Canada’s best kept secrets: surreal places you may not know exist

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By now, most people are well-aware of Canada's timeless beauty. Surreal places like Moraine Lake in Alberta, Niagara Falls in Ontario, and Peggy's Cove in Nova Scotia have become so famous that they are regularly featured on postcards and souvenirs. But beyond these Canadian standards exists a plenitude of lesser-known locations that are equal to those icons in allure and wonder. They are Canada's best kept secrets; hiding in plain sight and waiting to be discovered.

Don't let the stereotypes fool you—Canada is not just some arctic wasteland of ice and snow. On the contrary, it is one of the most ethereal places on earth, with a limitless diversity of geographical features and natural phenomena.

For your next Canadian adventure, consider these off-the-beaten-path destinations:

Canada's best kept secrets: Boya Lake

Boya Lake

Taking a dip in Canadian waters is usually a frigid experience, but not at Boya Lake. Of the few lakes situated up north, its waters can actually get warm enough for swimming.

Located in Tā Ch’ilā Provincial Park in BC, Boya Lake sits in an ancient plain that was carved out by glaciers 20,000 years ago. The surrounding area features long eskers and elongated hills that offer a spectacular view of the Liard Plain.

One of Boya Lake's most special characteristics is its striking aquamarine color, which is produced as a result of light reflecting from its marl-layered bottom. Marl is a mixture of silt and shell fragments that can be found in some other lakes in Canada as well.

Canada's best kept secrets: Cameron Falls
INSTAGRAM/Randy Traynor

Cameron Falls

One of Canada's best kept secrets is a pink waterfall that is so rare it has only ever been seen once.

About ten years ago, photographers Rochelle and Brian Coffey went exploring in Alberta's Waterton Lakes National Park during a torrential downpour. At some point in their journey, they noticed a peculiar creek with pink-flowing waters. They followed it down to a site called Cameron Falls, which had also fully taken on a pink color after a few hours.

Rochelle believes the phenomenon was caused by a minor rockslide of argillite—red rocks that contain oxidized iron. The heavy rains must have stripped the argillite of its red color, allowing the waterfall to turn pink.

Canada's best kept secrets: Great Sand Hills

The Great Sandhills

It may be hard to believe, but Canada actually has its own desert. The Great Sandhills Ecological Reserve in Saskatchewan contains one of the largest sets of active sand dunes in the country, covering as much as 1,9000 square kilometers of land.

The sand dunes are always moving, which means the landscape is ever-changing. Many adventurers make the trip to the sandhills for birdwatching, nature photography, and a fun day in the sand.

Those who seek to learn more about the sandhills during their visit can check out the Great Sandhills Museum and Interpretive Centre in the nearby area.

Canada's best kept secrets: Caddy Lake Tunnels

Caddy Lake Tunnels

The Caddy Lake Tunnels are a hidden gem in Whiteshell Provincial Park, near the Manitoba-Ontario border. The tunnels were created sometime during the construction of local railways in 1925.

The two solid granite tunnels are situated approximately five kilometers apart. It takes around three hours to paddle between the tunnels, but it is well worth it for the unique experience.

They are an absolute dream for canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts. According to Hike Bike Travel, the tunnels can be visited as part of a day trip from Winnipeg.

Canada's best kept secrets: Carbide Willson Ruins
FLICKR/Dennis Jarvis

Carbide Willson Ruins

Tucked away in Quebec's Gatineau Park are the ruins of a once paranoid inventor's workshop. The Carbide Willson Ruins were named after Thomas "Carbide" Willson, the man who created the process by which calcium carbide is created.

The story goes that Willson built his workshop deep in the woods out of fear that other people might try to steal his ideas. While he was successful in his reasearch, he was unable to meet the production demands of his novel process and he fell into bankrupcy. He eventually died of a heart attack in 1915 and his buildings were essentially abandoned.

The ruins still remain today as an eerie but peaceful sanctuary where sightseers and photographers often visit.

Canada's best kept secrets: Cameron Falls: Mono Cliffs Provincial Park
INSTAGRAM/James Bothwell

Mono Cliffs

The perfect day trip destination is just an hour away from Toronto. Nestled within rolling hills and white cedar forests are the Mono Cliffs, a little moss-covered wonderland with a designated trail.

The 1,800-acre green space is characterized by old growth trees, ferns, lookouts, and escarpment cliffs that tower as high as 30 meters. One of the best times to visit is during the fall season, when you can take in the glory of the park's changing colors.

Mono Cliffs is a day-use park, so no permit is necessary. Hikers will appreciate the eight trails in the park, plus the connection to the larger Bruce Trail.

Canada's best kept secrets: Kingsbrae Gardens
Kingsbrae Garden

Kingsbrae Garden

St. Andrews-by-the-Sea is home to a multi-award winning horitcultural masterpiece that features over 27 acres of floral beauty.

Over 50,000 perrenials are displayed in Kingsbrae Garden's themed spaces. A combination of ponds, streams, old Acadian forest, and storybook-like structures make the garden an absolute dream to stroll through.

Aside from taking in the sights, visitors can also enjoy fine cuisine by top chef Alex Huan in the Garden Cafe, or take part in the many interactive art classes offered at the site's art studio.

Canada's best kept secrets: Carter's Beach
TRIPADVISOR/Sandy Lane Vacation Rentals

Carter's Beach

Carter's Beach is a popular vacation spot in Liverpool, Nova Scotia and it is actually a collection of three beaches in one.

White sands, clear blue waters, and sunny skies make this location a tropical-like paradise in the north. We say "tropical-like" because looks can be deceiving—a dip in the water won't be totally freezing, but the temperature is definitely far from Caribbean.

Those planning to stay at Carter's Beach can choose one of the several cottages that border the beach.

Canada's best kept secrets: Fogo Island
FLICKR/Timothy Neesam

Fogo Island

Fogo Island calls itself "an island off an island," and rightfully so. Located at one of the four corners of the Earth, a short ferry ride will bring you to a collection of historic homes, stages and stores that have remained unchanged for several decades.

The main attraction of Fogo Island is the Nordic-style hotel that sits at the Brimstone Head on the island's edge. Its 29 uniquely-designed guest rooms are fitted with dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto the mighty Atlantic Ocean. The award-winning hotel is also built on the principles of sustainability, with respect for nature always in high regard.

Fogo Island is also a refuge for international artists who come to work in the island's world-class, modern studios.

Canada's best kept secrets: Thunder Cove
YouTube/Apurva Patel

Thunder Cove

If you think Prince Edward Island is just green pastures and the same-old red sand beaches, think again. The island has its share of geologically-diverse areas too, and Thunder Cove is one of them.

Thunder Cove is so much more than just a red sand beach—it is a real-time example of how the elements can shape and transform the landscape. The beach is characterized by tall, sandstone sea stacks and caves that are completely carved by the wind and water and are never the same way twice. Some have even compared the unique stone formations to those you often see in the Arizona desert!

In reference to Charlottetown, Thunder Cove is approximately a 60-minute drive, making it a great option for a day trip for locals.

Photo by Randy Traynor Photography

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