On Canada Day 2016, we travelled to Moraine Lake in Banff National Park for a paddle. Not just any old paddle, but one that would mark five years of Toque & Canoe.
Since we launched our blog/online magazine in July 2011, we’ve maintained an unwavering affection for Canada’s wildest places—so it made sense that we chose to celebrate by canoeing the Kool-Aid-blue waters of Alberta’s prettiest mountain lake, located in our country’s oldest national park.
An unapologetic crush on Canada’s natural world, and the critters that come with it, is largely what binds us to our growing base of followers. Outdoor experiences like our soul-stoking Canada Day paddle keep us coming back for more.
Still, we like to say that Toque & Canoe covers Canadian travel culture—casting a wide net across the country and the kinds of stories we like to tell.
You’ll see loads of tales on our site that celebrate Canadian nature, posts such as Lords of the Arctic or Ian McAllister’s spectacular photo essay of Canada’s west coast.
But you’ll also find articles featuring a wide range of subjects, including our interview with Andrew Mosker—self-described music tourist and CEO of Canada’s National Music Centre—and photojournalist John Lehmann’s extraordinary take on Fogo Island in Newfoundland & Labrador.
After five rewarding years, we find ourselves embedded in a travel community where we meet the coolest of Canadians—whether they work for tourism agencies or represent travel-inspired companies, large and small.
Last year, we joined forces with Aboriginal Tourism BC (AtBC) and, in addition to our regular nation-wide coverage, we sent top-drawer writers and photographers into the field to cover Aboriginal travel stories.
The results? Powwow Power, A Celebration of Living Culture, Our home and Native land, Mythic Messages, and our award-nominated Tasting Turtle Island: Aboriginal cuisine goes mainstream.
Our arm’s-length partnership continues, lucky for us, and is timely too because B.C. is seen as a provincial leader in a country where Aboriginal tourism is gaining traction from coast to coast—a movement led by The Aboriginal Tourism Association of Canada and summarized well in this Globe & Mail feature.
Recently, we’ve been keeping an eye on operations such as Mike Willie’s Sea Wolf Adventures, a wildlife viewing and cultural tour operator located on Vancouver Island and featured here in The Toronto Star, and the irresistible Esk’et Tiny House, a bed & breakfast owned by Robert and Bettina Johnson and located near William’s Lake, B.C.
We’ve chatted with the passionate owner of Kekuli Cafe, Sharon Bond-Hogg, and will definitely be stopping in for bannock with her while en route to the coast via the Okanagan this summer.
And we also touched base with Doug Neasloss, one of the founders of the huge success story that is Spirit Bear Lodge, which is located in Klemtu on B.C.’s central coast.
“I remember when tourism was a hard sell in our community. People didn’t know what to expect,” says Neasloss, a member of the Kitasoo/Xai’Xais First Nations. “But our youth weren’t learning about their territory, their dances, or their songs. We were competing against the Internet. So the elders voted in favour of tourism hoping it would help re-connect our young people with their culture.”
Today, he insists, the lodge is a good fit for his community. “Staff get paid to be themselves and they get to meet guests from around the world,” says Neasloss. “We’re sitting on a global gem here. Our forests are intact. There’s loads of wildlife. It’s like Canada’s Galapagos.”
Last summer, we visited the First Nations-owned Wya Point Resort, located between Ucluelet and Tofino on Vancouver Island, and home to possibly one of the most beautiful beaches we’ve ever seen.
More recently, we had the privilege of travelling through northern B.C.’s wildlife-rich Nass Valley en route to the new Nisga’a Museum, which features a stunning and storied collection of re-patriated Northwest Coast Aboriginal art and is totally worth a visit if you’re in the region.
Tourism is a touching point for all of us, no matter where we’re from or where we’re going. If you live in Canada, or you’re coming to visit, we encourage you to round out what your experience of travelling in Canada can mean.
Meanwhile, thanks to everyone—to our partners in crime along the way, our contributors, our editorial, tech and design team and our wonderfully engaged followers—for five rich years of Canadian travel culture.
Because of you, we get to imagine a future.
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P.S. Stay tuned for our new website coming this fall. It’s going to be beautiful.
***A note from our partners, who did not review or edit this post before publication: “BC is home to an amazing variety of Aboriginal tourism experiences. For more information or to book an experience, call Aboriginal Travel Services at 1-877-266-2822 or visit them online here.”