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Olympic gold medalist and host of The Amazing Race Canada Jon Montgomery is a proud Canadian – so much so that he reacts viscerally when talking about his homeland.
“I don’t know why my body is reacting the way it is, but every time I think about the stuff that I’m happy and proud of, I get goosebumps,” he tells Travel Courier as the hair on his arm rises while discussing the feel-good musical Come From Away. “It’s ingrained in every fibre of my being – just talking about being Canadian gives me goosebumps.”
On location 114 storeys above Toronto on the lookout level of the CN Tower for an event with Expedia Canada, Montgomery said he starting exploring the country while growing up in Russell, Manitoba.
“My very first road trip was at five weeks old. It was almost my last road trip because they forgot me on a picnic table at one of the stops and soon realized they were travelling a little bit light a few miles down the road and came back to fetch me,” he said. “But I made it back in that van – true story – and I’ve been exploring Canada ever since that day without the same sort of near-death experiences. Being able to do that as a youngster put the notion in my mind that this land of ours is incredibly special and varied.”
— The Amazing Race Canada on CTV (@AmazingRaceCDA) 17 July 2019
Although he went on to travel the world as an athlete and through various seasons of The Amazing Race Canada, he maintains there’s something special about home.
“When I got involved in sport and sport became a vehicle for me to be able to traverse this land and go around the world for that matter, through international travels I realized that what was in Canada was tremendously special, and that we didn’t have to go to far-flung places to have exotic, amazing, unique discoveries and experiences, we could do that here in Canada,” he said. “I think the best scenery is on the west side, I think the best people are on the east side and I think the north has the spiritual centre of this country, lock, stock and barrel.”
So where are his favourite Canadian travel haunts? Read on to discover Montgomery’s top places to visit from coast to coast to coast:
St. John’s, Newfoundland
A family trip to the east coast in 1992 set the stage for fond memories in Newfoundland. Since then he’s visited several times through the show and as the co-host of The Junos with Jann Arden.
“I’ve been to the rock a few times now and every single time I go it is the time of my life. I’ve had some of the best culinary experiences in St. John’s,” he said. “I’ve kissed the cod at the lineup at the Junos and I’ve been screeched in at Trapper John’s. I’ve done some quintessentially Newfoundland things.”
Quebec City, Quebec
Moving inland towards Quebec City, he said he’s had fun while filming the show and taking part in crashed ice tours.
“Within a small little geographic area you’ve got the walled city of old Quebec City and all that it has to offer plus the food, the sporting events, if you are there for that, so there’s a lot to take in there,” he said, adding he’d love to return to take part in Winter Carnival.
Clear Lake, Manitoba
Having spent his formative years in Riding Mountain National Park, Clear Lake, Manitoba holds a special place in his heart.
“My grandparents had a little summer cabin there, my parents have it now. My aunt and uncle live there permanently,” he said. “That’s only an hour from where I grew up in Russell. Margaret Laurence wrote about it in her books, she referred to it as Diamond Lake.”
Sugar Bear Cove, BC
Although British Columbia “is bananas from Whistler to Tofino and everything in between,” Sugar Bear Cove is where he plans to settle down.
“That’s home. It’s a place that we will retire to one day but in the in term, we’re short term vacation renting the property to make it pay for itself. It is a truly remarkable area of the world. Two-thirds of the Temperate rainforests that still exist on planet earth are in BC, and we are in a rainforest right there on Sugar Bear Cove. Being out there in the 10 acres of trees and bush, means getting connected to what matters and slowing things down. Reflecting on all of the things that you’ve got to celebrate, be proud of and really enjoy, and being there gives me that,” he said.
Iqaluit, Nunavut & Whitehorse, Yukon
Having grown up reading Farley Mowat’s Lost in the Barrens, he was struck by the scenery during his first visit to Iqaluit, Nunavut.
“He painted the picture so clearly in my mind’s eye of what the north was all about, that I thought that’s all the north was all about and so where he was was vast and desolate and bleak and not much for typography, but what I saw was anything but,” he saisd. “The typography was varied and it was along the coastline so there were massive hills and there weren’t a lot of trees so you didn’t have that depth perception.”
Along the same longitude, he said the west is remarkably different.
“In Iqaluit, there are no trees, you go in the Yukon and it’s trees and mountains and just so starkly contrasted with Iqaluit. Whitehorse, that’s such a marvellous city. I want to go back to do summer solstice golfing. Teeing-off at midnight, bucket list item.”
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Regardless of where he goes, he said travelling across Canada is all about immersing yourself in the local culture, connecting with local people and experiencing all of the things that Canada has to offer like the great outdoors.
“Get out there, get it done, take a risk, take your shoes off, stay awhile, explore our own backyard because Canada has more to offer in this coastline of ours from coast to coast to coast than you’ll ever hope to discover in a lifetime,” he said. “None of us have enough time to get it all done.”
A growing number of Canadian travellers are opting to vacation in their own backyard as opposed to going abroad. And what do Canadians love most about summer in Canada? The weather (26%) and outdoor activities (26%).
“Our data experts at Expedia found that Canadians were travelling domestically versus going overseas,” said Expedia Canada’s Mary Zajac. “We did some research and our studies found that Canadians actually really enjoy the outdoors and the weather during the summer, of course, no surprise since we have a long and very lengthy winter. Looking further, our hotel insights found that a lot the destinations that were growing in popularity were close to the great outdoors.”
According to Expedia data, destinations growing in popularity are within close proximity to the great outdoors, including Canmore, Osoyoos, St. John’s, Whistler, Charlottetown, Mont Tremblant, Ucluelet, Squamish, Parksville, Saguenay, Huntsville and Fernie.
Based on Expedia flight data, Toronto ranks as the most popular Canadian destination. Followed by Halifax and Montreal. Some of the other cities that topped the charts include Vancouver, St. John’s, Calgary, Ottawa and Quebec City. Beach (38%) and adventure (36%) destinations were the most appealing for Canadians. 33% of Canadians take one week for a summer vacation, 32% are taking two weeks.
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