Canada is a vast and diverse country. Because of its size most travelers focus on either the western or eastern provinces. While the west has Vancouver and the Rockies, Eastern Canada is also a thrilling place to explore history, culture and breathtaking scenery. In Quebec City, you can you’ll feel like you’re visiting France. At Niagara Falls, you’ll be awed by epic waterfalls. From stunning vistas to charming cities, Eastern Canada is definitely a must-see region in the country. Plan your itinerary with these top destinations in mind.
The small city of Kingston is found in Ontario, and it is situated on the northern shore of Lake Ontario. In the 17th century, Kingston was briefly the capital of Canada. Today, it is better known as a scenic spot in Eastern Canada with incredible history, culture and architecture. You might pack your trip with a visit to the historic Fort Henry followed by some time at the Bellevue House, a gorgeous villa that was once the home to the first Canadian Prime Minister. Today, the Bellevue House is packed with costumed guides from the 1840s to help you feel like you’re stepping back in time.
North of Maine, and just south of New Brunswick, is the Bay of Fundy. This bay is best known for its high tides, but it is popular with travelers thanks to charming coastal towns and unparalleled seafood. At Hopewell Rocks, you can rapidly watch the tides change, walking out onto the empty seabed after watching the waters recede just minutes before. In Hartland, you can see the world’s longest covered bridge, and you can also dig into some amazing fresh lobster at one of the many seaside restaurants in the region.
Right on the border between the United States and Canada, where the St. Lawrence River meets Lake Ontario, you’ll find the incredible Thousand Islands. This is a hugely popular summer getaway destination, and it is made up of over 1,700 small islands popping up out of the water. If you’re lucky enough to stay in a cottage in the area, you’ll be in for a treat. If you only have time for a day trip, opt for a boat tour and a visit to Boldt Castle. Technically located in the United States, the castle is located on its very own island in the river and is the main tourist attraction in Thousand Islands.
If you’re a history buff, then your trip to East Canada won’t be complete until you visit the L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site. This historically significant destination is where Leif Eriksson landed and settled his Viking contingent more than a 1,000 years ago. This is the only authenticated Norse site in all of North America, and it allows you to step back in time and experience life like it was for the Vikings. In the encampment, watch women weaving and blacksmiths practicing their craft. Listen to Norse legends around the kitchen fire and dine on the traditional foods of the Vikings.
6. Montreal Where to Stay
While Quebec City is the capital of Quebec, Montreal is the province’s largest city. After Paris, Montreal is the second-largest French-speaking city in the world, which gives it a definite European flair. In Old Montreal, you won’t want to miss historic architecture like the Victorian Gothic Notre-Dame Basilica or the 18th century Château Ramezay Museum. Make your way to the Vieux-Port if you’re interested in visiting the Montreal Science Center or the famed Clock Tower. For souvenir shopping and dining, stroll along the pedestrian street known as the Place Jacques-Cartier.
The Ottawa River and Lake Ontario are connected by a body of water called the Rideau Canal. Built in the early 19th century, the canal is now over 200 km (130 miles) long with plenty of locks along the way. You can see the canal up close during the summer with a boat tour along some or all of its length, or you can stick to dry land by cycling or driving alongside the canal. Start your adventure at the Bytown Museum in Ottawa, which explains more about the history of the canal. Then, get active and enjoy the water and the scenery of the Rideau. In winter, a section of the Rideau Canal passing through central Ottawa becomes an 8 kilometer (5 mile) long ice skating ring.
4. Toronto Where to Stay
Toronto is Canada’s largest city, and it is where many visitors start or end their adventures in the country. Start at CN Tower, where you can ride the glass elevator to the top of the structure and soak in sweeping views over the city. Then, check out the beauty of Casa Loma, a historic mansion with stunning gardens. If you’re a sports or music fan, look for tickets to an event held in Rogers Center. In addition to world-class museums, shopping and nightlife, Toronto is home to great beaches. Head to the shores of Lake Ontario for waterfront views and plenty of activity during the warmer summer months.
⇒ related: Top Toronto Attractions
3. Gros Morne National Park Where to Stay
For breathtaking natural beauty and ample opportunities for outdoor recreation, don’t miss the Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland. Gros Morne is the name of a peak in the Long Range Mountains, and it boasts some incredible hiking for those who want to get active in amazing scenery. Bring a camera, because the geological wonders include unusual rock formations, cliffs and waterfalls, just to name a few. Check out Western Brook Pond for a boat tour on the water and spectacular views of the mountains and cliffs surrounding the pond. There are also several nearby pubs offering fresh seafood and a lively, welcoming atmosphere for visitors.
2. Quebec City Where to Stay
The capital of the province of Quebec is the aptly named Quebec City, which is located on on the banks of the St. Lawrence River. Quebec City boasts a wonderful Old Town that feels more like a European city than an urban North American destination. French colonial architecture is all around the Old Town, with some of the most stunning landmarks being the Chateau Frontenac and the Citadel. The Place-Royale is a charming plaza that is often called the heartbeat of the city, and from there you can hop in a horse-drawn carriage for an unforgettable tour. Quebec City is a big hit in the winter thanks to the annual city-wide Winter Carnival and the amazing Ice Hotel, which is only open from January to April of each year.
1. Niagara Falls, Ontario Where to Stay
Arguably one of the best known attractions in North America is Niagara Falls. These waterfalls can be admired on the Canadian side, in Ontario, as well as in the United States, in New York. From the Canadian side of the falls, at Queen Victoria Park, you’ll be able to get the best views of the waterfalls. Niagara Falls is more than just the natural attractions, however. The destination is also home to countless hotels, casinos and nightlife options. You could take a boat ride underneath the waterfalls, see them from above on a helicopter ride, and then dine on upscale cuisine at a restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the illuminated falls.