Canada is a vast, beautiful country with a very diverse topography.  Most people from other countries have  heard of Toronto and Vancouver, and they certainly attract many tourists from around the world each year.  

However, Canada also has a lot of lovely towns in scenic areas that are wonderful places to visit.  If you are interested in venturing outside one of our major cities and would like to see more of the country, here are five towns in Canada that are very popular destinations.  All of them are located reasonably close to major cities in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.  So if you plan on visiting these provinces, you may want to take the time to explore the following towns.  They all have a population of under 20,000.  

Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island

Qualicum Beach

The main attraction on Vancouver Island is my beautiful city of Victoria.  My favorite place to go for a day trip is the town of Qualicum Beach.  It's about a two hour drive from downtown Victoria, but I would recommend allowing more time to get there. 

The drive is absolutely beautiful, so you probably won't want to hurry..  Shortly after leaving Victoria you will be on the Malahat highway which has wonderful views and places you can stop to take photos.   Once you complete this drive, you enter the Cowichan Valley before bypassing the city of Nanaimo.  Qualicum Beach is just a short drive past the city.  

As the name suggests, there is a lovely beach here, although it's not really suitable for swimming.  The water is cold most of the time.  However, it's wonderful for long walks and there are playing areas for the kids.  There are a fewwaterfront restaurants that offer good meals you can enjoy before heading into the main town.  

The downtown area has a lot of shops, restaurants and coffee houses.  It's easy to spend an afternoon browsing around.  Here you will find second hand shops, a nice gallery, and a few boutiques.   There also are two large antique shops here that are worth visiting, as everything in them is high quality.  

Qualicum beach has an excellent selection of restaurants for a town of its size.  I prefer to eat right at the beach, although the downtown core also has a lot to offer.  

The town also has lots of flowers and hanging baskets, just like you see in the photo here.  It's a picturesque town with a very laid back, relaxed atmosphere.  There also are several farmers markets on the highway between Victoria and the town offering a great selection of delicious, locally grown produce and home baking.  

Qualicum Beach has one of the mildest climates in Canada.  The area seldom gets snow, and if it does not last long.  

Salmon Arm is in the Shuswap Region of British Columbia

Salmon Arm, With Mout Bastion in the Background

The lovely town of Salmon Arm is about a four and a half hour drive from Vancouver and a popular holiday destination.  It's located at Shuswap lake, and the hot, dry summers and beaches attract lots of people.

There is a museum in Salmon Arm that also offers dinner theatre in the summer time.  The downtown area is very pleasant with a lot of nice shops and galleries.  The population is about 17,000 people, and there is a wide range of accommodation in different price categories.  Camping is also popular here.  Summer nights are usually very warm and pleasant.  

Salmon Arm is at the most northern tip of the Okanagan Valley, which is a major fruit and wine producing area.  The major city in this region is Kelowna, which is about 105 kilometers, or 65 miles away.  


Canmore is Located in the Canadian Rockies

Three Sisters Mountain Peaks

Canmore has the distinction of being located in the Rocky Mountains and is right by the entrance to Banff National Park.   Canmore is a great alternative to staying in Banff for a couple of reasons.  It's not nearly as crowded and accommodation is generally more reasonably priced than staying in a National Park.  

Canmore is an alpine town with wonderful mountain views.  The Three Sisters mountain peaks are visible in the town.  The downtown area is a nice place to spend some time, with a good selection of galleries and other shops.  I like the more relaxed atmosphere here and spending time exploring the area.

A very scenic drive through Kananaskis country is located adjacent to Canmore.  There also is a resort village  in Kananaskis with panoramic views.  

The only thing I don't like about Canmore is the winters are very long, with lots of snow.  Cold temperatures and snow are not that unusual even late into the spring, so be prepared.  

Gananoque is in the Thousand Islands Area of Ontario

Thousand Island Bridge

Gananoque is a small place with a population of about 5,000.  There is a lot to see in this lovely area.  The town is located just off Highway 401, which is the busiest highway in the country.  The scenic Thousand Islands Parkway begins here, which travels along the St Lawrence River.

Gananoque's main attraction are the Thousand Islands, which can be enjoyed by taking one of the many boat cruises that are available.  There are over 1800 islands in total in this region.  The boundary with the United States is here, so some islands belong to Canada, and others to the US.  The international bridge is pictured here.  

This is a busy place in the summer, with live theatre and an annual festival being popular events.  There also is an interesting museum that explains the history and ecology of the area.  It also is a beautiful area to visit in the fall, as the autumn colors are particularly lovely.

It's about a two hour drive from the capital city of Ottawa, and a three hour trip from Toronto.  This area is really worth exploring as it is very beautiful. 

Niagara-On-The-Lake is in Southern Ontario


Niagara-on-the-Lake has been called the loveliest town in Canada, and many visitors would probably agree with that sentiment.  It is situated where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario. 

It's just a short distance from Niagara Falls.  There is shuttle transporation that takes visitors to the Falls.   While I think everyone should see the Falls, a visit to this quaint town should not be missed either.  It's not as crowded,  although the entire Southern Ontario region does attract millions of tourists each year.

NOTL  is in the Niagara region, which is known for its wine making.  There are a lot of wineries in the area and the Niagara Wine Route is a scenic drive, but busy in the summer months.  

Niagara-on-the-Lake has several National Historic Sites, although history in Canada does not go back nearly as far as most other countries.  The oldest Anglican church in the country is located here, which was built in 1791.  Old military sites remain here and have been restored. The town center has a lot if heritage buildings, and carriage rides are available.  

Its scenic location and mild winters have made this town a popular place for people to retire.  In fact, more than one out of five residents are over the age of 65.  Niagara-on-the-Lake is one of several Canadian communties whose population growth is largely people who have retired.