muskoka chairs

Grab a coffee and settle in for sunrise in Muskoka. (Photo: Getty Images)


Off Hours Are the Best Hours in These Canadian Towns

A comfy seat in business class or a dinner reservation at a sought-after hot spot are no longer the most coveted luxuries on a traveler’s wish list. Space away from crowds is the new ultimate indulgence and is best achieved by scheduling activities in the underappreciated “time zones” of early morning or late evening.

If you’re looking for more breathing space, check out some of Canada’s top places to “zone out” after hours. As always, check for travel restrictions or closures before planning your trip.

Muskoka, Ontario

misty morning in muskoka
A misty morning in Muskoka. (Photo: Getty Images)

This is Canada’s iconic cottage country, and few places capture the country’s beloved pastime of taking it easy in the great outdoors better than Muskoka. Cottage life is synonymous with night swimming, and you can dive into the region’s many lakes and waterways under the cover of darkness with the haunting sounds of loons adding to the after-hours ambience.

Getting away from the city means no light pollution, so you can also enjoy terrific stargazing opportunities, most notably at Torrance Barrens Dark-Sky Preserve, which was declared the world’s first permanent Dark Sky Reserve in 1999. The area also hosts some of the country’s most picturesque waterfalls, so why not go on a dawn waterfall-hunting hike?

Victoria, British Columbia

ogden point victoria
Catch Ogden Point in the wee hours. (Photo: Getty Images)

Victoria is considered one of the best places on Earth for whale watching, especially if you’re after an orca or humpback whale sighting. There are plenty of boat companies that offer private sunrise or sunset tours for your chance to catch sight of a gentle giant.

The area is also renowned for its green spaces — like Beacon Hill Park and Goldstream Provincial Park — which have irresistible, meandering pathways ideal for a walk in the wee hours of the day and night. The beauty of a daybreak jog along scenic Dallas Road to the Ogden Point Breakwater is enough to get even the most ardent night owl out of bed in the early morn.

Banff, Alberta

milky way at banff national park
Find yourself under the Milky Way in Banff. (Photo: Getty Images)

The epitome of a wilderness wonderland, Banff’s sky-high mountains, emerald blue lakes and bountiful wildlife are legendary. Arrange for a private evening wildlife safari to partake in some prime viewings of Banff National Park’s wild residents, who become more active in the cooler evening hours.

The park also offers ample opportunity to witness amazing celestial showcases, with Vermilion Lakes, Lake Minnewanka and the Icefields Parkway having some top stargazing spots. Consider starting the day by discovering the magic of forest bathing, and later greet the gloaming with a power walk on one of the innumerable trails that ring the Rocky Mountains.

Halifax, Nova Scotia

peggy's cove lighthouse under starry sky
See the stars — and lighthouse — at Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia. (Photo: Getty Images)

The harbor city of Halifax is the epitome of a postcard-perfect escape. The isolated beaches and parks peppered throughout the city’s Eastern Shore are free from light pollution and offer unforgettable night sky showcases.

Martinique Beach is especially good for combining stargazing with a late-night walk along the beach. Make the most of the golden hour with a relaxing sunset kayak tour of the Halifax harbor and Georges Island.

Check out Halifax’s cultural, foodie and historic highlights with a self-guided bike tour and be sure to include a picnic break at dusk in oceanside Point Pleasant Park.

Kelowna, British Columbia

kelowna dock and lake
Early birds get the lake to themselves in Kelowna. (Photo: Getty Images)

Early risers will want to take advantage of the many trails around Kelowna, including Apex Trail at Knox Mountain (with spectacular sunrise views of the city) and Carrot Mountain (complete with a lovely waterfall).

The area is also one of Canada’s most awarded wine-producing regions, meaning you can cap off quiet walks in the vineyards with a private tasting at a winery like Mission Hill, Cedar Creek, Quails’ Gate or Kitsch Wines.

Sailing is another big pastime in Kelowna, so consider hiring the crew at Holy Doodle for a private cruise on Okanagan Lake — sunset and full-moon cruises are among their specialties.

Niagara Falls, Ontario

niagara falls lit up at night
After dark, admire the light show at Niagara Falls. (Photo: Getty Images)

Although it’s famous as the honeymoon capital of the world, it may surprise many to learn that a tourist mecca like Niagara Falls also has a much more solitary side. The nightly Falls Illumination is not to be missed and is ideal for quiet walks along the parkway topped off with late-night cocktails at Niagara Distillery.

Beat the crowds with an early-morning bike or e-bike ride, and don’t miss taking a spin by the incredible Floral Clock. Take time out of your bike ride to explore the White Water Walk, which is a self-guided tour along the boardwalk of the mighty Niagara River.

Niagara Glen Nature Centre features wonderful sunrise hiking within some of Canada’s best-preserved Carolinian forests, or head to Dufferin Islands, a secluded park with several islets connected by bridges and footpaths.