The great Canadian travel guide
The great Canadian travel guide
Explore Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta.
The ship M.V. International cruises lazily through the chilly waters of Waterton Lake, a legacy left by glaciers in the heart of the majestic Rocky Mountains. The photo opportunities are incredible: cascading waterfalls, snow-topped mountain peaks and steep cliffs. Grizzlies and black bears can be spotted as they ramble the shores, while bald eagles soar overhead and bighorn sheep scramble up daunting bluffs.
The 200-passenger vessel embarks on a return trip from the town of Waterton, in Waterton Lakes National Park, in southwestern Alberta, and pulls ashore at Goat Hunt, the northern gateway to Glacier National Park in Montana, which means you cross the international water boundary. Waterton Lakes National Park has the triple designations of International Peace Park, World Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site – one of only 15 in Canada.
I first visited Waterton in the early 1980s when I worked in Alberta one summer during university. I returned a couple of years ago with my brother Tim and his family, who live in Taber, Alta., two hours east. They've spent camping holidays in the park since my nieces were toddlers.
Activities and wildlife
There are 200 kilometres of hiking trails, many of which start right in the town of Waterton. A relatively easy option is the hike to Blakiston Falls. You can cover Cameron Lake in canoe, kayak or paddleboat, or swim in the shallow pools along Red Rock Canyon. Wildlife is everywhere: Bison, moose, elk and deer wander the open plains and dense forest. And for my nieces, Kristen and Nicole, there's always the Big Scoop Ice Cream Parlour in the tiny settlement of Waterton, where the official population is 80. And that's not counting the deer. (Visit Parks Canada for more information.)
More UNESCO sites in Canada
• Vikings in Newfoundland: Explore Norse history at L'Anse Aux Meadows National Historic Site in Great Northern Peninsula, Nfld. (pc.gc.ca).
• Fossils and fossils galore: Joggins Fossil Cliffs on the Bay of Fundy, N.S., got a mention in Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. The fossils there date back millions of years.
• Tetrapods, anyone? Some of the world's best-preserved fish-fossil remains are in Miguasha National Park on Chaleur Bay in Gaspésie, Que.
Page 1 of 3 – Discover Canada's greenest vacation spots on page 2.
Opt for a green getaway in Moose Factory, Ont.
Moose Factory, Ont., was trendy long before "eco" became a buzzword.
The principles of living off the land and respecting what nature provides have been entrenched since time immemorial in this Northern Ontario island community, one of Ontario's earliest settlements and part of the Cree Nation.
Located about two kilometres from Moosonee, near the shores of James Bay, the 20-room Cree Village Ecolodge opened its doors in July 2000. The eco-world took notice. The lodge marries cutting-edge environmental building practices with Cree culture. Guests marvel at the cathedral-like grandeur of the A-frame structure, which is fashioned after a shabatwon, a typical Cree winter dwelling. Locally sourced materials such as limestone and cedar bring nature indoors.
Impressive green initiatives
But native materials and Cree-influenced design weren't enough to make it an "eco-lodge," according to MoCreebec Band Chief Randy Kapashesit. "We were aware of green-washing and we didn't want to be just another one of those places," he explains.
So the builders tapped into some of the latest eco-technologies, one of which is composting toilets, where arthropods and earthworms replace flushing water. Other green components include natural wool carpeting, organic linens and low-emission paint. Kapashesit's wish list for the future includes a wind turbine, solar energy and a greenhouse.
Guests come to stargaze, see the northern lights, kayak, bird watch, track polar bears, photograph snowflakes, meet with a traditional healer or watch a Cree woodcarver at work. There in the remote wilderness, amid the beauty of its stillness, you can't help but feel one step closer to nature. (Find out more at creevillage.com.)
More green holiday options
• Get down with the goats! Sleep in an eco-friendly English-style gypsy caravan (made in part of materials from a sustainable woodlot) at Brambles Nubian Goat Farm in San Clara, Man., where you can cavort with goats, cows and other livestock. It's both a preserved eco-system and a sustainable family farm.
• Kayaking and yoga together? Seascape Kayak Tours encourages "a deeper understanding that we are one with our earth and its oceans" in their yoga-kayak trips to Deer island, N.B.
• Birds, birds and more birds: Enjoy the vista of thousands of birds in the protected setting of Quill Lakes International Bird Area in Quill Lake, Sask., which is also home to endangered species such as the peregrine falcon and the whooping crane.
Page 2 of 3 – Discover Canada's wine hot spots, plus discover how touring wineries can be fun for the whole family on page 3.
Wine & Play
Sip and cycle through the Okanagan Valley.
I enjoy a glass of wine when I'm on holiday just as much as I love throwing myself into a variety of physical activities. The Okanagan Valley offers both.
Nestled between the Rocky Mountains and British Columbia lake country, the Okanagan wine region is located in a 160-kilometre long valley in the southern interior of the province. Last year I spent a week visiting boutique vineyards and family-run operations.
Watching the weathered hands of a seasoned winemaker open a bottle of the vineyard's best Merlot and listening as he described the work and passion that went into its production completely changed my appreciation of wine.
Walking between the rows of grapes, I developed a keener sense of terroir, the bond of farmer to earth to consumer. If you'd like an oenophile – or wine lover's – primer before you join one of the region's vineyard tours, visit the B.C. VQA Wine Info Centre in Penticton, where you'll learn to sniff, swirl and sip like a pro.
There are various wine routes to follow in the Okanagan, including the Naramata Bench, Bottleneck Drive, Corkscrew Drive and the Golden Mile. And the best part? You can follow on foot, by kayak, on bicycle, or in a vintage car, limousine or bus.
Arrange a unique tour experience
Top Cat Tours gives the royal treatment: wine tour and lunch. Hoodoo Adventures (hoodooadventures.ca) offers kayak tours around Okanagan Lake with shore stops to taste wine along the way. Some wineries are within walking distance of each other.
Family-friendly fun is abundant. The Kettle Valley Rail Trail crosses a series of picturesque trestles and includes a scenic ride through Myra Canyon and a must-stop at an abandoned rail tunnel. Plus there are beaches, hiking and biking trails and farmer's markets galore to go along with the wine. I'll drink to that. (Check out tourismpenticton.com for more info.)
Mixing wine and pleasure
• Cycle and sip in Quebec: Combine your love of cycling and wine as you pedal your way through rural Quebec (laroute desvins.ca).
• Get a taste of Acadian heritage: Nova Scotia has various touring options for wine-lovers. Sip awhile at the award-winning Lacadie Vineyards near Wolfville or at Domain de Grand Pré and visit historic spots along the way.
• Taste and tipple in the county: The Taste Trail in Prince Edward County, Ont., offers multiple passions: wine, food, kayaking, cycling, antiquing and more.
Let's talk: Where in Canada is the best vacation spot? Share your favourite off-the-beaten-track Canadian vacation spot in the comments section below.
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