Coastline, Capstick, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada
Credit: Barrett & MacKay/Getty Images
It seems impossible that one could spend a day in the wilderness without seeing another human being and still be within easy range of a five-star hotel and a sumptuous meal. But many of Canada’s islands have managed to hold on to their finest asset — untamed and unchanged natural beauty — while upping the ante with prize-winning restaurants and resorts.
Three islands receive particularly resounding applause from our readers. Vancouver Island and Cape Breton Island are perennial favorites, although this year, Vancouver cedes the top spot to Cape Breton; they are joined by Prince Edward Island. Travelers have long been lured to Canada’s sole island province. Author Lucy Maud Montgomery set Anne of Green Gables here, against the landscape of rust-tinted dunes and beaches and green pastures. The 2,195-square-mile island also has 25 golf courses and a culinary scene that draws seafood lovers from around the world (die-hard oyster lovers shouldn’t miss the September shellfish festival).
Vancouver Island embodies the best of leisure activities, whether you prefer browsing in one-of-a-kind boutiques, hopping a boat for whale watching, or hiking in search of cougars, black bears, and wolves. For a sophisticated experience, make the historic city of Victoria your home base and enjoy a proper afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress hotel. At Cowichan Valley’s Deerholme Farm, diners enjoy farm-to-table meals created by chef-owner Bill Jones, who also leads mushroom foraging outings and cooking classes.
Each of these Canadian islands offers unique charms, but all allow you to feel that you are one with nature, beginning with the ferry rides that take you there. Whether you stay at a boutique luxury hotel like Vancouver Island’s Wickaninnish Inn, a T+L World’s Best winner this year, or a cabin perched on the shores of Cape Breton, your views, and adventure, are sure to be spectacular. Read on to see how these destinations scored with our readers.
Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island appears on this list for the third year in a row. Renowned for its hiking — the 60-plus mile Cabot Trail passes through a national park along the coastline — this outpost is beloved for its friendly locals and Celtic, Acadian, and First Nations history. “This island is beautiful,” writes one reader, adding, “It’s not really touristy, which we loved.” Another makes the point even more succinctly: “Must visit!”