Canada is a huge country so the travel overview below is divided into specific areas.
Some of my sections are short because my trips to Canada (with the exception of Victoria) are prior to my photo and travel journaling days. That said, I have some memories that lasted long enough to document and share like the maple syrup farms of Quebec and skiing at Whistler in Vancouver.
Destinations in Canada – Click to jump
I visited Quebec for a long weekend many many years ago on a high school trip with my French class (1980s). It tells you something when a trip from that long ago still sticks in memory.
Quebec in on the far eastern side of Canada, east of Montreal and in range of Prince Edward Island. This is a French speaking city, but you can easily get around with only English. I did my best to parlez Francais, and was enchanted when I was successful and understood. It began my love affair with learning foreign languages for travel.
I went in the winter – fierce even compared to winters growing up in New England. It snowed and snowed and snowed. Below are the highlights I remember about that trip that are still in existence today.
A beautiful old city with totally unique architecture. Old Quebec is now a UNESCO heritage site and is the only fortified city north of Mexico. Quebec is only a short flight from New York or Boston.
One of the famed sites is the Chateau Frontenac which claims to be the most photographed hotel in the world.
I took a ride on the funicular, a box-like contraption that moves you up a steep hill for a panoramic view of the city.
I also vividly remember visiting Montmorency Falls, a waterfall bigger than Niagra and in the winter it is totally frozen solid. I remember we were supposed to hike across the frozen pond it lands in for a closer view but it was too cold for me so I stayed in the bus. Next time I’ll bring better snow shoes.
I visited the Sainte-Ann-de-Beaupre Shrine which is a famous place for healing, one of 5 national shrines in Quebec. It was stunning. Also very unique because there are crutches everywhere supposedly left behind by those that were healed after praying to St. Ann.
My favorite memory of that trip was a night excursion our group did to a maple syrup farm. We got to see the various steps involved from tapping the maple trees to sugar and syrup production. Then we had a huge feast of a meal with multiple courses featuring the flavors of maple sugar and syrup. There was traditional music and dancing.
A little research in 2020 tells me that these are called Sugar Shacks, and there are several in Quebec. I believe we visited Cabane a sucre L’en-Tailleur so showing images from that one and providing a link. Great fun and educational thing to do with groups or families.
My only trip to Vancouver was for a skiing weekend at Whistler-Blackcomb. I remember the village at the foot of the mountains – European and exotic to me at the time with a very international feel.
Vancouver, British Columbia is on the far West side of Canada, tucked between the states of Washington and Alaska. My trip was a very long time ago so definitely do your updated research.
Getting There/Where To Stay
I believe that I flew to Seattle, then to Vancouver. Then it was a long but gorgeous shuttle van ride to the mountains.
There is a fabulous village at the base of the two mountains with a range of accommodations, fabulous shops, galleries and boutiques.
I remember the skiing here was very challenging for me. Normally comfortable on blue runs, I found these were much harder than I’d experienced in Colorado, often with mixed terrain including occasional moguls which are no fun. I also remember the trails crossed a lot and I often got off on the wrong run and had to march back through the woods to something I could handle.
The runs are very long, which means long and cold rides on the lifts. It was the first time I’d ever encountered lifts with drop-down shells. By the time you’d get to the top, the shell was so covered in snow you couldn’t see out. Still, long ride up means long runs down which is what you want.
I also remember getting a custom-fitted pair of ski boots in Whistler, which I still have and treasure to this day. What a worthwhile investment. It made all the difference over the rental boots I’d had known up to that point.
This may be a strange thing to list on a travel page but those who know will appreciate it.
You can buy real Cuban cigars in Canada. I also remember they had a method so I could ship some home. I understand that this mountain has completely outlawed outdoor smoking, but the cigar shops still remain.
Not something I do regularly, but after a long day of skiing there is something beautiful about a few puffs of a sweet Cuban and a few sips of nice Scotch.
Victoria, Vancouver Island, British Columbia
A great destination on the west side of Canada is Victoria on Vancouver Island. I visited here in July 2014 for a few days between Seattle, Washington and the San Juan Islands (see my Washington page). The geographies are very close together, making it easy to travel between.
Victoria is the mildest climate anywhere in Canada and actually has gardens blooming year round.
Getting There/Where To Stay
I was coming from Seattle where I had spent a few days. Ferry is one option but takes several hours and vacation time is precious so I found a better way.
Sea plane! You can take off just outside of Seattle and for a modest price and about 35 minutes, you’ll land right in Victoria Harbor. This was one of my first experiences with Kenmore Air, whom I now rely on in many destinations for commuter/connector flights.
Victoria is a charming and very walkable harbor town with tons of options for accommodations. I looked for something in the downtown area.
Things To Do
I did a walking tour one day, visiting the Parliament building and seeing the historical sites. There were lots of easy to navigate tourist maps available for this.
Butchart Gardens Bike Tour
As with any garden tour on my travel pages, I will make the same disclaimer. I am not normally a garden person, so if I am featuring it on my page it must have been something special.
Butchart is the ultimate garden destination. Open year round, this 55-acre extravanganza welcomes over a million visitors each year.
I chose to do this in combination with a self-guided biking tour. You rent your bike in downtown Victoria. They give you a bike with a basket, then throw your bike in a van for the 30 mile drive to the gardens. Your daily rental includes the entrance fee to visit Butchart and a map to help you bike back to Victoria.
The gardens themselves were spectacular and I was blessed with a perfect day. Spent about 2 hours wandering around and taking dozens of photos before eating a light bite and hopping on the bike for the long ride home.
This bike trip was a highlight for sure. Easy to follow, mostly riding along paved sidewalks and pathways along the coastline with the very occasional traffic crossings. Absolutely gorgeous scenery the whole way. I highly recommend it.
After a couple of days in Victoria, I took a ferry to the San Juan Islands back in Washington state. Click the image below to visit my Washington page for overviews of both Seattle, from the beginning of this trip to San Juan island.