So you’re a Canadian history buff driving across the country (more than likely in a classic car) and you’re wondering where to find the soak-up-the-past pit stop in each province. Fear not—we’ve got you covered.
St. Dunstan’s Basilica (Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island)
Acadian Historical Village (Bertrand, New Brunswick)
Fortress of Louisbourg (Louisbourg, Nova Scotia)
Gros Morne National Park of Canada (Gros Morne, Newfoundland)
Beauharnois Generating Station (Valleyfield, Quebec)
Canadian War Museum (Ottawa, Ontario)
Western Canada Aviation Museum (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
Batoche National Historic Site (near Prince Albert, Saskatchewan)
Rat’s Nest Cave (Canmore, Alberta)
Stanley Park (Vancouver, British Columbia)
St. Dunstan’s Basilica is a must-see when visiting Prince Edward Island’s capital, Charlottetown. Although the basilica was last rebuilt in 1913 following a fire that destroyed the previous structure, its origins date back to much earlier times. In fact, this is the fourth church to have been built on the site. The two towers of the province’s only Roman Catholic basilica can be seen from any where in the city.
A visit to New Brunswick wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Acadian Historical Village, located in the small town of Bertrand, near Caraquet, in northeastern New Brunswick. The village was created in the mid-1970s following an initiative by Caraquet’s Chamber of Commerce to develop the region’s tourism industry. A team of historians and curators was put together and mandated to acquire and assemble a number of artifacts dating from the time when Acadians were “masters of their own house.” The village continues to expand, giving visitors the opportunity to discover the birth of Acadia in New Brunswick in the 21st century.
In 1713, the French founded the settlement of Louisbourg, a town located on what is today known as the major commercial trade and fishing port of Cape Breton Island. Concerned about the ever-growing British threat, the French authorities decided to build a fortress around the city; the walls were constructed between 1720 and 1740. Louisbourg would be the site of two major sieges before falling into British hands and being destroyed in the 1760s. The site was rebuilt in the 1970s and was the largest reconstruction project in North America in its day. Today, visitors can take in the atmosphere of the times, visit the many old buildings, and even have a bite at one of several restaurants modeled after those of yesteryear.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, Gros Morne National Park offers breathtaking views. Park visitors can discover untamed and uninhabited wilderness; go on boat tours to take in the scope of the park; or simply capture the site in the most beautiful photos. The park is located approximately 700 kilometres west of St John’s, the province’s capital.
The Beauharnois Generating Station is one of the largest hydroelectric power plants ever built in Quebec history. Unless you plan to drive thousands of kilometres to visit the Manic generating stations or the Grande Rivière dams in James Bay, make a small detour to Beauharnois, off of Highway 30 near Valleyfield, to discover an important piece of Quebec history. Built in three phases between 1930 and 1961, the hydroelectric station produces close to 2,000 megawatts and was declared a Canadian Heritage Site in 1990.
Open only five years, the Canadian War Museum is quickly becoming one of the must-sees in Ottawa and the National Capital Region. The museum depicts how Canada’s military past has shaped the country. Some 13,000 works make up the heart of the museum’s military art collection, not to mention the many artifacts that add to its breadth. This is an opportunity for everyone to revisit pivotal moments in Canadian history and bear witness to the impact that Canadian military interventions have had in conflicts abroad.
The country’s second-largest aviation museum is located in the heart of Manitoba, in Winnipeg. The Western Canada Aviation Museum features a major collection of airplanes that have marked Canadian air history. Visitors will discover the extent to which Canada’s geography required a whole range of aircraft capable of meeting the needs of various populations and their development.
It was in Batoche that Louis Riel established his provisional government during the Northwest Rebellion in 1885. Located on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River, the site was the last battlefield of the rebellion, which ultimately led to Riel’s arrest and unjust conviction. Today, visitors can learn about the way of life of the Métis of Batoche between 1850 and 1900. They can explore their houses, their church and the trails they walked.
If you’re looking for extreme action, Rat’s Nest Cave in Canmore, Alberta (near Banff), should be on your list of places to visit. The cave is wild and undeveloped, meaning that there is no lighting, no walkways and no handrails to hold on to or guide you inside the cave. Visitors will discover how humans and animals used the cave and get to see amazing stalactites and stalagmites, as well as numerous fossils in an enchanting setting.
The city of Vancouver is known for its breathtaking natural landscape. At its heart is Stanley Park, a huge green space created in 1888 where visitors can practise various outdoor activities. At 1,000 acres, Stanley Park is North America’s third-largest urban park, bigger even than New York’s famous Central Park. The park is a National Historic Site.