Canada’s Big 5: Here’s what you MUST experience in this country!

By Jules Torti | June 29, 2022

Did you know that Wild Women Expeditions was hatched from a yoke? Yes, a yoke, not a yolk. In particular, a canoe yoke in the rocky and remote clutches of northern Ontario, Canada more than 30 years ago.

We are the land of tundra, Rockies, old-growth forest, limestone, wheat, deep lakes, vineyards, peach orchards, cranberry bogs, ice fields, tapped maple trees and tuckamores. Canada is synonymous with beavers and Bieber, Tim Horton’s (and now Justin Bieber and his Timbiebs), Anne of Green Gables, Terry Fox, Celine Dion (and her heart that will go on), toques (not beanies!), poutine and bunny hugs (you can read about the hugs here).

Image credit: Kai Harvey

Image credit: Kai Harvey

We’re full of street cred and surprises too–we have a pocket desert in Osooyos (BC), the Island Walk (Prince Edward Island’s 700km Canadian Camino), the Great Lakes, an Olympic gold medal-winning women’s hockey AND soccer team, Caesars (not the salad, but they’re on the menu too), ketchup-flavoured chips, hot springs, the midnight sun, the Greenland polka, elaborate ceremonies that revolve around kissing a cod (Google “getting ‘screeched in’ in Newfoundland”) and Nanaimo bars (a dessert square founded in British Columbia that you will definitely request as your desert island fantasy if you were to somehow become marooned on a desert/dessert island).

Our soundtrack is loud and proud (and not just Celine Dion on repeat)! Side A of our cassette tape includes Madison Violet, Jann Arden, Sarah McLachlan, Alanis Morissette, Joni Mitchell, Carole Pope, Shania Twain, Feist, Tegan and Sara, Tanya Tagaq, and Buffy-Sainte Marie.

You can easily stack up Canadian authors on your bedside table–in fact, Margaret Atwood is aboard a Wild Women small ship expedition right now (the Atlantic Canada Explorer) as an Adventure Canada VIP guest! Margaret Laurence, Alice Munro, Miriam Toews, Emma Donoghue, Jane Christmas, Kate Harris, Catherine Bush, Lisa Moore, Eden Robinson and Gail Anderson-Dergatz have introduced legions to our terra firma, bottomless lakes, constellations, sun-baked Prairies, isles and coniferous miles.

If Canada had a Big 5 checklist (beyond those irresistible Nanaimo bars and a front row seat at a Jann Arden concert at Massey Hall in Toronto), it would look something like this:

1. Unicorns

On WWE’s Greenland to Wild Labrador adventure you can confidently strike unicorns off your must-see list. Baffin Bay’s estimated population of 50,000 narwhals accounts for 80 to 90% of the world’s population.

The ‘unicorns of the sea’ are playful year-round residents of Baffin Bay, feeding and mating in the winter.

2. Iceberg beer

Soak in Tuckamore Lodge’s hot tub, sweat it out in the lakeside sauna and quench that iceberg-deep thirst with Quidi Vidi Brewing Company’s signature lager (brewed with pure 20,000 year-old iceberg water harvested straight from the shores of ‘The Rock’). From late May to early July, icebergs, growlers and “bergy bits” cruise south via “Iceberg Alley” from the Arctic and western Greenland. Commemorate this migration on WWE’s Icebergs and Arts Adventure in Newfoundland.

3. Canada Jays

Image cred: Mark Thorsteinson

Image cred: Mark Thorsteinson

These squawk-boxes were voted the official National Bird of Canada. Move over Canada goose! Honk! Aliases include: gray jay, whiskey jack or, more commonly, the camp robber! You’ll meet them (and probably be robbed by them) on our Banff Backcountry Riding Adventure in Alberta. This jay actually lives in all 13 provinces and territories but if you want one to land on your head, it will probably happen quite organically at Lake Louise.

4. Canada’s First National Park

Image credit: Kiley Torti

Image credit: Kiley Torti

You can actually bag three national parks in one awesome swoop on WWE’s Canadian Rockies Hiking Adventure– Banff, Kootenay and Yoho! Established in 1885, expect a total Rocky Mountain high as you feel the hug of lodgepole pines, bugling elk, sprays of wildflowers and surreal teal lakes. You should probably read this memoir too–Park Bagger: Adventures in the Canadian National Parks by Marlis Butcher. Book the trip and put this book in your bag!

5. Haida Gwaii’s Poles

Image credit: Bluewater Adventures/Randy Burke

Image credit: Bluewater Adventures/Randy Burke

The Haida Gwaii archipelago is often referred to as ‘Canada’s Galapagos’ as the islands are bursting with biodiversity above and below the giant Sitkas and cedars. More than 500 archaeological sites are found here–the longhouse remains and ghostly carved poles were introduced to a global audience by Canadian artist Emily Carr in the 1930s.The Haida have decided to let the poles of SGanag Gwaay decay naturally as they believe the totem poles share the same natural, fleeting life as humans. Carr’s oil paintings may outlast the original carvings which makes visiting this sacred site a treasured and unrepeatable experience on WWE’s Haida Gwaii Sailing Adventure.

Of course we have other things up our plaid sleeve too– from polar bears and the wild horses of Sable Island to banana slugs and Jam Jams to…well, you’ll see. Check out our full line-up of 100% Canadiana trips in celebration of Canada Day and come visit us! Don’t forget your toque and bunny hug!