10 Must Read Canadian Travel Books
Travel Tales and Stories of Exploration and Adventure
Canadian Travel Books
10 Must Read Canadian Travel Books - Looking for that travel related gift for someone this holiday season? Curious about exploring Canada? Walking across the nation? Planning your own family hike? Ever wonder what it would be like to drop everything and be an explorer? If so then these are the book choices for you when exploring Canada!
This is not the usual collection of travel books. These publications are stories about venturing across entire regions, provinces and Canada itself. Some are based on historical accounts, others are based on newspaper articles, some explore the heritage of Canada and its waterways, while a few are the personal tales of Royal Canadian Geographic Society explorers ! As a list they cross Canada from hiking in Newfoundland to paddling the country's waterways or living in the Prairies to venturing across the Arctic !
Together, they are also some of the most exciting and diverse books on travel in Canada that I have come across over the years. Any or all of them would make great books to snuggle down with over the winter or amazing gifts for that family member who loves travel !
(PS – Our favourite travel book for the past year is also the newest on the list and published by an amazing member of the Canadian Explorer's Club and Fellow at the Royal Canadian Geographic Society! To learn more you'll have to read through the whole list first though!)
"Fill your life with Adventures, not things.Have stories to tell not stuff to show."
Top 10 Must Read Canadian Travel Books
10. Every Trail has a Story: Heritage Travel in Canada
Every Trail has a Story: Heritage Travel in Canada
The first choice on this list, Every Trail has a Story : Heritage Travel in Canada is a wonderful collection of travel narratives. Its premise, that every community and every trail in the nation has a heritage and tales that are worth knowing is wonderful. For author, Bob Henderson, this publication is the means through which he shares his love of truly Canadian adventures and tales. In his accounts, pathways, landscapes, heritage, and community interact to foster experiences and stories that everyone will enjoy. The stories included range from the Yukon to Labrador, and cover camping and dogsledding, as well as exploring walking trails used by Indigenous peoples, colonial fur trade routes, historical waterways, and nature paths transforming history into lived experiences. An intriguing and fascinating book to enjoy that will increase your sense of curiosity, adventure and desire to travel across the nation.
9. Ocean to Ocean : Sanford Fleming's Expedition through Canada in 1872
Ocean to Ocean : Sanford Fleming's Expedition through Canada in 1872
George M Grant
The second selection this year is a historical narrative of Sir Sanford Fleming's survey of the fledgling nation of Canada for the Trans Continental Railway. Fleming, is one of Canada's first 'jack of all trades' as he is considered the 'Father of Standard Time', he designed the country's first postage stamp, was an author, artist, and town planner as well being the Engineer in Chief for the Trans Continental railway. These experiences and insight make him the perfect guide as he survey's the country. Throughout, his commentary is keen and fascinating with the narrative being, in the author's own words, unvarnished, honest and simply the observations of the land, its geography, geology, and the fledgling nation. In addition his descriptions of the wildlife encountered and birds sighted stand not only as an invaluable scientific record but are amazing to experience. While admittedly Eurocentric in its perspective and Victorian in its attitudes Fleming's account is nonetheless a wonderful tale of a venture that would take this dynamic individual across the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific. In an age where so many Canadians have had the privilege to travel, drive, and take the train across the country hearing the account of one of the key individuals involved in surveying these routes is amazing to experience! For those who have trekked across Canada or are planning a trip in the future this is the book for you!
8. The People's Road : on the Trail of the Newfoundland Railway
The People's Road : on the Trail of the Newfoundland Railway
One of the first accounts I read of trekking across Newfoundland when planning my 27,000km hike across Canada on the Trans Canada Trail. This publication is a wonderfully detailed exploration of the province of Newfoundland along the T'Railway Trail, a province long provincial park established on the former rail bed of the former Canadian National Railway and route of the famed 'Newfie Bullet'. Today it is the longest single pathway on the Trans Canada Trail, one of the first you trek on if you are venturing east to west, as well as being one of the most enjoyable and memorable places to venture!
The author, Wade Kearley, a journalist, hiker, and former president of the T'Railway Trail itself has woven an iconic account of the pathway's development and railway heritage of the T'Railway Trail – a route that takes travelers 547 miles or more than 800 km from St. John's across the province to Port aux Basques Newfoundland. Throughout his telling, Kearley not only brings readers along the pathway and ATV trail as he hikes on foot, but highlights the natural beauty of the province, details various historical forces which have shaped the trail, and shares conversations with individuals who he meets along the way. All in all Kearley provides and engaging exploration of the province, it's rail history and unique identity resulting in a wonderful tour of a region that too few get the opportunity to visit! If you have ever been curious about what it would be like to walk across an entire province, to venture more than 800 km in the wilderness of Newfoundland, or are curious about the rail history of this wonderful province then this will be one of your "10 Must Read Canadian Travel Books"!
7. The Amazing Foot Race of 1921
The Amazing Foot Race of 1921
Shirley Jean Roll Tucker
Are you a sucker for historical adventures that few people today know about? If so this is a tale for you! Long before the Trans Canada Trail and the Great Trail there was the Amazing Foot Race. In 1921 as a result of a regional challenge and promotion from the Halifax Herald three groups of individuals would set out from Halifax Nova Scotia on the Atlantic coast with the goal of trekking more than 3600 miles before July to reach Vancouver British Columbia and the Pacific Ocean. In the wake of World War one and tough economic times it would be a series of avidly followed stories and publications about a diverse group of hikers – including an intrepid women – that would capture the nation's attention. Tales of optimism, drama, and daring from each of the contestants whose daily updates, as the participants walked the railway routes of the country, became the focus of Canadians lives are at the centre of this brief and fascinating story.
6. Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada
Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada
Anna Brownell Jameson
While I am not typically a huge reader of historic accounts, this one caught me from the first page. Anna Jameson, an Irish-British author and later colonist came in 1836 to Upper Canada. Shortly after rejoining her husband in colonial Canada however she struck out on her own on a trip across Ontario. Considered an inspirational female author in her own time and one of the finest early Canadian travel accounts. Jameson's detailed descriptions, observations about colonial society in Toronto, women's roles in the society at the time, her expeditions by canoe, and her ramblings in the wilderness across Northern Ontario make this a unique consideration of the province. Framed as a series of incomplete journal entries to a friend, Jameson's goal was to describe a region that was only just being more fully settled by European colonists and to provide reflections on her own impressions. While parts of this book and the British Imperial opinions it reflects - as much as it critiques them – do not age well, Jameson's publication is nonetheless a wonderful account of pre-Confederation Canada that is unique as it is composed by a strong willed and opinionated Victorian woman who has wandered across huge tracts of Canada. For anyone interested in a fascinating historical account or the perspective of a Victoria woman in the wilderness of Ontario this book is for you!
5. Hiking the Dream
Hiking the Dream
In the early 1990s, with the closure of many of the railway routes across Canada arose the dream of the Trans Canada Trail which sought to utilize these abandoned rail lines as the basis for a new national pathway system. In the wake of its formation it was only a matter of time before people sought to cross the nation on foot. In 2000, Kathy Didkowsky, a Nova Scotia trail supporter sought to take her family across Canada with the goal of spending 10 days in each province while hiking 2000 km from Newfoundland to British Columbia. While not a complete venture across the present day 28,000km Trans Canada Trail, it is nonetheless inspiration and at present is the only published account of anyone's attempt at crossing nation on foot along the TCT. Didkowsky's ambitious undertaking and interesting book includes accounts of following the nation's emerging rail trails, wildlife sightings, and natural wonders while also highlighting historical and cultural points of interest along the way. For anyone who has been fascinated by the Trans Canada Trail and the possibility of trekking across the nation to rediscover the country and themselves then this is the tale for you!
4. Original Highways : Travelling the Great Rivers of Canada
Original Highways : Travelling the Great Rivers of Canada
One of the many amazing books on Canada, its wild places, and exploration that the exceptional Roy MacGregor has published over the years. MacGregor a former journalist for The Globe and Mail has transformed a series of his articles into one of his most recent publications, Original Highways : Travelling the Great Rivers of Canada. In it MacGregor details the essential role that the nation's waterways played in the exploration of Canada noting that while many credit the role of the Trans Continental Railway, few give full consideration to Canada's rivers. Given that the nation has 20% of the world's fresh water supply and is struggling to deal with issues of water pollution and climate change it is surprising that this natural resource has received so little attention. Thankfully MacGregor's narrative, which highlights his travels along 16 of Canada's waterways from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic adeptly explores how the nation's development, identity, economy, and conservation movements have been shaped by its rivers. In this fascinating exploration of our relationship with water resources, MacGregor a lifelong canoeist who has paddled this nation from coast to coast to coast utilizes his own experiences and observations to bring life to one of our most precious resources. For anyone who is a dedicated paddler, is interested in unique historical accounts, and seeing Canada from the coastline then this is the book for you!
3. River in a Dry Land
River in a Dry Land
Admittedly in picking this book I am biased because of the amount of time I spent trekking across Canada's prairies along the Trans Canada Trail. While I can't adequately describe their pull or the sheer natural beauty of the prairies I can definitively tell you that they are worth experiencing in person! Thankfully author Trevor Herriot's account, a River in a Dry Land, is an amazing portrayal of the Canadian prairies and the Qu'Appelle Valley. Herriot's book is a magnificent memoir of growing up in Saskatchewan detailing the sights, sounds, and the feel of being out in the Land of the Living Skies. This nostalgic narrative romanticizes and documents Herriot's love of the landscape and concerns about widening development and ignorance about the region's importance. In the process he explores the province, details regional history and weaves a tale which brings the prairies to life. While at times Herriot's idealization of the past and the role of the region can be a little too wistful, his book is nonetheless a striking and wonderful portrayal of a region of Canada that too few spend enough time in to explore and enjoy. A refreshing and loving account of Saskatchewan that engages the past to inform the present including narratives from Indigenous Cree, early European colonists, and present day residents. Through it all Herriot encourages readers to learn, explore and to reconnect to nature. A wonderful book for those interested in the prairies and a detailed sense of what it would be like to grow up and live in Saskatchewan!
2. Beyond the Trees : A Journey Alone Across Canada's Arctic
Beyond the Trees : A Journey Alone Across Canada's Arctic
A member of the Canadian Explorer's Club, Fellow at the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, leader of a number of RCGS Expeditions, and an individual who is also currently an Explorer in Residence with RCGS. Adam Shoalts is one of the coolest and wide ranging Canadian explorers in the field at the moment. His passion for the outdoors, discovery, and navigating the geography and history of regions is amazing to experience. I have been fortunate to meet him for a few minutes at meetings and been captivated listening to him present on Canada's north. His fascinating book, Beyond the Trees : A Journey Alone Across Canada's Arctic, is my favorite of his numerous well written publications. In 2018 he set off on a 4000 km solo trek through the awe-inspiring arctic wilderness across the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Shoalts is a wonderful storyteller whose narrative not only brings the reader along on the adventure of a life time but it reveals a region of Canada that few are ever fortunate to travel. His writings provide immersive descriptions of the wilderness, educate the reader along the route, and give a sense of the natural beauty that can be found across northern Canada. If you have ever wanted to explore the Arctic or walk into the wilderness on your own then this is an adventure you'll love.
1. Park Bagger
In this countdown I am saving the best for last. Marlis Butcher's Park Bagger is the newest book on this list and perhaps the most exciting publication on Canadian exploration I have read in the past year! Butcher, a Montreal native and longtime Toronto area resident, is also a fellow member of Canadian Explorer's Club and Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society as well as a widely adventurous and cool individual. Marlis' exploration of the second largest nation in the world has led her to visit, know, and share all of the National Parks in Canada! In the process she seems to have experienced the full range of natural beauty, cultural diversity, and historical details that the country has to offer. Park Bagger not only lets readers also visit every park from Point Pelee to Aulavik enabling you to explore Canada from home but Marlis' account makes you want to get out there and see everything these sites have to offer and teach us in person!
Full disclosure here, to my lasting regret, Marlis Butcher actually once asked me to visit and explore one of the northern Arctic parks in Canada with her and I turned her down! After reading her amazing book I can only imagine the opportunities I missed in with this quick decision. Make sure you don't miss out on the chance to explore Canada's National Parks with this amazing book!
"Travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us!"
Top Canadian Must Read Books for 2021
Park Bagger is great - though it will make you want to visit all the parks in Canada as well! Which is a great undertaking to consider!