Building Your Great Canadian Bucket List



Robin Esrock

Bestselling author, TV host, and travel journalist


Bestselling author, TV host, and travel journalist Robin Esrock is determined to show us that when it comes to Canada, there’s something special for everyone.

A Bucket List for Foodies

Wine regions around the world showcase gorgeous scenery, delicious wines, and award-winning gastronomic delights. Canada’s Niagara-on-the-Lake (Ontario), Okanagan Valley (BC), and Annapolis Valley (NS) offer wineries and restaurants that proudly stand up to the world’s best, with the bonus of ice wine. Meanwhile, seafood in Atlantic Canada – clams, lobster, oysters, mussels – belongs on any food-lovers menu, especially when you catch it yourself. For local condiments, craft cheese, oils, spices, and other edibles worth salivating over, peruse the world- class markets of Granville Island (Vancouver), The Forks (Winnipeg), St. Lawrence Market (Toronto), and Ottawa’s ByWard Market. Also on the list: gourmet poutine, Montreal smoked meat, and fine beer on the BC Ale Trail.

A Bucket List for Nature Lovers

Canada has a bounty of incredible national parks. Let’s start with Banff and Jasper, because the Rockies set the benchmark. Over on the East Coast, discover the red shores of Prince Edward Island National Park, or the remarkable moonscape and inland fjord in Newfoundland’s Gros Morne. Walk on the sea floor, and then watch the world’s highest tides flush into New Brunswick’s Fundy National Park. Vancouverites should be familiar with the rugged coastal rainforest of Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island, and further north is Canada’s very own Galapagos: the archipelago of Haida Gwaii. Grasslands or Prince Albert National Park sparkle under an overwhelming prairie sky, and then we get the mighty parks of the north – Wood Buffalo, Kluane, Ivvavik, Auyuittuq – impossibly remote and staggeringly beautiful. While it’s worth checking the aurora forecast before heading to Yellowknife or Whitehorse for a northern light extravaganza, the icebergs of Twillingate are consistently spectacular.

A Bucket List for Cultural Connoisseurs

While culture vultures usually perch in Toronto, Winnipeg deserves a closer a look. Home to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the boisterous Winnipeg Folk Fest, art, music, and culture flow through the pipes of the city. Over in Quebec City we find the world’s largest winter festival each February, and summer celebrations on the Plains of Abraham (note: Air Canada is launching a new direct flight from Vancouver to Quebec City this spring). Heading west, you’ll find newfound appreciation for Canada’s agricultural lifestyle at the Calgary Stampede, as the city gets behind pancake breakfasts, white hats, and the bucking rodeo. Saskatoon’s Wanuskewin Heritage Park is an insightful and moving glimpse into the cultural tapestry, history, and immense challenges facing the First Nations peoples of this land. Dance a jig in Cape Breton, explore the great national museums of Ottawa, and give a standing ovation at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Bravo Canada, bravo.

A Bucket List for the Quirks

Consider Dawson City’s cocktail served with a severed human toe. Floating down-river among tens of thousands of migrating salmon? Spending the night in a haunted prison cell? Floating effortlessly in the mineral rich waters of Little Manitou Lake (a.k.a. Canada’s Dead Sea)? Maybe you’ll want to visit the world’s largest concentration of snakes in Manitoba, a decommissioned nuclear bunker outside of Ottawa, or Vernon’s glitzy Sparkling Hill with a cold sauna that will only freeze you halfway to death? Trust me, Canada is weirder than we give her credit for.

A Bucket List for History Buffs

Located in Cape Breton, Louisbourg is the largest historical reconstruction project in North America. It’s Disneyland for anyone who enjoys 17th century colonial fortresses. The RCMP Heritage Centre in Regina illuminates the history of Canada’s most recognizable symbol, following which you can drive to Moose Jaw to explore the tunnels where Al Capone’s men were rumoured to have run their racket. Going further back, you can follow the ghosts of the Sundance Kid and Dutch Henry into the outlaw caves of Saskatchewan’s Big Muddy Badlands. Blast a cannon at the Halifax Citadel, explore Anne of Green Gables country in PEI, and tour the Blue Nose in Lunenburg. Learn how and why the Vikings left Columbus in the dust at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, and reaching back much further in time you can touch 70-million-year-old dinosaur bones on display in Alberta’s Drumheller and Dinosaur Provincial Park.

A Bucket List for Animal Lovers

Churchill, MB, has two unique wildlife experiences: polar bear safaris in fall and swimming with beluga whales in summer. At Arctic Watch, the world’s most northerly eco-lodge, you can trek Nunavut’s treeless vistas among muskox, Arctic fox, and caribou, even snatching a glimpse of a rare wolverine. Exceptional whale watching can be found off the coasts of Vancouver Island, Cape Breton, Newfoundland, and in the Bay of Fundy. Track wolves in Prince Albert National Park, where you can also sneak up on a herd of bison by horseback. There are only two islands in the world where you can encounter the mythical Spirit Bear, and they’re both in northern BC. A more canine highlight can be found dogsledding outside of Whitehorse or Yellowknife, and keep an eye out for moose in Algonquin Provincial Park (and just about anywhere in Newfoundland and Labrador).

Canada, for Adrenalin Junkies

If the world isn’t exciting enough, try North America’s highest bungee jump outside of Wakefield, QC. Tandem skydiving is still my all-time favourite adrenalin high, and the higher the better. Fear knows no bounds outside Grand Falls, NB, where you can learn about the art of deepelling (that is, front-facing rappelling) off a cliff. Via ferratas, or iron ladders, located in BC, Alberta, and Quebec offer all the thrills of mountain climbing with none of the risks. More adventure highlights: raft a genuine tidal bore on Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie River, cave swim in the Magdalen Islands, race a stock car in Saskatoon, ice-canoe across the frozen St. Lawrence in Quebec City, heli-ski in BC, zipline between two mountains in Whistler, and dunk yourself in a waterfall somewhere in the high Arctic.

Our national bucket list features all the above and so much more, as our trove of unique experiences continues to grow, evolve, and adapt. There’s never been a better time to explore the wonders of our own country, and celebrate our exceptional destinations and activities. ■

Robin Esrock is the bestselling author of The Great Canadian Bucket List. You can follow him at or visit

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of RGF Integrated Wealth Management, which makes no representations as to their completeness or accuracy.

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