This September, we posted an article highlighting Canadian small towns that make perfect day-trip destinations. Afterward, we asked our readers to suggest other beautiful communities that should have made it into the article. The response was incredible, so we decided to create a whole new list based on your suggestions.
Yarmouth, Nova Scotia
Located 300 km outside of Halifax, at the epicentre of the world’s largest lobster fishing grounds, Yarmouth is a fascinating example of the modern fishing industry, while also acting as a window to the past. Visitors can take advantage of the “Living Wharves” program, where they’ll meet fishermen and hear first-hand accounts of the perils and joys of the job. They can stroll through the heritage district and marvel at the elaborate 19th Century Victorian-style homes that once housed captains and ship-owners who reveled in displaying their wealth.
Located 300 km northwest of Toronto, Tobermory might be a long drive for city slickers. But an area known as the freshwater scuba diving capital of the world makes the journey worthwhile. Visitors can explore twin harbours, Canada’s largest natural freshwater harbour, or head out to Fathom Five National Marine Park. In the waters surrounding Tobermory, there are 22 historic shipwreck sites to discover as well as submerged forests, canyons, and underwater waterfalls. If diving isn’t your thing, hop on board a glass bottom cruise and ogle at the underwater sights as they pass under your feet. Flower enthusiasts will delight in the 43 species of wild orchids that grow in the region, including one that can’t be found anywhere else in the world!
Perth, located on the Tay River, 80 km southwest of Ottawa, takes great pride in its reputation as a heritage town. It has the country’s second oldest weekly newspaper, the oldest continuously operating golf course, and the oldest active town band. Perth even has its own town crier, adorned in traditional uniform, who appears at local festivals and ceremonies. On top of all this, the downtown square is full of century-old stone buildings that have become hip boutiques, restaurants, and specialty shops.
St. Mary’s, Ontario
St. Mary’s motto may be “the town worth living in,” but it’s definitely worth visiting, too. Located 100 km southwest of Toronto, with a population of less than 7000, St. Mary’s is affectionately called “The Stone Town” because of its numerous limestone buildings. Anyone interested in 19th century architecture will want to check out the local opera house, town hall, and library, all built with locally quarried limestone. The quarries are no longer in use, but you can head over to one of the former sites, which has been converted into Canada’s largest outdoor swimming pool. Sports fans will enjoy a tour around the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, which was moved from Toronto in 1994.
Picton, the largest community in Prince Edward County, is two and a half hour drive east of Toronto. The historical downtown strip is full of cute artisan shops and local mom-and-pop businesses that visitors will love to browse. It’s also home to the Crystal Palace, built in 1887, which is speculated to be the only remaining replica of the famous cast-iron and glass Crystal Palace in London, England, which was destroyed by a fire in the 1930s. If you’re bringing teenagers on the trip, Picton also has an innovative skateboard and BMX training ground called YouthPark, which will keep them occupied while you shop and sightsee. Make it a late night and visit the Old Mustang, a classic drive-in movie theatre with a ticket booth converted from an antique bus.
Kenora is located 200 km east of Winnipeg, Manitoba on the shores of the Lake of the Woods. The community is rich in aboriginal history. Visitors should spend some time at the renowned Lake of the Woods Museum, which has won awards from the Ontario Historical Society and the Ontario Museum Association. There are also opportunities to attend authentic Pow Wows and learn more about the Aboriginal culture in the region. To enjoy its natural beauty, go for a long hike, or have a picnic by the river, head to Rushing River Provincial Park. And of course no trip to Kenora would be complete without paying a visit to the delightfully cheesy town statue “Husky the Muskie.”
This quaint little mill town on the bank of the Canadian Mississippi River is not even an hour drive outside of Ottawa. It’s a nurturing hub for artists of all backgrounds, working in all mediums. Painters, sculptors, glassblowers, and potters work locally and sell their creations in town. People flock to Almonte for the unique shopping on Mill Street where they can browse boutiques, search for antiques, and dine at some really interesting local restaurants. A stroll along the Riverwalk leads viewers over a series of bridges where they can admire picturesque waterfalls.
Coombs, British Columbia
This tiny 1,400-person town is famous for its Old Country Market, which was opened in the 1950s and features classic Norwegian-style log buildings with sod roofs. The market is the perfect place to sample artisanal food and shop for gifts. The Coombs area hosts more galleries, studios, and artists per capita than anywhere else in British Columbia, so there’s an excellent chance you’ll find artistic treasures here. But the main attraction at the market is a family of pygmy goats who live on the roof of the general store, munching on grass and observing tourists in their natural habitat. Once you’ve fully explored the market, pay a visit to the Word Parrot Refuge, which houses more than 600 parrots, and the Little Qualcium Spawning Channel, which raises 4 million Chinook salmon annually.
Tofino, British Columbia
This district on the west coast of Vancouver Island is a nature lover’s paradise. It’s a year ‘round surfing destination with multiple beaches to explore. Even if you’re not a pro, you can get in on the fun at Chesterman Beach—the most popular spot in Canada to learn how to surf. If you’d like to stay out of the water, from March through October, visitors have the rare opportunity to spot grey whales frolicking in the water. They should also look out for seals, sea lions and eagles. For an unparalleled relaxation experience, charter a seaplane or boat and immerse yourself in the nearby Hot Springs Cove.