Canada may be turning 150 this year, but you know what’s way older than 150? A whole lot of Canada, it turns out. Parks Canada manages 171 national historic sites in Canada, many of them dating back centuries, and each one’s played a crucial role in helping the country develop. Plus, they’re free to enter this year with a Discovery Parks Pass.
Here are just a few that will totally blow your mind.
13 national historic sites that will make you see Canada in a whole new light
L’anse aux Meadows, NLEuropeans first set foot in North America on the far northern reaches of Newfoundland over 1,000 years ago, when Vikings made their way from Greenland to uncharted territory. At L’Anse Aux Meadows, visitors can explore an exact replica of a Viking encampment made up of sod buildings, complete with costumed interpreters, and check out excavated artifacts at the visitor centre.Destination Canada
Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station, ABOne of the best views in Banff is from atop Sulphur Mountain, and it was also the site of some weird and wonderful scientific research back in the '50s. A cosmic ray station was built at the top of Sanson's Peak in the winter of 1956-57 to study cosmic rays -- there were eight other such stations in Canada, but this one was the most important because of its altitude.@dylan_needham9 via Instagram
Nan Sdins, B.C.Nan Sdins (also called Ninstints) is a village on an island within Gwaii Haanas National Reserve in Haida Gwaii, right off of B.C.’s north coast. The Haida people lived in this area for thousands of years before European ships started exploring it and brought smallpox to these previously isolated communities, decimating the village population. 32 totem poles still stand in Nan Sdins, and visitors can wander among them and other artifacts, and learn about the history of the area with help from the Haida Gwaii Watchmen.Destination British Columbia
Alexander Graham Bell, N.S.The inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, had a soft spot for the small village of Baddeck on Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, where he had a summer home. But the telephone was just one of Bell’s many inventions. Today, the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site shows off Bell’s lesser-known work, including an airplane, a speed boat, recording technology, giant kites and more. Learn about his work teaching deaf students (including Helen Keller) and the girl for whom the telephone was invented (his wife, Mabel).@john_mayfield_from_ns via Instagram
Signal Hill, NLDating back to the 17th century, Signal Hill played an important role in protecting St. John’s from invaders during the Napoleonic War until World War II. In 1901, this was also where Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless signal, using a 500-foot kite as a receiver. (Yup, you might remember this more vividly as a Heritage Minute.) Destination Canada
Bar U Ranch, ABGet a taste of Albertan ranch life at the picture-perfect Bar U Ranch in Alberta, which dates back to the 1880s. Explore the original ranch buildings, including a saddle horse barn, a blacksmith shop, a leatherworking shop, a cookhouse and more. Try your hand at throwing a lasso, go on a wagon ride or sip a hot beverage by the campfire. All this is only an hour from Calgary.@motherpixels via Instagram
Boishébert and Beaubears Island Shipbuilding National Historic Site, N.B.Where the Northwest and Southwest Miramichi Rivers meet, Beaubears Island is a small, unassuming island with a ton of history. During the French and Indian War, Fort Boishebert was instrumental in the resistance to the forced removal of Acadians from the area, and set up an Acadian refuge camp on the island. A few decades later, the island became home to an important shipbuilding operation. Visitors can tour the island alongside in-character guides who re-enact the Island’s history.@ilebeaubearsisland via Instagram
Rideau Canal, ONMost Canadians know of Ottawa’s Rideau Canal, home of the nation’s longest skating rink come wintertime. But the canal was actually built to create an alternate shipping route between Montreal and Kingston, and runs for a whopping 202 kilometres. 24 lockstations along the canal keep boat traffic flowing along the waterway, though these days, it’s now all leisure craft. You can explore by boat (and check out some of the smaller towns along the way), cycle along the canal-side pathways or even camp at a lockstation. Destination Canada
Fort Walsh National Historic Site, SKBuilt in 1875, Fort Walsh was originally established to help combat the rogue whisky trade between Canada and the United States. Visitors can now explore the reconstructed fort buildings to learn about the North-West Mounted Police, Metis legends and the whisky trade.@lukelelee via Instagram
Fur Trade at Lachine, QCVisit an original old fur warehouse on the edge of Lake St. Louis in Montreal, an important site along Canada's fur trade route from centuries ago. This is where voyageurs would launch their canoes to venture deep into Canada to trade goods for animal furs and then return to store the furs in the warehouse. Learn about the trappers and voyageurs at the height of the fur trade, and then picnic on the lakeside to take in the view.@falisha.k via Instagram
Dalvay by the Sea, P.E.I.This stately lakeside and oceanside home on P.E.I. was once the summer home of an oil tycoon and is a stunning example of Queen Anne Revival-style architecture. Today, the home operates as a resort, so you can spend the night or enjoy some fine dining. You can also just pop by for a visit to tour the inside of the home or explore the grounds.@melaniebrandman via Instagram
Klondike National Historic Sites, YKIn Dawson City, Yukon, there’s so much history to cram in, this “site” is actually five in one, offering up a full picture of the Klondike Gold Rush. Visit the Dawson Historical Complex’s 17 protected buildings like the saloon, the bank and the old post office. Visit the massive Dredge No. 4, which used to scrape along the Yukon River, excavating gravel in pursuit of gold (it found nine tons of it in its lifetime). Step aboard the S.S. Keno, a steam-powered sternwheeler that transported people and goods up and down the Yukon River for half a century. And visit the spot where gold was discovered for the first time, setting off the entire Klondike Gold RushDestination Canada
Lower Fort Garry, MBThis Hudson’s Bay Company trading post was also the site of Canada’s Treaty One, the first numbered treaty signed between Queen Victoria and the Ojibwa and Swampy Cree. This kid-friendly site puts little ones to work on Wednesdays in July and August with a bit of ‘humble service’ that lets them (and their parents) pick vegetables, hold a rifle, participate in a North West Mounted Police drill, build a tipi and pack a fur bale.@vijayachitnis via Instagram