About the Nearctic Realm – What is it? | Culture & Biogeography

world map with question marks on it, related to biogeography and the nearctic realm
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Realm? What are we, crossing through the wardrobe of Narnia? It sounds a bit fancy, but Biogeographic (or Zoogeographic) Realms are a way that scientists have divided the world to connect its main biological and geographic features. The continents in all their glory can be a confusing and misrepresentative way to look at the world. We’ve discussed if Bio-Realms might be a better way to divide our planet before. Here, I want to go deeper into one realm in particular, including some of its main physical and cultural features. Don’t mind me, I just love geography–and biogeography, apparently.

world map highlighting the nearctic realm in green
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What is the Nearctic?

The Nearctic Realm is a part of the wider “Arctic” Biogeographical Realm that stretches across much of the Northern Hemisphere. It’s Ne-arctic, as in “New,” because it’s in the New World. That is, the world that was unknown by Eurasians and Africans up until a recent point. That is, the Americas. Put together with the Palearctic (“Old World” Arctic), they can be called the Holarctic (or the whole Arctic!). The Nearctic happens to coincide with what most people think of when they picture “North America.” It includes everything in that continent starting from the Arctic — including Greenland — and goes down until we reach the tropics. In the Southwest, this cutoff is somewhere in the middle of Mexico, while in the Southeast, the cutoff is Central Florida. 

Since we’re talking about the limitations of the realm, let’s look at the political geography. Only two countries take up the bulk of the Nearctic:

  • Canada
  • the United States

A good chunk of Mexico is in the Nearctic, though most of the country probably isn’t (it depends on definitions). Nearctic Mexico would be the deserts, shrublands, and temperate mountains in the north. The Kingdom of Denmark sneaks its way in by way of the massive constituent country, Greenland. France also has a piece by way of a tiny territory off the coast of Newfoundland called St. Pierre & Miquelon. Otherwise, that’s it!

Geography of the Nearctic

The Nearctic is known for having large, somewhat continuous biome types. Some major ones to remember are the Arctic tundra, Boreal forests / taiga, the Great Plains, the Nearctic (or North American) deserts, and the Eastern temperate forests. Much of those forests have been heavily urbanized or used for agriculture, but there are still some trees if you look. Oh, it’s not that bad.

cacti and flora in the sonora desert, southwestern nearctic realm
Sonora Desert – Brian Henderson

The realm is home to tons of lakes, big and small, with the largest (Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, etc.) being in the Great Lakes region. There are also some seriously long rivers here too, with some notable mentions being the Missouri, the Mississippi, the Yukon, and the Rio Grande.

forest, lake, and mountain scene in the rocky mountains, a major feature of the nearctic realm
Rocky Mountains – G. Lamar

Major mountain systems include the famous Rockies, the Pacific Ranges (or Cordillera), the East and West Sierra Madres, and the Appalachians. They are all very extensive too. The Rockies stretch from the Southwest United States up into Northern Canada. The Pacific Ranges basically run up the entire Pacific Coast. Depending on definition, the Appalachians go from the hills of Mississippi to the rocky shores of Newfoundland. Another big one is the Arctic Cordillera, a set of rugged mountains that stretch from Northern Labrador and Quebec all the way up to Canada’s Arctic Archipelago. 

unique temperate rainforest in the pacific northwest region of north america
Temperate Rainforest, Pacific Northwest – Tjflex2

There are a couple of biomes that stand out from the rest of the realm. The Pacific Northwest is home to the biggest — or longest — temperate rainforest in the world. On the other end, Appalachia is home to pockets of temperate rain and cloud forests. A large section of the Gulf Coast, especially around Louisiana, is home to vast wetlands and swamps called bayous. 

ice cap in the arctic tundra of canada
Ice cap in Canadian Arctic – NASA ICE

Another distinct area is Greenland’s Arctic desert (that’s right, they can be cold). That biome is a dry, snowy wilderness covered in snow year-round. Since we’re in the “Ne-Arctic,” the weather is just about everything but tropical. As we saw, it ranges from moist forests to dry prairies and arid deserts. Mediterranean climate is common in the matorral and chaparral shrublands of the West. Parts of the southeastern Nearctic aren’t quite tropical, but do have a humid subtropical climate. The main ecoregions include subtropical forests, temperate mixed and conifer forests, boreal forests, temperate and subtropical grasslands and plains, tundra, Mediterranean wood and shrublands, deserts, and even mangroves off the coast of Northwestern Mexico.

Ecology of the Nearctic

The Nearctic is home to many plants and animals. Some of the common big fauna are antelope (pronghorns), bison, wolves, foxes, bobcats, lynx, cougars (or mountain lions), deer, bighorn sheep, moose, bears, and musk oxen. There are also tons of rodents like rabbits, gophers, and squirrels, as well as beavers and porcupines. Armadillos, peccaries, and opossums came from further south. There are lots of bovids (cows) and horses too, but those were mostly introduced later. Camels, horses, and even a kind of cheetah were native to this region but endemic species have all died out.

turkey, an endemic and common fowl in the nearctic zone
Turkey – Tim Lumley

Alligators are common in some parts, as are many other reptiles, amphibians, and everything else. Major birds are crows, cardinals, turkeys, and hummingbirds, as well as many owls, hawks, eagles, ducks, geese, condors, and pelicans. Different berries and flowers, as well as specialized desert, tundra, and temperate zone plants are also found here. See this article for some interesting flora in North America.

Let’s Get Some Culture … of the Nearctic

As I mentioned before, one of the cool things about Bio-Realms is how they kind of coincide with human cultural interactions too. The dominating cultures in this realm tend to be this “Neo-Anglo” culture of the North American variety (it’s quite different from Neo-Anglo culture in the Caribbean, for example), and a Latin American culture, also of the North American variety. Neo-Anglo culture is strongest throughout, especially in much of the U.S. and Canada. Still, Latino culture is strong in the Southwest of the region. This is mostly in Mexico (duh!), but also in bordering U.S. states and several urban areas throughout the realm. 

“Neo-Franco” culture is strong in some areas like Canada, especially in Quebec province. It also has some influence in parts of Louisiana or St. Pierre & Miquelon, of course. Besides being a part of the same three countries, these areas are heavily influential in each other’s history and contemporary identities. They receive many immigrants amongst one another and share languages, slang, music, and cuisine across borders. 

Indigenous cultures are also still around, though much subtler than in the Neotropical Realm. Their cultures are more visible in the Western United States and Mexico or rural Canada. This is also true of the Arctic where the many Inuit peoples have a distinct culture and identity. Match that with Greenland where there’s this funky mix of Inuit and Danish cultural cues. 


We’ve come to the end of the Nearctic Realm, but there’s so much more to explore. What other cultural ties do the people of this realm share? Are there any other cool animals, plants, or geographic features you can think of in this realm? Had you heard about the Nearctic before? Tell us in the comments!

Follow if you enjoyed the article and feel free to read more posts. Thanks as always for stopping by. Sending you good vibrations. Peace!

**Ask me more or collaborate with CulSurf: tietewaller@gmail.com; Give Me a Shout!

Places in Yukon – Gallery Images, Videos, & Profile | Earth’s Face 🇨🇦

territorial Flag of Yukon, Canada
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YUKON

English: /YOO-kahn/

Listen

French: /yu-KON/

Listen

Canadian Provinces and Territories, the Yukon highlighted in red
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satellite map image of the Yukon territory
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Name Origin

after the Yukon River, possibly from the Gwich’in language for “white water river” or “great river

Population

~ 42,600

Main Languages

Predominantly English (~ 83%). The next most spoken language is French, also an official language in the territory (~ 4%). Both languages are spoken in local Canadian varieties.

Capital & Largest City

Whitehorse

Location

Northwestern Canada, a federal territory in the general Arctic and Pacific Mountains regions. Has some Arctic Ocean coastline to the north and borders the United States (Alaska) to the west.

Biogeography

Nearctic Realm

Part of Canada’s Pacific Cordillera mountains, Taiga Cordillera mountains, and taiga plains, with some Arctic tundra. Home to Mount Logan, Canada’s tallest mountain (2nd tallest in North America).


Gallery Images & Videos: Places in Yukon

totem poles made of hubcaps in Yukon, Canada
JLS Photography – Alaska
emerald lake with mountain backdrop, popular place in Yukon
Emerald Lake – JAYRNIV
dunes at the Carcross Desert, southern Yukon, Canada
Carcross Desert – teamscuby
monument of an indigenous person canoeing at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre in Whitehorse
Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre – Travis
the SS Klondike in the snow in Whitehorse, Canada
SS Klondike – Gareth Sloan
northern lights (aurora borealis) in Whitehorse, famous sight in Yukon territory
Whitehorse – Studiolit
a bend at Miles Canyon, outside of Whitehorse
Miles Canyon – Timothy Neesam
a bend at Miles Canyon, a place in Yukon
Diego Delso
high snowy mountain peaks with sun rays reflecting, part of Yukon
Richard Droker
mountains, forests and a winding river in Kluane National Park and Reserve, place in Yukon
Kluane National Park and Reserve – Kalen Emsley
a wood stump on the stony shores of a river ahead of mountains in Kluane National Park and Reserve, the Yukon
WherezJeff
downtown hotel in Dawson City on a snowy day, northwestern Canada
Dawson City – Arthur T. LaBar
person walking on the road on the scenic Dempster Highway, Yukon
Dempster Highway – Joseph
mountain crest in the fields of Ivvavik National Park, a place in Yukon
Ivvavik National Park – Daniel Case
rugged beds of a river in the landscapes of Ivvavik National Park, in the Yukon
Daniel Case
flooded wetlands of Vuntut National Park, a place in Yukon
Vuntut National Park – Крис Кирзик
a section of a river in snowy frozen landscape at dawn in Yukon
Keith Williams
a section of the Yukon River in a snowy landscape with the sun barely over the horizon
Yukon River – Keith Williams
a boat/ canoe on a wide section of the Yukon River, Canada
Camera Eye Photography
white clouded mountains towering over a dark forest in the Yukon, near the Alaska Highway
Alaska Highway – Goran Vlacic
a section of the Alaska Highway with forests and snowy mountain backdrops in the Yukon
JLS Photography – Alaska
a dog sled team running in the snowy landscapes of the Yukon, Canada
Arthur T. LaBar
a unique black bear in the flowery fields of Yukon Wildlife Preserve, place in Canada
Yukon Wildlife Preserve – Keith Williams
a sweeping valley landscape in the Tombstone Territorial Park, a place in Yukon
Tombstone Territorial Park – Bo Mertz
bright purple/pink flowers on the shores of the Alsek River with mountains behind, the Yukon
Alsek River – zug zwang
moose antlers left ahead of the curving Alsek River in Yukon
zug zwang
a bald eagle perched near the Tatshenshini River in Yukon, Canada
Tatshenshini River – Matt Zimmerman
snowy mountains seen from the inside of a small passenger plane, flying over the Yukon
Jack Church

Places in the Northwest Territories | Gallery, Videos, & Profile 🇨🇦

Flag of Northwest Territories, Canada
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NORTHWEST TERRITORIES

les Territoires du Nord-Ouest

Canadian Provinces and Territories
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Name Origin

when Rupert’s Land and the North-Western Territory were joined, they became the North-West Territories, describes their geographic location in Canada

Population

~ 45,000

Main Languages

Predominantly English (~ 78%). Dogrib or Tłı̨chǫ is the most prevalent indigenous language (~ 4%). Other official languages are: Chipewyan, Cree, French, Gwich’in, Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, North Slavey, and South Slavey. Mostly spoken by small portions of the population.

Capital & Largest City

Yellowknife

Location

Northwestern Canada, a federal territory in the general Arctic region. Mostly located on the mainland with some territory on large islands in the Arctic Archipelago. Has coastline on the Arctic Ocean.

Biogeography

Nearctic Realm

Parts of Canada’s taiga (mostly plains and shield forests), Taiga Cordillera mountains, and Arctic tundra. Major lakes include Great Slave Lake (deepest in North America) and Great Bear Lake (largest lake fully within Canada).


Gallery Images & Videos: Places in the Northwest Territories

northern lights (aurora borealis) in the snowy forests near Yellowknife, Canada
Yellowknife – kwan fung
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Great Slave Lake shores and blue skies in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
Jack L
Virginia Falls, Nahanni National Park Reserve, place in the Northwest Territories, Canada
Virginia Falls, Nahanni National Park Reserve – Mike Beauregard
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exterior Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church, Inuvik, on a snowy day
Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church, Inuvik – dawn
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Nionep'ene Lake in Naats'ihch'oh National Park, place in Northwest Territories, Canada
Nááts’įhch’oh National Park – Paul Gierszewski
Hornaday River and canyon in Tuktut Nogait National Park, place in the Northwest Territories
Tuktut Nogait National Park – Paul Gierszewski
jagged ice patterns on the frozen surface of Great Slave Lake, Northern Canada
Great Slave Lake – Phillip Grondin
a sunset / sunrise over the frozen expanse of Great Slave Lake, place in the Northwest Territories
buck82
landscape of scattered forest and plains in the taiga of Northwest Territories, Canada, Wood Buffalo National Park
Wood Buffalo National Park – Dru!
autumn colors and forests along the banks of a river in Northwest Territories, Canada, Wood Buffalo National Park
Scott Lough
taiga plains of the Northwest Territories, with flooded sections and lakes, near the Dempster Highway
Tania Liu
falls colors of grasses and lichens on the rolling hills of Northwestern Canada near the Dempster Highway
near the Dempster Highway – Tania Liu
bison walking near the water and a forest in Fort Providence, town in the Northwest Territories
Scott Lough
town of Fort Providence covered in snow with a church on the side, place in Northwestern Territories, Canada
Fort Providence – Leslie Philipp
tepees on the snow-covered shores of Great Bear Lake, northwestern Canada
Great Bear Lake – Sahtu Wildlife
rushing waterfall at Twin Gorges Territorial Park, Hay River, a place in the Northwest Territories
Twin Gorges Territorial Park, Hay River – Mike Tidd
an iceberg with ship remains ahead of it in the Northwest Passage of Arctic Canada
Northwest Passage – Roderick Eime
icebreaker ships sailing through the icy waters of the Northwest Passage, a section of the Northwest Territories, Canada
Coast Guard News
a colorful purple and pink sunset over the Mackenzie River near Fort Simpson in the Northwest Territories
Mackenzie River – Fort Simpson Chamber of C
Church of Our Lady of Good Hope - interior, a place in Fort Good Hope, Northwest Territories of Canada
Church of Our Lady of Good Hope, Fort Good Hope – mattcatpurple

Profile & Gallery of Places in Alberta (Calgary – Edmonton) | Earth’s Face

CALGARY

/KAL-ger-ee/ * /KAL-guh-ree/

listen

EDMONTON

/ED-muhn-TUHN/ * /ED-min-TIN/

listen

satellite map of the city of Calgary, Alberta
satellite map of the city of Edmonton, Canada

Name origin

Edmonton: originally Fort Edmonton, a fur trading post, named after Edmonton, England, the birthplace of a founding governor, Sir James Winter Lake

Calgary: named for the hamlet of Calgary, Scotland

Population

Edmonton: City <981,000 – Metro <1,321,000

Calgary: City <1,336,000 – Metro <1,392,000

Location

Edmonton: Central Alberta, aspen parklands region

Calgary: Southern Alberta, foothills/prairies region

Calgary is along the Bow River and the Elbow River. Edmonton is along the North Saskatchewan River.


Cities of Alberta Image Gallery: Calgary & Edmonton

a main square with colonial buildings and horse drawn carriage, Calgary's Heritage Park and village
Heritage Park, Calgary – Bernard Spragg
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the wonderland sculpture in downtown Calgary, Alberta
Wonderland sculpture – Davide Colonna
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a scene with skyscrapers and the wonderland sculpture on the streets of downtown Calgary, Canada
Nataliia Kvitovska
interior view of the Peace Bridge in Calgary
Peace Bridge, Denisse Leon
the Peace Bridge at evening over the Bow River leading to downtown Calgary
Robert Montgomery
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footbridge from Prince's Island Park with view of the Calgary skyline
Prince’s Island Park – Richard Carter
the Calgary Tower at night with lights, Alberta, Canada
Calgary Tower – asweseeit.ca CANADA
riders on horseback holding Canadian flags during the Calgary Stampede
Calgary Stampede – Leif Harboe
bronco riding at a rodeo during the Calgary Stampede
Sean Robertson
exterior of knox united church in downtown Calgary
Knox United Church – Bill Longstaff
ceiling of the chinese cultural centre in Calgary
Chinese Cultural Centre – Ricky Leong
a penguin swimming in water at the calgary zoo
Calgary Zoo – Bernard Spragg
black and white of studio bell centre, a place in calgary
Studio Bell – Michael Brager Photography
an autumn trail in fish creek provincial park, Canada's biggest urban park
Fish Creek Provincial Park – Bernard Spragg
fort calgary exterior in the snow
Fort Calgary – Bernard Spragg
the devonian gardens within the CORE shopping centre, Calgary, Alberta
Devonian Gardens – M Cheung
CORE Shopping Centre exterior and busy street in central Calgary
CORE Shopping Centre – Andres Alvarado
the Central Library in Calgary interior architecture
Central Library – Bilal Karim
view of Calgary skyline from the Bow River
Bow River – Bernard Spragg
stephen avenue in the evening with some light decorations, Calgary
Stephen Ave – Ayrcan
walking bridge over a wetland area in outer Calgary
Ahmed Zalabany
street art designs on a building in Calgary, CANAda
Toni Reed
interesting buildings and skyscrapers from street view at night in Calgary
Ryunosuke Kikuno
Hawrelak Park and Edmonton skyline
Hawrelak Park – Kurayba
neon sign museum at dusk in Edmonton, Alberta
Neon Sign Museum – WherezJeff
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pyramids of muttart conservatory in Edmonton, Canada
Muttart Conservatory – Mack Male
old streetcar and building in Fort Edmonton Park
Fort Edmonton Park – Richard Laperche
west edmonton mall interior with bridge and canal, major place in Alberta
West Edmonton Mall – GoToVan
Art Gallery of Alberta exterior cool architecture
Art Gallery of Alberta – IQRemix
Art Gallery of Alberta interior cool architecture, Edmonton
IQRemix
Royal Alberta Museum exterior
Royal Alberta Museum – Doug Zwick
view of Edmonton skyline from across north saskatchewan river
North Saskatchewan River Valley – Kurayba
North Saskatchewan River Valley at evening with Edmonton skyline
WherezJeff
ice castles exhibition in Edmonton
Ice Castles – Jason Woodhead
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Alberta Legislature Building with lit Christmas Tree and decorations in front at evening, Edmonton
Alberta Legislature Building – WherezJeff
view of downtown Edmonton from under a bridge across the north saskatchewan river at night
WherezJeff
North Saskatchewan River at evening with sun reflecting on the water
North Saskatchewan River – Richard Bukowski
University of Alberta Botanic Garden from bench view across a pond
University of Alberta Botanic Garden – Janusz Sliwinski
central city of Edmonton at sundown with bridge
Alex Pugliese
blue lights reflecting on the inside of a bridge passageway in Edmonton, Canada
Alex Pugliese
snow-covered walkway view from a bridge in the morning in Edmonton
Corey Tran
man on the steps in downtown edmonton, alberta at night with lights and christmas decor
Redd

What makes Prince Edward Island unique?- 11 Cool Features 🇨🇦

red sandstone cliffs on the shore of Prince Edward Island
Nicolas Raymond

Set the sails and off to the “Prince” of Canada’s provinces! Prince Edward Island is a place known for its red shores and soils, many lighthouses, Green Gables, and for potatoes, ostensibly. Let’s check out 11 of the cool features that make PEI special. But first, a quick profile.

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND: Quick Profile

topographical map of Prince Edward Island
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Canadian Provinces and Territories map, Prince Edward Island highlighted and circled in red
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Cities: Charlottetown is the capital and biggest city; Summerside is the second-biggest

provincial Flag of Prince Edward Island
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Location: mostly on the island of Prince Edward with many smaller coastal and barrier islands; within the Gulf of St. Lawrence, part of the Atlantic Ocean; once in the traditional Mi’kmaq lands and then French Acadia, it’s now part of the Maritime and Atlantic provinces of eastern Canada

Read more: New Brunswick; Nova Scotia; about Canada

Climate: has a maritime climate with some continental features; long but mild cold season and mild hot season compared to more inland areas

Environment: north Atlantic forests with coastal beaches, dunes, sandstone cliffs, and marshlands; lots of agriculture and farmland

Name: named after British Prince Edward, the father of Queen Victoria; called ÎleduPrinceÉdouard in French

Alright, so why is Prince Edward Island unique, then? …

1. Because of Green Gables

Avonlea Village, part of the Anne of Green Gables cultural site
Avonlea Village – Carl Campbell

What is that?:

This is the setting of the classic children’s novel Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. She was also from the area which now has lots of historic points dedicated to the book and its author.

Places and features:

New London, Montgomery’s hometown; Avonlea, the fictional community in the book now set up for people to visit; Anne of Green Gables Museum, and more related sites

2. Because of Prince Edward Island National Park

Prince Edward Island national park, rocky red and green coastline
 PEI National Park – Dave Bezaire

What is it?:

This national park protects a large natural area of the PEI north coast. With an abundance of beaches, pretty shorelines, and boardwalks, it also contains parts of the interior like Green Gables.

marshes, boardwalk and dunes at Greenwich, PEI
Greenwich marsh & dunes – Claudine Lamothe

Places and features:

Dalvay-by-the-Sea, a national historic site and very famous hotel on the north coast; Stanhope Beach; Cape Tryon, a cape with beautiful green and red cliffs and the Cape Tryon Lighthouse; Greenwich Beach, beaches with marsh boardwalks and cool sand dunes

See more: visit Dalvay-by-the-Sea

3. Because of its Confederation History

the confederation bridge at sunset, eastern Canada
Confederation Bridge – Dillon Turpin

What is that?:

Prince Edward Island holds an important spot in Canadian history for hosting the meetings that led to its confederation. Several sites on the island are dedicated to this prideful part of its heritage.

Places and features:

Confederation Landing, a waterfront park in Charlottetown with some historic boating sites and tours like Peakes Wharf; Confederation Centre of the Arts, an arts center in Charlottetown with exhibits and popular plays; the Confederation Trail, a cross-province trail that can be walked, biked, or sled across, it offers the best opportunities to enjoy the island’s rural scenery; Confederation Bridge, the world’s longest bridge over frozen waters, it connects PEI to the mainland at New Brunswick

Read more: about Confederation Trail

4. Because of its Towns

beaches and dunes outside of Cavendish, town in Prince Edward Island
Cavendish – TourismPEI

What are they?:

These are the small towns scattered throughout Prince Edward Island. Most of them have nice boardwalks, beaches, and wharves to explore.

Places and features:

Cavendish, home to several Green Gables sites, a famous ice cream shop, and cliffside shores; Victoria-by-the-Sea, also has a Seaport Museum; North Rustico, among many others

5. Because of its Many Beaches

boardwalk and pink flowery dunes at the coast of Basin Head Provincial Park, Canada
Basin Head Provincial Park – Nicolas Raymond

What are these?:

Remember that PEI province is full of differentiated coastlines. These come in the shapes of rocky and sandy beaches, coastal cliffs, and also wetlands.

Places and features:

Basin Head Provincial Park, home to Singing Sands Beach whose sands “sing” when stepped on; Brackley Beach, with red sands and boardwalks, also the locale of Dunes Studio Gallery, a kind of art gallery with a café and restaurant surrounded by green garden settings; Red Point Provincial Park, fun for families; Cabot Beach

6. Because of Charlottetown

Victoria Row neighborhood and shops in Charlottetown, Canada
Victoria Row – Heather Cowper

What is it?:

Charlottetown, as you know, is the capital and biggest urban area in Prince Edward Island. It’s also a center of culture and commerce with lots of historically significant sites dotted around. The city played a major role in Canadian confederation.

Places and features:

Victoria Park, a beautiful harborside park; Victoria Row, a popular shopping area with eateries and Victorian-era architecture; Prince Edward Battery; the Province House; Saint Dunstan’s Basilica; Beaconsfield Historic House, preserved Victorian home and museum; a series of mouse statues set up around the city

7. Because of the South Shore & Rocky Point

sailboat on the water ahead of Rocky Point, Prince Edward Island
Rocky Point – Martin Cathrae

What are they?:

Well, one is the southern shore of the island, particularly south of Charlottetown. Besides more coasts and beaches, there are a number of towns and historic sites found down here, especially on Rocky Point.

Places and features:

Skmaqn–Port-la-Joye–Fort Amherst, a national historic site home to some of the earliest European forts and settlements in PEI, it was also a main port of entry for early settlers; Blockhouse Point Light; Argyle Shore, more pretty red beaches and cliffs; Point Prim, with the historic Point Prim Light Station

Read more: Îles-de-la-Madeleine & Southern Québec

8. Because of Points East

East Point Lighthouse, a unique place in PEI
East Point Lighthouse – Stefan Krasowski

What is it?:

This area is the general eastern coast of the province. It combines a series of towns, parks, scenic shores, and most notably, lighthouses to light them all!

Places and features:

Points East Coastal Drive, the best way to catch the different places; Cape Bear, with a lighthouse and Marconi Museum; Wood Islands; East Point, home to one of the oldest operating lighthouses there; Orwell Corner Historic Village, preserving late 1800s country life

9. Because of its West Side

arch on North Cape cliffs, shores of Prince Edward Island
North Cape – Gregory Roberts

What is this?:

Here, I mean the western part of the island since everything else on this article has been further east. The west also has some of the prettiest coasts and settings, being either the starting or ending point of the Confederation Trail.

Places and features:

North Cape, more amazing scenery and coasts at the northwestern tip of the island, also part of the North Cape Coastal Drive; Cedar Dunes Provincial Park; the Bottle Houses, or Maisons de Bouteilles, a few homes made from recycled glass in a serene setting

10. Because of Summerside

colorful wharf and boat in Summerside, Canada east coast
Summerside Wharf – Stephen Downes

What is it?:

Summerside is the island’s second-biggest city and one of its main cultural centers. It has several unique and intriguing institutions that distinguish it from the rest.

Places and features:

Acadian Museum; College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada, it has exactly what the name suggests; the International Fox Museum & Hall of Fame, also has exactly what the name suggests, dedicated to preserving the history of attempted fox domestication and some noteworthy foxes; Eptek Art & Culture Centre

11. Because of the Culture

Dalvay by the sea hotel and historic house
Dalvay-by-the-Sea – Corey Balazowich

So Prince Edward Island is something else. It’s the smallest province but the most densely populated. From the native Mi’kmaq to Acadians to British settlers, this place has seen its fair share of people coming to tame it. Still, the rugged shores and amazing coastal landscapes prove that the wild can attract more than any civilized town.

And pretty towns with that classic North Atlantic, Victorian style are found throughout, showing how much fishing and boating have fed the people of this province. Let’s not forget that PEI is one of the crop-baskets for Canada, as small as it is, and it played a major role in the confederation of the country.

That’s why so many things reference that fact all over the island. Well, that and Anne of Green Gables, which is also referenced all over the place. Quiet hills and gusty cliffs still allow for haunted woods to scare us and for fantastical gardens to enchant our minds. Prince Edward Island is a magical place — sure, it can be a little cold and cloudy at times. PEI knows what makes it PEI, and preserving that has made them one of a kind.

**What else can you share about Prince Edward Island? Are you from there or have you visited? Tell us what you most like about it! Contact me to collaborate or to send a personal message at tietewaller@gmail.com. Feel free to read more posts on the site or on Earth’s Face. A special thank you to all the photographers for making their amazing work available on creative commons. Thanks for the support and keep being adventurous! Peace out people.

Other reads:

Facts about Prince Edward Island

Cost of visiting Prince Edward Island

Tourism re-opening in Prince Edward Island

Safety and daily life on Prince Edward Island

How come Prince Edward Island is a province?

What makes Northern British Columbia unique? – 8 Cool Reasons 🇨🇦

Mount Robson and Berg Lake in Northern British Columbia
Mount Robson & Berg LakeZeljko Kozomara
Provincial Flag of British Columbia
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Up to the north side of the Canadian west coast. Well, sort of. Less expensive than the south and a lot less populated, what Northern British Columbia lacks in those areas, it more than makes up for in God-given beauty. I guess it was just born that way.

North BC is known for gold rushes and a frontier past mixed with a Wild West persona where rugged mountains meet the green misty shores. A distinct corner of Cascadia merging the Ring of Fire and the Great Plains. Wooh, we’ve got a good one. Learn a bit about it with a quick profile, then stay tuned to read what makes this part of the province so unique.

northern BRITISH COLUMBIA: Quick Profile

map of Canadian Provinces and Territories, British Columbia highlighted in red
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map of northern British Columbia
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British Columbia takes up the entire west coast of Canada. Strangely though, most of this coast in the north is cut off by Alaska, with which it shares a long U.S. border to the west and northwest. Northern BC is considered generally what’s north of Queen Charlotte Sound or Prince George, which happens to be the biggest town on this side of the province.

There are lots of mountains and highlands up here, especially along the rugged Coastal Mountains that are home to BC’s tallest peaks. The Rockies are also prevalent in the east and middle where they morph into a general northern mountain range. With many fjords and islands near the coast, there’s also the major archipelago called Haida Gwaii.

Most of this coast has oceanic and wet climates whereas the interior is generally continental or subarctic. This includes dense forests, semi-arid plains and woodlands, and tundra. East of the Rockies is a stretch of prairies too. The name for British Columbia comes from the name of the region before confederation, which comes from the Columbia River. Read here for more details on the name and about Southern British Columbia.

Also, read more: about Canada; other provinces and Earth’s Face places

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Well, why is Northern British Columbia so special?

1. Because of the Lower Rockies

a snowy Mt Robson and clear Berg Lake in Mount Robson Provincial Park, Canada
Mt. Robson Provincial ParkJeffrey Pang

What are they?:

This is a section of the vast Rocky Mountains that is in the lower part of north British Columbia. They are filled with gorgeous mountain scenery, lakes, glaciers, and an abundance of waterfalls.

Helmcken Falls and a rainbow at Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
Helmcken Falls, Wells Gray Provincial ParkPaste

What do they have?:

In this general area are some notable provincial parks like Bowron Lake and Wells Gray. That last one has some very beautiful and iconic waterfalls like Helmcken Falls. There’s also the prominent Mount Robson, one of the tallest peaks in the province and the Rockies overall. It also has some nice glaciers and its own set of cascades in the Valley of the Thousand Falls.

2. Because of its Northern Mountains

colors of Mount Edziza volcano in northern British Columbian mountains
Colors of Mt. EdzizaHere fishy

What are they?:

In the north are a set of mountain chains that go from the northern bit of the Rockies and merge into separate ranges. These mountains cover much of the interior of the region with lots of spacious wilderness alongside the customary awe-inspiring scenery.

What do they have?:

For some of those raw wild landscapes of North America, the upper part of the Rockies has got it covered. These span places like Northern Rockies Provincial Park, the Kwadacha Wilderness, Dune Za Keyih Provincial Park, and the serene area around Muncho Lake.

In the inner mountain ranges can be found a distinct set of valleys and wildlands like in the Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness and Mount Edziza, a prominent volcano with colorfully designed soils. There’s also the Stikine River Provincial Park with more tundra landscapes, a winding canyon, and hot springs to go along with them.

3. Because of the Coastal Mountains

Lax Kw'alaams town on the coast of Kitima Range, British Columbian coastal mountains
Lax Kw’alaams, Kitimat RangeAlex

What are they?:

The Coastal Range is a set of very rugged and tall mountains near the coast of British Columbia and along the U.S. border with Alaska. It’s home to the tallest peak fully within BC — Mount Waddington — and the tallest one period shared with Alaska — Mount Fairweather. I’m guessing its weather isn’t so fair, though.

What do they have?:

Besides those two massive climbing walls, these particular mountains have tons of beauty to add to British Columbia. We have Kitlope Heritage Conservancy and the Atlin or Téix’gi Aan Tlein Provincial Park.

Tatshenshini-Alsek way up north has especially pretty valleys and glaciers. On the opposite end is Tweedsmuir South Provincial Park with stunning lake-filled valleys, fjords, and falls.

4. Because of Haida Gwaii

rocky forested coast of Moresby Island in Haida Gwaii, western Canada
Haida Gwaii CPAWS

What is it?:

Haida Gwaii (X̱aaydag̱a Gwaay.yaay in the Haida language) is the name of a group of large islands off the coast of northern British Columbia. With rocky shores and densely forested interiors, these islands are also a major site for trekking and adventure.

a totem pole closeup in Gwaii Haanas National Park in Northern British Columbia
Totem pole at Gwaii HaanasVysotsky

What does it have?:

There are a number of special features on the islands like impressive rock towers on the coasts and wooded trails that lead up to sweeping views of the islands into the highlands. One particular place to view these features is Gwaii Haanas National Park on Moresby Island. Other than amazing natural beauty, the park preserves several indigenous sites with iconic totem poles among other culturally significant structures.

5. Because of the Alaska Highway

What is that?:

“But this isn’t Alaska.” I know. This iconic highway — or a part of it, more accurately — runs through the prairies and lowlands of northeastern BC. The highway also runs through regional centers like Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson.

What does it have?:

Being a sort of crossroads for rail and road traffic, the Alaska Highway cuts across some scenic parts of the province, making it a popular drive in the area. There are also major towns like Dawson Creek, pretty much the starting point to the highway with an art gallery and a cool pioneer village.

On the north side of Peace River Country, Fort Nelson is one of the more isolated towns in BC. There’s also a heritage center, the namesake fort in “Fort” Nelson, and a drive that will take you into the isolated mountains or the Northwest Territories to get really lost. Also, enjoy those pretty Northern Lights.

6. Because of Barkerville

old wooden buildings in the frontier town of Barkerville, Canada
Barkerville Cbone

What is it?:

Barkerville is a unique historic town and park that used to be a booming center during the Cariboo Gold Rush of British Columbia. Not just some ghost town, it has been preserved very well and remains a tourist attraction.

What does it have?:

This place preserves a lot of the early frontier identity of British Columbia through fully restored buildings and active historic interpreters. I love how much Canada loves its history. As far as I can tell, the town is no longer inhabited but functions as a living breathing historic time capsule. The town was also very significant for Chinese Canadian immigrants and forms a key part of the strong Asian-Pacific presence in British Columbia.

7. Because of Great Bear Rainforest

two Spirit bear cubs, one with black coat and other with white coat, in the Great Bear Rainforest
Young Kermode bearsPacific Wild

What is it?:

This is one of the largest protected parts of the Pacific temperate rainforests, an ecoregion that stretches from Alaska all the way down into California. There are lots of dense woodlands and wildlife out there too.

Lizette Falls amidst the forests falling into a lake/fjord in the great bear rainforest of British Columbia
Great Bear RainforestJack Borno

What does it have?:

It’s essentially a protective zone along the coastal ranges. You go there just to enjoy pure natural wilderness. There’s also the anomalous “Spirit bear” or Kermode bears. They are a unique kind of black bear whose offspring are born every so often with white fur. How mystical!

8. Because of the Culture

Okay, so I try to fit in the cultural aspects of all of these places, but in northern British Columbia, it’s nature that dominates. I’m not saying that the railways, gold rushes, logging, and forestry had nothing to contribute. Many of the towns up here are set on preserving what life was like for the many pioneers that sought to make this area home … even if for a short while.

This is where the most open roads, the most rugged mountains, and the whitest black bears can be found under one boreal roof. From the world’s largest temperate rainforests to one of its most expansive prairies, this part of BC shows us that it holds its own as far as natural wonders go.

Definitely more rural than the south and with a bit of that Oregon Trail-Columbia country in the blood, it’s definitely more isolated than many places on the planet. With that, the diverse people and cultures from centuries over have maintained their mark on this remarkable patch of earth called Northern British Columbia.

**Did you enjoy reading about this remarkable place in Canada? Tell us what you like about Northern British Columbia, and shout out if you’re from there! Thanks so much for being a part of this site and this journey we’re on around the world. Feel free to check out other posts here on Cult-Surf and contact me at tietewaller@gmail.com if you want to have a word, or collaborate! Talk soon. Peace.

What makes southern British Columbia unique? (Besides Vancouver)- 9 Cool Reasons 🇨🇦

lake at Garibaldi Provincial Park in British Columbia's coastal mountains
Garibaldi Lesly Derksen

Welcome to the south of British Columbia, a province like none of the rest. Distinct habitats and identities come out to make this place as unique as it gets in Canada. The Pacific Northwest meets the Rockies in this western frontier.

Provincial Flag of British Columbia
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At times infamously expensive, other times open and welcoming to immigrants, British Columbia has a whole lot of fames and features that make it unique in the world. And a pretty large concentration of those features happens to be in the south. Learn more about this spectacular province with a quick profile. Then see some of what makes this region so special.

southern BRITISH COLUMBIA: Quick Profile

Again when talking about Canada, the south of any province is where most of the action happens since it’s further from the Arctic. Southern British Columbia is generally considered what lies south of Queen Charlotte Sound on the coast and Prince George or Mount Robson, maybe. It is the location of the provincial capital, Victoria, as well as the biggest urban area of Vancouver.

BC takes up Canada’s whole west Pacific coast and in the south borders the United States. There are many large mountainous regions throughout, especially along the coast and with the Rockies and the Columbia Mountains in the east. The province overall has about 6,000 islands off its shores and around the Inside Passage. Here can be found large fjords and islands like the big Vancouver Island.

There’s also an Interior Plateau which has drier forests and valleys with a major wine-making region. The coast and islands have mostly oceanic climates with wet temperate forests, similar to the rest of Cascadia. Some areas in the interior are humid continental and some drier Mediterranean regions. The mountains generally have a tundra or Alpine climate.

The province is called British Columbia after the old mainland colony of the same name. This was for the basin around the Columbia River, called to distinguish it from the American-owned Columbia that would later become the Oregon Territory. The mainland was named after the Columbia River, named for a boat called the Columbia Rediviva, which comes from an old name for the New World, “Columbia.” Eventually, it all goes back to explorer Christopher Columbus.

Read more: about Canada; Earth’s Face places in Canada & beyond

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Why is southern British Columbia unique? …

1. Because of Okanagan

Vineyards of the central Okanagan Valley, Canada
valleys of OkanaganMack Male

What is it?:

The Okanagan Valley is that nice wine-making region I mentioned earlier. The weather here is among the most pleasant in Canada and the scenery is beautiful to match.

What’s it have?:

Besides those features, Okanagan has a number of valley towns and cities to check out. Kelowna, for instance, has the scenic Knox Mountain Park in the hills, as well as beach parks and waterfronts to enjoy on its beautiful lake. Kamloops has a cool Heritage Railway tracking the backbone of British Columbian history, along with the natural Lac du Bois Grasslands nearby.

The city of Vernon has excellent natural areas on its lakes like Ellison Provincial Park, or in Silver Star Mountain for skiing. There’s also the Davison Orchard’s Country Village which is like a fun frontier town inside Vernon. There are a bunch of other towns that seem popular for visitors … and they’ve all got wineries.

Read more: Okanagan Wine Country Tours

2. Because of its Frontier Parks

Takakkaw Falls and a rainbow in Yoho National Park, southern British Columbia
Takakkaw Falls, YohoFir0002

What are those?:

By this, I’m just talking about the national parks out near the border with Alberta. The Rocky Mountains of British Columbia are very pretty like all the other Rockies and are home to some unique parks. Two that stand out are Yoho National Park and Kootenay National Park.

What do they have?:

Other than amazing montane landscapes and deep blue lakes surrounded by serene forest? Well, Yoho is home to the famed Lake O’Hara which is popular for photographers and nature-goers.

Also here are Takakkaw Falls, Canada’s second-tallest and an amazing sight to see. Over in Kootenay are similar attractions, although there is a majestic glacier there, as well as its very own Grand Canyon to explore. This one has a lot more trees around it though.

3. Because of the Rocky & Columbia Mountains

Sunset by Wapta Falls.jpg
Wapta Falls, Canadian RockiesJakub Fryš

What are they?:

As you might know, the Rockies and the Columbia Mountains are two somewhat connected mountain chains that extend between the U.S. and Canada. They are home to some of the most gorgeous natural settings in all of North America. Snow-capped mountains and glaciers “cascade” down into picturesque lakes surrounded by pine forests and flowery meadows.

giant cedar trees and a forest boardwalk in Mount Revelstoke National Park, British Columbia
Giant Cedars Boardwalk, Mt. RevelstokeNatulive Canada

What do they have?:

To get more specific, there are a number of great parks to visit in the area. The Kakwa Wildland and Glacier National Park are two incredible choices, the former being the home of beautiful Kakwa Falls. In the Columbias is a range called the Selkirk Mountains.

These babies have a similar natural beauty to the Rockies but with some distinct rock compositions. The Purcell Wilderness is a notable park here, and the most incredible one based on what I’ve seen is Mount Revelstoke Provincial Park, a place that sure leaves visitors “reveling.”

4. Because of the Mountains around Squamish & Whistler

dense woodlands of the Joffre Lakes region of southern British Columbia, Canada
Joffre LakesAkshay Chauhan

What is that?:

So Squamish is a small rustic town amidst these towering mountains and wilderness areas. It seems like a cool getaway before going off on sporting adventures or to a cabin. Whistler is a similar mountain village a bit more in the hills. I’m sure it looks magical in the wintertime and with all the Christmas lights. As it happens, these two towns are surrounded by incredible mountain scenery, part of Canada’s Coastal Range.

Sea to Sky Gondola in the summertime outside of Squamish
Sea to Sky Gondola, SquamishJosephine Lin

What do they have?:

Squamish itself has a Sea to Sky Gondola which takes visitors from a sound on the ocean, basically, up high into the mountains. Whistler Blackcomb is set outside the town as a series of ski and snow sport resorts for athletes to take on. Not far is Garibaldi Provincial Park, a famed spot for hikers and explorers to reach (really high) heights and witness some of the calmest and snowiest parts of southern British Columbia.

The lake scenery there is just jaw-dropping too. Another lake haven is Joffre Lakes, similar but with a lot more forest. I’m telling you, just look up some pictures of these places, you won’t believe it. A little further out but in the general region is the Fraser River Canyon whose windy rapids lead to a cool cross-bridge called Hell’s Gate. Sinister.

5. Because of Nelson and Kokanee

people enjoying the beach at Kokanee Creek
Kokanee CreekPicryl

What are they?:

Nelson is a town out in southern BC that is utterly encircled by nature. It’s actually a quite pretty town situated on Lake Kootenay. Kokanee is really the name of a few natural parks around Nelson with amazing landscapes, as we should expect.

What do they have?:

Nelson seems like a cool forest getaway spot mixing in a unique availability of lake and wilderness excursions. Not far is Kokanee Lake with serene natural surroundings. Kokanee is also a glacier park and a creek park with some beaches to enjoy those winding waters.

6. Because of Vancouver Island

view from between trees at a lake and islet in Strathcona Provincial Park, Vancouver Island
Strathcona Provincial ParkLesly Derksen

What is it?:

Oh, only the biggest and most populous North American island in the Pacific Ocean. Vancouver Island was actually its own separate colony at one point until merging with British Columbia as a single province. Because of that, it’s got this separate Britain-y, colonial feel to it but with all the nature inclusive of the rest of BC. It’s even got a warmer climate than most of the country and is home to Victoria.

sunset on a beach near Tofino, Vancouver Island, British Columbia
beach near TofinoShlomo Shalev

What does it have?:

One of the best parts of Vancouver Island is the West Coast Trail. This trail rides the coast along with forests, quiet beaches, hidden coves, and even a waterfall or two. A major feature of this is the Pacific Rim (not the movie, sorry), a nature reserve filled with rocky tree-lined shores and some boardwalks that lead into the Pacific Northwest’s dense rainforests.

Popular coastal towns with a similar feel are Tofino and Ucluelet. Nanaimo is another important city with a rustic throwback village for visitors to wander back in time — and get good eats, of course. There is also a petroglyph park and Newcastle Island (Saysutshun) where the native heritage can be explored. Another quaint fishing village with just enough isolation is Ganges, set on Salt Spring Island just off the shore of larger Vancouver.

7. Because of Victoria

view of Parliament Buildings from a lamp around Victoria's inner harbour, British Columbia
Inner Harbour Reid Naaykens

What is it?

Located on the mighty Vancouver Island, Victoria is British Columbia’s coastal capital. The city sits along a pretty harbor and waterfront and is right next to an abundance of outdoor activities.

Craigdarroch Castle at evening, city of Victoria
Craigdarroch CastleMichal Klajban

What does it have?:

The main spot of Victoria is its Inner Harbour. Here are beautifully-built sights like the Parliament Buildings and the Empress Hotel, as well as the colorful Fisherman’s Wharf and park. There’s also the Royal BC Museum and Bug Zoo for you insect enthusiasts. Yep, one of a kind.

waterfall in Goldstream Provincial Park, south Vancouver Island outside of Victoria
Goldstream Provincial ParkRt44

Chinatown and Johnson Street are interesting neighborhoods to stroll through. Victoria has great urban parks like Beacon Hill and Abkhazi Gardens, and count the spectacular Butchart Gardens on the outskirts.

Nice coastal hangouts are Spiral Beach and Willows Beach, and there are even some full-out castles like Craigdarroch and Hatley. Outside of town are a number of great places to get into nature. To call out a few, you’ve got Gowlland Tod, the coastal East Sooke, and the falls-filled Goldstream Park.

8. Because of the Enchanted Forest & Big White

Big White village and ski resort covered in snow, Canada
Big White VillageFlickr

What are they?:

The Enchanted Forest is a woods area with themed forest adventures. Not far is Big White, another one of Canada’s famous ski resorts.

What do they have?:

Big White has snow activities in one of the most popular resorts in all BC. Within the Enchanted Forest is a setup like a fantasy world with fun adventures for whole families, including a skytrek, salmon run, and tons of fairies. Enjoy that.

9. Because of the Culture

Southern British Columbia is essentially the center of culture and identity for this province. Home to the biggest and most popular cities, resorts, and many an extraordinary wildlife wonderland. The outdoors are such a core part of this place, even if city life gets a little mixed in. This is the core of Canada’s West Coast culture since it’s really the only west coast it has. Traditional trains and logging tell their history amidst the booming new tech and business coming from all over the globe, especially with an Asia-Pacific flare.

The distinct Vancouver Island adds its special twist to the Cascades identity of this province that got its roots set by way of the railways. Trains, frontiers, western towns, and First Nations hold a deep significance here. That’s telling from the many places native traditions and symbols like totem poles are present. The diversity of its original and more contemporary settlers go hand in hand with the wide diversity of its landscapes.

With so much wilderness and unspoiled land, Southern British Columbia still hosts many of the animals that have diminished to rare in other parts of the continent. With wineries and vineyards running through some of Canada’s warmest locations, this is the nation’s setting sun to the far west. And the weather’s just a bit better than the north side.

**Thanks for reading about British Columbia’s southern portions. What’s your favorite part about this region? Are you from BC or have you been there? Share with us what else needs to be on this list! Contact me directly or collaborate at tietewaller@gmail.com. And please feel free to read some more posts here on the site. Take care and get out there! Peace.

Other reads: British Columbia ImmigrationBritish Columbia’s Unique GeographyBritish Columbia living & expensesBritish Columbia Wikipedia

What makes Manitoba unique?- 9 Cool Reasons 🇨🇦

Canadian Museum of Human Rights near the forks in Winnipeg
Canadian Museum of Human RightsKrazytea

The middle of Canada is spelled with a big “M.” Manitoba is a province of wildlands and some wild weather swings. This nice place is where residents of the world have decided to live and to visit. Scratching its recent Covid-19 troubles, this province is a fascinating one with some interesting features. Read on to see nine reasons why the Keystone Province can be considered unique. But first, some geography and stuff.

MANITOBA: Quick Geography (& Stuff)

map of Manitoba province
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Canadian Provinces and Territories map, Manitoba highlighted in red
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Canada’s most centrally-located province is found in the middle interior of the country. One of the so-called Prairie provinces, it is the only one that isn’t landlocked and the one with the most humid climate. Its coastline comes in the northeast on Hudson Bay and it borders the United States to the south.

Read more: Canada on the Map; more Earth’s Face places

Back to the climate, Manitoba is mostly continental in the south and subarctic in the north. Major habitats include scattered highland regions, especially east around the Canadian Shield. Most of Manitoba, though, has flat or open landscapes, including prairies and boreal forests that turn into taiga and tundra in the north.

There are also many wetlands like the Hudson Plains and too many lakes to mention. The biggest are Lake Manitoba, Lake Winnipegosis, and Lake Winnipeg, among the largest lakes in the world. The vast majority of Manitobans live in the south which is where the capital, Winnipeg, is located.

Otherwise, the name comes from Cree and Ojibwe languages meaning “straits of Manitou” or the Great Spirit, referring to a place on Lake Winnipeg. The name could also be influenced by Assiniboine for “lake of the prairie.”

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So why is Manitoba so special? …

1. Because of Winnipeg

The entryway into all that makes Manitoba stand out has to be in its capital and biggest city. The ground zero of what makes Winnipeg unique is at the Forks, the general meeting point of two rivers where big markets, nice parks, a riverwalk, and boating can be experienced.

polar bears swimming in the Assiniboine Park Zoo, Winnipeg
Assiniboine Park ZooEva Blue

Also around Downtown are cultural centers like the Winnipeg Art Gallery and Canadian Museum of Human Rights. That last one mixes some incredibly fun architecture with a breakdown of human rights movements from throughout history. Cruising happily down the urban rivers and parks can take visitors to FortWhyte Alive, an environmental and recreational center with all kinds of interactive outdoor activities.

Another great natural space is Assiniboine Park which covers everything from forest to a beautiful pavilion to a great zoo with tons of polar bears. Important events occur throughout the year too like Folklorama (folk festival) and the Festival du Voyageur (heritage/winter celebration).

2. Because of Churchill (& Polar Bears!)

aurora borealis northern lights over Wapusk National Park, Manitoba
Aurora borealis over WapuskAnsgar Walk

If you’ve ever watched Animal Planet and seen that Canadian town where polar bears roam the streets, Churchill was probably the place. The city occasionally gets wild polar bears waltzing through it, but there are other attractions to be found. Kayaking on the river and beluga whale outings are especially popular.

There’s the major Prince of Wales Fort to be explored and the town is near to Wapusk National Park. Wapusk is a part of the tundra where visitors can spot wildlife, especially around Polar Bear Alley. There are also wrecked boats and the amazing Northern Lights that add an awesome appeal over the white winter landscape.

Try out: Wildlife tours in Churchill

3. Because of Historic Sites

Like in other parts of Canada, Manitoba’s history is well preserved. This shows in Lower Fort Garry, an old fur trading post by the Hudson’s Bay Company that allows visitors to get a taste of frontier life.

Near to that is the Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre. Here, birdwatching and environmental immersion meet in a cool-looking center out on the marshes. Out in the town of Steinbach is a Mennonite Heritage Village dedicated to preserving and teaching about the lifestyle of these rustic settlers.

4. Because of its Random Attractions

Being in North America’s Midwest, Manitoba is bound to have some random attractions. Random doesn’t have to mean bad though, since one of these is the International Peace Garden. This wonderful garden is shared with North Dakota in the U.S. and is a really cool gesture of friendship between the two nations.

There’s also the big Centre of Canada sign which signals to the longitudinal center of the whole country. Who else can claim that? Portage La Prairie is a curious little town that boasts the World’s Biggest Coca-Cola Can, plus a neat waterpark on an island called Splash Island. Random.

5. Because of Lake Winnipeg

I don’t want to dump on the other lakes, but Lake Winnipeg seems to be the most popular. Besides all the other great stuff one can do on a massive lake (e.g. fishing, boating, you name it), there are also some popular beaches to see. Most noteworthy are Albert Beach and the famous Grand Beach which hosts a fun Sand Castle Tournament.

Castles made of sand can lead you to Hecla Island, a full-blown island in the lake with beaches and a relaxing coastal resort. There’s also Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park with its lovely coast and lighthouse to explore.

6. Because of the Icelandic Communities

Norse battle reenactment in the town of Gimli, Manitoba
Norse battle reenactment in Gimli Travel Manitoba

So Canada is home to all sorts of ethnic communities, and adding to that unique list would be the Icelandic ones. Going back to Hecla, the town is home to a big Icelandic community.

A large area around Lake Winnipeg was actually known as New Iceland to settlers. They established the largest Icelandic community outside of Iceland in Manitoba! That’s why there are several heritage festivals like Íslendingadagurinn (try that one fast) to commemorate. The town of Gimli is also a major center with a Heritage Museum, plus some beaches of its own.

Read more: What makes Iceland unique

7. Because of Whiteshell & Pinawa Dam

Whiteshell Provincial Park is one of several unique nature parks in Manitoba. With sweeping rivers and woods, the park is special for having several strangely shaped lakes, especially at West Hawk Lake. This one was created by a meteor impact and has some very interesting views around it.

Not far is the Pinawa Dam Provincial Heritage Centre, centered around the Pinawa Dam. Imagine that. It’s an old dam with a really distinct design that has basically turned into these eerie ruins. Still, it’s a popular place for people to hike, hang out at the parks, or cruise under its watery arches.

8. Because of Parks like Riding Mountain

Riding Mountain just sounds fun, doesn’t it? Like the Matterhorn. Well, this national park has lots of nature to take in and enjoy, including a chance to witness the park’s bison and other wildlife. Scenic views and vast wetlands are also a feature at Spruce Woods Provincial Park, but with a twist. This park is home to a series of large sand dunes to climb in the midst of wild prairies.

From the southern plains to the eastern highlands, the Canadian Shield boasts impressive parks like Atikaki and Nopiming. These places mix rocky forests with beautiful lake shores, great for watching sunsets and Auroras under the wild sky.

9. Because of its Culture

Reading above, you could see how Manitoba’s settlers have shaped the face of the province. This of course stems from its First Nations and later Métis people (mostly of mixed Indigenous and French background) that played a big role in distinguishing it as a province.

From Icelanders to Mennonites to French and British fur traders, the rustic outdoors heritage of the settlers still shines in its modern lifestyle. Nature shapes a big part of Manitoba’s identity with wildlife being a core part of many attractions. Winters are brutal but people don’t shy away from a bit of lakeshore fun on those beaches.

Conserving nature and history is a big deal here in a place where it’s hard to say that polar bears don’t matter. I mean, they’re walking right there! But really, an attention to what makes all of human- and animal-kind special joined with a boldness to design and redesign itself all make Manitoba … well, it’s just a piece of what makes Manitoba a special place.

First off, thank you for coming. If you enjoyed this, please read about other unique places on Earth’s Face. Tell us what you like about Manitoba! Feel free to contact me with personal comments or for collaboration at tietewaller@gmail.com. Stop by again, and take care out there travelers!

What makes Nova Scotia unique? 8 Cool Reasons 🇨🇦

view of the hills and Atlantic ocean from the Cabot Trail heading over the Cape Breton Highlands
Cabot Trail Elyse Turton

Another piece of the Maritimes, Canada’s got its own little Acadian Scotland. Nova Scotia is known for its seaside towns, extreme tides, and forested highlands. But does any of that make the province unique? Well, let’s find out. First, take a quick look at some geography, and we’ll get into what is so special about Nova Scotia. Come on …

NOVA SCOTIA: Quick Geography

Map of Nova Scotia
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Canadian Provinces and Territories, Nova Scotia is highlighted in red
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Canada’s second-smallest province is Nova Scotia, a Latin name meaning “New Scotland,” or Nouvelle-Écosse (Nu-vell-Eh-coss) in French. True to the name, it’s also known as Alba Nuadh in Scottish Gaelic, though that’s one of the lesser spoken languages nowadays.

Nova Scotia is a part of both the Maritimes and Atlantic provinces of eastern Canada. It’s mostly located on the main peninsula, though a big chunk lies on Cape Breton Island which is home to a pretty large inland sea called Bras d’Or Lake (I know, the name is misleading). The capital and largest city of Halifax is on the main peninsula. Otherwise, there are thousands of smaller islands all around, including the famous Sable Island.

Read more: about Canada; what makes New Brunswick unique

It is connected to the rest of Canada in the north and is surrounded by parts of the Atlantic Ocean in all other directions like the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of St. Lawrence. The climate in Nova Scotia is mostly continental with wet weather and uncommonly cold winters for the region. There are lots of seasonal forests and highlands that form an extension of the Northern Appalachian system, especially on Cape Breton.

So, why is Nova Scotia so unique?

1. Because of Pretty Towns like Lunenburg

Peggy's Cove and the lighthouse at sunset
Peggy’s CoveShawn M. Kent

One thing that Nova Scotia is probably known for above all is its pretty colonial towns and villages, with one of the most famous being Lunenburg. This town is particularly colorful with museums and historic buildings, but it’s most famous for its beautiful waterfront.

Other popular coastal towns are Peggy’s Cove and Yarmouth, known for similarly beautiful rustic buildings, their ports, lighthouses, and the works. Amherst was the first designated town in the province and Sydney used to be the capital of Cape Breton’s colony. Either way, the mix of Maritimes coast with forested hills and wooden Victorian homes make these towns all a special sight.

2. Because of Halifax

Halifax is not just Nova Scotia’s main city, but it’s the biggest city in the Maritimes region. This makes it a center for business and culture, most notably at the Harbour and Waterfront. Here there are markets, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, a newly designed Art Gallery in the works, and the famed Pier 21. This place was once Canada’s gateway for European immigrants and is now a museum where folks can check their family records for free.

Read more: New design for the Art Gallery

Halifax Public Gardens entrance gate with purple flowers below, city of Halifax
Public GardensMarkjt

The Harbour is also where people can take a ferry over to Dartmouth to get a great view of Halifax or enjoy another set of waterfront attractions. Within the city are the beautiful Public Gardens and the historic Citadel Hill which houses the city’s old forts and a special panoramic view.

St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica is one of the prettier structures to be viewed in town. Also known for its green spaces, pleasant zones to get fresh air are the Halifax Common and Point Pleasant Park. Long Lake Provincial Park is good to go a bit further in the boonies.

3. Because of Historic Sites like Louisbourg

a traditional canon demonstration by reenactors at the Louisbourg Fortress on Cape Breton Island
Demonstration at LouisbourgDennis Jarvis

The Fortress of Louisbourg is a National Historic Site where reenactments of colonial life are carried out by professionals all over the site. Even though it’s one of the larger forts, there are quite a few places that provide insight into historic life like the Ross Farm Museum and Fort Anne.

Grand-Pré National Historic Site in the Acadian region of Canada's Maritimes
Grand-PréDr Wilson

It and Port-Royal were actually among the first French settlements in Acadia and the Americas, while Fort Anne leads to the splendorous Annapolis Royal Gardens. Another historic site is Grand-Pré, a sort of monument town dedicated to the Acadians that were expelled from there by British rule.

4. Because of the Bay of Fundy & Minas Basin

That’s right! New Brunswick isn’t the only province that can boast the Bay. Nova Scotia also has a number of scenic sites and landscapes due some praise. Around Hall’s Harbour are a famous lobster restaurant, sea caves, and the site of huge tidal changes.

The area is also notable for whale watching. Cape Split has a series of high trails and cliffs that overlook the beautiful water. Going inward to Minas is where the real tide action happens, being home to the most extreme tidal changes in the world. There’s even a place where rafters can ride backward on the tides.

Read more: whale watching tours in Nova Scotia

Cape Blomidon Beach on the Minas Basin, eastern Canada
Blomidon Provincial Park

Blomidon Provincial Park is one of the best places to take in all the wonderful scenery with orange cliffs and long sandy passages being a feature there. Stamped between the Bay and some interior hills is Annapolis Valley, another very pretty region stocked with rolling vineyards and green knolls.

5. Because of Kejimkujik

Kejimkujik is — well, hard to pronounce, but also one of Nova Scotia’s best National Parks. It’s a gorgeous forest area with rivers and hills and even reaches down to some beaches. Besides its natural appeal, the park also has a number of cultural interactions with the native Mi’kmaq people. These can include villages, hunting and food practices, wildlife reserves, and other cultural immersion sites set to inform outside visitors about Nova Scotia’s original settlers.

6. Because of Cape Breton

a rocky beach with a cape and blue skies in the background, in the Cape Breton Highlands region
Cape Breton Island Tango7174

Cape Breton Island has a lot of what makes Nova Scotia unique, and a lot of it has to do with the Cape Breton Highlands. The coastal highlands form another great National Park to explore, particularly around the Cabot Trail.

Among the many trails that Giovanni Caboto blazed in the New World, this area has a number of scenic overlooks and pathways to take in the pure beauty of Canada’s Atlantic coastline. I mentioned the big sea/lake of Bras d’Or which has its own share of nice water and forest settings.

Along the coast is the town of Baddeck, a calm post for tourism, boat outings, golf excursions, and a site dedicated to the maker of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, once a resident there. We already mentioned Louisbourg too, so check it as another special place on Cape Breton.

7. Because of its Random Islands

Sable Island horses grazing on the island in Nova Scotia
Sable IslandHiFlyChick

With a few thousand islands, you have to bet that some of NS’s isles had to be a little strange. Or maybe random is a better descriptor word. There are lots of islands that could potentially make the count, but one that stands out is St. Paul Island.

This place is odd because it’s pretty far offshore from Cape Breton but was seriously settled at one point. There’s a lighthouse, an abandoned radio station, and a couple of abandoned manors. If that weren’t enough, the island is often shrouded in fog to make matters creepier.

A more pleasant yet no-less random island is Sable. This island looks more like a long sandbank and it’s also a ways offshore from the mainland. That didn’t stop the island from being populated by a special breed of horses (Sable Island horses, fittingly so). It’s also apparently a popular island in literature and other media and is well-known for its grassy hills, long sandy beaches, and a history of frequent shipwrecks. I’m sure the horses contribute to the fame, though.

8. Because of the Culture

A big part of Nova Scotia’s cultural identity is spelled right there in the name. Scottish and other Gaelic-nation immigrants had a huge impact on the province’s early British settlement. Still, the earlier French and Acadians also left their mark on NS, from place names to foods and some of the traditions.

Several places look like French Catholicism and colonialism clashed with Victorian design and made some very pretty architectural collages. Plus, this is Canada, so world immigration has contributed to NS’s already diverse population. Anglo-Canadian culture and language have taken over. Still, there are areas where the native language or French are still prevalent. Scottish Gaelic is sort of on the rise in some places and apparently has one of the highest speaker communities outside of Scotland.

Even though its population density is fairly high, the people are pretty spread out and the towns are able to maintain that old North Atlantic fishing village feel. Industrialization mixes with modern tech and arts. The influence of the Mi’kmaq people is still present in heritage festivals, galleries, and some of the renewed designs.

It was also a haven for British Loyalists escaping the American Revolution, and so New England has a foot inside the province. Quiet coastal living, rural country values, and the ocean itself all put a stamp on what it means to be in Nova Scotia. Quietly continuing to surprise people with its subtle beauty, this province holds a unique place in our world.

**Enjoying learning about Earth’s places? Show us some love and follow to get notified every time we post about a new place! Want to collaborate? Contact me at tietewaller@gmail.com, and read more posts like this on Earth’s Face. Take care, you all. Peace.

What makes Montreal unique? – 11 Cool Reasons 🇨🇦

Well, it doesn’t take much to see how special of a city Montreal is in Canada, let alone the world. A big city, one of the safest big cities, a popular spot for students and travelers looking for a one-of-a-kind corner of North America. Montreal is French but the English presence is apparent. Are you aching to learn some more? Take a journey into the royal city.

So what makes Montreal so unique, then?

Map of Montreal highlighting Montreal Island
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MONTRÉAL: Quick Geography

First off, Montreal is Canada’s second-biggest city by population and the biggest in Quebec province. It’s got over 1,704,000 people in the city and over 1,942,000 in the urban area. The city is located on a group of islands, mainly the Île de Montréal (Il-de-Mon-trhey-all) or Montreal Island. The big island sits between the mighty St. Lawrence River and the smaller Prairie River, also standing at the head of the Ottawa River.

Once called Ville-Marie, 16th-century French came to name the city after a three-hill point called Mount Royal or Mont-Réal back in those days. In Ojibwe, the city is known as Mooniyaang after a “first stopping place” in their migration legend. Otherwise, it’s called Tiohtià:ke Tsi in Mohawk meaning “a place where nations and rivers unite and divide.” That fits the city pretty well.

Montreal is divided into 19 boroughs with their own mayors and councils too. Let’s look at some features!

1. Because of the St. Lawrence Riverfront

Jean-Drapeau Park and the Biosphere on the Île Sainte-Hélène
Jean-Drapeau Park, Île Sainte-Hélène – by Guillaume TECHER

Montreal’s main riverfront is home to a couple of core attractions, including a few islands. The Île Sainte-Hélène (Il-Sent-Eh-len) or “Saint Helen’s Island” is right in the middle of the river. It is home to a major theme park called La Ronde, as well as the famous Jean-Drapeau Park with the giant Biosphere globe.

Just next to it is the Île Notre-Dame which has the prettily designed adult playground known as Montreal Casino. There’s also the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, a major track used for the Canadian Grand Prix. It’s also great for casual strolls to take in a view of Old Montreal.

Montreal's Old Port at dusk with the clock tower and bridge in the background
Old Port of Montreal – by Walid Amghar

On the main island is the Old Port where old boats still sail like they did back in colonial times. There’s also a promenade with the pretty Montreal Clock Tower looming above the water. Out on a little strip by the port is Habitat 67, a building complex with unique box-shaped sections that looks like a giant Tetris game. That’s different.

2. Because of Old Montreal

Notre-Dame Basilica interior, Old Montreal
Notre-Dame Basilica – by Annie Spratt

Old Montreal is the classic cobblestone and horse carriage image of the city that visitors love. The place is stocked with beautiful old architecture like at City Hall and the Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral, one of the largest cathedrals in North America.

There’s also the famous Notre-Dame Basilica with the extremely beautiful interior appreciated by both pro- and non-Catholics around the world. The Château Ramezay is an old hotel establishment and one of several places that offer an experience to go back in time to Quebec’s good olden days. That’s why Old Montreal is a national historic site in Canada.

3. Because of Ville-Marie

a view of Ville-Marie, downtown Montreal with the riverfront
view of Ville-Marie – by Annie Spratt

Ville-Marie is basically the main core of Montreal being one of its boroughs. Besides Old Montreal, there are a number of really nice cultural centers like the Redpath Museum and the Museum of Beaux-Arts.

Besides the many squares and skyscrapers, the queen of them is the 1000 de la Gauchetière which stands at the height of Mount Royal. They would build it taller, but the city doesn’t allow for buildings any higher than those hills. The top has an awesome aerial view of the city and its surroundings, and it holds a big skating rink for those who want a less lofty adventure.

On the sub-ground level, Ville-Marie has an Underground City full of shops and eateries. It’s a popular place to do some shopping and escape the bitter Montreal winters.

4. Because of the Entertainment

the Quartier des Spectacles square at evening with colorful decorations
Quartier des Spectacles – from QuartierdesSpectacles.com

One of the main spots near downtown is this big square called Quartier des Spectacles. It’s a very interestingly designed locale that lights up with parties and festivals all throughout the year. Especially around the Place des Arts, the area is also full of galleries and theaters of all kinds, as well as the Grande Library.

Montreal, in general, is famous for its big festivals, some of them being the biggest or only of their kind in the world! To list a few you have the:

  • International Jazz Festival
  • Nuits d’Afrique (African Nights)
  • Circus Festival
  • International Fireworks Festival
  • Igloofest
  • Canadian Grand Prix
  • Just for Laughs (comedy fest)
  • Les Francos de Montréal (French music festival)

5. Because of the Food & Neighborhoods

Poutine with a thicker beef gravy, plate originated from Quebec
Poutine, a Quebec original – By Jonathunder

Montreal is very famous for its food and drink scene, having some of the most unique cuisines in North America for a number of reasons. World-famous restaurants and good wine or craft bars are found throughout, and you can’t go without the poutine!

Read more: Food & Culture tours

colorful graffiti and street art at a corner around Saint Laurent Boulevard, Montreal
graffiti art around Boulevard St.-Laurent – by Benoit Debaix

Other cool neighborhoods to explore shops and historic architecture are Mile End and Rue Saint-Denis. In this area is the Jean-Talon Market, Montreal’s biggest open-air market to get your eat on. Lastly, Boulevard Saint-Laurent is another quirky hood to explore with tons of weird and cool street art, as well as some shops of its own.

6. Because of Mont-Royal

view from a belvedere on Mount Royal, Montreal
view from Mont-Royal – by Matthias Mullie

The city’s namesake isn’t just some mountain but a massive park space with lots of serene nature. With tons of natural space and activities year-round, Mont-Royal also has a number of monuments, major cemeteries, and belvederes to take in the view of Montreal.

The views alone are enough to make you grateful they don’t build skyscrapers higher than the mountain. One of the main sights to take in the park’s beauty is Saint Joseph’s Observatory.

7. Because of the Islands & Nature Parks

Despite being one of Canada’s biggest cities, Montreal has left plenty of room for nature to stay in play. This shows in places like the lush Bois-de-Liesse Nature Park along the Prairie River, or the Cap-Saint-Jacques Nature Park.

This big park has cool activities like maple shacks to extract syrup, livestock farms to interact with animals, and even some decent beaches for the summertime. Much of the park is undeveloped and remains a quiet wood area.

Other isolated parks located on islands are Île-Bizard and the Îles-de-Boucherville National Park. These places are ideal for exploring the waterways and natural landscapes around the city. Île-Perrot offers similar parks with a few historic structures to add to this quaint setting.

8. Because of Urban Parks

fountain and tranquil pond setting at La Fontaine Park, Montreal
the fountain at La Fontaine Park – By Jeangagnon

Other than Mont-Royal, the city is also stacked with nice urban parks. This includes La-Fontaine Park with its pretty ponds and forest scenery. A similar park with tranquil settings is Agrignon Park on the south side.

Frédéric-Back Park is a former quarry / landfill that’s in the process of becoming one of Montreal’s biggest urban parks. As of now, it’s got a few cool works of art in it, and it’s dotted by a bunch of weird scattered spheres. These things are a part of the biogas cleanup in the park and make for an interesting sight even if they’re not intended to be.

9. Because of the Botanical Gardens & Olympic Park

Montreal Botanical Garden and the Japanese Garden section
Japanese Garden, Botanical Gardens – by Hansel Wong

Montreal’s Botanical Gardens are some of the most awarded and revered gardens in the world. They are actually a group of gardens with international themes, and whether it’s the Japanese, Chinese, or First Nations, you can’t really go wrong. They’re also really nice because the gardens stay remarkably pretty no matter the season of the year.

Read more: Jardin Botanique

Olympic Stadium and Leaning tower at Olympic Park in Montreal
Olympic Stadium – By Tolivero

Next door at the Olympic Park are a few attractions like the Montreal Biodome and the park itself. Over here is the Leaning Tower which allows visitors to get a more “slanted” view of the city from above. There’s also the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, a popular place to learn about astronomy and make crafts or watch movies, among other fun activities.

10. Because of the Suburbs

the Rivière-des-Mille-Îles or thousand islands river in the suburbs of Montreal, Laval
Rivière-des-Mille-Îles – By Pierre Bona

Another cool thing about Montreal is its suburbs which add their own mix of nature and history to the urban area. Mont-Royal (the city) has a few of these places, centered nicely on a main square and the interesting Connaught Park.

Further from the center are places like Pointe-Claire with several nice parks, historic architecture, and art galleries on the St. Lawrence riverfront. Terrebonne has lots of nature and provides venues for skiers and snow sport lovers, as well as the historic Île-des-Moulins (Il-de-Mu-lunn). This area was a hotspot for Quebec’s noble landowners and houses several historic sights like 18th-century mills still standing in place.

Terrebonne-Ecluse des Moulins, church in Terrebonne, Quebec
Terrebonne – By Pierre Bona

Laval is another suburb popular for its nature and beautifully-built University of Laval. There’s also the Rivière-des-Mille-Îles (He-vyehr-deh-Mill-Il) or “Thousand Islands River” where explorers can walk or boat through the forested waterways and many isles.

Read more: What makes Northern & Southern Quebec special?

11. Because of its Culture (+ closing thoughts)

Often the name Montreal speaks for itself. This city stands alone in all the world for its impressive array of cultural sights, festive events, and beautifully preserved buildings. That speaks to a city that hasn’t lost its origins. Often split between French and English influences, Montreal has been able to balance these nicely into its identity.

It’s the second biggest city where French is the majority language, but English can be heard by a large portion of the people too. This even makes it unique within Quebec, since more rural areas are almost entirely French-speaking. A haven for students and art lovers, the cuisine and shopping alone could attract people from all over. And they do.

Strong religious roots have sculpted some of the most beautiful structures in Canada while new traditions create an impressively modern and entirely unique feel to the city. Montreal is diverse, a world leader, a trend-setter, and a genuinely standalone place in this world. Thank you for reading, and I hope this opened the door to your discovery of this spectacular world city!