Six ultra cool places to stay in Canada

Six ultra cool places to stay in Canada

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barkerville historic town
Barkerville. Photo: Thomas Drasdauskis

From Parks Canada’s hybrid tent-cabins to staying overnight in heritage villages, Canada offers you truly unique stays. Canada has many rightfully memorable accommodations to hang your hat in, from luxury hotels to budget hostels. There are also cultural gems of significant Canadian heritage, including some lodges tucked away in wilderness settings. Here are six of my absolute favourite places to stay in Canada.

British Columbia

1- Fort St. James National Historic Site

fort st james bc
Fort St. James National Historic Site. Photos: Parks Canada / D. Houston

A1884 historic Hudson Bay Company Trading Post in British Columbia with comfortable beds in a log building that once was the Factor’s home.

st james park tour
Fort St. James National Historic Site. Photos: Parks Canada / D. Houston

In remote British Columbia, be locked into (that is, stay inside) an 1884 historic Hudson Bay Company Trading Post where you sleep in a comfortable bed, snugly installed in a log building which served as the Factor’s home.

Parks Canada staff give you cotton gloves so that you can actually handle some of the artefacts in the Chief of the Fort’s former home.

I read some of the old books, for instance, and was thrilled to read stories of pioneers and early missionaries, travelling by canoes and dog sleds. Talk about a special, “historical” evening!

Situated on the Southeastern end bay of Stuart Lake, adjacent to Mount Pope Provincial Park, the fort contains the largest collection of restored wooden buildings in Canada, which recall the days of the fur trade.

st james park tour
Scenes such as this await in some of Canada’s funky-cool lodges. Here, the sun sets over Stuart Lake at Fort St James in northern British Columbia. Photo: Eric Fletcher.

Moreover, as we gaze out over the lake, we gain even more respect for the hardy First Nations’ traders, voyageurs and others.

That’s because the wind funnels down the lake, making any canoeing treacherous at worst, and challenging at best.

There are on-site modern toilets, a restaurant, and come evening, you magically discover home-made cookies and tea in the kitchen of the Factor’s house.

During the day, participate in the hilarious World-Class Chicken Racing, Take the “Escape the Fort” challenge, and explore all the buildings, where costumed interpreters explain life back in the day.

You can get to Fort Saint James by car, bus or private aircraft.

Check the latest prices for accommodation in and around Fort St James

2- Barkerville Historic Town and Park

barkerville hotels
Barkerville Historic Town. Photos: BC Heritage

Also in British Columbia, Barkerville is a heritage gold mining town where costumed guides interpret days of the Gold Rush.

Another “locked in” lodging awaits you in Barkerville, a heritage gold mining town where costumed guides interpret days of the Gold Rush.

Here in 1862, gold diggers hoped every shovel-full of gravelly soil would make their fortune.

Suddenly at 52 feet, they discovered the largest creek-side gold deposit in the world.

Today, Barkerville historic town has more than 125 heritage structures and is a National Historic Site of Canada.

It’s the largest living-history museum in western North America.

Come, take a stagecoach ride, dress up in old-time costumes and have your picture taken.

And, of course, wander the streets and visit the grocery store, pharmacy, and learn about the Barkerville gold rush days.

Barkerville accommodation includes several B&B lodgings: the King and Kelly houses, and, where I stayed, the St. George Hotel, which has seven rooms and serves great breakfasts.

Each historical home is decorated with antiques, so like I did you’ll experience a 1890s stay.

Again, what I personally think is magical is the fact you’re inside the historic town itself, on your own — with a few other guests.

Other Barkerville hotels are The Wells Hotel, Mount Thyme Getaway and The Hubs Motel. There are three Barkerville camping areas: Lowhee, Forest Rose and Government Hill.

Check the latest prices for accommodation in and around Barkerville

Alberta 

In Alberta, you’ll find one of my favourite lodges in the world. Hike – or as I did – cross-country ski through Rocky Mountains’ glorious alpine landscape to Skoki Lodge, at an elevation of 2,164 metres.

3- Skoki Lodge

Rocky Mountains northwest of Lake Louise, Alberta (GPS coordinates: 51′ 31’23N and 116′ 04’35W)

skoki lodge accomodation
Skoki Lodge. Photos: Skoki lodge / Mike Bryne

After about 11 km of skiing there from Lake Louise, carrying my sleeping bag and gear in my backpack, I admit to being exhausted.

So that final glide down to the little log cabin nestled into the base of a ridge was glorious…and gloriously welcoming.

After stashing my skis I opened the front door, to be greeted by warmth, a crackling fire, the fragrance of freshly baked bread and a home-cooked meal. Heaven.

Skoki Lodge was Canada’s first ski lodge in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

The Rocky Mountain ski lodge was built in the 1930s by Catherine and Peter Whyte, a couple who so loved the Rockies they wanted to promote x-country skiing to Canadians and international visitors.

cabins alberta
Skoki the log cabin awaits skiers in winter and hikers in summer. Photo Credit: Paul Zizka.

Nowadays, another couple lives at Skoki Lodge, where they cook splendid, nourishing meals and keep the wood fire a-crackling.

Want to learn about where to go telemark skiing?

Want to simply curl up and write your journal or read?

It’s your choice, and your hosts will advise you of the best ski, hiking, or wildlife-watching spots.

skoki lodge mountain
Skoki Lodge. Photos: Mike Bryne / Paul Zizka

Later, after you return to Lake Louise (there’s no transportation to or from Skoki: your two feet are the only conveyance), head to nearby Banff. Here visit the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies.

On its grounds, you can take a guided tour to view the Whyte’s log cabin. Both Peter and Catherine were artists and but were also patrons of mountain arts and culture.

The museum explains the history of the Rockies, through exhibitions of mountain art and artefacts.

4- Simpson’s Num-Ti-Jah Lodge

Mile 22, Icefields Parkway, Alberta

num ti jah lodge Interior

If you’re like me, the romance of Canada’s Rocky Mountains is enhanced by the tall tales of brave and bold mountain men and women who explored these spectacular ranges, lakes and forests.

Jimmy Simpson, a Lincolnshire, English lad who emigrated to Canada in 1896, became a renowned mountain guide.

And, when he set eyes on Bow Glacier sheltering the lake of the same name two years later, he discovered where he wanted to build his “shack”.

Later, he built a guest house, to house the many people who wanted to meet this legend of the Rockies.

Num-Ti-Jah is Simpson’s lodge, located just off the Icefields Parkway which links Banff and Jasper National Parks.

He completed the lodge in 1950.

numtija lodge lake

Nowadays, we can linger beside the stone fireplace, play cards, dine at the restaurant featuring local fare, paint or sketch, and learn about the mountain memorabilia such as a rock collection featuring fossils, and much more.

From the lodge, kayak or canoe, hike or in winter, snowshoe or cross-country ski across the lake.

Ice climbing is possible: Bow Glacier is a popular climbing destination, and experienced skiers can also head into the interior from Num-Ti-Jah.

Simpson’s Num Ti Jah Lodge is located off the TransCanada Highway (Highway 1), 35km north of Lake Louise on the Icefield’s Parkway.

To get there, you can take a shuttle from the airport to Lake Louise or rent a car in Calgary, Banff or Lake Louise.

Check the latest prices for Num Ti Jah Lodge

Manitoba

5- Riding Mountain National Park

Riding Mountain National Park
An oTENTik in the woods at Wasagaming Campground, Riding Mountain National Park. Photo: Parks Canada

Wasagaming, Manitoba

Riding Mountain National Park is three hours west of Winnipeg, Manitoba’s capital city.

This park is special because of its gentle, varied environment of beautiful lakes and grasslands, punctuated by stands of aspen and mixed forests.

Try canoeing — spectacular in night-time with the canopy of stars overhead.

Come in the autumn (August through October) and hear the bugling of elks — an eerie but beautiful mating call of the wild, where bulls cry out to attract females.

Also in the park is the exceptional Lake Audy Plains Bison Enclosure, where Parks Canada staff interpret these majestic beasts which once roamed Canada’s prairies in their millions.

Today, this herd of approximately 40 individuals are fascinating to observe.

Where to stay?

In a Parks Canada oTENTik, which is a hybrid between a cabin and tent.

Enter to find a wood stove (wood is cut for you), bunks, and a table and chairs.

You bring your camping gear — sleeping bags, all food and drinks and camping needs — but it’s lovely to snuggle inside after enjoying a campfire outside.

Quebec

6- Val Jalbert

village historique de Val Jalbert
Clockwise from left to right: Colourful characters; The Canyon; Worker’s house; The convent-school

Val Jalbert is a former pulp and paper one-company town founded in 1901 near Lac St. Jean.

Think of a triangle.

If Montreal and Quebec City form its base, Lac St. Jean is the northernmost point. 

Getting to Val Jalbert is a beautiful drive through Saguenay Fjord countryside.

 

When the pulp and paper mill closed in 1927, the population drifted away and, because there was no work, the town was abandoned. 

In the 1990s, the Quebec government transformed and renovated the town named after mill owner Damase Jalbert.

Today we can linger, visit the chapel and school, and stay overnight in one of the 1920s mill-workers’ homes or even the general store.

camping val-jalbert
Clockwise from left to right: Period House Accommodation; The Room of Man; Scale models room; The Room of Man.
val jalbert quebec
Val Jalbert Cable Car

Interestingly, the villagers here enjoyed electricity many years prior to other regions of the province, thanks to the power generated by the Ouiatchouan Falls.

This waterfall is on-site, and on a full-moon night, I can tell you it’s fantastic to hike up the stairs alongside it… and if you’re lucky, you’ll hear the haunting cry of an owl as you ascend…

Village Historique de Val Jalbert is located in the Canadian province of Quebec.  

If you’re planning on staying, Val Jalbert tariff starts from CAD289 per couple.

Val Jalbert camping rates start from CAD28.50 a person if you’re prepared to camp with no services. However, you can pay a little more for water, electricity and sewage.

A guided tour of Val Jalbert aboard a trolley bus features historical characters. You can also join a walking tour of village de Val Jalbert or take a self-guided tour of the mill.

The Val Jalbert village is open from May to October. For more information click here.

Discover Canada

Looking for more go camping in Canada at one of these national parks across Canada.

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Six ultra cool places to stay in Canada

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