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Where to see wildlife in Canada

17 January 2016

Canada is a land of gushing rivers, staggering mountains and some of the lushest, greenest forests in the world. Such natural spectacle means that Canada is prime wildlife-watching territory

A polar bear mother with its cub
A polar bear mother with its cub

Marine life thrives off both the west and east coasts, from enormous whales to tiny seal pups. Twice a year the skies fill with migrating birds and the forests rustle with moose, rare wild cats and three species of bear. This is the ultimate naturalist’s holiday, so if you’re looking to indulge your passion this year, let us guide you through the best locations to see wildlife in Canada…

Cape Breton Highlands Park, Nova Scotia

Make the same voyage as the first Scottish settlers did all those years ago, with a trip to the wild frontier of Nova Scotia. You may well believe you’re in a distant section of Scotland, such is stark beauty of this mountainous landscape – not to mention the local Gaelic words still heard in the taverns! Be sure to visit the Cape Breton Highlands in search of the shy snowshoe hare, the endangered Canada lynx, and waterborne mammals like harbour seals and pilot whales along the coast nearby. The local seafood is worth a mention too – don’t go home without tasting a fresh lobster or two.

Banff National Park, Alberta

Snow-topped, soaring peaks look down into glassy lakes banked by vivid green hillsides, in this stunning national reserve in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. Whether you visit in the spring to see the meadows bloom around Lake Louise, or wrap up for a winter tour into the wilderness in search of the iconic grizzly bear, Banff won’t fail to enchant anyone with a penchant for the outdoors. Explore by bike, kayak or on foot for a real taste of Canadian adventure!

Want to tick the Rocky Mountains off your bucket list? Try our Vancouver and the Rockies tour for some of the best wildlife watching this side of the Atlantic.

Churchill, Manitoba

If you thought you’d have to travel all the way to the North Pole to see a polar bear, you might be surprised by the lesser-known wildlife destination of Churchill. Enclosed in the circle of Hudson Bay on the northeast coast of Canada, buggy tours here allow rare access to these magnificent animals in all seasons, although their annual migration during October and November is one to mark in your diary. Visiting earlier in the year? You will have a great chance of witnessing the Aurora Borealis in the skies above Canada between January and March. An added bonus!

Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario

Nothing embodies the call of the wild quite so much as a wolf’s howl, and during August you can join in with regular public ‘howlings’ at this beautiful conservation park in Ontario. Yes, you will be asked to howl! Listen out, and you might be rewarded with an answer from the native pack. Besides these exciting expeditions, you can enjoy a spot of moose-watching in Algonquin, fish for local trout, or simply come to watch the leaves glow golden and red in autumn.

St Lawrence, Quebec

Bird-watchers take note: the elegant, French-speaking province of Quebec is the place to see migrating birds in their thousands every spring and autumn. Arrive at the Gulf of St Lawrence in time for October and you’ll see great flocks of snow geese pausing for a breather before heading north for winter. The charming riverside city of Montmagny even hosts a Snow Goose Festival every year to celebrate. Look out for different feathered species around the estuary, including the comical Atlantic puffin. A good way to explore all of the natural attractions here is to take a cruise along the St Lawrence River, passing by dizzying waterfalls towards the colonial turrets of Quebec City.


Head to the northernmost part of the Newfoundland and Labrador province and discover snowswept tundra and extraordinarily deep gorges. It’s worth braving the remote conditions out here to see the caribou migrations, which happen between September and October. Not only will you witness majestic herds of caribou, topped by their huge, crown-like antlers, but you might sneak a glimpse of the wolves, black bears and Arctic foxes that follow hungrily in their wake. If you want to see nature in action on your Canada trip, this is the right place to come.

Campbell River, Vancouver Island

Salmon fishing may be high on your to-do list, but how about swimming with the salmon themselves? Don a snorkel mask and some fins at Vancouver Island’s ‘Salmon Capital’, the Campbell River, and you can follow every splash of the salmon’s epic voyage home to spawn. Spot up to five varieties of salmon jostling just below the surface, including the legendary Chinook, or king salmon. The river is home to several conservation areas, so there’s no shortage of spectacular evergreen scenery to accompany you, and plenty of excellent hiking trails if you want to explore the landscape more thoroughly.

Victoria, British Columbia

Always wanted to see an Orca in the wild? Now’s your chance as Canada is one of the nbest places in the world to see this majestic beast. Perched at the southern end of Vancouver Island, Race Rocks Ecological Reserve is a superlative location for spotting all kinds of whales up close, as well as other marine wildlife like sea lions and porpoise. But it’s those leaping black and white orcas that still capture everyone’s attention – and make truly jaw-dropping photos to show off back home!

The Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia

Head north of Vancouver to the last major stretch of coastal rainforest in the world, and a vast fairy tale landscape of fjords and moss-carpeted pine forests. As the name suggests, bears top the food chain here in the Great Bear Rainforest, not least the so-called ‘Spirit Bear’, a rare variety of white-coated black bear that prowls these woods. This is a veritable paradise for many different kinds of animal kinds – look out for cougars, bald eagles and plenty of salmon in the rushing streams.

Ready to plan a trip to remember? We offer a range of Canada holidays, whether you want to see highlights of the whole country, or focus on wildlife-rich provinces like British Columbia or Alberta. Contact our holiday specialists for more details, or browse the latest packages here.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.