What are our best options for a late-summer vacation in Canada?
That golden window between now and the fleece-clad heart of fall is my favourite time for late-breaking Canada trips. Accommodation deals kick in, attractions are unfettered by mewling kids and titanic tour groups, and the weather can sometimes echo mid-summer’s heady heights.
But while most of the country remains inviting to Labour Day and beyond, some spots stand out for those keen to extend the August vacation vibe.
Festival-wise, travel-worthy highlights include the tasty Roots, Rants and Roars in Elliston, Nfld., (rootsrantsandroars.ca); hipster-hugging Rifflandia in Victoria (rifflandia.com); and the always-entertaining Vancouver Fringe Festival (vancouverfringe.com).
Then there’s Montreal, which rarely lets weather derail its uninhibited revelry. Consider Festival Flamenco Montreal (festivalflamencodemontreal.org); Pop Montreal (popmontreal.com); or – for all your Tribble-stroking needs – Montreal Comiccon (montrealcomiccon.com), with guest stars that include Patrick Stewart and Matt Smith.
But the raison d’être of many late-summer trips is to take that final kick at the outdoors before the cold creeps in. For grand hikes without peak season crowds (i.e., tourists in flip-flops), this is a good time to hit the Rockies, Yukon or the Maritimes’ coastal trails. Just be sure to pack for any weather eventualities.
As fall begins, there’s also top wildlife-watching to be had, with bears fattening for hibernation and puffed-up elk clashing in full-on rutting mode. For choice sightings, hit Banff and Jasper by car (Icefields Parkway recommended) or take a guided trek via operators such as Jasper Tour Company (jaspertourcompany.com). As the season rolls on, migrating birds also make for some eye-popping spectacles. Borrow someone’s binoculars and hit avian hotspots such as Ontario’s Point Pelee or Alberta’s Beaverhill Lake.
If you want to do more than just wave your camera at the outdoors, some Parks Canada campgrounds stay open throughout September. But rather than shivering under the stars, this is the time to try snagging one of those cabins, yurts or oTENTik tent huts that are always booked solid in July and August (see reservation.parkscanada.gc.ca for availability and bookings).
If you’d rather enjoy the scenery with very little effort, consider hunkering in a cosy train carriage on a crowd-free Via Rail jaunt: The delightful Jasper to Prince Rupert and Montreal to Halifax routes are recommended. If you’re flexible, Via’s website posts late-breaking bargains at viarail.ca/deals.
Hotel specials also abound in ski resorts at this time of year – ideal if you’re happy to swap skiing for nature hikes and cycling. Enjoy the restaurants and village ambience without the crowds at destinations from Whistler to Mont-Tremblant.
This is also a good time of year to polish off all those cities on your Canada bucket list. August can be hot in Winnipeg, for example, but it’s generally more pleasant in September. Check out its huge Thin Air International Writers Festival (thinairwinnipeg.ca) or the about-to-open Canadian Museum for Human Rights (humanrights.ca).
Winnipeg isn’t the only city worth hitting, of course. Downtown Ottawa, Victoria and Quebec City can be jam-packed with tourists in summer, but are much calmer as September unfolds. Consider adding an illuminating experience in each via Tours By Locals (toursbylocals.com).
Tours are handy, but independent road-tripping is ideal for stretching your summer hols. How about a get-away-from-it-all Vancouver Island weave, including Tofino, Telegraph Cove and a Free Spirit Spheres tree house sleepover (freespiritspheres.com)? Or perhaps a leisurely amble via the wineries, farmers’ markets and fruit stands of Niagara or the Okanagan?
For a more substantial diet, though, head east. Driving around Prince Edward Island is a great way to forget work and hang on to a holiday state of mind. And when you’re hungry for a pit-stop, drop into one of the finger-licking events at the local Fall Flavours Festival (fallflavours.ca).
OUR READERS WRITE
- I think that one of the best kept secrets in Canada, for a late summer vacation (and I hesitate to give out this secret) is the Shuswap Lake in central British Columbia. This lake boasts over 1,100 km of shoreline and is over 600 feet deep in places. The lake itself is framed by mountains, which can only be better appreciated with a house-boat ride. Ken J Smith
- We recently returned from a five-day trip to the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region of Quebec. It’s a great area for family or adventure vacations with tons of activities to please all the senses. Just a few highlights: La Grand Chute in Laniel – a mighty rush of water with a viewing platform; visiting La Fromage au Village in Lorrainville to taste freshly made cheddar cheese, biking around Lake Osisko in Rouyn-Noranda. Steve Gillick
- One week in PEI – plenty of golf, beaches, Cavendish for the children and Charlottetown. In Charlottetown there is a 100-year celebration of the 1864 Charlottetown conference and helping Canadians remember a little of their History. Donna Firman
- Hornby Island [B.C.] – still lots of summer left there, with fewer crowds. @margymaclibrary
- South Shore in Nova Scotia. Love the rocky beaches and early morning fog – and that most of the tourists have gone. Plus: fresh lobster and scallops. @Whistlersnowpig
- Niagara Peninsula. It’s that time of year when produce is in season and the food is fantastic! Bonus: great wine. @fraueibl
- Days are long. Sun is out. Wildlife is out. RVs are gone. Yukon and NWT make for great late-summer adventures. @ehCanadaTravel
- Grand Manan Island in New Brunswick to see the whales! @LisaGribbons
- Osoyoos in the Okanagan Desert [B.C.]. Sparkly wine tours, leisurely atmosphere and beautiful landscape. @angelabsurdist
- Killarney Provincial Park in Ontario. Great hiking, canoeing and pink granite rocks. Hike “The Crack!” @CarolynBHeller
- I’m going to Vernon [B.C.]. I hear summer is still there – also family. @sarabynoe
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