Your guide to fun summer activities at Canada’s national parks and historic sites

Image of Samantha Nurse

Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator

As summer is in full swing, it’s time to start thinking about how you can make the most of those long, hot summer days.

Here’s an idea: plan a trip to one of Canada’s 200 national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas! Plus, this year these sites are all free to access with the 2017 Parks Canada Discovery Pass! Whether you need a pit-stop where you can cool off, take a swim and have lunch, or you have always dreamed of a family vacation where you can tune into nature or immerse yourself in our nation’s history, there’s an adventure waiting for you at these of natural and historic areas.

10 things to do in a day

1. Grab a bite – With benches, washroom facilities and food concession stands, national parks and historic sites can be great places to stop for a snack and some fresh air. Walk along a trail and find a quieter, shaded area for a perfect afternoon picnic.

2. Hike a trail – You don’t need to be an ambitious hiker to enjoy the trails at most national parks. Take a walk along the coast, hike to a viewpoint or find an interpretive trail where you’ll learn more about the wildlife that calls this park home. You can follow this guide of 5 easy tips to prepare for any hike!

algonquin outlook

Algonquin National Park

3. Get out on the water – A relaxing and peaceful way to explore the rivers, lakes and coasts of Canada’s national parks is by boat. Canoeing, kayaking and row boating are the best ways to enjoy the lakes at parks like the La Mauricie National Park. You can glide quietly, closely observing the natural world on and around the water.

4. Get snap-happy – You never know when the perfect photo opportunity will come along when you’re exploring national parks. Teeming with wildlife and spectacular vistas, national parks are a great place for amateur and professional photographers alike to capture iconic species and landmarks on film. With your best photos, be sure to submit them to our Nature Photo Contest for a chance to win some amazing prizes!

5. Relax for a picnic – Sit at a picnic bench or on the ground, either way, you will be able to relax in the beauty of nature! See what wildlife you can spot and get some shade under a tree. Be sure to bring your food in tupperware to reduce waste and leave nothing behind.

6. Enjoy a performance – During the summer, you can watch re-enactments of famous battles, military drills and everyday Victorian life at many national historic sites. If you’re visiting Montreal, why not discover Old Montreal’s little-known heritage jewel the Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site in honour of our famous Father of Confederation?

7. Take a step back in time – Ever wonder what life was really like just a few hundred years ago? Step right into 19th-century life by dressing up in period costumes, becoming a Mountie for a day and sampling heritage recipes at places like Fort Walsh.

Image of a flock of common terns

Common Terns at Pelee Point, Point Pelee National Park

8. Get to know our feathered friends – Try to identify as many birds species as you can as you stroll along a trail or drive through a national park. At the southernmost point in Canada, Point Pelee National Park is also one of the most spectacular nature hotspots in North America.

9. Explore an underwater world – Discover a world of vibrant marine life at Canada’s four national marine conservation areas. Check for sea stars in tidal pools. Spy whales off the coast. And don’t forget to look up – you don’t want to miss seabirds flying to their nesting colonies. Want to take an even closer look? Explore shipwrecks as you snorkel or take the glass bottom boat at Fathom Five National Marine Park.

10. Tour the past – Let Parks Canada interpreters guide you through key moments in Canada’s history. Their wealth of knowledge brings the stories to life as you walk in the footsteps of some of our most famous Canadians. If you’re in the Maritimes this summer, don’t miss the Halifax Citadel – this attraction is a nationally recognized site is a “must see” for any history buff.

Got more time? If you plan on staying for more than just one day, there are plenty of activities that will bring you closer to nature. Extend your day-hike to a multi-day hike, add an overnight stay at a campground or spend another day practicing your surfing skills.

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