Sometimes travel isn’t always possible. Whether you’ve been asked to stay inside or you work full time and can’t travel as often as you like, or maybe you’re housebound because you broke your ankle, I don’t know, travel just isn’t always possible. Luckily, technology and a group of crafty people have come together to offer ways to explore Canada virtually.
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Canada is a big freaking country with many city centres, museums, galleries and natural wonders, but there are ways that you can see it all from the comfort of your own home. This makes it the cheapest way to travel across Canada!
There are several ways to explore Canada virtually, from live cams to street views to virtual tours. I’ve tried to list as many as I could find, but there are likely more out there. If there’s a spot you really want to see, try typing “(location) virtual tour” into your search bar, and you’ll probably find something!
Live Cams of Canada’s natural beauty
The first way to explore Canada virtually is through the live cameras placed all around Canada. They can offer a sweet escape from reality while giving you incredible views of Canada’s natural beauty.
Underwater view of Orcas at Rubbing Beach, British Columbia
Orcas are freaking amazing. They are one of the coolest marine mammals out there, and in Canada, you can see them almost year-round off the coast of British Columbia. In this particular live cam, you can watch Orcas rub their bellies against the smooth pebbles of Johnstone Strait at Blackfish Sound.
It’s a popular spot, so you can also watch from above too, where you might even spy other animals like sea lions and eagles.
Polar Bear Spotting in Wapusk National Park, Manitoba
There’s nothing ~cooler~ than seeing polar bears in the wild. But if you’re stuck at home, why not watch them on a live cam placed at Wapusk National Park in Manitoba. It’s one of the largest concentrations of polar bear dens. While October and November are the busy months, you can go back and watch the highlights!
Algonquin Provincial Park Cam
Algonquin Provincial Park is one popular park in Ontario. It sees thousands of visitors during the summer and fall, but you can enjoy the views from the comfort of your armchair with this live cam. The camera is placed at the Algonquin Park Visitor Centre and overlooks the gorgeous valley!
Niagara Falls Cam
Niagara Falls has to be one of Canada’s top destinations. But you can see the power of the falls from the live cam mounted at Fallsview Casino. Sometimes it gets so misty that it covers the camera and other times, like a night, you’ll want to watch for hours for the light show!
Nova Scotia Pier 21
Pier 21 in Nova Scotia welcomed thousands of immigrants to Canada from 1928 to 1971. Today, it’s a National Museum of Immigration. You can view the harbour, the Port Authority and the Seaport Farmers’ Market as well as Georges Island National Historic Site. Click the Ship Tracker to learn more about the boats you see on the live camera.
Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse cam
Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, likely the most famous lighthouse in Canada, even has its own live cam. Watch the sunrise light up the famous landmark or watch the sunset over the harbour.
RELATED: Should you go to Peggy’s Cove?
Northern Lights cam in Churchill Manitoba
There’s no doubt that most people have “seeing the northern lights” on their bucket list. But when you’re stuck at home, check out the Churchill Northern Studies Centre’s northern light cam in Churchill, Manitoba and watch them curled up on your couch.
Late winter and early spring are the best times for the aurora and, obviously, at night, BUT you can skip back to the previous night to see if the lights made an appearance.
CN tower Cam
Enjoy the 360-degree views of Toronto, Ontario, with the webcam atop the CN Tower. When the clouds don’t hide the view, you can see Lake Ontario, Toronto Islands, the Roger Centre and more.
Webcam of Downtown St. John’s
Take in the view of the Narrows and the Harbour of St. John’s Newfoundland from this webcam. Watch the sunrise or try to spot icebergs in the distance.
Live From Long Beach Lodge Tofino
On the opposite side of Canada, watch the waves crash against the beach at Long Beach Resort in Tofino, British Columbia. Come back for sunset and watch the sun sink below the horizon over the Pacific Ocean.
RELATED: Visit wild Tofino, British Columbia
Live Cams of Canada’s Zoos
If you’ve wanted to check out Canada’s zoos, then you can do that from the comfort of your own home. Hey, it’s one way to explore Canada virtually!
Shark Cam at the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
If you love Shark Week, then you’ll love the Shark Cam at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada in Toronto. I definitely jumped when a shark zoomed across the screen, super close to the camera.
Find more places to check out virtually in Ontario here.
Sea Otter Cam at the Vancouver Aquarium
If you’d rather watch cuddly sea creatures, then the Sea Otter Cam at the Vancouver Aquarium is for you. You never know what you’ll catch of these playful critters. They’ve got an underwater cam too! And if you want to see the other critters, Vancouver Aquarium also has a penguin cam and jelly cam.
Relax with the Calgary Zoo Pandas
Pandas are such fun to watch! And the Calgary Zoo has three (yes, three!) panda cams set up to give you the best view of these lovable, goofy bears every day from 9 am to 6 pm. You can even get in line to control the cameras!
Parks Canada street view project
Canada boasts some of the most incredible natural landscapes; from coast to coast to coast, we’ve got some of the best (and most remote) national parks in the world. But you can easily explore Canada virtually through a google street view project that Parks Canada completed in 2017.
You can explore every one of Canada’s 43 National Parks and many of its National Historic Sites. Check out the featured sites, or scroll to the bottom to see the list of places to explore sorted by province.
My favourites are:
- L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site in British Columbia
- Fathom Five National Marine Park in Ontario
- Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan
- Ivvavik National Park in Nunavut
Explore Canada virtually with aerial tours
Soar above your Canadian bucket list places with the help of aerial tours. There are many videos online of cinematic and 4K views of Canadian hotspots, like Banff, Toronto, Vancouver and more. This is a high-def way you can explore Canada virtually.
Here are some of my favourites:
- Above the Rocky Mountains – a 4K journey in Banff
- Welcome to Canada – a 4K drone film of Ottawa
- Vancouver, Canada by drone
- Downtown Toronto by drone
- Downtown Calgary by drone
- Northern Newfoundland and Labrador by drone
Museum/ Gallery Virtual Tours
If seeing one of Canada’s great museums or galleries, then this way to explore Canada virtually should be right up your alley.
Many museums, like the Royal Ontario Museum and Canadian Museum of Human Rights, all have fantastic programs that you can use to learn all from the comfort of your own home. You can find a giant list of them on Virtual Museums.
Here are more online guides for museums and galleries across Canada:
- Vancouver Art Gallery has a number of their galleries online.
- The Art Gallery of Ontario has almost its entire collection online.
- The Royal Ontario Museum has thousands of artifacts, objects and specimens available online. You can even explore the museum through Google Street View!
- From puppets to golf to dogsledding, the Canadian Museum of History has dozens of curated collections available online.
- Deep dive into heartbreaking and inspirational stories of human rights online at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.
- Interested in military history? Then check out the online galleries of the Canadian War Museum.
- The Canadian Museums of Science and Technology have so many online topics to explore.
- Explore the collections of the Canadian Museum of Nature.
- The Royal BC Museum has online collections for both human and natural history.
- Discover the THOUSANDS of artworks that hang in the National Gallery of Canada.
- Understand the Titanic tragedy online at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.
One of the hardest parts about not travelling (or in our current case self-isolating) is not getting outdoors and hitting the trails. There are so many incredible trail systems in this country, and a great way to explore Canada virtually is to check out a virtual hike!
Nature Conservancy of Canada has several great hikes across the province. I suggest starting with Darkwoods, British Columbia or Gaff Point, Nova Scotia.
Other great virtual hikes are:
- Take in the sights and sounds of Haida Gwaii
- Go on a 360-degree paddle of Long Lake Provincial Park in Nova Scotia
- Explore the Lynn Creek Canyon Trail in British Columbia
- Get as close as you can to wild animals all over Canada with this 360-degree video
- Enjoy this hike of the famous Moraine Lake
- Hike down to the seafloor at Hopewell Rocks in New Brunswick
Virtual Reality tours
Virtual reality took off a few years back, and many tourism boards are creating virtual reality tours of their cities or hotspots. The best part is, with special virtual reality glasses, you can feel immersed in a location without leaving your couch. What a way to explore Canada virtually!
You don’t necessarily need special virtual reality glasses (like these ones or even these cardboard ones) to go on these tours. A lot of the options below you can check out on your laptop, but I think it’s a little more fun this way.
Here are some excellent 360-degree virtual reality tours you can find online for Canadian destinations:
- Take a VR tour of Tofino, BC
- VR tour of Niagara Falls
- VR Tour of Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta
- Hop on a double-decker bus for a VR Tour of Victoria, British Columbia
- Tour ski-village Whistler, British Columbia by VR
- Stroll through Quebec City with this VR tour
These are challenging times we live in today, but it has brought us all together in new ways. While I can’t wait to be back exploring this beautiful country in real life, for now, these resources will help you and I explore Canada virtually.