There are thousands upon thousands of islands off the Canadian coast, to many to count. Most are tiny of course, but many are large enough to be inhabited. Conde Nast Traveller has just released a list of its top 5 Canadian islands for visitors – they do sound pretty special. Here is what you can expect on each of them:
The pride of Nova Scotia, and only a short flight from the UK. Like your golf? The courses scattered around Cape Breton offer rugged scenery and challenging conditions like nowhere else. It’s worth hiring a bike too – the place was ranked number 9 in the world to cycle by Lonely Planet! It’s also great for keen anglers – you can fish for trout and salmon at dedicated lodges alongside the Margaree River, or snowboard in the area during the winter months. Cape Breton is a UNESCO biosphere reserve, and when you hike the 126 kms of the legendary Cabot Trail you may see whales, moose, or eagles. Culture-buffs can take a guided tour explaining the history of the Atlantic fishing industry, or explore a reconstructed fort.
Number four on the list, Newfoundland is twice the size of the UK. It’s great for lovers of the outdoors, with skiing, diving and kayaking being very popular here. On a nice day, pop out your picnic blanket in a scenic spot, or visit the lighthouse viewing platform, and see if you can spot killer whales in the sea. If it’s warm, stay up and try to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Newfoundland is famous for it’s “Iceberg Alley” – dozens of the icy giants, of the type that sunk the Titanic, pass the coast every year. It’s a bizarre spectacle, but not unusual, to see a huge one floating in a small fishing harbour.
There are actually six Gulf Islands, each with their own specific charms. Salt Springs, the largest of them, is known for its eclectic Saturday market and being an artistic commune. Mayne Island is tiny, but perfect for swimmers and cyclists. Saturna is incredibly scenic and isolated. There is fantastic food available here, from one of Vancouver’s best chefs, and there are also many lovely hiking trails to walk your lunch off. And if you just want to chill on a beautiful beach, head to Gabriola where on a hot day you could almost, almost, imagine you’re in the Caribbean.
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island is a foodie’s heaven, to the point that acclaimed restaurant guide Zagat considers it the 2nd best foodie getaway in the world! The land here is especially fertile, and offers the visitor some of Canada’s best-tasting seafood, including lobster, oysters and mussels. Definitely a place to visit if you like to eat well. But there are plenty of other reasons to come, especially if you’re into your adventure holidays – cycling, as you’d expect – there are at least 25 bike hire shops on the island catering for the many trails here. You can go seal-spotting, even from the air if you can handle heights, because para-sailing is big on PEI too.
Voted Canada’s best island, Vancouver Island has all of the above, in spades. Outdoor sports enthusiasts will love to surf, hike and fish here. You can pamper yourself in a spa, or spend a day on the links, take a boat tour to go whale-watching, or dine in a 5-star restaurant, surrounded at all times by picture-postcard scenery. There are also botanic gardens, and lots of opportunity to taste local wines. And if you do somehow get tired of all this, the city of Vancouver, one of the planet’s most pleasant places to live, is just a short journey away.