Discover Hidden Gems of Summer in Canada

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When Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote, “What would it be like to live in a world where it is always June?” in one of her Anne of Green Gables books, she could have easily been inspired by the warm weather, friendly people and relaxed outdoor lifestyle that makes summer in Canada a fantastic season to visit. Daylight lasts longer during a Canadian summer, making it the perfect season for outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, fishing, biking, boating and swimming. Families enjoy picnics on ocean beaches, along lakeshores and rivers.

The summer season in Canada is also the time of year to see an abundance of wildlife such as moose, elk, caribou, beavers and Atlantic puffins. It’s a particularly good time of the year to see belugas, grizzly and black bears.

The sunshine is a beacon that calls you to discover more of this vast and beautiful land. It’s an ideal time to gaze out of the window of a train or let the wind whip through your hair as you drive past majestic peaks, glistening turquoise lakes, alpine glaciers, golden prairies and oceans. 

Although much of Canada is pristine and untouched, the country also has some amazing cities with great food, entertainment and nightlife. Summer in Canada is the season when festivals are in full swing with live music, dance performances, cultural events and delicious food for everyone to enjoy. During festival season, parks and pavements come alive with bands, dancing and street performers.

Also read:

Summer in Canada

15 Reasons To Visit Canada in Summer

1- Summer Is The Season To Go Hiking and Camping

summer in canada hiker in shorts admiring the snow sprinkled mountains in Banff National Park
A hiker admiring a summer view in Canada near Eiffel Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta. Photo: Destination Canada/William Patino.

There are 48 National Parks in Canada, from relatively unknown national parks to the iconic Banff National Park. Banff National Park is a breathtaking natural wonderland in the Canadian Rocky Mountains with vast mountainous terrain covered in glaciers, ice fields, coniferous forest and alpine landscapes. It’s also the oldest national park in Canada, established in 1885.

Many other lesser-known national parks are perfect for a summer’s hike, such as Mingan Archipelago in Quebec, home to an impressive number of erosion monoliths, and Ukkusiksalik National Park in Nunavut, which has over 500 archaeological sites to explore and marine life galore.

Kluane National Park is a stunning destination for a Yukon hiking adventure as it offers sweeping glacier views and is home to Canada’s highest peak, Mount Logan. 

Along with national parks, there are provincial parks and urban parks. Many parks have ranger-led activities in summer. Summer is also an excellent time to access some parks that can only be reached by food, small aircraft or boat. 

2- Summer Is A Great Time To Go On A Train Trip

best summer vacations in canada by train
Hop aboard a ViaRail train to enjoy the changing landscapes of Canada’s summer season.

Travelling around Canada by train is a fantastic experience at any time of the year, as it’s a relaxing way to see the changing landscapes across the country. A multi-day train trip is great in summer as it offers more flexibility as you’re able to stop and explore most places while the weather is warm and the sun is shining. Some trains have dome observation cars, dining cars and various types of sleepers.

Popular train trips:

  • Via Rail’s The Canadian, which is a cross-country journey linking Toronto and Vancouver.
  • Via Rail’s The Ocean, between Montreal and Halifax.
  • The Rocky Mountaineer has several routes through the Canadian Rockies and offers spectacular scenery of the snow-dusted mountain ranges, the desert-like Fraser Canyon, waterfalls and wildlife.

3- Summer Is A Great Time Hit The Water

when is summer in canada The Hopewell Rocks at night with starry sky
The Bay of Fundy is one of the iconic places to visit in Canada during summer. Photo: The Hopewell Rocks.

With 243,042 km of coastline across hundreds of thousands of rivers, lakes and three oceans, enjoying the water is a quintessential part of a Canadian summer experience. From cruising the Inside Passage to sea kayaking off Vancouver Island to cruising the Rideau Canal in a houseboat to canoeing with a First Nations guide, experiences on the water are part of Canadian culture.

The Bay of Fundy in Atlantic Canada is a stunning playground for watersports as it has the highest tides in the world, reaching up to 16m. Tidal bore rafting is a unique experience there. The rush of riding four-metre (13 feet) high waves in a Zodiac as the ocean tide reverses the flow of the Shubenacadie River is a unique Nova Scotian water roller coaster ride.

The longest river in Canada is the Mackenzie River (4,241 km), which flows from Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories to the Arctic Ocean, and the largest lake in Canada is Great Bear Lake, also in the Northwest Territories.

4- Summer Is A Great Time To Explore Islands 

canadian summer sonora island
Summer in Canada is the perfect season to explore islands like Sonoro Island in British Columbia. Photo: Destination Canada/Brian Caissie.

Most visitors think of Canada as a country with spectacular mountains but it’s also a country of many islands. There are over 52,455 islands in Canada, making it the fourth country in the world with the most number of islands.

Canada’s largest island is Baffin Island, which is also the fifth-largest island in the world. Located between Greenland and the Canadian mainland, Baffin Island is an Arctic destination with incredible wildlife such as narwhals, bears, belugas and spectacular scenery of mountains and fjords. Summer is the time to camp out on the floe edge and experience 24 hours of daylight under the midnight sun.

Other larger islands to visit are Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, home to the famous Cabot Trail, British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, known for its wild beaches and famous Butchart Gardens, and Prince Edward Island, which is also the smallest province in Canada.

Another place with lots of islands is Ontario’s Thousand Islands region, which has over 1,800 islands, some with elaborate mansions, on the St. Lawrence River. The Thousand Islands region straddles Canada and the USA.

Haida Gwaii in British Columbia is often called the ‘Galapagos of the North’ because of its abundant wildlife, rainforests, beaches and rich Haida First Nations history and culture.

Canada is also home to Manitoulin Island, which is the largest island in the world that is located within a freshwater lake. The island in Lake Huron in Ontario also has over 100 freshwater lakes and some of those lakes also contain islands.

5- Summer Is The Season To Go On A Bear-Watching Safari

Spirit Bear Lodge is one of the places to visit in canada in summer where you can see a spirit bear catching fish
The summer season in Canada is the time to look for the Spirit Bear with the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nations. Photo: Spirit Bear Lodge.

Summer is the season to go on a safari to see grizzly bears, black bears and spirit bears. You can find bears in most places in Canada but British Columbia is the best place to go on a summer bear-watching tour. 

Sometimes, you’ll spot bears foraging by the side of the road but a bear safari to see them in their natural habitats is an experience to put on your bucket list. Bears forage for berries and fish from the rivers in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest. The forest is the only place to see the rare Kermode or spirit bears, which are revered by the First Nations people.

The salmon run (late July and August) is an unforgettable experience watching grizzly bears snatch salmon in their jaws as they swim upstream.

6- Summer Is The Time To See Beluga Whales

summer in canada (belugas)
One of the things to do in Canada in the summer is to look for beluga whales in Churchill. Photo: Travel Manitoba/Build Films.

Seven of the world’s 22 beluga whale populations are found in Canadian waters, mainly in Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean. There are a few small populations farther south, including some in the St. Lawrence Estuary. Between June and September, around 60,000 belugas head to Hudson Bay and 3,000 hang around the Churchill River basin so your chances of seeing them there are high. With some luck, you might even glimpse a polar bear.

Belugas are different to most whales as they have seven vertebrae in their necks that are not fused, allowing them to turn their heads in all directions. These whales grow up to five metres and have a spindle-shaped body and sharp teeth.

In Churchill, you can experience beluga whales by boat, which have underwater microphones where you can listen to their chirps and whistles, kayak or stand-up paddleboard and on an AquaGliding tour where you lie on a floating mat tethered to a Zodiac.

7- The Calgary Stampede

In July each year, Calgary is packed with cowboys and cowgirls wearing Stetson hats, cowboy boots, blue jeans and checked shirts as around 1.2 million visitors head to the Calgary Stampede.

Over 10 days, cowboys and cowgirls compete in a range of events such as steer wrestling, bull riding, tie-down roping, saddle bronc riding, bareback riding and ladies barrel racing over several rounds to win a place in the finals.

The stampede is a historical event that started in 1912 and has become one of the richest rodeos in the world. $250,000 in prize money is at stake for each event, with a total of $1.5M to be won.

8- Summer Festivals Are Fun And Exciting

canada in summer weather man dressed in canadian flag costume
Dress up and celebrate Canada Day in Ottawa next summer. Photo: Destination Canada.

Summer is festival season in Canada, with large festivals like the Calgary Stampede, the Toronto Jazz Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival. The latter runs for 10 days and is one of the largest film festivals in the world.

From coast to coast, there are many smaller specialty festivals in summer, such as the Adaka Cultural Festival (July) in the Yukon, celebrating First Nations culture. Then there’s the Montreal Cirque Festival (July), where jugglers, acrobats and high-wire artists entertain in the city where Cirque du Soleil began.

New Brunswick is home to Canada’s largest Acadian community and the Festival Acadien de Caraquet (August) ends with the colourful Acadian Day parade while Manitoba’s Winnipeg Folk Festival (July) always has an excellent lineup of performers.

The Canadian International Airshow in Toronto (September) and the Abbotsford International Airshow (August) are huge events for aircraft enthusiasts.

9- Summer Is A Good Time For A Road Trip

summer months in canada driving a caravan through the Canadian Rockies
A Canadian Rockies road trip is one of the reasons to plan a visit during the summer season in Canada. Photo: Destination Canada/Robert Poulton.

The best time to go on a road trip in Canada is during the summer months when the days are sunny and the temperatures are pleasant. As the world’s second-largest country, Canada is vast and a road trip is a great way to explore at your own pace.

Explore the Canadian Rockies along the Icefields Parkway, between Lake Louise and Jasper, stopping to explore iconic sights like the Athabasca Glacier and beautiful Sunwapta Falls. Other popular road trips are the Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver to Whistler and the Dempster Highway in the Yukon.

10- It’s The Perfect Time To Hit The Beaches

canada in the summer aerial of the Sunshine Coast in BC
British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast is full of beaches for a fun summer in Canada.

A day at the beach may not be the first thing that comes to mind when visiting Canada, but with more shoreline than any other country in the world, naturally, there are many beautiful beaches in Canada to choose from.

Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island is outstanding for its backdrop of mountains and rainforest. Popular with surfers and kayakers, it’s also the place to watch grey whales migrate along the coastline in spring and summer.

Across the Georgia Strait, back on the mainland, British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast is a relatively undiscovered day trip from Vancouver with 180km of beaches, lakes and coastal rainforests.

11- Mountain Resorts Are Alive In Summer

whistler canada in summer
Riding Whistler’s PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola is an amazing way to see stunning views while exploring Canada in the summer. Photo: Jiri Saftar.

Everyone knows that there are excellent ski resorts in Canada but did you know that your favourite winter resorts turn into outdoor mountain playgrounds in summer? Popular ski resorts like Whistler, SilverStar, Sun Peaks, Revelstoke and Big White become outdoor summer playgrounds popular for hiking, biking, golfing, jet boating and watersports.

Whistler’s PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola linking the two mountains, Blackcomb and Whistler, has fantastic views of lush forests and the opportunity to spot wildlife through the glass-bottom floor. 

Most resorts offer adventure courses where you can learn a new skill like rock climbing, mountain biking or sailing. There are market days and other fun outdoor events in summer too.

12- Alfresco Dining Is Wonderful In Summer

the canada temperature in summer is perfect for outdoor dining with views of soaring mountains
Summer in Canada offers alfresco dining with a difference. Pictured here is the Araxi Longtable Dinner in Pemberton, British Columbia. Photo: Destination Canada/Maurice Li.

Summer is the time to sit in the sun with a cocktail in hand. When the weather warms up, restaurants, cafes and bars open up their patios, terraces and rooftops. 

Visit any city in Canada in summer and when the sun is shining and you’ll find places to dine while enjoying the scenery. 

In summer, Quebec City’s Old Town is a network of cobblestone walkways and well-preserved 17th-century buildings that house restaurants, cafes and bars with outdoor dining areas. It’s quite an experience to wander around and shop and eat outdoors in a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was the capital of New France in 1608.

13- Fantastic Fishing 

summer sports in canada fisherman holding a coho with helicopter in the background
Fishing is one of the most popular summer sports in Canada. Photo: Christina Pfeiffer.

British Columbia is known for both freshwater and saltwater fishing. You can go fly fishing in rivers and lakes for salmon, steelhead and trout while staying at a fishing lodge. There are many excellent fishing lodges throughout the province, like Nimmo Bay Lodge, in remote locations where the only access is by boat or helicopter.

Vancouver Island has many excellent spots to go fishing, such as Campbell River (the ‘Salmon Capital of the World’) where coho, chinook, chum and sockeye salmon migrate to the streams and rivers.

Summer is also a great time to head north to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories to fish for lake trout and northern pike in Great Slave Lake.

14- Relive History At An Outdoor Historic Site

canada summer First Nations dance at Fort William Historic Park
One of the places to visit in Canada during summer is Fort William, where you can experience the life of a fur trader. Photo: Fort William Historic Park.

Canada’s history goes back thousands of years to the First Nations people who were followed by French explorers and British settlers. Many of Canada’s best historic sites are open-air outdoor museums that are ideal to explore in summer and some are in remote locations not accessible in winter.

One example is L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, which is an authentic 11th-century Norse settlement with eight timber-framed turf structures in the same style as those in Greenland and Iceland. It contains items from the era and excavated remains of the first European presence.

Old Montreal is another delightful place to wander around and admire architecture dating back to 1642 when French settlers arrived. The historic area is alive with shops, galleries, restaurants and hotels.

Another great historic area to wander around on a beautiful day is the Halifax waterfront boardwalk in Nova Scotia. Halifax was once a strategic port and in summer, the boardwalk is a vibrant strip with cafes, restaurants, ice cream shops and museums.

15- Canada Day

canada day cupcake and canadian flag
A good reason to visit Canada in summer is Canada Day.

1 July is a national holiday celebrated throughout Canada. Catch the vibe in the nation’s capital, Ottawa, where there’s always live entertainment, fun activities and fireworks at 10 pm.

Visiting Canada during Canada Day is the ultimate way to soak up the Canadian vibe and it doesn’t matter where you are on 1 July, there will be a celebration to remember.

When Is Summer In Canada?

blue hammock slung between tall trees when does summer start in canada
There’s more than one way to enjoy summer in Canada, especially when you’re in among nature in a place like BC’s Golden Ears Provincial Park. Photo: Taylor Burk.

The first day of summer is the Summer Solstice, which is usually between 20 and 22 June. It’s the day when the north pole of the earth is the closest to the sun. The last day of summer is usually on 21 or 22 September, when the sun is directly over the equator. Check the exact dates here. The warmest months are July and August when temperatures can average between 10°C and 20°C. 

Where Are The Hottest Places In Canada In Summer?

summer in canada Strathcona Provincial Park people lying in the water admiring mountain views
Relaxing on the water admiring the view in Strathcona Provincial Park, British Columbia, is a fun way to experience summer in Canada. Photo: Destination Canada/Taylor Burk.

Windsor in Ontario and Kelowna in British Columbia have the highest average daily maximum temperatures. Kelowna can get extremely hot during the day, with 30 degrees Celsius (86 °F) or above but its minimum temperature drops to 12.6 °C (55 °F) at night. Other hot cities in summer include Brantford, Hamilton, Ottawa, St. Catharines and Toronto, all in Ontario.

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.