Canadians, for the most part, live busy lives. Most of us reside in big cities with big traffic jams and big noise and big headaches. It’s important that we get away now and then, especially with the last big weekend of the summer upon us. With that in mind, here are five great getaways, mostly a little different than the usual ones, for residents of some of Canada’s biggest cities to try.
SOOKE, BRITISH COLUMBIA This is a small town west of Victoria that’s right on the water. There’s a pretty park that rolls down to the ocean and also one of Canada’s prettiest inns, The Sooke Harbour House. Expect whimsical touches but also fantastic food and a great wine list at this waterside resort. Stick in the Mud is one of my favourite coffee houses in Canada, with a real community vibe. Next door is Mom’s, home of apple pie slices the size of a basketball, and full of cinnamon goodness. I was told they use 60 apples per pie. Because it’s in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains in Washington state, it tends to be drier here than in Victoria.
LAKE HURON, ONTARIO I adore Muskoka. And Niagara Falls is always fun. But Southwestern and Western Ontario have wonderful towns and utterly fantastic beaches. In Goderich, Beach Street Station is an old, brick train station that’s been relocated near the water, with good food and fine waterfront views. Try nearby Samuels Hotel (http://www.samuelshotel.ca/) for a stylish place to stay. Kincardine has a lovely downtown, and they do a parade of pipers and a marching band every Saturday night in summer at 8 p.m. It’s simply marvellous. Further south, Grand Bend might be Canada’s best beach town, with wonderful surf shops, ice cream spots and fast food joints. There’s also great food at Smackwater Jacks Taphousee on the river or at Midori Sushi. Schoolhouse Restaurant is a fun spot for a meal and is operated out of an atmospheric old schoolhouse. Try the Pine Dale Motor Inn for a great, family-run hotel.
ANNAPOLIS ROYAL, NOVA SCOTIA Peggy’s Cove and the Mahone Bay/Lunenburg area are stunning. But I quite like the subtle charms of Annapolis Royal. This is where French colonists settled in the 1700s, and where English and Scots and others ultimately arrived, with plenty of to-and-fro fighting over the years. It’s a tiny town but with several cute shops and a great waterfront fort, Fort Anne. The bays and parks are perfect for exploring, and you’re only a few minutes from the famous tides of the Bay of Fundy, where you can look for whales or dolphins or just admire the scenery. B&B fans should check out Hillsdale House.
CANMORE, ALBERTA Most folks head west to Banff and Lake Louise, and with good reason. But I love Canmore, which is just a few minutes shy of Banff. The mountains are perhaps even more glorious than Banff, with the spiky formation known as the Three Sisters towering over the south end of town. There are some t-shirt shops and such, but Canmore feels more like a place for locals than a tourist spot. The Grizzly Paw is a fine brewpub with a casual restaurant, while The Trough and Crazyweed both serve up fantastic dinners with an urbane style. Former Olympians Sara Renner and Thomas Grandi operate The Paintbox Lodge, a wonderful and artsy spot to stay in the heart of town. There also are several chain hotels to choose from, or you can try the spacious condos at Solara Resort. There’s fantastic golf in the area, including Stewart Creek and Silvertip. Be sure to stop in Dead Man’s Flats south of town and order up an authentic, spicy samosa at the Mad Dog Café (http://www.themaddogcafe.ca/).CHARLEVOIX, QUEBEC – Folks around here say the mellow landscape was formed partly by a giant asteroid that hit the area millions of years ago, leaving behind a special quality in the ground and the air. I’m not sure about that, but it’s a restful, artsy and beautiful area east of Quebec City on the shores of the mighty St. Lawrence River, which feels more like a small lake or an ocean once you’re this far east. Towns like Baie St. Paul feel like a remote French village, with beautiful cafes and small galleries with truly stunning art. Try a boat trip on the lovely Haute-Gorges-de-la-Riviere-Malbaie, or hike the surrounding mountains. If you’re looking for a bit more action, try a round of golf at the lovely, hillside Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu course or the next-door casino.
DEAL OF THE WEEK: The Canadian loonie got you down? Oceania Cruises has a great deal for Canadians, with an additional 20 per cent off select sailings. The offer expires Nov. 30, and you need to use the promo code CANADA. As always in these cases, conditions apply.
DESTINATION OF THE WEEK: New Orleans just finished marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Some say the city’s black residents haven’t benefitted enough from the city’s recovery. But what’s not debatable is that the city has bounced back from a tourism standpoint. There are new hotels and bars (just what they needed, eh?) and 600 new restaurants, as well as new attractions such as a $1 billion waterfront renovation and the new, 1,300 acre City Park. Fall is a nice time of year to visit, as you’re missing summer temperatures and also missing the busy Mardi Gras period. The New Orleans Tourism folks have created several videos to mark the city’s rejuvenation. Here’s the latest one: http://www.neworleanscvb.com/katrina10/