Canada Travel 2013 Wishlist

8 Jan

Note that I haven’t called this a “bucket list.” I’d never heard that expression until moving here. Where does it come from? Why does everyone say it, ALL the time?

Anyway, I decided to write a travel *wishlist* because friends and family in the UK have been asking where they should visit, apart from Toronto, when they come to Canada to see us.

It made me think about areas I hope to return to, and those I’m itching to explore this year.

So far our travels out here have included a Vancouver to Alaska boat trip, the Okanagan Valley, the Rockies, Niagara, Algonquin, Parry Sound, the Haliburton Highlands and Prince Edward County. Not bad for six months, considering we’ve been based in Toronto for most of that time.

Peyto, Banff, Toronto, Canada travel

Peyto Lake, Banff National Park, taken July 2012

But there’s so much more to see. It’s quite a big place, as you might’ve noticed.

The main limitations to extensive travel in Canada are the enormous distances and budget-busting flight costs.

For example, one day I’d love to visit Churchill to see the polar bears, but the $500 airfare to Winnipeg, followed by the $1,200 onward flight, make that a bit of a pipe dream for now.

And seeing the Northern Lights in the Yukon would be incredible, but 5,000 km is rather a long way to travel.

Northern Lights, Yukon, Canada

Northern Lights, Yukon, Canada, by Studiolit on Flickr

Lots of prospective visitors tell me they want to travel by train from Vancouver to Banff, but few have $2,000 to spare for the Rocky Mountaineer – and most are shocked at the cost. There isn’t much regular train travel available, and where it exists, you’re at risk of suffering spontaneous outbursts of the national anthem (though personally I love this video!).

Forgive me, then, for the Ontario-centric map I’ve put together, of trips that are high on my agenda for 2013 .

It includes Tobermory, Niagara-on-the-Lake’s wineries, Montreal, Quebec City, but excludes tons of other places I’m desperate to see, like the Maritimes and Laurentians. Hopefully we’ll find a way to slip the rest in at some point.

But it’s not all about me, me, me. With a bit of luck, the map gives any would-be tourists out there some inspiration for things to do around Toronto and further afield, in different seasons.

While there are limitations to cross-country travel in Canada, luckily we’re spoilt for choice in Ontario when it comes to sweet summer spots for sunbathing, swimming, walking, canoeing, cycling and camping – and supping wine, of course.

I haven’t experienced winter out here yet, and, while it’s a shame that the province isn’t renown for downhill skiing (though there are places to do it), there are meant to be good opportunities for Nordic skiing, snow-shoeing and snowmobiling.

This is a good thing, as I’m determined to make the most of the big freeze, rather than turn into a onesie-wearing hermit for the duration. There’s a lot to be said for a onesie, and I shall be wearing mine with pride – but hopefully after a day of exertion on the Ontario trails.

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8 Responses to “Canada Travel 2013 Wishlist”

  1. Zhu January 8, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

    The Niagara region is pretty awesome. I’d definitely recommend the Georgian Bay as well, especially around Wasaga Beach. It’s not far from Toronto but it feels so different!

    Gatineau Park nearby Ottawa is also a great place to check out. And don’t forget the Thousand-Islands region, easy to travel to and very scenic.

    I’d like to explore the country more but like you said, flights are so expensive!

    • torontonewbie January 12, 2013 at 11:07 am #

      Hoping to go to Wasaga for some Nordic skiing at some point, when the winter weather actually arrives for good. Thanks for the other tips – noted!

  2. Harry January 11, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    I look forward to reading your blog! I’m a Brit who moved to Montreal in Sept 2011 for postgrad study. If Montreal isn’t on top in your *wishlist*, it should be! In fact, la belle province should be on there full stop. I’ve only spent a total of 4 days (in Toronto) out of Quebec, so my experience of *Canada*, immersed as I am in a friendship circle which includes as many souverainistes as it does “confederates”, is severely limited. But Montreal is just such a unique N-A city: French-language, a “terasse” culture come the summer, an amazing cultural scene and nightlife and one of the most impressive “old cities” outside of Quebec City!

    • torontonewbie January 12, 2013 at 11:09 am #

      Hi Harry. Montreal’s definitely up high on the list! Do you have any recommendations for particular things to see, good places to eat, etc?

      • Harry January 15, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

        Without a doubt, make sure you visit Vieux-Montréal; even for us, it’s got some surprisingly old buildings (such as the Saint Suplice seminary, built in 1684), but I wouldn’t recommend eating there since it’s a bit of a tourist trap. Best to either go all out and eat at an expensive restaurant frequented by the riche locals, or better yet, head to Rue Saint-Denis, which arguably has some of the best restaurants in Canada, along with great boutiques etc. They’ve also got fantastic museums (not as large as Toronto’s though) in and around the CBD, and of course there’s the stunning Mont Royal, a less-than-mountain plopped in the middle of the city atop which you can get stunning, panoramic views.

        If, like me, you’re not filled with the Canadian man and woman’s love for snow, hold out coming to Montreal until June/July. Try and come for the International Jazz festival (even if you think “jazz” isn’t your thing); it’s one of the largest, if not the largest, festival of its kind in the world, and just transforms the city (and marks the beginning of our ridiculously humid but beautiful summers).

        Let me know if you’re ever in town and I can point you in more directions! Otherwise, enjoy Toronto! I think I saw more Union Jacks in my time there than I do in London, which was just joyous (and not a thing in Quebec!)!

      • Harry January 15, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

        …And before I forget, *specific* places to eat in Montreal without which a journey here would simply not be complete? Try L’Express on Duluth, but make a reservation. I recommend the bone marrow and anything with duck in it, or if you’re a veggie, they do things with mushrooms you wouldn’t think possible (but all very legal). I live seconds away from Au Pied de Cochon, which inhabits the realms of folklore here. If you don’t like the staple dish for any québécois – foie gras – then stay away. For my money though, you simply can’t go wrong for 8$ at Ramado’s, which will give you half-a-chicken in a proprietary sauce, fries, salad and a bun. Go to parc La Fontaine, open that bottle of over-priced wine (courtesy Canadian tax) and enjoy!

      • torontonewbie January 21, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

        Thanks Harry, great suggestions! Can’t wait to try them out.

  3. Lana November 3, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

    Hi, I’m very much enjoying your blog, which is so well written. I’m amazed at how much you have packed into your 18 months or so of Canadian life! I’m a longtime Torontonian who lived for 6 1/2 years in London and moved back here at the beginning of 2012. So I’ve got the perspective of both sides of the pond (like you transplanted Brits).

    Some additional suggestions: in the summer, try to finale an invite to someone’s cottage in Muskoka or the Kiwarthas or rent a cottage with some friends, or go to one of several resorts. Great for scenery, swimming, water-skiing etc. But beware of the ferocious mosquitoes, horseflies and blackflies at the start of the season. August is usually the most bug-free.

    A great car trip would be to travel east to Montreal and Quebec, stopping along the way in Kingston and the surrounding 1000 Islands and detouring to Ottawa. You could see a lot in 9 or 10 days (a week would be tight for all that). The countryside to the east is more picturesque than around TO, and Quebec is truly La Belle Province.

    BTW, there is very good skiing near Montreal and Quebecois artisanal cheeses are to die for. There’s a monastery in the Eastern Townships known for their cheese.

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