immensely knowledgable and friendly, and ran through all the safety procedures before setting out to hike the Grassland trails. It’s made very clear once you’re this far south in Saskatchewan that you’re in rattlesnake country. My girlfriend, having never entered a land dominated by poisonous reptiles morbidly laughed, “Great, so this is the way I’m going to die!“. The Parks Canada staff laughed and reassured her that it’s fairly rare to come across them, and even if you do, giving the snakes their distance will ensure everyone leaves safe.

The Park Staff even went so far as to offer her snake garders, which are basically thick reinforced fabric leggings which they claim will protect you if one of the slithering fellows decide to strike. The Visitor Center at Val Marie offers anyone who’s going to be doing a lot of hiking the garders, but they’re strictly optional. We decided not to take the leggings, being risk takers & all.

Wild Plains Bison

Wild Plains Bison

After leaving the Parks Canada Visitor in Val Marie, we were fully supplied with maps, visitors guides, and a couple of safety brochures. We drove into the park, and without even trying, came across our first group of wild plains bison. Technically, it was just a pair; however, they seemed content to claim their part of the gravel road as their own. Our car approached them slowly, we both nervously laughed, “I hope they don’t charge the car“. Fortunately, they didn’t. Rather, they moved as slow as possible out of the way. During which time we managed to get a few photos. We high-fived over the first encounter. Success! 

History of the Bison in the Area

Back in December 2005 the Plains Bison were re-introduced to the park. Prior to European Settlement, Bison dominated this region. With millions upon millions of herds stampeding across the country. A significant animal in first nations history, it was one of the first to be effected by European Settlement. By the 1880’s, most of the Bison were gone, due to over hunting, and due to their natural habitat being transformed into agricultural land. What was once 71 re-introduced bison, have now become over 300 bison and 40 calves. Without a doubt, one of the most majestic creatures you can find in Saskatchewan. For more information on the Plains Bison, check out Parks Canada’s Bison Updates.

Camping Grasslands National Park - Tent Sunset

Camping in Grasslands National Park

We setup camp just before sunset in a small campground with a handful of lots. Located a kilometer or so from the Frenchman River, we opted to save the hiking for the next day. We were the only ones camping that weekend, and an eerie soundscape of prairie noises calmly sang to us. Waving grass, crickets, gentle blowing wind, soothed the often stressful time known as tent setup. Looking out from our campsite, a 360 degree view of grasslands and rolling hills surrounded us. Parks Canada had setup an in-ground binocular set to allow the viewing of animals slightly further than the eye could make out. In one spin of the metallic eyepiece, I spotted bison, antelope, and a group of kayakers who recently packed up from the Frenchman River.

Antelope Grasslands

Pro Tip: Ask Park Staff About Fire Regulations

Due to the dry nature of the grasslands, there is typically a fire ban in the area. Propane camping stoves are allowed, but open fire’s are not. Park’s Canada will advise you to be as careful as humanly possible. A handful of years back a large part of the park burned away due to fire, and they’d really like to prevent that from happening again.

Sunset Grasslands

Sun Setting Over Grasslands

As the sun dropped below the horizon, it’s remaining light shone through purple, pink, and orange clouds, covering the park in a warm orange glow. Our mosquito net was propped up, keeping the blood suckers out while we waited for stars to come out. Within an hour, the twilight exploded in a vivid starscape. The milky way spread across the sky. The grasslands began to erupt in activity. Panning my head, I noticed how completely alone we were in the park. There wasn’t a single light to be found. A band of coyotes began howling from the north east, not more than a handful of kilometers away. Their dog like calls echoed through the valley. Then like clockwork, another band of coyotes from the north west, joined in, howling for comfort, for territory, or just because it was a nice night out.

Prairie Dogs

Saskatchewan Prairie Dogs

Day finally broke, and we drove to the Prairie Dog sanctuary. These cute little critters are often seen as enemies by farmers, due to their innate ability to turn a perfectly healthy field into a labyrinth of holes. With agriculture dominating Saskatchewan, there aren’t many places they can safely call home; however, in Grasslands National Park, they seem to have found a corner (or two) to call their own. As we pulled the car over and stepped out of the vehicle, we began to walk along the road. Prairie Dog’s barked, alerting their family & friends of our presence. We gave them their space, feeding into their apparent confidence. This was their land, and no camera touting tourist was going to take it from them. We smiled, snapped a few pictures, and left.

Bison Grazing

Plains Bison Grazing

As we packed up for the day, we went on one final hike, one of the quick 2 kilometer loops. We stepped off the trail in hopes of finding more bison, rather than a snake. As we hiked over a hill, making careful progress, a plains bison was grazing within thumb-covering distance (the scientific measurement of safety with wildlife). It’s surprising how easy they are to spot. We stopped, ensuring we wouldn’t spook him. The last thing we’d want is a charging buffalo coming out way. We snapped our pictures, stared on the open landscape, and began our travels back home. A superb weekend trip that will surely be done again.

Safari in Saskatchewan at Grasslands National Park is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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