Hidden Gems Of The East: A Tour Through Canada’s National Parks, From Ontario To The East

words & photos :: Glen Harris

What is it about being challenged by those who love you, that works so well as a life motivator? My wife Signy laughed at my idea of a three-month national parks tour from Ontario to the East Coast. Then, the next thing we knew, we were off.

Headed down the road I couldn’t help thinking, What have I done? I miss my dog, and friends, house, sailboat… and right now I miss having a bit of space from the people I’m crammed in a car with.

I turned up the music—just be present, right? First Wave satellite radio was playing Bowie’s “Heroes”. The warm wind was blowing through the car, and I settled in as shotgun.

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“Dad, can you can change the music to Hits, please?”

My son Leo didn’t like Hits, though; he wanted quiet. Signy wanted quiet as well.

Then, silence. We were speeding away from the lovely Blue Mountains, home. Shrugging off the agita, I rolled the window down a little further.

“Can you put that up, please? I just put the AC on.” It wasn’t a question.

There ended up being many questions that day though:

What’s to eat?

Which way do we go?

Can we pull over?

What’s the point of this?

How much longer? How much longer? How much longer?

Is there anything else to eat?

There were low points that first day, oh there were many. Divider walls of pillows between my daughter and son in the back seat. Suck attacks (mostly by me).

Little did we know all the joy and wonder that we were about to find as the miles piled up.

Little did I know how tight we’d get as a clan on the road. Little did I know that I actually liked top-40 music from time to time. The playground of the East is vast. The parks are all off the hook. And the people are so darn nice it’s unnerving. They just look right at you and make conversation. They slow it down, and generally speaking take it in better. Their mountains are big, beaches long, and parks massive.

Canada’s got it going on, no doubt about it. Take the time to get to know it. Take the time to know your family. Take time in our national parks. And thank you, Siri.

Pukaskwa
Known for its multi-day hikes and beautiful and remote shoreline, Pukaskwa National Park is located in Ontario on the northeastern shore of Lake Superior.

The Greatest Lake. Superior holds 1/10th of the world’s freshwater and feels like an ocean with its surf and mass.

 

Pow Wow jingle dresses and cultural pride. Anishinaabe warrior dances during the Ojibway Pow Wow grand entry.

 

Cruising the Pukaskwa beaches on a calm day.

Gaspe

Forillon National Park is located on the outer tip of the Gaspe Peninsula in Northern Quebec. There are heritage centres, lookouts, biking and hiking trails, and stunner Acadian shoreline view. Nearby is iconic Perce Rock, a GeoPark, zip-lines, and a glass-bottom lookout. All impress big time. There’s the French culture and Acadian Pride that has to be felt to be understood.

Humpback Whale, Forillon National Park.

 

World-class singletrack at Mont Bechervaise

 

Acadian driftwood.

 

Gannets in Bonaventure National Park, Perce, Quebec.

 

Sea Kayakers, Forillon

 

Seaside cliffs, Forillon


Keji

Kejimkujik National Park can be summed up in three Canadian words: Rivers, Trails, Lakes. Boasting over 400 square kilometres in total, Nova Scotia’s Keji boasts eight major lakes, four main rivers, and 47 km of trails.

Parks Canada guide showing off a Mi’kmaq petroglyph in Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia

 

Slapfoot Beach at Kejimkujik offers the best sunset swim.

 

Making friends along the way at Keji.

Fundy

Where else can you walk on the ocean floor, descend on endless singletrack bike trails, catch live music, explore covered bridges and paddle through cascading fog, all in one day—or maybe two? Located just an hour and a half away from Saint John, NB, Fundy National Park provides.

Upper Salmon River Estuary

 

 

Water lilies hide the largest tadpoles i’ve ever seen at Fundy’s Bennett Lake.

 

The Bay Of Fundy’s rides are the worlds highest, up to 50 feet in range. So when they ‘re low the shoreline reveals miles of untracked sea floor to explore.

Cape Breton Highlands National Park & PEI National Park

 

Noa Harris on the big zip, Mountain Alpine Adventures near Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

 

Parks Canada Guide Scott Aucoin takes us to the goods with a secret Cape Breton river hike.

 

 

Body surfing at one of Cape Breton’s many sand beaches overrides the day’s plans.

 

Sunsets abide at PEI National Park

 

Boardwalk through the dunes in PEI National Park.


Newfoundland

In Newfoundland we visited Gros Morne National Park on the west coast, Terra Nova National Park on the east coast, plus Fisher’s Loft Inn, Port Rexton, north of St. John’s. Our last stop was Fogo Island.

Kinda hard to believe none of this granite has been climbed.

 

Pond near Gros Morne national Park Campground.

 

Off the northeast coast of Newfoundland lies Fogo Island. Fogo’s incredible network of trails continues to grow thanks to guide Peter Decker.
Fogo Island inn.

 

Riding Fisher’s loft.

 

Cape Spear, the most Easterly point in North America.

 

The walk to breakfast at Fisher’s Loft Inn.

 

Teenage bald eagle in Terra Nova

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