THE BEST FARM STAYS & GUEST RANCH STAYS IN CANADA IN 2021
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BRITISH COLUMBIA (BC)
Canada’s far west, British Columbia, has long been a popular outdoors destination for the active and adventurous traveler, so it’s not surprising that it also contains some of the best agritourism in Canada. Its cosmopolitan capital Vancouver too has consistently been voted among the most livable cities in the world and that is undoubtedly in part because of its proximity to the great outdoors. The rural tourism sector here is generally well developed, with high standards, and the farmstay niche is no exception.
B.C. is a very mountainous region with four major ranges running through it; The great Rockies of course plus the Selkirks, the Coastal Range and the Purcells. And its coastline too is spectacular, with whale watching being a popular activity all over its rocky cliffs and small islands.
And you really don’t have to travel far outside Vancouver to find yourself lost in nature. You can take the aptly named Sea to Sky Highway, which runs from Vancouver along Howe Sound to the ski town of Whistler, and take in some of Canada’s most spectacular mountain scenery. Or take the MV Northern Ferry around the Inside Passage and admire its wild, rugged coast in the company of whales, sea lions, eagles and orcas.
Inland B.C., east of Vancouver, has some great national parks like the Revelstoke, the Glacier or Jasper National Parks and one or two good ranch style farmstays. And it also has the fertile enclave of the Okanagan Valley, a surprising oasis of farms, orchards and vineyards. The northern interior though is a true remote wilderness attracting only the most daring hikers and adventurers, likewise a lot of the North and Central coast which also still retains a strong Native American heritage.
There is more to Ontario, Canada’s most populous province than Toronto, or for that matter Niagara Falls, Canada’s most visited tourist attraction, though sadly many visitors, and even residents, never take the time to explore the rest.
About 95% of the population is squeezed in to the south of the state but Ontario covers an enormous area stretching from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River to Hudson bay in the far north and has a variety of landscapes including, it’s estimated, a staggering 250,000 lakes and over 60,000 miles of rivers.
And even in the populated south of the state there are many slow paced, very rural areas, with much fertile farm land and a few farmstays around the Great Lakes. And there is one terrific national park, the Georgian Islands National Park in Severn Sound.
In Central Ontario, inland from Georgian Bay, lies what they call the Canadian Shield, a giant wilderness area of forest and lakes which is becoming an increasingly popular area for urbanities to escape the city with many vacation cottages popping up, especially around the Muskoka Lakes area.
The vast flatlands of the north of Ontario form another great, but much less visited, wilderness of lakes and forests with one or two beautiful national parks along the way, the Lake Superior Provincial Park for example or the Pukaskwa National Park.
The province of Québec, Canada offers an interesting glimpse into an alternative North America, one where the French won the seven years war instead of the British. It is an enticingly different area with two major cities, Montreal and Québec City, that are among the most attractive in North America.
Most tourists to Québec don’t venture outside the cities but Quebec is a large and quite underpopulated province that has many regions of beautiful natural landscapes as well as small farming communities with some good, old world style, farmstays not far from the big cities.
It has many miles of rugged coastline too, especially around the spectacular Gaspé peninsula in Southeastern Quebec or the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, which is an increasingly popular place for whale watching.
North of Québec city is the region of Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean, a mountainous region that has a somewhat distinct culture and dialect to the rest of Québec and which in turn leads on to the huge expanse of Northern Québec; cold lakes, deep forests and tundra between the Hudson Bay and the Hudson Strait still home to many Inuit communities today.
ATLANTIC CANADA (NS, NL, NB & PE)
Nova Scotia, Newfoundland & Labrador, and their lesser known neighbors New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island make up Canada’s Maritime Provinces, a region strongly influenced by the ocean with ship building and fishing its biggest industries.
Though some farming goes on inland a huge amount of the region is given to the forestry industry, over 80% of New Brunswick is covered in trees for example, so that it’s very easy to feel a sense of isolation and peace.
Also too along its evocative, windswept coastline which has a similar feel to the west coasts of its cross Atlantic counterparts Ireland and Scotland, and indeed in culture too they are similar with a large proportion, of the population being of Irish or Scottish descent.
Some of the many highlights of the area include the beautiful Prince Edward Island National Park, the extraordinary tides around the Hopewell Rocks in the Bay of Fundy, the many charming little fishing villages along its coast and of course some of the world’s best fresh sea food.
CENTRAL CANADA (MB, SK & AB)
Canada’s midwest, the so called Prairie Provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta is an area similar in nature to its southern counterpart the Mid West of the USA, with its reputation as being a pass through region between the more interesting coasts, though the Canadian version is far less populated with only the likes of Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg as its most glamorous urban centers.
Still though, even if it doesn’t have much urban sophistication or spectacular scenery it does have a quiet charm and a very rural, relaxed pace of life that grows quickly on the few that take the time to explore the region through farmstays or otherwise.
In the southern part of this huge area lie the Prairies, a vast flat expanse of grasslands that surround the Trans-Canada 1, Canada’s main highway. It is a land of huge farms too, with fields of rapeseed, wheat and cattle herds that have long fed the rest of Canada and beyond. Along the route there are some nice diversions like the Grasslands National Park and some atmospheric, very Canadian towns, like Moose Jaw and Regina.
To the north west of that road along the Highway 16 or ‘Yellowhead Route’ that leads north to Edmonton, there are two nice national parks to be found the Prince Albert park in Saskatchewan and the Riding Mountain park in Manitoba, both popular for canoeing and hiking.
The northern half of this region up towards Hudson Bay is a sparsely populated, inhospitable area of dark, eerie forest land giving way to flat tundra farther north. It is an area of desperately cold winters but where iconic wildlife like caribou and polar bears are left to roam undisturbed by all but the most adventurous of hikers and hunters.
NORTHERN CANADA (NT, NU & YT)
In a country filled with remote wilderness nothing conjures up the idea of remote wilderness like the North of Canada; The Yukon Territory, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. These are wild, inhospitable lands, even in summer, where for the most part there are no roads, very few settlements of any description and it is a place where as a human being you can be made to feel very small, vulnerable and insignificant.
The Yukon might be slightly more in touch with civilization with its proximity to Alaska, with the great Alaska Highway making its way through there from British Columbia on the way to Fairbanks. Around the highway you can find accommodation in the form of motels and a few farmstays and campsites. And a couple of towns, the old gold mining town of Dawson City and the provincial capital Whitehorse which has its own airport.
Still though the Yukon is remote by all other standards. In its vast area it has a population of just 34,000 all but 10,000 of that number living in the capital city.
To the east are the Northwestern Territories, more remote, more inhospitable and a wilderness area comparable to any on earth. To give you an idea in this province the size of India there is a population of just 40,000 people about half of which live in the capital Yellowknife.
And beyond that further to the east and north is the Inuit province of Nunavut, or ‘Our Land’ in the native language. This is true Arctic territory, with its huge inpenetrable landmass containing just 32,000 people, most of which are scattered among many small indigenous communities around Kivallliq on the west shore of the Hudson Bay and up around the coast of Baffin Island in the far north.
A SELECTION OF OUR RECOMMENDED FARM STAYS & DUDE RANCHES IN CANADA: