With a country as vast as Canada, it can be difficult to pinpoint the ideal location for your holiday. If you’re unsure whether to plump for East or West, an insight into the distinct experiences offered in both regions can help shape a spectacular schedule for your Canadian adventure. Each of Canada’s coastlines boasts contrasting landscapes, cuisines and activities. From the urban whirlwind of Toronto and Nova Scotia’s Atlantic allure, to Vancouver and its picture-perfect national parks, it can be hard to choose between East or West CanadaCanada: East or West?
East coast: Toronto’s delights and beyond
Canada’s East Coast is a treasure chest of both maritime charm and New York-inspired vibrancy, with urban centres such as Toronto and Montreal offset by the stunning natural beauty of Niagara National Park. As Canada’s answer to the Big Apple, bustling Toronto has enough restaurants, nightlife and luxury shopping opportunities to keep even the keenest city junkie entertained. Activities like climbing the CN Tower and visiting St Lawrence farmer’s market are a must for anyone new to the city. What’s more, visitors shouldn’t miss out on experiencing the electric atmosphere of a Toronto sports match – sports enthusiast or not! It’s worth sourcing a ticket to see the Toronto Blue Jays, the city’s resident baseball team, or the aptly-named Maple Leafs, who play in the National Hockey League.
Ontario’s other gem is the site on everyone’s bucket list, Niagara Falls – where you spend the day getting snap-happy and donning the iconic rain poncho. Elsewhere in the east, Quebec is a unique region where the provincial charm of Quebec City’s winding streets is complemented by Montreal’s romantic, European feel. For instance, a tour of Montreal’s museums and art galleries, including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, forms the perfect afternoon for any culture vulture. Quebec’s unique French-inspired culture, which spans language, food and traditions, is fascinating to immerse yourself in. Food is a staple of any great holiday and you’re spoilt for choice on the East Coast. Be sure to sample the delights of poutine in Quebec – a traditional dish made with chips, gravy and cheese curds. In the same comfort-food vein, the toutière is a double-crusted meat pie with pork, veal or beef. Usually a Christmas dish, it’s scrummy enough to enjoy all year-round. If you are more inclined to a feast of fresh fish, however, Digby in Nova Scotia is renowned for its beautiful scallop dishes. There really is everything in the East!
Go West: Vancouver and the Rockies
Wondering what the West can offer? Vancouver, Canada’s western hub, is the cosmopolitan centre of British Columbia, and a microcosm of everything that’s great about the region. Start your day with an invigorating cycle ride around Stanley Park, taking in spectacular views of the North Shore Mountains and Lions Gate Bridge as you go.
Granville Island Public Market is perfect for a spot of lunch, thanks to its delectable range of local specialities (try the seafood!). If you’re a hard-core foodie, you can enjoy a guided tour of Vancouver’s iconic food trucks, as well as embarking on a gastronomic adventure led by a knowledgeable local guide (with 14 tastings included…). Finally, you can while away your afternoon wandering around Vancouver Art Gallery, soaking up the local history and culture.
For the more intrepid traveller, the West is ideal for sating a thirst for adventure. It’s no secret that hiking is the main event in the Rocky Mountains, with some of the best trails located in the Banff or Jasper National Parks, where wildlife-spotting comes with the territory. It’s not unusual to spot elk wandering about – even in the more urban areas – as well as red squirrels. If you’re desperate to see a bear in the flesh, the West is the place for you – but make sure you plan your trip for spring or summer, as the bears hibernate over the winter period. If you’re more interested in sightseeing, however, Calgary, the gateway city to the Rockies, is well worth a visit – even if it’s just to sample its famous ginger beef dish. Overall, the West offers the best of both worlds, with country and city both easily accessible and enjoyable.
With so much to explore in the East and the West, which way would you sway?
Kathryn Munro is Managing Director at Canadian Affair.