The Perfect Day

Wondering what to give someone who’s got everything? Why not give a Perfect Day? While they are billed as a perfect gifts, personal or corporate, the experiences are just as good for travellers who are looking for some quick daytrips, or for conference attendees looking to add a day to their trip.

Hiking the Sunshine Coast

While the West Coast Trail is still THE great trail of the west coast, BC’s sunshine coast now has its own long-distance trail: the Sunshine Coast Trail. The trail stretches 180 km from the Saltery Bay ferry terminal in the south to Sarah Point in Desolation Sound Marine Park in the north. While not as spectacular as the WCT, it does appear to have some great views and pass through some old-growth forest.

Other trails to consider on the west coast:

  • The Nootka Trail, a wilder and more rugged version of the WCT.
  • Coming soon: Vancouver Island’s North Coast Trail. This trail is still being built, but promised to be pretty amazing when completed.

Country brands

As my director, Jens Thraenhart, mentions in his excellent blog, FutureBrand released its Country Brand Index 2006 last November. How did Canada fare? Well, it didn’t make the top ten. But, it did get a first place for safety, and it was among the top ten in:

Resorts and lodging (3), natural beauty (8), outdoor activities/sports (9, down from 3 last year!), business (4), easiest to do business in (2), extend business trip (7), conferences (4), and shopping (8).

A bit surprising that Canada didn’t rank higher for outdoor/sports and natural beauty. As they are two of our true strengths, we clearly have some marketing to do. On the other hand, we seem to be doing well in the meetings and conventions industry.

A couple of interesting comments in the report: “ A country’s ability to be authentic, deliver authentic and communicate authentic is probably one of its biggest destination advantages today.” “ People want to experience the true essence of a different place. This is the magic of a country brand.” Comments to remember when we look for new experiences.

A caveat worth mentioning is that the index doesn’t list how many countries were considered. One’d assume close to all were taken into account. However, interesting to note is that most of the countries in the list of off the beaten path/exotic destinations (below) are no longer all that off the beaten path/exotic: Costa Rica, Kenya, New Zealand, South Africa, Fiji and Thailand have been popular destinations for quite a while. As countries, I’d rank places like Kyrghystan, Bhutan, Palau, Bolivia and Myanmar as more off the beaten path and exotic. But it’s true that the listed countries do offer some unusual/exotic excursions.

Off the Beaten Track/Exotic
1. Peru
2. Costa Rica
3. Kenya
4. New Zealand
5. Indonesia
6. Lebanon
7. South Africa
8. Thailand
9. Iceland
10. Fiji

Coincidentally, many of the countries listed here also feature in the Outside 30 Best list. They too don’t go too far off the beaten track.

Outside’s 30 best trips

Evrey month another magazine comes up THE definitive best 30 (or 25 or 10) trips of a lifetime. This month is Outside’s turn. I always check if Bhutan, Mongolia and west Papua (Indonesia) are featured, but now of course I have to check how Canada fares. Canada does tend to get at least one trip, and this list was no exception.  I was a bit surprised by the choice, though: surfing in Tofino made it to the new, new places. It’s been on lists before; I would have expected Labrador, or a place in the north.

There were some other interesting trips, though: a 27-day thrip through Patagonia, Houaphan province in Laos and a trek to the source of the Tsangpo in Tibet. Indonesia made the list with a great trip to Mt. Rinjani on the island of Lombok, climbing it via a new route from the south. No matter how you approach the mountain (I climbed it from the north), it offers stunning views.

My favourite, though, is a 31 day ski trek across Greenland – propelled by kites. Very cool. And if it can be done in Greenland, then why not on Ellesmere Island or Baffin? It would make for a great new experience (although admittedly for a niche market!).  And sure enough, they offer a week of kite-skiing around Iqaluit. Count me in!

Bhutan and Mongolia didn’t make the cut in this list. But I’m sure they will in the myriad of other lists that come out every year.

Rafting the Nahatlatch

I checked out the Outdoor Adventure show this weekend to see what interesting destinations await in the area. One potential gem is Reo Rafting Resort on the Nahatlatch river. Their offers look pretty tempting, and it’s only a few hours away from Vancouver.

I have had this area in my sights for a while, as the provincial park is supposed to have some good camping and boating. Besides, if you keep going through the park, you end up in Mehatl Creek, one of BC’s newest protected areas.

Sleddog adventures in Ontario

The folks over at Gadling have caught on to sleddog vacations as well: they discovered Winterdance Sleddog tours in Haliburton ON, just south of Algonquin Park, and a list of lodges in Ontario offering sleddog tours. Ontario also has a sleddog racing series, although the poor snow conditions this year have led to race cancellations.

Dogsledding in the Rockies

Dogsledding is not only for the professionals racing in the Yukon Quest – why not try it yourself? The folks at Cold Fire Creek Dog Sledding in Jasper ofer some fun dogsledding tours, from a quick 1 hour trip to a half day or even a moonlight tour.

Racing the dogs

Many people have heard of the Iditarod dogsled race (“Alaska, where men are men and women win the Iditarod”), but the lesser-known Yukon Quest, from Whitehorse to Fairbanks, Alaska, is actually quite a bit tougher, because of the terrain and the cold. The trail follows the historic Gold Rush and Mail Delivery routes from the turn of the 20th Century, leading from Whitehorse north to Dawson city, and then west across the Alaska border to Fairbanks.

Sleeping in the snow

Most people think they’d have to go to the high arctic to see or sleep in an igloo. But now Parc national du Bic (Bic park) in Québec offers igloo accomodation. For $46/night they give you an igloo, a sleeping bag, a pad, a bundle of wood and a sled, and offer snowshoe rentals. In the picture on their website, the igloo looks a bit more like a quinzhee (the snow hut traditionally in areas with softer forest snow, because you need hard ice for an igloo), but hey, it’s close enough, and hard to get more authentic.

Their gers (yurts) look very comfy too, and pretty close to the real thing.

Eating and drinking frozen apples

Ice wine has been a hot ticket the past few years, but apples freeze too. So why not frozen cider? That’s what a Québec cider factory thought too.  La Face cachée sells apple ice wine, which certainly makes a very Canadian gift. But why not turn it into a uniquely Canadian experience on Snow Day? They invite the public to tour the orchard and cider-making facilities, participate in the harvest, and even taste the frozen apples right off the trees. What could be more Canadian than that?