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Gifting Canada

A memorable trip excites the senses, whether you’re indulging in the taste of rich, buttery lobster in Nova Scotia, hearing a thundering waterfall cascade down a cliff in Québec or simply basking in the sights of a breathtaking mountain vista in Alberta.

Read on for 25 travel ideas inspired by iconic sensory experiences across Canada.

Gifting a sense of Atlantic Canada

With serene beaches, endless ocean, lively culture and one-of-a-kind expeditions by land and sea, Atlantic Canada offers something for every traveller. Foodies will relish the aroma of freshly grilled seafood and salivate over the taste of creative local dishes. Adventurers will feel the adrenaline rush of hiking, climbing, boating and diving. Scenery seekers will tour coastal roads or cut across The Big Land to view spectacular sunsets.

Consider gifting a trip to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador– where the senses come alive and every day brings along new stories to treasure.

Smell

Salty, algae-tinged ocean air

CapeRace (St.John’s, N.L.)

Even before you open your eyes, you’ll know you’re far removed from city life. The refreshing saltiness of the ocean air will tickle your nose and nudge you awake into a day of deep breaths and outdoor adventures. Beachcomb along the shoreline, hike a cliff-hugging trail, watch the waves, and enjoy the soul-soothing smell of the sea.

An eco-tourism company based in St. John’s, CapeRace offers custom trips that can include everything from hiking to boat tours and even culinary tastings. You’ll stay in an ocean-facing private cottage and settle in, whether that means chatting with your neighbours over some freshly-brewed tea or curling up by the fire and gazing out the window. Each cottage is perfectly prepared with comfy beds and fine linens so after a good night’s sleep, you'll enjoy waking up to the smell of fresh sea air and stellar views.

Photo credit: Battle Harbour Historic Trust

Taste

A bite of succulent, sweet Atlantic lobster

Food Fantastique (Burntcoat Head Park, N.S.)

Imagine: sweet, tender, succulent Nova Scotia lobster, paired with the province’s exceptional wine and craft beer, all served to you on the ocean floor. Food Fantastique’s unforgettable dining experience is hosted at Burntcoat Head Park on (or should we say in?) the Bay of Fundy.

Guests begin their memorable foodie expedition with a lunch of fresh, sustainable Nova Scotia seafood like mussels and clams. Next, a local forager offers a lesson on the park’s wild edibles, with plenty of samples to go around. A park tour is followed by an intimate three-course meal – starring lobster so tender it melts in your mouth – served on an impeccably appointed dining table set up on the ocean floor. The day ends with a seabed campfire: You’ll stargaze as the world-famous high tides roll in, with memories of the best lobster you’ve ever tasted still lingering on your lips.

Photo credit: Tourism nova scotia

See

The history of Louisbourg, live and up close

Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site and Louisbourg Lighthouse (Louisbourg, N.S.)

Step through the walls of the Fortress of Louisbourg and see what life was like in the 1700s: French soldiers walk the streets, stew simmers over an open fire and the ground shakes from periodic cannon fire. A visit to the reconstructed town is a must for history lovers and the curious, but there’s much more to do in the surrounding area.

Gaze across the harbour from the Fortress and you’ll see the iconic Louisbourg Lighthouse, the site of the first lighthouse in Canada (1734). For another view of this picturesque area, take a walk along the Old Town Trail, which runs across from the Fortress and provides beautiful views of the reconstructed townsite and lighthouse.

Photo credit: Tourism nova scotia

Hear

The thunderous crack of shifting icebergs

Iceberg Quest (St.John’s and Twillingate, N.L.)

First comes an eerie shudder, and perhaps a series of unsettling groans. Then, a loud crack like roaring thunder echoing across the ocean’s surface. Finally, you hear an abrupt splash as a 12,000-year-old iceberg splits, rolls, twists, and finally settles into its new formation in the freezing water. Iceberg Alley stretches from the coast of Labrador to the southeast coast of the island of Newfoundland. A visit to this famed berg-watching hotspot is guaranteed to be filled with excitement, whether you chance upon an iceberg collapsing or listen to the sizzle of melting glacial waters

A boat tour with Iceberg Quest in Twillingate or St. John’s will bring you up close to the magical floating giants. While you’re out on the water, you’ll also be treated to the sounds of waves rolling, beach rocks tumbling, sea birds calling and – when the season is right – whales blowing or breaching.

Photo credit: Tourism nova scotia

Feel

The cool seabreeze on your sun-warmed skin

Baymount Outdoor Adventures (Hopewell Rocks, N.B.)

Kayak along the ocean’s surface and feel the breeze skim across your skin as a light spray gently mists your face. Glide through narrow tunnels and scenic passageways between New Brunswick’s famous Hopewell Rocks, located about a 30-minute drive from the city of Moncton. View the stunning coastline as you take in the mighty power and beauty of the world’s highest tides.

Whether you’re new to kayaking or a seasoned pro, Baymount Outdoor Adventures offers guided kayak tours that are suitable (and delightful!) for any traveller. Take the sensory adventure to another level and sign up for the after-dark tour; kayaks depart at dusk for two hours of nighttime exploration with an awe-inspiring blanket of twinkling stars overhead. Once the sun comes up, don’t forget to walk on the ocean floor at low tide for the full Fundy experience.

Photo credit: Tourism nova scotia

Gifting a sense of Central Canada

Central Canada has it all: glittering cityscapes, tranquil forests, thundering waterfalls and a vibrant nightlife. Glorious sensory adventures await in the provinces of Ontario and Québec, whether you’re tucking into a fresh, Montreal-style bagel or cuddling around a smoldering campfire with your pals.

For those on the hunt for elevated adventure, a trip to Central Canada is the perfect gift.

Smell

A roasting campfire outside your luxury tent

Whispering Springs (Grafton, Ont.)

Describing the scent of a crackling campfire is tricky. But when you get a whiff of the distinctive aroma of charred pine and cedar logs, you’ll immediately be transported to memories of cozy nights underneath the stars. Located about 90 minutes east of Toronto’s hustle, the woodland sanctuary of Whispering Springs promises plenty of fresh air and untamed natural beauty without any hint of roughing it.

Bell-shaped tents – available in the treetops or on private decks – feature king and queen beds, luxe linens and fine wine to create an elevated, adults-only glamping experience. Electricity and plumbing? Of course. (This is glamping, after all.) Enjoy a woodfired pizza and craft cocktail from on-site restaurant The Watering Hole, then head to the campfire for live music and the warm aroma of cedar and s'mores.

Photo credit: Istock

Taste

Sweet and chewy Montreal-style bagels

Rue Wellington (Montreal, Que.)

There are some who say if you’ve never had a Montreal bagel, you’ve never had a bagel, period. These soft, chewy and slightly sweet rings of dough are most delicious right out of the oven with a generous spread of cream cheese. One of the best places to get them is at Wellington Bagels on Rue Wellington in Montreal, recently voted the coolest street in the world by Time Out. With a quaint small town feel and an array of top-notch restaurants, coffee shops and bars, foodies and fun seekers will enjoy spending the day wandering the lively, 6-kilometre strip.

Once you’ve brushed away the leftover seeds from your poppy seed bagel breakfast, treat your tastebuds to lunch at Bossa, for a delectable cheese steak or eggplant Parmesan sandwich. As evening hits, dip into Bistro Paname, a Parisian-style hole-in-the-wall for fresh oysters and a negroni – the perfect blend of bitter meets herbal. Or, enjoy a hit of spice from the deliciously authentic Cambodian spot, Les Street Monkeys.

Photo credit: Caroline Perron, Tourisme Montréal

See

Brilliant colours and patterns in Indigenous artwork

Mādahòkì Farm (Nepean, Ont.)

A visual feast from landscape to culture to art, Mādahòkì, which translates from Anishnaabe to “share the land,” is located on the traditional and unceded territories of the Algonquin peoples and their descendants. The farm focuses on bringing forward Indigenous perspectives on agritourism, farm-to-table culinary experiences and authentic cultural experiences.

The onsite Indigenous Marketplace is open year-round and brimming with beautiful, vibrant paintings, intricate beadwork, handmade jewelry and textiles from local vendors. After browsing, pay a visit to see the majestic, endangered Ojibwe Spirit Horses who live on the farm. There’s nothing quite like feeling the wind in your hair as you watch these incredible animals run wild in such a sacred space.

Photo credit: Mādahòkì Farm

Feel

Fresh, lush produce pulled straight from the earth

Littlejohn Farm (Picton, Ont.)

Looking for a real farm-to-table experience? Located in Prince Edward County, Littlejohn Farm is an interactive labour of love, run by husband and wife team, Luhana and Zach. The couple teaches visitors where their food comes from through workshops such as pickling vegetables like cucumbers and zucchini, cheese-making and charcuterie board-building. Culinary experiences allow participants to pick and prep their own meal while learning about food textures, flavour profiles and plating techniques.

There’s something so zen about the endorphins you get from chopping, slicing and plating your own high-end masterpiece using local and sustainable ingredients. You might even pick up some new kitchen tricks to use at your next dinner party.

Photo credit: Istock

Hear

The wild roar of a rushing waterfall

Montmorency Falls (Québec City, Que.)

All your senses will be stimulated at Québec’s thunderous Montmorency Falls. Hear the water crashing down along the cliff as you approach the base of the towering falls. Breathe in the misty air and feel the vibration under your toes. As a site that’s open year-round, filled with breathtaking views and situated just outside of Québec City, it's no surprise the Parc de la Chute-Montmorency sees nearly a million visitors each year

A restaurant, sandwich station, snack bar and two food trucks are ready to calm any hunger pangs. There’s a cable car and hanging bridge, both of which boast panoramic views. Feeling brave? Whiz across a 300-metre-long zipline right next to the rushing water while you listen to the delighted whoops and shouts of your fellow adventure-seekers.

Photo credit: Julie Audet, Sépaq

Gifting a sense of the Prairies

There’s an epic scale to the prairies – endless horizons, remote lakes surrounded by vast forests and well-worn trails carved by herds of bison that have roamed the area for thousands of years. Travel in Manitoba and Saskatchewan is simply captivating, and overwhelming to the senses in the best kind of way.

A gift of travel to the Prairies is an invitation to experience nature in its truest form: wild and free.

Smell

The savoury aroma of citrus-baked trout

Milton Lake Lodge (Milton Lake, Sask.)

You know what’s better than fishing on a serene lake in the Saskatchewan wilderness? Having your catch expertly prepared on a wood fire, baked in citrus until it’s melt-in-your-mouth tender. The smell of fresh trout sizzling on an outdoor grill is something you’ll not soon forget.

This experience awaits you at Milton Lake Lodge in northeast Saskatchewan, a five-star fishing retreat that specializes in keeping things luxe. The well-appointed lodges have all the creature comforts, while ensuring access to untamed angling adventures and peaceful, yet picturesque views of the lake.

Photo credit: Milton Lake Lodge

Taste

A slice of pillowy-soft, tangy sourdough

Pennyloaf Bakery (Winnipeg, Man.)

If you’re looking for the softest, chewiest sourdough, a “bakery crawl” of Winnipeg’s finest purveyors is a must. Start at the woman-owned, all-female run Pennyloaf Bakery. The dough is fermented, using a starter begun by Suzanne Gessler back in 2011, then baked in a wood-fired oven. Next, pop by Eadha Bread, where they think outside the fermentation box by using sourdough in everything, from double chocolate cookies with rosemary and sea salt to vanilla scones and cinnamon buns. (Their scrumptious caramelized onion loaf is impeccable too.)

Next, stop in at Gâto, home to the city’s first vegan sourdough croissant, which boasts fluffy, pillowy layers. Lastly, the sublime end to your tour should be award-winning Nola, a fine dining concept famous for its inventive cuisine, including sourdough-crusted pickerel salad.

Photo credit: Pennyloaf Bakery

See

The majesty of polar bears in their natural habitat

Seal River Heritage Lodge (40 minutes north of Churchill, Man.)

Behold mighty polar bears in their natural habitat, the tundra landscape of Northern Manitoba. These majestic animals wander the shores of Hudson Bay with their white fur blowing and blending into the snowy landscape. A member of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection, Seal River Heritage Lodge (owned by tour company Churchill Wild) is perfectly situated for a front row view of the action, with viewing platforms and a fenced-in compound for safety.

Arctic safaris with Churchill Wild are multi-day adventures that include night-time sky-watching and daily, guided hikes across the tundra, where you can spot Arctic foxes and hares. If you visit in July or August, the landscape becomes even more otherworldly, with pods of curious beluga whales swimming in the nearby Seal River estuary.

Photo credit: Churchill wild

Feel

The magnetism of Canada’s Great Plains

La Reata Ranch (Kyle, Sask.)

Kick back in your western saddle, reins in hand, at the 5,000 acre La Reata Ranch in southwest Saskatchewan. Then, at ride’s end, feel the horse’s smooth mane when you give your trusty steed a pat. You can live out your Prairie dreams as you ride in the footsteps of bison-seeking Blackfoot and Crow people. Or, pitch in and help wrangle the ranch’s 250 cows and newborn calves.

After a long day on the trot, become immersed in the true ranch experience and have dinner with the rest of the working property’s crew. Enjoy a hearty, family-style meal in the rustic “cookshack” overlooking the rolling hills, then hit the hay in your cozy cabin.

Photo credit: Tourism Saskatchewan/Greg Huszar Photography

Hear

The wind’s whistling whirl

Wanuskewin Heritage Park (Saskatoon, Sask.)

From the wind whistling across the prairie to the resonating drums of a traditional music performance, there’s so much to listen to – and learn about – at Wanuskewin Heritage Park. A traditional gathering place for the nomadic tribes of the northern plains, this land is now host to a variety of memorable cultural experiences. For example, with Tipi Teachings, you can learn about the meaning behind these traditional structures, then try your hand at making one.

The park’s guided programming includes the Step Back In Time walk, where visitors gain insight into 6,000 years of life in this area, when bison hooves thundered across the great plains. The Native Plant Walk, another must-do, is a deep dive into how the area’s natural bounty was utilized by Indigenous Peoples for everything from bug repellent to basket-weaving. Traditional powwow and dance presentations can be booked, where you’ll hear drums and singing echo across the landscape, just as they have for thousands of years.

Photo credit: Tourism Saskatchewan

Gifting a sense of the North

From the crunch of snow underfoot to the crisp, fresh air on a sunny day, there’s something about the Northern climate that truly heightens the senses. When you experience the grandeur of the wide-open landscapes in the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, it feels special, like getting a gift you’ll treasure for years to come.

For that person in your life seeking an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience, consider gifting a trip to the North. Here, you’ll experience the wondrous Northern Lights in stunning night skies and opportunities for endless discovery across vast Northern landscapes.

Smell

Aromatic evergreen pine needlees

Aurora Village (Yellowknife, NWT)

Take deep, lung-expanding breaths of refreshingly sweet, pine-scented air as you trek over streams and across rocky outcrops. At your final destination, Cameron Falls, a spectacular view awaits you. This hike – an easy 30 minutes, led by a knowledgeable local guide – is just one of the memorable offerings at Aurora Village, an Indigenous-owned tour operator in Yellowknife.

In addition to hosting stunning wilderness hikes and tours of the city, Aurora Village specializes in Northern Lights experiences (also known as the Aurora Borealis). It’s the only place in the world where you can sit in heated seats that swivel 360 degrees, allowing you to see the lights dancing overhead in all their glory. When the show is over, you can warm up in Teepees equipped with wood stoves and savour delicious hot drinks before you head back to your hotel.

Photo credit: NWT Tourism

Taste

The umami flavour of morel mushrooms

BonTon & Company, (Dawson City, Yukon)

Originally a one-woman butchery, Dawson City’s BonTon & Company has won rave reviews for its memorable cuisine. Chef Ariel Adams, recently featured in Canada’s Best New Cookbook, has helped create a menu that showcases the best of local ingredients. Top of the list are earthy, delicate morel mushrooms that melt in your mouth.

Other star ingredients include cheese from the Klondike Valley Creamery, salmon from the Yukon River, and pork from nearby Lastraw Ranch. Known for its house-made charcuterie, the restaurant also offers its dishes to go so you can keep the feast going.

Photo credit: Bonton & Company

See

Yellowknife’s striking landscape from above

Flight tours with Yellow Dog Lodge (NWT)

Take your Northern adventure to new heights at Yellow Dog Lodge, located 15 minutes from Yellowknife by float plane. For those who wish to soar, the lodge offers breathtaking aerial tours of the city as well as the endless greens and blues of the area’s lakes and vast wilderness. You can also take a “flightseeing” tour that includes fishing spots on five remote lakes that are accessible only by plane.

Yellow Dog Lodge also keeps the good times rolling with activities that include hiking, paddling and Aurora viewing (plus snowmobiling and snowshoeing in the winter). Accommodations range from “floating” tents perched on wooden platforms over the water, to a deluxe executive cabin. Spot your tent during your flight, and perhaps even the friendly yellow lodge dog, Joey, running through the fields.

Photo credit: Paul Vecsei/NWT Tourism

Feel

The rugged landscape beneath your feet

Spirit Canyon (Whitehorse, Yukon)

This easy hike, located just 55 km from downtown Whitehorse, offers breathtakingly rugged scenery from end to end. There are soaring, sheer rock walls and snow-topped mountain peaks over a relatively short 4 km path, making it the perfect trek for beginners. Brush your hands along rocks, moss and lichen as you make your way along this stunning route. In mid-summer, you’ll see colourful berry bushes of currants and raspberries dotting the trail.

Keep your eyes out for swooping ravens who nest in the canyon, or maybe even the wild horses and elk that frequent the area. Once you reach the top, take some time to sit and feel the earth beneath you while taking in the peaceful, green Takhini River Valley below. Reach up to the endless blue above, and you might just feel like you’re touching the sky.

Photo credit: NWT Tourism

Hear

The gentle splashing and crooning of narwhals

Arctic Bay Adventures (Arctic Bay, Nunavut)

The splash of narwhals breaking the water’s surface will be your soundtrack as you traverse the otherworldly terrain of Nunavut’s northwest Baffin Island. Part Inuit-owned Arctic Bay Adventures offers multi-day excursions through stunning landscapes led by experienced guides. As a result of Ice Age erosion, the area is known for its “hoodoos,” unique flat-topped pillars of stone. In the icy waters of Arctic Bay and Admiralty Inlet, you can spot narwhals, the strange and beautiful unicorns of the sea. Keep your eyes peeled for beluga whales, seals and polar bears, too.

When you’re not out on the water, learning how to build an igloo or fishing for arctic char to roast for dinner, retire to your heated tent to enjoy the sound of the waves crashing on the shore to lull you to sleep.

Photo credit: Istock

Gifting a sense of the West

Western Canada has long been a magnet for nature-loving travellers, for good reason. British Columbia and Alberta boast some of the most awe-inspiring scenery in the country — a perfect destination to get up close and personal with mountain trails, secluded lakes and pristine forests. Add in the freshest of ingredients from land and sea, and you’ve got a recipe for exhilaration.

Gifting a trip to the West will not only ignite your senses but re-energize both the body and mind.

Smell

The crisp, fresh mountain air

Columbia Icefield Skywalk (Jasper, Alta.)

Mountain air hits differently – with a distinct crispness that glides through the nostrils, leaving a revitalizing feeling in its wake. One of the best places to breathe it in, is the heart-stopping, glass-bottom skywalk that towers over the Rocky Mountains in Jasper.

This trek, situated in one of the world’s most unique ecosystems, is a walk off a cliff’s edge (which is fully accessible) to a glass-floored platform some 918 feet above. There, you get a spectacular view of ice-capped peaks and a valley of glaciers below. Gifting the excursion this holiday season is a perfect way to plan ahead for your upcoming summer vacation plans – the Skywalk reopens in the spring of 2023.

Photo credit: Line Pursuit Collection / Mike Seehagel

Taste

Creative culinary dishes - and perfectly paired wines

Published on Main (Vancouver, B.C.)

Outside-the-box dishes and a focus on sustainability are what you’ll find at upscale Vancouver restaurant Published on Main. Drawing inspiration from the owners’ travels in Europe, the inventive cuisine combines the best of B.C. farms, foragers and producers with global flavours and styles. Named Canada's Best New Restaurant for 2022, the restaurant’s multi-course, multi-sensory tasting journey is an unforgettable experience not to be missed.

The in-house wine director was also named 2022 B.C. Sommelier of The Year, so pair your mouthwatering dish with any vino on the roster – from full-bodied pinots to crisp chardonnays.

Photo credit: Published on main

See

Panoramic mountain vistas and a postcard-worthy view

Via Ferrata at Mount Norquay (Banff, Alta.)

There’s beauty to behold from every angle in Banff. Via Ferrata, which is Italian for “iron road,” consists of four eye-popping routes that scale the cliffs above Mount Norquay. A hybrid of hiking and climbing, each route is a feast for the eyes with clouds close enough to touch, peak-upon-peak of mountain and valleys far below, lush with evergreens.

Led by highly trained professionals with pre-placed cables and handles as guides, these treks require no prior climbing experience to enjoy panoramic views of Alberta’s postcard-worthy landscape.

Photo credit: Via Ferrata

Feel

The rough and furrowed texture of rainforest tree bark

Clayoquot Wilderness Resort (Tofino, B.C.)

Luxury and seclusion are at your fingertips with a stay at Clayoquot Wilderness Resort. Located in a lush coniferous forest, it’s a playground of texture you just need to feel for yourself. You’ll stay in fully-appointed glamping tents, complete with king beds, mood lighting and wooden decks. Surrounding these little pockets of paradise are giant pines, ferns, spruce and tamarack trees, swaying their mossy limbs in the ocean inlet air.

On your daily hike, bring paper and a pencil to trace the bark pattern and lock in the memory of being in the presence of unblemished nature. Once you’re back at the resort, settle in for thoughtful, sustainably sourced meals and a glass of local wine.

Photo credit: Clayoquot wilderness resort

Hear

Emotive Indigenous storytelling and traditional songs

Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre (Whistler, B.C.)

A place to listen, learn and reflect, Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre is the perfect destination to become immersed in the rich Indigenous cultures and history of the Sk̲wx̲wú7mesh and Líl̓wat7úl peoples (in English, Squamish and Lil'wat Nations). You'll hear songs accompanied by the rhythm of pounding drums and moving stories that have been shared between generations.

Walk among towering totem poles and immense canoes displayed inside the museum. Sign up for the “What We Treasure” tour, where Cultural Ambassadors will guide you through captivating storytelling and present precious artifacts of the Squamish and Lil’wat Peoples. You can even take a workshop to create your own hand drum or cedar paddle rattle, so you can make some beautiful music at home.

Photo credit: Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre/Logan Swayze