Canada is the world’s second-largest country. Like Russia, the planet’s largest nation by area, it boasts countless freshwater lakes and rivers. It’s no understatement to say that Canada is defined by its inland waterways.
Some Canadian lakes deserve more attention than others, however. These seven world-class Canadian lake destinations are among the best the country has to offer. Whether you’re planning a corporate retreat or putting together the family vacation of a lifetime, all seven should be on your outdoor travel shortlist.
Which will you visit first?
- Lake Louise
Lake Louise is a leading contender for the highly competitive title of “Canada’s most beautiful lake.” Nestled high in the Canadian Rockies, the crown jewel of Banff National Park is a stunning sight in any season — particularly late spring and early summer, when the surrounding snowcapped peaks melt pure glacial water into its deep basin.
- Hecla Island (Lake Winnipeg)
Whatever it lacks in montane topography, Hecla Island makes up in historic character and wilderness charm. Home to a well-preserved early 20th-century fishing village and miles of virtually untouched lakeshore, Hecla is a great place to get away without going too far: it’s just 90 minutes or so from Winnipeg by car. Budget-friendly accommodations abound here; Gull Harbour Marina, a popular overnight spot, looks better than ever after an overhaul by new owners Lori and David Janeson.
- Niagara-on-the-Lake (Lake Ontario)
Anchoring Canada’s premier wine-growing region, Niagara-on-the-Lake is an artsy, upscale lakeshore town with fantastic views of Lake Ontario. On clear days, you’ll see clear across to the bustling metropolis of Toronto, and Niagara Falls is just down the road.
- Emerald Lake (British Columbia)
Vast Emerald Lake occupies a beautiful fjord in the uplands of British Columbia. Like Lake Louise, it’s the definition of alpine beauty, but its remote location and lower profile make it an even better choice for visitors who don’t mind roughing it.
- Moraine Lake
Banff National Park’s “other” lake is every bit as beautiful as Lake Louise. If you’re already in the area, visiting both is basically required by law — not really, but why would you pass up the opportunity? When you’ve completed your out-and-back rim hike, head to tidy Lake Louise village for some well-deserved R&R.
- Manitoulin Island (Lake Huron)
Manitoulin Island is the world’s largest freshwater lake island — that is, the largest landmass surrounded by a non-saline, non-oceanic body of water. Its forested, rolling interior is a world unto itself; you could spend weeks camping here and still miss entire sections of the island. Some of its inland lakes are impressive in their own right too.
- Sleeping Giant Provincial Park (Lake Superior)
Located about 15 miles as the crow flies from the city of Thunder Bay, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is one of Lake Superior’s most distinctive geological features. As the name suggests, the miles-long formation resembles a giant human in repose; today, it’s a popular destination for rock climbers.
Where To Next?
If none of these seven amazing Canadian lake destinations are yet on your vacation shortlist, that needs to change. Even if you’re not able to make it to all eight in the course of a single road trip or multi-stop flying vacation, your life will be forever enriched by coming within sight of even one or two.
It’s worth repeating that, despite Canada’s vast landmass, many of these world-class destinations are easily accessible from major airports and paved highways. Hecla Island is just 90 minutes north of Winnipeg in good weather, for instance; Niagara-on-the-Lake lies within commuting distance of North America’s fourth-largest city.
So, get your travel pants on — or swim trunks, as the case may be. Canada’s watery wonders await.