Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Laura Cooper
There’s nothing quite like a 150th birthday party. Parks Canada has been waiving admission fees to all of Canada’s National Parks and National Historic Sites for 2017 with their Discovery Pass. Get your free pass, and then add these 6 unique things you can do at Canada’s National Parks to your travel list:
Sleep in the trees
Parks Canada is trying out several new accommodation options, to offer parks-goers a new experience. Try the Cocoon Tree Bed in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia. Suspended in the trees, you’ll access your new home by stairs, and sleep on a 2.5m mattress, looking out at the sea.
Other new accommodations include the Goutte d’O in Fundy National Park, and the oTENTik found at parks across the country. The Goutte d’O is a rain-drop shaped accommodation includes a sofa bed and a second level hammock loft. Currently, it’s installed on a wooden platform, with plants to suspend it or mount it on stilts. The oTENTik is a cross between a tent and rustic cabin, including wooden beds, table and chairs, and patio chairs for enjoying.
Experience First Nation’s life
Dance into New Brunswick’s history at Kouchibouguac National Park with traditional Mi’kmaw ceremonial dances and music. Learn traditional dances, their significance, and visit a wigwam – a domed dwelling used for ceremonies. Visit Callanders Beach and see traditional dress, artefacts, and hear history from locals. Kouchibouguac also offers a Voyageur Canoe Experience with a replica Voyageur Canoe, like those used by First Nations and early settlers in the area.
Look up…way up
Camp at the most northerly tip of the Yukon. And we truly mean north: you have to fly-in to access Ivvavik National Park. You’ll be hosted by the Iunvialuit people on a guided hike through mountain ranges, seeing the Yukon Arctic coast, and northern history. This trip isn’t for everyone – you’ll be hiking on uneven, strenuous terrain. From base camp (a former gold mine), explore along rivers and fish for char, and watch for wildlife like the horned Dall sheep. Explore all the north has to offer with the stunning views and wildlife here. Rafting the 130k Firth River to the Arctic Ocean is also a possibility, here.
Sometimes the safest place to see nature is from your car: enjoy an 80km drive through Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan and enjoy stunning landscapes, prairie dog colonies, and Bison sightings. This park shares a border with Montana, so there’s plenty of bison throughout – and an active conservation program. The self-guided tour takes about 2.5hours, and has archaeological sites, and hiking trails along the route. Opt to take a “Backstage tour” to the bison program and learn from guides how the plains bison was brought back from near-extinction, here, and see these 2,000 pound beasts in their natural habitat.
*Looking for something to really jump into history? Take a 48-hour horseback adventure through Grasslands National Park and the badlands with a local rancher. You’ll eat your meals from a chuck wagon, and get in touch with your inner cowboy. There is truly something for every interest in the 47 Canada National Parks!
Scuba dive to shipwrecks
Did you know that Canada also has 4 National Marine Conversation Areas, in addition to the over 40 national parks and park reserves? Find ancient rock formations in Fathom Five National Marine Park in Lake Huron. Here, you can explore the underbelly of Canada: dive in some of the best freshwater diving in the world. Cliffs, caves, and over 20 historic shipwrecks offer lots to explore and at a variety of levels – from beginner to expert. This park has plenty to do out of the water, too: enjoy hikes and backcountry camping at Fathom Five’s Flowerpot Island, explore caves, and get Instagram-worthy photos of the crystal-clear turquoise waters that look like they belong in the Caribbean!
Flock to the Warbler Capital of Canada
Point Pelee National Park is the Warbler Capital of Canada, and a mecca for birdwatchers who gather each year for the Festival of Birds. Don’t forget your camera when you visit here: from forests to marsh, Point Pelee is home to almost 400 species of birds, so keep your eyes peeled. The area has been recognized as a world-class birding site, and the area’s bird migration in the spring is the reason Point Pelee was designated a national park. With your camera and binoculars handy, opt to explore by trail, canoe, or kayak.
What is free with the Parks Canada Discovery Pass?
- 47 Canada National Parks
- 171 National Historic Sites
- 4 National Marine Conservation Areas
- 8 Historic Canals
- Kayaking: access to day paddling is included with your own kayak
- Interpretive Programs
- Canals: boaters won’t be charged lockage
Pick up your free Parks Canada Discovery Pass at any CIBC or MEC in Canada, specific visitor information centers in each province, at the entrance to any Parks Canada park or site, or by ordering online.