Fall is my favorite time to travel almost everywhere in Canada. The summer crowds begin to slow in popular destinations like the Canadian Rockies and many of the national parks, while in the cities, art events, theatre, and other cultural activities resume after their summertime hiatus. And across the country, the fall colors are spectacular.
Thinking about a fall trip? Here are ideas for where to go — and where to stay — all across Canada.
If you don’t think Canada is a beach destination, then maybe you haven’t been to Tofino on Vancouver Island’s west coast. In this small town with a cool surfer vibe, waves crash along the broad Pacific beaches, where tall cedars and firs line the sand. Tofino can be jammed in the summer, but come fall, the weather is still mild and things begin to quiet, making it perfect for an autumn getaway. Pick up a croissant at Summit Bread Co, take a surfing lesson or go for a hike, then book dinner at Wolf in the Fog, which is cooking up some of the area’s most innovative dishes.
Where to stay: The deluxe oceanfront Wickaninnish Inn Tofino, directly on Chesterman Beach
Eastern British Columbia’s Mountain Towns
Drive east from Vancouver or west from Calgary into British Columbia’s Kootenay Mountain region, where several cool little towns — including Nelson and Fernie — make excellent spots for an autumn holiday. You can hike or mountain bike by day, chill over a third-wave coffee, and dig into creative meals at casual local bistros. In Nelson, rent an e-bike from Gerick Cycle and Ski to go exploring (you’ll appreciate the electric boost — this area is hilly!). In Fernie, make your way to remote Island Lake Lodge to tackle the secluded hiking trails.
The Canadian Rockies
The Canadian Rockies, particularly the super-popular national parks like Banff and Jasper, are lovely — and usually slightly calmer — once September and October roll around. The larch trees turn a shimmering gold, the air feels crisp, and the turquoise lakes are as spectacular as they are in the height of summer. You don’t have to rough it either; Banff, in particular, has several recently updated boutique hotels.
Why venture to northern Manitoba in the fall? It’s polar bear season! Bears congregate along the shores of Hudson Bay, near the town of Churchill, waiting for the ice to freeze enough for them to embark on their winter time hunting. Outfitters like Frontiers North Adventures can set up you with a bear watching package, or you can put together your own adventure trip.
Where to Stay: The Tundra Inn, a basic in-town lodge in Canada’s polar bear capital
Stratford, Ontario, is one of my favorite small Canadian towns. I love the theater, and the Stratford Theatre Festival, which runs from April into November, is among the country’s best. Home to the Stratford Chefs School, the town has a surprising number of excellent restaurants (like The Red Rabbit), and the school hosts a dinner series from October through March, where you can see what the aspiring chefs are working on.
Where to Stay: Birmingham Manor, a B&B for theater fans
If you love great food and culture, you’ve got to love Montreal. Graze your way through the Jean Talon Market, take a street art tour, or see what’s on the festival calendar — there’s sure to be something happening. Montreal has lots of excellent bistro-style eateries, including Bar St Denis near Jean Talon Market, Café Parvis downtown, or Caffe Un Po’ di Più in Old Montreal.
Where to Stay: Four Seasons Montreal, the city’s newest luxury lodging. Plan a seafood dinner at the hotel’s Marcus Restaurant, celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson’s first Canadian dining spot, too.
You can book any of these hotels through Trip Advisor.
Enjoy your autumn in Canada!
Hotel feature by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller. Photos © Carolyn B. Heller.