The best summer destinations in Canada include lakeside towns and natural landscapes, all of which are great for a wide range of land and aquatic adventures. Ample daylight also brings with it plenty of opportunities to whip out your camera for stunning snapshots. 

    Summer in Canada is normally from June through August, though you can enjoy pleasant weather earlier or later in other parts of the diverse country. From charming towns rich in French heritage to scenic hiking trails and vast peninsulas where you can spot whales right from the coast, here’s where to start your Canadian adventure this summer.


    Niagara Falls, Ontario

    Waterfall cruises, beautiful parks, and wine country

    Niagara Falls is best experienced in summer when the magnificent waterfalls are at their shimmering best. In warm and bright weather, the thundering falls gleam in all their glory and longer daylight hours allow you to take it all in on a misty, close-encounter cruise – just don’t forget your poncho.

    The height of summer, July or August, is when the nightly Niagara Falls Fireworks show takes place with spectacular pyrotechnics lighting up the sky against the backdrop of the falls. Other summer fun includes the Niagara SkyWheel as well as the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens and Butterfly Conservatory. There is beautiful countryside to explore near Niagara Falls too. Rent a bike and explore the region on 2 wheels, stopping at pretty towns, wineries, and quaint restaurants along the way.

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    Muskoka, Ontario

    Gorgeous lakes and the great outdoors of cottage country

    Muskoka, with its lakes, rivers, and forests, make up Ontario’s beautiful cottage country. It’s easily among the best summer destinations in Canada and a mecca for outdoorsy types. It offers many choices of parks and lakeside beaches for camping, as well as waterfalls to claim as a reward after a scenic hike. You can even paddle to some of the majestic falls by canoe or kayak.

    Clamber through Muskoka’s forest canopies at a treetop park or whizz down forest trails on a mountain bike. Milder, but no less exciting, adventures include boat cruises through Honey Harbour in Georgian Bay, passing dramatic rocks and thousands of pine-forested islands. For an unforgettable experience, you can take to the skies and enjoy the bay from a whole new perspective by seaplane.


    Victoria, British Columbia

    Historical sightseeing with beautiful flora and fauna to admire

    Victoria is the beautiful capital of British Columbia. The city's many attractions are even more glorious in the summer sun. The Butchart Gardens, particularly the rose gardens, reach their peak bloom between June and August. Not to mention, there are the Night Illuminations that transform the gardens into a dazzling fantasy land. At Victoria Butterfly Gardens, you can admire nature’s artistry through pearlescent chrysalides and colourfully patterned wings.

    Summer also gives Victoria Harbour its sheen as its iconic little ferries put on a show every weekend – be amused by their amazingly choreographed “dance moves” on the water. Enjoy window shopping down Johnson Street. You can also take in views of historic buildings on pleasant strolls around the harbour and Chinatown. At Fisherman’s Wharf, have lunch with seals in view, or go on a Salish Sea adventure to see whales and orcas. Read more…


    Nanaimo, British Columbia

    Fun adventures, from the harbour to the mountains

    Nanaimo is a harbour city on the east coast of Vancouver Island that offers wonderful discoveries under bright blue summer skies. Downtown Nanaimo is a pleasure to stroll through, all the way down to the beautiful Harbourfront Walkway with its fishing piers. You might spot crabbers hauling their bounties or seaplanes taking off and landing. Adventure awaits at the marina where you can go for a whale-watching tour.

    Not far from the city are great trails for hiking and mountain biking. Find mysterious ancient stone etchings on hikes through the unique Petroglyph Provincial Park. The Doumont Trails offer MTB cyclists exciting forest singletrack and cross-country rides with ramps for some big airtime. Explore beyond Nanaimo with a boat out to Newcastle Island for even more nature adventures.


    Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

    Enjoy verdant views of vineyards, lakes and forests

    The Okanagan Valley and its mountain resorts may lure skiers, but the region is a favourite Canadian destination for summer getaways. The main town of Kelowna on the eastern shore of Okanagan Lake is home to picturesque local vineyards and orchards as well as lakeshore parks and pine forests. Lake kayaking, hikes and wine tastings are all within reach.

    Okanagan Lake is a summer haunt for beachgoers, offering over 30 beaches that each have their own sets of appeals, ranging from water sports to playgrounds for family fun. Summer also brings plenty of cultural highlights to its towns. Kelowna itself regularly hosts summer music concerts and festivities in its parks and select wineries.


    Charlevoix, Quebec

    Scenic rides through a biosphere reserve

    Charlevoix is a World Biosphere Reserve that’s home to several national parks and farmlands. The parks serve as great summer hiking destinations. Among the most popular is the Acropole des Draveurs trail, which rewards you with spectacular views of the Malbaie River. Getting to this region is also a big pleasure – the hour-long drive from Quebec City follows the sea-like Saint Lawrence River, with a breathtaking backdrop of rolling hills.

    Another great way to take in the region’s beauty is by riding the Train de Charlevoix that runs between Beauport and La Malbaie, with a stop at Baie-Saint-Paul. Consider yourself lucky when you spot cetaceans breaching the river’s surface along the journey. In Baie-Saint-Paul, Parc du Gouffre is a popular riverside summer campground. A small tributary of the left bank of Saint Lawrence, Rivière du Gouffre is a wonderful place to kayak.


    Quebec City, Quebec

    French Canadian heritage surrounded by the great outdoors

    Quebec City is among the oldest cities in North America, founded by a French explorer in 1608. To this day, it still proudly wears its French heritage on its sleeve through impressive architecture, such as Place Royale and the Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church with its lasting Saint Geneviève chapel. A stroll along the cobblestoned streets of Old Quebec under summer skies will feel like travelling through Europe.

    Beyond the UNESCO World Heritage Site, there’s plenty of ways to enjoy the great outdoors. Not far are city parks like the Plains of Abraham – great for a scenic picnic. Further afield, numerous hiking trails take you through lush valleys with breathtaking cliffs overlooking the Saint Lawrence River. A popular option is the Bras-du-Nord trail, which rewards you with spectacular waterfalls at the end of your hike. Read more…


    Gaspesie, Quebec

    Vast national parks for summer adventures

    Gaspesie, also known as the Gaspe Peninsula, is a prime destination for outdoor adventures in Quebec’s Bas-Saint-Laurent region. The vast peninsular area offers some of the most scenic journeys in Canada, with its fine combination of verdant mountain views and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence seascapes. You can explore charming towns and villages, as well as picturesque lighthouses (which are great spots to look for breaching whales) along the extensive coast. Some have quiet yet spectacular strips of beaches to relax on.

    Upland, the hills are home to 4 national parks with forest trails leading you to refreshing falls such as the Saint-Anne Waterfall. For a quick hike, try the Mont Albert trail where the summit plateau rewards you with great panoramas of the surrounding valleys. Canyoning, canoeing, rafting, kayaking, and even hang-gliding are among the many fun summer activities you can do in Gaspesie.


    Jasper, Alberta

    Exceptional summer hikes through the Canadian Rockies

    Jasper is a laidback mountain town and a great home base for exploring the Canadian Rockies, with access to beautiful mountains and alpine lakes. Jasper National Park is the largest of its kind in the Rockies. Naturally, there’s plenty of action within the park itself to try in summer. Near town, you can hike to Pyramid Lake, kayak Lake Edith or Lake Annette, or take a boat tour in Maligne Canyon.

    Southeast of Jasper, one to tick off many a bucket list is the Icefields Parkway, which is magical to traverse through even in the summer sun. An unofficial rite of passage when visiting Jasper is riding the Jasper Skytram – Canada’s highest and longest guided aerial tramway, at over 2,000 metres above sea level and lasting about 7.5 minutes.


    Banff, Alberta

    Alpine action and scenery that’s best enjoyed in summer

    Banff National Park, with its breathtaking alpine lakes and forests, is spectacular in summer. Longer daytime hours mean pleasant weather, day and night. To make the most of the balmy weather, popular activities include camping, lakeside picnicking, mountain trekking and canoeing. Whatever your itinerary, don’t miss a gondola ride to Sulphur Mountain.

    Summer is the best time to golf at the world-famous Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course. As long as you’ve bagged a permit, exceptional fishing experiences await at the Bow Rive or Lake Minnewanka. The Bow River itself is a playground for paddling adventures – you can canoe from Castle Junction to Banff or from Bow Falls to Canmore. You can also trot and take in the beauty of Banff’s backcountry by horseback, with pine-forested valleys and historic tea houses to discover along the way. Read more…

    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveler

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