Canada is a vast country and there are many unique places in Canada to visit. Once you’ve visited the ‘must-see’, more well-known parts, there’s a whole world of hidden gems across Canada itching to be added to your next bucket list.
Sure, even within the more iconic places, there are side shoots off to the best places to visit in Canada and these are definitely worth checking out. It’s our recommendations below though that, for different reasons, should be ticked off the ‘been-there, done-that” list.
Writing on Stone Provincial Park
In the far south of Alberta, in the heart of the traditional Blackfoot Territory, you’ll find coulees and hoodoos, carved out millions of years ago when the area was at the edge of a great inland sea. Archeological evidence shows that people lived here long before Europeans arrived – as many as 10,000 years ago. The rock formations have served as storybooks for first nations people, depicting generations of knowledge, tradition and history etched into its sandstone cliffs. Year-round RV camping is offered at nearby Writing-on-Stone Campground and reservations are recommended from early June to late August. Several trails begin or end at the campground, taking you past rock art and hoodoos and to the Visitor Centre. Writing on Stone Provincial Park is definitely a destination to be added to your places to visit in Alberta.
Video Courtesy of Travel Alberta
Formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, Haida Gwaii is a wild chain of islands off the northern coast of British Columbia. It is the traditional home of the Haida First Nations and their history and culture are evident throughout. If you’re planning to travel there by ferry and take your RV, the departure point is Prince Rupert. The schedule varies by season with the trip taking around 8 hours. Advance reservations are essential.
So, what's makes Haida Gwai one of our recommended places to visit in Canada? Once on the Islands, you’ll be greeted by a diverse array of geographic wonders including blowholes that shoot 7 metres into the air and unmatched ocean views. Book a whale watching tour or beachcomb on North Beach. Those into longer hikes might like to head for the Pesuta Shipwreck while the less energetic can while away some hours at the Haida Heritage Centre.
Visitors to Haida Gwaii in an RV are well catered for in both serviced and non-serviced campsites. Most Haida Gwaii campgrounds operate on a first-come, first-served system with no reservations available. Fees are generally payable from June to September.
Tip: When your exploration of Haida Gwaii has ended, the ferry will take you back to Prince Rupert. Consider spending some time there and then take the Inside Passage ferry to Port Hardy and continue your adventure on Vancouver Island.
Haida Gwaii - Photo: Destination BC
Great Sand Hills
Tucked down in the south-west corner of Saskatchewan – seemingly sprouting out of the middle of nowhere – expansive wheat fields give way to large active piles of cresting sand dunes that look more like they belong in desert country. The dunes of Great Sand Hills Saskatchewan make up only 5% of the 1900 square kilometres that is the Great Sandhills Ecological Reserve, but they are definitely impressive and, for that reason, make our list of unique places to visit in Canada.
You might ask why there are sand dunes in the middle of Saskatchewan. The short answer is that it’s what is left after a 2km ice sheet that once covered Canada melted, leaving behind large lakes and these piles of sandy debris. A fuller explanation can be found at the Great Sandhills Museum & Interpretive Centre.
There are no official trails to hike in the area – if you’re up for a hike, you basically just want to pick your direction and forge out your own trail which will most likely have been covered again by sand on your return trip.
The Reserve is filled with a variety of plant life, animals and birds and you’re sure to spot a view, even on a short visit. Mule deer and pronghorn antelope are common. The most popular activity here is sandhill sliding. If that’s your adrenalin rush, be sure to pack a toboggan or some light portable crazy carpets. You’re going to end up with sand in shoes and clothes so packing a change before you get back into your vehicle might save a lot of car cleaning.
Overnight camping isn’t allowed at the Great Sand Hills but there’s a basic campground just over 30km away in Prelate, just east of Leader and a full service park near Burstall. The Lions Campground in Leader is also an option.
Video courtesy of Great Southwest Saskatchewan
Narcisse Snake Dens
Springtime is the time to head for the Interlake region of Manitoba to see the emergence of the red-sided garter snake of Narcisse. In most years, the middle of May tends to be the best time to view and the snakes don’t become active until mid-morning. From Winnipeg, the Narcisse Snake Den is about an hour’s drive. If you’re squeamish around snakes, this attraction is probably not for you, but bear in mind that they are not poisonous. Admission is free and you’ll need to do some walking, but the trails are hard packed and are suitable for strollers or wheelchairs.
A visit the Narcisse Snake Pits isn’t limited to viewing snakes. Spring will see early wildflowers beginning to bloom and the area is also great for bird watching. Be sure to stop at the town of Inwood, either coming or going, to see their giant garter snake statue. RV camping opportunities are many, particularly if you want to base yourself on the shores of Lake Winnipeg.
Nacisse Snake Dens, Manitoba
When evaluating some of the best places to visit in Canada, this cave experience caught our eye. This lesser known Ontario attraction is one of the best examples of caves that have been dissolved out of solid rock by acidic waters. Located near Eganville, Ontario – about half way between Algonquin Park and Ottawa – the Bonnechere Caves were first explored in 1955 and are named for their location on the Bonnechere River. Guided tours of the caves are offered between May and October without a requirement for reservations. Several underground dining events take place in the Caves each year and reservations for this are strongly advised.
Bonnechere Provincial Park, around 60km to the west, has lakeside camping and there are numerous private campgrounds within an easy drive of the Caves.
Video courtesy of Travelmammal
Year-round, Gatineau Park, across the river from Canada’s capital Ottawa, provides an oasis away from city life for Ontarians and Quebecers alike. Its 350+ square kilometres of hills and forest, combined with its proximity to downtown Gatineau and Ottawa, make it a popular camping and hiking destination. It should definitely be added to your bucket list for places in Canada to visit on an RV vacation.
While most similar parks are managed by either the provinces or Parks Canada, Gatineau Park is overseen by the National Capital Commission, a Crown corporation responsible for the development, planning and conservation in the nation’s capital region.
Hiking is popular in Gatineau Park with the more popular trails leading to Pink Lake and the Champlain Lookout. The Mackenzie King Estate lies within the confines of the park and is the precious legacy of wartime prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King. Stroll through the magnificent English and French gardens and explore the ruins created from salvaged fragments of buildings that once stood in various places in Britain and Canada.
Video courtesy of National Capital Commission
Gatineau Park has three campgrounds, the largest being in the Philippe Lake sector. While none of the campgrounds are serviced, all include a fire pit, grill, picnic table and parking for one vehicle. Reservations are recommended and bookable online on the Gatineau Park website.
Basin Head Provincial Park – Singing Sands Beach
The high silica content in the pure white sands in Basin Head Provincial Park have given the beach the nickname of the “Singing Sands”. As you walk on the beach, the sand makes a squeaking sound, akin to singing.
Prince Edward Island has some of the warmest waters north of the Carolinas, so this day park is a popular place on a hot summer’s day. Singing Sands Beach lies along the Points East Coastal Drive and features a fisheries museum, a children’s play area, on-site concessions during the summer months along with washroom and shower facilities. While Basin Head is a day-use only park, the nearby Red Point Provincial Park is a popular place for camping.
Singing Sands Beach, Basin Head Provincial Park - Photo: William Matheson CC BY-SA2.0
They’re impressive, and they are BIG … particularly when you are standing on the ocean floor and these amazing rock formations are towering above you. The world’s highest tides have been sculpting away at these rocks for thousands of years, creating shapes resembling bears, elephants and dinosaurs. Access to the sea floor at low tide allows you the opportunity to examine these monstrosities close up then approx. 6 hours later, see them disappear under the water with the incoming tide. The easiest way to access the two kilometres of shoreline containing these rocks is via the metal stairway from Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park but there are other trails from the Interpretive Centre if the stairway isn’t for you. An admission fee applies.
Hopewell Rocks is among the best places to visit in Canada if you want to see and experience the World's Highest Tides.
Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick
Old Town Lunenburg’s colourful buildings create a picture-perfect panorama when viewed from the water, making this charming town a favourite place for photographers. Seventy percent of the original colonial buildings from the 18th and 19th century still stand in Lunenburg, so it rightly deserves the distinction of being only one of two urban communities in North America designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Aside from its colourful buildings, the town is filled with amazing restaurants and unique shops and sights. Lunenburg is home base for the Blue Nose II , a replica of its namesake that became an undefeated racing champion and Canadian icon. You can experience the Bluenose II for yourself by becoming a deckhand for a day or taking a harbour cruise. If you don’t have sea legs, just enjoy the ambience of this one-of-a-kind Nova Scotia town and keep your camera handy!
Video courtesy of Nova Scotia Tourism
L’Anse Aux Meadows National Historic Site
Newfoundland is the proud home to the only known site established by Vikings in North America. L’Anse Aux Meadows contains the excavated remains of a complete 11th Century Viking settlement, providing the earliest evidence of European settlement in Canada. This makes the area one of the more unique places to visit in Canada. A visit to L’Anse aux Meadows, located on the tip of the Northern Peninsula on Route 430, should take around three hours as you explore the restored sod buildings, hiking trails and sweeping coastal and bay views. The site is open from early June to early October and fees apply.
Five hours south of L’Anse aux Meadows, the Viking Trail will bring you to Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of great natural beauty. World class hiking trails lead in all directions, taking you to baren tablelands, spectacular fjords and rugged seascapes.
L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, Newfoundland
It’s quirky and it’s been Watson Lake’s most famous attraction since the first sign was erected by a US soldier in 1942. The trend caught on and others began bringing their own signs until today the ‘forest’ consists of more than 77,000 signs and welcomes more. The Signpost Forest is a ‘must stop at’ attraction along the Alaska Highway – bring your own sign and become part of history.
Signpost Forest, Watson Lake, Yukon
The Yukon has many other unique places to include on an RV adventure in Canada's North. Learn more in our Yukon Canada blog.
The Tuktoyaktuk Pingos
The real adventure when planning a drive to the Tuktoyaktuk Pingos is the 700km long dirt road north from Dawson City to Inuvik in Canada’s Far North. It requires careful planning as few facilities exist along the Dempster Highway and fuel is scarce en route. Once in Inuvik however, the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway continues on - all the way to the Arctic Sea. That in itself is an experience but one of the biggest drawcards in Tuk is the Pingos. These mounds of ice-cored hills dot the coastline, some rising as high as 16 stories, creating visible landmarks on an otherwise flat coastal plain. Those with less time on their hands can look into flights into Inuvik from other Canadian cities and flights from Inuvik to Tuk.
Video courtesy of Parks Canada
These places are but a few of our recommendations for places in Canada to visit when you take an RV road trip with CanaDream. An RV allows you the freedom to spontaneously choose your route, to stay longer in places you like, or change your travel plans on a whim. CanaDream rents RVs, camper vans and truck campers from seven locations across Canada. To find out more, contact us by email or chat online with one of our knowledgeable Reservations Cast members.