Canada: The True North, Strong and Free. Like any great nation, Canada is known for its large cities, each with its own unique history, attractions, and diverse weather seasons. From the eastern centers of Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, and Halifax to the western hubs of Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Edmonton, Canada's cities are a defining feature of what makes it an extraordinary country. But what about the smaller, lesser-known towns? In the shadow of the large cities, it is easy to overlook these sometimes-remote communities with small populations. Yet a closer examination of them reveals all the charm and beauty associated with the great north, without all the busyness of the big metropolises. Here are 13 of the most charming small towns in Canada.
Nelson, British Columbia
Silver was discovered at Toad Mountain in 1886, near the mountainous town of Nelson; it was the first major boom period for the town that today still attracts visitors looking to get a glimpse of 19th-century life. Indeed many of the buildings from the boom period have been restored and promoted as tourist centers, giving Nelson a unique charm and feeling of post-Confederation Canada; it has been called "The Queen City."Of course, Nelson is also a modern town with plenty of galleries, restaurants, shops, schools, and other festivals; summertime is particularly known for the Market Fest, a nighttime market with music, food, and entertainment for all every Friday in the months of summer.
Located on the west shore of the Hudson Bay, the northern Manitoba town of Churchill is amongst the most uniquely Canadian locations in the nation. It is not uncommon to see the northern lights, or even some polar bears or a beluga whale or two in Churchill, and its close ties to Inuk culture make it a special point of connection between the old and new Canada. Affectionately known as the "Polar Bear Capital of the World," the first Hudson's Bay Company settlement was built in Churchill in 1717; among the historical sites of significance, still visible include the Prince of Wales Fort built more than 250 years ago.
"Canada's Prettiest Town," at least according to its own motto, Goderich's predated Confederation in 1867; founded in 1828 and named after British Prime Minister, The Viscount Goderich, visitors will find an array of early Canadian history in the town; perhaps the most fascinating or even spooky of stops to visit includes the Huron Historic Gaol built in 1839, a notorious prison that was the site of the last public hanging in Canada, before its closure in 1972.There are also three beaches in the town for the more outdoors-minded visitor, sure to satisfy any sun lover!
Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia
For its stunning and picturesque coastal beauty, Peggy's Cove is a hot spot for Canadians and foreigners alike; situated on the Atlantic Coast, this small settlement was founded back in 1811 by a group of six German immigrant families. With a long history of being a fishing town, Peggy's Cove has an abundant display of tiny wooden fishing sheds that define the landscape.Combined with its rocky coastline and beautiful blue skies, it is like stepping into a postcard. And of course, one cannot forget to visit the famous Lighthouse, which has guided those on the sea since 1868.
If you are looking for dinosaurs, then look no further than this "Dinosaur Capital," located in the heart of the Alberta Badlands. It is home to the world-famous Royal Tyrell Museum, boasting a collection of over 160,00 fossils and other prehistoric material. The Museum is a must-stop for anyone with even a passing interest in geological history.The Badlands rock formations, including the famous Hoodoos, also transport visitors millions of years in the past; with hiking trails galore, there is plenty to enjoy in the outdoors in Drumheller, located just 100 kilometers from Calgary.
Summerside, Prince Edward Island
Like many places in the Atlantic Provinces, Summerside is a quaint and picturesque postcard. Buildings in vibrant colors including pink, orange, and yellow fill out the scenery, while visitors can take a stroll down Spinnaker's Landing, an old-time fishing village on the town's main boardwalk. It is a quiet relaxing place to enjoy good company or solitary contemplation while surrounded by the ocean's breezes.
A small town in the heart of the prairie province Saskatchewan, Watrous, a small town in the heart of the prairie province of Saskatchewan, is some 150 km north of the capital Regina. Visiting Watrous gives one a sense of real small-town living, and yet it too has ties to colonial history. The town's All Saints Anglican Church houses some of North America's oldest stained glass windows, believed to be over 500 years old. These were originally brought from England in the 19th century and have been in the town since 1909. The town is also known for its proximity to Manitou Beach, a popular resort village renowned for its high salinity, making any swimmer float!
St Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick
Situated at the southern tip of Passamaquoddy Bay, St. Andrews-by-the-Sea is another richly preserved historic town typical of Maritime Canada. The town, filled with colorful houses, beautiful outdoor murals, and an array of lovely gardens and flowers, is also home to beautiful galleries and museums.A popular spot for whale watching, St Andrews-by-the-Sea's other top attractions include the Huntsman Marine Aquarium and historic Algonquin Hotel.
Sitting on the northern shore of the Saint Lawrence River and northeast of Quebec City, Baie-Saint Paul's streets are lined with artist's studios, boutiques, galleries, and fine restaurants. Centuries-old houses and other historical buildings bring the flavor of old Quebec to vivid life, which one can enjoy with just a stroll.The town is also known as the founding location of the world-renowned Cirque du Soleil.
Rankin Inlet, Nunavut
Derived from an Inuit word meaning "Deep", Rankin Inlet is a small community on the northwestern shore of Hudson Bay. Human settlement in the town dates as far back as 1,200 AD, with the modern Inuit people calling it home since at least the 1700s.With a population of just under 3,000, Rankin Inlet is known for its arts and crafts scene that wonderfully showcases Inuk traditions and customs. The world's only Inuit fine arts ceramic gallery is located in the village and also gives visitors a unique glimpse of Arctic Life.
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, Lunenburg is characterized by its abundance of 18th and 19th-century buildings and for housing the replica of the Blue Nose, the famous racing schooner featured on the Canadian dime.Just over an hour's drive away from Halifax, Lunenburg is situated at the harbor of Fairhaven Peninsula and has been called one of the most beautiful towns in Canada.
Ancient quartzite cliffs, stunning blue lakes, and dense forests define the Killarney Provincial Park, a rich canvas of possibilities for the renowned Group of Seven artists.Perfect for the outdoors-minded tourist, Killarney offers fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and more; then, when done for the day, the historic village is the perfect place to return to with great restaurants, pubs, and other unique entertainment options.
Trinity, Newfoundland and Labrador
Frequently used as a film set, Trinity was first settled by Portuguese explorers, including Gaspar Corte-Real, who gave the town its name in 1501.The town, filled with history, has a plentiful scene of museums, galleries, and colorful saltbox homes in an 18th-century style. Traditional Newfoundland folk music is frequently performed at many of the town's restaurants and theatres as visitors can soak in the natural beauty. Watching passing icebergs and going out to whale watch are definite highlights of the landscape.