- Written by Dan
National Parks Canada
By Hostelling International
Canada is a National Park Paradise With a Rich and Varied Landscape
Canada’s official National Park and National Historic Sites protect not only our flora and fauna, but also the country’s heritage. With over 100 National Park and National Historic Sites, Canadians are spoiled for choice when it comes to picking an ideal vacation spot.
Banff and Jasper
As soon as you step foot into Banff National Park, you will see why it was designated as Canada’s first National Park in 1885. Surrounded by spectacular mountain landscapes, you’ll be like a kid in a candy store when deciding what to do each day. Must sees are Lake Louise, Moraine Lake and Peyto Lake, and of course the town of Banff itself, with its hot springs and gondola ride, all some of the best National Parks Canada.
Banff’s larger neighbour, Jasper National Park, has its fair share of beautiful backdrops too. Begin your ultimate road trip as you drive along one of the world’s most breathtaking stretches of land along the Icefields Parkway. Get up close to the Athabasca Glacier—situated close to the Parkway, it’s easily accessible and only a short stroll from the information centre. If you are feeling adventurous, join a guided tour onto the glacier itself. Other highlights of Jasper National Park include the town of Jasper, Maligne Lake and the Skyline Trail.
Activities in Banff and Jasper are varied, and there’s something for everyone. Choose from leisurely walks, exhilarating hikes, cycling, kayaking, winter sports, fantastic scenic drives, historic sites and museums, shopping and dining, and more.
Prince Edward Island
P.E.I. evokes thoughts of a slower way of life, rolling hills, burnt red earth, deserted beaches and Anne of Green Gables. It’s home to the famous P.E.I. spud, endless lobster (you can even get a lobster burger at McDonald’s in this neck of the woods), country lanes and good old Canadian hospitality.
The province’s National Park system offers pristine and untouched spaces. Along the coast are soft sandy beaches bordered by tumbling sand dunes, perfect for those balmy summer days. The boardwalk at Greenwich showcases the dunes at their best, and also teaches you about the area’s cultural history.
Cavendish is familiar Anne of Green Gables country. Here you can visit Lucy Maud Montgomery’s home at the Parks Canada Historic Site. Take a look through the windows and you’ll see what inspired her to write her classic novel. A visit to P.E.I. would not be complete without a stop in Charlottetown, the province’s capital. Although not a National Park, its pretty heritage buildings and quaint shopping streets make for a great day trip.
Cape Breton Highlands
Hit the road along Cape Breton’s meandering Cabot Trail, where every corner reveals yet another outstanding ocean vista. The trail encompasses four bodies of water—the Atlantic Ocean, Bay of Fundy, Northumberland Strait and The Gulf of St. Lawrence—and a third of it is within the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
This national park is the largest protected wilderness in Nova Scotia, and has a unique mix of animals and plants that cannot be found elsewhere in Canada. Cape Breton Highlands is also a great place to do some moose spotting!
During the 1800s, an influx of Scottish settlers arrived on the island. Still to this day you’ll find the Scottish heritage prominent in the Islanders’ way of life—from the live music played in the local pub, to the Gaelic language that is still spoken today.
Fortress of Louisbourg
Step back in time and experience life in the 18th-century Fortress of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, while not necessarily a National Park, it is still considered a part of National Parks Canada. This fortress is the largest reconstruction project in North America. It has been rebuilt on the original French settlement that was established there in 1713. Buildings, roads, gardens and shops have all been rebuilt to create this brilliant historical experience.
Hundreds of re-enactors take to the streets in the summer months. You’ll find children playing the games of yesteryear, townspeople performing dances and music of that era, and soldiers practicing their drills. You can even enjoy a traditional 18th-century meal served at the local restaurant. After a day at Louisbourg, you’ll have an appreciation for what life was once like living in this historic fortress.