Itching to explore Canada’s vast wilderness in a new way? Hop in a kayak and immerse yourself in the great outdoors with an on-the-water expedition. Here is a list of some of Canada’s most beautiful paddling destinations. Some are rough and rugged, others are leisurely and relaxing, but all are certain to give you a new appreciation for the landscape.
Iceberg Alley, Newfoundland
Every year from May through July, giant icebergs break off from the west coast of Greenland and drift along the Labrador Current to the east coast of Newfoundland. This “Iceberg Alley” is one of the best places in the world to ice-watch and it has become a hot spot for kayakers who want to get up close and personal with these awe-inspiring behemoths. Lucky paddlers might also spot a few humpback whales enjoying the waves. Guided day trips for newbies and multi-day adventures for hardcore kayakers are available from companies like Stan Cook Sea Kayak Adventures and Ocean Quest Adventures.
Quetico Provincial Park, Ontario
This Northwestern Ontario park, located on the border of Minnesota, has long been one of the country’s most popular canoeing destinations, but its popularity is on the rise with kayakers, too. With more than 600 lakes to explore and the beautiful backdrop of an ancient shield rock forest, it’s not hard to see why. Paddlers can journey down the historic boat paths of French Canadian fur traders, view undisturbed rare wildlife, or just bask in the blissful silence of the motor-free waterways. There are routes suited to all levels of experience, but experts insist that the 10-day loop around Hunter’s Island is the most rewarding choice.
Johnstone Strait, British Columbia
There are lots of kayaking options available around Vancouver Island, but the Johnstone Strait has a special trump card—killer whales! Approximately 230 orcas have made themselves at home in the region and it’s one of the best places on earth to kayak alongside the species. If that’s not enough to convince you to grab your paddle, you can also expect to mingle with dolphins, seals, sea lions, minke whales and black bears. A word of caution though, this route is not a great option for novices. The currents are very strong and wind levels and boat wakes can prove problematic. You can also expect to get very wet. For a good tour option try Spirit of the West Adventures or Sea Kayak Adventures.
Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia
Home to the largest tides on earth, the Bay of Fundy can seem like a challenging undertaking. But the bay does provide some shelter from the unpredictable open ocean and an awesome experience awaits anyone willing to brave the waters. Following the coastline of Cape Chigneto Provincial Park, kayakers will be awed by 600-foot sea cliffs, impressed by fascinating rock formations like the “Three Sisters” sea stacks, and tempted by large caves ripe for exploring. Advanced paddlers can brave the waters of the Fundy Isles and one of the world’s largest whirlpools called “Old Sow.” Guided day and multi-day tours are available from Nova Shores Adventures.
Georgian Bay, Ontario
This is classic Ontario wilderness at its finest—an opportunity to experience the iconic rugged landscape of granite islands and windswept pine trees. With more than 30,000 islands to explore, there are an overwhelming number of route options. You can jump start your trip from any number of locations along the shore, anywhere from Parry Sound to Killarney. Be aware that Georgian Bay is a huge body of water, four fifths the size of Lake Ontario, and it can be as wild and unpredictable as any of the great lakes. Winds will often come out of nowhere, transforming tranquil waters into rough waves. Novice paddlers might enjoy a relaxed pace tour around Franklin Island, whereas more adventurous kayakers can venture out to the more secluded Mink Islands. There are numerous tour companies offering guided tours, but the accessibility of the area makes self-guided journeys a popular choice.
The South Nahanni River, Northwest Territories
If you’re craving a serious adventure, head up to the Northwest Territories and tackle a section of the Nahanni River, which stretches for more than 500 km. It has plenty of steep drops and white water rapids to really get your blood pumping. The river also flows through some pretty incredible scenery, including Canada’s greatest waterfall Virginia Falls, which is twice the height of Niagara Falls. There are mountain ranges, unusual wildlife, and historical locations that have earned Nahanni a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Tour companies like Black Feather frequently run canoe trips, but private kayak excursions can easily be arranged, too.