15 Best Small Towns to Visit in Canada

Written by Veronique Raes
Updated on
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Canada is an extremely diverse country that stretches from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. It is the second largest country in the world, featuring a plethora of different terrain.

Canada’s ten provinces and three territories are all completely different, with each having something to offer. Lakes, mountains, valleys, waterfalls and countryside are just a few of the different things offered throughout the country. It also happens to have the longest coastline in the world.

There are so many places to visit in Canada, from large vibrant cities to small mountain villages, as well as everything in between. Here are the 15 best towns to visit in Canada.

1. Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

Niagara-on-the-LakeSource: flickr

Sitting in the centre of one of Canada’s best wine regions is the beautiful town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. The town is located right along the Niagara River just opposite New York State, close to the famous Niagara Falls.

Niagara-on-the-Lake is such a lovely place, filled with 19th century homes and small Victorian streets that are lined with hotels, shops and restaurants. In fact, the town is known for its exceptional bistros and luxury accommodations.

The summer is the best time to visit the town, as festivals like the Shaw Festival and Music Niagara are in full swing. But regardless of when you visit, Niagara-on-the-Lake is truly magical.

2. Yarmouth, Nova Scotia

YarmouthSource: flickr

Colourful Victorian buildings is what you can expect to see in the Nova Scotia town of Yarmouth. The town is quaint and picturesque, and home to numerous preserved buildings.

Yarmouth sits on the Bay of Fundy right in the centre of the largest lobster fishing area in the world. Its Cape Forchu Lighthouse is one of its most famous landmarks and is often seen on postcards.

A visit to Yarmouth will result in beautiful scenery, excellent food and a good feeling of culture. It is home to numerous museums, some great restaurants and an adequate selection of accommodation options.

3. St Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick

St Andrews-by-the-SeaSource: flickr
St Andrews-by-the-Sea

Canada’s first seaside resort area, St Andrews-by-the-Sea is a historic town that sits at the southern tip of a peninsula in Passamaquoddy Bay. It is a well-preserved town with numerous historical buildings.

The town is quite colourful, what with its lovely gardens, pastel painted houses and large outdoor murals. It also features some great art galleries and museums.

Some of St Andrews-by-the-Sea’s top attractions include The Algonquin Hotel, the St. Andrews Biological Station, the Sheriff Andrews’ House and the Huntsman Marine Aquarium. It is also a popular spot for whale watching.

4. Nelson, British Columbia

NelsonSource: flickr

This charming mountain town has only 10,000 residents, but has loads of character. It is also a major cultural centre, being filled with quant restaurants, cosy coffee houses, boutiques and small art galleries.

Nelson has been pegged the ‘Queen City’ because of its beauty and charm. It is also known for its impressive collection of historical buildings that date back to the silver rush years.

The town is acknowledged for its numerous cultural activities, which includes the Cottonwood Community Market, the Downtown Local Market and Marketfest. It is also a great base for exploring the lakes, rivers and mountains in the area.

5. Victoria-by-the-Sea, Prince Edward Island

Victoria-by-the-SeaSource: flickr

Victoria-by-the-Sea consists of only four blocks that are dotted with brightly painted homes. It is an attractive town that sits on the shores of the Northumberland Straight.

The town has become somewhat of an artists’ enclave, though it also keeps much of its farming and lobster fishing culture. There are small art galleries to visit, as well as restaurants that serve fresh catch of the day.

The 200 friendly locals of Victoria-by-the-Sea are a strong community, though welcoming as well. There are some great places to eat, small theatres and cosy accommodation options.

6. Banff, Alberta

Banff National ParkSource: flickr
Banff National Park

Nestled in the Canadian Rockies is the picturesque town of Banff. Banff sits right inside the Banff National Park and is a main gateway to the majestic mountains.

The town sits at an elevation of 1,400 metres above sea level, boasting fantastic views of its surroundings. It is a popular tourist destination that has much to offer, including skiing, hiking and biking.

Banff can be visited year round, though it is busiest in the winter and summer months. Attractions within the town include the Cave and Basin National Historic site, The Banff Centre, Banff Gondola and Banff Upper Hot Springs.

7. Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec

Baie-Saint-PaulSource: flickr

Not only was Baie-Saint-Paul the muse of the Canadian painters the Group of Seven, but it is also the origin of the world-renowned Cirque du Soleil. It is a bohemian town with stunning surrounding.

Baie-Saint-Paul sits on the northern shore of the Saint Lawrence River just to the northeast of Quebec City. Its streets are not only lined with artist’s studios, galleries, unique restaurants and boutiques, but also with magnificent century-old houses.

The town has been a long time retreat for elite Quebecois thanks to its charming atmosphere. It is a great place for a day trip, though staying a few nights is highly recommended.

8. Canora, Saskatchewan

Canadian Northern RailwaySource: flickr
Canadian Northern Railway

The community of Canora is quite small, having a population of just 2,200 people. Still, it is a pleasant town with beautiful surroundings.

Good Spirit Lake, Crystal Lake and Duck Mountain Provincial Park are all within close proximity of the town, giving it the nickname the ‘Heart of Good Spirit Country’. Canora also features numerous golf courses.

Canora is named after the Canadian Northern Railway, as the town was built in 1905 around a railway station. Be sure to visit the CN Station House Museum to learn more about its history.

9. Churchill, Manitoba

Polar bearSource: flickr
Polar bear

Churchill sits on the Hudson Bay’s west shore in northern Manitoba. Today, the former trading town is famous for its polar bears, giving it the nickname the ‘Polar Bear Capital of the World’.

Polar bear sightings is what has made the town famous and its main draw for tourists. It is also a great place to spot beluga whales, making it a hot spot both in the fall and the summer months.

The aurora borealis is another reason to visit the town of Churchill.

10. Springdale, Newfoundland and Labrador

Springdale WetlandsSource: flickr
Springdale Wetlands

Springdale is an attractive town that sits on the shores of Halls Bay in Central Newfoundland. It is filled with attractions, including a lovely harbour, a tranquil beach, Mainmast Museum and the H.C. Grant Heritage Museum.

Springdale attracts several outdoor lovers as a result of its unique ecosystem. Moose, ducks and Canadian geese can often be spotted. It is also a great place for whale-watching.

An interesting fact about Springdale is that it is the hometown of actress Natasha Henstridge.

11. Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

Mahone BaySource: flickr
Mahone Bay

This picturesque maritime town has a population of just 900 people, but it is a lovely little place that is known for its historical wooden boat buildings. The town sits along the shore of Mahone Bay and it quite a romantic destination.

The harbour is famous for its views of three prominent churches, which can often be seen on postcards of the province. It is also noted for its upscale restaurants and boutiques, which cater to the mass amount of tourists that visit each summer.

Surrounding Mahone Bay are a number of trails for hiking, biking and skiing. Visit the Mahone Bay Museum to learn more about the history of the town.

12. Rankin Inlet, Nunavut

Matchbox GallerySource: matchboxgallery
Matchbox Gallery

Rankin Inlet is an Inuit community that sits on the on Kudlulik Peninsula on the north western shores of Hudson Bay. It is named after the Inuit word for ‘deep inlet’.

The town was inhabited by the Thule people in 1,200 AD, with the Inuit people starting to live there from the 18th century onwards. Today, it has a population of around 2,500 people.

Rankin Inlet is known for its incredible arts and crafts and is actually home to the world’s only Inuit fine-arts ceramics production facility. The Matchbox Gallery is the best place to admire art from the community.

13. Fort Smith, Northwest Territories

Wood Buffalo National Park near Fort SmithSource: flickr
Wood Buffalo National Park near Fort Smith

Fort Smith is located on the Slave River in the south eastern part of the Northwest Territories. It used to be an important hub for transport between the Western Arctic and Canada, but today the town is a major tourist destination.

Fort Smith is the gateway to Canada’s largest national park; the Wood Buffalo National Park. Many visitors also come here to go kayaking or rafting along the river, or to enjoy the annual South Slave Friendship Festival.

In addition to its stunning natural surroundings, Fort Smith also has some indoor attractions that are worth checking out. These include the Northern Life Museum and Cultural Centre and its numerous historic building.

14. Paris, Ontario

ParisSource: flickr

Paris is nothing like the European city, apart from the fact that it is dissected by a river. Oddly enough, the pretty town is named after gypsum deposits that are used to make plaster of Paris.

Paris is located on the Grand River in Southern Ontario. Its town centre is home to numerous historic buildings, lovely cafés, unique shops and great restaurants.

It is the main gateway to Barker’s Bush, which is a famous hiking and cycling area. It also hosts numerous motorcycle races in its Paris Speedway Track.

15. Watson Lake, Yukon

Signpost ForestSource: flickr
Signpost Forest

Watson Lake is known for being one of the world’s best places to see the Northern Lights, though its hip downtown area makes it a unique little town.

Famous attractions in the town include the interactive Northern Lights Centre and the Signpost Forest, which features over 100,000 signs from around the world. Visitors are encouraged to post their own sign here.

The Alaska Highway runs right through Watson Lake, so it is quite easily accessible. It is also served by a small airport that handles private and charter aircrafts.

15 Best Small Towns to Visit in Canada:

  • Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
  • Yarmouth, Nova Scotia
  • St Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick
  • Nelson, British Columbia
  • Victoria-by-the-Sea, Prince Edward Island
  • Banff, Alberta
  • Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec
  • Canora, Saskatchewan
  • Churchill, Manitoba
  • Springdale, Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia
  • Rankin Inlet, Nunavut
  • Fort Smith, Northwest Territories
  • Paris, Ontario
  • Watson Lake, Yukon