Canada’s top 10 thrills for adrenalin junkies
For the action-oriented, Canada’s great outdoors are where adventure stories are born and boasted about. Here’s a top 10 list of lifetime thrills for those who think there’s no mountain high enough, no rapid swift enough — and that relaxed poolside vacations are strictly for wimps.
From the site of an old quarry, just 20 minutes outside Ottawa, ON, in Wakefield, QC, Great Canadian Bungee is home to North America’s highest bungee jump. The “Goliath” is a 61-m (200-ft) leap over a limestone ampitheatre and aqua-blue lagoon the size of three football fields. (Watch a video.) The “Center of Gravity” in the gargantuan West Edmonton Mall (in Edmonton, AB) is the world’s highest jump from an indoor bungee tower, looming 30.5 m (100 ft) over the Blue Thunder wave pool. It’s also where the Guinness World Recordwas set for most bungee jumps by one person in 24 hours. ( Watch a video.) WildPlay Element Parks built North America’s first dedicated bungee bridge, which rises 46 m (150 ft) over a river canyon in Nanaimo, BC. (Watch a video.) A new WildPlay Maple Ridge location just opened this past summer near Golden Ears Provincial Park in Maple Ridge, BC.
Reel in the biggest fish of your life on Canada’s Atlantic Coast, where giant bluefin tuna is a prime catch of the day. Check out the photo of a championship 392-kg (865-lb) bluefin caught on one of MacNeill’s Deep Sea Fishing charters in North Lake, PEI, the “Tuna Capital of the World.” Lunenburg Ocean Adventures, based in historic Lunenburg, NS, books deep-sea fishing charters; you can also fish for giant mako, blue and porbeagle sharks (that can weigh in at 136 kg or 300 lbs). Note, though, that shark fishing is hook-and-release by law, except for tournaments. Much of British Columbia’s best deep-sea fishing can be found on Fishing BC Online. The prize catch here is wild salmon and halibut, and the raw rugged scenery is all part of the package.
Gnarly, epic, killer… the superlatives all apply to mountain biking in Canada, where some of the country’s best ski hills become optimum bike terrain in the summer. Mont-Sainte-Anne in Quebec lays claim to one of the best mountain-bike networks in eastern Canada and is the only place in the world where a mountain-biking world cup has been held every year since 1991. Mont-Sainte-Anne just hosted the UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championships. Go off-road in Ontario on the Alcoa or Black Ash trails in the gorgeous scenery of southern Georgian Bay and Lake Simcoe. At Whistler Mountain Bike Park in Whistler, BC, get air on green-circle, blue-square, black-diamond and double-black-diamond trails like the World Cup Single Track, Ho Chi Min, Hornet and Boneyard. The Garbanzo area offers 671 vertical m (2,200 vertical ft) of single-track trails, while the Air Dome is 780 sq m (8,400 sq ft) of indoor space filled with jumps, ramps and a foam pit for downhill, Slopestyle, Dirt Jump and BMX bikes.
Rock and ice climbing
Climbing in a province fondly known as “The Rock” also means scaling million of years of geology in Newfoundland and Labrador‘s breathtaking, yet barren, climbing zones. In Newfoundland, consider the 100 routes of Flatrock or ice climbing in Stiles Cove. Tackle 2,700 million-year-old rocks, some of the oldest in the world, on Mount Razorback in Labrador’s Torngat Mountains. Check the Newfoundland Climbing Guide. Chrome and azure ice, and some 800 frozen waterfalls, attract ice climbers to the Canadian Rockies in Alberta and the Columbia Icefields. Experienced local guides, Rockies Ice Specialists, operate out of climbers’ base towns Banff, Canmore and Lake Louise, AB.
In Canada’s frozen Far North, snowmobiling is both a recreational sport and a necessary mode of transportation. Snowmobiling in the Northwest Territories includes guided tours around Great Slave Lake, one of the largest lakes in the world, snowmobile treks packaged with an overnight stay in an igloo and chances to see pingos and the Northern Lights. Yukon snowmobile guides lead frozen lake tours with a bout of ice fishing. Nunavut snowmobile guides will take you to on a once-in-lifetime tour to the ice-floe edge, home to whales, walruses and polar bears. Quebec’s White Triangle is a winter paradise for snowmobile enthusiasts.
The late oceanographer Jacques Cousteau was famously quoted as saying that the waters of British Columbia and its Vancouver Island are “the best temperate water diving in the world, and second only to the Red Sea.” West coast scuba-diving hot spots: Sechelt Inlets Marine Provincial Park, where the scuttled WWII Royal Canadian Navy escort destroyer, the 112-m (366-ft) HMCS Chaudiere, sunk in 1992; it’s now a lush undersea ecosystem of orange plumous anemones and white tube worms. Others claim the coves, lush marine life and warm waters of Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park are what prompted Cousteau’s famous declaration. On Canada’s east coast, cold-water diving can come with a dose of danger. Nova Scotia’s Lunenburg Ocean Adventures , along with its aforementioned shark-fishing charters, also offers one-day shark cage diving trips, where a slick of chum salmon attracts blue sharks, which, at their most daunting, range up to 4 m (13 ft) in length and 159 kg (350 lbs).
Riding the tidal bore
Riding the highest tides in the world is a sport found on both sides of the Bay of Fundy in the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Ride the tidal bore at the mouth of the Shubenacadie River, NS, a tributary of the Bay of Fundy, and experience the equivalent of a tidal wave. When the tide changes, millions of gallons of seawater rise up to 3.4 m (11 ft) and surge nearly 12 km/h (7.5 mph) inland — in a mere two hours — creating Class IV rapids. Ride the bore in a five-m (16-ft) Zodiac with guides from Tidal Bore Rafting Park & Cottages. In New Brunswick, Bay of Fundy tides meet the Saint John River — as the tides begin to rise they become higher than the river level and eventually the river begins to flow upstream; this phenomenon is called the reversing falls. In Fallsview Park in Saint John, you can leap, surf and climb the resulting rapids on a Reversing Falls Jet Boat Rides. Expect to get doused.
A tundra buggy adventure to the Arctic tundra in Churchill, MB, comes with a massive adrenalin rush. This is the “Polar Bear Capital of the World,” and tundra trekkers get a chance to go face-to-face with these rare white bears, which weigh up to 680 kg (1,500 lbs) and stand three m (10 ft) tall. In neighbouring Saskatchewan, you can go on a dune-buggy trek to a different kind of tundra: 100 km (62 mi) of active sand fields at the Athabasca Sand Dunes, Canada’s largest active sand surface and one of the world’s most significant sand fields. The rush here is the remote, otherworldly landscape; access is by floatplane only. Labrador, or “The Big Land,” is one of the last remaining wilderness regions of the world, where harsh terrain and weather extremes are best tackled with a knowledgeable guide. Camp, hike and explore in Torngat Mountains National Park to see one of the world’s largest caribou herds, polar bears at the floe edge, plus Inuit and pre-Inuit archeological sites.
Whitewater kayakers will find Class IV challenges on a Yukon kayak adventure on the Tatshenshini, Tutshi and Alsek rivers. Whitewater paddling in Canada can be found pretty much all across the country in places like Thunder Bay and Ottawa, ON, Saskatoon, SK, and Slave River, AB. For an extreme kayak adventure, paddle the famous Skookamchuck Rapids in Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park on BC’s Sunshine Coast. But kayaking or surfing the tidal whitecaps and whirlpools at high tide is for experienced paddlers only; up to 200 billion gallons of tidal force surge through the narrows between Sechelt and Jervis Inlet at over 30 km/h (19 mph), whipping the tides up to three m (9.8 ft) high.
Caving Canada is a prime resource on some of the country’s most extreme caves, plus info on local caving groups and organizations. Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park on Vancouver Island, BC, is the site of over 1,000 caves and karst formations. The Underground Extreme tour is a five-hour expedition into an underground cave that includes rappelling down a seven-storey waterfall and climbing back out on a cable ladder. Canmore Caverns Ltd., based out of Canmore, AB, and set in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, lets you explore Rat’s Nest Cave. Challenges and discoveries include chambers of limestone stalactites and stalagmites, fossils and animal bones, and rappelling down narrow 18-m (59-ft) passages. Explore a fascinating (less extreme) underworld at Scenic Caves Nature Adventures in Collingwood, ON. There are self-guided tours of a labyrinth of caves, including a deep ice crevice, inside Blue Mountain in the Niagara Escarpment.
Mountain Biking—The Ultimate Ride
Class V Kayaking on the Slave River
Rafting at its Best in the Ottawa River
Snowmobiling in the Prairies
Article courtesy of the Canadian Tourism Commission.
Photo ©iStockphoto.com/ Matej Michelizza