North American Neighbors: 7 Canada Vacation Ideas for Summer
Looking for a summer getaway that's off the beaten path? Look no further than our friendly neighbors to the north—Canada! With its breathtaking natural beauty and diverse cultural experiences, this expansive country offers something for just about every kind of adventurer. From the majestic Rocky Mountains to vibrant cities to charming coastal resort towns, if you’re looking for an unforgettable vacation destination beyond the borders of the United States, you’ll find it right here.
Canada's size and diversity can be overwhelming for first-time visitors. In fact, at over 3.855 million square miles, it’s nearly 2% larger than the entire U.S. But with a little planning and research, you can make the most of your trip and discover some of the country's most incredible experiences. The best part? A valid U.S. passport will grant citizens entry without any additional visa requirements for your visit. So why not lace up your hiking boots, grab your camera, and head toward the Great White North? Here, we've rounded up seven of the best vacation ideas across Canada you can experience this summer—and beyond.
Canada at a Glance
Canada is the second-largest country in the world (behind Russia), with 15 biologically diverse ecozones spread across its enormous land mass. The country is divided into 10 provinces and three territories, each with its own unique landscape and cultural identity. And with a population of just over 38 million people—or around 11% of that of the U.S.—the majority of Canadians live in urban areas such as Toronto and Vancouver, leaving vast amounts of natural wilderness from coast to coast.
Canada’s geography is incredibly diverse, ranging from rugged coastlines to towering mountains, vast prairies to dense forests, and everything in between. Home to over 30,000 lakes—including the stunning Great Lakes that we share in the northern U.S.—Canada is a paradise for water sports enthusiasts, from kayakers and boaters to swimmers and sunbathers.
Along both coasts, Canada's beaches are a surfer's paradise, with waves that can reach up to 30 feet in height. Some of the best surf spots can be found in Tofino, British Columbia, and Lawrencetown Beach, Nova Scotia. Canada is also a top destination for hikers, with 37 national parks and another 10 park reserves that afford unparalleled opportunities for outdoor adventure.
In addition to its natural beauty, Canada is known for its vibrant cities, each with its own unique culture and attractions. Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal are among the most popular destinations for travelers each year, with each offering a wide range of activities and experiences. Toronto is home to the iconic CN Tower and the stunning Toronto Islands, while Vancouver is known for its impressive parks and beaches, and Montreal is a cultural hub with a rich history and vibrant arts scene.
7 Vacation Ideas for Summer
Now that we've covered the basics of Canada's geography and diversity, let's dive into seven of the best summer vacation ideas that the country has to offer. From national parks to urban adventures, these destinations are perfect for families, solo travelers, and groups alike.
Banff National Park, Alberta
Perfect for families and outdoor enthusiasts, Banff National Park—Canada’s very first national park, in fact—offers breathtaking mountain views, crystal clear lakes, and numerous hiking trails. Visitors can also enjoy canoeing, fishing, and horseback riding. Come nightfall, you’ll find plenty of choices for where to lay your head, from staying in a cozy cabin to indulging in a luxury hotel. Don't forget to build in enough time to relax in the hot springs.
Vancouver Island, British Columbia
If you're looking for a coastal escape, head to the stunning Vancouver Island. This jaw-dropping natural destination is perfect for those who love the ocean, whether lounging on secluded beaches, hitting the open water, or spotting a variety of native wildlife. Go whale watching, set out on a scenic drive, try your hand at birding, or simply stroll along the shoreline. Here on Canada’s 11th largest island (the 43rd largest in the world), there are also plenty of charming towns to explore, each with its distinct personality.
Québec City, Quebec
As close to a European gem as you’re likely to find in North America, the historic hideaway known as Québec City is perfect for solo travelers as well as couples seeking a romantic getaway. Walk the cobblestone streets of Vieux-Québec (the old town), admire the beautiful architecture, and indulge in delicious French cuisine. Visitors should also leave plenty of time to take a stroll along the St. Lawrence River, and to visit the Chateau Frontenac. And while Québec City is a primarily French-speaking province, you’ll have no trouble navigating the city thanks to a number of English speakers, as well as clear signage and utterly warm hospitality.
For those who thrive on the unmistakable energy of big cities, Toronto is a must-visit. This multicultural city is full of exciting attractions, including the iconic CN Tower, a number of top-notch art and cultural museums, and an array of charming galleries and shops. Visit the famous Kensington Market, shop along trendy Queen Street West, and in the warmer months when it’s in season, be sure to round out your trip by catching a Blue Jays game at the Rogers Centre.
If you want a truly unique experience in Canada, head to the deep interior in Churchill, known as the "Polar Bear Capital of the World." This remote town on the dazzling shores of Hudson Bay is also home to thousands of beluga whales and polar bears, affording plenty of wildlife viewing along with a variety of outdoor pursuits. In the warmer months, enjoy a variety of natural experiences, from hiking to boating.
Prince Edward Island
Also known as PEI, this small island province truly packs a punch with its myriad outdoor offerings. It’s perfect for families seeking a charming and relaxing vacation, as well as for solo travelers looking to reconnect with nature. Travelers of every background and interest can enjoy the island’s signature laid-back coastal lifestyle, visit the Anne of Green Gables house, and indulge in fresh seafood. At night, rent a small cottage or retreat to a cozy bed and breakfast, where your hosts will pamper you at the end of a long day of exploring.
The Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia
A true must for nature lovers, this ultra-scenic drive is perfect for visitors and adventurers who enjoy winding road trips and stunning coastal views. The Cabot Trail winds through Cape Breton Island in a roughly 185-mile loop, offering breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, along with rugged cliffs, sweeping overlooks, and sleepy fishing villages where you can enjoy the fresh catch of the day while dining alfresco. Stop frequently throughout your drive for a scenic hike, an impromptu lighthouse visit, or a guided boating or kayaking excursion—many of which you’ll easily discover along the way.
Canada is accessible by air from many major cities in the United States, and chances are there’s a direct flight departing daily from an airport near you. Major Canadian cities such as Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal also offer direct flights from many international destinations.
Once in Canada, getting around really depends on where you’ve decided to go. In most places, travelers can easily rent a car, take public transportation, or book tours to explore the country.
Ready to Visit Our Neighbors to the North?
Canada is a beautiful country with endless possibilities for summer vacation adventures. From stunning natural landscapes to vibrant cities, there's something for every kind of traveler. But with such a vast amount of untamed wilderness, along with bustling cities brimming with outdoor activities, chances are you’ll be spending a lot of time outside. So pack your bags, grab your passport, and don’t forget to bring plenty of sunscreen! With that, you’re ready to venture north for an unforgettable adventure.