What We Did Not Know About Canada?
Decades ago, before I decided to make a life altering decision and leave the “suite and tie” world and boardroom politics behind me – I thought I knew everything about Canada. Heck, I have always been a proud Canadian. I took geography class in high school. I even passed. So… why wouldn’t I know Canada well? I was so wrong.
Call me naive… but Canada is bigger than big. It is a large vacuum of cultural experiences. There are traditions around every corner. And history… well… it is always lurking beneath the present. It turns out… Canada is still re-introducing itself to me to this very day.
Since the ceremonial burning of my “suite and tie” artillery – every road trip, every meeting, every region I have explored I have learned something new about Canada. I have traveled it back-and-forth numerous times… but until you do actual boots-on-the-ground exploring in Canada you really have no idea of what it has to offer you physically and mentally.
Like many a Canadian, you think you know your country pretty well. You can name off the provinces and territories and their capital cities. You can, probably, name a big attraction in each province too after a few beeros. You may even be able to rattle off some impressive Canadian heroes, icons, celebs and others. But when it comes to the nuts-and-bolts of Canada how much do you really know?
Being that we grew up on the west coast of Canada, the Canadian “surprise” factor increased as we researched from west to east. I soon realized the west does not educate the east very well about the west and vice-versa.
Everything changed with my new career path of embracing tourism, nature and adventure in Canada. Over many decades we have researched. almost, every park, trail, beach, historic site, etc. in Canada. We have home schooled ourselves about tourism in Canada for so long that we eat, sleep and drink tourism every day now.
So we thought we would have some fun. We sat down and created a list of “Things We Did Not Know About Canada” before we entered the tourism industry. This is a list of some of the surprises Colin and I encountered in the early days of exploring and researching Canada for our travel and adventure website.
Canada has Pelicans? Growing up we would see pelicans on TV shows like Wild Kingdom and National Geographic. They always seemed to be in tropical locations. Never… ever… did we think Canada had pelicans until we encountered them on many of our lakes and rivers as we researched across the country.
Canada Remote Highways Connected by River Ferries? Had no idea that so many of Canada’s highways in the northern territories and provinces had so many river ferries. Some were pulled across on big cables to battle the river currents. Some ferries would disappear in the winter months giving way to ice roads. When traveling be prepared for some not-so-reliable ferry crossing times.
Canada Population Lives on Canada/USA Border? Had no idea the bulk of the Canadian population hugged the Canada/USA border so tightly. Head north 250+ kilometres from the border and nature takes over.
P.E.I. Red Sand Beaches? When you grow up on the white sandy beaches of the west coast you have no idea that the beaches on Prince Edward Island are covered in red sand and surrounded by red cliffs. Prince Edward Island sits on sedimentary bedrock of soft, red sandstone. The sandstone rock produces rich, red soil. The soil is red because of the rust in it.
Are We There Yet? Once off the main Trans Canada Highway (TCH) in Canada the country really opens up to you. There are many alterative highways to explore when crossing the country. Talk to anyone and they will tell you to see Canada get off the main highway (TCH). But be aware that when off the main highway few provincial signs welcome you or inform you when you are crossing over into the next province. How can that be? So many secondary major highways and many do not have signs welcoming us to their province.
High Number of Churches? As a nation we are a tad religious. More east than west. We encountered so many communities which have churches on all four corners of many intersections. Some had more churches than restaurants. There were small churches, remote churches and architectural wonder churches. It got to the point we were counting churches when first arriving in communities.
Free Roaming Buffalo? The days of the bison herd are over. That is what we thought until we encountered many free roaming buffalo chill-axing and wandering along the Alaska Highway in Northern BC and on the highways of the Northwest Territories. Big, beautiful and always harassed by flies.
Hoodoos/Coulees in Canada? Western movies sold us on the fact that hoodoos and coulees were only found in Southern USA and in Mexico. Heck, John Wayne would not lie us. Low and behold we came across a whack of hoodoos and coulees in Alberta, Canada. It was like we walked into a western movie ourselves. What beautiful landscape art the wind and rains have created.
Icebergs in Canada? Get out! For real. Sure, you could see an iceberg in the far reaches of the north on some sort of Arctic Expedition- yeah. But we did not know you can watch them from the shores of selected Newfoundland communities. They float by like clockwork every year just like migrating birds. We first sported them in Twillingate. It blew our minds.
East Coast History? The east coast of Canada is far older than the west coast based on European discovery. However…. the amount of history on the east coast caught us by surprise. The forts are large and the historical sites, heritage homes and historic lighthouses are many. There are so many historical sites in cities like Quebec City, Quebec and Halifax, Nova Scotia and St Johns, Newfoundland which share the story of Canada.
Grassland Welcome? It is impossible to appreciate the wonders of the Canadian Prairies unless you travel off the main highway. The Trans Canada Highway (TCH) in Saskatchewan and Manitoba do not do it justice. Once traveling the backroad highways the landscape and activities come alive with tall grasslands and yellow canola fields waving in the winds as you pass them by. The skyline is decorated with red barns, grain elevators, guest ranches, horseback riders and cowboy hats. The lack of light at night allows the stars to light up the sky. And when in season the Northern Lights will provide you a special dance.
Diversity of Whales? Growing up we knew about killer and grey whales – as well as – bears, cougars, bald eagles, mountain goats because we were very west coast. However, by the time we reached Newfoundland we had been schooled in whale wildlife. We had no idea Canada was home to so many species including Narwhal, Right, Minke and Beluga Whales.
Puffins in Eastern Canada? Remember all those National Geographic shows with colourful macaws, toucans and parrots. We were ecstatic to find out Canada has colourful Puffins living on the east coast. They are so small and beautiful. Their beaks glowing orange. At first we had a hard time finding some. But we did and it made our day!
Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia is a Road? What? Are you serious? All of our lives we always figured the Cabot Trail was a hiking route with amazing views, scenery, cliffs and wildlife. We assumed, all along, it was a popular hiking trail. Nope, not the case. So wrong. It is a popular sightseeing driving route connecting to communities and parks with trails.
Quebec French? My last name is French. My parents speak French. I love the fact our country speaks English and French. What I was not aware of is how French Quebec really is. In some parts of Quebec speaking English is not part of the vocabulary. We walked into some stores and basic English was not even spoken. Not a big deal. We were just a bit surprised, even naive. Thanx to our lucky stars we could order our Tim Hortons coffee in French.
Prairie Canoe Routes? Did not realize the Prairies of Canada were so beautiful and so connected to a massive waterway network consisting of tens of thousands of lakes and rivers. Some of the best fishing lodges and canoe routes in the country are located in the Prairies.
Waterfalls in Northwest Territories? NWT is spectacular. The Canadian Shield, Mckenzie Delta, the Arctic Circle, Inuvik, Slave Lake, Dempster Hwy, Northern Lights and waterfalls. What waterfalls you say? Some of the most easily accessed and most thunderous waterfalls in Canada in fact. A string of waterfalls – one after the other – are available to view on the Waterfall Hwy in NWT. It is one experience which we both remember well and talk about often.
Gold Rush in Dawson City, Yukon? Never have I felt so thrown back in time than when I was in Dawson City. The buildings are straight out of the Gold Rush. Side walks are raised on boardwalk planks to avoid the muddy winters. Most roads are gravel. Many work in tourism and walk about town in period costumes and go about their daily lives dressed in Gold Rush era attire. There are dancing girls, saloons, trappers, miners and a casino.
Birds of Prey of Alberta? When we travel for research we try to take the backroads when available. And when we first explored the backroads of Alberta we could not believe how many eagles and falcons line the roads sitting on fence posts and telephone wires. They would take off and fly effortless above us and, once in awhile, dive down into the tall grasslands, disappearing for a moment and then surfacing with some prey in their beaks or claws.
Canada is built on wood and stone? In the western part of the country most homes are constructed from wood products. In the eastern part of the country you see many homes and communities built from rock and stone.
We realize this list could be ten times longer. It was a challenge to narrow it down to 20.
If you have a “I DID NOT KNOW THAT” moment when in Canada please share it with us.
ehCanadaTravel.com (eh Canada Travel & Adventure) is the largest and fastest growing booking, planning and researching tourism and travel website for Western and Northern Canada currently expanding into Eastern and Atlantic Canada. The EH Team Brothers (Co Founders) also author the eh Canada Travel Blog which was recently awarded “A Top Canadian Blogger” by FlightNetwork.com.