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Canadian tourism picks by province


Planning a trip to another province? Chances are, you already know the most popular natural wonders. But some less-obvious spots might make for just a memorable trip. Here are a few we compiled.

Alberta

Popular attraction: Lake Louise. No one disputes the beauty of this glacial body of water and its high-placed hamlet, more than 5,000 feet above sea level and flanked by the majestic Canadian Rockies. But it can get a little crowded in high season.

Alternate attraction: Waterton Lake. The deepest lake in the Canadian Rockies at 444 feet, and site of western Canada's first oil well, Waterton borders British Columbia and Montana. Though highly scenic (National Geographic calls it a photographer's paradise), and equipped with its own historic hotel (the Prince of Wales), it's relatively isolated and rarely crowded.

British Columbia

Popular attraction: Whale watching. Victoria is the jumping-off spot to see orcas, humpback, minke and grey whales along with porpoises, sea lions, seals and eagles. Travel & Leisure called Vancouver Island one of North America's Best Whale Watching Spots, and chances are, anyone who's gone eyeball to eyeball with a humpback won't disagree.

Alternate attraction: Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. For those who would rather keep their toes in the sand, the seemingly infinite Long Beach is a scenic 10-mile strip of undeveloped coastline set against lush rain forest and distant mountains. Unknown to the world before 1959, the beach was a refuge for hippies and surfers until 1970, when the national park set up shop. But it's still got a laid-back, longboard vibe.

Manitoba

Popular attraction: Wapusk National Park. While it may be famous, it's not necessarily easy to get to. Manitoba's Wapusk National Park is one of the few places in the world where visitors can watch baby polar bear cubs explore their snowy new world under the watchful eyes of their mothers. But no roads or trails lead into this massive park made up of rough subarctic forest and tundra. Still, people are willing to fly in for the spectacular wildlife-watching.

Alternate attraction: Riding Mountain National Park. You're more likely to see captive bison than baby bears, but Riding Mountain National Park encompasses more than 1,000 square miles of meadows, lakes, gorges and boreal forest, with all the wildlife that comes with the scenery — and it's been designated a biosphere by UNESCO. Plus, there's boating, horseback riding and more.

Northwest Territories

Popular natural attraction: Great Slave Lake, Yellowknife. Canada's second-largest lake is home to miles of beaches and rugged vistas. Prospectors found gold near its banks in the 1930s, and the town of Yellowknife sprang up behind the discovery. Today, it's one of the area's best-known and accessible scenic places, and a logical first stop for travelers.

Alternate attraction: Wood Buffalo National Park. One of the planet's largest parks, Wood Buffalo is nevertheless highly accessible by motor vehicle, located near one end of the Mackenzie Highway. Travelers can easily experience an enormous Boreal wilderness with wood bison, whooping cranes and even salt flats.

New Brunswick

Popular natural attraction: Bay of Fundy. It's hard not to be awed by a 50-foot difference between low and high tide. The Bay of Fundy famously has the biggest tidal range in the world, and seeing fishing boats go from beached to bobbing, all within a few hours, is a memorable sight. The town of St. John anchors the action, and there are plenty of places to eat and drink while waiting for the ships to come in.

Alternate attraction: Beaubears Island Shipbuilding National Historic Site. Billed as the only undisturbed archeological site associated with 19th-century wooden shipbuilding in the area, Beaubears Island was once an Acadian outpost and today offers history tours along picturesque trails bounded by the Miramichi River.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Popular natural attraction: Continental Divide, Gros Morne National Park. With more than 446,000 square miles, this national park has a justifiable reputation for natural beauty, with fjords, cliffs and the highest waterfall in eastern North America.

Alternate destination: Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. Want to see a quarter-million Atlantic Puffins? Or some 600,000 nesting pairs of Leach's Storm-petrels? This Newfoundland group of islands is your place. Start at the Lower Pond tourism information center in the town of Witless Bay, book a boat, and bring the binoculars!

Nova Scotia

Popular attraction: Peggys Cove, near Halifax. People have been coming here for decades to take in the sheer, quaint beauty of this sea-facing town. See the lighthouse, the rocks and lots of local color in this historic fishing village.

Alternate attraction: Lunenberg. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lunenberg has nevertheless been named "Most Beautiful Small Town" and "Port City of the Year." Lunenberg is plenty pretty, a la Peggys Cove, but with a bit more bustle. This is the spot to see tall ships, a working waterfront and painted ladies — ornate Victorian houses — with their faces turned to the sea.

Ontario

Popular attraction: Niagara Falls. One of the continent's most iconic tourist attractions, the falls easily conjure up images of honeymooners and the Maid of the Mist. Ontario lays claim to the Horseshoe Falls section of the area and is said to command the best view of the waters. Ontario has also made more of an effort to preserve the area's natural beauty — something most travelers continue to appreciate.

Alternate attraction: St. Lawrence Islands National Park. The legacy of retreating glaciers is a chain of more than 1,000 mountains — and Thousand Islands. From quiet marshlands to rugged rock outcroppings, this park includes islands, islets, and mainland areas that offer natural beauty and a rich history of explorers, fur traders, missionaries and even revolutionaries. Start at the Mallorytown Landing Visitor Center, and follow the history from there.

Prince Edward Island

Popular attraction: Cavendish, fictional home of Anne of Green Gables, is justly popular for its pastoral vistas on PEI's north shore. Plus, people flock to the area to indulge in all things Green Gables, including the Charlottetown Festival, where a musical of "Anne of Green Gables" is staged annually.

Alternate attraction: The lighthouses. As befitting its miles of shoreline, Prince Edward Island is dotted with lighthouses, many as picturesque as their names: Seacow Head, North Cape, Cape Tryon, North Rustico, Blockhouse Point, and more. While some offer little more than scenery and a sense of maritime history, others, such as West Point, offer opportunities for refreshment and tours.

Saskatchewan

Popular attraction: Bison Haven, Prince Albert National Park. Home of the only free-range herd of wild plains bison in Canada, Bison Haven is a draw for wildlife watchers the world over. The herd boasts more than 200 head and is frequently seen in conjunction with stays at guest ranches in the area.

Alternate attraction: Big Muddy Badlands. Home to the Canadian portion of "the Outlaw Trail," the reputed escape route of the Sundance Kid, the Pigeon Toe Kid, Coyote Pete and others escaping the long arm of the law, Saskatchewan's Big Muddy Badlands also offers up the San Kelly caves, a bison effigy and scenic outlooks such as Castle Butte, a tall stone outcropping that looks like it belongs in an American Western.

Quebec

Popular attraction: Plains of Abraham. Part of downtown Quebec City, this national park is both a natural formation and a national attraction. Flanking the St. Lawrence seaway, and site of some of Canada's most important military history, the Plains of Abraham is an easy trip for everyone.

Alternate attraction: Pierced Rock (Rocher-Perce). One of the most iconic sights of the Gaspe Peninsula, Pierced Rock takes more effort to get to, but it's a piece of geologic history travelers don't soon forget.

Yukon

Popular natural attraction: Northern Lights. Also known as the aurora borealis, the unearthly Northern Lights make for an unforgettable winter expedition. Most tours are based out of Whitehorse, where you'll also find the Northern Lights Space and Science Centre, which can offer some background and other illuminating information.

Alternate attraction: Snow. You'll find lots of it up here, and with it more dogsledding adventures than you can shake — or throw — a stick at. Still, it can be a lot of fun!

Nunavut

Popular attraction: Arctic Nunavut has no inbound road or rail routes, so no place is heavily visited enough to earn the designation of "popular." Nevertheless, those who arrive by air are in for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. From bird sanctuaries and caribou crossings to traditional Inuit communities and the relative bustle of Arctic Bay (it sees a few cruise ships in summer), Nunavut is a natural for birders, wildlife enthusiasts and those who want to go where few have gone before.

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