How to pack a little history into your Canadian vacation.

Deidre Plotnick July 27, 2020
A cannon firing at historic Fortress Louisbourg in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.
Canada may only be turning 153 years this year, but our country is packed with all kinds of fascinating historical sites to visit.  Whether you’re just planning day trips around your home province or are venturing a little farther afield, here (arranged loosely from East to West) are some interesting historical sites you may want to include visiting on your travels. 

L’Anse Aux Meadows - Newfoundland and Labrador.

Travel back in time to where Vikings once stood when they landed in “the new world” 1,000 years ago. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, L’Anse Aux Meadows is North America’s only authenticated Norse site. Immerse yourself back in Viking times by trying your hand at blacksmithing or weaving, learning how to throw an axe, taking a pottery lesson, or wandering around a replica Viking ship. Guides bring history to life as they share the heroic and tragic tales of Thor, Loki, Eric the Red and more.

L.M. Montgomery’s Home - Cavendish, Prince Edward Island.

If you read Anne of Green Gables books, then the site of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Cavendish House is not to be missed. It was here that author L.M. Montgomery penned all of her famous works, and now visitors can visit her home and many of the groves and pathways she wove into her books. The neighbouring Green Gables Heritage Place was the setting of her most famous Anne of Green Gables novel; here visitors can explore the original house and follow in the footstep of Montgomery’s feisty central character by strolling through the Haunted Wood and down Lover’s Lane.

Kejimkujik National Park - Nova Scotia.

If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the busy city, then head towards the peaceful serenity of Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site. Named for the Mi’kmaq word that is said to mean “land where fairies abound”, this area was deemed historic for its lush old forests, rare wildlife and traditional Mi’kmaq rivers and lakes. Today it’s a nirvana for those who love canoeing, hiking and kayaking. Take a guided tour and discover the petroglyphs or stone carvings made by native inhabitants on slate along the shore, thousands of years ago.
A boardwalk winding through the Hemlocks and Hardwoods Trail in Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Fortress of Louisbourg - Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.

Visit the fortress that took engineers nearly three decades to build, and journey back to French colonial life between 1713 and 1758. While its towering walls fell during the battle in 1758, the Fortress of Louisbourg was restored in the 1960s, making it the largest reconstructed 18th century French fortified town in North America. Today visitors can wander through the spectacular fortress, along walking trails and fishing wharves and experience great food, music and theatre.

Fortifications of Québec - Québec City, Québec.

The Fortifications of Québec refer to the massive stone walls surrounding the old city of Québec. As the only North American ramparts with its original bastions, gates and defense works still intact, this area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.  Stroll the narrow, winding cobblestone streets of Old Québec and discover the boutiques and galleries at Place Royal & Petit-Champlain, the picturesque Old Port and charming Rue Saint-Jean. Whatever you do, be sure to try a crepe!

Chateau Frontenac - Québec City, Québec.

The majestic Chateau Frontenac is located in the heart of the old city and is one of Canada’s most historic landmarks. Its storied past included it being headquarters for the British during the Seven Years’ War; it then housed the administrative offices of the French and British colonial governments for the city. Years later, the President of CP Rail chose it as the location for a majestic hotel, hoping it would entice upscale travellers to travel on his new rail lines. Wander the grand interior and if budget permits, stay a night or two, like Grace Kelly of Monaco, President Charles de Gaulle and Queen Elizabeth II did.
Panoramic view of Old Quebec City, highlighting the Chateau Frontenac hotel.

Rideau Canal - Ottawa, Ontario.

This is one UNESO Heritage Site that you’ll want to come back and explore on ice skates, come winter, because that’s when the canal turns into a 7.8 kilometre-long skating rink. Spanning 202 kilometres between the Ottawa River and Lake Ontario with 47 working locks, The Rideau Canal is the oldest operated canal system in North America. Come Summer, visitors can travel through the canal locks by boat or stay ashore and fish, cycle, hike, camp in one of the nearby provincial parks and conservation areas. There’s also all of the culture in the nation’s capital to explore.
Locks on the Rideau Canal, with boardwalks on both sides and Chateau Laurier hotel in background.

Canadian Parliament Buildings - Ottawa, Ontario.

No trip to our nation’s capital would be complete without a visit to the House of Commons and the Senate, where our government conducts the business that runs our country. While their permanent homes in the Centre Block are undergoing a massive 10-year renovation, the Senate of Canada is temporarily located in Ottawa’s extensively renovated Union train station; The House of Commons has temporarily relocated to a beautiful glass-roofed courtyard in the West Block. Visitors can watch the proceedings at either the Senate and/or the House of Commons from the gallery, seats are on a first-come basis. Check the website for more information about booking one of the informative free guided tours.

Terry Fox Memorial - Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Pay tribute to the courageous young one-legged runner with the dream to run a coast-to-coast “Marathon of Hope” in order to raise funds to support cancer research.  The 9-foot bronze Terry Fox Memorial statue is situated not far from where Terry was forced to cut his run short, when his cancer returned. While Terry succumbed to cancer in 1981, his legacy lives on. To date, more than $700 million has been raised for cancer research, in his name.

Fort Garry Hotel - Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Not many historic sites come with ghosts…but room #202 in this landmark hotel is said to be haunted. Built in 1913 by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, the Fort Garry Hotel was originally deemed the “new castle of opulence”. From a Maitre D’ who was originally a circus magician to the hundreds of celebrities who stayed there over the decades, the chateau-style hotel has a rich and storied past.

Batoche National Historic Site - Saskatchewan.

Journey back through time to learn about life on the prairies in the 1800s. Located along the South Saskatchewan River, Batoche is where the last battle of the Métis resistance took place in 1885. The bullet holes, rifle pits and gravestones remain as reminders of the battle, and the knowledgeable staff in authentic costumes help fill in the story and bringing history to life. Rent a bike or canoe down the river to experience this historic spot from a different perspective.

Dinosaur Provincial Park - Alberta.

Explore a place where 75 million years ago the climate was subtropical, reptile flew above great flowing rivers and colossal dinosaurs roamed the land. Today, Dinosaur Provincial Park is  a UNESCO Heritage Site where 150 complete dinosaur skeletons - the largest collection in the world - have been unearthed for the public to marvel over. The sculpted badlands that were formed by the great rivers that flowed so long ago are equally fascinating. Take a guided hike,  follow a marked trail, or go “glamping” in one of the “Comfort Camps”… whichever you choose, it’s sure to be unforgettable.
Ancient rock formations in Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta.

Yoho National Park - British Columbia.

You’d expect a place that’s named for the cree expression of awe and wonder to be pretty spectacular, and Yoho National Park doesn’t disappoint. Sculpted by glaciers from the ice age, the park’s vertical rocks, ancient rock formations, waterfalls and soaring peaks offer unprecedented views of Canadians wonders, making it well worth the visit. Hike to a 500,000 million year old fossil bed, travel the mountain pass that linked the West with the rest of the country, take a guided conservation hike, stay in a backcountry campground. You may even cross paths with a grizzly bear or a moose!

Dawson City -Yukon Territory.

Did somebody say Gold Rush? Then this must be Dawson City, where the Klondike Gold Rush once thrived, and where an active gold mine and a bustling arts scene attract thousands of visitors annually. 17 historically significant buildings in the city have been preserved by Parks Canada, and these have been supplemented with false-fronted buildings, modest cabins and Victorian style opulence to help create a picturesque Dawson streetscape that you can explore on your own, or on a guided tour. 
View of main street with shops built in style of Klondike gold-rush in Dawson, Yukon.
Between our fascinating history and our magnificent natural wonders, Canada has so much to discover, and summer is the perfect time to go out and explore it. Little wonder so many tourists cross our borders to explore the place Canadians are lucky enough to call home.

Need help planning your route? CAA Travel can help with hotel bookings, RV and car rentals.  If you’re a CAA Member you can take advantage of free TripTiks® and guidebooks to help you plan where to stay, eat and sites to visit along the way. Be sure to bring your CAA Membership card because it will send great savings and perks your way when you use it at participating partners. Don’t forget, your CAA Membership means you can travel with the peace of mind that comes with 24/7 Roadside Assistance. Not a CAA Member? Before you take a road trip is the perfect time to join. Safe travels…wherever you’re headed!