Five Canadian Islands You Probably Haven’t Heard Of

Escape to an island paradise in Quebec, Nova Scotia, B.C., Ontario or just off the coast of Newfoundland.
 

McNabs Island, photo by Rochelle Owen

As a country surrounded by—and dotted with—bodies of water, it makes sense that Canada has plenty of islands, too. While P.E.I., Newfoundland and Vancouver Island are the obvious ones, there are many more to visit, some of them surprising.

Montreal

Yes, Quebec’s largest city is on an island, right in the Saint Lawrence River. Not only that, it has smaller islands as neighbours, too. One is Île Sainte-Hélène, home to Parc Jean-Drapeau, a large park and green space that hosts events, concerts and the Montreal Biosphere.

Must-do: Go deep into the city’s history—including its longtime focus on commerce, thanks to its position along a major waterway—on the “From Fur Trade to Today” walking tour with Context Travel led by an expert guide.

McNabs Island, N.S.

Set in the entryway to Halifax Harbour, McNabs Island was the site of several British-built fortifications used to defend Halifax centuries ago. Today, the island is a provincial park and home to the Fort McNab National Historic Site. The island is accessible by ferry or water taxi from the mainland.

Must-do: Book a nature tour with McNabs Island Ferry that can be customized to your needs, whether you’re up for hiking and history or prefer to stay onboard and observe marine life and birds.

Richmond, B.C.

Often known simply as the home of Vancouver International Airport (itself on its own, smaller island), Richmond has grown from a small fishing village to a municipality in its own right, with plenty to see and do, particularly for lovers of Asian cuisine.

Must-do: Bring your appetite to tour a few stops along the Dumpling Trail. An online guide to 20 local restaurants helps you craft your own dining tour or follow themed suggestions. The “hole in the wall” itinerary, for example, includes pork, scallop and shrimp gyoza in a Japanese restaurant attached to a car wash and steamed xiao long bao (soup dumplings) in the Lansdowne Centre mall food court. Bonus: most destinations are easily accessible by SkyTrain from either Vancouver or the airport.

Pelee Island, Ont.

The southernmost populated point in Canada, Pelee Island is the largest island in Lake Erie. Its mild climate makes it a hub for agriculture and winemaking. Get there via ferry from Leamington or Kingsville (depending on season), both close to Windsor.

Must-do: Pelee Island is an important stopover for many migratory birds, and is home to the Pelee Island Bird Observatory, for which none other than Margaret Atwood is a board member. (A keen conservationist and bird lover, Atwood has had a home on the island for 30 years and has written many of her books there.) Sign up for a birding tour with Explore Pelee to see some of the many species that pass through.

Saint-Pierre and Miquelon

While politically they’re part of France, this archipelago of eight islands is geographically part of the northeastern end of the Appalachian Mountains and just 25 kilometres from Newfoundland’s Burin Peninsula. Get there on a 55-minute ferry ride from the town of Fortune.

Must-do: Sure, part of the appeal is just to say you’ve been there, but the islands have much more charm than that. Rooted in French culture but with the climate and temperament of its Canadian neighbour, you’ll for sure want to sample a local eclair or croissant before embarking on other activities like a guided walking tour of fishing village Île aux Marins—another, smaller, island—to learn about its history and culture.

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