Work permit approved, flight booked, resume written, travel insurance purchased…time to start thinking about the fun stuff! I’ve been living in Canada for over four years now and these are my top seven Canadian experiences not to miss out on while you’re here:
1. Camp out by a lake and listen to the loons
Spending a weekend next to a lake is practically a right of passage in Canada. In the East, cottage country is all the rage but in my opinion, you need to be outside four solid walls to truly appreciate lakeside wilderness. Swimming, fishing, floating, paddling and making campfires by the lake are all quintessential Canadian summer experiences. Ever heard this haunting sound in the background of any movies or TV shows? Hearing your first real life loon (the bird, not a foolish person) call can be a slightly surreal, but awesome, experience.
2. Celebrate Canada Day
There are a LOT of public holidays in Canada (one almost every month in most provinces) but the biggest one, without a doubt, has to be Canada Day on July 1st. Coming from a country which has no national day, the idea of celebrating the birthday of a (recent) nation and everything fantastic about it felt a little strange at first. But it is awesome!
Seeing people decked out in red and white, toasting the incredibly beautiful and safe land of opportunity they live in…what a day! It’s a great occasion to be able to take a step back and appreciate Canada – alongside a couple of local beers and a barbeque of course.
3. Meet the locals
Canada wouldn’t be Canada without the Canadians in it. It sounds obvious, but it can be easy to get wrapped up in an expat or traveller bubble and meet few local people, especially if you live in a resort town or move to Canada as a couple/group. Canadians are polite, if not exceptionally friendly, in general, so it’s not too hard to make connections.
Websites like meetup.com are an easy way to meet people, especially in cities where it can be more difficult. Canada is an incredibly multicultural society and I have been lucky enough to meet people from so many different backgrounds and walks of life during my time here
Below: Moosehide Gathering, near Dawson City, Yukon
4. Winter sports
Canada does winter properly. After all, some of the best powder in the world can be found here. Flying down a hill on a plank of wood not your thing? No problem. How about ice skating, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, snowtubing, ice hockey, curling, tobogganing or some competitive snow sculpture building? And if none of this takes your fancy, you can enjoy watching other people doing crazy stuff at the many festivals and events taking place all over Canada in the darker months.
Below: Snowboarding at Apex Ski Resort, Penticton, BC
5. Local food and drink
Eat some poutine alongside a Caesar, followed by a Beavertail, Nanaimo Bar or Butter Tart. Though maybe not all at once! Canada may not be well known for its cuisine, but there are definitely some unique foods and drinks worth trying and enjoying while you’re here.
Not limited to Canada, but the home-grown wine and beer industry is also something to savour – Vancouver, for example, seems to have a new craft brewery opening every month. The Okanagan region in BC has over 120 wineries making everything from rich reds to delicate whites, plus sparkling and ice wines. It’s no coincidence that I also live in this area…
Below: Wineries nestled between mountains, Lillooet, BC
6. Paddle a canoe
I may be a little biased on this one as a lover of all things canoe, but there’s just something about getting back to the basics and exploring Canada’s waterways (and off the beaten track) in such a simple vessel. The canoe was the main means of transportation across Canada for the First Nation tribes and then again for the fur traders in the 1700’s. Canada would not be the place we know it today without the humble canoe.
Fast forward to today and so many of our favourite places in Canada have been reached by canoe and I couldn’t imagine my experience here being complete without paddling one.
Below: Paddling on Okanagan Lake, Penticton, BC
7. Go hiking
Canada is an incredible country with seemingly endless wilderness – I’ve already suggested getting into a canoe to explore it, but something even easier to do is to just start walking. Whether it is a quick half an hour stroll off the highway to a viewpoint or an epic five-day backpacking trip in the Rockies, Canada has hundreds of hikes to suit every ability and ambition. I had never been on a walk longer than a few hours before I moved to Canada, but now I dream of overnight trips to remote lakes and mountain ridges, to secret waterfalls and rustic campsites with incredible vistas.
Below: Cathedral Provincial Park, BC
Heading to Canada soon? Check out my IEC Application Guide and travel insurance lowdown posts, plus the Ultimate Guide to a Working Holiday in Canada eBook