Canada covers a sizeable portion of the North American continent, spanning from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and all the way up to the Arctic Ocean; it is second in size only to Russia. Canada also shares the distinction of sharing the world’s longest undefended border with United States. In fact, Canada is one of the safest countries in the world.
The country has a diverse landscape that is home to a wealth of wildlife, from the Arctic tundra and the Canadian Rocky Mountains, to prairies and meandering coastlines. Canada has a park system that spans all of these areas, with opportunities for every type of adventurer. British Colombia is one of the most popular destinations in Canada, with its towering mountains, myriad lakes, and location on the Pacific Ocean. Nova Scotia is another popular spot, an area with its own lively history and sea coast culture.
The people of Canada are a laid-back group, very welcoming and friendly. They enjoy sharing their Canadian cuisine with visitors, perhaps over a discussion of lacrosse or ice hockey, depending on the time of year. Overall, a Canadian cruise offers endless opportunities for cultural experiences, wild treks, or simply relaxing.
Small ship Great Lakes cruise itineraries visit a variety of ports of call in the region. Here is a sampling of stops that you may enjoy. A cruise is a perfect way to enjoy the landscape, the wildlife, the history, and the communities in the Great Lakes region.
Tobermory - Particularly noted for its spectacular wildflowers, and especially its orchids, Tobermory is also perfect for bird-watching. Keep your eyes peeled for various species of water birds, birds of prey such as bald eagle or osprey, and possibly even a sandhill crane.
Georgian Bay Island National Park - Accessible only by boat, the islands of this national park are home to many rare and interesting creatures. You're sure to see gulls and terns, which nest here in large colonies. If you're lucky you might also see one of the snakes or turtles which live here. The park is home to more kinds of reptiles and amphibians than any other place in Canada.
Mantoulin Island - The world's biggest freshwater island is located in the Great Lakes region and boasts a rich history and beautiful landscapes. Outdoor activities, restaurants, museums, and golf are all available in this hidden gem.
Mackinac Island - Beautiful landscapes, friendly people, and quite possibly the best fudge anywhere greets you on your Great Lakes cruise when you visit Mackinac Island. The small-town atmosphere promises a relaxed vacation with all the comforts of home.
Sturgeon Bay Provincial Park - Among the islands of Georgian Bay, Sturgeon Bay offers a sandy beach for safe swimming and some great fishing spots for the sportsman.
Charlevoix - Visit the light house, tour the "Renaissance" castle at Castle Farms, or have some fun at East Park in the downtown. Wading in the fountain is especially fun for the younger children.
Whitefish Point - You'll certainly enjoy a visit to the Shipwreck Museum on your Great Lakes vacation. In the Spring and Fall, flocks of birds stop over in Whitefish Point during their migrations to and from their breeding grounds in Canada.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore - Pictured Rocks is well named. Its cliffs and waterfalls are worth the trip, just to see them. Four kinds of endangered or threatened birds of prey are counted among the many species of birdlife in the area: the bald eagle, the merlin, the peregrine falcon, and the osprey.
Keweenaw Peninsula - Noted for its copper and for its geology, Keweenaw peninsula is home to fascinating museums and historic sites in the area. A to "Copper Country" would not be complete without a stop at the Adventure Copper Mine. On the Isle Royale, you might catch a glimpse of the local moose and wolves.
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore - Lake Superior is practically an inland sea, in spite of being a freshwater lake. The landscape and adventure opportunities reflect its sea-like nature. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a great place to try out some sea kayaking on Lake Superior. The delightful little Midwestern town of Bayfield is the jumping-off point for many adventures.
Canadian history extends back to the first evidence of people, about 26,500 years ago in the Yukon. The descendents of these First Peoples are now known as Aboriginals or Indigenous Peoples, specifically Metis, Inuit, and First Nations.
Europeans came to the region as early as 1000 A.D.; remains of a Viking village are still present on the northernmost tip of what is now Newfoundland. But the most famous explorers didn’t arrive until 400 years later. John Cabot claimed a vast area for England in 1497, and then died at sea two years later. In 1534, Jacques Cartier explored the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the banks of the Saint Lawrence River, which he claimed for France. His encounters with the aboriginal people produced mixed results: some trading, some shooting, and the eventual capture of Chief Donnacona of the Iroquois and nine others of his people, whom he took back to France where all but one died.
Cartier was followed by Samuel de Champlain in 1603, who established the first European settlements at Port Royal and Quebec City. French fur traders and pioneers proceeded to settle in several areas of present-day Canada as well as farther south. Soon, the French and Iroquois Wars broke out as the natives attempted to take some control of the fur trade between European and Great Lakes tribes, and expand their territory. The ensuing series of conflicts, which pitted the Iroquois Confederation against Algonquian-speaking tribes, are still known as the bloodiest and most brutal in North American history. The wars began to ebb as the Iroquois lost their Dutch partners and the French worked to turn the Iroquois from enemies into allies against the encroaching English settlers.
English settlers established outposts in Newfoundland in addition to their Thirteen Colonies in present-day United States. The English and French fought for control of western and interior territories in the vast expanse of North America in a series of conflicts called the Intercolonial Wars, known as the French and Indian Wars in the United States. In 1713, Nova Scotia was ceded to Britain, and in 1763, the huge territory of New France came under British rule as well. That same year, the Royal Proclamation carved Quebec out of New France and limited the rights of French Canadians. However, to avert the brewing conflict, the Quebec Act of 1774 expanded Quebec territory to include the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley, and allowed French language, religion and civil law to be reintroduced.
In 1783, Canada recognized American Independence and ceded the Great Lakes to the United States, and nearly 50,000 Loyalists fled to Canada. To accommodate the influx, the region was divided into English-speaking Lower Canada and French-speaking Upper Canada. Finally in 1867, the Confederation was created, which called for “one dominion in the name of Canada.”
Canadian culture has most heavily been influenced by native, English, and French traditions. Although these are prominent, Canada has a rich variety of peoples due to a strong history of immigration; most Canadians view their society as multi-cultural.
Some national symbols of Canada that reflect its culture are the maple leaf on the Canadian flag, a symbol that dates back to the 1700s in regional use. It was also chosen in part by Loyalists looking for a common regional symbol in contrast to U.S. imagery of rebellion. And, because so much of Canada’s recent history is tied to the fur trade, the beaver is also an important symbol in Canadian culture.
Canada’s official winter sport is ice hockey, while its summer sport is lacrosse, which Europeans borrowed from native North Americans. Both sports are sources of national unity and pride. A Canadian cruise may include the opportunity to watch one of these exciting pastimes.
Canada ranks among the world’s best with respect to quality of life, a fact of which Canadians are very proud. Violence is low, health care is universal, and the Canadians are known, on the whole, as a relaxed and open people.
Like most countries in this era, Canada is working to address the ways in which it is affected by climate change. Canada’s Arctic regions are most noticeably changing, as the permafrost thaws and ocean ice shrinks. Because it is a northern, cold country, Canada sees itself as being more heavily affected by climate change than other parts of the world. Environment Canada, a government department, is currently working on research and public education about the causes of climate change and human contributions to it.
Canada is also working to improve environmental quality by reducing air pollution through management and monitoring. The Canadian government is also aware that, because the vast majority of the human population lives along the southern border, most of the country is wild. Therefore, it has several programs in preserving biodiversity, conserving land and wildlife habitat, and preserving and promoting healthy ecosystems. Water is also an issue of concern for Canada; it holds 7% of the world’s fresh water within its borders, and so a complex system of water rights, conservation, and management exists to address the responsible use of fresh water. Overall, those travelers with a destination to Canada should find a relatively clean and healthy environment.
Canada has more than its share of the world’s “most” and “largest”. Canada is the world’s second-largest nation, covering a vast amount of the North American continent. It is bordered on the south and west the by the United States.
This beautiful country has the lowest population density in the world, rendering its rugged and wild places numerous. The most densely populated area is the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River region. As a result, Canada has an impressive amount of undeveloped land and wild places.
A cruise to Canada will yield many of the world’s singular sights. Canada has more lakes than any other country, and therefore a large amount of the planet’s fresh water. The Saint Lawrence River widens into the world’s largest estuary, the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The Bay of Fundy, which divides Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, experiences the world’s most significant tidal variations. The northern mainland is partially surrounded by an archipelago that contains some of the planet’s largest islands.
The vast expanse of land hosts coniferous forests in the south, plains and formidable mountain ranges like the Canadian Rockies, then tundra and Arctic barrens farther and farther north. The opportunities for adventurers are endless!
Canada was automatically entered into World War I when Britain declared war, and sent volunteers to the Western Front. Canada joined the 1919 League of Nations separate from Britain, but it was not until 1931, under the Statute of Westminster, that Canadian independence was affirmed. The fledgling country declared war on Germany three days after Britain in World War II.
In the 1960s, Quebec underwent the Quiet Revolution, which brought social and economic change. Quebecois nationalists began to press for a separate state, and established the Parti Quebecois. Two secession referendums were rejected, the first by a wide margin and the second much slimmer. The Canadian Supreme Court ruled unilateral secession by a province to be unconstitutional in 1997, but the movement for secession continues today.
Canada is a constitutional monarchy, which accepts an elected or hereditary monarch as head of state, rather than as an absolute power. Canada’s head of state is England’s Queen Elizabeth II. It is a parliamentary democracy with a constitution consisting of written documents as well as unwritten traditions and institutions. Although power is divided between the federal and provincial governments, the constitution contains the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, individual rights that cannot be overridden.
The executive makeup of Canadian government consists of the Prime Minister and a Cabinet, as well as the Governor General, who is the monarch’s representative in Canada. Currently, Stephen Harper is Prime Minister of Canada, and Michaelle Jean serves as Governor General.
Canada has four main political parties: New Democratic Party, Liberal Party of Canada, Conservative Party of Canada, and Bloc Quebecois. There is also a substantial list of smaller parties with elected representation.
Canada has been a consistent advocate for multi-lateralism over the last 60 years; its forces served in every U.N. peacekeeping mission up to 1989.
Canada is a sizeable country, and so weather varies depending on where the traveler chooses to go. Winters can be harsh, especially in the Prairie provinces, where temperatures average 5 degrees (F), and can drop to -40 with wind chill. Mountain ranges receive plenty of snow in the winter, especially the Canadian Rockies. For those visitors looking for milder winter weather, coastal British Colombia experiences a rainy season with moderate temperatures. Summer is beautiful in the coastal regions, with average daily temperatures from the high 60s to 70s. Interior temperatures during the summer can be hot, sometimes up to 100 degrees. Travelers to Canada should plan ahead to hit the weather they’re looking for amidst Canada’s wide varieties.
Canada’s huge expanses of wilderness provide for an abundance of animals. Bears are the most plentiful form of large wildlife. Not just the pervasive black bear, but grizzlies and other brown bears inhabit the country, as well as polar bears in the north. Other large animals that visitors may be lucky enough to see are the lynx, a large grey cat, and its even larger cousin, the rare cougar.
From the dog family, Canada is home to wolves, coyotes, and foxes, even the Arctic fox. Coyotes are the most common sight yielded by a Canadian cruise. As for ungulates, visitors may be lucky enough to come across bison, mountain goats, deer, elk, caribou; maybe even a muskox or the elusive Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.
For those looking for water-loving animals, Canadian waters host beavers, otters (both sea and river), dolphins, whales, sea lions, and the great salmon. Adventurers with keen eyes should be on the lookout for bald eagles and great blue herons. A cruise to Canada may unlock a treasure trove of beautiful and wild animals.