Canada is a massive country, stretching over 3,426 miles from Cape Spear in Newfoundland and Labrador all the way to the Yukon and Alaska boundary. With everything from beautiful coastal scenery to soaring mountains and exciting cities, there are lots of great spots to visit that are within a relatively short drive of the border. These destinations are some of the very best if you’d like to visit on a day trip or weekend getaway.
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Victoria, British Columbia
The capital of British Columbia sits on beautiful Vancouver Island and is just a ferry ride away from Anacortes in northern Washington State. One of the most beautiful cities in all of Canada, it’s surrounded by spectacular sea and mountain and vistas. It’s also home to vibrant gardens that are bursting with color in the spring, a picturesque harbor, grand architecture and a rich British ancestry that can be glimpsed through its horse-drawn carriages, tea rooms and buses with double decks. With so much beauty, not to mention an outstanding food scene, there is no shortage of outdoor adventures to enjoy on a day trip or much longer holiday.
Vancouver, British Columbia
The Peace Arch Park straddles the U.S. border with Canada and offers gorgeous landscaped gardens and sculptures, making it worth a visit before heading about 45 minutes north to Vancouver. A city where dramatic mountain ranges meet the ocean, it’s frequently named among the most beautiful cities in the world, filled with lush parks, beaches, world-class museums, art galleries, restaurants and upscale shopping venues. Robson Street is its premier shopping street, lined with the flagship stores of international brands along with unique, independent shops. Stanley Park is a great place for a stroll with stunning views of Burrard Inlet, the North Shore Mountains, Lions Gate Bridge and downtown Vancouver, as well as being home to the renowned Vancouver Aquarium.
Niagara Falls, Ontario
One of the top attractions in the country, Niagara Falls is just across the border. While they’re visible from the New York side, the Canadian side has even more to offer. From here you can join the Mist boat tour where you’ll get so close to the falls you’ll be drenched by the spray, which is why passengers are given a disposable rain jacket. Other attractions here include the Butterfly Conservatory where you can wander among over 2,000 free-flying butterflies. When it’s time for dinner, enjoy fine dining with incredible views of the falls some 775 feet above in the Revolving Dining Room at the Skylon Tower. one of the most unique geologic wonders on the planet.
Water National Park is only about a 30-minute drive from St. Mary’s in Montana with the crossing usually only taking just a few minutes. The city of Waterton itself is worth visiting with lots of interesting shops, an art gallery, a chocolate store and a small museum. You can also view Cameron falls, take a cruise on Upper Waterton Lake and enjoy all sorts of scenic drives in the park, including one through the Red Rock Canyon, a popular place for grizzly bear sightings.
Thunder Bay, Ontario
Located along the northwest shoreline of Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake, Thunder Day was once an important port and mining town and today it offers a number of attractions for day trippers. Just 30 miles Pigeon River crossing in Grand Portage, Minnesota, the highlight here is Fort William Historical Park, which offers a good glimpse of the history of the original fur trading post that was founded here in the 19th century. Enjoy fishing, boating and touring amethyst mines or head across the bay to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, named for its rock formations that look like a sleeping giant.
Sault Ste Marie is just across the border from its twin city with the same name in Michigan. The two were actually one until the War of 1812 when the border was drawn along the St. Mary’s River. Today, they’re connected by the International Bridge that crosses it. There are lots of things to do here, like taking a ride on the Agawa Cayon Tour Train which will take you through stunning landscapes, including an inland lake, three waterfalls and much more. You can also take a step back in time at the Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site, visit the historic Canadian Soo Locks building, and explore the history and adventure of flight and forest fire protection at the Canadian Bushplane Centre.
This French-speaking city is Canada’s second largest city after Toronto, considered the cultural capital and is just a little over an hour from Plattsburgh, New York. While French and English are the main influences, this city is truly international. Enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride along the cobbled streets passing the beautiful buildings in Vieux-Montreal for a taste of European flavor. Visit charming boutiques and cafes in the Plateau Mont-Royal district and be sure to take a tour of legendary Olympic Park.
Saint Andrews, New Brunswick
A short drive over the border from northwestern Maine, Saint Andrews is a resort town that sits along the Bay of Fundy. It’s a great spot for whale watching during the warmer months of the year when finbacks, minkes, right whales and humpbacks can be seen. You can also enjoy indulging your sweet tooth at the Chocolate Museum, strolling through picturesque gardens like Kingsbrae Garden, an enchanting horticultural masterpiece. Just strolling the streets popping into the boutiques and art galleries downtown can make for a pleasant afternoon. Kayaking and seaside golf are just a couple of the other options.
The historic village of Carcross lies on the South Klondike Highway which connects to Skagway in Alaska. It’s home to the world’s smallest desert, measuring just one square mile. The desert is technically just a series of sand dunes, as the area is too humid to be considered an actual desert, but it’s worth visiting just to see this bizarrely out of place patch of sand in the Yukon. The village itself was once a major stopover and supply center during the Gold Rush, and visitors can explore its heritage buildings on a self=guided walking tour as well as take advantage of outdoor adventures in the area, including hiking and ATV trips.