from earlier name Terra Nova, “new land” in Portuguese and Latin, later adapted into English as Newfoundland
for Portuguese sailor, João Fernandes Lavrador
Predominantly English (~ 97%). Local variety is known as Newfoundland English.
Capital & Largest City
Eastern Canada (easternmost province) and part of the Atlantic region. Mostly located on the island of Newfoundland and the mainland section called Labrador, with many smaller islands.
Parts of Canada’s Eastern boreal shield forests (especially on Newfoundland), taiga forests (especially in Labrador), and Arctic Cordillera mountains. The Smallwood Reservoir system in Labrador is the largest body of water.
The middle of Canada is spelled with a big “M.” Manitoba is a province of wildlands and some wild weather swings. This nice place is where residents of the world have decided to live and to visit. Scratching its recent Covid-19 troubles, this province is a fascinating one with some interesting features. Read on to see nine reasons why the Keystone Province can be considered unique. But first, some geography and stuff.
MANITOBA: Quick Geography (& Stuff)
Canada’s most centrally-located province is found in the middle interior of the country. One of the so-called Prairie provinces, it is the only one that isn’t landlocked and the one with the most humid climate. Its coastline comes in the northeast on Hudson Bay and it borders the United States to the south.
Back to the climate, Manitoba is mostly continental in the south and subarctic in the north. Major habitats include scattered highland regions, especially east around the Canadian Shield. Most of Manitoba, though, has flat or open landscapes, including prairies and boreal forests that turn into taiga and tundra in the north.
There are also many wetlands like the Hudson Plains and too many lakes to mention. The biggest are Lake Manitoba, Lake Winnipegosis, and Lake Winnipeg, among the largest lakes in the world. The vast majority of Manitobans live in the south which is where the capital, Winnipeg, is located.
Otherwise, the name comes from Cree and Ojibwe languages meaning “straits of Manitou” or the Great Spirit, referring to a place on Lake Winnipeg. The name could also be influenced by Assiniboine for “lake of the prairie.”
So why is Manitoba so special? …
1. Because of Winnipeg
The entryway into all that makes Manitoba stand out has to be in its capital and biggest city. The ground zero of what makes Winnipeg unique is at the Forks, the general meeting point of two rivers where big markets, nice parks, a riverwalk, and boating can be experienced.
Also around Downtown are cultural centers like the Winnipeg Art Gallery and Canadian Museum of Human Rights. That last one mixes some incredibly fun architecture with a breakdown of human rights movements from throughout history. Cruising happily down the urban rivers and parks can take visitors to FortWhyte Alive, an environmental and recreational center with all kinds of interactive outdoor activities.
Another great natural space is Assiniboine Park which covers everything from forest to a beautiful pavilion to a great zoo with tons of polar bears. Important events occur throughout the year too like Folklorama (folk festival) and the Festival du Voyageur (heritage/winter celebration).
2. Because of Churchill (& Polar Bears!)
If you’ve ever watched Animal Planet and seen that Canadian town where polar bears roam the streets, Churchill was probably the place. The city occasionally gets wild polar bears waltzing through it, but there are other attractions to be found. Kayaking on the river and beluga whale outings are especially popular.
There’s the major Prince of Wales Fort to be explored and the town is near to Wapusk National Park. Wapusk is a part of the tundra where visitors can spot wildlife, especially around Polar Bear Alley. There are also wrecked boats and the amazing Northern Lights that add an awesome appeal over the white winter landscape.
Like in other parts of Canada, Manitoba’s history is well preserved. This shows in Lower Fort Garry, an old fur trading post by the Hudson’s Bay Company that allows visitors to get a taste of frontier life.
Near to that is the Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre. Here, birdwatching and environmental immersion meet in a cool-looking center out on the marshes. Out in the town of Steinbach is a Mennonite Heritage Village dedicated to preserving and teaching about the lifestyle of these rustic settlers.
4. Because of its Random Attractions
Being in North America’s Midwest, Manitoba is bound to have some random attractions. Random doesn’t have to mean bad though, since one of these is the International Peace Garden. This wonderful garden is shared with North Dakota in the U.S. and is a really cool gesture of friendship between the two nations.
There’s also the big Centre of Canada sign which signals to the longitudinal center of the whole country. Who else can claim that? Portage La Prairie is a curious little town that boasts the World’s Biggest Coca-Cola Can, plus a neat waterpark on an island called Splash Island. Random.
5. Because of Lake Winnipeg
I don’t want to dump on the other lakes, but Lake Winnipeg seems to be the most popular. Besides all the other great stuff one can do on a massive lake (e.g. fishing, boating, you name it), there are also some popular beaches to see. Most noteworthy are Albert Beach and the famous Grand Beach which hosts a fun Sand Castle Tournament.
Castles made of sand can lead you to Hecla Island, a full-blown island in the lake with beaches and a relaxing coastal resort. There’s also Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park with its lovely coast and lighthouse to explore.
6. Because of the Icelandic Communities
So Canada is home to all sorts of ethnic communities, and adding to that unique list would be the Icelandic ones. Going back to Hecla, the town is home to a big Icelandic community.
A large area around Lake Winnipeg was actually known as New Iceland to settlers. They established the largest Icelandic community outside of Iceland in Manitoba! That’s why there are several heritage festivals like Íslendingadagurinn (try that one fast) to commemorate. The town of Gimli is also a major center with a Heritage Museum, plus some beaches of its own.
Whiteshell Provincial Park is one of several unique nature parks in Manitoba. With sweeping rivers and woods, the park is special for having several strangely shaped lakes, especially at West Hawk Lake. This one was created by a meteor impact and has some very interesting views around it.
Not far is the Pinawa Dam Provincial Heritage Centre, centered around the Pinawa Dam. Imagine that. It’s an old dam with a really distinct design that has basically turned into these eerie ruins. Still, it’s a popular place for people to hike, hang out at the parks, or cruise under its watery arches.
8. Because of Parks like Riding Mountain
Riding Mountain just sounds fun, doesn’t it? Like the Matterhorn. Well, this national park has lots of nature to take in and enjoy, including a chance to witness the park’s bison and other wildlife. Scenic views and vast wetlands are also a feature at Spruce Woods Provincial Park, but with a twist. This park is home to a series of large sand dunes to climb in the midst of wild prairies.
From the southern plains to the eastern highlands, the Canadian Shield boasts impressive parks like Atikaki and Nopiming. These places mix rocky forests with beautiful lake shores, great for watching sunsets and Auroras under the wild sky.
9. Because of its Culture
Reading above, you could see how Manitoba’s settlers have shaped the face of the province. This of course stems from its First Nations and later Métis people (mostly of mixed Indigenous and French background) that played a big role in distinguishing it as a province.
From Icelanders to Mennonites to French and British fur traders, the rustic outdoors heritage of the settlers still shines in its modern lifestyle. Nature shapes a big part of Manitoba’s identity with wildlife being a core part of many attractions. Winters are brutal but people don’t shy away from a bit of lakeshore fun on those beaches.
Conserving nature and history is a big deal here in a place where it’s hard to say that polar bears don’t matter. I mean, they’re walking right there! But really, an attention to what makes all of human- and animal-kind special joined with a boldness to design and redesign itself all make Manitoba … well, it’s just a piece of what makes Manitoba a special place.
First off, thank you for coming. If you enjoyed this, please read about other unique places on Earth’s Face. Tell us what you like about Manitoba! Feel free to contact me with personal comments or for collaboration at email@example.com. Stop by again, and take care out there travelers!
Another piece of the Maritimes, Canada’s got its own little Acadian Scotland. Nova Scotia is known for its seaside towns, extreme tides, and forested highlands. But does any of that make the province unique? Well, let’s find out. First, take a quick look at some geography, and we’ll get into what is so special about Nova Scotia. Come on …
NOVA SCOTIA: Quick Geography
Canada’s second-smallest province is Nova Scotia, a Latin name meaning “New Scotland,” or Nouvelle-Écosse (Nu-vell-Eh-coss) in French. True to the name, it’s also known as Alba Nuadh in Scottish Gaelic, though that’s one of the lesser spoken languages nowadays.
Nova Scotia is a part of both the Maritimes and Atlantic provinces of eastern Canada. It’s mostly located on the main peninsula, though a big chunk lies on Cape Breton Island which is home to a pretty large inland sea called Bras d’Or Lake (I know, the name is misleading). The capital and largest city of Halifax is on the main peninsula. Otherwise, there are thousands of smaller islands all around, including the famous Sable Island.
It is connected to the rest of Canada in the north and is surrounded by parts of the Atlantic Ocean in all other directions like the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of St. Lawrence. The climate in Nova Scotia is mostly continental with wet weather and uncommonly cold winters for the region. There are lots of seasonal forests and highlands that form an extension of the Northern Appalachian system, especially on Cape Breton.
So, why is Nova Scotia so unique?
1. Because of Pretty Towns like Lunenburg
One thing that Nova Scotia is probably known for above all is its pretty colonial towns and villages, with one of the most famous being Lunenburg. This town is particularly colorful with museums and historic buildings, but it’s most famous for its beautiful waterfront.
Other popular coastal towns are Peggy’s Cove and Yarmouth, known for similarly beautiful rustic buildings, their ports, lighthouses, and the works. Amherst was the first designated town in the province and Sydney used to be the capital of Cape Breton’s colony. Either way, the mix of Maritimes coast with forested hills and wooden Victorian homes make these towns all a special sight.
2. Because of Halifax
Halifax is not just Nova Scotia’s main city, but it’s the biggest city in the Maritimes region. This makes it a center for business and culture, most notably at the Harbour and Waterfront. Here there are markets, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, a newly designed Art Gallery in the works, and the famed Pier 21. This place was once Canada’s gateway for European immigrants and is now a museum where folks can check their family records for free.
The Harbour is also where people can take a ferry over to Dartmouth to get a great view of Halifax or enjoy another set of waterfront attractions. Within the city are the beautiful Public Gardens and the historic Citadel Hill which houses the city’s old forts and a special panoramic view.
St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica is one of the prettier structures to be viewed in town. Also known for its green spaces, pleasant zones to get fresh air are the Halifax Common and Point Pleasant Park. Long Lake Provincial Park is good to go a bit further in the boonies.
3. Because of Historic Sites like Louisbourg
The Fortress of Louisbourg is a National Historic Site where reenactments of colonial life are carried out by professionals all over the site. Even though it’s one of the larger forts, there are quite a few places that provide insight into historic life like the Ross Farm Museum and Fort Anne.
It and Port-Royal were actually among the first French settlements in Acadia and the Americas, while Fort Anne leads to the splendorous Annapolis Royal Gardens. Another historic site is Grand-Pré, a sort of monument town dedicated to the Acadians that were expelled from there by British rule.
4. Because of the Bay of Fundy & Minas Basin
That’s right! New Brunswick isn’t the only province that can boast the Bay. Nova Scotia also has a number of scenic sites and landscapes due some praise. Around Hall’s Harbour are a famous lobster restaurant, sea caves, and the site of huge tidal changes.
The area is also notable for whale watching. Cape Split has a series of high trails and cliffs that overlook the beautiful water. Going inward to Minas is where the real tide action happens, being home to the most extreme tidal changes in the world. There’s even a place where rafters can ride backward on the tides.
Blomidon Provincial Park is one of the best places to take in all the wonderful scenery with orange cliffs and long sandy passages being a feature there. Stamped between the Bay and some interior hills is Annapolis Valley, another very pretty region stocked with rolling vineyards and green knolls.
5. Because of Kejimkujik
Kejimkujik is — well, hard to pronounce, but also one of Nova Scotia’s best National Parks. It’s a gorgeous forest area with rivers and hills and even reaches down to some beaches. Besides its natural appeal, the park also has a number of cultural interactions with the native Mi’kmaq people. These can include villages, hunting and food practices, wildlife reserves, and other cultural immersion sites set to inform outside visitors about Nova Scotia’s original settlers.
6. Because of Cape Breton
Cape Breton Island has a lot of what makes Nova Scotia unique, and a lot of it has to do with the Cape Breton Highlands. The coastal highlands form another great National Park to explore, particularly around the Cabot Trail.
Among the many trails that Giovanni Caboto blazed in the New World, this area has a number of scenic overlooks and pathways to take in the pure beauty of Canada’s Atlantic coastline. I mentioned the big sea/lake of Bras d’Or which has its own share of nice water and forest settings.
Along the coast is the town of Baddeck, a calm post for tourism, boat outings, golf excursions, and a site dedicated to the maker of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, once a resident there. We already mentioned Louisbourg too, so check it as another special place on Cape Breton.
7. Because of its Random Islands
With a few thousand islands, you have to bet that some of NS’s isles had to be a little strange. Or maybe random is a better descriptor word. There are lots of islands that could potentially make the count, but one that stands out is St. Paul Island.
This place is odd because it’s pretty far offshore from Cape Breton but was seriously settled at one point. There’s a lighthouse, an abandoned radio station, and a couple of abandoned manors. If that weren’t enough, the island is often shrouded in fog to make matters creepier.
A more pleasant yet no-less random island is Sable. This island looks more like a long sandbank and it’s also a ways offshore from the mainland. That didn’t stop the island from being populated by a special breed of horses (Sable Island horses, fittingly so). It’s also apparently a popular island in literature and other media and is well-known for its grassy hills, long sandy beaches, and a history of frequent shipwrecks. I’m sure the horses contribute to the fame, though.
8. Because of the Culture
A big part of Nova Scotia’s cultural identity is spelled right there in the name. Scottish and other Gaelic-nation immigrants had a huge impact on the province’s early British settlement. Still, the earlier French and Acadians also left their mark on NS, from place names to foods and some of the traditions.
Several places look like French Catholicism and colonialism clashed with Victorian design and made some very pretty architectural collages. Plus, this is Canada, so world immigration has contributed to NS’s already diverse population. Anglo-Canadian culture and language have taken over. Still, there are areas where the native language or French are still prevalent. Scottish Gaelic is sort of on the rise in some places and apparently has one of the highest speaker communities outside of Scotland.
Even though its population density is fairly high, the people are pretty spread out and the towns are able to maintain that old North Atlantic fishing village feel. Industrialization mixes with modern tech and arts. The influence of the Mi’kmaq people is still present in heritage festivals, galleries, and some of the renewed designs.
It was also a haven for British Loyalists escaping the American Revolution, and so New England has a foot inside the province. Quiet coastal living, rural country values, and the ocean itself all put a stamp on what it means to be in Nova Scotia. Quietly continuing to surprise people with its subtle beauty, this province holds a unique place in our world.
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