Canada is the land of the maple leaf, the true north strong and free, a place where the national symbol is the busy beaver and the varied landscapes are more stunning in real life than they are in the brochures. Dig a little deeper and you’ll soon discover more Canadian facts and cool stuff north of the 49 parallel, facts about Canada that will amaze you.
In the Great White North, the loon bird hauntingly calls over a vast quiet wilderness and, dare I say, there’s not a more Canadian sound than that. Okay, maybe a hockey puck rocketing off the boards or the sound of curling stones colliding in the house.
In a country where the national symbols are a leaf, the national critter symbol is a beaver and the national sweet is maple syrup, some will assume Canada has its share of wholesome wonders.
So here’s my take, a surface scratch on some Canadian things and interesting Canadian facts to help you understand this great nation. And if you’re planning a trip to Canada, you might like to check out this post for the best 50 Things To Do in Canada.
- Interesting Facts About Canada
- 1- Canada has one of the world’s smallest deserts
- 2- Canada’s largest tree is over 2000 years old
- 3- 10,000-year-old icebergs float past Newfoundland
- 4- Narcisse in Manitoba has the most snakes in the world
- 5- White is the colour of the Calgary Stampede
- 6- Anne of Green Gables is from Prince Edward Island
- 7- Winnie the Pooh is from Winnipeg
- 8- Couples tie the knot in Quebec’s ice hotel each year
- Fun Canadian Facts
- Facts About Canada You Probably Didn’t Know
- 12- Ontario is the birthplace of Blackberry
- 13- The inventor of the telephone lived in Ontario
- 14- Canadian lumberjacks
- 15- The Group of Seven Artists painted the Canadian Shield
- 16- Hockey Night in Canada is as popular as date night
- 17- The red canoe is a symbol of early explorers
- 18- Canada’s Olympic curling team is the best in the world
- 19- The skidoo was invented in Quebec
- 20- Canada’s national police are known as Mounties
- Fun Historical Facts About Canada
- 21- Canada was named by mistake
- 22- The beaver is Canada’s official animal
- 23- Fur trading outposts ruled
- 24- The Franklin Expedition of 1845 is an unsolved mystery
- 25- Canada’s first railway was in Quebec
- 26- Steam and water mills were used to clear forests
- 27- The Welland Canal allowed ships to bypass Niagara Falls
- 28- Canada abolished slavery before the British
- 29- The Rebellions of 1837
- 30- Kingston was the first capital of Canada
Interesting Facts About Canada
1- Canada has one of the world’s smallest deserts
One of the facts about Canada you probably didn’t know is that Canada has a desert.
You need to trek to Osoyoos into British Columbia’s south for this cool discovery.
Once you arrive don’t blink because you might miss the strange setting.
The sand span sometimes nicknamed ‘Canada’s pocket desert’ for its boutique-small size only about 24-km long is the only desert in the world that has an elevated pedestrian boardwalk so visitors don’t sink into the cool sandy mounds.
2- Canada’s largest tree is over 2000 years old
Before the invention of multi-storey buildings, Canada’s trees (especially the redwoods and cedars) were the nation’s skyscrapers.
Curious visitors can see some amazing groves in British Columbia like at the Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island or visit the Hanging Garden Tree on Meares Island, where one of the world’s oldest western red cedars and Canada’s largest tree has been standing for nearly 2,000 years.
Big Tree Trail at Meares Island is a terrific must-do.
3- 10,000-year-old icebergs float past Newfoundland
On a sunny day take a guided boat cruise along Canada’s east coast off Labrador and Newfoundland to watch icy mammoths and frozen towers so high you need to crane your neck.
The legendary Iceberg Alley is the spot to be at in spring.
The average iceberg weighs 200,000 tons and is the size of about a 15-storey building. Over 90 per cent of an iceberg is underwater.
The double cool Canadian fact is that these glacial giants are over 10,000 years old.
4- Narcisse in Manitoba has the most snakes in the world
Venture to the deepest pockets of Manitoba’s Interlake country in spring to witness the largest aggregation of snakes anywhere in the world.
This bizarre annual natural phenomenon is the mating dance of thousands of red-sided garter snakes.
Located in Narcisse, tens of thousands of slithery red-sided garter snakes appear at the Narcisse Snake Den, a natural sinkhole that’s the size of your living room, in the Narcisse Wildlife Management Area.
If you’re keen on wildlife, here are the best Canadian wildlife experiences.
5- White is the colour of the Calgary Stampede
The legendary 10-day cowboy roundup better known as “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” is action-packed with die-hard stampeders wearing the vintage outfit: a pair of hand-made cowboy boots and wide-brimmed cowboy hat, preferably a white Smithbilt.
It’s known as white-hatting, a phenomenon that stretches back to the 1950s when the Calgary mayor used to welcome guests by popping one of these babies atop their head.
At the Calgary Stampede, you get to see real cowboys in action and with the help of a local outfitter like Banff Trail Riders you can actually become a cowboy or cowgirl for the day.
6- Anne of Green Gables is from Prince Edward Island
After all, the little redhead with freckles and pigtails seemed to always be up to adventure.
Today tourists flock to the land of Anne, the bucolic island known as Prince Edward Island for a glimpse into her imaginary world.
The Green Gables Heritage Place, located in the tiny town of Cavendish, is PEI’s most famous attraction.
Wander through this homestead and see the house decked out with Anne memorabilia, from her bedroom draped with her personal belongings to the barnyard.
The storybook location is where Montgomery drew her inspiration for the world-renowned series.
Take a guided tour, view a short film, and wander the trails, one with its babbling brook.
7- Winnie the Pooh is from Winnipeg
Then there’s another favourite children’s tale involving a cuddly bear named Pooh and a little boy named Christopher Robin.
British author A.A. Milne based these iconic tales on a true story that showcased his son’s Christopher Robin’s love of a bear named Winnie that lived in the London Zoo.
Fun Canadian fact: The bear’s real owner Harry Colebourn was a World War I Canadian soldier from Winnipeg who rescued the wee cub after the cub’s mother died.
Colebourne named the bear after his hometown – Winnipeg.
There are fabulous vintage photos of Harry and Winnie.
Hunting for signs of Winnie the Pooh is a fun thing to do in Winnipeg.
Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park is where you’ll find a bronze statue of Harry Colebourn and Winnie.
Harry later donated Winnie to the London Zoo and that’s where the real Christopher Robin enters the story.
Mr. Milne’s son used to visit the bear and grew to love the cuddly cub, fondly naming him Winnie-the-Pooh.
Inspiration happened and generations of children and adults have loved Pooh bear ever since.
8- Couples tie the knot in Quebec’s ice hotel each year
Every year in Quebec in winter there’s an enormous undertaking to create the country’s largest ice hotel.
Snow movers, carvers and builders shift around 400 tons of ice and 12,000 tons of snow to erect a massive ice castle.
In true Quebecois style, the interiors are smartly furnished and the ice hotel guests are kept entertained and lubricated at the ice bar.
An ice wedding chapel is very popular with brides and grooms hailing as far as Australia.
Fun Canadian Facts
Here are some weird and fun facts about Canada verging on the scientific and unexplained.
9- In Quebec and New Brunswick cars magically roll uphill
Get a cool free car tow at these hills in the east. Canada’s magnetic pull is especially apparent at these two hills in Quebec and New Brunswick.
In Moncton, New Brunswick, tourists are baffled when they put their vehicle in neutral at Magnetic Hill.
Their car will be magically pulled uphill.
The same strange phenomenon happens in Chartierville, Quebec.
Drive to the bilingual sign, Cote Magnetique put on the hazard lights, look behind and give it a try.
10- Lake Manitou in Saskatchewan has healing powers
In the middle of the prairies, there’s a lake where the waters purport to be the cure-all miracle.
Locals swear Little Manitou Lake in Saskatchewan has special healing powers.
Legends even suggest a pile of crutches was left by the shoreline by those whose ailments were magically cured.
Don’t even try to hit the bottom of the lake as this bottomless salty tasting lake makes everyone float.
Submerged in a natural setting, folks venture to Little Manitou Lake to give this outdoor spa a try.
It might be salty, stinky and sludgy but beach-goers do enjoy slathering on the mud for a good old-fashioned mud bath.
11- Canada is home to legendary monsters
Canada’s Big Three would be the perfect stars for a horror movie.
There’s the rarely seen Sasquatch (or Bigfoot), a black hairy beast akin to a monster guerrilla that lurks in the backcountry of British Columbia.
There’s lots of folklore surrounding Bigfoot, along with some alleged sightings among them dating as early as 1864.
Legend says a fur trader and his party were in the Fraser River Canyon and attacked by ‘hairy humanoids which threw rocks at them.’
Most likely, drinking the moonshine helped contribute to this bizarre observation.
British Columbia has another monster, the Ogopogo, a mysterious sea serpent resembling Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster.
BC’s beastie lives in Lake Okanagan.
The local Salish Native people call it Naitaka meaning ‘lake demon.’
If you can’t spot him (nobody really has) don’t worry. You can visit Kelowna’s city park to grab a selfie with the popular Ogopogo statue.
Quebec also lays claim to its version of Nessie.
Memphre, the long neck lake monster apparently lurks in Lake Memphremagog, a vast sea-like lake that straddles the Canadian-U.S. border bookended by two picture pretty towns Magog in Quebec and Newport, Vermont.
Facts About Canada You Probably Didn’t Know
12- Ontario is the birthplace of Blackberry
Before the iPhone became all the rage, there was a world of Blackberry users who were committed to this brand of mobile device.
Heads of state and nobility were even known to clutch the tiny thin black wireless technology in their hand.
Most Blackberry users would not have cared that the wee phone that connected them as they roamed the world is actually a homegrown Canadian invention.
The company is Research in Motion headquartered in Waterloo, Ontario.
13- The inventor of the telephone lived in Ontario
You might be used to getting those phone messages and texts to “please call home”.
However, the smartphones we now use would not have been invented if not for the brilliance of the father of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell.
Born in Scotland, Bell moved to the small Canadian town of Brantford, Ontario with his parents and at the age of 27, he invented the telephone.
History buffs and invention enthusiasts are lucky that Canada has a few spots from which to admire and reflect on Bell’s life.
Visit his homestead, now a historic site in Brantford, and see the Alexander Graham Bell Historic Site in Baddeck, Nova Scotia.
14- Canadian lumberjacks
Many Canadians would remember the Log Driver’s Waltz.
This classic short animation from the National Film Board’s archives features a moment in time when Canada’s log drivers hopped onto and steered rough-hewn logs downriver.
For more woodsman stuff head to an annual lumberjack festival, like the West Coast Lumberjack Show in British Columbia, which has a Braveheart feel with lots of log pole flinging, chainsaw carving, axe throwing and log rolling.
15- The Group of Seven Artists painted the Canadian Shield
In the remote wilderness of Canada, a group of seven artists struck out to paint the Canadian landscape filled with paper birch and haunting jack pines clinging to the granite bedrock known as the Canadian Shield.
The paintings have become iconic masterpieces embedded into the Canadian psyche.
To see a painting from one of them is to contemplate the natural beauty of this nation.
16- Hockey Night in Canada is as popular as date night
Stompin’ Tom Connors, another vintage Canadian, got his name from stompin’ on a square piece of plywood that he always carried with him while performing his homegrown classics like “Bud the Spud.”
Canada’s beloved chanteur also wrote the lyrics to “The Good Old Hockey Game” which has gone on to become our unofficial hockey anthem.
Listen to the song and you’ll know what I mean.
Hockey Night is part of Canadian life.
The highly anticipated NHL game played every Saturday night pits teams in a struggle to win what many sports writers call ‘the hardest trophy in all of sports.’
Winning the Stanley Cup is every hockey player’s dream.
17- The red canoe is a symbol of early explorers
One of the most iconic images of Canada is the red canoe.
The canoe was the vehicle that explored and opened up this vast country.
The First Nations used paper birch canoes that became a vital tool for the early explorers from France who called them rabaskas.
Nowadays, many establishments use the canoe as a symbol.
One of Toronto’s chi-chi restos has this name.
One of the best places to paddle in a red canoe is on beautiful Lake Louise in Alberta.
18- Canada’s Olympic curling team is the best in the world
Don’t think watching a pair of men or women sweeping a polished granite rock down the ice and hearing their team members yell ‘Hard, hurry hard’ is a boring pastime.
In fact, curling is a winter Olympic sport and if Team Canada doesn’t win gold every four years there is a national day of mourning.
Fun fact: To this date, no Olympic curling team has dominated the sport like Canada.
19- The skidoo was invented in Quebec
In the old days when this winter vehicle was first invented in Quebec, it was dubbed the skidoo.
The wondrous people mover with an engine on skis is known more these days as a snowmobile but the term skidoo is a very vintage name and machine.
Come winter time, head to Canada’s backcountry powder to embark on the snowmobile trails.
The most popular skidoo spots are in the winter wonderland of Quebec but every province has them.
20- Canada’s national police are known as Mounties
Dudley Doo Right may have appealed to kids of a certain generation but the red-coated hat-wearing cartoon character with his pal Bullwinkle was actually a spoof on Canada’s national police known as the Royal Mounted Police.
Popular spots to view Mounties are Parliament Hill in Ottawa and Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor General.
You’ll also see them officiating at parades and ceremonies.
The Mounties have a wonderful Sunset Ceremony in Ottawa that features the famous RCMP Musical Ride.
Fun Historical Facts About Canada
A National Historic SiteBefore Canada became a nation, explorers, fur trappers, and rugged settlers arrived at this largely uninhabited land in search of fortune and a new life.
In the early days of the history of Canada, what they found was a treasure trove of the natural world.
They found fish so plenty – as described a few centuries earlier by explorer John Cabot that schools of fish impeded his ships off the coast of present-day Newfoundland – one could grab a fish from the sea with their bare hands.
There were forests as far as the eye could see and more fresh water than anywhere on the planet.
Settlers of the New World held ambitions that influenced the fashion pendulum for the aristocratic classes of Europe.
Europe’s high society enjoyed lavish furs from Canada, like chinchilla, mink and the industry game-changer beaver pelts.
Over the years, Canada has matured with grace and its natural beauty has mellowed with the history of the land.
Here are some facts about the history of Canada you’ll be amazed to discover and a toast to the characters and events that laid the foundation for the Canada we love today.
21- Canada was named by mistake
Canada was named through a misunderstanding when Jacques Cartier, the French explorer met with local Natives who invited them to their ‘kanata’ (the word for ‘village’).
The party mistakenly thought the name of the country was “Kanata” or Canada.
22- The beaver is Canada’s official animal
Hudson’s Bay Company is the oldest continuously operated company in the world.
It held great importance to Canada’s founding and played an important part in the history of Canada.
The economic power of the beaver pelt is what made early Canada rich.
The fashion rage in Europe made beaver top hats the darling of Europe’s parlours, salons and ballrooms.
Today, the beaver has become Canada’s official animal.
Beavers are on coins, the coat of arms and used as mascots for all sorts of other things.
Reminisce in one of the world’s oldest commercial enterprises still in existence, The Hudson’s Bay Company, and head to the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg for a deeper delve into the history of Canada.
Home to over 10,000 artefacts that were initiated by the Company officials in 1920, the Collection is one of the world’s most significant historic resources.
It spans three centuries of the Company’s colourful history.
To indulge in some retail therapy, visit one of the many HBC locations across Canada.
23- Fur trading outposts ruled
The power of HBC’s monopoly involved creating fur trading outposts in some of the most remote wilderness areas by rivers that spilled into the great bay.
Today, travellers can seasonally venture to one of them.
There’s Moose Factory located on an island in Ontario’s boggy north.
There you can slumber in one of the top eco-lodges in the world, as ranked by National Geographic.
Or if you fancy, head west to York Factory in neighbouring Manitoba, at the mouth of the Hay’s River off Hudson Bay’s southwestern shores.
The factory was once a massive fur trade depot and settlement.
These days, it’s a historic site managed by Parks Canada open for seasonal tours (weather permitting).
24- The Franklin Expedition of 1845 is an unsolved mystery
Queen Victoria and the British Admiralty had an obsession with finding a route to the Northwest Passage.
Explorer Sir John Franklin, HRH’s beloved Royal Navy Officer – who commandeered previous Arctic expeditions – was put in charge of the ships HMS Erebus and Terror.
Sadly, the ships and crew disappeared.
After searching for Franklin’s failed expedition ships for over a hundred years a team of High Arctic archaeologists led by Parks Canada made the stunning discovery of the HMS Erebus in 2014.
The discovery has sparked a renewed interest in the Franklin Expedition.
The entire historic voyage of 1845 has been carefully documented and analyzed by scholars.
But it’s still one of the world’s great nautical mysteries and a curious event in the history of Canada.
Tragically, the entire expedition of 129 members also perished in the ill-fated expedition.
Some of the gravesites eerily lie at Beechey Island, now a National Historic Site.
Tours of the area are offered as shore excursions by a handful of High Arctic cruise companies.
25- Canada’s first railway was in Quebec
Canada’s first railway, the Champlain and St. Lawrence, started service in 1836 between Laprairie, Quebec and Saint-Jean, Quebec.
Fast forward a few decades and discover how the most ambitious pre-Confederation dream of a national railway would become the monumental project that stitched Canada together as a single country.
Known as The Grand Trunk Railway, it was a ribbon of steel that connected the country and opened up a whole new era in the history of Canada.
Today, you can visit Canada’s largest railway museum, Exporail in Saint-Constant in Quebec to see artefacts and steam train vestiges from days gone by.
26- Steam and water mills were used to clear forests
Steam engines, more importantly, steam-powered sawmills, cleared Canada’s vast forests for agricultural settlements.
Steam and water mills were once the hubs of commerce and every community had one.
They were as common as a Canadian loonie (name of the dollar coin).
Today, you can visit places like Caledon or Merrickville, both located in the province of Ontario, and Wakefield, Quebec.
These former mill hubs have become fashionable tourist sites.
Stay overnight at the wondrous Wakefield Mill Hotel and Spa or The Millcroft Inn and Spa or head to the quaint town of Merrickville, known as the “Jewel of the Rideau.”
27- The Welland Canal allowed ships to bypass Niagara Falls
The first Welland Canal opened in 1829, partly in response to the Americans opening the Erie Canal, which was the longest manmade waterway in North America between 1817 to 1825.
Canada’s answer to the Erie was the groundbreaking unprecedented engineering of the Welland Canal.
The Welland Canal allowed lakers and cargo ships to bypass the greatest natural obstacle in the country, Niagara Falls.
It gave ships passageway to the Great Lakes system and access to the rest of the world.
The founding father, William Hamilton Merritt also wanted to provide consistent water to the local mills.
Today you can visit the Welland Canal and its onsite museum that has a viewing platform for cruising fans to watch the passing ships.
Stay overnight at the Keefer Mansion, home to the Welland Canal’s first president, George Keefer.
28- Canada abolished slavery before the British
As American slavery raged on in the 1700s to the 1800s, Canada was considered the Promised Land due to the huge proclamation of one guy.
Sir John Graves Simcoe, the Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, abolished slavery in 1793 long before it was abolished in the British Empire.
Fugitive slaves followed the North Star into the Underground Railroad, which was an intricate clandestine network of abolitionists who ferried slaves safely across the U.S. border into Canada.
An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 fugitive slaves arrived in Upper Canada (Ontario) and the Province of Canada.
Some of the heroes in the fight against slavery who found a new life in British North America became America’s legendary freedom fighters.
See the homestead and settlement known as Dawn, home to the Reverend Josiah Henson (1796 to 1883) whose life inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe to pen the controversial best-seller, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
A National Historic Site, Uncle Tom’s Cabin is located outside a small farming community of Dresden, Ontario.
Another way to pay homage to history is to retrace the Niagara Freedom Trail in Niagara.
Find out about Harriet Tubman, the renowned conductor of the Underground Railroad, who was a member of the BME Church Salem Chapel and a resident of St. Catharines, Ontario.
29- The Rebellions of 1837
Plenty of skirmishes, gun slinging and raids happened decades before Confederation.
One of the most significant moments that caused Britain to finally throw their hands in the air and decide they had to do something about those colonies (like unite them) happened in 1837.
It was called the Rebellions of 1837.
The government was being attacked by ‘rebels’ on both sides in uprisings held in Upper and Lower Canada (now Ontario and Quebec).
The French uprising leader was Louis-Joseph Papineau and the English uprising leader was William Lyon Mackenzie (his great-grandson William Lyon Mackenzie King later became Canada’s 10th Prime Minister).
The Brits had to bring in forces to quell the masses. But through negotiations, meetings and compromises, the solutions to the grievances led to another historical moment…
For historic site visits, be sure to put the manor houses of Louis-Joseph Papineau in Montebello, Quebec and William Lyon Mackenzie in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario on your radar.
30- Kingston was the first capital of Canada
The Act of Union, also known as the British North America Act in 1840, united Upper and Lower Canada under one government.
They became Canada West and East respectively and were part of the Province of Canada, with Kingston as its capital.
What was the inspiration? A report by a British nobleman, John George Lambton, the First Earl of Durham, who spent five months in British North America.
He drafted the ‘Lord Durham’s Report’ on Canada, drawn up after learning the causes that led to the Rebellions of 1837.
His nickname was ‘Radical Jack’ due to his progressive political views. Five days after the Act of Union became law in July 1840, Lord Durham died at his residence in the Isle of Wight, England. He was 48.
Across Canada, you’ll find plenty of Lord Durham and Lambton references on buildings, street names, schools and sites.
In Toronto, see Lambton Golf and Country Club, Lambton Woods Park.
Visit the historic Durham Region County in Ontario which albeit wasn’t named for the Lord but it makes a fabulous day trip from Toronto or a pleasant weekend getaway.
Find out more about Canadian Castles and Forts.