Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 25, 2021

© New Brunswick Department of Tourism and Parks

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Oh Canada!

Take a break from the big city by exploring the country’s best small towns from BC to New Brunswick

Parksville, BC

You can see the snow-capped peaks of Mount Arrowsmith from some of the crescent-shaped, golden-sand beaches of Parksville. Talk about a postcard. Located on the sheltered eastern shore of Vancouver Island where swimmers can frolic in gentle Pacific rollers rather than get slammed by pounding surf, Parksville, population 24,000, is 37 kilometres north of Nanaimo. A huge, very serious, sand sculpting competition erupts on its beaches mid-July, but, fret not, there’s more to do in the area than summer by the sea. Cathedral Grove, 25 minutes west, has hiking trails and sculptures of another kind: towering Douglas firs, some more than 800 years old. The Old Country Market, 10 minutes west in Coombs, has groceries and baked goods under its roof — and goats on top of it. Its grass roof is “mowed” by four-legged groundskeepers that live onsite in a Norwegian-style log house.

St. Jacobs, ON

Don't be surprised if a horse and buggy roll up next to you on your way to St. Jacobs. The community of 2000, 15 minutes north of Waterloo, is near Elmira, a working Mennonite town. But don’t head there to see bonnets and button-up shirts. The St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market is the talk of the town. It sells hearth-baked breads that are naturally leavened, low-sugar jams and chutneys, gourmet meatballs in sauce, and more. There’s solid wood furniture made by Mennonite artisans too. The century-old Village of St. Jacobs, three kilometres north on the Conestoga River, has clothing and craft shops, but also the Block Three Brewery, a small, local microbrewery that gets rave reviews for its beer — and crokinole game boards. The Mennonite Story interpretive centre (admission by donation) is there too, as is the decades old St. Jacobs & Aberfoyle Model Railway (adults $8; kids $5). The hand-built, small-scale model depicts southern Ontario in the 1950s and features movable CP and CN freight and passenger trains.

Almonte, ON

The 19th-century buildings on Almonte’s main street will charm the pants off of you. The sweet little red brick structures house antique and collectible shops, art galleries, craft stores and more. Cradled within the larger town of Mississippi Mills, the community of Almonte, 45 minutes west of Ottawa, is also a hub for artists and artisans. They make furniture and glassware, jewellery and soap. There’s even a blacksmith for custom work. But this community of 5000 also knows food. Robin’s Nest Tea Room is famous for its house-made butterscotch pie; Hummingbird Chocolate Maker has won international awards for its bars made with beans from the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Vietnam. What’s more, Almonte is a former mill town that straddles Canada’s Mississippi River, which flows into the Ottawa River via a series of elevation drops. In other words, there’s even more to see here: waterfalls.

Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, QC

The Chaudière-Appalaches region is vast and green and so very pretty. It stretches for 200 kilometres along the shoreline of the St. Lawrence River across from Quebec City, and skirts the state of Maine, the summits of the Appalachians ever present in an already perfect setting. The Route Verte’s 200 kilometres of bike paths crisscross the region from west to east, north to south. It’s one of the oldest regions in North America, and the land is peppered with 300-year-old stone mills and sweet-as-pie churches, many that are historic monuments. The beautiful church in the town of Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, population 1400, was built in 1779. It’s made of fieldstone, and features a high-sloping red roof with two charming bell towers. The town is famous for wood carving; intricate sculptures by Médard Bourgault of the Bourgault brothers are inside. For more wood art, go to Le parc des Trois-Bérets for open-air waterfront sculptures.

Caraquet, NB

The Acadian Peninsula in northeastern New Brunswick is dotted with tiny towns full of gracious people who are fiercely proud of their Acadian heritage — whether the CBC series, Canada: The Story of Us, acknowledges them or not. Caraquet, population 3100, is unofficially Acadia’s capital so it’s a great place to get acquainted with the culture that brought the French, tricolour, Stella Maris flag (blue, white and red with a yellow star in the upper left) to Canada 400 years ago. Start your visit at the Acadian Historical Village (adults $20, kids 6 to 18 $16 for two days); it has amazing recreations of 40 homes and other buildings from 1770 to 1949. End your visit with the 55th edition of the Acadian Festival, August 3 to 15 this year. Sample plenty of clam pie, chicken fricot and poutine râpée in between. The island of Lamèque, 45 minutes away, has quiet beaches and hosts a Baroque Music Festival every July; the island of Miscou has a pretty, 19th-century lighthouse and boardwalks over natural peat bogs.

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