Discover The Secrets of Spring in Canada

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Spring in Canada is the perfect season to write a song about. When I think of spring, the music of the song My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music comes to mind. Colourful tulips and sweet maple taffy, pink cherry blossoms and white floating icebergs, silver-white winter that melts into spring; these are a few of my favourite things. Canada in spring is a feast for the eyes and a season that lifts the spirits. I can’t get enough of the sounds and sights in Canada when I visit during springtime. I always look for a national park, garden or forest to listen to the music of nature.

Spring is a scenic time of year to explore the Rockies as snow melts and wild roses, buttercups and fireweed carpet the valleys and plains. The sound of birds chirping gaily, the light patter of squirrels scampering across branches, water flowing lazily through streams or trickling down a mountain reminds me of happy spring days in the Canadian sunshine where everything feels fresh. The season teases out my inner child because I love being outdoors, exploring new places and meeting new people. 

Spring in Canada Ottawa Parliament Hill
Tulips brighten up the city of Ottawa, making it a place to tick off your Spring bucket list in Canada.

Spring is the season to look forward to the miracles of nature’s calendar, such as Atlantic puffins breeding in Newfoundland, grey whales migrating past Vancouver Island or the spring migration of the Qamanirijuaq Caribou herd towards Nunavut. Warmer weather brings wildlife out of hibernation after a winter’s rest and magical unplanned encounters with nature can happen anywhere in Canada, from spotting lynx while skiing in Banff National Park to unexpected sightings of grizzlies and black bears foraging along the roadside on the Icefields Parkway. It’s not uncommon to come across a herd of elk wandering through the main street of Jasper either.

Spring in Canada is not just about seeing incredible wildlife you never thought possible before; there’s also something spiritual about feeling connected with nature as a new cycle of life begins. From alpine to the ocean, it’s hard not to be distracted by this beautiful season and the joy it brings. Here are 15 reasons to visit Canada in spring.

Spring in Canada

15 Reasons To Visit Canada in Spring

1- The Slopes Are Uncrowded In Spring

Whistler's Peak 2 Peak Gondola offers incredible views during a spring break in Canada
Squeeze in some time on the slopes in Whistler during your next spring break in Canada.

Picture yourself hitting the slopes on a bluebird day, with blue skies and almost no one on the slopes. That’s what spring skiing is like in many parts of Canada. You’ll find fewer skiers than usual but plenty of powder stashes. If you’re lucky, you might even spot animal tracks in the fresh snow.

The end of the ski season for most ski resorts in Canada is usually in April, and many resorts put on a fun ‘Slush Cup’ event where participants ski or board into an icy pool of water.

Some larger resorts like Sunshine Village, Lake Louise and Whistler stay open until May, making it easy to find somewhere to hit the slopes when visiting Canada in spring.

Spring skiing means shorter lift lines, longer days and warmer weather. The snow is softer and powder hounds can look forward to some heavier dumps. It’s also the time of year when you’ll pick up the best deals on lift tickets and accommodation.

Where to ski in spring in Canada? Look for good deals in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec’s ski resorts, especially national park skiing in the Big3 in Banff National Park and Whistler in British Columbia.

2- Snow And Surf During Your Trip

Canada spring surfing in Tofino, a surfer walking the beach at dusk
A surfer on the beach at Cox Bay, Tofino, British Columbia. Photo: © Brian Caissie

Tick two dreams off your bucket list in one visit by hitting the ski slopes and going surfing.

On Vancouver Island in British Columbia, you can even do both in one day as the longer days and in spring makes this possible.

Vancouver Island is home to Canada’s surfing capital, Tofino, and a ski resort with breathtaking alpine-to-ocean views. Mount Washington Alpine Resort is open until late March, making it possible to squeeze in a few days on the slopes before hitting the waves.

As the weather warms up in March, Tofino still gets some larger swells from the end of the winter storms while camping on Vancouver Island is a popular activity later in spring.

Where to ski and surf in spring? Surf at Tofino and ski at Mount Washington Alpine Resort on Vancouver Island. Other ski resorts open for spring skiing in British Columbia are Whistler, Sun Peaks and SilverStar. If you’re not keen on camping, these Vancouver Island resorts are incredible.

3- See Tulips And Cherry Blossoms

Spring in Canada cherry blossoms vancouver
Vancouver comes alive with cherry blossoms and is one of the best cities to explore in Canada for spring colour.

Tulips and cherry blossoms are two types of spring flowers that pull the crowds in Canada.

In May, the Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa is an event worth attending as the city comes alive with music and cultural shows. Beds of tulips paint the historic city with a palette of colour as around one million tulip bulbs brighten up the city in 30 locations.

The festival first started in 1953 when the Dutch Royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs as a thank you gift for providing a haven from the Nazis during the occupation of the Netherlands.

This historic festival is celebrating its 70th Anniversary Platinum Jubilee is from 13 to 23 May 2022.

Spring is the time of year to admire cherry blossoms in Vancouver and other cities in Canada, such as Victoria, Toronto and Montreal.

Around 43,000 cherry trees burst into colourful bloom across Vancouver. The first cherry blossoms appear in Vancouver around early March, followed by the light pink Akebono in late March and the dark pink Kanzan in April.

Vancouver’s Cherry Blossom Festival has over 20 cherry blossom-themed events, including the Cherry Jam concert, a Haiku poetry competition, picnic, short films and cultural activities.

Cherry blossoms are a legacy of Canada’s relationship with Japan. During the 1930s, the cities of Kobe and Yokohama presented 500 Japanese cherry trees planted at Stanley Park’s Japanese cenotaph to honour the Japanese Canadians who fought in WWI.

Toronto’s 2000 Somei-Yoshino Sakura trees were a gift from the people of Tokyo in 1959, in appreciation of Toronto accepting re-located Japanese-Canadians after WWII. Toronto’s trees bloom around late April to early May, forming a picturesque avenue in High Park to walk beneath.

Another city with beautiful cherry trees is Victoria in British Columbia, which received 500 trees from Japan. As Victoria has a mild climate, cherry trees bloom as early as late February.

Where to see flowers in spring? Visit Ottawa for tulips and Vancouver, Victoria, Toronto or Montreal for cherry blossoms.

4- It’s Puffin Season

when is spring in canada
Atlantic puffins sightings are more common in Canada in spring.

Late spring is the start of the puffin breeding season in Canada, when around 350,000 puffins breed, mainly in Newfoundland and Labrador. There are also some colonies in Nova Scotia and Quebec.

Newfoundland and Labrador is a significant birdwatching destination that attracts more than 350 species of birds, including seabirds and birds of prey.

The Atlantic puffin is the province’s official bird, and thousands of puffins nest on cliffs along the island’s east coast. Nesting season in Canada starts in April, with the first eggs laid in May.

Atlantic puffins are seabirds that dig shallow burrows to nest in, and each year, they return to the same breeding site with the same mate.

The Atlantic puffin population has a decreasing population trend because of egg collecting and hunting. Although the species is now protected from illegal human activity, the warming of the oceans may still prove to be a threat to their survival by affecting the availability of their food.

The best spots to see puffins are on a boat tour around Newfoundland’s Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, consisting of four islands a few kilometres from the Avalon Peninsula. It’s also possible to see puffins on a boat tour of Nova Scotia’s islands and 3,000 pairs nest on Machias Seal Island in New Brunswick.

In Quebec, the Atlantic Puffin is known as the Macareux moine because when it’s out of the water, it keeps both feet together like a praying monk. About 35,000 seabird pairs, including puffins, breed in the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve of Canada during the breeding season.

Where to see puffins? Newfound and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Quebec.

Also read: Where To See Wildlife In Canada

5- Grey Whale Migration

Canada in Spring (2)
Guests on a Hot Springs Cove Excursion with West Coast Aquatic Safaris taking photos of an orca. Photo: © West Coast Aquatic Safaris

Spring brings Canada’s whale-watching season, which begins with the grey whale migration near Tofino, sometimes as early as February, and the Pacific Rim Whale Festival.

Around 20,000 Grey Whales (Eschschrictius robustus) swim past Vancouver Island’s western shore on their way to the Bering Sea to feed for the summer. April is the time to see mothers and calves.

Grey Whales are large baleen whales that feed by filtering tiny marine organisms in sea-bottom mud through baleen plates. In the early 1900s, the whales were hunted almost to extinction until a hunting ban in 1947 helped the population recover.

You can join a whale-watching expedition from the west coast of Vancouver Island to see grey whales.

On the east coast, Quebec’s Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park is a feeding ground for 11 species of whales, including blue whales and belugas that can be spotted on a cruise from Tadoussac in spring.

Where to see whales?

  • Grey whale migration from Vancouver Island (British Columbia) in February or March. Telegraph Cove is another quaint place to join a whale-watching trip.
  • Blue whales and belugas in Tadoussac (Quebec) from May.
  • Minkes, Blue whales and orcas in Newfoundland and Labrador from May.

6- Relax In Hot Springs

Spring is the perfect time to revitalise by soaking in the natural hot springs in Canada.

There are several resorts in BC where you can soak your muscles after hiking, such as Ainsworth Hot Springs, Harrison Hot Springs and natural hot springs that you can only access by boat from Tofino.

Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort is on the traditional lands of the Ktunaxa people and a place where Ktunaxa warriors soaked their wounds in the spirit waters.

The top Canadian Rockies hot springs is the historic Banff Upper Hot Springs in Alberta, and there’s also Miette Hot Springs and Radium Hot Springs.

All these have mineral-rich waters to heal and relax tense muscles after skiing or snowboarding in spring.

7- Spring Is A Great Time To Play Golf

Canadian flag on a golf ball
Golfing is a popular spring sport in Canada.

Canada’s stunning wilderness landscapes provide a natural backdrop to many golf courses and some golf courses in the National Parks provide opportunities for wildlife encounters.

Popular golfing destinations are the Canadian Rockies (read this post for golf courses in Canmore), Niagara Falls, Whistler, Vancouver Island, Prince Edward Island, British Columbia’s interior and Toronto.

Famous golf courses are Banff Springs Golf Course, Cabot Links, National Golf Club of Canada, Royal Montreal Golf Club, Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Golf Club, Whistler Golf Club and many more.

There are around 2300 golf courses in Canada and over 2000 are public courses. Ontario is the province with the most golf courses, with a total of 805. Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec are also good provinces to pick for a golfing holiday.

Saskatchewan is one of the sunniest provinces, and it’s no wonder it has the highest number of golf courses per capita.

8- It’s Red-Sided Garter Snake Mating Season

Spring in Canada snake den in Narcisse
An unusual place to visit during Canada’s spring season is the Narcisse snake den in Manitoba.

Spring is the mating season for the red-sided garter snakes, a dark green or black-coloured snake with three yellow stripes.

Narcisse is in Manitoba is where 35,000 snakes perform an entangled mating ritual that will leave you in awe and is a sight to behold!

About one hour’s drive to the north of Winnipeg, the Narcisse Snake Dens is a provincial wildlife management area with four snake dens connected by a 3 km interpretive trail.
It’s the winter home of tens of thousands of red-sided garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis) that can grow up to 130 cm.

This spectacular mass mating event lasts between one and three weeks each year and depends on the weather.

The male snakes surface from hibernation and wait for the females to come out, surrounding them in a mating ball, where around 100 males surround one female.

Narcisse is perfect for snakes because it has thin topsoil that sits on top of limestone. As a result, water has gradually eroded underground, creating a network of small caves that the snakes can enter through sinkholes.

The best time to see snakes in Narcisse is in May when the snakes are focused on mating activities.

9- It’s Sugar Shack Season

Spring months in Canada taffy on ice
Tasting taffy on ice is one of the delights of springtime in Canada.

In early spring, the maple syrup starts to flow, and it’s the time of year where locals in Quebec, Ontario and the Atlantic provinces look forward to visiting sugar shacks for maple treats, delicious food and live entertainment.

This traditional springtime celebration of visiting sugar shacks is a tradition and a great way to connect with local culture.

Maple farms start the season by serving maple-themed breakfasts and maple taffy on snow along with a range of fun activities like wagon rides, sugar bush tours and sugar-making demonstrations.

One of the maple traditions is to dip a long wooden stick into a boiling pot of maple syrup and scrape off the cooling maple syrup with a smaller stick.

Canada produces 80% of the world’s maple syrup, and Quebec alone makes two-thirds of the globe’s syrup. Quebec has over 200 sugar shacks, and there are many maple syrup farms near Montreal and Quebec City. So it’s not surprising that some of the best sugar shacks are in Quebec.

Maple Syrup Festivals:

  • The Elmira Maple Syrup Festival in Ontario has been wowing crowds since 1965 and was listed as the world’s largest single-day maple syrup festival in the Guinness Book of World Records, with 66,529 visitors.
  • Festival Beauceron in Quebec is a fun family festival and the place to taste maple fudge, sugar, candy and watch taffy-makers pour hot maple syrup on snow.

10- Iceberg Alley Comes Alive

Canada spring season brings icebergs in Newfoundland
Spring season in Canada brings incredible sightings of icebergs in Newfoundland.

Spring is when giant icebergs float past the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador and are an awe-inspiring sight from shore or while on a boat cruise.

It’s an awe-inspiring parade of icebergs of varying sizes is a wonder of nature that follows a channel known as ‘Iceberg Alley‘.

Icebergs are smaller chunks of glaciers that have broken off and were carried south by the currents. Most of the icebergs that float past Newfoundland and Labrador were once part of a glacier in western Greenland, and some are from Canada’s Arctic.

Icebergs range from smaller chunks to massive bergs that dwarf the colourful houses in the small towns along Iceberg Alley as they float past. The average is about the size of a 15-story building. An iceberg sank the Titanic near Newfoundland in 1912.

Enterprising locals have created an industry out of this natural phenomenon by creating iceberg water and iceberg beer to wash down tasty local Newfoundland food.

Where and when to see icebergs? The season usually starts in late spring (May) but can be unpredictable. Newfoundland’s popular places to view icebergs are Twillingate, St. Anthony, La Scie, Bonavista, St. John’s and Witless Bay.

Labrador (March to July): Cartwright, Battle Harbour and Point Amour.

11- Sea Unicorns Migrate To The Canadian Arctic

Spring season in Canada
Spring in Canada is when narwhals migrate to Baffin Island.

Spring is the season to see the narwhal migration around the waters of Baffin Island in Canada’s Arctic, where two-thirds of the world’s narwhals migrate to during this season.

The Canadian Arctic is home to around 80,000 narwhals that return to the same locations each year, arriving in pods of 15 to 100.

The mysterious narwhals (Monodon monoceros), also known as sea unicorns, are medium-sized toothed whales with no dorsal fins. Narwhals are large, weighing around 80 kg at birth, with adult males growing up to 5.4 m and weighing about 1935 kg.

One of the unique features of the narwhal is they only have two teeth and, in male narwhals, the right tooth is embedded within the skull while the left tooth forms a spiral tusk that can extend to around 3 m.

Where to see Narwhals? Head to the floe edge of Lancaster Sound by joining a luxury guided safari.

12- Chasing Waterfalls

spring in canada niagara falls aerial
Niagara Falls is a spectacle to see at any time of the year and a helicopter flight with Niagara Helicopters is an experience you won’t forget. Photo: ason van Bruggen.

Spring in Canada is the perfect time of year to go waterfall chasing, as the winter’s snow melts into rivers and flow into thundering waterfalls.

It’s a lovely season to soak up the power of nature and visit Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake while flowers are blooming and the crowds are not as large as in summer.

There are 48 national parks in Canada, and there are many hidden waterfalls to explore in spring.

Where to find waterfalls? Niagara Falls is the most famous waterfall in Canada and boat rides below the falls start in late April or early May.

13- The Return of Hiking Season

Spring Canada two hikers hiking in front of a soaring snow-sprinkled mountain
Hike the Rockies for incredible views in Spring. Pictured here is the Larch Valley Sentinel Pass near Lake Louise. Photo: Paul Zizka/Banff & Lake Louise Tourism.

Canada is a land of stunning natural landscapes, from the Rocky Mountains to the prairies, with oceans, rivers, lakes, forests and glaciers.

Spring in Canada is an excellent season to go hiking in a national park or provincial park.

National parks are right across the country, from the mountains and plains to the lakes and the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic coasts.

Banff National Park in the Rockies was established in 1885 and was the nation’s first national park. Its mountain peaks and dazzling lakes provide a breathtaking landscape for an abundance of wildlife.

There are 48 national parks, ranging from the well-known Banff and Jasper in Alberta, where the scenery is mindblowing, to more recently formed national parks like Ivvavik and Vuntut in the Yukon, where hiking provides an opportunity to explore the relationship between the land and the First Nations people.

Hiking Canada’s national parks is a way to explore Canada’s natural beginnings and nature’s activities, forming mountains, lakes, rivers, glaciers and forests. It’s also a way to connect with the land and human history, from First Nations activities to early European settlers.

14- Wine touring in the Okanagan Valley

Spring in Canada Okanagan Summer Hill Winery
Summer Hill Winery in the Okanagan is one of the many fantastic wineries to visit on a spring tour of Canada’s vineyards.

Visiting wineries is fun to do at any time of year, and spring is an especially great time to visit wineries in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley while on an Okanagan road trip.

European settlers brought the tradition of making and drinking wine, and although wine has been made in Canada since the mid-1800s, the country is relatively new to the global wine market.

Canada’s main wine regions are located in Ontario and British Columbia. BC’s Okanagan is the warmest wine region in Canada, with temperatures reaching 28C in May.

With around 200-plus vineyards, the country’s second-largest wine region has plenty of sunshine in spring and perfect weather to sip Sauvignon Blanc overlooking the vineyards.

15- Scenic Drives

When is spring break in canada mountains of the Icefields Parkway
Driving the Icefields Parkway is a visual feast when visiting Canada during spring.

Some of the world’s most scenic drives are in Canada, such as the Icefields Parkway, the Dempster Highway, Alaska Highway and the Cabot Trail.

Driving across Canada is a great way to explore the land. Mid-spring is an excellent time of the year to drive the Icefields Parkway because the traffic is lighter and there are lots to see without the crowds. It’s the time of year when the lakes turn green due to the minerals in melting glacier water, waterfalls are flowing, and the wildlife is out and about.

This 240 km stretch of road offers unplanned encounters with various wildlife such as grizzlies, sheep, deer, black bears and coyotes.

When is spring in Canada?

Spring – March to May

Spring often arrives earlier on Canada’s west coast, with cherry blossoms blooming in Victoria as early as February. In most places, April is usually the last of the winter’s snow, except in higher altitudes like Banff or Whistler, where the season often extends until May making spring an excellent season to hit the slopes without the crowds.

This post was published in partnership with Destination Canada. Travellers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can enter Canada from 7 September 2021. For more information go here.

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Christina Pfeiffer is a writer, photographer and video blogger based in Queensland, Australia. She has lived in three continents and her career as a travel journalist has taken her to all seven continents. Since 2003, she has contributed travel stories and photographs to mainstream media in Australia and around the world such as the Sydney Morning Herald, CNN Traveller, The Australian and the South China Morning Post. She has won many travel writing awards and is a full member of the Australian Society of Travel Writers.