Canada, with its outstanding natural beauty, trendy cosmopolitan cities, superb quality of accommodation, is a fantastic destination for a family looking for an inspiring, adventurous and memorable holiday together.
Teeming with wildlife, plenty of fresh water (Ontario alone has 250,000 lakes), oceans on both sides, spectacular mountains ranges, temperate rain forests, national parks the size of small countries and more wilderness than you can imagine - Canada is a veritable playground for the adventurous at heart and perfect for a family looking for somewhere a little different.
For urbanites, Canadian cities are world class and enjoy the wonderful mix of being fabulously North American, incredibly culturally diverse, ethnically rich, easy to navigate, friendly, safe and fun to explore with children. The parks are clean, pretty and there are endless playgrounds and ‘splash pads’ dotted around to keep little travellers entertained. Transport is cheap, reliable and accommodation standards very high.
Toronto (or T.O as it is affectionately known by locals) is possibly Canada’s most well-known city. It is just over a 6 hour flight from the UK and makes a great place to indulge in a little city lifestyle before exploring the rest of Ontario.
With top notch museums and attractions, including the unusual Bata Shoe Museum, Hockey Hall of Fame, a vibrant Chinatown, its own Kensington Market, trendy Queen West, eccentric Cabbage Town and of course, the famous CN Tower – a must for those brave enough to try walking on the glass floor – the city has loads to offer.
Also, an easy day-trip is Niagara Falls, which despite the razz-mattazz, really is awe-inspiring and as good as they say.
Further afield from Toronto but an easy drive away, is traditional Canadian ‘Cottage Country’. This is where and how Canadian’s prefer to holiday and is a favourite destination for the rich and famous. Muskoka, The Kawartha’s and Haliburton regions of Ontario have thousands of rentable ‘cottages’ and cabins which are dotted amongst the scented pine forests and sparkling lakes that make up these areas. Canoeing across the lake becomes a way of life, swimming from the dock is mandatory and star-gazing at night entirely necessary. Chipmonks, loons, turtles and racoons are numerous and black bear sightings certainly possible. Summer brings heat waves and sunshine, and lazy days hanging out ‘on the lake’ are obligatory.
As a contrast, on the West Coast of Canada lies Vancouver and British Columbia. Frequently voted a city with the best reputation in the world, and much loved by visitors and residents alike, an introduction to Vancouver is dramatic. Your plane flies in with a back drop of the North Shore Mountains and vistas of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding islands. A stay in Vancouver is worth it for the fabulous sushi alone, but sights good for families include travelling up Grouse Mountain, cycling in Stanley Park, visiting a beach, Vancouver Aquarium and a day trip to Whistler to try hiking and mountain biking.
From Vancouver a short ferry ride brings you to Vancouver Island. Be sure to spot the resident orca on your way. This beautiful island is roughly the size of The Netherlands and home to two UNESCO biosphere reserves – Clayoquot and Arrowsmith. Your whole 2 weeks could easily be spent here visiting old-growth rain forests, kayaking with orcas and seals, soaking up the old-world charm of Victoria, learning about Aboriginal Culture at an interpretive centre, staying at a wilderness lodge, beach combing on one of the many wind swept beaches and eating locally caught seafood in Tofino.
There really is so much in Canada for a brilliant holiday, especially one with children, and to top it all off, the skiing in winter is phenomenal but that is for another post…
Best time to visit: May to September (June & September if not tied to school holidays)
Time difference from UK: Toronto is 5 hours & Vancouver is 8 hours
Flight time: Toronto is 6.5 hours and Vancouver 9.5 hours
Airlines: Direct flights with Air Canada, British Airways, Air Transat
Jessica has travelled extensively around Canada researching holidays and has lived in Victoria – British Columbia, Peterborough – Ontario and most recently in Toronto with her children. She now runs her own travel company Triptoes specialising in tailor made holidays to Canada.
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