No matter your ability, no matter your taste, Canada has an adventure tailored to you, in accessible locations. From rank beginner to seasoned veteran you can find your thrills on the edge of, and sometimes within, city limits.
1. Ski Whistler
One of North America’s best ski resorts, perhaps best in the world, Whistler-Blackcomb – the principal venue for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games – contains nearly 200 longer-than-average marked trails and the highest vertical drop (1609m) of any ski field on the continent. Wander round the back of Blackcomb to Ruby Bowl and it gets even better. It has Whistler-Blackcomb’s best powder, falling in continuous steeps for more than 600m.
2. Killer whale watching
When salmon spawns in full swim along Canada’s west coast during August, a host of creatures follow hungrily behind, including pods of orcas. Whale-watching boats tail along viewing these beautiful animals, but the most intimate way to watch the so-called killer whales is from a kayak. The 250 resident killer whales cruise about picking off salmon as they head for the Fraser River near Vancouver. Orca downtime is spent rubbing bellies against the pebbly beach in Robson Bight, the only spot in the world where they are known to do this. Along the way you might also see Steller sea lions, Dall’s porpoises, bald eagles and perhaps even a minke whale, before you bed down to the sound of orcas swimming and surfacing past your tent. And, fear not, resident killer whales eat only fish.
3. Storm watch on Vancouver Island
Each winter, Vancouver Island’s west coast becomes a front-row seat to the most spectacular storms on the North American west coast. With nothing but the Pacific Ocean between the island and Japan, these well-travelled storms – driven here by a persistent low-pressure system in the Gulf of Alaska – roar ashore, bringing high winds and waves that pack a punch. Wander the beaches to experience the storms’ full fury, follow the aptly named Wild Pacific Trail for a cliff-top view, take a storm-watching tour from the town of Tofino or simply observe the action from the windows of your hotel room.
4. The Trans Canada trail
You would need at least a couple of years to hike the entire Trans Canada Trail which is well on its way to becoming the world’s longest recreational path. Beginning at North America’s most easterly point, the completed length is around 21,500km, half as long as the earth is round. If you walk at a decent clip of about 30km a day it will take almost exactly two years to finish. If you’re in a hurry, grab a bike or horse for this multi-use path.
5. Raft the Shubenacadie tidal bore
The Bay of Fundy gets the world’s highest tides, rising up to 15m daily. As a result of these extreme tides, a tidal wave or bore flows up the feeder rivers when high tide comes in. At the mouth of the Shubenacadie River in Nova Scotia this has led to the creation of tidalbore rafting trips, with powered Zodiacs riding the collision of water as the river’s outflow meets the blasting force of the incoming Fundy tides. Wave heights are dependent on the phase of the moon, and will dictate whether your experience is mild or wild. Be prepared to get very wet.
This article was updated in June 2012.