10 must-visit Canadian historical sites

by Julie Bruns

Though Canada is a relatively young country, it has a history that extends far past its 1867 founding. These historical spots let you explore that history, from dinosaurs to a rich First Nations history, the fur trade and wars for independence. [Image credit: iStock.com/Woodkern]

10 must-visit Canadian historical sites

1. Drumheller, Alberta

Let’s start with a trip waaaay back. Jump to the pre-historic times as you explore Drumheller’s Royal Tyrell Museum and the eerie Dinosaur Provincial Park beyond. The badlands around this area have been the site for many a discovery of ancient bones and the museum itself holds over 130,000 fossils.

2. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Alberta

Herding buffalo over buffalo jumps – essentially sending huge herds crashing to their death below – was a Plains people’s technique of hunting with a 6,000-year long history. This remarkably well-preserved jump in Alberta, which has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the oldest and lets you picture just how the hunt worked back then.

3. L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland

In 1492, Columbus may have sailed the ocean blue, but the Vikings beat him to North America by half a century, and set up a village in L’Anse aux Meadows around 1000 AD. The site now features recreations of their sod homes and boats, and is a great spot to start your historical tour of Canada.

4. Barkerville, British Columbia

Gold! That was the cry that went up in Barkerville in 1862, and suddenly a bustling mining town sprang up in the middle of the B.C. wilderness. Today, the site has been preserved as a giant open-air museum, where you can wander around stables, shops, working hotels and restaurants, a bakery and church that have been kept looking like a page out of a history book.

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5. Fortifications of Quebec, Quebec

Perched atop cliffs (to make the city easier to defend), Old Quebec features elegant European-inspired design and picturesque views over the St. Lawrence river. Lucky for us, this carefully fortified location kept it from being destroyed in battle, and we can still visit it today.

6. Lower Fort Garry, Manitoba

Immerse yourself in Canada’s fur trade history at Lower Fort Garry. Briefly the headquarters for the Hudson’s Bay Company in the 1830s, the fort then had a chequered past as a station for the British military, a gathering point for adversaries of Louis Riel, and even an insane asylum.

7. Batoche, Saskatchewan

It may look peaceful now, but flash back to 1885, and you would find Batoche the site of a fierce four-day battle as Canda’s Metis rose up in the Northwest Rebellion to fight for their rights behind Louis Riel. Some of the preserved buildings even have bullet holes still visible.

8. Stanley Park, British Columbia

Stanley Park is dotted with historical plaques and markers, making it a veritable treasure trove of Vancouver history. From Deadman’s Island to the Nine O’Clock Gun, the Totem Pole display, Siwash Rock and more, so many of the features in the park have a rich story behind them. The entire site has also been home to several First Nations villages before the spot even became a park, extending the history of the location back even further.

9. Wanuskewin, Saskatchewan

Archaeological excavation started in Wanuskewin in the 1970s and has revealed 6,000 years worth of history surrounding the people who lived in the plains, including a still-mysterious Medicine Wheel, bison jumps, bow and arrow technology, and more. Take a trip back in time here, and connect with the ancient origins of Canada.

10. L.M. Montgomery’s Cavendish Home, Prince Edward Island

If you’ve read Anne of Green Gables, this is a historical spot that you definitely need to add to your bucket list. This charming home is the setting of the Anne books as well as the actual home of author Lucy Maud Montgomery, and exploring it is like stepping right into the novels for a moment.

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