One of the greatest joys of being a newcomer to Canada is the opportunity to explore and enjoy all that your new country has to offer.
Canada is known as one of the world’s most beautiful countries. As the planet’s second largest country, it can boast a wide array of different landscapes, including desert, mountains, prairie, urban cities, and sparkling lakes. It is also home to thousands and thousands of kilometres of pristine coastline (202,080 km, to be exact!).
With its staggering amount of coastline, it is no wonder that Canada is home to thousands of islands, all exhibiting their own unique climate, geography, and character. From arctic tundra vistas to Maritime cultural hubs, from First Nations art centres to verdant Pacific coast paradises, Canadian islands can offer something for everyone.
Check out our list of 10 Beautiful Canadian Islands and get out there and experience them in all their natural glory!
Prince Edward Island
We’re starting our list with the only Canadian province to have no land boundary at all. That's right – Prince Edward Island (PEI) is a self-contained island and is one of the country’s oldest European settlements. With a long history of Anglo-Saxon, Nordic, Celtic and French culture, this is a place well worth visiting for its human heritage as well as its natural beauty.
PEI is notable as the setting for L.M. Montgomery's beloved Anne of Green Gables books. In fact, many people travel from around the globe to see the sites that the red headed orphan inhabits in the story!
That said, there is far more than just children’s literature to enjoy. The island is known for its rugged beaches, countless trails, and quaint villages. Getting here is easier than ever, as the Confederation Bridge connects PEI to New Brunswick and the rest of mainland Canada beyond.
Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Vancouver Island is located on the western coast of Canada, a few hours by ferry from the British Columbian mainland. Home to the BC capital of Victoria, this large island (larger than most US states!) is home to a diverse range of geography and climates.
This is coastal living at its finest, home to First Nations history and art and dotted with landmark hotels, destination dining, and countless opportunities for outdoor sport and adventure.
Spirit Island, Alberta
An island in the landlocked, prairie province of Alberta? Yes, you read that correctly. The lovely (and surprisingly under-visited) Spirit Island can be found in the glacial waters of the pristine Maligne Lake, located in Jasper.
Visitors love to hop on a 90-minute cruise to experience the stunning Rocky Mountain landscape from the water, and Spirit Island is a favourite photo stop. Haunting, isolated, and unspoiled, this is one of the prettiest spots in Canada.
Haida Gwaii, British Columbia
The Haida Gwaii is an archipelago of raw and beautiful islands off the north coast of British Columbia, formerly called the Queen Charlotte Islands. This is an ancient and sacred Haida First Nations landscape, and today more than half of the population consists of Haida people. The name means "Islands of the People," and people have been living here for more than 13,000 years.
The Haida Gwaii consists of two main islands, Moresby and Graham, as well as more than 450 smaller islands. This includes the S’Gang Gwaay UNESCO World Heritage Site. Getting to Haida Gwaii requires taking a small plane to Sandspit Airport or Masset Airport, or taking a BC Ferries vessel (the terminal is at Skidegate).
Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
Cape Breton Island may be a part of Nova Scotia, but it very much has a culture and identity all its own. Known for its rich Celtic heritage, people from across Canada and beyond visit this isolated island to experience the music, food, and hospitality of the locals. Make sure that you drive the stunning Cabot Trail, and take some time to experience the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site. This is an intact fortress, famous as a French harbor and military outpost, and is not to be missed.
Manitoulin Island, Ontario
Are you ready to explore the world’s largest fresh water island? Then it’s time to head to Manitoulin Island, located in Lake Huron. This is a beautiful island landscape, encompassing more than two dozen small settlements spread across boreal forests and limestone plains.
Fogo Island, Newfoundland and Labrador
Fogo Island is at the very east of Canada, perched off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. English and Irish settlers first arrived here in the 17th century and established a thriving and prosperous fishing industry. However, this industry faltered in the 1950s and Fogo Island experienced hard times, including widespread poverty and unemployment.
Nevertheless, the local people were resilient and never gave up hope. Today this ruggedly beautiful island is a popular travel destination for people from across the Eastern Seaboard. It is known for its dynamic artistic community and is a quaint and pleasant place for a holiday.
The Gulf Islands, British Columbia
The Gulf Islands are a series of lush, green islands found in the Strait of Georgia, located between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia. There are more than 200 islands that make up this archipelago. The most well-known islands include Pender Island, Salt Spring, Pender, Mayne Island, Denman, Galiano, Gabriola Island, and Hornby. These are places to kick back and relax while you enjoy the local art scenes, eat artisanal food, and enjoy locally produced wines and beers.
Magdalene Islands (Îles de la Madeleine), Quebec
Known by Anglo Quebecois as ‘the Maggies,’ The Magdalene Islands are located in the middle of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Known for their sandstone cliffs and sand dunes, they boast an iconic mix of English, Acadian, and Mi’kmaq cultures. These islands might be closer to PEI and Nova Scotia, but they are technically part of Quebec. In fact, they have the culinary traditions to prove it. Make sure you have the lobster — it is fresh and delicious.
Baffin Island, Nunavut
Baffin Island is the largest island in all of Canada (not to mention the fifth largest island in the world), located in the Northern territory of Nunavut. This is not an experience for their faint of heart, as Baffin Island is in the heart of Canada’s vast Arctic tundra. While only 11,000 people live on Baffin Island (most of them Inuit), they offer a plethora of exciting excursions and experiences.
Experiencing Canada’s many islands is one of the best ways to make the most of your new home. Welcome to Canada — now head out to the islands!