The natural beauty and diversity of Canada is hard to beat. Compare the coastline of the Maritime Provinces to Nunavut, or rural Alberta to downtown Vancouver and you’ll see it’s impossible to define what makes a ‘Canadian landscape’. With seaside, mountains, lakes, prairies, mega-cities and quaint towns, Canada has a bit of everything.
It’s so beautiful in Canada, in fact, that it’s getting quite the reputation as an Instagram hotspot. Travellers arrive wanting to get those infamous photos facing into the mountains with arms up to the skies and a defiant stance. If you’re looking for the top Instagram spots in Canada to get those Likes rolling in, here’s where you need to be.
1. Prince Edward Island
Golden beaches that back up onto rose-coloured sand dunes, endlessly rolling green hills and small farms where the houses are so pretty you’d think they were just for show.
When these pictures pop up on your feed you could be forgiven for thinking you were looking at one of the nicer coastal regions of southern England or northern France. In fact, Prince Edward Island is located in the Gulf of St Lawrence, between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia on the east coast of Canada. PEI is one of the best places in Canada to eat a seafood dinner and has established itself as a top culinary destination. You can drive onto PEI via Confederation Bridge, a sight in itself, and zigzag your way across the island, or even drive in a huge loop over the course of a few days.
The most picturesque parts of Nova Scotia can be found along the ‘lighthouse route’ between Halifax and Yarmouth. Along this route you’ll stop at the beautiful spots of Peggy’s Cove, Chester and Mahone Bay, but nothing beats Lunenburg for an Instagram pic.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this historic town was the first British settlement outside of Halifax and little has changed since the 18th century, apart from a lick of brightly coloured paint. It’s another great spot to eat a seafood dinner or sink a few beers in the 200-year-old pub.
3. Okanagan Valley
Mountains, vineyards and lakes – what more could you want? Canada’s Okanagan Valley is an incredibly fertile valley located between Vancouver and Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. Almost 200km in length, the Okanagan Valley is an idyll of vineyards and fruit orchards.
To get a successful fruit harvest you need lots of sunshine and the Okanagan enjoys some of Canada’s sunniest weather. The lure of sun and wine is strong and the Okanagan experiences heavy tourist footfall between July and August.
If you want that perfect shot of the Northern Lights to invigorate your Instagram feed you’re going to have to go out there and get it.
The best place to experience (and hopefully photograph) the Northern Lights in Canada is from the town of Yellowknife. Yellowknife is the last town before you reach subarctic wilderness. For optimum visibility, take a tour outside of the city limits between Autumn and Spring. Northern Lights aside, Yellowknife has a thriving arts scene and a rich history you won’t want to miss out on.
Banff and Jasper are two small towns located in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The population of each of these towns swells dramatically in the peak summer and winter months with transient workers and tourists making the most of the area’s hiking and skiing opportunities.
Between Banff and Jasper is the Icefields Parkway, consistently ranked one of the most beautiful drives in the world. On this road you can snap pristine lakes, soaring mountains and even a glacier or two. It’s hard to pick favourites but a few stand-out spots in this area include Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, Athabasca Glacier, Peyto Lake and the view of Bridal Veil Falls.
6. Canadian Badlands
Visit the Canadian Badlands to see a side of Alberta that couldn’t be more different from the Canadian Rockies that surround the town of Banff. The Canadian Badlands is a stretch of central and southern Alberta made up of prairies, rock towers and grassy fields. The Badlands terrain is home to clusters of ‘hoodoos’, rock towers formed over hundreds of thousands of years of geological activity, which give it an otherworldly feel.
Even cooler than that, the Badlands are home to the Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s home to more prehistoric fossils than any other site in the world.
You could be forgiven for thinking that Canada doesn’t have a surfing community. There’s no Bondi Beach or Huntington, CA, and yet Canada has a thriving surf culture centred around the seaside enclave of Tofino.
A favourite getaway for city-weary Vancouverites, Tofino has stunning beaches that back onto the forested hills of Clayoquot Sound. Tofino has top-class bistros, endless seaside cafes and its own brewing company. If you see Canadians on your feed looking like Australians, wearing bikinis and carrying surfboards, they are, in all likelihood, holidaying in Tofino.
8. Haida Gwaii
Few tourists make it out to Haida Gwaii, an archipelago of over 400 islands on the coast of British Columbia, but those who do are deeply rewarded. The Gwaii Hanaas National Park – covering a third of the archipelago’s islands – is home to ancient rainforests and waters that sustain a rich diversity of wildlife. If you want photos of rare Canadian whales, orcas, bears and bald eagles on your feed then Haida Gwaii is the place to be.
During your trip you may be lucky enough to witness aspects of the culture of the Haida Nation in action, but remember to ask permission before taking photos.
9. Baffin Islands
Say you’re going to Canada to a person unfamiliar with the vastness of the country and they will undoubtedly tell you to pack thermal underwear. While not all of Canada is cold (summer in Toronto is incredibly humid) some regions of Canada conform to the stereotype of fur-lined coats, dog sleds and snowmobiles.
Comprised of the High Artic and eastern islands of Nunavut, the Baffin Islands are the best place to go to experience Canada’s snow-covered wilderness and spot Arctic wildlife. This land is so unforgiving that it could not be colonised so don’t expect an easy trip. If you want that perfect shot of a polar bear, you’re going to have to work for it!
10. City of Toronto
People from more rural parts of Canada sometimes have negative things to say about Toronto – it’s too crowded, it’s too built up, the subway system sucks – but Toronto is eclectic, super diverse and the people know how to have a good time. With a gorgeous waterfront, a decent number of green spaces (High Park being the best) and an impressive downtown core, Toronto is very photogenic.
Street art abounds, especially in places like Kensington Market and the student-chic Annex area, and it’s only a short streetcar ride from downtown to the beach. What more could you want from your city break?