Where are the Best Places to See Wildlife in Canada?

Best Places to See Wildlife in Canada
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Welcome, fellow adventurers, to a journey through Canada's untamed wilderness! In this guide from the Ask Genie blog, we're diving deep into the heart of the Great White North to uncover the best spots for encountering its diverse wildlife.

Canada offers a playground for nature enthusiasts seeking unforgettable encounters, from majestic moose to elusive grizzlies. So grab your binoculars, pack your sense of wonder, and let's embark on an expedition like no other.

Wildlife Wonders of Canada

Canada boasts an impressive array of wildlife, thanks to its vast and varied landscapes. From coast to coast, you'll encounter a tapestry of creatures, each uniquely adapted to its environment. Among the native species, keep an eye out for:

  • Moose: Towering over the forest floor, the moose reigns as the largest member of the deer family. Spot these gentle giants grazing along marshy wetlands or meandering through dense forests.
  • Grizzly bears: With their iconic hump and fearsome reputation, grizzlies command respect in the wild. Witness these apex predators in their natural habitat, from the rugged Rockies to the remote reaches of the Yukon.
  • Whales: Canada's coastal waters teem with life, offering prime whale-watching opportunities. Catch a glimpse of majestic orcas off the coast of British Columbia, marvel at humpback whales breaching in the Atlantic, or find beluga whales in the Hudson Bay over the summer.
  • Bald eagles: Symbolizing freedom and strength, bald eagles soar high above Canada's landscapes. Keep your eyes peeled for these magnificent birds of prey, especially near lakes, rivers, and coastal cliffs.
  • Polar bears: Polar bears are found primarily in the Arctic regions, especially around the Western Hudson Bay, including parts of Manitoba and Ontario. They're well-adapted to the cold environment and are considered marine mammals.
  • Bison: Bison and wood bison are often found in Elk Island National Park, where bison conservation efforts are ongoing to ensure the survival and well-being of these majestic creatures.
  • Spirit bears: The spirit bear, also known as a Kermode bear, can be found in Canada, specifically in the coastal rainforests of British Columbia (The Great Bear Rainforest, for example). Spirit bears are a unique subspecies of the American black bear, and what makes them particularly special is their distinctive cream or white-coloured fur.

Best Places to Spot Canadian Wildlife

  1. Banff National Park, Alberta

    two elks with large antlers stand in an open field with trees behind them

    Nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, Banff National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and abundant wildlife. Home to iconic species such as grizzly bears, elk, and mountain goats, this pristine wilderness is a must for nature-lovers.

    Where to stay: Stay at the Fairmont Banff Springs, known as the "Castle in the Rockies," for luxurious accommodations with easy access to the park's trails and wildlife viewing areas.

  2. Churchill, Manitoba

    A polar bear looks directly into the camera as he walks over snowy rocks.

    Located on the shores of Hudson Bay, Churchill is a remote outpost known as the "Polar Bear Capital of the World." Every fall, hungry polar bears gather along the coast, waiting for the sea ice to form so they can begin their annual hunt. Visitors can embark on guided tours to observe these majestic creatures from the safety of specially designed tundra vehicles.

    Where to stay: For accommodations, consider the Lazy Bear Lodge, which offers cozy rooms and expert-led excursions into the wild.

    If you really want to splash out on your next Canada staycation, check out our guide to the top 10 most expensive hotels in Canada.
  3. Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, British Columbia

    An aerial shot of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve’s coast, with waves washing up on the sandy shore and jagged rocks with trees in the background.

    Stretching along the rugged coastline of Vancouver Island, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Explore lush temperate rainforests teeming with black bears, cougars, and bald eagles, or venture out to sea to spot grey whales on their annual migration route.

    Where to stay: The Wickaninnish Inn, perched on a rocky promontory overlooking the Pacific Ocean, provides a luxurious base for your wildlife adventures.

    We’ve created a list of the best resorts in British Columbia, so if you’re heading to BC for a trip, you’ll know exactly where to stay.
  4. Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario

    A bull moose stands in shallow water with long grass behind him.

    As Ontario's oldest provincial park, Algonquin is a treasure trove of biodiversity, with over 2,400 lakes and hundreds of kilometres of hiking trails. As you explore this pristine wilderness, keep your eyes peeled for moose, black bears, and beavers.

    Where to stay: For a rustic yet comfortable stay, check out the Killarney Lodge and stay in cozy cabins nestled amidst towering pines and tranquil lakes.

    To get even more out of your Ontario trip, check out our guide to the top 6 staycations in Ontario.
  5. Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland and Labrador

    An out of focus walker spots a woodland caribou in the hills.

    Gros Morne National Park boasts some of Canada's most dramatic landscapes, like towering fjords and windswept coastlines. Wildlife enthusiasts can spot moose, caribou, and Arctic foxes against the backdrop of ancient geological wonders.

    Where to stay: The Ocean View Hotel, located in the picturesque fishing village of Rocky Harbour, offers stunning views of the park's rugged coastline.
  6. Jasper National Park, Alberta

    A dark brown bear and its cub walk onto a road from a grassy verge, with shrubbery, trees and a river behind them.

    With its jagged peaks and pristine lakes, Jasper National Park is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife lovers alike. Embark on a wildlife safari to catch a glimpse of elk, bighorn sheep, and elusive grizzly bears roaming the park's vast wilderness.

    Where to stay: The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge provides luxurious accommodations amidst the stunning natural beauty of the Canadian Rockies.

    We’ve also created a guide on where to see the northern lights in Alberta, which you won’t want to miss if you’re visiting.
  7. Tofino, British Columbia

    A whale with a black body and white fins emerges from the sea.

    Surrounded by old-growth forests and expansive beaches, Tofino is blessed with coastal charm and natural beauty. Join a guided tour to spot grey whales breaching offshore or explore tidal pools teeming with marine life.

    Where to stay: The Wickaninnish Inn, located on Chesterman Beach, has glorious oceanfront accommodations with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.
  8. Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia

    Grassy hills at sunset with a view to the sea.

    Perched on the northern tip of Cape Breton Island, this coastal gem is home to rugged cliffs, pristine beaches, and diverse wildlife. Keep an eye out for bald eagles soaring overhead or seals basking on rocky shores as you explore the park's scenic trails.

    Where to stay: The Keltic Lodge Resort and Spa, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, offers upscale accommodations amidst the park's stunning natural landscapes.
  9. Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta

    Red Rock Creek with a stream running through it. There is a mountain and woodlands in the background.

    Tucked away in the southwestern corner of Alberta, Waterton Lakes National Park is a hidden gem for wildlife enthusiasts. Embark on a guided hike to spot bighorn sheep, mule deer, and other native species amidst the park's rugged terrain.

    Where to stay: The Waterton Lakes Lodge Resort, located in the charming village of Waterton, provides comfortable accommodations near the park entrance.
  10. Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan

    Three brown elk grazing in a meadow with trees lining the background of the image.

    Experience the beauty of the Canadian prairies at Prince Albert National Park, where dense forests and shimmering lakes provide habitat for a variety of wildlife species. Join a guided wildlife tour to spot bison, white-tailed deer, and black bears roaming freely in their natural habitat.

    Where to stay: The Waskesiu Lake Lodge has snug accommodations surrounded by pristine wilderness, making it the perfect base for wildlife adventures.

The Best Times to Witness Canada's Wildlife Spectacle

Timing is everything when it comes to wildlife spotting in Canada. Each season comes with unique opportunities to encounter different species in their natural habitats. Here's a breakdown of the best times of year to maximize your chances of unforgettable wildlife encounters:

Spring (March to May):

  • Bear watching: Spring marks the awakening of Canada's bears from their winter slumber. In places like the Banff and Jasper National Parks, grizzly and black bears emerge from hibernation searching for food, making it a wonderful time for bear-watching tours.
  • Bird migration: Canada is a crucial stopover for birds migrating along the Pacific and Atlantic flyways. Coastal areas such as Tofino and Cape Breton Highlands National Park are prime bird-watching locations as shorebirds, seabirds, and waterfowl return to their breeding grounds.
  • Whale watching: Along the Pacific coast of British Columbia, spring brings the return of grey whales on their annual migration from Mexico to Alaska. Tofino and Pacific Rim National Park Reserve have excellent opportunities to witness these majestic marine mammals as they pass by on their journey north.

Summer (June to August):

  • Wildlife in the Rockies: Summer is the peak season for wildlife viewing in the Canadian Rockies. With longer days and milder temperatures, animals like elk, moose, and bighorn sheep are more active and visible along hiking trails and scenic drives in Banff, Jasper, and Waterton Lakes National Parks.
  • Marine wildlife: Coastal regions like Tofino and Prince Edward Island come alive with marine life during the summer months. Join a whale-watching tour to see humpback whales, orcas, and minke whales feeding in nutrient-rich waters while seals, sea lions, and otters frolic along rocky shores.

Fall (September to November):

  • Polar bear season: Fall is the best time to visit Churchill, Manitoba, for a chance to see polar bears in the wild. As temperatures drop and sea ice begins to form, polar bears gather along the coast, waiting for the opportunity to hunt for seals on the ice floes of Hudson Bay.
  • Moose rut: In Algonquin Provincial Park and other forested areas, fall is the mating season for moose, known as the rut. Witness male moose competing for the attention of females, displaying impressive antlers and engaging in dramatic displays of dominance.

Winter (December to February):

  • Northern lights and wildlife: While winter may seem like a quiet time for wildlife, this is certainly not true for Canada's northern regions. In places like Yukon and Northwest Territories, you can combine wildlife watching with a chance to see the mesmerizing aurora borealis dance across the night sky. Read our blog for a comprehensive guide to the best places to see the Northern Lights in Canada. [link when live]
  • Arctic wildlife: For the ultimate Arctic adventure, consider a winter expedition to Churchill or Baffin Island, where you can witness iconic species such as polar bears, Arctic foxes, and snowy owls against a backdrop of pristine snowscapes.

Tips for Wildlife Watching Adventures

  • Dress for success: Layer up and dress appropriately for the weather, as Canadian climates can be unpredictable.
  • Bring binoculars: Enhance your wildlife viewing experience with binoculars or a spotting scope to experience the animals from a safe distance.
  • Go local: Consider booking guided tours with experts who can offer insights into the area's wildlife and ecosystems.
  • Respect nature: Practice Leave No Trace principles and avoid disturbing wildlife or their habitats.
  • Check the weather: Be prepared for changing weather conditions, especially in remote wilderness areas.

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