It’s no surprise that Canada is trending on travel bucket lists this year — as we celebrate the nation’s 150th birthday, Canada has been heralded by some of the world’s most respected travel publications as a top travel destination for 2017. Let this be your year to discover the 49th parallel’s hidden gems.

Rocky Mountain Foothills, AB

Calgarians are well versed at getting out of the city thanks to the plethora of outdoor ad- ventures and the iconic Canadian Rockies so near by. Happily, your tantalizing weekend getaway is no more than an hour away.

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  Head southwest along the Cowboy Trail, near Priddis, and on to the Azuridge Estate Hotel, where luxury life in welcome seclusion awaits you in one of 13 rooms. The boutique hotel is best known for the personalized service of its four butlers, who will cater to whims you never even knew you had. When it’s time to explore, head south to the twin towns of Black Diamond and Turner Valley for a wander through Branch Market & Studio for cool souvenir gifts and local wares, possibly a shake at Marv’s Classic Soda Shop or a tasting at Eau Claire Distillery, the first independent craft distillery in Alberta. Closer to the hotel, the hamlet of Bragg Creek on Elbow River is also good for a little shopping and perhaps a pit stop at the new Bragg Creek Brewing Company.

Must Do  Dive into fish tacos, po’ boys or ribs at The Westwood café in Black Diamond, which started life as a food truck.

Take Home  Hit the Makers and Growers Guild, a new farmers’ market starting up in Black Diamond this summer, and load up the trunk with the full-on freshness of local produce.

Charlevoix, QC

Charlevoix is Quebec’s best-kept secret — a pastoral playground of rolling hills, arts and culture, guilty culinary pleasures and quaint inns.

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  From Quebec City, take a cab to Montmorency Falls, then get on Le Train, which will take you on a romantic two-hour trip along the St. Lawrence coastline right to the front door of Le Germain Hotel Charlevoix. The hotel’s Foodies Package includes time at their divine Spa du Verger. Regional cuisine throughout Charlevoix is both plentiful and delicious, as are the craft beers and apple cider.In Baie-Saint-Paul, the galleries and boutiques will keep you occupied for hours, and the cafés — including Le Café des Artistes and L’Orange Bistro — will keep you fortified. It’s worth scheduling your visit around the 35th Contemporary Art Symposium, on throughout August. In La Malbaie, pop into the lobby bar of Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu before trying your luck at the tables at Casino de Charlevoix next door. Dinner plans need to include the Auberge des 3 Canards — and do have the duck.

Must Do  Take a helicopter ride with Héli-Charlevoix — from 20 to 300 kilometres — to fly over parkland, canyons and riverside to check out the Charlevoix meteor crater or to watch for whales.

Take Home  Organic lavender from Azulée, a farm outside Baie-Saint-Paul, comes in many forms, including essential oil, lip balm, soap and honey. 

Sunshine Coast, BC

A trip up the Sunshine Coast highway yields staggering vistas, luxury glamping, little-known destinations, local colour — and pure Canadiana. The ferry ride helps break things up a bit.

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Itinerary  Drive from Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay, then hop on the ferry to Langdale. Carry on to the town of Gibsons for fish and chips at Molly’s Reach restaurant of The Beachcombers fame. Gibsons has a brand-new public market you can hit if the car snacks need replenishing. Forty-five minutes later, you’re checking into a luxe tenthouse suite at Rockwater Secret Cove Resort and booking the signature massage and a private yoga class. A pre-dinner stroll along the forest boardwalk will help melt away city cares. For a change of scenery — and pace — reserve a spot at the Upper Deck Restaurant at nearby Secret Cove Marina for the fresh seafood and the romantic view. On the return trip, stop by the 11-acre farm-based Persephone Brewing Company to see what’s on tap and to catch live music on weekend afternoons.

Must Do  Detour up Cypress Bowl Road toward Cypress Mountain ski resort, but pull over at the rest stop halfway up to drink in the Vancouver view.

Take Home  Take-Home Goodies by Éminence Organic Skin Care, the Rockwater spa’s preferred line of products from Hungary. 

Prince Edward County, ON

Niagara is stunning and Muskoka is magnificent, but you’re heading east on the 401 to Prince Edward County — near Belleville, Ontario — for wining, dining and sun shining.

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  Check into either the Drake Devonshire Inn in Wellington or the boutique B&B Maison Depoivre just outside Bloomfield. Both are gorgeous and comfortable. The Drake’s kitchen is a County highlight for brunch and dinner, as is East and Main Bistro, just around the corner. Closer to the community of Hillier, indulging in a wood-fired pizza on the deck at Norman Hardie Winery is pure heaven. Carve out time for the scenery on the County’s east side with drinks at The Inn at Lake on the Mountain, stopping at Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co. to pick up picnic fixings. If you need a retail hit, pop into Kokito for fun gifts and homewares on your way through Bloomfield. And if the weather works, a beach afternoon at Sandbanks Provincial Park is one well spent.

Must Do  Learn how to prepare a seasonal themed meal at From the Farm Cooking School, then sit down with your fellow chefs to enjoy it.

Take Home  Wine! There are at least 40 wineries here, so map out your route in advance. This is pinot noir country, but there are also amazing chardonnays and pinot gris.

By Doug Wallace – *This article originally appeared in INSIGHT: The Art of Living | Spring 2017

Photos: Azuridge, Emily Exon; Helicopter, Héli-Cherlevoix Tour; Ferry Andrew Strain/Destination B.C.; Halfmoon Bay, Sunshine Coast Tourism/Regan; Vineyard, Ontario Travel


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