It is not very wide but fairly deep and very long, holding four lovely lakes in its 260-kilometre course. It is filled with history – the Cree and Saulteaux journey here, General Middleton crossed it on his way to Batoche – and peppered with birds and wildlife and beaches and vistas so lovely you are forever pulling over to take a photograph to prove such a place exists in what most people wrongly believe to be a prairie of such sameness. Stop when you are racing across this country and you will find things you never imagined possible –this is but one.
Come in winter, when there is hoarfrost, and you will think you have entered a magical kingdom. Come in summer, when the flax is in bloom, and you will find a blue that makes the Mediterranean pale by comparison. Come in fall, after or during harvest, and you will see browns in the fields and along the slopes that are as soft and restful to the eye as a good night's sleep.
Come any time, and stop, and if you stare long enough, you will know what this province's Sharon Butala meant when she asked, “What other landscape around the world produces the mystic psyche so powerfully?”
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New Brunswick St. Andrews by-the-Sea Christie Blatchford
Within three days of my first visit to St. Andrews by-the-Sea, N.B., last summer, I was putting in an offer on a beautiful blue house.
The deal fell through – I am rather grateful, given that I already own one century-old house in downtown Toronto and the last thing I needed was another one halfway across the country – but such is the nature of St. Andrews that the people who ended up buying the blue house promptly invited me to come and stay with them on my next trip.
That gives you the essence of the place. It's small enough that people know who owned what house when (and even who made offers). More important, tucked in on Passamaquoddy Bay, St. Andrews holds out the promise of a sweeter, quieter life. People talk about how lovely the town is, and it is, but what I most like about it is that it inspires even the casual visitor to behave better, to be more mannerly and to be more easily satisfied with smaller pleasures.
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Nova Scotia Bay St. Lawrence Stephanie Nolen
The single loveliest, most magical place in Canada, the place I head for as fast as I can on every trip home, is Bay St. Lawrence, on the northernmost tip of Cape Breton.
It's breathtaking at any time of year: in January, when we snowshoe through huge powdery drifts into the woods at night and lie in the clearings and the stars are close enough to grab; in March, when the seafront fills with groaning, heaving “drift ice” wending its way down from the north, and the brave kids leap between the berg-bits; in July, when the sea is sapphire, and if you sit quietly on the cliffs, you can hear the whales breathe below you; in October, when the maple leaves paint the hills a thousand colours, and in November, when the suete blows in, blows so hard you throw your arms and head back and feel blown clean.
I love the wide, white sweep of beach at South Harbour – love to plunge into the swift-moving creeks that are icy with mountain runoff even in August and tumble us down into the sea. I love the old, abandoned pioneer cemeteries, where mossy tombstones record tragedies of diphtheria and scarlet fever and so many deaths in childbirth.
I love the fiddle concerts and gooey homemade squares at the Bay St. Lawrence Community Centre. I love the awkward, startled moose we bump into on walks in the woods. I love the warmth of the wood stove in February blizzards. I love the festivities on the first day of fishing in May when everyone parades their boat through the harbour and the priests of each denomination hurl holy water from the dock for the “blessing of the boats.”
I've been lucky enough to visit many marvelous corners of Canada, from Tuktoyaktuk to Vancouver Island to Newfoundland. We're rich in wonderful places. But nothing beats the Bay.
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British Columbia Lake O'Hara Lodge
Lake O'Hara Lodge is the reward you get for hiking 11 kilometres up a logging road from a parking lot halfway between Lake Louise and Field, B.C.