Forget the old school travel bucket list. Post-pandemic international travellers are keen to step it up a notch. Rather than ticking off tourist attractions in quick succession, Aussie travellers are seeking meaningful experiences – and Canada has them in spades.
From witnessing a northern lights performance of epic proportions, to encountering a grizzly bear feasting on salmon in the wild, Canada’s legendary adventures will change you in big and small ways, and always for the better.
Read on for three experiences that will leave a lasting mark on your heart.
Trip the light fantastic
Delve into a quintessential winter postcard in Canada’s north-west Yukon. Inhale the fresh scent of snow-drenched boreal forests as you weave between trees on a sled, pulled by an excited team of huskies.
Later, the dark winter sky becomes the perfect backdrop as you raise your gaze to witness the vibrant greens, purples and pinks of the enchanting aurora borealis as they embrace in a lightshow that rivals a choreographed intergalactic laser battle.
There’s more than one way to see this majestic lightshow. Take shelter in a prospector-style wall tent once used by gold seekers and trappers with Northern Tales Travel Service, keeping warm by the wood-fired barrel stove. Bundle up and step outside for the grand performance, as vivid, colourful ribbons cascade across the sky.
Alternatively, stay at a wilderness lodge, such as the Northern Lights Resort and Spa, where you can take in the views from your glass-fronted chalet, or soak in an outdoor hot tub while the lightshow streaks across the night sky.
Insider’s tip: The Northern Lights Centre is well worth a visit. Located in Watson Lake, the centre features a domed theatre with a panoramic video and surround-sound system that’s as close to the real thing as you can get. Discover the myths and legends of the Northern Lights and the true science behind them.
Join Brian Johnston on a transformative northern lights excursion into the wilds of Yukon here.
Fall in love in the most romantic city on Earth
As you wander the cobblestone streets of Québec City, the spell is cast. It’s a city you experience with your heart rather than your head, and before you know it, you’re in love.
There’s something about the old-world charm of this ancient urban centre, with its 400-year-old architecture, stunning historical churches and creative, French-speaking locals that makes you wish you could stay forever.
Shop for antiques along the Petit Champlain district, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in North America, and experience a sweet sensory explosion with local maple syrup treats and bespoke creations from resident chocolatiers.
Take a moment to marvel at the massive mural at Place Royale, tracing 400 years of Québec history. It was right here in this small square that Samuel de Champlain founded the city in 1608.
Complete the fairy-tale with a stay at the most photographed hotel in the world, the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac. This spectacular castle with its turrets and distinctive green roof, embodies the architectural styles of earlier periods, including the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Despite its rich history, Québec City’s food scene is innovative on a world-scale. Click here for a first-hand account of the city’s food scene and to meet some authentic Québécois characters who instantly feel like life-long friends.
These guys are unbearably brilliant
Ask any Aussie traveller what they love most about Canada’s vast wilderness, and many will wax lyrical about that mesmerising moment when they spotted a bear (or three) roaming freely in the wild.
Bearing witness to these awesome beasts in their natural habitat is an unforgettable, humbling moment, with Australians eager to experience it for themselves now that international travel is back on the cards.
The Khutzeymateen/K’tzim-a-deen Grizzly Sanctuary, British Columbia, was the first area in Canada to be protected specifically for grizzly bears, and is one of the best places in the world to see these magnificent animals in their natural habitat.
Accessible only by boat and/or floatplane, the site is home to roughly 60 individual bears, best visited between May and September when the bears can be seen roaming the shore.
The magical Princess Royal Island in the Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia is not only home to a healthy population of grizzlies, but also the rare Kermode (Spirit) bear, a sub-species of black bear found only in this part of the world carrying a recessive gene that gives them a naturally white coat.
In the neighbouring province of Alberta, take a serene ride above Banff National Park on the Lake Louise Gondola.
This spectacular bird’s-eye view offers the perfect vantage point for grizzly bear spotting below, not to mention equally mind-blowing views of Lake Louise and the Rocky Mountains. Further bear spotting opportunities await at the top, along with a Wildlife Interpretive Centre and guided hikes.
Read more to experience (vicariously) that special moment when a grizzly holds your mesmerised gaze, deep in the Canadian wilderness.
Main image credit: Jonathon Tucker