Canada may not have a long summer season, but there’s no denying that we make the most of what we’ve got. The country is blessed with an abundance of shorelines, mountain ranges and fruit-filled valleys, so families can easily escape to the destination that best suits their brood. Grab your suitcase or haul out the RV — just make sure you get to one of these hot spots soon.
Lush orchards and vineyards provide the perfect backdrop for alfresco fun in this sunny region, known as Napa of the North. Wine tasting can be made a family affair with a visit to Elephant Island Orchard Wines, where wee ones picnic with teddy bears while parents swirl, sniff and occasionally sip. It gets deliciously hot here, so be sure to cool off under canopies of fruit trees or in Lake Okanagan, where kids just might spot Ogopogo, the cryptic lake monster.
You don’t need a time machine to step into the past; just visit the boreal woodlands of the Waskesiu Wilderness Region in Northern Saskatchewan. Travel by horse-drawn wagon a la Little House on the Prairie to view Canada’s only free-ranging bison herd on their historic range, before settling into a tipi for the night. Or how about bedding down in a yurt, surrounded by 30 acres of forest filled with warm lakes, hiking trails and organic gardens? Whatever you decide, you’re sure to become immersed in an authentic experience that harks back to a bygone era.
There’s no better spot for die-hard dino fans than Canada’s own Jurassic Park. Amid the hoodoos and badlands, petite palaeontologists dig deep into the prehistoric past on fossil safari tours. You could haul the tent and trailer, but if you like your creature comforts (without the creatures), bed down in the Park’s comfort camping suites.
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Set on the impossibly pretty shores of Georgian Bay, Awenda Provincial Park lies in the heart of cottage country. The park offers overnight camping and over 30 km of hiking trails in one of the largest stretches of old-growth forest in Canada. The big draw here, however, is the beach, said to offer the best outdoor swimming in all of Ontario. Families will be spoiled for choice, as a visit here also grants access to nearby Wasaga Beach Provincial Park, the world’s largest freshwater beach.
Summer is the very best time to dive into this seaside valley brimming with whales, high tides and water slides. The tots will love digging into the red sand at Medford Beach or picking their own fruit at the many orchards. School may be out, but smart parents can sneak in a little education at kid-friendly national historic sites, exploring Acadian culture.
Looking for a restful rural retreat without sacrificing big-city pleasures? Take this as a cue to head for Montebello, a charming village chockablock with gourmet shops and glamping options. Troop pleasers include an aerial course, trekking underground in the largest cave in the Canadian Shield, and cruising through Parc Omega on an outdoor wildlife safari, where you can feed carrots to deer and elk directly from your vehicle.
Perfectly positioned between the friendly Acadian Coast and the dramatic Bay of Fundy, Moncton is ideal for families looking for variety in their vacation. Start by cruising down (or up) the optical illusion of Magnetic Hill before checking out Atlantic Canada’s best zoo. If your kids like chocolate milk, you’ll want to bike or Segway along the Petitcodiac River — it looks like everyone’s favourite drink, thanks to the tidal bore.
Cavendish is the ultimate family playground. Not only is it the home of Anne of Green Gables, but it also offers four world-class golf courses. Kids won’t mind being stuck with dinner duty when they’re in charge of digging for it: Clamming is a delicious activity everyone can participate in, as is sinking your toes into the region’s famous red sand. Still hungry? Affordable lobster suppers can be found at community centers and churches throughout the region.
The sandy shores on southern edge of Lake Winnipeg lure families looking for a laid-back beach holiday without having to crawl to the coast. Here, families frolic in gentle waves and miles of creamy sand at North America’s sixth-largest freshwater lake. This paradise on the prairie is ideal for all ages. Tiny tykes splash about in the warm, shallow prairie sea, while the older set can dominate the volleyball courts or take on the water slides at Thunder Mountain.
There’s no better way to cool down in the heat of summer than by plunging into Iceberg Alley on Newfoundland. Known as the world’s iceberg capital, this small island in the North Atlantic is the perfect outpost to view puffins, humpback whales, and, of course, the floating frozen skyscrapers. Get up close and personal on a boat tour or catch a bird’s-eye view from the island’s picturesque lighthouse. Looking for a more hands-on experience? Head to Prime Berth, an interactive fishing museum where kids can fish right off the docks.
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We love spending our summers in Ontario!