Canada is full of amazing places to visit. Banff, the CN Tower and Quebec City are just some of the destinations that are the stuff of tourism brochures and show off the country’s charms. But there is so much more to Canada than what you’ll find in the guidebooks. To really get under Canada’s skin, you need to get off the beaten path and discover the secret places known mostly to locals.
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Shogomoc River Pedestrian Bridge, Canterbury, New Brunswick
The Shogomoc River Pedestrian Bridge may not be one of the scariest suspension bridges but it’s definitely spectacular. Located where the Shogomoc River flows into the Saint John River, the bridge forms part of the Trans Canada Trail and is a great fishing spot.
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The Galley Patio & Grill, Vancouver, British Columbia
For drinks with a view on a lazy summer afternoon, head to the second floor of the Jericho Sailing Centre. Here you’ll find The Galley Patio & Grill with its wide deck overlooking Jericho Beach, Burrard Inlet and one of the most beautiful Canadian cities. The food is mighty tasty too.
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Killarney Provincial Park, Ontario
Killarney Provincial Park may not be quite as famous as nearby Algonquin National Park but it packs a perfect punch when it comes to natural beauty. Among the treasures here are lakes that are devoid of algae and have crystal-clear waters. The park has plenty of opportunities for canoe-in backcountry camping.
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International Peace Garden, Manitoba
The International Peace Garden straddles the border between Manitoba and North Dakota. Every year, over 150,000 flowers are planted here, making the International Peace Garden a great place for a nice stroll while contemplating world events. Within the park, you can cross the border as often as you want in one day, without getting flagged at customs. You can camp here too.
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Old Prison, Trois-Rivières, Quebec
If you’ve always wanted to know what it’s like to spend time behind bars but aren't criminally inclined, bring 14 of your friends and book a night at the Old Prison in Trois-Rivières. Yes, you can pay to be booked, fingerprinted, given prison clothes, sleep in a cell, eat a prison breakfast of porridge and toast, all under the watchful eyes of a warden.
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Mountain Wave, Kananaskis River, Alberta
Surfing in Alberta? You bet! A little less than an hour outside of Calgary, Mountain Wave is a surf spot in Kananaskis Provincial Park. It was built from a boulder by a group of surfing enthusiasts. Talk about a Zika-free destination that goes beyond the beach!
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Quarry Rock, North Vancouver, British Columbia
Quarry Rock, just outside Deep Cove in North Vancouver, is a lookout with stunning views of Indian Arm. The popular way to get here is via the Quarry Rock Trail, which is now limited to 70 hikers at a time. If this is still too crowded for you, hike up from Mt. Seymour Road instead.
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Silver Heights Peony Garden, Edmonton, Alberta
The attractions and activities at Fort Edmonton Park are divided into four different areas, each representing a different historic era. A magical secret spot in the area known as 1920 Street is the Silver Heights Peony Garden, first planted in 1921. Back in the day, this was where many of the peonies in Western Canada came from.
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Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park, British Columbia
Located in northwestern British Columbia, Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park is run in conjunction with the Nisga’a First Nation. Cinder cones, spatter cones and lava tubes are just some of the landforms created by a volcanic eruption some 300 years ago. It’s almost like being in Iceland – one of the cheapest destinations to visit from Canada – but without having to leave the country.
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Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, Toronto, Ontario
If you’re a true bookworm, you’ve probably had at least one fantasy about getting your hands on the papers of Margaret Atwood or Leonard Cohen, annotated proof sheets of some of Darwin’s works, a Babylonian cuneiform tablet or Shakespeare’s First Folio. The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto gives you access to these and more and you don’t need to be a student or staff member.
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Pikatak Nunatak, Kluane National Park and Preserve, Yukon
The Pikatak Nunatak route would have been a regular on lists of Canada’s best hikes if it was more well-known. It starts near Mount Queen Mary and leads across the Kluane Icefields to the top of the nunatak, from where you have a great view of Mount Logan. The skiing or snowshoeing trip takes about half a day.
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Joseph Ponton Costumes, Montreal, Quebec
Whether you feel like dressing like a 1920s Flapper or want to don lederhosen instead, Montreal has the answer to all your wardrobe wishes. Joseph Ponton Costumes has been renting out costumes since 1865.
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Black Fox Farm & Distillery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Scotland may be famous for its whisky but if you’re looking for one of those destinations for worriers, where you can drown your sorrows closer to home, look no further than Black Fox Farm & Distillery. Here you can sample excellent gin, vodka and liqueurs distilled from ingredients almost exclusively grown on site. Just remember to appoint a designated driver!
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Witless Bay Ecological Preserve, Newfoundland & Labrador
Puffin-watching in Newfoundland is one of those cool adventures every Canadian must try. The puffins at Elliston may be easier to view up close but if you want to see thousands and thousands of these birds in one place, take a boat tour to Witless Bay Ecological Preserve. It’s home to the largest Atlantic puffin colony in North America.
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Knox’s Dam, Montague, Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island may be known for its red beaches and Anne of Green Gables but travel inland and you’ll find some amazing secret spots. One of these is Knox’s Dam, which was once home to a hydroelectric plant. Nowadays it’s a lovely spot for a picnic or some fishing.
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Cambie Climbing Tree, Vancouver, British Columbia
Located on Cambie Street is one of Vancouver’s best-kept secrets: a huge evergreen tree with lots of sturdy branches that just need to be climbed. Tire swings, hammocks, buckets and plastic snakes are some of the add-ons that allow you to unleash your inner child. Climbing to the top and admiring the view may not be the stuff of the world’s most extreme vacations but it’s definitely unusual.
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Bear River, Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia’s coastal towns are a delight but for something different, head inland to the village of Bear River. Home to numerous artists and musicians, Bear River is a haven for creative types. Located at the head of the Bear River’s tidewaters, the village is also quite photogenic because of its many houses built on stilts.
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Inuvik Community Greenhouse, Inuvik, Northwest Territories
In winter, the Northwest Territories is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights but in summer, the sun shines at midnight. Because of this, the local mosque follows Edmonton’s prayer and fasting times but the Midnight Sun also has a great advantage: it makes it possible for local residents to grow fruit and vegetables 24/7 in an old converted hockey arena.
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Apex Beach, Iqaluit, Nunavut
Apex Beach, a community that dates from the 1940s and the activities of the Hudson Bay Company, is home to the Red Boat, a lifeboat from ferry that sank near Denmark and somehow found its way to this part of the world. Nearby, one of the old Hudson Bay Company buildings now houses an art gallery.