The best Candian lakefront destinations make for a relaxing break from the hustle of big cities. These towns and regions can be found in iconic cottage countries in Ontario, next to glorious glacial lakes and fjords in Quebec, and nestled among highland mountains offering scenic alpine views in both winter and summer.

    You can escape to these beautiful lake towns and regions of Canada on a honeymoon or as a family setting out to make camping memories by a beautiful lake, or splashing fun at a lakeside beach. One thing's for sure, these great lakefront destinations – spanning Alberta and British Columbia to Ontario and Quebec – will please anyone looking to experience Canada's great outdoors.


    Muskoka, ON

    Ontario’s iconic cottage country with over a thousand lakes

    Muskoka is one of the best lakefront destinations to visit in Canada, thanks to its natural wealth of 1,600 lakes. Among the most popular are the 3 largest: Muskoka, which the region and township take their name from, Lake Rosseau and Lake Joseph, both narrowly connected by the Joseph River. Each lake is picturesque and surrounded by many beautiful cottages.

    As Ontario’s quiet and beautiful cottage country, the Muskoka region draws seasonal residents and visitors to refreshing outdoor fun. There’s canoeing, lake fishing charters and steamship cruises aboard the Lady Muskoka. Beyond the lakes, there’s spectacular hiking at the Algonquin provincial park. Six Mile Lake Provincial Park offers well-facilitated campgrounds. For an adventure, follow the Frank Miller Memorial Route to discover Bala Falls, Muskoka’s largest waterfall.


    Banff, AB

    A base for exploring the Canadian Rockies’ stunning mountain lakes

    Banff is an ideal base for experiencing the Canadian Rockies and its collection of stunning mountain lakes. Just west of Banff are the Vermillion Lakes – a group of 3 picturesque lakes backed by the snow-capped ridges of Mount Norquay and Snow Peak. The lush landscape surrounding the lakes are rich in wildlife and there are hiking and biking trails for immersive adventures through the countryside.

    East of town is Johnson Lake, which is relatively small but big on recreation, such as short hikes around the lake, rafting, swimming, and picnics on its shore. Slightly north is Two Jack Lake, known for its collection of forested campgrounds. You can enjoy magical sunrises over the distant peaks of Mount Girouard, Mount Inglismaldie, and Mount Peechee. Read more…


    Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON

    A Victorian town on Lake Ontario’s southern shore

    Niagara-on-the-Lake is a quiet and charming town that sits on the southern shore of Lake Ontario at the mouth of the Niagara River. It has plenty of waterfront parks that enjoy beautiful lakeside views. Even so, part of its charm is in its Victorian buildings, particularly around the historical quarter. By the river, you can find Queen’s Royal Park and various 19th-century forts dating back to the War of 1812.

    Stroll along the lush tree-lined Queen Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake’s main thoroughfare. Here, you’ll find all the town’s great shopping and dining spots, George Bernard Shaw Festival theatres (the festival runs April–October), as well as the landmark clock tower, known as the Cenotaph. Note that Niagara-on-the-Lake’s is a wine region, so you’ll easily find top selections of delightful local varieties, particularly ice wines, to try.


    Jasper, AB

    An alpine town surrounded by glacial lakes

    Jasper lies at the heart of a national park of the same name, surrounded by various snow-capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies and crystal-clear glacial lakes. Just east of the town and across the Athabasca River lies the small yet pretty Beauvert Lake with its surrounding trail and golf resort. The tinier Mildred Lake and Trefoil Lakes to its north are natural ice-skating playgrounds in winter.

    Further north, the twin lakes of Lake Edith and Lake Annette are ideal for kayaking, fishing, and swimming in summer. Jasper’s scenic hiking trails include the popular Valley of the Five Lakes trail just south, where your adventures through pine forests are filled with wildlife spottings and birdsong. Take to the skies aboard the Jasper SkyTram for breathtaking vistas of the Whistler Mountain peaks and downtown.


    Kelowna, BC

    From wine tours to canyon adventures beside Okanagan Lake

    Kelowna, on the eastern side of Okanagan Lake, is among the best lakefront destinations to visit in Canada. It has small swathes of lakeside beaches, provincial parks, pine-forested mountain trails, and dozens of local vineyards. Among its notable beaches are Tugboat Bay and Bertram Creek Regional Park, both great for boating, swimming, or picnicking.

    Upland, you can bike and hike in Kettle Valley or Knox Mountain. Located north of downtown, the Knox Mountain Park offers breathtaking valley views as well as over downtown Kelowna and Okanagan Lake. After all the action, consider winding down with wine tasting. You get to sample among the best from the Okanagan Valley.


    Golden, BC

    Home to Cedar Lake and the classic Moonraker trails

    Golden is a small town north in British Columbia that appeals to outdoor enthusiasts with its well-varied seasonal activities. A few minutes out on the outskirts of town, you’ll find the Cedar Lake Recreational Site, where great campgrounds and lakeside picnic sites are aplenty.

    From Golden, you can go whitewater rafting down the Columbia River or hike and mountain bike along the scenic Moonraker Trails. Come winter, there’s the big Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, with its 3,486 acres of skiable terrain. Looking for an adrenaline rush? As the site of several past world records attempts, the Mount 7 Launch Site is where you can enjoy tandem paragliding.


    Saguenay, QC

    Gorgeous glacial lakes and fjords

    Saguenay is a city in a glacial valley in Quebec. It's bordered by the Lake Saint-Jean in the Laurentian Highlands to the west and the Saguenay Fjord to its east. The fjord is the centrepiece of the namesake national park. It spans 146 miles and most of it tranquil and less-travelled. A convenient way to take in the beauty of the fjord with its gorgeous capes and majestic cliffs is by boarding a boat cruise.

    The rugged surroundings offer wonderful hiking trails. One of the finest trails is the Sentier de la Statue trail up to the Notre-Dame-du-Saguenay statue. For a challenge, the spectacular Via Ferrata trail on the cliffs of Baie Éternité rewards you with sweeping views of the fjord. Alternatively, go on a road trip to discover charming villages such as L'Anse-Saint-Jean.


    Mauricie, QC

    Forested landscapes and alpine lakes in the Laurentians

    Mauricie is a region deep in the Laurentian Mountains that has beautiful forests and lakes as well as picturesque towns and villages. Some of the settlements are among Quebec’s oldest. Among these are the riverside Trois-Rivières, with its cool collection of museums, and Yamachiche, with its gorgeous 17th- and 18th-century churches and houses.

    The main highlight of Mauricie is its 50,000-ha namesake national park. Heavily forested, it has campgrounds and around 150 lakes – some of which are stunning and unique like Lake Wapizagonke with Pines Island in the middle of it. You can go canoeing and kayaking in summer. Its hiking trails are most stunning in autumn.


    Bas-Saint-Laurent, QC

    Charming towns along the lower Saint Lawrence River

    The Bas-Saint-Laurent comprises 6 charming towns that dot the southern bank of the lower Saint Lawrence River in eastern Quebec. The southernmost is La Pocatière, home to the Le Musée François-Pilote ethnological museum. There’s also Kamouraska, known for its gorgeous sunsets.

    The river widens further north with the town of Rivière-du-Loup halfway. The town’s rich architectural heritage dates back to the 19th century and there’s a museum housing a great collection of ethnological photographs. Before the river turns into a bay, stop by the hilariously named village of Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! Yes, there are 2 exclamation marks in its name. Being home to the ASTER observatory dome that’s fitted with a 16-inch robotic telescope is no joke, though.


    Huntsville, ON

    The largest town in the Muskoka region

    Huntsville is the largest town in the Muskoka region and is dotted with many lakes. It’s one of Canada’s popular lakefront destinations, particularly in the summer. There are many public lakeside beaches and outdoor highlights include the Group of Seven Outdoor Gallery – a trail showcasing 90 murals by the namesake group of Canadian landscape painters.

    Huntsville is brilliant in autumn thanks to the vibrant colours of the changing leaves. One of the best places to take in the whole view of Huntsville is at Lions Lookout. Head to Lookout Road to find the overlook, which offers breathtaking views over the surrounding hills and the city of Huntsville beneath it. A stroll along Main Street leads to souvenir and art shops, as well as a few restaurants.

    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveler

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