Top 10 Canadian History Sites
Chris’ personal picks from places in the world that he has visited.
Rideau Canal and Kingston Fortifications, Ontario: Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site is a unique combination of military canal, Martello Towers and mighty Fort Henry that mix pageant, entertainment and history seamlessly with scenic cruising and rural idylls.
L’Anse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland: Icelandic Sagas told of Viking adventurers reaching the New World long before Columbus, but it wasn’t until this site was excavated in the 1960’s that were proved right. The reconstructed Viking settlement is a powerfully atmospheric place on the northern tip of The Rock.
Quebec City: The historic District of Old Quebec is the only walled city in North America. To walk the old cobbled streets is to drift back in time to European Canada’s earliest days, to touch and see what the first settlers created in their New World. And it helps that great food and accommodations are part of the experience!
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Alberta: The best named place in Canada bears witness to a custom practiced by native people of the North American plains for nearly 6000 years: they killed bison by chasing them over a precipice and carving up the carcasses in the camp below. The Interpretive Centre is brilliant.
Red Bay, Labrador: In the late 1600’s this was the largest whaling port in the world, with the whalers living aboard Spanish galleons in the bay. Some of these galleons sank there and have been preserved by the frigid waters, to be immortalized today in the spectacular Visitor Interpretation Centre.
Forts Walsh and Whoop-Up, Saskatchewan: Adjacent to Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, Fort Walsh National Historic Site faithfully recreates the early days of the North West Mounted Police and its efforts to enforce Canadian law in the west; this site brings the early history of the NWMP to life in a beautiful landscape.
Kings Landing, New Brunswick: There are several recreations of historical villages around Canada, but this is my favourite. It’s a tranquil place on the banks of the Saint John River where you can interact with the characters and become immersed in the simple minutia of Loyalist folk of 150 years ago.
Dawson City, Yukon: This is another UNESCO World Heritage Site, but is far from being just a museum piece – it’s a living, funky glorious town of 2,000 people who have taken care to preserve the spirit and the structure of the gold rush days of the Klondike, from panning for gold to Robert Service poetry recitals.
Louisbourg, Nova Scotia: Of all the fortifications in Canada, this is the most impressive. On the site of this National Historic Park were played out the power struggles of the French and British empires; this massive reconstructed fortress is an overpowering reminder of this epic contest.
Kerketen Island, Nunavut: One of the most poignant and evocative places I have ever visited, this Arctic island off the coast of Baffin Island was briefly the hub of nineteenth century whalers. Now the bones of the whalers and the whales they hunted lie scattered on the Arctic tundra, their stories told by the wind.