Ever since Europeans first arrived, hungry for new frontiers to conquer, Canada has had a reputation for being a land of extremes. A vast landmass with diverse environments, and of course the gateway to the Arctic, Canada is a haven for those in search of ‘roads less travelled’. Whether you’re eager to make your own natural discoveries or simply want to get away from it all, Canada is the perfect destination.
So, to find out which of the country’s many incredible places are considered the best remote places to visit, we reached out to bloggers and local travel experts to find the top secluded holiday locations in Canada.
St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador
What we now know as Newfoundland and Labrador was one of the first parts of Canada to be reached by non-natives, and so it holds a special place as one of the country’s most remote reaches. At the far eastern corner of the country, the province was once most easily reached by sea, but for locals in the more populous areas of Canada such as Vancouver and Toronto, it is quite a journey.
Gillian from the Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism Board explains that “The nice thing about Newfoundland and Labrador is seclusion is everywhere. You can be in downtown St. John’s and literally walk to Quidi Vidi Village which used to be a fishing outport. You can walk up Signal Hill on your lunch break and sit at Lady’s Lookout and not see anything but the horizon.”
St. John’s is the perfect destination for those looking to ease themselves into an experience of remote Canadian nature. Here, explore the famous Cabot Tower with a phenomenal view over the North Atlantic Ocean, or hike the North Head Trail along the Narrows of the harbour and into the vibrant cliffside community of the Battery. Signal Hill is also worth visiting. This famous landmark once served as a point on which signalmen surveyed the ocean for ships heading towards St John’s Port. Situated right at the eastern point of St John’s, the hill is as fascinating for its history as it is tranquil, nestled on the coastal cliffs. Standing here and staring out at the sea, you will feel at one with the ocean as humpback whales breech in the gentle waves.
Nunavut was the final region in Canada to be named as a territory. Leading up to the Arctic, there are few places in the world as impressively remote as this. As Sara Tomson from Nunavut Tourism explains, “You feel this amazing sense of freedom on the land in Nunavut, the silence here is like nowhere else! There are few rules and miles and miles of tundra to explore.”
“Inuit culture, floe edge tours, epic hiking, Northwest Passage cruises, aurora watching, dogsledding, ski touring, snowmobiling, kayaking, canoeing and kite skiing are among the activities available to enjoy in this remote expanse of land.”
One of the top recommendations for remote areas in Nunavut to explore is the community of Pangnirtung. Sara comments, “Nowhere else in the Arctic is the absolute majesty of the land, and the rhythms of Inuit life as accessible as Pangnirtung. Also known as Pangniqtuuq in Inuktitut, meaning ‘place of bull caribou’, it is the southern community gateway to Auyuittuq National Park.” The hamlet is located on Baffin Island, leading onto serene lakes. No roads lead to Pangnirtung, so the only way to reach the hamlet is by plane. But, when you arrive, you can venture into Auyittuq National Park and even visit Mount Thor – which boasts the world’s largest vertical drop.
Fernie, British Columbia
There are idyllic, untouched areas to explore all across Canada, and British Columbia in particular is known for its varied environment, full of stunning landscapes. Mike Cotton is a former journalist from the UK, currently dreaming of life in the mountains whilst writing his blog, Nomads on the Road. He has travelled extensively in some of the more untouched regions of Canada, and says:
“For me, one of the best secluded holiday locations in Canada is Island Lake Lodge in Fernie, British Columbia. Nestled in the higher reaches of the Lizard Range and next door to Fernie Alpine Resort, Island Lake Lodge is a backcountry ski and snowboard operation in the winter. In the summer, the lodge transforms into a hiking, mountain biking, fly-fishing and wedding destination. There is nothing I enjoy more than hiking one of the incredible, uncrowded trails around the lodge, before returning for a tasty beer on the deck as the sunsets.”
Fernie itself is a gorgeous city, a gem in the Elk Valley area of the East Kootenay Region. Nestled among the Rocky Mountains, the city is the perfect destination for those looking for a base from which to go about exploring more remote areas. Within easy reach are Mount Hosmer, the Three Sisters mountains and the Lizard Range, as well as Coal Creek. Here, small-town tranquillity meets wilderness adventure, with plenty of opportunities for skiing or simply taking in the luscious forests of Coal Creek Heritage Trail.
The Northwest Passage
Perhaps the most famous piece of once-unchartered territory is the Northwest Passage. This sea route connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Arctic Ocean, and European explorers tried to tackle it for many centuries. Since Norwegian expeditioner Roald Amundsen made the first complete passage between 1903 and 1906, the Passage has become a bucket list destination for the most intrepid of travellers.
Sara suggests exploring the area via Destination Nunavut’s “An Adventure In History — Explore the Northwest Passage” excursion. Here, she says, visitors can explore “The path of history to the legendary passage through the High Arctic where so many sought gold and glory.” She continues, “The Vikings first reached Ellesmere and Ruin Islands to hunt and trade with the local Dorset Inuit before the Little Ice Age began in 1300. Then a parade of colonial explorers from both east and west attempted to find the elusive route – Captains Cook, Cabot, Sir Francis Drake, Frobisher, Gilbert, Bering and Hudson, Beechey and Parry and then Franklin. Many left their names – and their graves – on the land but none completed the passage.” Would you join the ranks of the world’s bravest explorers and brave the Northwest Passage for yourself?
Atlin, British Columbia
Ron Mitchell, a travel blogger from Ron Mitchell Adventure who has experienced some of the world’s most unseen locations, from Mount Roraima in Venezuela to the Sahara Desert, also recommends British Columbia. When on holiday on the west coast, he visited the village of Atlin, in the northwest corner of British Columbia. He comments:
“I’m glad that we took a sixty-mile detour off the Alcan to visit the small village of Atlin, B.C. The name means ‘Big Lake.’ The Llewellyn Glacier overlooks this largest natural freshwater lake in British Columbia. Stroll past wooden churches and a 78-foot wooden boat built in 1917 during the gold rush period. We returned to Atlin the following year and had a great time with friendly people enjoying the Atlin Arts and Music Festival, which takes place annually around the first week of July.”
In this quaint, remote village you will be repeatedly taken aback by the beauty of the glacial-fed Atlin Lake, framed by snow-capped mountains in a truly postcard-perfect view. This is the perfect place for a real escape – only three to five hundred people live in Atlin, there is no phone signal, and the nearest large towns are Whitehorse, Yukon or Skagway, Alaska. However, this was not always the case – during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898, around 10,000 people lived in the tiny area! Today, intensive mining has been replaced by a close-knit community of artists, craftspeople and authors, making the village even more magical.
Ivvavik National Park, Yukon Territory
Bordering Alaska, it’s no surprise that Yukon Territory encompasses some of the most isolated and untouched areas of Canada. While many visitors stay in the city of Whitehorse, or visit Kluane National Park and Reserve to witness Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak, there are plenty other equally inspiring landscapes to be seen in the territory.
Guy Thériault, Travel Media Relations official at Parks Canada, has a particular favourite – Ivvavik National Park. Located far to the North of the Yukon Territory, near the Alaska border, this is one of the furthest reaches of Canada. Guy explains what makes this natural wilderness so memorable:
“The scenery, the views and the cultural hosts all play a tremendous role in your journey to this remote national park. However, reaching the summit of your midnight hike on the summer solstice and watching your shadow stretch out over the mountain range during the 24-hour sunlight will make you realize just how small we actually are.”
Ivvavik National Park was also the first national park to be created in Canada due to an aboriginal land claim agreement – by the Inuvialuit people – making it a symbol of Canada’s strives towards diplomacy and reconciliation with First Nations communities in the last decades. Parks Canada’s Base Camp Experience is one brilliant way to see Ivvavik. Reaching the park by bush plane, you will be able to see wildlife including the rare Porcupine caribou herd, timber wolves, grizzly and black bears, Alaskan moose, Arctic foxes and many more. Camping under the midnight sun, you will feel in a world entirely your own.
If you want to extend your explorations even further, why not consider embarking on an unforgettable cruise to Alaska? Canada’s neighbour is one of the most highly-recommended trips to take, which never fails to stun even the most experienced of travellers like Ron. Seeing the major sites like Juneau and the Mendenhall Glacier are a must, but there are also some lesser-traveller areas waiting to be discovered. If you’re looking to experience a little of everything Alaska has to offer, Ron recommends visiting Haines. He describes:
“Glaciers, waterfalls, ocean-filled fjords, rivers, bears, moose, eagles, and an array of birds await. Humpback and killer whales can be spotted in the Lynn Canal, along with porpoises and seals. Many “Yukoners” drive the one road that leads to Haines on holiday to camp, fish, and frolic in the frigid ocean. Over 3500 bald eagles converge here each November to feed on the final salmon run on the North American Continent.”
Situated between the Chilkoot and Chilkat Inlets, Haines is the perfect place from which to explore dramatic scenery in areas like Glacier Bay National Park, full of everything from deep glacial fjords to towering mountain peaks, and the Haines State Forest. Ride a boat into inlets, coves and hidden harbours, or hike through verdant coastal forests. As Ron says, “Just to sit in the fresh air and stare at numerous the glaciers in jagged mountains, surrounded by a temperate rainforest is enough to calm any outdoor enthusiast.”
Image credits: Fritz Mueller (Parks Canada)