Jennifer Valentyne’s 5 Hidden Gems to Explore for Canada’s 150th Birthday
Whether you’re a nature lover or a city-dweller seeking cultural experiences, there is sure to be a hidden gem on this list that you and your family will love.
Canada’s most underrated spots, according to Jennifer Valentyne
Travelling has always been a passion of mine: nothing beats taking the family away for a week or weekend to disconnect from daily routines and reconnect with one another. Plus, I love staying in hotels—the perks of pools, extra pillows, room service and no cleaning adds to the appeal of travel.
Sometimes, I forget how much beauty there is to see in our own country. We are so fortunate that Canada is home to such a long list of must-see destinations, for both the adventure-seeker and those travellers who want to catch up on rest and relaxation. The most wonderful part? So many of these incredible not-to-be-missed spots are not your average, overly-crowded tourist locations. The best of Canada is hidden in its parks, mountains and urban watering holes.
With Canada’s 150th birthday festivities taking place later this year, there’s never been a better time to celebrate all of the hidden gems our beautiful country has to offer. That’s why InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has asked me to share my top five hidden travel spots within our nation, which has inspired me to continue exploring all that Canada has to offer.
1. Goose Spit Regional Park
My family is a big fan of beaches. The kids also love s’mores over a bonfire. Combine those two, and you’ve got our ideal weekend getaway! Located in Comox, B.C., this area stretches over two kilometres long and is comprised of a sand, cobble and rock beach. It’s the perfect place to forget the hustle and bustle of everyday life and unwind. A unique landform, Goose Spit Park is part of the Comox Harbour and houses a sheltered lagoon—a popular spot to see some Bald Eagles, gulls, loons and a variety of winter water birds! Open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., this is the perfect place to enjoy a beach fire with family and friends. The picturesque park also links to walking trails along Hawkins Road.
2. Crescent Heights Stairs
Calgarians swear by this local treasure when they want to get their sweat on. With 11 flights and 167 staggering steps, racing up and down the winding, wooden stairs at McHugh Bluff Park is a great workout! The view from the top is entirely worth the heart-pumping exercise, with a gorgeous viewpoint of the Calgary skyline. On the other side of the stairs, you’re connected to adjacent parks, like Princess Island Park, as well as additional scenic views of Bow River, some of the city’s bridges and a distant view of the Rockies. It’s a great way to get the entire family outdoors and explore an untouched part of the city.
3. Gibraltar Point Lighthouse
A hidden gem from my hometown, this landmark on Centre Island in Toronto, comes with a haunted old wives’ tale and rich history. Built in 1808, the lighthouse is the city’s oldest landmark. Its light beam has guided mariners into the Harbour of Toronto for over 150 years. Like many other historical buildings, the lighthouse has experienced its fair share of tragedy, giving rise to the “tales of the macabre.” This legend says that John Paul Radelmüller, the lighthouse keeper, was thrown from the top of the lighthouse and murdered by soldiers from Fort York. To this day, they say his ghost still haunts the place, so beware when visiting this landmark after dark.
4. Sucrerie de la Montagne
With a number of sugar shacks in Canada to choose from, your first thought may be, “What’s so special about Sucrerie de la Montagne?” My answer would be: everything. Incredible food, atmosphere and amazing staff, this sugar shack is the sweetest of them all. This authentic shack is hidden in the midst of a 120-acre forest of maple trees atop Mont Rigaud, west of Montréal, Quebec. There is a bakery with fresh goodies, “tire sur neige” to lead you into the town on one of their many sleigh rides, and a huge event space with the most gorgeous fireplace I have ever seen! Equipped with traditionally Quebecois feasts, live music and maple treats, it is an official Quebec Heritage Site that welcomes visitors, all of ages, year-round.
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5. Gobles Grove
For those seeking a peaceful hidden gem ideal for little ones, look no further than this calm, sandy beach on Lake Huron, south of Port Elgin. With several sandbars extending into the lake, diminishing the effect of undertow, these shallow waters are definitely child-friendly. White sand, swing sets and washroom facilities make this relaxing a beach for both adults, teens and children. The only con to this beloved family destination—no beach shelters. Be sure to come fully prepare with hats, sunscreen and a beach umbrella!