Are you looking to discover some hidden gems in our own beautiful backyard this fall?
Fresh Tracks Canada, a Vancouver-based travel company that focuses exclusively on Canadian itineraries, also creates packages that take travellers to places off the beaten path where they can have unique experiences without fighting crowds.
While Canada's big cities are vibrant metropolises with numerous places to shop, dine, and explore, the company notes that small towns have a great deal to offer for travellers "looking to get the most authentic Canadian experience."
Katherine Foxcroft, a travel expert and product experience manager with Fresh Tracks, has curated a list of five hidden gems across the country that are perfect to explore in the fall, particularly when paired with "bucket list" travel experiences. One of them is located right here in B.C., too.
Canada travel experiences to enjoy this fall
Known as the polar bear capital of the world, Churchill is a small town on Hudson Bay in the far north of Manitoba that provides visitors with the opportunity to see the majestic white bears up close and personal. Of course, you can't see the fierce white bruins on your own — you have to be part of a group that specializes in bear viewing excursions. Further, Churchill isn't accessible by car — you can only get into the small town via plane or train.
Once you arrive in the remote town, however, you have the rare opportunity to see the magnificent polar bears up close from the "comfort and safety of a purpose-built vehicle, Tundra Buggy," notes Fresh Tracks. The trips take place in October and early November when the bears gather at nearby Cape Churchill waiting for the ice to form on Hudson Bay. Once the ice is stable, they head out to spend the winter hunting seals.
Beluga whales visit Churchill after the ice breaks up in the spring and the company offers a viewing packing during the summer months.
Mabou, Cape Breton
Mabou is a small, rural community located on the Ceilidh Trail on the west side of Cape Breton Island. Known as one of the best places to hear live Celtic music and discover Gaelic culture in Nova Scotia, the destination is known for its warm, welcoming locals and vibrant culture.
If you visit the unique settlement in the fall, you can attend the Celtic Colours Music Festival, whet your whistle at a whisky tasting at the Glenora Distillery, and explore the famous fall colours of Cabot Trail.
Located on the northern shore of the St. Lawrence River, Baie-Saint-Paul is a remote town in Quebec that is roughly a 90-minute journey north of Quebec City by train or car. Surrounded by mountains, the beautiful destination is known for its gastronomy, arts, and breathtaking vistas.
There are also numerous activities to enjoy, such as whale watching excursions on the river, an agronomy tour to experience the local food producers, an art tour to explore unique local art installations, and hiking at Parc National Des Grands-Jardins.
Cowboy Trail, Alberta
Alberta Provincial Highway No. 22 is officially named Cowboy Trail and is known for the stunning fall colours covering its vast farmlands and rolling hills. During autumn, Fresh Tracks notes that visitors can also see the Rockies' first snowy peaks in the distance. The destination is ideal for folks looking to try their hand at a working farm ranch or simply stay at a guest ranch.
Travellers can visit local wineries and distilleries like the Spirit Hills Winery and the Eau Clair Distillery, explore the Bar U Ranch Historic Site and the Waterton National Park, and watch cowboys drive cattle through the foothills. Also, the CBC TV show Heartland was filmed in various locations in the area.
There is also no shortage of places to go horseback riding and the trails offer sublime vistas of the rugged Rocky Mountains surrounding the sprawling golden prairies.
Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia
Comprised of a jaw-dropping 6.4 million hectares, the Great Bear Rainforest is one of the most breathtaking destinations on earth. The temperature rainforest is home to a plethora of wildlife, including humpback whales, orcas, grizzly bears, eagles, otters, salmon, cougars, mountain goats, Sitka deer, coastal wolves, and the rare, cream-coloured Kermode bear, or spirit bear.
One of the most popular travel activities is grizzly bear viewing expeditions, where travellers stay in a remote "fly-in floating lodge for an authentic west coast experience." You can also stay in Campbell River and take a day trip into the Great Bear Rainforest with a local First Nations guide.