If this year’s summer holiday is shaping up to be an urban adventure, it doesn’t mean you still can’t enjoy some fresh air. There are a surprising number of activities within our cities’ limits that involve the great outdoors.

I recently returned from Calgary, where I got a lesson in fly fishing, right in the heart of the city, floating down the Bow River. My guide and fly-fishing instructor extra-ordinaire was Steve Gardner from Out Fly Fishing outfitters.

Calgary, and the Bow River, as it turns out is one of the world’s top fly fishing destinations among people in the know.

Typically most people looking to fish trout imagine it is best done in the mountains.

While it’s extremely scenic if you go up to the upper Bow, it’s no-where near as bountiful in terms of the fish.

Typically the best months for fish are July, August and September. Steve told me that you have various insects hatching through-out that period which the fish are really keen on, so in early July you have stone flies and as the year progresses you start getting more hoopers.

When the wind blows, the hoopers fall in the river and the fish eat them. And there’s lots of other types of insect as well.

With the buildings and highways of the city in the background, you can spend a half day floating down the Bow River calmly casting your line into the water.

Other options include full days, overnights, wading trips versus floating trips and trips geared toward various skill levels.

My day started with a lesson, which was good since I had no idea what I was doing! The main rule of thumb for all the trips is that you just sit (or stand) back, enjoy and well…fish.

I learned the hard way that it does take some skill to catch a fish but I did come close. I just couldn’t reel it in.

But at the end of the day, catch or no catch, it’s the break from the urban noise and the chance to connect with nature that makes it such a great experience. The fact that it all happens within a 20 minute drive from a fabulous hotel room and great dining versus being in the middle of nowhere is just a bonus. More details at Bow River Fly Fishing Guide.

On the West Coast, cities are so well positioned on the water and near mountains to take advantage of amazing outdoor adventures that there are plenty to choose from.

Sea Dragon Charters

In Vancouver, Sea Dragon Charters has just started a “snorkeling with the seals” experience in Howe Sound, which is only 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver.

They also offer scuba diving. For the more serene and those with good core strength, Ecomarine offers stand up paddle board yoga at English Bay and a full moon paddle tour.

Victoria and its surrounding area is considered to have some of the best kayaking in the world and you can do it all within the city centre with Ocean River Adventures or Kelp Reef Adventures. If you prefer to be on land, Victoria is a very walkable city and there are plenty of hiking and walking trails in parks such as Mount Douglas Regional Park, Goldstream Provincial Park, and East Sooke Regional Park.

In Montreal, KSF offers surfing, kayaking and stand-up paddling in the Lachine Canal, at Parc Jean-Drapeau and in front of Habitat 67. I have done the white water kayaking before; the water can be tumultuous in places but it was awesome! Other water based activities included fishing on the St-Lawrence as well as Jet Boating.

Rouge National Urban Park

Lastly, one thing I love to remind people of is that Toronto is home to Canada's first national urban park, Rouge National Urban Park, which is right in Scarborough.

The Rouge has over 11 kilometres of Toronto's very best hiking trails that take you through rare forests, wetlands, marshes and cultural sites more than 10,000 years old. Once Rouge National Urban Park is fully established, this trail network will expand considerably and stretch from Lake Ontario to the Oak Ridges Moraine north of Markham.

More than 250 species of birds live in Rouge National Urban Park and Rouge Marsh is one of the best places in the city to experience them... tanning on the beach is optional!