By Siobhan Reid
July 08, 2020
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Credit: Courtesy of Destination Cape Breton

This year’s World’s Best Awards survey closed on March 2, just before widespread stay-at-home orders were implemented as a result of COVID-19. The results reflect our readers’ experiences before the pandemic, but we hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your trips to come — whenever they may be.

With more than 30,000 to explore, Canada’s islands offer myriad options for travelers who want to get off the grid. From the ruddy shores of Prince Edward Island off the Eastern seaboard to the forested hills of Vancouver Island in the Pacific Northwest, the isles of our northern neighbor are ideal escapes where travelers can enjoy the rhythms of island life and spectacular vistas — usually sans crowds.

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, Travel + Leisure asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated islands according to their activities and sights, natural attractions and beaches, food, friendliness, and overall value.

This year, two of Canada’s top three islands were located on the Atlantic coast. Prince Edward Island earned our No. 3 spot. The only island-province in Canada, PEI enchanted visitors with its rugged scenery (red-sand beaches, bike-friendly trails, churning surf), coastal cuisine, and historical attractions, including those devoted to scenes and characters from L. M. Montgomery’s classic children’s novel Anne of Green Gables. Said one traveler about her experience on the island: “The most beautiful place, home to such friendly people, and some of the freshest seafood I’ve ever had.”

Across the country, Vancouver Island (No. 3) offers an irresistible mix of big-city sights and natural attractions. In the south, you’ll discover the vibrant city of Victoria, where there is century-old architecture, waterfront dining, and great boutique shopping. And the bohemian hamlet of Tofino — arguably Canada’s surf capital — is where you’ll find Wickaninnish Inn, which ranked among this year’s Top 100 hotels and took the No. 3 spot among the best resorts in Canada.

For a third year, Cape Breton Island takes the top spot. Read on to find out why, and to see the full list of the best islands in Canada.

1. Cape Breton Island

Credit: Courtesy of Destination Cape Breton

Score: 85.93

“Go, go, go!” urged one respondent after visiting Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island, a place of unrivaled beauty, inspiring wildlife encounters, and varied backcountry adventures. Drive or hike the Cabot Trail, a coastal route that stretches 185 miles along the island’s rocky shore; go whale-watching in St. Lawrence Bay; or tee up at one of two championship courses at Cabot Links, which offers panoramic views of the churning waters of the gulf. T+L readers particularly loved the experience of exploring the Cabot Trail during fall, when the summer crowds had departed and the leaves had changed color: “The foliage was something else!” said one respondent.

2. Vancouver Island

Credit: Getty Images

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 84.97

3. Prince Edward Island

Credit: Getty Images

Score: 83.54