Sometimes we don’t have enough time for an extended vacation, but refuelling by removing ourselves from our routine, even if it’s just for a day, can be equally satisfying. In fact, studies have proven that we crave a little adventure from time to time: when we break from our day-to-day and do something a little less familiar, our brains release dopamine, which is tied to feelings of pleasure. But just because you don’t have the time or money for a two-week trip, doesn’t mean you have to be bored at home—here’s a list of small Canadian towns worth planning your next day trip to when you’re craving something new.
7 Canadian small towns you should visit in 2015
About a three-hour drive north of Quebec City is the tiny village of Tadoussac, situated at the conjunction of the Saguenay and the Saint Lawrence rivers. The town of about 800 residents is the oldest surviving French settlement in the Americas and was an important trading post in the seventeen century. Surrounded by massive cliffs and a stunning fjord, Tadoussac is a picture-perfect place for whale watching.
Don’t miss: The region’s famed Zodiac boat tour is worth the once-in-a-lifetime experience of getting up close to whales and other sea creatures native to the Atlantic Ocean.
Nestled about halfway between Victoria and Nanaimo, Duncan has been dubbed the “City of Totems,” and has more than 80 First Nations carvings to explore. The town of less than 5,000 residents also boasts vineyards, lush farmland, and lots of scenic roads for an afternoon drive.
Don’t miss: Browse the Saturday famers’ market and the nearby heritage buildings in the bustling old-town square.
Located about 30 kilometres south of Moncton, Hopewell Cape is home to the world- famous Hopewell Rocks, the geological formation that can be accessed at Shepody Bay at low tide. And while the village’s permanent population is tiny (recorded to be less than 1000 people in 2001), like many small Canadian communities, it's booming with tourists in the summer months.
Don’t miss: While most see the Hopewell Rocks at low tide, walking the ocean floor will have an even bigger impact if you see them at high tide first. Reserve a kayak tour ahead of time to paddle around the flowerpot rocks.
Located about an hour north of St. John’s, the small town of Ferryland has a population of less than 500 people. But despite its small population, Ferryland is home to arts festivals, museums, and of course, a ton of excellent hiking trails set amidst a beautiful natural landscape. What was once a station for migratory fishermen in the 16th century became one of the most popular fishing harbors in the province in the 1950s.
Don’t miss: The Ferryland Lighthouse, which has been around since 1870 and affords visitors beautiful views of the ocean and even the occasional whale.
Elora is a small community just a couple hour drive west of Toronto, known for its 19th century architecture and the Elora Gorge, which sits at the western edge of the village. The Grand River flows through the gorge and is lined with riverside trails, which give hikers the perfect vantage point as they stand atop the 22-metre-high cliffs.
Don’t miss: If you’re downtown Elora, you can’t miss a stunning waterfall that’s been dubbed the Tooth of Time, and is overlooked by the town’s quaint cafes, restaurants, and shops.
Situated on the banks of the Thames River just twenty minutes away from Stratford, the town is nicknamed “Stonetown” after the limestone that was quarried in the area and is showcased in the 19th-century architecture that dots downtown. It’s also home to The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, which displays hundreds of artifacts including a tribute to the Canadian women who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
Don’t miss: The local swimming quarry is Canada’s largest outdoor freshwater pool. You can spend a day cliff diving, picnicking, or hanging out at the tiki hut.
Located an hour northwest of Halifax in the heart of the Annapolis valley, this charming town is home to a cooperative cinema, six wineries, and Acadia University. It’s harbour (the smallest in the world) sits on the Bay of Fundy and experiences record-setting tides daily. You can spend an afternoon strolling along the beautiful agricultural dykes—built by the Acadians in the 17th century—while sipping fair trade coffee from one of the town’s local roasters.
Don’t miss: Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012, the Grand-Pré national historic site is situated among beautiful tidal marshlands. The park explores the history of the Acadians who settled the area and commemorates their eventual deportation by the British.