Traveling at the End of the World: A Tour of Canada’s Gaspé Peninsula

It’s the Western Hemisphere’s original superhighway: Long before Route 66 or the Oregon Trail or even the Erie Canal — for that matter, before Henry Hudson ever sailed into New York Harbor French ships, trailing the wake of Indigenous peoples such as the Mi’kmaq and the Innu, were already navigating the St. Lawrence River to explore, exploit and settle the new world. To this day, the St. Lawrence moves more than 150 million tons of cargo a year. But it can also move people, in unexpected ways. Follow alongside, and it will take you through other countries. And realms. And even back in time.

The fleuve Saint-Laurent — a fleuve is a river that empties into the sea; others are merely rivières — flows northward from Lake Ontario for some 800 miles, but a good place to start shadowing it would be about a third of the way downstream, at the Plains of Abraham, in Québec City, where, in 1759, the British effectively secured their hegemony over the French in this part of the world for the next two centuries. Stand up there, on this elevated battleground, and gaze out — over the rooftops of the city that Samuel de Champlain founded 12 years before the Mayflower left England — at the fleuve, spreading out like a bay, and, to your right, two bridges that span it.

The last two.

You don’t have to go across; you could just remain on this side, where Champlain planted roots, and visit waterfalls, ski resorts, artsy towns. But that other side: It’s mysterious. Somewhere out there — around 500 miles of two-lane macadam away — is Rocher Percé (pierced rock), a striking offshore monolith, one of Canada’s great icons, and next door, Île Bonaventure, where cliffs rising hundreds of feet from the water teem with birds rarely spotted south of the border. Both merit the drive; but to do it straight in one day — rather than, as I did, over the course of several — would be like going to an épicerie, buying a Coffee Crisp bar (that cherished Canadian confection), framing the wrapper and throwing the candy away.

Cross over into the city of Lévis and pick up Quebec 132, the road that will take you all the way around the Gaspé peninsula. At first, suburban sprawl obscures the river; then, suddenly, you’re in the middle of lush farmland with open driver’s side views of the fleuve. This region is known as Chaudière-Appalaches, as in, the Appalachian Mountains. They’re up here, too, lurking somewhere off to your right.

You’ll pass many cyclists, their bicycles strapped with bulging saddle bags; the road here runs flat, and straight. The coast, though, does not, so while 132 goes right through some towns, others nestle off to its left. Detouring through one every five or 10 minutes is like unwrapping Christmas presents.

Though they all look like charming mashups of New England and old France, each is distinct from its neighbors. In Saint-Vallier, for instance, I stumbled upon an otherwise nondescript home, its front lawn festooned with more than a dozen elaborate scale models: houses, shops, a gazebo, a church. A neighbor who noticed me gawking walked over to explain, “They’re all buildings in town. The fellow who lives here used to make one a year. He’s 85 now and can’t do it anymore, but he still puts them out every June and takes them in come winter.”

The town of L’Islet has a splendid stone church with gleaming twin spires. Though the parking lot was empty when I passed through, a side door was unlocked; inside, a woman encouraged me to explore its capacious interior, warmer and sunnier than any ornate église I’d ever seen. “This is a patrimoniale church,” she beamed, meaning it’s landmarked, a designation that carries even more prestige here than it does in the States. “It was built in 1768, after the town outgrew two earlier ones.”

Follow the steeples. Churches here stand at the center of town; around them you’ll often find warm cafés, humble museums, public artwork, homemade chapels, placid riverfronts, little houses painted in bright colors. And sometimes — full disclosure — a potent whiff of cow manure. Fertile land, this.

At Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière, past a sign welcoming you to the next region, Bas- (or lower) Saint-Laurent, a roadside shrine lists the town’s pioneers, going back to 1715. Others nearby were settled even earlier, like Kamouraska.

There are a few things that will stop you in Kamouraska. There’s that founding date, of course (1674); but there’s also its name — I’m told it’s Algonquin for “the place where rushes grow at the edge of the water” — which may well be the first thing you’ve seen on this whole drive to remind you that other people were living in these parts before the French sailed in.

But what will really stop you in Kamouraska is all the foot traffic, right along 132: people exploring historical sites, yes, but also plenty of boutiques, galleries, eateries. I asked the gentleman at the visitors bureau what drew people there in the first place, figuring the businesses had followed the tourists. “We’re known for having the second-most-beautiful sunsets in the world,” he said. Having heard tell of other Saint-Laurent towns with spectacular sunsets, I asked him where No. 1 was. “Hawaii,” he replied.

But for the silver-painted steeples and mansard roofs, this part of the drive, where the towns are now maybe 15 or 20 minutes apart, may remind you of the Low Countries — at least until Bic National Park begins, bumping smooth shoreline for rugged inlets and channels, peppered with little pine-topped islands, which evoke Norse country. Road and river reunite near Rimouski, population 50,000, by far the largest city this side of Lévis, almost 200 miles back. When I stopped at the tourism office there and asked where the historic district was, the woman behind the counter told me: “There isn’t one. The city burned down in 1950.”

Rimouski does have a pleasant elevated walkway along the shore, though the serenity you experience gazing out at the fleuve there may be tempered by a visit to the Empress of Ireland Museum, dedicated to a liner of that name that sank nearby in May 1914, taking more than a thousand people down with it in just 14 minutes. The museum has a fine film about the ship, how it sank and why it went down so quickly — despite having safety features inspired by the Titanic disaster just two years earlier — and displays hundreds of artifacts salvaged by wildcat divers: water heater, egg boiler, baby bottle, moose antlers. Only as I was walking back to my car did I realize the building itself is a Cubist rendition of the foundering ship, smokestacks and all.

At some point, it will occur to you that you can no longer see the opposite bank, and you’ll come to understand why folks here refer to the river as la mer, the sea. At Sainte-Flavie, you enter the region of Gaspésie. The towns get noticeably smaller and even farther apart, the Christmas presents more surprising, including working phone booths and mechanical gas pumps.

More than 200 years have passed since Métis-sur-Mer was founded by a Scottish seigneur, but it’s still somewhat Anglophone. (It was “Métis Beach” until 2002.) It still has a Presbyterian church, too; in its graveyard, scattered among the marble and limestone, you’ll find a few wooden markers, long since weathered to illegibility. At Baie-des-Sables, while you stroll yet another waterside promenade sprinkled with comfortable chairs, it may occur to you that there is in these towns a tremendous sense of civic pride: Almost everything in them is tidy, well kept (even abandoned houses have mowed lawns) and, by the shore, inviting.

Past Matane, the coast starts to bulge and buckle with approaching mountains. Towns bear-hug the water, sometimes even spilling out over it, like Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, where I came upon a large quay, its surface covered with vehicles, its edges with anglers. These settlements were built on fishing, but people here apparently love it so much they do it in their spare time, too.

Soon thereafter, you will have crested the peninsula, your car’s compass having gradually spun from NNE to just E. It’s here, at the ceiling of Gaspésie, that the Appalachians finally end, and not with a whimper. They crash right into the water, forcing the road to accommodate them by rising and falling and contorting such that you may feel it’s trying to shake you off its back.

But, then: those views. Here analogy fails me; I know of none like them. If you’re the type of person who stares at far-flung places on maps and envisions what they must be like, this one will exceed your imagination. At one point, for instance, a sharp bend in the mountainside road suddenly reveals a vista of more mountains alternating like the teeth of an opening zipper; before them, the village of Mont-Saint-Pierre clings to the slender rim of a half-moon cove. Stand on its dark-gray-speckled-with-white beach, looking forward and back, and you’ll wonder how any thoroughfare — much less the modest one bedside you — can possibly make it around the promontories jutting into the sea.

Past each, other mountains inch back from the shore just enough to accommodate settlements, some only one house deep; a few are simply a handful of small dwellings huddling together against blue infinity. Others are a bit larger, like Madeleine-Centre, where the lighthouse — you’ll have passed many by now: wooden, stone, brick; white, red, white and red — has a small museum that illuminates the history of the area, the life of a lighthouse keeper, and the indispensability of such structures, quaint artifacts though they seem now: In just two decades, from 1856 to 1876, the St. Lawrence swallowed at least 674 ships.

This raw coast, compelling as it is today, was, for centuries, terribly forbidding. The hamlet of Pointe-à-la-Frégate — named for the British frigate HMS Penelope, which ran aground there on April 30, 1815; more than 200 on board either drowned or froze to death — has a pocket park commemorating that shipwreck, with informative kiosks, a couple of picnic tables shaped like (pink) Napoleonic-era warships, and a cannon. You may be tempted to pose behind the porthole for a picture, but I wouldn’t: It’s mounted at the edge of a cliff.

If you like local, Gaspésie’s northern fringe is the place. When I cheekily asked a server at a small restaurant what other kinds of dining options were in the vicinity, she grinned and said, “There’s A&W in Matane, and McDonald’s in Gaspé.” Matane was then 100 miles behind me; Gaspé still 100 miles ahead. Sparsely populated as the area is, though, it has a great deal of history, not all of it tragic. At Pointe-à-la-Renommée, Guglielmo Marconi opened his first North American maritime wireless station in 1904. It’s still there on the spot (next to yet another lighthouse) that Marconi chose precisely because it was so remote.

At the eastern tip of the peninsula, Forillon National Park leaps out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Nearly 100 square miles of conifers, beaches and capes, it was created in 1970, though not without tears: As kiosks at an anse, or cove, there explain, a great many families, some of whom had been there for centuries, were displaced in the process; their memories and lamentations grace other kiosks. (“We had lots of fun at Christmas.” “Families always got together for meals; it was a tradition.” “I know it’s been over 40 years but it still hurts. We’ll never forget.”) Some of their empty houses remain, as does William Hyman’s store, which provisioned generations of cod fishermen.

That cove is called L’Anse-aux-Amérindians (thankfully renamed from L’Anse-aux-Sauvages) to commemorate earlier generations of displaced residents. A trail that starts nearby leads to this eastern tip’s eastern tip, Land’s End. Its French name, Le Bout du Monde, seems more apt — the End of the World. And yet, somehow, inadequate: Ride a whale-watching boat around the Gulf and you’ll behold a land-and-seascape — indigo water waging an ancient war on ochre cliffs, more than you can count — best described as otherworldly.

Heading on, you’ll pass Fort Péninsule, a preserved coastal defense dating to World War II, when the Nazis sank some two dozen Allied ships in the St. Lawrence, before you come into the city of Gaspé, population 15,000. The town of Percé — where the sights include not only Rocher Percé and Île Bonaventure, but more souvenir and tchotchke stores than I care to recollect, not to mention the first paid parking lots I’d encountered in 500 miles — is still about 45 minutes away; but, again, don’t rush. Gaspé, one of the great natural harbors on the Atlantic — with its nearby beaches and surprisingly warm water, enticing restaurants and shops, fine regional museum and snug main street, Rue de la Reine, where the lampposts and parking-meter poles are outfitted with rainbow-striped knitted cozies — is as good a place as any I can think of to hunker down for a bit.

Jacques Cartier would agree. A tall stone cross on Gaspé’s waterfront marks the spot where the explorer planted a more modest wooden one in 1534, when he stopped by seeking shelter from a storm, and decided to do some trading with the locals. And, while he was there, invoke the papal Doctrine of Discovery (the one that decreed Christian nations like France could just assert ownership of territory already occupied by non-Christian Indigenous peoples) to claim the land for King François.

What he claimed — about 35 years before Champlain was born — is what we now call Canada. Though Gaspé also sometimes refers to itself as the End of the World, it was, in fact, the beginning of a whole new one. And well worth traversing several to see.

Lodging: If you’re an R.V. person, there are campgrounds all along Route 132, some right on the water. If you’re not, there are large hotels in Rimouski and Matane, but you might also consider an auberge, or inn, in a Victorian-era house; there are a couple, for instance, in the village of Le Bic, which also has a very fine bakery, Folles Farines, and lovely views of Bic National Park. There are plenty of inns in lower Gaspésie, ranging from humble to much less humble, and small motels. Up on the peninsula’s ceiling, options range from pretty basic motels (which nonetheless usually look better in real life than they appear in pictures online), to small inns, to cabins. (Few will turn up in a hotel app search; better to just use Google Maps.) And in Gaspé, there are motels, inns and hotels; the Baker Hotel is upscale for this area, but not exorbitant. You deserve it after all that driving.

Dining: This area is, not surprisingly, known for its seafood, but there are also plenty of local specialties that don’t come from the water. You will find a number of more upscale dining options — though not as many as you would have before Canada started experiencing its own labor shortage; you can still get a good breakfast at many hotels and inns, and even motels, though dinner at these can be trickier these days — but the food at the roadside shacks (called cantines) is often outstanding, too, even when they’re the only option. The line at Cantine Ste-Flavie, for instance, just outside that town, can be very long, and there’s a good reason for that. Even on such an enticing menu, the poutine aux crevettes — a mountain of fresh local shrimp atop fries, cheese curds and gravy — stands out. (Be forewarned: They only take cash and certain debit cards.) La Banquise 102 de Gaspé offers a delicious Montreal smoked meat poutine; so does Brise Bise, a restaurant on Rue de la Reine. Cafe des Artistes and the bakery Oh Les Pains, both also on Rue de la Reine, are also very good, and the restaurant TÉTÛ at the Baker Hotel is a fine option. Just make sure these are open on the day you plan to go — again, that labor shortage. Finally, when you see the giant roadside strawberry in L’Isle Vert (about 45 minutes past Kamouraska, heading north/east), pull up to the little red shack — Potager Côte D’or — and get a sundae made with their fresh strawberries. You’re welcome.

Museums, etc.: There are many small museums and local historical sites all along the route; serendipity may well guide you to some you won’t forget. The Empress of Ireland Museum is part of a maritime heritage complex that includes a lighthouse and a Canadian submarine. In Gaspé, you might want to check out the nascent Site d’Interpretation Micmac de Gespeg, and the generous array of informative kiosks at a plaza down by the waterfront where Cartier planted his cross. But you definitely don’t want to skip the Musée de la Gaspésie, which has excellent permanent exhibits about the history and culture of the area, including millennia of Indigenous societies and centuries of Anglo-French intrigue and commercial fishing. There’s also a wondrous temporary one (running through fall 2023) called “Cher Léo,” about Léonard Lapierre (1928-2014), an ingenious area folk artist who made everything out of anything. (The exhibit’s name refers to the many fan letters Lapierre got from schoolchildren throughout Canada.)

Follow New York Times Travel on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. And sign up for our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter to receive expert tips on traveling smarter and inspiration for your next vacation. Dreaming up a future getaway or just armchair traveling? Check out our 52 Places for a Changed World for 2022.

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Travel news: Niagara Falls fun, Atlantic Canada’s mural festival, and what to see in Hong Kong’s cultural district

Showtime in Niagara

For Canadian Music Week, Niagara Falls will be hosting its third annual Music Live series (June 9 to 11), with more than 50 performances at 20 different venues, including the Niagara Brewing Company and Marriott on the Falls. Highlights include a ticketed concert by Big Wreck ($44, at, alongside more intimate free shows by Canadian and international artists. Also back is Niagara’s free fireworks series, running from May 20 to Oct. 10. The sparks can be seen directly over the falls nightly at 10 p.m.

Art on the streets

Canada’s longest festival kicked off in Atlantic Canada on May 12. Starting in Saint John and ending in Shediac on Aug. 27, Festival Inspire will travel to six cities throughout New Brunswick, as well as Charlottetown, PEI. The focal point will be the creation of large-scale murals by local and international artists, including Dutch illustrator Eelco, whose work has appeared in National Geographic and on buildings across Europe. Other events include costumed disco bike ride rallies, film screenings and live music.

Curbing overtourism

If you're planning to day trip to Venice this summer, plan to book ahead.

Starting in June, day trippers to Venice will need to pre-book their visit and pay an entry fee of up to €10 ($13.50 CAD). The forthcoming booking system comes in response to the pressures of overtourism on Venice’s fragile infrastructure and resources. Up to 30 million people visit the floating city per year, many for as little as one day. For now, the booking system is voluntary — with incentives like the ability to jump lines at attractions — but will be mandatory come Jan. 2023.

Opening soon

The $450-million (U.S.) Hong Kong Palace Museum is set to open its doors this July. Housing around 900 treasures from Beijing’s Palace Museum, it will showcase ancient calligraphy, decorative objects and rare books, including some never before seen by the public. Permanent exhibitions will include 18th-century portraits of emperors and empresses, and ceramics from the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644), alongside items on loan from the Musée du Louvre in Paris. It’s located in the 40-hectare West Kowloon Cultural District, neighbouring M+, the new museum of visual culture.

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Discover Some Of Canada’s Best Spots And Events For Birding

Birding isn’t just for avid ornithologists – the hobby appeals equally to families with young children, photographers, sustainability advocates and people seeking an excuse for a stroll. It’s also accessible; there’s no need to purchase fancy equipment or travel to far-off locales to watch birds. So, with World Migratory Bird Day (May 14, 2022) fast approaching, there’s never been a better time to consider when and where to enjoy the best birding in Canada.

There are 426 recognized Canadian bird species, many of which are endangered. Approximately 327 bird species live in the boreal forest, an area that lies between the treeless tundra of the Arctic and the temperature zone in southern Canada. Birders flock to areas such as Wood Buffalo National Park in northeastern Alberta and the southern Northwest Territories, which is part of the boreal forest and provides an important habitat for birds, including migratory forest songbirds. Wood Buffalo National Park is a nesting area for the last migratory flock of whooping cranes in the world. Find birding hotspots near you, and learn what species to look out for, on eBird Canada.

Canada is home to millions of migrating birds that return to its lakes and forests each spring to nest and reproduce. Learn about migratory birds by checking out local events on World Migratory Bird Day. This year’s avian celebration calls attention to the impact of light pollution on migratory birds. Light pollution causes disorientation for birds flying at night, can lead to collisions with buildings and interferes with birds’ ability to undertake long-distance migrations. You can also learn about the Canadian flyway and download a migratory bird map at Nature Conservancy Canada.

Top birding spots include:

Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve in Newfoundland and Labrador is a protected seabird ecological reserve, and home to thousands of gulls, razorbills, great cormorants and other majestic feathered friends. The reserve is also the southernmost breeding area in the world for thick-billed murres. The focal point is Bird Rock, the third-largest nesting site and southernmost colony of northern gannets in North America. When to go: In early summer, the bird sanctuary comes alive with tens of thousands of migrating seabirds.

It’s a surprise to most people, but Toronto, Ontario, provides access to some of the best birding locations in the region. Tommy Thompson Park is a natural habitat for several species of colonial waterbirds, waterfowl and shorebirds, making it a favorite of birders. It’s also an important stopover during migration for many bird species that need to rest and refuel before continuing their journey. When to go: In May, you’ll have the best chance of spotting flycatchers, sparrows, thrushes and different types of warblers. Songbirds can also be heard, and occasionally seen, in the summer.

Fundy National Park in New Brunswick shelters more than 260 bird species among its marine coastal environment. In December, the park participates in a Christmas bird count, where ornithologists and visitors search the area and tally resident birds. When to go: In spring, visitors can observe up to 15 types of warblers, as well as the pileated woodpecker, junco, great blue heron, cormorant, ruffed grouse and others.

Bonaventure Island and Percé Rock, at the tip of Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, are home to the largest migratory bird refuge in North America. The island’s colony of over 110,000 northern gannets is the most accessible gannet colony in the world. When to go: Spot northern gannets in the summer months, generally between June and September.

Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park in Alberta is a vital birding habitat. Nearly half of all North American birds rely on the boreal forest surrounding the lake, and over 300 species regularly breed here. Visitors can pop into the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation to learn about birds and the boreal forest; there are also interpretive trails and family-friendly programming. When to go: Spring and fall migrations are peak birding time in Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park, where flocks of up to 3,500 migrating tundra swans have been seen. In the winter, you can see the black capped chickadee, downy woodpecker and pine siskin. Tip: the Songbird Trail, just outside the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation, meanders through towering aspen forest, with benches for visitors to stop and listen for birds.

The George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Delta, BC contains nearly 300 hectares (850 acres) of managed wetlands, marshes and dykes in the heart of the Fraser River Estuary. The sanctuary has recorded nearly 300 species of birds, with the highest diversity and numbers seen between fall and spring. When to go: October to early December is the best time to see large flocks of waterfowl (including ducks, geese and swans) during migration. A flock of lesser snow geese draws crowds each year, as they arrive in BC from their nesting grounds on Wrangel Island, Russia. In March and April, thousands of shorebirds pass through the Fraser Delta, including western sandpipers, which stop to feed and roost en route to their breeding grounds in the Arctic.

Canada’s also got some great birding festivals, including:

The Huron Fringe Birding Festival, one of Ontario’s most popular birding events, takes place in late May at MacGregor Point Provincial Park. The park is bursting with bird habitats and late May captures the end of migration and the beginning of the nesting season to ensure the forests and fields are bursting with birds!

A Celebration of Swans in the Yukon commemorates the mass migration of tens of thousands of swans, ducks and geese with guided walks and education workshops (April and May).

Wings Over the Rockies in the Kootenays, BC boasts a collection of online birding workshops, presentations and events, as well as a photo contest (May 9-15).

Songbird Festival in Alberta features guided birding hikes, nature workshops, a songbird scavenger hunt, and tours of the migration monitoring station (May 28-29).

The Toronto Bird Celebration in Toronto, Ontario celebrates the spring return of some 50 million birds with online events, webinars and courses (May).

Birding Tours

In Search of Whoopers: Go in search of one of North America’s most captivating birds. The area around Saskatoon is one of the most reliable areas on the continent to see North America’s tallest bird: the endangered Whooping Crane

Lake Erie Spring Migration Tour: The songbird migration spectacle at the “Big 3” – Pelee, Rondeau and Long Point! Also includes an exclusive day boat trip to the Long Point Bird Observatory research station at the Tip of Long Point.

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Canada’s Wonderland Shared 8 Tips For Your Next Trip & How You Could Avoid Long Lines

There are tons of things to do and check out at Canada’s Wonderland, but it can be a bummer if you’re spending most of your time at the park getting held up in a line.

As of April 30, the park will be back open for business to the general public, so why not get some inside tips on how to hit up the most rides before you come on down?

Here are eight tips and tricks Canada’s Wonderland shared that will help you make the most out of your next visit.

Consider flying solo to bypass those long AF lines

Canada’s Wonderland has a single rider line for some of their coasters if you don’t care about splitting up from your crew and riding solo.

The director of communications for Canada’s Wonderland, Grace Peacock, told Narcity the lines for the solo passenger lanes are “often much shorter” than their regular lineups.

Or make your way for the Fast Lane

If ripping down a coaster alone doesn’t appeal to you, Wonderland recommends considering shelling out the extra cash for one of their Fast Lane wristbands.

Wave goodbye to everyone waiting in the regular line as you make your way through the Fast Lane to fly down the Yukon Striker for the fifth time that day.

A word to the wise though: they only sell a limited number of these passes so you may want to consider copping them in advance.

One strategy to hit all of the big coasters: start at the back

Canada’s Wonderland is well-known for its massive, heart-dropping, scream-inducing rollercoasters like Leviathan, Behemoth, and the Yukon Striker, but sometimes the lines can be out of this world.

One way to hit all of the major coasters is heading to the back of the park first and then working your way closer to the entrance, Peacock shared.

“Many guests start at the closest rides but the ones further away are often less busy.”

Per Wonderland’s blog, you could use their mobile app to plan out a full-on ride plan. Since the app shows the wait times for each of the rides it could help you strategize which one to go to next based on how long the line is.

Don’t let the rain bog you down

Hate major crowds and don’t mind getting wet from the rain? Consider going to the park when it’s drizzling out.

“This has been a key strategy for guests for generations,” Peacock said.

“Even when I was a kid, my parents would only take us if the weather looked questionable because they knew the park would be less busy.”

Save some time and buy your ticket online

Grab your tickets on their website before making your way to Wonderland’s entrance to forgo going to the tickets kiosk at the park. Canada’s Wonderland shared that you could also save a few bucks when you buy them online since these tickets typically come with discounts.

If you’re someone who just can’t get enough of that adrenaline high after getting off of a coaster, you might want to consider buying a season pass or gold pass.

“I always recommend this for parents with young children as well, who perhaps aren’t able to stay a whole day. A season pass gives you freedom to come back again, even for a few hours, whenever you want,” Peacock said.

First-timers might want to do their research beforehand

Going somewhere for the very first time can be overwhelming, especially when there is tons to check out.

Peacock recommends downloading the park’s map in advance and planning out your route before coming down, so you can check off all of your boxes before heading out.

“Check our events page to see if there’s something that interests you and plan to attend during those dates. If there’s a show you want to see, note the performance times so you can be in the right place at the right time,” Peacock said.

Bring your towel and swimsuit

You never know when the mood can strike and you want to take a plunge in some cool water on a hot summer day.

Splash Works won’t be opening up right at the same time the rest of the park opens though, and will actually be ready for guests to visit starting May 28.

The park’s cashless but you can still swap your bills

Canada’s Wonderland will no longer be accepting cash anywhere at the park, but that doesn’t mean you’re totally out of luck if you do.

“However, you can still bring cash – we have many kiosks around the park where guests can convert their cash onto a prepaid card for free,” Peacock said.

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Here’s how Canada’s upcoming travel restrictions could affect your trip

If you have travel plans coming up, you might want to be in the know about Canada’s upcoming travel restrictions, which come into effect this weekend.

The country is set to enter the next phase of its reopening. On March 17, the government announced that effective Friday, April 1, fully vaccinated travellers will no longer need to provide a pre-entry COVID-19 test result to enter Canada by air, land, or water.

Regardless of their vaccination status, all travellers entering the country must have a valid pre-entry test if they arrive before Friday.

What does “fully vaccinated” mean?

Canada has a checklist of identifiers if you want to verify whether you fall under the umbrella of “fully vaccinated.”

The conditions mean you have to have received at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine accepted for travel — this can be a mix of two accepted vaccines — or at least one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. You can upload your proof of vaccination using the ArriveCAN mobile app or website, and must do so 72 hours before your arrival.

Your second dose will only count if it has been at least 14 days since you received it. For example, if you’re flying out on April 15, the latest you can get your second dose is on March 31.

Aside from vaccination records, travellers arriving in Canada should not show symptoms of COVID-19. Travellers may still be stopped and asked to take a molecular COVID-19 test at random.

What if I’m not fully vaccinated?

Keep in mind that the lax upcoming travel restrictions only apply to fully vaccinated people. Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated individuals will continue to follow current travel restrictions and must provide pre-entry test results.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, there are three types of test results that will be accepted:

  1. A valid negative antigen test, administered or observed by an accredited lab or testing provider, taken outside of Canada no more than one day before their initially scheduled flight departure time or their arrival at the land border or marine port of entry.
  2. A valid negative molecular test taken no more than 72 hours before their initially scheduled flight departure time or their arrival at the land border or marine port of entry.
  3. A previous positive molecular test taken at least 10 calendar days and no more than 180 calendar days before their initially scheduled flight departure time or their arrival at the land border or marine port of entry. It is important to note that positive antigen test results will not be accepted.

You must upload your test results on the ArriveCAN mobile app or website 72 hours before arrival.

What if I have an exemption?

Unless otherwise exempt, all travellers aged five and above who do not qualify as fully vaccinated must continue to provide proof of an accepted type of pre-entry COVID-19 test result.

To read more about what qualifies you as exempt, click here.

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Canada’s new travel rules explained

Canada is easing several travel measures on Monday for people entering the country.

But some rules remain, including the pre-arrival COVID-19 test requirement, which means returning home from abroad can still be complicated and costly. 

Here’s what you need to know if you have upcoming travel plans.

You can now take a rapid antigen test

For the past year, the federal government has required that travellers entering Canada show proof of a negative molecular test, such as a PCR, taken within 72 hours of their departing flight or planned arrival at the land border. 

Starting Monday, people can opt to instead take a rapid antigen test, which is typically cheaper (generally under $100) and more convenient, as results are available within minutes.

Rapid antigen tests are generally cheaper (often priced under $100) and more convenient, as results are available within minutes. But take-home tests won’t cut it: Canada will only accept pre-entry tests authorized by the country where it was purchased and it must be administered by a lab, health-care entity or telehealth service. (Lam Yik/Reuters)

At a news conference last week, the government said the antigen test must be taken no more than 24 hours before travelling.

But it turns out that people have slightly more time: The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) confirmed on Friday that the test must actually be taken no more than one day before a traveller’s departing flight or planned arrival at the land border. 

People must take the antigen test in the country they’re departing from, and can only use one authorized for travellers.

“It can’t be the take-home tests that we’ve seen here in our communities,” said Denis Vinette, vice-president of the CBSA’s Travellers Branch. “It has to be done through a lab that will give you then the [written] confirmation that you are either negative or positive.”

Calls to drop pre-arrival test

Despite offering a potentially cheaper option, the government still faces pressure to drop all pre-arrival testing. 

“It’s so ridiculous,” said Dave Swidler, of Mont-Tremblant, Que. who’s set to fly home from the Hawaiian island of Kauai on March 14.

“Somebody who has had three vaccines and wears a mask and doesn’t take chances, making me take a test to come home and making me stress about it — why are they doing that?”

Dave Swidler and his wife, Marina Chase, of Mont-Tremblant, Que. are set to fly home from Hawaii on March 14. (submitted by David Swidler)

On Friday, several border-town mayors on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border held a news conference, calling for an end to all pre-arrival testing at the land border for fully vaccinated travellers. 

Even when getting an antigen test, “you still have to go through the hassle of clicking the box, making the appointment, finding a pharmacy that is available,” Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said at the news conference.

“The need for testing at the land border is long over.”

Several medical experts also say Ottawa should drop pre-arrival testing, arguing it’s pointless now that Omicron has spread across Canada. 

But the government says further easing of border measures will only come when pandemic conditions improve. 

“We must continue to exercise prudence,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said last week. “Our fight against the virus is not over.”

What happens if I test positive?

The government has not eased rules for travellers who test positive while abroad.

Those travellers must wait at least 10 full days after they took their test before entering Canada. Infected Canadians won’t be turned away at a land border, but may face fines of up to $5,000 for defying the rules. 

“There is still the risk — the real risk — of becoming sick while abroad and having to extend your trip, should you test positive for COVID-19,” Duclos said, speaking in French. 

WATCH | Canada allowing travellers to take an antigen test:

Canada easing travel restrictions, dropping PCR test requirement

As of Feb. 28, fully vaccinated travellers won’t need a pre-arrival PCR test to enter Canada and unvaccinated children under 12 won’t need to quarantine. The federal government will also be removing the advisory against non-essential travel. 1:52

People who recently recovered from COVID-19 don’t have to take a pre-arrival test — if they provide proof of a positive molecular test taken between 10 and 180 days before entering Canada.

“The PCR molecular test remains the gold standard,” said Vinette. “In order to be able to re-enter [and] demonstrate the positive outcome of your test, you’ll need the molecular test.”

That means travellers abroad who test positive with an antigen test could face complications. They must get a second test to return home and if they opt for another antigen test, the results must be negative.

Norm Chew, of Toronto, says he’ll likely cancel his family’s spring break ski trip to Vermont, due to fears of testing positive while in the U.S. (CBC News)

Norm Chew, of Toronto, had hoped Canada would drop its pre-arrival test requirement. Because that didn’t happen, he says he’ll likely cancel his family’s spring break ski trip to Vermont, due to fears of testing positive.

“If we’re positive, we have to stay out for 10 days, otherwise we could face the fine,” said Chew, who had planned to drive to Vermont. “Ten days in a hotel with four of us sick, no thanks.”

Other rules

Also starting Monday, unvaccinated children under the age of 12 entering Canada with fully vaccinated parents will no longer have to avoid schools, daycare or other crowded settings for 14 days.

And fully vaccinated travellers randomly selected to be tested upon arrival won’t have to quarantine while awaiting their test results.

Finally, Canada has lifted its advisory against non-essential international travel. Although the advisory was in place for most of the pandemic, millions of Canadians still chose to travel abroad. 

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Canada’s Trudeau says Omicron spike ‘scary,’ Ottawa to lift Africa travel ban

A nurse performs a wellness check of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patient inside the intensive care unit of Humber River Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

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OTTAWA, Dec 17 (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday said a spike in cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant was “scary,” while the country’s top medical official made clear the healthcare system could soon be swamped.

COVID-19 case numbers are rapidly increasing in Canada, with several of the 10 provinces reporting big jumps as Omicron replaces Delta as the dominant variant.

“I know the record numbers we’re seeing in parts of the country are scary – but I also know we can get through this,” Trudeau tweeted, urging Canadians to get vaccinated and keep their distance from other people.

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Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos earlier urged provinces to impose more public health measures, and said Canada would once again require people returning home after foreign trips of less than 72 hours to produce a negative test. Tour operators say the measure is onerous and deters travel.

“We’re not in a popularity contest here,” Duclos said, describing the situation as “dramatic and critical.”

Chief medical officer Theresa Tam said that if Omicron did become the dominant variant, “the sheer number of cases could inundate the health system in a very short period of time”.

Duclos also said Canada would lift a ban on travelers from 10 African countries that was imposed last month and reiterated government advice that residents avoid international travel. read more

Critics said the ban on people who had recently been to South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt and seven other nations made no sense given the rapid spread of Omicron.

“While we recognize the controversial nature of such a prohibition, we believe it was a necessary measure to slow the arrival of Omicron in Canada and buy us some time,” Duclos said.

Britain made a similar announcement on Tuesday, citing community transmission of Omicron. read more

The provinces of Ontario and Quebec, which together make up around 60% of Canada’s population, this week both reimposed restrictions on public gatherings.

In its second installment of curbs announced this week, Ontario said Friday that the capacity limit on indoor public places such as restaurants, gyms, and shopping malls would be capped at 50% from Sunday.

The province also put a limit of 10 people for informal social gatherings indoors and 25 people outdoors.

“I know this is not the situation any of us wanted to be in, especially during the holiday season, but it’s clear Omicron will not take a holiday,” said Ontario’s chief medical officer Kieran Moore.

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Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Aadditional reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru, Steve Scherer in Ottawa and Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Alistair Bell

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Travel news: Canada’s ‘most exciting’ backcountry trail, bucket-list trips by private jet, and how to pay like a local

Into the wild

Looking for a new backcountry challenge? New Brunswick’s historic Sentier Nepisiguit Mi’gmaq Trail, has landed on National Geographic’s list of “the planet’s 25 most exciting destinations for 2022.” Used as a migration route by the nomadic Mi’gmaq people for thousands of years, the single-track wilderness path opened in 2018 for hiking, following extensive restoration work. The intrepid and experienced can cover the whole 150 kilometres, which runs along the Nepisiguit River from Bathurst to Mount Carleton Provincial Park, in an estimated six to 12 days.

On-the-go card

Global fintech company Wise has launched its travel-friendly, "pay like a local" card.

Global fintech company Wise has launched its Wise card in Canada, enabling customers to “pay like a local around the world,” in more than 150 currencies, without foreign transaction fees. Although not a credit card — it works as a prepaid card connected to a multi-currency account — it taps into Visa’s global network, so you can use it wherever the latter is accepted.

Suite spot

Inside one of the 82 retro-modern guest rooms at the Hotel Belmont Vancouver.

The Hotel Belmont Vancouver is the first Canadian property to join Accor’s MGallery, a collection of boutique hotels. Renovated in 2019, the 82-room spot is known for its historic address (once home to the bar where you could’ve heard a not-yet-famous Michael Bublé play) and its retro-modern, made-for-Instagram esthetic.

Sky’s the limit

A visit to the pyramids of Giza in Egypt is one of seven stops on the "African Wonders" trip by Four Seasons private jet.

As a trend, private aviation has taken off during the pandemic, reaching record levels of activity this year, according to research firm WingX. Another sign of demand: the 2022 itineraries offered by the Four Seasons Private Jet Experience are almost entirely sold out. The company has just announced its 2023 journeys, which will whisk travellers on bucket-list experiences like the 13-day “African Wonders” trip via a new 48-seat Airbus. The price tag is a casual $130,000 (U.S.) per adult, based on double occupancy.

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‘Long overdue’: Industry welcomes Canada’s lifting of global advisory against non-essential travel

Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press

Published Friday, October 22, 2021 2:39PM EDT

CALGARY – The travel industry is welcoming what it calls the federal government’s “long overdue” move to lift a global advisory asking Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside the country.

“You cannot believe how welcome this move is for us,” said Bruce Poon Tip, founder of Canadian based international tour operator G Adventures. “It’s very late, as far as I’m concerned, given what’s going in the rest of the world. But very welcome, that’s for sure.”

The global travel advisory was put in place in March 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the world.

The government of Canada’s website now shows that advisory is no longer in place, though it continues to list individual advisories for destination countries, as it did prior to the pandemic.

It also urges Canadians to ensure they are fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus before travelling abroad, and to stay informed of the COVID-19 situation at their destination.

Canada has been slower than many other countries to remove its blanket advisory against international travel, and that’s been frustrating for the Canadian travel industry, Poon Tip said. He said his own company has been forced to lay off 1,000 people – more than half of its workforce worldwide – due to the collapse in travel demand.

“It’s been a tough time, making those kinds of decisions. The toughest decisions I’ve had to make in 30 years,” he said.

However, Poon Tip said he’s noticed a significant uptick in travel demand from Canadians in the last couple of months, something he attributes to the growing confidence in the wake of the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations.

“We’ve hired 30 people in the last couple of months just to answer inquiries, and we’re continually hiring again, which is a great feeling,” he said.

At The Travel Lady Agency in Calgary, founder and chief executive Lesley Keyter said she’s also noticed a dramatic increase in inquiries and bookings in the last two months. But she said the removal of the federal government’s blanket travel advisory will add an extra layer of comfort for some people.

“I’m sure this will persuade people who were on the fence. They’ll feel a bit safer about doing that,” Keyter said.

The removal of the global travel advisory should also make it easier for Canadians to purchase travel insurance, depending on their destination and its COVID-19 risk profile, Keyter added.

However, the federal government continues to advise against travel on cruise ships, something Keyter said will continue to negatively affect Canada’s travel agency industry.

“I’m desperately disappointed that they’re taking away the blanket ban, but they’re still keeping this Level 4 advisory for the cruises,” Keyter said.

“Honestly, having been on two cruises in the last couple of months, I felt safer on the cruise than I did on my overnight hotel in Toronto.”

Canada opened its borders last month to non-essential international travellers who have received both doses of a Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccine, and to fully vaccinated travellers from the United States in August.

The U.S. government recently announced that its land borders will reopen to non-essential Canadian travellers on Nov. 8.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published October 22, 2021.

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Travel ideas for non-snowbirds: where to embrace winter in Canada’s national parks

If you live in Canada, you’re built for all-season outdoor fun. With winter travel planning upon us, here are a few diversions you can do in our national parks come hibernation season. Bundle up.

For hot springs in the Canadian Rockies: Kootenay National Park

Where: Located in southeastern B.C. near Alberta, Kootenay National Park covers 1,406 square kilometres of the Canadian Rockies. The splashy neighbour next door (Banff National Park) tends to get more of the glamour (and clamour), but Kootenay is no slouch. Winter amusements include backcountry skiing, snowshoeing and soaking weary muscles in Radium Hot Springs, one of the park’s star attractions.

Why: Radium is one of three historic pools in Canadian Rockies hot springs operated by Parks Canada (Banff and Jasper round out the list). The family-friendly fun is so classic, it’s part of Destination Canada’s collection of Canadian Signature Experiences. Of the trio, Radium Hot Springs is the largest facility and open seven days a week (with capacity limits at the moment). The clear, 100 per cent natural mineral water is always steamy at 37 to 40ºC, so you can soak on the frostiest days.

For cross-country skiing in a UNESCO World Heritage site: Gros Morne National Park

Where: Gros Morne National Park, in Newfoundland and Labrador, is known for its dramatic landscapes (the result of continental drift and plate tectonics, to get science-y about it). Glacier-carved fjords, alpine highlands, sandy beaches and cascading falls — they’re all here in an expanse that covers 1,805 square kilometres

Why: Want plentiful powder but still (relatively) moderate cold weather? Gros Morne has a reputation for both, making it a playground for cross-country skiers, especially from January to March. There are several regularly groomed trails, most tracked for classic cross-country skiing, including some fairly flat forest options fine for beginners. There’s also backcountry skiing, for those experienced enough to handle unmarked routes in the wilderness (and the real risks involved). For multi-day trips, there are two backwoods ski huts available (health restrictions permitting) for overnighting far away from it all.

For stargazing in a Dark Sky Preserve: Point Pelee National Park

Where: At the most southern point of mainland Canada, jutting sharply into Lake Erie, you’ll find Point Pelee National Park, around a 3.5-hour drive from Toronto. It’s one of the country’s most petite national parks, just about 9 kilometres long, from the entrance to the daggerlike tip. But it also has the distinction of being the most ecologically diverse, abounding with butterflies in fall and migratory birds in spring.

Why: Point Pelee National Park is designated a Dark Sky Preserve, which is a very official way of saying it’s a particularly sweet spot to stare at millions of stars, which are more visible since there’s no annoying light pollution to distract. If you want to keep gazing after the park’s closing time, overnight stays are bookable at 24 oTENTiks (Parks Canada’s hybrid cabin/tent), tucked inside the Carolinian forest.

For challenging snowshoeing in the land of lakes: La Mauricie National Park

Where: About a two-hour from Montreal, La Mauricie National Park is classic Laurentians, dense with forests, shaped by undulating terrain and dotted with 150 lakes. The water means summer staples like swimming, canoe camping and kayaking are a given, but come winter, the destination is also a draw for cross-country skiers, hikers and serious snowshoers.

Why: If snowshoeing sounds like a casual walk in the park, La Mauricie makes it an endurance sport. Covering 536 square kilometres, it’s home to eight marked wilderness trails for snowshoeing — with just one rated “easy.” Five are “difficult,” an understatement given the 17-kilometre Deux-Criques will test your cardio with climbs and descents over an estimated seven hours. Shorter but not breezier is the 13.1-kilometre Lac-du-Pimbina Trail No. 15, which rewards your efforts with views of Lac Solitaire and other lookouts. In the winter season, equipment rentals — snowshoes, trekking poles, crampons — are available at the Rivière à la Pêche Service Centre.

Travellers are reminded to check on public health restrictions that could affect their plans.

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