Canada is home to thousands of islands, many of which are wonderful locations to visit on a holiday to Canada. With stunning scenery, top attractions, and lovely accommodation options, deciding to visit a Canadian island or two is an easy decision. In this guide, we highlight some of the major islands in Canada that you should consider visiting. Given the sheer number of islands in the country, we can hardly mention them all, but hopefully, this introduction will give you a little insight into just some of what is available.

Cape Breton Island

Cape Breton Highlands National Park of Canada
Cape Breton, Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia

Cape Breton Island sits at the eastern end of the province of Nova Scotia and is certainly one of Canada’s most incredible islands. With a population of 132,000 people, this island on the Atlantic coast is a true natural beauty and is popular with many for its sublime outdoor attractions. With its epic coastline and mountainous highland backdrop, scenic drives, and delicious seafood offerings, it takes some beating as a setting for a holiday in Canada.

Things to do on Cape Breton Island

The Cabot Trail is perhaps the most famous of Cape Breton’s attractions; a 185-mile scenic drive that is renowned for being one of the most gorgeous stretches of road anywhere in North America. With a car hire in Canada, you can explore the Cabot Trail yourself, pulling over to discover the island’s beaches, hiking trails, epic viewpoints, charming towns, and natural attractions like Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

Beyond the delights just mentioned, there are also sports like kayaking and ice fishing to look forward to, the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site – a wonderful reconstruction of an 18th-century French fortress, now turned into a living history museum, a Celtic music centre, lighthouses, the Bras d'Or Lake, as well as other museums and historic sites.

Jenna, from the blog, There’s a Shoe for That, has visited Cape Breton Island herself on multiple occasions, and has described what she enjoyed when speaking to us: “When you cross the causeway and find yourself on Cape Breton island you have entered a whole new world. Surrounded by beautiful landscapes, ocean vistas, saltwater lakes that boast world-famous sailing and views of the Alexander Graham Bell Mansion; there is truly something to discover at every turn. I love the variety Cape Breton offers as well as the quaint atmosphere. The Celtic Shores Coastal Trail (perfect for biking with children in a buggy or walking), the Skyline Trail, Chimney Corner Beach, The Fortress of Louisbourg, Cape Smokey Gondolas, sailing on the Bras D'Or Lake and the Baddeck Boardwalk are only a few of the many gems available throughout the island.

“Use the ferries, stop at all of the lookouts and experience the wonder Cape Breton has to offer.”

READ ALSO: What are the top stops along the Cabot Trail?

Vancouver Island

Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, BC

Located off Canada’s Pacific coast, Vancouver Island is one of British Columbia’s finest gems, which is saying something as the province has a true abundance of treasures at its disposal. 283 miles long, 62 miles wide, Vancouver Island is the largest island by area and population on the west coast of the Americas. The capital of British Columbia, Victoria, is located on Vancouver Island, along with spectacular national parks which provide a wonderful natural backdrop of lakes, rainforest, mountains, and beaches.

Things to do on Vancouver Island

During your time on Vancouver Island, you could stop by BC’s capital city, Victoria, with its harbour, parliament buildings, restaurants, museums, parkland, and outdoor activities. You can visit the majestic Pacific Rim National Park in Tofino, home to a rainforest of giant trees, fascinating wildlife, hiking trails, indigenous cultural history, marine life, and epic surfing off its seemingly endless beaches.

Butchart Gardens will delight gardeners of all stripes, the goats of Old Country Market won’t fail to intrigue, and when you combine all of the above with whale watching, myriad walking routes, an alpine ski resort, and the most wonderful scenery, there’s plenty to keep visitors entertained during a visit.

Bonnie, from the family and travel blog The Koala Mom, has lived in Vancouver Island and shared with us some of the joys she believes visitors can look forward to: “Vancouver Island is a large island on Canada's west coast that offers abundant fun and adventure for the whole family. In the four years we lived there, we really only explored the southern tip, around the capital city of Victoria. It actually takes about seven hours to drive from Victoria on the south end to Port Hardy on the north end. In between are numerous mountains, lakes, beaches, campgrounds, towns, markets, etc.

“As a family, we enjoyed biking and hiking trails together, exploring beaches and catching crabs, checking out murals and totem poles and museums, attending live theatre, camping, swimming in lakes and the ocean, and more. While some parts of the island are more isolated and harder to get to (think the very scenic San Josef Bay on the north tip or the famous West Coast Trail), other activities are conveniently close to the cities and towns of the southeast coast (such as the Royal BC Museum for history buffs or the renowned Butchart Gardens for flower lovers).”

READ ALSO: Top places to visit on Vancouver Island

Prince Edward Island

Sunset at Covehead Harbour Lighthouse, PEI
Sunset at Covehead, Harbour lighthouse, PEI

Going back to Canada’s eastern coast, Prince Edward Island, located just off New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, is yet another island gem that demands exploration. More than just an island, Prince Edward Island (or PEI) is also one of Canada’s thirteen provinces and territories, signalling its important place among Canada’s array of destinations to visit. Known for its beautiful red-sand beaches, iconic lighthouses, and world-class seafood, as well as the capital city of Charlottetown, PEI has all the makings of a perfect holiday destination.

Things to do on Prince Edward Island

One of Prince Edward Island’s biggest claims to fame is certainly being the setting of the Anne of Green Gables novels. Today visitors can transport themselves into the story by visiting the Green Gables Heritage Place, a 19th-century farm and historic house. Many also flock to PEI to enjoy a lovely break on the coast, relaxing on its gorgeous sandy beaches, going for scenic coastal walks, and sitting down to more than a few meals of the most beautiful seafood you can hope for.

Further still, Prince Edward Island is known for its national park with coastline, wildlife watching, historic buildings, and various outdoor activities. The colourful and charming city of Charlottetown feels more like a small town than a bustling metropolis, boasting a fabulous arts scene as well as historic sites. There are terrific coastal drives to enjoy as well on PEI, with the likes of Point Prim Lighthouse being one attraction not to miss.

Mark, from the travel blog Wolters World, enjoyed visiting Prince Edward Island, sharing with us: “Our family really enjoyed the relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere of PEI, not to mention the incredible food we had along the way. We listened to Anne of Green Gables on the drive to PEI; and by visiting the home, and all the fun that goes along with it, made it a family trip we still talk about.”

READ ALSO: 8 reasons why you should visit Atlantic Canada

Other islands to visit

Rainforest, Haida Gwaii BC
Rainforest, Haida Gwaii, BC

The above are just a few of the many amazing islands that Canada has to offer but below we highlight a handful of the other wonderful island locations that will make excellent additions to any Canada holiday.

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island is located in the Salish Sea between the mainland of British Columbia and Vancouver Island. With a brilliant local food and wine scene, artistic community, and fantastic hiking trails, Salt Spring Island is an amazing place to be, with a chilled, easy-going vibe that encourages visitors to relax and enjoy a slice of BC island life.

Baffin Island

Baffin Island is located in Nunavut, the largest and northernmost territory of Canada. Its location gives Baffin Island its own distinct feel, with this remote land sporting vistas of snow, ice, mountains, and glaciers. Baffin Island is the largest island in Canada, and the fifth-largest in the world; a place for adventure and encounters with Canada’s incredible wildlife - polar bears included.

Manitoulin Island

Manitoulin Island is the largest freshwater island in the world, situated in Lake Huron in lovely Ontario. Manitoulin Island is a true natural gem, a stress-free getaway, home to over a hundred lakes itself, and an awesome collection of scenic outdoor activities such as canoeing, fishing, and hiking set amidst outstanding natural beauty and First Nations communities.

READ ALSO: Pow Wows & Aboriginal Heritage on Manitoulin Island

Haida Gwaii

British Columbia has a host of excellent islands and one that certainly deserves a mention is Haida Gwaii, a remarkable location of unique wildlife, culture, and awe-inspiring environments. This beautiful archipelago is home to a treasure trove of wildlife, a temperate rainforest, and centuries-old totem poles. Haida Gwaii is home to the Haida Nation, an indigenous people who have lived in these parts for nearly 13,000 years.

What are Canada’s biggest islands?

Rank Island Size (sq miles) Population Location
1 Baffin Island 195,928 13,148 Nunavut
2 Victoria Island 83,897 2,162 Northwest Territories, Nunavut
3 Ellesmere Island 75,767 191 Nunavut
4 Newfoundland 42,030 492,519 Newfoundland and Labrador
5 Banks Island 27,038 113 Northwest Territories
6 Devon Island 21,331 0 Nunavut
7 Axel Heiberg Island 16,671 0 Nunavut
8 Melville Island 16,274 0 Northwest Territories, Nunavut
9 Southampton Island 15,913 891 Nunavut
10 Prince of Wales Island 12,872 0 Nunavut

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