Canada is a travel destination where Australians immediately feel at home — and one that will refresh and revitalise the weariest of holidaymakers.
From the exquisite natural beauty of the Rockies in the country’s west, to the intriguing French-speaking urban centres in the east, a journey across the second largest nation on earth offers innumerable highlights. Here are ten of the best things to do in Canada on a first visit.
1. Ride the Rocky Mountaineer
The Rocky Mountaineer is one of the world’s great rail experiences and travels through some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet. Gold Leaf Service, with its glass domed roof and a la carte dining service, is truly sublime. This is a journey you’ll talk about for years to come.
2. Spend a night at Lake Louise
There are few natural settings that outshine Banff National Park’s Lake Louise in the beauty stakes, and spending a night at the historic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is a must-do. The hotel is located right beside the lake, so push the boat out on a Lakeview Room. It may be pricey, but you won’t regret it!
Watch our video of ten great things to do on a Canadian Rockies road trip:
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3. Enjoy high tea at the Banff Springs Hotel
Banff is the adventure capital of the Rocky Mountains, and a charming town to boot. If you only have a day or two to explore, spend your morning browsing in the many boutiques and adventure wear stores along bustling Banff Avenue (and doing some people watching!), before taking the Banff Gondola up to the peak of Sulphur Mountain for epic views of the surrounding region. Later on, swing by the legendary Banff Springs Hotel for their formal afternoon tea.
4. While away a weekend in Vancouver
It’s easy to see why Vancouver is regularly up there as one of the world’s most liveable cities. Paddle-board in the morning, ski in the afternoon. Need we say more?
5. Spot a bear in the wild
OK, so this one doesn’t come for the asking, but if it does happen (and there’s a good chance it will), you’ll never forget it. Travel in spring for the chance to see mums with their cubs.
6. Get lost in Old Quebec City
Quebec City is a walled slice of old-world Europe, the likes of which you won’t find anywhere else in North America. Wandering the winding cobbled streets and taking in the exquisite period architecture is one of the great joys of visiting this destination. Stay at the stunning Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac.
7. See Niagara Falls
Despite the tackarama theme park-style surroundings, Niagara Falls is everything you dreamed it would be. Fulfil your life’s ambition to visit this icon of North American popular culture, and take a ride towards the thundering falls with Hornblower Niagara Cruises.
8. Explore First Nations’ culture in Ottawa
This is a familiar story in many ways, although modern-day Canada seems to have reconciled the past with its Indigenous population more successfully than we have back home in Australia. The best place to learn about First Nations’ culture is the pre-eminent Canadian Museum of History in capital city Ottawa.
9. Soak up the views from Toronto’s CN Tower
Toronto is Canada’s economic powerhouse, and city slickers will love their stay in the country’s most populous urban centre. Head to the top of the mighty CN Tower to take in spectacular 360-degree-views of the city and Lake Ontario. The observation deck is five hundred metres straight up!
10. Tuck into a plate of poutine
Poutine is Canada’s unofficial and much-loved national dish — chips, gravy and cheese curd all mixed together in one gooey lump of goodness. Montreal is reputedly the spot to sample the world’s best poutine.
Top Oz Tours offers a great range of Canada tours, guided experiences, and attraction tickets and passes. There are no booking or credit card fees when you book through us, and you'll have access to the widest range of activities at the best possible prices.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do in Canada on a first visit? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
This segment of Tour the World was coproduced by Peppercorn Productions — publisher of The Big Bus tour and travel guide.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of Top Oz Tours and Travel Ideas, and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger, and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.