from the term used by Russians to name the Alaska Peninsula, from the Aleut and Yupik languages for “object to which the sea’s action is directed” or “great land“
Predominantly English (~ 83%). The next most-spoken language is Spanish (~ 3%), though there are many native languages that are official in the state: Inupiaq, Siberian Yupik, Central Alaskan Yup’ik, Alutiiq, Aleut, Dena’ina, Deng Xinag, Holikachuk, Koyukon, Upper Kuskokwim, Gwich’in, Lower Tanana, Upper Tanana, Tanacross, Hän, Ahtna, Eyak, Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian. All indigenous languages are spoken by small percentages of the population.
Northwestern United States, a partial exclave state separated from the contiguous U.S., in the general Pacific Northwest and Arctic regions. The largest U.S. state, it is mostly on the mainland with many islands, including the Aleutian Islands. It borders Canada to the east / northeast, has Arctic coastline to the north, and Pacific coastline, including the Bering Sea, to the south and west.
Part of the United States’ Arctic tundra, Boreal forests / taiga, Pacific Range mountains, Arctic Range mountains, Pacific Marine Forests, and Pacific Marine lowlands. Home to North America’s highest mountain, Denali (Mt. McKinley).
Welcome to the south of British Columbia, a province like none of the rest. Distinct habitats and identities come out to make this place as unique as it gets in Canada. The Pacific Northwest meets the Rockies in this western frontier.
At times infamously expensive, other times open and welcoming to immigrants, British Columbia has a whole lot of fames and features that make it unique in the world. And a pretty large concentration of those features happens to be in the south. Learn more about this spectacular province with a quick profile. Then see some of what makes this region so special.
southern BRITISH COLUMBIA: Quick Profile
Again when talking about Canada, the south of any province is where most of the action happens since it’s further from the Arctic. Southern British Columbia is generally considered what lies south of Queen Charlotte Sound on the coast and Prince George or Mount Robson, maybe. It is the location of the provincial capital, Victoria, as well as the biggest urban area of Vancouver.
BC takes up Canada’s whole west Pacific coast and in the south borders the United States. There are many large mountainous regions throughout, especially along the coast and with the Rockies and the Columbia Mountains in the east. The province overall has about 6,000 islands off its shores and around the Inside Passage. Here can be found large fjords and islands like the big Vancouver Island.
There’s also an Interior Plateau which has drier forests and valleys with a major wine-making region. The coast and islands have mostly oceanic climates with wet temperate forests, similar to the rest of Cascadia. Some areas in the interior are humid continental and some drier Mediterranean regions. The mountains generally have a tundra or Alpine climate.
The province is called British Columbia after the old mainland colony of the same name. This was for the basin around theColumbia River, called to distinguish it from the American-owned Columbia that would later become the Oregon Territory. The mainland was named after the Columbia River, named for a boat called theColumbia Rediviva, which comes from an old name for the New World, “Columbia.” Eventually, it all goes back to explorer Christopher Columbus.
The Okanagan Valley is that nice wine-making region I mentioned earlier. The weather here is among the most pleasant in Canada and the scenery is beautiful to match.
What’s it have?:
Besides those features, Okanagan has a number of valley towns and cities to check out. Kelowna, for instance, has the scenic Knox Mountain Park in the hills, as well as beach parks and waterfronts to enjoy on its beautiful lake. Kamloops has a cool Heritage Railway tracking the backbone of British Columbian history, along with the natural Lac du Bois Grasslands nearby.
The city of Vernon has excellent natural areas on its lakes like Ellison Provincial Park, or in Silver Star Mountain for skiing. There’s also the Davison Orchard’s Country Village which is like a fun frontier town inside Vernon. There are a bunch of other towns that seem popular for visitors … and they’ve all got wineries.
By this, I’m just talking about the national parks out near the border with Alberta. The Rocky Mountains of British Columbia are very pretty like all the other Rockies and are home to some unique parks. Two that stand out are Yoho National Park and Kootenay National Park.
What do they have?:
Other than amazing montane landscapes and deep blue lakes surrounded by serene forest? Well, Yoho is home to the famed Lake O’Hara which is popular for photographers and nature-goers.
Also here are Takakkaw Falls, Canada’s second-tallest and an amazing sight to see. Over in Kootenay are similar attractions, although there is a majestic glacier there, as well as its very own Grand Canyon to explore. This one has a lot more trees around it though.
3. Because of the Rocky & Columbia Mountains
What are they?:
As you might know, the Rockies and the Columbia Mountains are two somewhat connected mountain chains that extend between the U.S. and Canada. They are home to some of the most gorgeous natural settings in all of North America. Snow-capped mountains and glaciers “cascade” down into picturesque lakes surrounded by pine forests and flowery meadows.
What do they have?:
To get more specific, there are a number of great parks to visit in the area. The Kakwa Wildland and Glacier National Park are two incredible choices, the former being the home of beautiful Kakwa Falls. In the Columbias is a range called the Selkirk Mountains.
These babies have a similar natural beauty to the Rockies but with some distinct rock compositions. The Purcell Wilderness is a notable park here, and the most incredible one based on what I’ve seen is Mount Revelstoke Provincial Park, a place that sure leaves visitors “reveling.”
4. Because of the Mountains around Squamish & Whistler
What is that?:
So Squamish is a small rustic town amidst these towering mountains and wilderness areas. It seems like a cool getaway before going off on sporting adventures or to a cabin. Whistler is a similar mountain village a bit more in the hills. I’m sure it looks magical in the wintertime and with all the Christmas lights. As it happens, these two towns are surrounded by incredible mountain scenery, part of Canada’s Coastal Range.
What do they have?:
Squamish itself has a Sea to Sky Gondola which takes visitors from a sound on the ocean, basically, up high into the mountains. Whistler Blackcomb is set outside the town as a series of ski and snow sport resorts for athletes to take on. Not far is Garibaldi Provincial Park, a famed spot for hikers and explorers to reach (really high) heights and witness some of the calmest and snowiest parts of southern British Columbia.
The lake scenery there is just jaw-dropping too. Another lake haven is Joffre Lakes, similar but with a lot more forest. I’m telling you, just look up some pictures of these places, you won’t believe it. A little further out but in the general region is the Fraser River Canyon whose windy rapids lead to a cool cross-bridge called Hell’s Gate. Sinister.
5. Because of Nelson and Kokanee
What are they?:
Nelson is a town out in southern BC that is utterly encircled by nature. It’s actually a quite pretty town situated on Lake Kootenay. Kokanee is really the name of a few natural parks around Nelson with amazing landscapes, as we should expect.
What do they have?:
Nelson seems like a cool forest getaway spot mixing in a unique availability of lake and wilderness excursions. Not far is Kokanee Lake with serene natural surroundings. Kokanee is also a glacier park and a creek park with some beaches to enjoy those winding waters.
6. Because of Vancouver Island
What is it?:
Oh, only the biggest and most populous North American island in the Pacific Ocean. Vancouver Island was actually its own separate colony at one point until merging with British Columbia as a single province. Because of that, it’s got this separate Britain-y, colonial feel to it but with all the nature inclusive of the rest of BC. It’s even got a warmer climate than most of the country and is home to Victoria.
What does it have?:
One of the best parts of Vancouver Island is the West Coast Trail. This trail rides the coast along with forests, quiet beaches, hidden coves, and even a waterfall or two. A major feature of this is the Pacific Rim (not the movie, sorry), a nature reserve filled with rocky tree-lined shores and some boardwalks that lead into the Pacific Northwest’s dense rainforests.
Popular coastal towns with a similar feel are Tofino and Ucluelet. Nanaimo is another important city with a rustic throwback village for visitors to wander back in time — and get good eats, of course. There is also a petroglyph park and Newcastle Island (Saysutshun) where the native heritage can be explored. Another quaint fishing village with just enough isolation is Ganges, set on Salt Spring Island just off the shore of larger Vancouver.
7. Because of Victoria
What is it?
Located on the mighty Vancouver Island, Victoria is British Columbia’s coastal capital. The city sits along a pretty harbor and waterfront and is right next to an abundance of outdoor activities.
What does it have?:
The main spot of Victoria is its Inner Harbour. Here are beautifully-built sights like the Parliament Buildings and the Empress Hotel, as well as the colorful Fisherman’s Wharf and park. There’s also the Royal BC Museum and Bug Zoo for you insect enthusiasts. Yep, one of a kind.
Chinatown and Johnson Street are interesting neighborhoods to stroll through. Victoria has great urban parks like Beacon Hill and AbkhaziGardens, and count the spectacular Butchart Gardens on the outskirts.
Nice coastal hangouts are Spiral Beach and Willows Beach, and there are even some full-out castles like Craigdarroch and Hatley. Outside of town are a number of great places to get into nature. To call out a few, you’ve got Gowlland Tod, the coastal East Sooke, and the falls-filled Goldstream Park.
8. Because of the Enchanted Forest & Big White
What are they?:
The Enchanted Forest is a woods area with themed forest adventures. Not far is Big White, another one of Canada’s famous ski resorts.
What do they have?:
Big White has snow activities in one of the most popular resorts in all BC. Within the Enchanted Forest is a setup like a fantasy world with fun adventures for whole families, including a skytrek, salmon run, and tons of fairies. Enjoy that.
9. Because of the Culture
Southern British Columbia is essentially the center of culture and identity for this province. Home to the biggest and most popular cities, resorts, and many an extraordinary wildlife wonderland. The outdoors are such a core part of this place, even if city life gets a little mixed in. This is the core of Canada’s West Coast culture since it’s really the only west coast it has. Traditional trains and logging tell their history amidst the booming new tech and business coming from all over the globe, especially with an Asia-Pacific flare.
The distinct Vancouver Island adds its special twist to the Cascades identity of this province that got its roots set by way of the railways. Trains, frontiers, western towns, and First Nations hold a deep significance here. That’s telling from the many places native traditions and symbols like totem poles are present. The diversity of its original and more contemporary settlers go hand in hand with the wide diversity of its landscapes.
With so much wilderness and unspoiled land, Southern British Columbia still hosts many of the animals that have diminished to rare in other parts of the continent. With wineries and vineyards running through some of Canada’s warmest locations, this is the nation’s setting sun to the far west. And the weather’s just a bit better than the north side.
**Thanks for reading about British Columbia’s southern portions. What’s your favorite part about this region? Are you from BC or have you been there? Share with us what else needs to be on this list! Contact me directly or collaborate at firstname.lastname@example.org. And please feel free to read some more posts here on the site. Take care and get out there! Peace.
Checking in for the second part of this huge province, Ontario is definitely too big for one post. For just one of anything, really. We’ll take a look at the biggest section of ON here to tack onto why it is such a unique place. You can read about Southern Ontario here if you wish. Okay, where exactly could this place be? And what makes Northern Ontario so special? Hmm, so mysterious!
Northern ONTARIO: Quick Geography
As you can see on the map, this chunk of Ontario makes up the vast majority of land in the province, but with only a small portion of its people. In a land area about the size of Vietnam, it sits mostly on the Canadian Shield. In the southern portion are lots of boreal forests with more rugged terrain here and in the interior. Further north and inland are influenced more by tundra landscapes. The climate further north is subarctic while the south is more continental with warm summers.
The western edge stems out into Canada’s Midwest forests while the northeast is a vast wetland called the Hudson Plains. The plains cover the coasts of the huge Hudson Bay and smaller James Bay. Also in the Great Lakes region, Northern Ontario touches the shores of Lake Huron and Lake Superior. Another very notable lake is Lake Nipigon. The French River and Algonquin Park are usually considered the areas that separate north from south in this province. Not far from these parts is Sudbury, the region’s biggest city. Otherwise, you can’t miss this place on a map, it’s really huge.
1. Lake Huron & Sudbury – nature & attractions
Since we’re talking about Sudbury, I’ll start with her. The official name is Greater Sudbury, or Grand-Sudbury in French since there are lots of French speakers here. Besides being the most populous city in Northern Ontario, it’s also the biggest city in the whole province by land area. It’s the main urban center and a nice gateway to the vast north.
One standout feature in this city is Science North, a big science complex dedicated to sparking scientific curiosity. There are underground tunnels, exhibits of different sciences, boat tours, and an IMAX theater. There’s even the biggest coin in the world on the grounds. Sudbury’s the biggest urban attraction in the whole north, so it really deserves its dues. This city isn’t far from Lake Huron which has a number of great parks and trails to discover.
Two special parks on the lake are the French River and Killarney provincial parks. This part of Ontario is very rocky with tons of hills. This makes the perfect contrast along the rivers and lakes in these nearby parks. Particularly in Killarney, there’s a rocky overlook called the Crack that’s awesome for getting a view of the park’s best features all in one spot. There are beautiful forests and wild scenery laced up against tons of little islands and waterways. The French River itself forms a type of gorge with bridges to explore. Not far away, there is one island in particular that needs its own section.
2. Manitoulin Island – big island
Manitoulin is a very special island indeed. It’s actually the biggest freshwater island in the world, so big that it holds over 100 lakes itself. Some of those lakes even have islands. Dang! More than its impressive size, Manitoulin is home to many great forests, falls, inlets, beaches, and little islands too. Several of the towns here have a nice rustic feel with some of the frontier-style buildings still preserved.
Two trails that hikers seemed to be very excited about are the Great Spirit Circle Trail and the Cup & Saucer Trail. The former offers up adventure from an indigenous perspective, providing rich cultural interactions. Cup & Saucer takes hikers up into the rugged hills, even scaling a ladder to get to a high viewpoint. From there the islands and lakes are free to take in.
3. Lake Superior – nature & hiking
Moving on to the next Great Lake, Lake Superior has some impressive nature as well. The biggest of the Great Lakes (if you don’t consider Michigan and Huron as the same body of water), it possesses a few beautiful parks and trails of its own. With all the forests, rugged coasts, waterfalls, and clear blue waters you would expect, Lake Superior Provincial Park has it all. There’s a nice set of trails to explore the coasts and get down into the cliffs.
Another cool park is Pukaskwa National Park, filled with rocky isles and peninsulas. There are even more waterfalls and inlets here. Hikers can even explore gorges with suspension bridges to walk above the rushing waters. The region is also cut by Ontario’s section of the Trans-Canada Highway, so it’s a logical stop for those driving through.
4. Thunder Bay – culture & history
It’s no Sudbury, but Thunder Bay is a really important city in the far corners of Lake Superior. In a region once dominated by the fur trade, there are a couple of preserved sites and villages for learning about the past like Fort William Historical Park. Another park that mixes history with the Canadian wild is Centennial Park. It’s a large natural area with a few historic sites dedicated to TB’s logging past.
A skip away from there is the Terry Fox Monument dedicated to this famous Canadian athlete. He is well known throughout the nation for attempting a cross-country marathon in order to bring awareness to cancer. Oh, and he did this with a synthetic leg! I’d say he deserves a monument, and there’s a nice one right in Thunder Bay.
Further down is Loch Lomond, a quaint ski getaway near to the city. Besides its nature and its seriously sweet name, this city is also home to an important Art Gallery. It’s the biggest in all NorOn (don’t know if that exists, but I’m going with it) and is dedicated to showcasing contemporary First Nations art. To get a break from all the boreal forests, there’s the Centennial Conservatory. It shelters lots of tropical plants and beautiful gardens throughout the year, and it’s free to visit. We like free.
5. Around Thunder Bay – nature
Not just a city, Thunder Bay is practically the gateway to the Northwest which is a whole subregion on its own. There are some pretty amazing sights up here. The Sleeping Giant is a park area and rock formation that stretches out over the water. From the sky, it looks like a giant napping on a strip of land. Ouimet Canyon is a forested area centered on a big gorge. There’s yet another suspension bridge here to cut across and get a nice view of the area.
One of the main attractions around Thunder Bay is called Kakabeka Falls. It’s a big waterfall out in the forest, though that doesn’t stop it from being popular. The waters are so strong and it’s so easily accessible that it’s been given the nickname “Niagara of the North.” Really a unique spot in its own right.
6. Remote Nature – exploration & adventure
If there’s one thing I feel that NorOn is known for, it’s got to be remote wilderness. There are so many huge provincial parks out here it’s ridiculous. You’ve got Quetico in the boundary waters region shared with Minnesota. There’s Wabakimi and Nagagamisis. I’m just tripping off of these names, though. There’s also a bendy lake called Lake Temagami with lots of parks surrounding it.
These places are mostly accessible just by small planes, like seaplanes, or by boat. Visitors to these parks usually fly into some remote part of the forest and spend time camping, canoeing, and trekking all through the wilderness. Another notable park is Woodland Caribou. It’s known for the same stuff as all the other parks but with some ancient pictographs to add. These places are great spots to get away from it all (far, far away) and get immersed in the wild.
7. Hudson Plains – remote towns & nature
So moose are pretty common throughout Canada, but polar bears are a different story. That’s why Ontario is home to Polar Bear Provincial Park, its biggest and most isolated park. It’s so isolated that it’s only accessible by air and visitors need special permission to enter. It covers a large section of the wet plains along Hudson Bay and is a much-needed sanctuary for tundra-dwelling creatures, like the polar bear.
Speaking of those snowy furballs, there’s a train ride named after them. The Polar Bear Express transports people between the towns of Cochrane and Moosonee and is the only way to get to these two places on the ground. Interestingly enough, Moosonee is too far north to see moose and too far south to see polar bears. Still, I’d ride that train just to feel like I was in a Christmas adventure movie. Despite the lack of big game, Moosonee and Moose Factory Island are still some interesting and remote towns. They offer education about the First Nations and give off a distant feeling of isolation. Way to get away from all that city noise.
8. Agawa – views & trains
The area around Agawa is a canyon and wilderness park just inland from Lake Superior. The really neat thing about the canyon is a scenic railway that winds through it. It seems especially pretty during the fall months. Imagine riding a train over dips and curls across a valley filled with fiery colored trees and a tranquil running river. I’m about ready to drop what I’m doing and go there today.
On the Lake Superior coast, there’s an offshore island called Bathtub that has some beaches and natural pools to “bathe” in. Just leave the soap at home. Other than this beautiful canyon, the Agawa region is also home to some impressive pictographs made by ancient inhabitants in the area. What a cool slice of culture!
9. Culture (and Closing)
Really taking it into the backwoods! Northern Ontario is such a massive area with so much to see. The great thing is that it’s mostly wilderness and woodlands, so it hasn’t been changed much since pre-settlement times. The lakes and rivers are an immediate location of settlement for the people here, contributing to the strong boating, canoeing, and seaplane culture. There’s so much space and nature it could blow your mind way out into the outdoors.
From hiking beautiful shores to enjoying the remote wilderness, this region has been able to preserve lots of its indigenous character. There are a number of galleries and excursions dedicated to First Nations, and several historic sites preserved to show how life was like for fur traders and loggers. The woods are practically in the blood of these hardy folks. Northern Ontario shows how important it is to mesh its different historic identities into one, even if its population doesn’t quite match the south.
**Hey everybody! Did you enjoy learning about Northern Ontario? If there’s anybody out there that wants to add or share more about this place, please feel free to enlighten us! What makes Ontario special for you? Anyway, you’re all special and our whole planet is special, so keep taking care of each other and the Earth. Talk soon!