We all need an escape sometimes—from the big city, from our technology-saturated lives, and from the fast pace demanded by modern living. But it can be hard to do that in the towns and cities where so many of us live. Home is where the heart is, but it’s also where work, errands, and social obligations are. So if you’re looking for a real break, your best move is often to get out of town.
Fortunately, Canada is full of towns that have managed to preserve a calmer, more measured pace of life. These places live side-by-side with their own histories. Their historic buildings, friendly people, and attention to traditions can make them feel like places out of a storybook.
If you’re looking for a vacation with modern conveniences but old-style charm (think a historic B&B with functioning wi-fi), here are a few Canadian destinations you might want to try.
Barkerville, British Columbia
Barkerville is like the best-preserved ghost town you’ll ever see. Founded during the gold rush in the 1800s, Barkerville sprung up quickly when Englishman Billy Barker struck gold there, but by the end of the century, it had dwindled down to just a few residents, eventually shutting down completely. However, in the 1950s, the government of B.C. decided to restore it, and now it’s a successful tourist attraction. Going to Barkerville feels like stepping into a 19th century town where time stopped. It’s full of historic buildings and relics from the gold rush.
Digby, Nova Scotia
Digby puts effort into preserving its history, and its efforts don’t go unappreciated. The town is home to several old lighthouses, historic buildings, and even a collection of watercolour paintings made by a visitor to the town in the 1850s. It’s also home to many inns and B&Bs, and there’s an annual scallop festival to celebrate the fishing industry. It’s a beautiful place to visit and to appreciate the homey pleasures of small-town life.
Trinity, Newfoundland and Labrador
Perhaps it’s the weatherbeaten buildings, or maybe it’s a vast ocean view that hasn’t changed for centuries, but something about this beautiful old fishing town feels timeless. Founded in the 1720s, Trinity was home to about 30 families and seasonal fishermen. These days, the population is still small (just 169), and many of the buildings date back to the mid-1800s, with some restored and converted into museums. In other words, it’s still the same quiet village it always was.
Back in the 1840s, when Canada was considered just a province belonging to Britain, Kingston was that province’s first capital. It makes sense, then, that the city is filled with historic sites. Kingston has been nicknamed “Limestone City” because of its many heritage buildings built out of limestone. In Kingston, visitors can see all sorts of buildings and sites that helped shape Canadian history, from the Rideau Canal, which was built as a precaution against attacks from America in the 1800s, to the Kingston Penitentiary, Canada’s oldest prison. If you’re a history buff with an appreciation for old architecture, Kingston should definitely be on your list of places to visit.
St. Andrews By-the-Sea, New Brunswick
Perhaps it’s because the ocean itself tends to appear unchanged no matter how many years go by, but seaside towns always feel a little bit like they exist in a different time. That’s certainly true of St. Andrews By-the-Sea, a town founded in the 1780s by Americans who remained loyal to Britain. Its long, storied history remains visible to visitors in the form of its many historical sites, including an ornately decorated courthouse, the elegant Ross Memorial Museum, and the elaborate Kingsbrae Horticultural Garden. The town is also known for the beautiful murals that can be found on local buildings depicting seaside life.
Nelson, British Columbia
Founded during the late-1800s silver rush, Nelson seeks to preserve its history while also maintaining relevant in the present day. Along with the Nelson Tramway, the hundred-year-old homes on Bakers Street, and historic inns, there’s also a thriving cultural scene, an abundance of independent mom-and-pop stores, and a strong community of hikers and mountain bikers. It’s the perfect marriage of old and new, and it’s surrounded by the natural beauty of the Kootenays, to boot.