While other countries are home to medieval castles or ancient ruins, Canada takes pride in its own 'great wonder': the world's first National Parks Service. The National Parks Service of Canada protects and preserves nearly 44 natural reserves with a combined area roughly the size of Italy. Each park is unique and remarkable in its own way, and the variety of landscapes and natural wonders that are sheltered in these parks make Canada one of the best areas to visit if you are on the hunt for a holiday packed with outdoor exploration.
This extensive park of woodland, tundra, bog and ocean views is also home to nearly one-third of the Cabot Trail – a scenic highway that is named after Canada's founder, John Cabot. This enchanting Canadian destination is where the mountains meet the sea and is home to a variety of wildlife. Visitors frequently run into moose and bald eagles and are able to see whales breaking the waves from the views in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. This park is well known for its steep cliffs and deep river canyons and is an ideal getaway for any traveller, whether you are looking to spend time hiking, beach lounging or sightseeing.
Banff and Jasper National Parks are legendary for fans of the great outdoors. These Canadian parks are some of the oldest reserves in the nation and were designated UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1984. As a result, these national parks are listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as places of 'special cultural, natural or physical significance'. Along with their exceptional natural beauty, these National Parks are also home to massive glaciers that helped form and design the Canadian landscape many millennia ago. Within Banff and Jasper, there are several small towns like Cochrane, an old ranching settlement, and Banff itself, a 1880s railroad town. These destinations are major tourist attractions and are living representations that humans and nature can coexist successfully. Plus, Banff has wonderful hot springs for you to relax your sore muscles in after a long adventure through the national park.
Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve is another immense UNESCO World Heritage site. This reserve encompasses several small islands that are home to hot springs and waterfalls, along with some of the country's best kayaking. This reserve was originally home to the Haida people—an indigenous group that is believed to have occupied Haida Gwaii for over 8000 years. This lost world of Haida culture and the superb natural beauty of the park led National Geographic to name it the top park in North America. Access to this park is by boat or plane only, so schedule your trip in advance—the planning will be worthwhile. Experience Canada's renowned natural landscapes in the midst of this ancient Haida world.
With campsites located on 12 of the islands, this national park is always popular with boaters and paddlers. Thousand Islands National Park is home to picturesque granite islands and beautiful forestry, along with rare species of turtles and birdlife. Explore the secluded bays by kayak or powerboat, or travel by foot throughout the numerous hiking trails. Either head back after a day on the water or pack your best travel bag and spend the night at the park's mainland visitor centre, a designated area for camping.
The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve stretches over 50 km of Vancouver Island's western shoreline. This ecological paradise is home to rugged coastline and venerable rainforests that have existed here for years without disturbance. There are three separate regions to Pacific Rim National Park Reserve: Long Beach (one of Canada's best surf spots), the Broken Group Islands and the West Coast Trail, where the renowned 75 km hiking trail is located. This national park is one of Canada's most visited tourist attractions with something for every traveller.
Experienced adventurers looking for an off-the-beaten-path experience will love exploring Canada's only national park north of the Arctic Circle. Auyuittuq means 'land that never melts', and this national park is exactly that. Covering over 19,000 sq. km, this region is mostly untouched by humans. Explorers can glimpse seals, polar bears, narwhals, beluga whales and several other types of wildlife in this pristine park. To reach Auyuittuq National Park, visitors can either travel by boat or snowmobile. Whether you are looking to climb the rugged mountains or ski on the icefields, this park has unique opportunities for the adventurous to experience the beauty of the Arctic.
Exploring some of Canada's most remarkable national parks is a fitting way to view the natural beauty this country has to offer. These parks are not only home to scenic landscapes, but they also offer a variety of outdoor activities for visitors. Before you head out on any outdoor journey, make sure your travel insurance covers adventure sports or any other activities you plan to take part in.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Andrea Schaffer; cropped from original.