We’d bet our bottom Loonie when people think about island destinations, Canada is pretty low on their list. While our country might not rank high on the list of exotic tropical getaways, you can still find plenty of gorgeous islands in every corner of the Great White North. 

Whatever your taste is, be it dreamy white sand beaches or a view of the city skyline along the shore, we’ve rounded up some unique island communities you may want to add to your bucket list of places to visit!

Best Canadian Island to Visit

1. Baffin Island, Nunavut

Tucked between Greenland and the Canadian mainland, you’ll find a quintessentially arctic island—remote, rugged, and rich with Inuit culture. Baffin Island is the largest island in Canada (and fifth largest in the world), sitting on the easternmost edge of Nunavut and spanning 507,451 square kilometers. The island sees upwards of 50,000 visitors a year! Many of these tourists are adventure seekers on cruises, expeditions to the glacier-capped mountains and dramatic fjordscapes, or missions to experience the Northern lights. 

Baffin Island is not for the faint of heart—its northern location means the area has extreme weather all year. The average temperature is around -7 C to -8 C. In winter, expect -30 C as the norm. The weather warms up during the summer months, but the sun barely sets, leaving the area with 24 hours of daylight.   

Baffin Island isn’t connected to mainland Canada by road, so your only options are to travel by air or sea. Flights are often via Ottawa, Edmonton, Montreal, Winnipeg, or Yellowknife. Expedition cruises also depart from other northern regions. Once you’re on the island, you can get around by hiking, skiing, snowmobile, dog sled, boat, or charter flights. 

Baffin Island

On Baffin Island, you can spend hours in the wilderness or learning about Inuit culture and taking part in traditional activities. Here are some suggestions:

  • Visit two of Canada’s largest national parks: Auyuittuq National Park and Sirmilik National Park. The parks are open year-round, but the early season runs from March to May. Auyuittuq is home to many hiking routes and the majestic Mount Thor, which features the tallest vertical drop in the world. Sirmilik is where you can embark on a polar bear safari, marine life watching, sea kayaking, fishing, and more.
  • Explore Inuit history and culture at the Unikkaarvik Visitor Centre’s museum and the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum. You can also visit galleries and souvenir shops in the area to grab some keepsakes. 
  • Attend the Toonik Tyme Festival in the spring to take in more Inuit art, try your hand at traditional games, and taste the local cuisine. 

As of the 2016 census, Baffin is home to about 13,000 inhabitants, many of whom live in Iqaluit (about 7,700 people). The territory’s other communities, including Arviat, Cambridge Bay, and Rankin Inlet, have populations of more than 1,000 people. Iqaluit in particular has more than 3,000 housing units with an average housing price of $376,640, per the territory’s official website. 

For more information about Baffin Island, check out the Nunavut Tourism website.

Facts About Baffin IslandImage via Alex Beattie on Flickr, CC BY 2.0" data-medium-file="https://i0.wp.com/e-realtor.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Article_03-19.jpg?fit=280%2C160&ssl=1" data-large-file="https://i0.wp.com/e-realtor.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Article_03-19.jpg?fit=840%2C480&ssl=1" data-recalc-dims="1" />
Image via Alex Beattie on FlickrCC BY 2.0

2. Salt Spring Island, British Columbia

Salt Spring Island is the most populated of the 365 Gulf Islands located between Vancouver and mainland British Columbia. The island is about 5,000 years old and part of the traditional territory of the Saanich, Chemainus First Nations, and Cowichan. Often referred to as the “jewel of the Southern Gulf Islands,” Salt Spring boasts a diverse landscape with picturesque beaches, valleys, bays, coves, and mountains. If a laid-back seaside retreat is what you dream of, this is the spot for you!

Salt Spring Island is accessible by ferry from Vancouver or Victoria. Depending on where your departure point is, and how many stops are along the way, it may take between 20 minutes to three hours. You can also opt for a seaplane from downtown Vancouver or the airport for a faster commute. The island is quite small, so once you arrive you can get around by foot, bike, or car.

Salt Spring Island

The island’s history as an agriculture, farming, and artisan hub continues to define its culture. You can stay at one of the many charming bed and breakfasts or inns, then venture out into the town of Ganges for a selection of shops, galleries and restaurants. There’s a lot more to do: 

  • Rent an e-bike or scooter and go on a tour of the island. You can get around the entire area in about 90 minutes!
  • Hike the Mount Erskine trail and feel the magic of the fairies. Locals carve and decorate “fairy doors” attached to tree trunks or boulders along the route.
  • Swim at Vesuvius Beach, which not only has shallow water, but it’s also the warmest water in the area.
  • Go kayaking at Ganges Harbour and adventure to some of the other neighbouring islands. You can choose a self-guided paddle or join one of the tours offered by Salt Spring Adventures.
  • Shop and eat local at the Saturday Market. The weekly market starts in the spring and runs through October. You’ll find hundreds of vendors offering jewelery, pottery, artwork, clothing and accessories, food, body care products and more.

Salt Spring has a population of about 11,000 people. Some of its famous residents include Canadian painter Robert Bateman. Listings on REALTOR.ca as of September range from $115,000 for a plot of land to upwards of $5 million for a three-bedroom home on a 15-acre property with valley and mountain views. 

If you’re thinking of investing in a vacation or permanent home on Salt Springs, a REALTOR® can help you find a property within your budget.

A Guide to Salt Spring Island BC Image Le Living & Co on Flickr, CC BY 2.0" data-medium-file="https://i0.wp.com/e-realtor.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Article_05-11.jpg?fit=280%2C160&ssl=1" data-large-file="https://i0.wp.com/e-realtor.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Article_05-11.jpg?fit=840%2C480&ssl=1" data-recalc-dims="1" />
Image via Le Living & Co on FlickrCC BY 2.0

3. Île d’Orleans, Quebec   

The Saint Lawrence river is a gift that keeps on giving. From Quebec City to the Saguenay fjord, there’s no shortage of scenic communities along the mighty river, but one of its most beautiful sites is Ile d’Orleans or Orleans Island. Originally home to the Huron people before the French settlers arrived. 

An all-season destination for solo visitors, couples and families, Île d’Orleans offers a little bit of everything—from countryside explorations, to cultural activities, to gastronomic experiences. Visitors are especially attracted to the historical churches and ancestral homes that date back to the 1700s.  

The best time to visit the island is during the summer and fall, but winter offers enough activities (snowmobiling, dog sledding, ice fishing, etc.) to keep your visit interesting. 

Île d'Orleans, Quebec

Île d’Orleans island is easy to get to and navigate. Depending on where you’re coming from, you can travel by car, bus, train, or plane via Quebec City. The drive from downtown Quebec City to the island is about 30 kilometers. While on the island, you can try these activities: 

  • Smell the flowers at the Seigneurie de l’Île d’Orleans. You’ll find all sorts of blooms, greenery, lavender, carved stone, medieval-style towers, a fruit garden, a waterfall, and even a vineyard!  
  • Go wine tasting. You’d be remiss if you don’t find out for yourself why Jacques Cartier referred to the island as the “Isle of Bacchus” in 1535. The namesake vineyard offers personalized tasting experiences with stunning views to boot. 
  • Step back in time with a visit to the restored Mauvide-Genest Manor. The 18th century stone house is a national historic site that will help you deepen your knowledge of Quebec’s New France era. Guided tours are available. 
  • Indulge your sweet tooth at the sugar shack and chocolate factory. For all things chocolate, from artisanal bars to hot chocolate, check out the Chocolaterie de l’Île d’Orleans. For a quintessential French-Canadian experience, Érablière Richard Boily is the place to be. Explore maple tree forests, learn how maple syrup is made and enjoy treats like maple taffy during sugaring season.

Île d’Orleans is home to 7,000 people spread across six municipalities. Single family homes on the island are listed on REALTOR.ca between $200,000 and $600,000, as of September 2022. These prices are below the national average—which, as of August 2022, was $$637,673—making the island an attractive place for anyone looking for a quieter lifestyle not too far removed from nature and the city. 

Discovering île d'Orléans

4. Fogo Island, Newfoundland and Labrador

Travel enthusiasts will be no stranger to Fogo, the island within an island. This Newfoundland and Labrador destination is often featured in travel and tourism magazines for its rolling rocky landscape and unique geographic placement. 

The island is home to some of the world’s most stunning modern architectural structures. It’s also a breeding ground for Atlantic puffins, who arrive by the thousands to nest on the island. 

Flying into St. John’s, Gander, or Deer Lake then taking a charter plane or helicopter is the best way to get to Fogo Island. Alternatively, you can take a ferry from Gander for a crossing that takes about 45 minutes. Depending on the trip you select, you may get a chance to see the Change Islands and Hamilton Sound during the ride. You can’t book the ferry in advance, so check the schedule and show up early to guarantee yourself a spot. 

Fogo Island

Todd Saunders, Newfoundland and Labrador-born, Norway-based architect who designed Fogo Island Inn joined the CREA Real Time Podcast in June 2022 to share what REALTORS® can learn from architecture.

As far as activities are concerned, you’ll have lots to do: 

  • Feast and revel at the Fogo Island Inn. The Nordic-style hotel is set on stilts and rises above other structures and the Atlantic Ocean. Regarded by the press, from New York Times to Vogue to EnRoute magazine, as one of the best places in the world to visit, the hotel’s restaurant serves gourmet fare that blends traditional and modern flavors and techniques. You can stay at the inn or any of the quaint bed and breakfasts on the island.

“When I recount my time spent there, it’s not the boat trip out to touch an iceberg or spying a minke whale from the ocean-view restaurant that I go on about, but rather the utopian hospitality model.” – Condé Nast Traveler

  • Check out abandoned fishing communities. Fishing used to be a year-round activity in many parts of Fogo Island, but since that’s no longer the case, you can visit fishing ghost “towns” for a view of abandoned fishing stages, sheds and homes that date back to the 1930s. 
  • Walk the island with Al Dwyer. The local guide and storyteller offers tours of Oliver’s Cove and Titling. The latter is the only Irish settlement on Fogo Island so you’ll learn about their influence on the area. Stop at Sandy Cove Beach after for a swim at one of Newfoundland’s prettiest shores.
  • Go whale and dolphin watching. Fogo Island’s coast offers spectacular whale and marine life viewing opportunities. You may spot humpbacks, finback or minke whales, and white-beaked dolphins. While you’re at it, you might spot icebergs that break off from Greenland and float through Iceberg Alley!
  • Shop to your heart’s content at Fogo Island Workshops. The store carries contemporary furniture, textiles, and home goods by local artists.

Fogo island has a population of just over 2,000 people. The housing market on the island is competitive with REALTOR.ca home listings ranging from $179,000 to $399,000, as of September 2022. These prices align with the average piece of homes sold in other parts of Newfoundland and Labrador in August 2022, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. 

You can grab a travel guide or get in touch with the Newfoundland and Labrador tourism office for more information on visiting Fogo Island.

Newfoundland and Labrador tourismCédric Blondeau via Unsplash" data-medium-file="https://i0.wp.com/e-realtor.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Article_09-2.jpg?fit=280%2C160&ssl=1" data-large-file="https://i0.wp.com/e-realtor.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Article_09-2.jpg?fit=840%2C480&ssl=1" data-recalc-dims="1" />
Cédric Blondeau via Unsplash

5. Toronto Islands, Ontario

Toronto Islands, sometimes referred to as “Toronto Island Park” or simply “The Island” is one of the most popular destinations in Canada. Situated right on Lake Ontario, the five kilometre-long island offers a relaxing refuge from the bustling city while reminding you that home isn’t too far away through incredible views of the Toronto skyline. 

One of the things making Toronto Islands unique is how it’s made up of 15 small islands connected by bridges and trails. 

You can access the island from downtown Toronto by ferry. Rides depart every 30 minutes from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and go to three destinations: Centre, Hanlan’s, and Ward’s Island. You can also take a private water taxi to get to any of the islands. 

Toronto Islands, Ontario

From one end to another, you’ll find beaches, an amusement park, a theatre, a marina, hiking and cycling trails, and sports facilities. Here are some other things you can do:

  • Check out the 200-year-old lighthouse. Gibraltar Point Lighthouse is the oldest on the Great Lakes and the second oldest in Canada. Naturally, spooky local lores about the structure exist but don’t let it stop you from paying it a visit.
  • Take a ride at Centreville. The 50-year-old amusement park offers western-themed entertainment to people of all ages. Entry into the park is free, but you’ll need to pay for the rides. The park has more than 30 rides, a ton of midway games, and food stalls.
  • Pet the alpacas at the farm. Right next to Centreville is Far Enough Farm, a fully functioning farm that’s been around for more than 60 years.
  • Find your way out of the maze. Challenge yourself and see if you can make it through the William Meany Maze, which features paths lined with more than 1000 cedar trees. 

The island is home to a small community of about 600 permanent residents. They reside in cottage-style homes more than a century old. Unlike other places on this list, buying or leasing a home on Toronto Islands follows a unique process. 

As outlined in the Toronto Islands Residential Community Stewardship Act of 1993, potential buyers are required to be put on a waiting list of maximum 500 people. Only people on this list can qualify to buy or lease a home, and names are added to the list through a lottery draw. The announcement for the lottery is placed in one major newspaper and on the Toronto Islands website. There are no specific dates for when homes go on sale. Typically two to three homes are listed every year. The prices range from around $500,000 to $700,000. Buyers must also pay a one-time lease fee between $60,000 and $76,000, depending on which island the home is on. 

There you have it. You don’t need to travel outside of Canada to find islands that offer an escape from the day-to-day. Whichever of the islands on this list you set your sights on, you will not be disappointed with the sheer amount of beautiful landscapes, fun activities, historical landmarks, and most importantly, Canadian hospitality and spirit. 

Courtesy: realtor.ca

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