Winning tip: Remote and raw, Alberta
If you want to experience authentic, raw, outdoor Canada then a few days in Willmore wilderness park will take you out of your comfort zone. Motor vehicles of any kind are banned, but you can hire a horse or a trapper (both about £20 an hour) – otherwise risk it on your own. Trails wind their way through dense forests and along wild river valleys. Take a sturdy tent or knock on the doors of hunters’ wooden huts when you see them. You may be greeted with a shotgun and a suspicious snarl as we were – then a plate of yummy moose meat, cooked on a blazing fire.
Aurora borealis trip, Northwest Territories
Seeing the northern lights from Yellowknife has to be one of the most memorable things I’ll do in my lifetime. I recommend going with a well-established company to get the best viewing experience. I went with North Star Adventures, a small company that’s 100% First Nations owned. It has a friendly feel but is very professional and the indigenous Canadian guides really know their stuff. You even get to ride a snowmobile and the whole experience is an adventure even before you see the majestic lights. North Star recommends visitors avoid October, November and December though, when it is usually cloudy.
• Aurora tour from C$119 (£69), northstaradventures.ca
The golden sands off Nova Scotia
For a quieter and more secluded Canadian experience, the beaches and sands of Prince Edward Island national park are truly magical. When we last visited we had glorious weather and an unspoiled golden sandy beach running miles entirely to ourselves. The island is also well-connected and easily explored by a range of footpath and bike trails. If you want a peaceful holiday spot, with glorious views, beautiful coastline and a smidge of old world Anne of Green Gables charm (the novel was set there), Canada’s smallest province is just the ticket.
Three-day hike, Alberta
Hiking in Waterton Lakes national park, in Alberta, means passing through outstanding mountain, forest and lakeside scenery without the crowds of the more famous parks. The 35-mile Triple Crown of Waterton consists of three stunning one-day hikes through this Unesco world heritage site and biosphere reserve. There’s a friendly and convivial atmosphere in the beautiful base town of Waterton on the shore of the deepest lake in the Canadian Rockies. Get information and sign up for the Triple Crown at the friendly hikers hub of the Pearl Café and win a place on their Triple Crown champions board.
Bear watching, Vancouver Island
I booked on a bear-watching tour from Tofino, where I was taken in a zodiac boat for nearly three hours around the shores of Vancouver Island to look for black bears, which are often seen eating barnacles and shellfish. We were lucky enough to see six black bears and three cubs. A safe way to see – relatively up close – these magnificent animals in their natural habitat.
• £60 adult/£46 child, remotepassages.com
Out and about in Halifax’s parks
Since I arrived here in 2016 I’ve been exploring. I really like Point Pleasant park close to Halifax’s harbour – an amazing park great for cycling, walking, birdwatching and running. In the south of Halifax is a much larger recreational area: Long Lake provincial park. This has a very nice four-mile track around the lake, which is superb for kayaking and fishing. Nearby is the Sir Sandford Fleming park (also called the Dingle), an amazing place for families to have fun in its great playground. In the heart of Halifax, Chocolate lake has a city beach and is a popular spot for a swim in the summer. I am still exploring , though!.
Island hopping, British Columbia
Between the gorgeous empty wilderness of the Sunshine Coast and the rugged shores of Vancouver Island, there is a collection of beautiful, isolated little islands with a laid-back, bohemian vibe, full of self-sustaining communities. They are also beautiful, rugged and rainforested, with views to the Rockies, and bays where you can often see orcas and humpback whales. The islands are connected by ferries, and are criss-crossed with tiny back roads that are prefect for cycling. Spend a few days: camp on the uninhabited Newcastle Island, and meet some of the local racoons, cycle across Salt Spring Island, whale spot on the remote shores of Galiano Island, or do some hiking on Cortes Island. These islands are not very touristy, and are perfect for wildlife spotting.
Whirlpools and forest near Niagara Falls
When visiting Niagara Falls many visitors are going to see more concrete and tourist kiosks than the beautiful forests that once enveloped southern Ontario. But, if you follow the Niagara river downstream, there’s a densely wooded gorge, with limestone cliffs and eventually a whirlpool. The Niagara Glen nature reserve is perched between the falls and the botanic gardens, and its hiking trails wander across the ancient Carolinian forest. The path follows the course of the river back to the roaring whirlpool – but between these forces of nature, it offers tranquility, surrounded not just by the forests but by hundreds of wildlife species, from rare flowers to abundant salamanders and peregrine falcons. The variety of trails means it is suitable for families, as well as hikers.
Whale watching, Québec
From the beautiful Québec City, I recommend taking a two-hour bus down to the St Lawrence river where you will have a near-certain chance of seeing whales in their natural habitat. This area is Krill City in the summer, which draws in up to 13 species of whales for a feeding frenzy. We saw humpbacks, minke, and fin whales, as well as porpoises and seals. The excitement was palpable and it was a humbling experience, highly recommended. There are many operators offering tours.
Canoeing, western Rockies
Emerald lake in Yoho national park is one of those impossibly turquoise glacial lakes surrounded by mountains. Walk around the lake or, even better, hire a canoe and paddle across it. You will be mesmerised. It’s also worth hiking to nearby Takakkaw falls, which drops over 250 metres down a bare rock face.