From the snow-capped peaks to the crystal clear lakes, there’s a lot to love about Canada.
As such a huge country (the second largest in the world!) it’s no surprise there’s a lot of wildlife to see here. There’s everything you’d expect from Canada: black bears and grizzlies hunting down berries on the forest floors; beavers and sea otters fighting it out to be the most adorable creatures on the planet; and, of course, moose and deer displaying their magnificent antlers for all to see. But there’s also a lot you might not expect from Canada: how do arctic foxes, polar bears and narwhals sound to you?
Canada’s diversity in animals is matched by the vast range of landscapes they inhabit. The quintessential glossy lakes and lush green forests of the south make a comfortable home for many, but head up to the Great White North where the rugged terrain hidden beneath blankets of snow is unforgiving for all but the hardiest animals on earth.
Read on to find out more about the wildlife in Canada, from where and when to go, to the best places to stay along the way.
Canada National Parks, Game Reserves & Wildlife Destinations
Most people will have heard of the Rockies, but don’t overlook some of the lesser-known destinations where you may be surprised at what you find! Just some of our favourite areas to explore in Canada are given below.
The Rockies (Alberta and British Columbia)
The Canadian Rockies encompass a number of different National Parks, including Jasper, Yoho and Banff. The landscapes vary in each, but most offer exceptional views of snow-capped mountains, mirror-like lakes and lush green forests. And that’s before we even mention the wildlife! While hiking, cycling or exploring in your very own way, keep your eyes peeled for bears, moose, elk and more in this famous Canadian wilderness.
Vancouver Island (British Columbia)
A short ferry hop from the city of Vancouver, Vancouver Island is a great place to spot bears in the wild and whales out in the open ocean. Join a dedicated tour with one of the many eco-conscious companies on the island, or suit yourself with a self-drive to take in all that this wonderful destination has to offer.
Algonquin Provincial Park (Ontario)
When you think of Canada, it might be the bright blue lakes, green forests and maple leaves of Algonquin Provincial Park you’re imagining. The stunning parkland here is a maze of lakes, forests and rivers teeming with wildlife. Much of the park can only be explored on foot or via canoe, but more and more sightings are being had along the Highway 60 corridor, making the moose, wolves and bears easier to spot out in the open.
Gros Morne (Newfoundland)
Located on the west coast of Newfoundland, Gros Morne National Park is one of the largest in Canada and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After being introduced in 1900, moose are thriving in Gros Morne along with both red and Arctic foxes, black bears, snowshoe hares, beavers and river otters. The name translates as “large mountain standing alone” after the state’s second highest peak, which is found in the park.
Northwest Passage (Nunavut)
The Big 5 isn’t just confined to Africa. A group of animals called the Arctic Big 5 can be found in the Northwest Passage. Lucky visitors who traverse the waterways between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans may be able to see the polar bear, walrus, musk ox, beluga whale and maybe even the narwhal.
Known to some as the polar bear capital of the world, Churchill is a dream destination for those that love snow-capped adventures. Located in the far north of Manitoba, it’s possible to see the Northern Lights from Churchill in the winter, beluga whales in the summer and, of course, polar bears come autumn.
When to go to Canada
While most of Canada experiences mild temperatures in the summer, some areas have one of the harshest winters in the world. Visitors will want to make sure they time their trip to make the most of the weather, so make sure you check out the seasons below to help you decide.
If the main purpose of your trip is to view wildlife, the summer months between June and August are favourable owing to the mild temperatures, blue skies and long, sunny days. During this season, animals are active and enjoying the plethora of berries and other food available in the forests. Outdoor pursuits such as hiking, mountain biking and canoeing are popular summertime activities across the country, so prices for these can be higher and destinations will likely be busier too.
Following the bitter chill of winter, spring in Canada begins to warm up and much of the country springs back to life. April and May also brings with it a great opportunity to see whales along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.
The autumnal months of September and October are also a wonderful time to visit Canada. The trees and leaves are starting to turn the most spectacular shades of red and orange and, although the temperatures are also starting to fall, this makes for much more comfortable hiking weather than in the heat of summer. But, perhaps the biggest draw of all, autumn is when the polar bears return to their winter home up in Churchill.
From November onwards, the temperatures begin to fall dramatically along with the average hours of sunshine available each day. However, if you can bear the cold and the dark, winter in Canada can be a spectacular time to the visit thanks to the possibility of seeing the northern lights.
Where to Stay in Canada: Camps & Hotels
Like most western countries, Canada is full of comfortable places to stay no matter how much you have to spend. For those with the tightest purse strings, pitch a tent at one of the many campsites in and around the national parks. On the other end of the scale, luxury hotels and exclusive lodges boast impeccable views and all the home comforts you’ll need after an active day out in the wilderness. Our top pick of the places to stay in Canada include:
How to Travel in Canada
The second largest country in the world will take you a long time to fully explore. Of course, the fastest way to get around is to fly, and with a number of different airlines flying across Canada, it can be a cost-effective and convenient way to travel too. The best thing about flying in Canada, is that it’s possible to reach areas that no other mode of transport can. For example, the remote town of Churchill cannot be reached by road, so flying here may be an essential part of your dream to see polar bears. Head to Skyscanner to discover the best routes and deals available for your trip.
Though joining a tour group may not be for everyone, it can be the best way to travel across Canada. Your tour guide and driver will do all the hard work for you, leaving you with nothing to do but sit back and relax while you’re driven across this incredible country. Check out Cosmos, G Adventures and GetYourGuide for a variety of tours to suit all budgets and tastes.
However, if you prefer to choose your own itinerary and take everything at your own pace, hire a car for a self-drive tour of Canada. Distances can be long, so regardless of whether you choose a tour group or a self-drive, be prepared to spend a lot of time on the road between stops. The exceptional landscapes and friendly rest stops will make up for that, though!
The final mode of transport to consider in Canada is the train. Luxury rail tours like the Rocky Mountaineer are an expensive but bucket list-worthy experience, as the panoramic train carriages wind effortlessly through mountains and past streams and waterfalls while you sip on local wines and taste local treats. But if you don’t have that much to spend, train travel can still be a very convenient, comfortable and relatively inexpensive way to travel across this vast country.
Things to do in Canada
The list of things to do in Canada is almost endless. From adrenaline-fuelled activities like bungee jumping and white water rafting, to the more sedate wine tasting and canoe trips, there’s something for everyone.