Anticosti Island by David Matthew
Summer is blooming at home and while the majority of us tend to go south and spend hot days chilling on a beach, there is still a significant number of Canadians wishing for more a moderate climate — especially for cooler summers. Considering the fact that Canada itself is pretty far north, where else can we go?
Well, how much do you know about all the little islands that belong to our country? The scattered patches of green and white in the ocean carry interesting stories and history and are home to the most unbelievable traditions. What would you say to the idea of swapping your beach holidays for adventure, thrill, and exploration?
Our journey will start on the mainland. Manitoulin Island in Ontario is the biggest freshwater island in the world. Its size isn’t its only interesting asset, though. The island is endowed with incredible natural beauty, wild nature, and European culture influence.
The island is easily accessible by car, ferry, or plane and because of its location (Lake Huron) it attracts both Canadian and American tourists and visitors.
Summer days on Manitoulin are filled with hiking, exploring nature trails, biking, and sailing. Its forests are home to diverse species of animals and insects alike. When you decide to visit the island early in summer, you will witness amazing flower-covered hills and meadows. It is definitely an experience that can’t be missed.
The island town of Manitowaning was the first European settlement, whilst Wikwemikong is the only untouched First Nations Reserve in Canada. The mix of cultures is inescapable. Manitoulin is full of galleries and artisan shops where you can see and buy examples of true Native traditional crafts with a European accent.
Into the Wild
Do you like wilderness and unpredictability? Does discovering indigenous species of plants and trees not seen anywhere else in the world seem thrilling? If you love the feeling of being alone in a nest of nature, Anticosti Island can be your escape into the wild.
The isolated marine environment dominates the wildlife here. There are 14 water mammals living in the waters surrounding the island. Even large whales ply the nearby cold waters of the Gulf. Given that there are 24 different mammal species inhabiting Anticosti, only half of them can be seen in the forests. To make Anticosti Island a hunter’s paradise, new animal species have been introduced since the beginning of the 20th century, making the island a pioneer biological experiment.
Anticosti was hunting territory for indigenous peoples living on the mainland. The island is still one of the best hunting and fishing destinations in the North America. We can see a small increase in the number of visitors per year, so we advise visiting the island soon — before it becomes too popular.
More than one string in its fiddle
Cliffs around Smelt Brook Cape
Breton Island by Wikimedia Commons
The natural beauty and moderate weather aren’t the only teasers Cape Breton has up its sleeve. It was awarded first place in a recent survey for the best island destination in the U.S. and Canada and third place in the whole world. What is it that makes this island so special?
The island’s Highland National Park offers 25 hiking trails on almost 1,000 square kilometres of undisturbed nature and nonpareil natural beauty. Cape Breton offers amazing golf courses for those with a hiking-in-a-beautiful-landscape overdose. Ranked in Golf Digest’s Top 30 golfing destinations in the world, Cape Breton Island is a dream of all fairway fanatics. Playing golf with breathtaking Atlantic Ocean scenery is an experience that shouldn’t be missed.
It’s always the greatest of pleasures to taste a local cuisine. Cape Breton excels in seafood and shellfish preparation, so why not order a freshly steamed lobster, grilled scallops, or a mussel soup? Order them in a coastal restaurant and the ocean breeze will add to the overall atmosphere.
Fiddle culture is the strongest string in Cape Breton’s fiddle. Cape Breton fiddling is a regional violin style developed as a Celtic music idiom. Scottish immigrants brought the tradition to the Nova Scotia region. Even though fiddling has changed and evolved, Cape Breton communities are trying to preserve the tradition, as it is absolutely unique to North America. Cape Breton step dancing, Cape Breton square dancing (Iona style and Inverness style), and highland dancing are the dance styles associated with this fiddle music.
So far we have experienced many different cultures. Most of them were connected with either Native American heritage or early modern European civilization and their interaction. However, there was another nation of skilled sailors and explorers, the Vikings.
Newfoundland was visited by the Icelandic Viking Leif Eriksson in the 11th century, and he called the new land “Vinland.” He brought the first settlers, Beothuks, to the island, and they were living there until the Europeans came in 1497. Beothuks couldn’t survive European illnesses and soon Vinland changed to an all-European island.
L’anse aux Meadows by Wikimedia
Viking history was, however, well preserved, and it is now part of UNESCO world heritage. The Viking Trail is a region of Newfoundland absolutely worth visiting. Skilled re-enactors offer various trips and lectures on Viking history. The Northern Peninsula is home to the Viking Settlement of L’anse aux Meadows and other Natural Historical Sites.
Newfoundland is brimming with traditions and many of them will surely become a lifetime memory. One of the most interesting traditions is Screech. Undergoing the ceremony, you will become an honorary Newfoundlander.
The ceremony starts with you standing in front of a group witnesses wearing the Sou’Wester. The host will give you fish that you need to kiss on the lips. Sometimes you need to kiss the fish twice as the first kiss wasn’t done properly. After the kiss, the host will gingerly pour a full shot of Screech. This is handed to you and before drinking the shot, you say, “Long may your big jib draw.” After this, they present the victim with the “Screech In” Certificate as proof of their adventure. Welcome to the Royal Order of Screechers.
Let me explain why the drink is named Screech.
During Second World War, the Americans set up bases in Newfoundland. One night, an American soldier was out drinking with locals. He was eager to try the traditional drink of the province, so he took a shot.
When he was able to breathe again, the American let loose a loud noise that was described as some sort of horrible screech. The name stuck!
I don’t want to spoil the experience of the island so I will keep the rest of traditional ceremonies for myself.
There are many smaller and bigger islands surrounding Canada. Some are more commercial and well known and some are quiet and peaceful. Some of them can even be privately owned.
Welcome to my island
Canada is known as the place with more private islands for sale than any other country in the world. If you live in the coastal area near one of the Canadian lakes or if you travel often seeking a quiet place to gain new energy, buying an island can be an interesting option for you. Just imagine the luxury of owning an island where you can spend summers with your family and friends.
The islands offer hot summers and moderate springs and falls, making them perfect for boating, sailing, or fishing. Many of the bigger islands have their own marina and little town with shops, bars, and restaurants, which means whenever you might want to wander around for a bit, you can take a boat and sail to the closest bigger island and discover the beauty of the small downtown cafes and shops.
Buying an island doesn’t need to be a dream that will never come true. Prices can be as low as US$30,000 for an island of six acres. However, you can find an island worth US $10 million offering an area big enough for a weekend house, tennis court, and a pool. Owning an island is an interesting way to invest your money. Cities are becoming overcrowded, skyscrapers are taking away all the beautiful views, and summer in the city feels like punishment. Having the possibility to escape for just a few days makes our summer working days more bearable and pleasant. Private islands have the power to be the next big thing on the real estate market joining the list of luxurious commodities.