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Algonquin Park

East Ontario's Algonquin Park is one of Canada's best-loved parks, with a dazzling array of hiking and canoeing options. The lake-dotted semi-wilderness has 1600km (992mi) of charted canoe routes to explore, the waterfall-filled Barron Canyon to jump around in, and bear, moose and wolves to run away from. Hikers can opt for a half-hour jaunt or spend days crisscrossing the park's many trails. Algonquin Park is 300km (186mi) north of Toronto, and is accessible by bus in the summer months.

 
Bay of Fundy

Almost the entire southern edge of New Brunswick is licked by the constantly rising and falling waters of the Bay of Fundy, home to the world's highest tides. The Bay is dotted with the peaceful Fundy Isles, where fishing for lobster is the most strenuous thing to do. The islands include Deer Island, a wooded place of lobster wharves, whales and Old Sow, the world's second-largest natural tidal whirlpool. Campobello Island is a tranquil summer getaway for wealthy New Englanders, while Grand Manan Island, the largest of the Fundies, has spectacular coastal topography, excellent birdwatching, fine hiking trails and sandy beaches. The town of Saint John, on the Fundy Shore, can claim the actor Donald Sutherland as its own, but it's best known for the Moosehead Brewery tours that are run from mid-June through August. East of Saint John, a 12km (7.5mi) cliff-edged stretch of the Fundy Trail Parkway links the town of St Martins with Big Salmon River - it's rugged, wild, drivable, hikable and just gorgeous.

 
Churchill

One of Canada's few accessible northern outposts, remote Churchill's lifeblood is the 1.5-day train journey linking the town with Winnipeg, Manitoba's capital, a mere 1600km (992mi) away to the south. Churchill is a major grain-handling port, but eco-tourism is an increasingly important industry for the town. Despite the subzero temperatures and minimal facilities, visitors flock to see the region's huge array of arctic wildlife - from polar bears and beluga whales to caribou and Arctic foxes - and to catch a gaudy glimpse of the aurora borealis. Churchill dubs itself the 'Polar Bear Capital of the World', and for a good reason: the town sits smack bang in the middle of the animals' migration route, and the cute but lethal white bears have been known to wander right through the township. Tours to the tundra to see the bears are Churchill's star attraction during the migration season (September-November), followed closely by May-June birdwatching and the June-August spectacle of 3000 beluga whales moving into the Churchill River.

 
Dawson City

When there was gold in them thar hills, Dawson City was the place to spend it. The city was built at the confluence of the Yukon and Klondike Rivers in the gold rush of 1896. At its height, Dawson City was known as 'the Paris of the North', and was home to 38,000 people; these days fewer than 2000 call the city home. It's the most interesting of the Yukon towns, with many attractions remaining from its fleeting but vibrant fling with fame and infamy. The protected buildings create a real frontier atmosphere, and with the Arctic Circle just 240km (150mi) away, they're built on permafrost. Tourist season is limited to May-September, and sights include Diamond Tooth Gertie's Gambling Hall, a re-creation of an 1898 saloon complete with honky-tonk piano and dancing girls. There's also the flamboyant Palace Grand Theatre; a museum housing 25,000 gold-rush artefacts of one kind or another; the SS Keno riverboat; the typically rustic gold-rush cabin that housed Robert Service from 1909 to 1912; a Jack London Interpretative Centre; a couple of old mines to explore; and a graveyard of paddlewheel ferries. Dawson City is a 6.5-hour bus ride north of the Yukon capital, Whitehorse.

 
Gaspésie Park

Jutting into the Gulf of St Lawrence, north of New Brunswick, the Gaspé Peninsula is often compared with the popular Cape Breton Island of Nova Scotia, but it's much less crowded. The excellent Gaspésie Park, in the center of the peninsula, is a huge, rugged and undeveloped area of lakes, woods and mountains. Deer and moose amble the backwoods, and the fishing is good - but the real attraction is the hiking. Trails traverse the wonderfully named Chic Choc Mountains, culminating in Mont Jacques Cartier, at 1270m (4165ft) the highest peak in these parts. The hike to the top of the peak is shared by shy woodland caribou, and the alpine scenery and views are fantastic. Other climbs include rigorous Mont Albert and lakeside Mont Xalibu, a fine half-day return walk with superb alpine scenery, a waterfall and views of mountain lakes. The main entry to the park is from the nearby town of Sainte Anne des Monts, 300km (185mi) or so north of Quebec City.

 
L'Anse-aux-Meadows

Perched on the northernmost tip of Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula, just north of Cape Onion, L'Anse-aux-Meadows is the oldest European habitation site in North America. Led by Leif Eriksson, son of the Eric the Red, the Scandinavian Vikings crossed the North Atlantic in 1000 AD, becoming the first known Europeans to land in North America. Now protected as a national park, the historic site is set on the edge of the Strait of Belle Isle, across from Labrador, in a rough, rocky northern environment. It's a fascinating place, made all the more special by the unobtrusive, low-key approach taken in its development. The Viking settlement includes replicas of sod buildings, complete with smoky scent, and there are also eight unearthed originals of wood and sod. There's an interpretive centre to help make sense of things, and if you're lucky you might be offered some Viking snacks to sample. You can also take a two-hour tour on a replica Viking ship. For those without transportation, it's a US$30 taxi ride to L'Anse-aux-Meadows from St Anthony.

 
Lunenburg

Running south from Halifax is Nova Scotia's South Shore, a fogbound, jagged coast dotted with rocky coves, fishing villages and historic towns. For tourist purposes it's been dubbed the Lighthouse Route. The gorgeous little shipbuilding town of Lunenberg is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is best-known for having built the racing schooner Bluenose back in 1921. Fishing has always been big in Lunenburg, and things haven't changed too much: Atlantic Canada's largest deep-sea fishing fleet sets sail from here, and North America's biggest fish-processing plant is located in town. Lunenburg still has the flavor and character of an 18th-century British colonial town, thanks to its tradition of wood-construction architecture, maintained since the 1750s. Other than explore the town's Fisheries Museum and beautiful old churches, the thing to do here is to just wander, taking in the wooden houses, wharves and old-fashioned streetscapes - and of course finishing up with a dinner of halibut or haddock, mussels or lobster.

 
Rocky Mountains

Sprawled along the Alberta-British Columbia border, the Rockies are barely contained within two gigantic national parks - Banff to the South and Jasper to the north. Banff was Canada's first official wildlife sanctuary and these days the town that lent its name to the park is the nation's number one resort spot year round. But Jasper National Park has a larger, wilder and less explored landscape on show.Banff's glorious turquoise Moraine Lake, while in danger of suffering cliche overload, is one of Canada's most idyllic natural attractions. Connecting Banff and Jasper parks is the Columbia Icefield, a vast bowl of ice made up of about 30 glaciers and a remnant of the last Ice Age. For those not glacially inclined, the Rockies offer wildlife walks, swimming, caving, camping, hiking, canoeing, hot-spring soaking, mountain climbing and plenty of places to stay. Accommodation costs are generally lower at the Jasper end of this quintessential Canadian mountain playground.

 
The Prairies

Starting at the foot of the Rockies and heading out long, wide and flat through Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba is Canada's heartland prairie country. Golden fields of wheat, or sunflowers, stretch forever in these parts, and locals might be heard to sigh 'the Rocky Mountains may be nice but they get in the way of the view'. Alberta's busiest prairie attraction is the quaintly named Blackfoot Indian heritage site - Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, near Fort Macleod.The 3000 sq km (1170 sq m) Riding Mountain National Park is a forested oasis in the Manitoba prairies, where bison and bike riders roam. Next door in Saskatchewan the prairies are scattered with evocatively named national parks, and canoe routes often outnumber roads. Eclectic surprises here include Yorkton - north of the Crooked Lake Provincial Park - where onion-domed churches reflect the area's Ukranian heritage. Park your UFO just southeast of Yorkton, near the tiny town of Rocanville, and you'll be at one of Canada's most recent crop circle sites.

 
Yellowknife

Yellowknife is the place to organise your canoe, fishing, kayak, camping, skiing and hiking requirements before heading out into the mountains, forests and treeless tundra of Canada's wild Northwest Territories. The territorial capital sits on the northern shore of Great Slave Lake, catchment basin for the mighty Mackenzie River which runs 1800km (1115mi) northwards to its delta on the Beaufort Sea. A walk around Yellowknife's Old Town takes you past wooden miners huts built during the 1934 gold rush, on streets with good-luck-turned-sour names like Ragged Ass Rd. Visit the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre to learn about the lifestyles of the Dene and Inuit, or head outdoors (weather permitting) for dog-sled tours, visits to a beaver colony or guided fishing trips. The famed Northern Lights (aurora borealis) light up the fall-to-winter sky October-February with streaks and haloes of green, yellow and rose. In March the city celebrates the end of winter with the Caribou Carnival, and July explodes with the Festival of the Midnight Sun and the Folk on the Rocks music festival.


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