Canada’s 5 Most Beautiful Islands
Imagine pine-clad archipelagoes and lonely isles cupped by the waves and shrouded in low-lying mists. A trip to Canada’s many islands is a journey into nature’s most contemplative side.
A recent Booking.com study calculated that the average distance Canadians travelled this summer (June – August) was down 71% compared to the same timeframe last summer – slightly more than the global average decrease of 63%. Through summer of 2019, Canadian travellers journeyed on average 2,252 kilometres per booking. This summer, that distance has dropped to 662 kilometres per booking – just slightly further than the distance from Kamloops to Calgary!
As most Canadians are opting to travel domestically, we’re sharing five of the best islands in Canada to consider for a fall adventure closer to home.
Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Arguably Canada’s most renowned island, Vancouver Island is a snapshot of the supreme beauty of the Canadian outdoors. Swathes of pine forest crest rocky mountaintops while below, fishing villages line the inky waters that envelop the shore. Vancouver Island is also home to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia and a city with a thriving wine culture. Exploring the island is really up to you – driving up the coast will present you with a rugged labyrinth of trees and roads. Or try sailing around it for awe-inspiring vantage points – floating up the northern shoreline to where the water and mountains meet, you can imagine the first expedition taken to the subsequently named Desolation Sound. Make your way around the island to Pacific Sands Beach Resort, where you can rent bikes for exploring too.
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Magdalen Islands, Quebec
Strung across the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, The Magdalen Islands (or Îles de la Madeleine) feature red sandstone cliffs and rolling green plains. Lagoons are carved into the islands’ coastlines, while quiet sea coves are waiting for the adventurous among us to explore them. A proud Acadian and maritime culture can be found wherever you go here, often expressed through the local art and food scene. Madelinots (locals to the islands) will plate up classic seafood dishes such as lobster pots and fish pies but you can also try your hand at haggling for lobster down by the wharves and preparing it yourself. Summer offers the best weather, autumn is brimming with local festivals and winter is a spectacular contrast of colour, as snow blankets the red cliffs. Whatever the season, stay at converted convent Domaine du Vieux Couvent.
Manitoulin Island, Ontario
Located towards the northern edge of Lake Huron is Manitoulin Island, or ‘Spirit Island’ in Algonquian. It’s an island of lakes where even the lakes have islands, the largest of which is the exciting-sounding Treasure Island. Ferrying over, you’ll spot white-washed lighthouses and rickety coastal cabins. Take the lighthouse tour from the Manitoulin western tip to the southern perimeters and stop by Misery Bay along the way. The name was given to the place after early settlers – having spent exhausting days cutting marsh grass – were asked by visiting government officials what the area was called. Visitors these days, however, can expect nothing but clear waters and fragrant wildflowers. A stay here wouldn’t be complete without a lakeside location and an island vista – try Maple Grove Cottages.
Thousand Islands, Ontario
A bird’s-eye perspective of the Thousand Islands will present you with one of Canada’s greatest views – a constellation of over 1,800 isles, from rugged river outposts to solitary island dwellings, all huddled together along the Saint Lawrence River. Located on the border between the US and Canada, these islands are a combination of both territories. Wolfe Island, the largest of the Thousand Islands and home to a corn maze, belongs to Canada. While Wellesley Island, home to the Lake of the Isles, is a US settlement. History lessons aside, a gentle sailing expedition is the best way to get to know the area. Wind through narrow watery corridors as the gentle hush of lapping waters and wildlife calls wash over you, while looking out towards remote homes perched wistfully on the shoreline. Down the road from the Thousand Islands National Park, The Woodview Inn is a superbly located place to stay.
Haida Gwaii, British Columbia
North of Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii is one of Canada’s most far flung archipelagoes. Popularised as the ‘Canadian Galápagos’ due to its similarity to the Ecuadorian islands on account of its diverse fauna, this kite-shaped collection of islands is the north’s tribute to the wild. Cross the choppy waters of the Hecate Strait and you’ll reach its forested shores, home to unique subspecies such as the Haida Gwaii black bear, the largest and oldest spruce trees on the planet and Haida First Nation – one of the oldest traceable human populations in the world. Mythical and enduring, the Haida culture lives on today, so visit Old Massett and Skidegate for local Haida performers and local dishes such as steaming fish stew. The remoteness of this mainly roadless wilderness means that kayaking is the best and most immersive form of transport here, and you can leave the rhythms of the day behind as you paddle around one of Canada’s final frontiers. When night inevitably falls, spend the night at Cacilia’s Bed & Breakfast.
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