Bucket List Worthy
Written by: Kathy Barthel
Think Canada is dull? Think again. We’ve got a desert, a spotted lake and some very odd people standing out in the St. Lawrence River. There’s even a sleeping giant and a gopher museum! If you want a vacation out of the ordinary, check out the 10 most unusual places to visit in Canada.
First Nations of the Okanagan Valley consider Spotted Lake to be sacred and believe it can heal illnesses both physical and spiritual. Its surface becomes a series of coloured pools or “spots” in the summer when most of the water evaporates. The spots are blue, white, yellow or green depending on which minerals – commonly magnesium, calcium and sodium — they hold. Magnesium sulfate in the lake hardens, creating a walking path around the spots.
Getting there: The 15.2-hectare lake is protected from development and tourists by a fence but you can still view it from highway #3, about 9 km west of Osoyoos.
Photo Credit: Andrew Enns/CC BY-SA 3.0 Source
If you have just retired from the funeral business what do you do with all those empty embalming-fluid bottles? If you are David H. Brown and you like collecting them anyway, you travel around western Canada finding more until you have enough to build your dream home. We’re talking half a million bottles (250 tons of glass)! Unfortunately, the house, built in 1952, became so popular that Brown had to move out and turn it into a tourist attraction.
Getting there: The house is on the east shore of Kootenay Lake, about 3 km south of Boswell.
Photo Credit: TilJ/CC BY-SA 3.0 Source
Butch Cassidy chose The Big Muddy Badlands as station number one on his Outlaw Trail, which stretched from Saskatchewan to Mexico. Between the late 1890s and the early 1900s, U.S. outlaws used 70-metre high Castle Butte as a lookout and hid themselves and their stolen horses in Big Muddy caves to escape the USA authorities. You can even tour the outlaw caves here.
Getting there: Big Muddy and Castle Butte are 175 km southwest of Regina, near the town of Coronach (which is about 10 km from the Montana border).
It’s easy to imagine the headless horseman from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow galloping through these creepy, aspen trees. Their grasping branches create an eerie atmosphere that makes some visitors feel dizzy and disoriented. Scientists say the trees have a genetic mutation but no one knows why. The aspens across the road are normal. Was it a meteorite crash, radioactive ground or the work of aliens? After all, the nearby hamlet of Alticane is known for its UFO sightings.
Getting here: The grove is about a 75-minute drive north of Saskatoon, just northwest of the small town of Hafford, in the Redberry Lake Biosphere Reserve.
Photo Credit: Kathy Rosenkranz
Pingualuit means pimples in English – an odd word to associate with a lake that looks like a huge gemstone. It is also said to have the purest freshwater on earth. The jagged-edged crater surrounding the lake was formed by a meteorite over 1.3 million years ago. The lake is in Pingualuit Provincial Park, a popular place for camping in summer and winter. It is quite remote but you will still find comfortable bunk beds, showers and even Wi-Fi.
Getting there: Travel by air from Montreal, Ottawa or Quebec to Kuujjuaq and then fly on to Kangiqsujuaq. From there, take a helicopter or Twin Otter into the park.
Photo Credit: NASA, Courtesy of Denis Sarrazin. Source
What do you do when your town is infested with gophers? You stuff them, dress them in cute costumes and put them in a museum! That’s what the hamlet of Torrington did in the mid-1990s. Now, visitors from all over the world pay to see gophers camping in their little red bikinis, going to the hair salon, playing hockey — even kissing under a prairie moon.
Getting there: The museum is located one hour north of Calgary.
Photo Credit: JamesPFisherIII/ CC BY-3.0/Wikimedia Commons Source
If you like rapelling, Mount Thor (named after the Norse god of thunder) features the greatest purely vertical drop on earth at 1250 metres. That’s nearly two-and-a-half times further down than Toronto’s 553-metre CN Tower! Thor’s granite peak is hugely popular but it is for seasoned climbers only. If you’re not into heights, you can just camp out and enjoy the view. Go mid-June to mid-August when there is less risk of storms.
Getting there: From Churchill Manitoba, you can get a flight into Pangnirtung. From there, a boat ride (or a snowmobile ride in winter) takes you into the park.
Photo Credit: Ansgar Walk/CC BY-SA-2.5/Wikimedia Commons Source
More than 100 life-sized stone and wood figures stare out at the St. Lawrence River from the beach or keep watch in the water itself. Their tall, narrow bodies and the play of light and shadow on their faces give them a haunting presence. Canadian artist Marcel Gagnon originally created the figures as studies for his paintings and now they are the main attraction at the Centre d’Art Marcel Gagnon, in Sainte-Flavie.
Getting there: The Centre d’Art Marcel Gagnon is about three-and-a-half hours from Quebec City on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River.
Photo Credit: Dennis Jarvis/CC BY-SA 2.0 Source
If you look towards Sibley Peninsula from the city of Thunder Bay, you will see a 4km long “sleeping giant” reclining in the 250m cliffs. In the photo below, his head is at the far right. Legends say that the Ojibwa people were given directions to a silver mine by the Spirit of the Deep Sea Water, Nanabijou, in exchange for keeping it a secret. The Ojibwa became famous for their silver jewelry but Nanabijou wasn’t so lucky. The story got out and he was turned to stone (aka the sleeping giant).
Getting there: From Thunder Bay, take Highway 11 east and then Highway 587 south.
Photo Credit: fryed_photos/CC BY-NC 2.0 Source
There are sand dunes and cacti in Winnipeg. And lightening fast lizards called skinks. Even the infamous hog-nosed snake! The four km2 of desert in Spirit Sands are all that is left of a delta that originally formed in the Assiniboine River over 15,000 years ago. It is not a true desert because it gets nearly double the moisture per year that a real desert does but in a province known for its snow and inhuman cold, this desert will do just fine.
Getting there: Spruce Woods Provincial Park is 45 minutes by car from Brandon.
Photo Credit: Classenc/CC BY-SA-3.0 Source
Kathy Barthel is a Toronto-based freelance writer and web content strategist who loves to travel. Her work has appeared on CTVNews.ca, MSN.ca and Huffington Post Canada. When she’s not dreaming of her next trip to Paris, she loves writing about the beautiful and unusual travel destinations in her home country, Canada.