Guest post by Neil Street
What makes the perfect romantic getaway? The answer will vary with each person you ask, but many would probably agree that the key ingredients include the opportunity for a little solitude, some beautiful surroundings, some activities to while away the hours, and the opportunity for a little bit of pampering for good measure.
Canada is blessed with numerous destinations that fit the bill. You are probably familiar with many of them. But destination spots that are off the beaten path add their own special romance to a trip, simply because they are so different. Here are three Canadian locations that offer a wonderful romantic getaway – and that may be a little different, as well.
St. John’s, Newfoundland
Located on the easternmost tip of North America is the oldest city on the continent: St. John’s, Newfoundland. The capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John’s has been settled more or less permanently since before 1620. With hilly terrain and maze-like, residential streets, this gem on the Atlantic has been compared to San Francisco in appearance and ambiance.
St. John’s enjoys a temperate climate year-round, with cool summers and mild winters. July and August are good months to visit. The downtown area, adjacent to St. John’s harbor, is home to brightly-colored, colonial buildings, restaurants, shops, boutiques, and galleries. For romantic accomodations, check out Balmoral House, a beautifully-restored, Victorian townhouse B & B located in downtown St. John’s, or the equally gorgeous and romantic Bluestone Inn, also in the heart of downtown.
By day, you and your partner can crisscross this fascinating city, enjoying the boutiques, restaurants, and galleries. For some quiet time, head to Pippy Park, one of Canada’s largest urban parks. The museum of Newfoundland and Labrador is also in St. John’s, and worth the visit. By night, check out the bars and restaurants along George Street, famous for its dynamic musical entertainment. If you’re visiting in August, you’ll find yourself at the famous George Street Festival. If it’s October, you’ll be caught up in Mardi Gras. Yes, Mardi Gras comes in October to St. John’s. Just another surprise from this most surprising of Canadian cities.
Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta
Swinging clear across Canada to Alberta, if you want to find a romantic spot that combines solitude with magnficent surroundings, and yet feel pampered for a couple of days, Waterton Lakes National Park fits the bill.
Just across the U.S. border from Glacier National Park, the less well-known Waterton Park is a remote getaway that provides the breathtaking scenery available in Banff or Jasper, minus the crowds. Waterton Lake sits at the intersection of prairie and mountain – an intersection that is abrupt and spectacular.
The town of Waterton is tiny, and so rural that bighorn sheep stroll down Main Street. The pampering comes courtesy of the Prince of Wales hotel, located on a bluff overlooking the lake. Boasting magnificent views, the 1920’s-era Prince of Wales has the feel of an alpine chalet, with rich dark woods, gables and balconies, deep, inviting furniture, and, improbably given the location, serves British tea every afternoon.
When you’re done soaking up the scenery for the day, try a guided horse-riding tour of the area, courtesy of the Alpine Stables in town. Or, do a little hiking on your own. Most visitors, however, find the lake a little too chilly for swimming! At the end of a relaxing day, return to your hotel for more pampering and relaxation.
Cantons de L’Est, Quebec
Located less than an hour’s drive east of Montreal, the Cantons de L’Est are the heart of Quebec’s wine country. It is a bucolic region, composed of a group of towns, or cantons, dotted across the rolling hills and valleys that make up this beautiful area.
The Cantons de L’Est region is home to about 20 wineries, and ahead of your visit you can plan out a winery tour via the established Wine Route. It will take you through small, charming towns, gorgeous countryside, and beautiful scenery, and of course, to one distinctive winery after another.
Anchored by the town of Sherbrooke, a thriving community at the confluence of the Magog and St. Francis rivers, the region is noted for small inns and hotels, and fine eateries. Accomodations include such luxuries as Le Spa des Chutes de Bolton, an enchanting villa at the foot of the falls of the Missiquoi River, featuring full service spa treatments as well as complete guest services. If a spa is not on your wish list, you may want to try the Manoir Hovey, a turn of the century, lakeside romantic inn, modeled after George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.
From Brome-Missiquoi in the west to Granit in the east, the Quebec wine region is a varied and relaxing getaway with options for the most discerning traveler. The fact that it is only an hour from Montreal is icing on the cake.
Guest post by Neil Street, a freelance writer and publisher. He has recently covered private jet travel, among other topics.