Canadian nature lovers don’t need a pricey telescope or a cottage tucked away from city lights to stargaze. There’s a park, reserve, small town or city in every corner of the country perfect for craning your neck up at the galaxy.
The Canadian Space Agency has selected 13 spots, one in each province and territory, for the best astronomy that the country has to offer, amateur or otherwise.
A2: Join us at the #JasperDarkSky Festival for Symphony Under the Stars hosted by @FairmontJPL! Enjoy a magical evening of stars and music by the @edmsymphony! ✨— Tourism Jasper (@TourismJasper) May 16, 2018
Learn more here: https://t.co/XjCfUO1I84 #CanadaChat pic.twitter.com/biJIwf6CxB
JASPER NATIONAL PARK, ALBERTA
The stargazing in Jasper National Park is so inspiring they put a soundtrack to it. During the park’s Dark Sky Festival every October, the outdoor Edmonton Symphony Orchestra Strings perform during the “Symphony Under the Stars” show. Jasper was designated a “Dark-Sky Preserve” by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in 2011 due to optimal dark sky viewing amid very little light pollution.
GARIBALDI PROVINCIAL PARK, BRITISH COLUMBIA
This park is conveniently located a short drive from the resort town of Whistler, B.C., and is a popular hiking and camping site. “Its high altitude and low light pollution make it an excellent stargazing spot for adventurers, nature lovers and amateur astronomers alike,” said the Space Agency on its website.
GRASSLANDS NATIONAL PARK, SASKATCHEWAN
Located near the border of Montana and Saskatchewan, Grasslands National Park was designated a “Dark-Sky Preserve” in 2009. In fact, it’s the darkest of the dark-sky preserves in the whole country, the Space Agency says. “Visitors can marvel at the Milky Way, constellations and other astronomical phenomena that are very difficult to see near urban areas,” the website reads.
WHITESHELL PROVINCIAL PARK, MANITOBA
Whiteshell might not be a designated “Dark-Sky Preserve,” but it still offers an awe-inspiring experience, says the Space Agency, thanks in part to the “astronomy-related wonder” that is West Hawk Lake. The lake is situated in a meteorite crater several million years old. “Catch a delightful sunset on the lakeshore before looking up at night for a sight of the Milky Way,” the Agency says.
CHARLESTON LAKE PROVINCIAL PARK, ONTARIO
Each year from July to mid-August, stargazers in the northern hemisphere can catch a glimpse of the Perseid meteor shower, and Charleston Lake is a hot spot for viewing, the Space Agency says. They even have astronomers present during viewing parties that can help provide amateur viewers with an optimal experience.
MONT-MÉGANTIC INTERNATIONAL DARK-SKY RESERVE, QUEBEC
Located about 40 km from the town of Lac-Megantic, Mont-Megantic National Park is the site of the International Dark-Sky Association’s first International Dark Sky Reserve, a separate designation from the Canadian Space Agency’s dark-sky preserves. The scientific observatory is located at the summit of Mont Megantic.
"Sous un ciel étoilé" - great @QuebecScience article (en français) about the Mont-Mégantic @IDADarkSky Reserve, featuring @remiboucher: https://t.co/Pj72lheqj9 @OMM_Officiel @RICE_MM #DarkSkies pic.twitter.com/5Wtd3wwLur— Dr. John Barentine (@JohnBarentine) January 17, 2018
TORNGAT MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK, NEWFOUNDLAND
Amateurs be warned: Torngat Mountains National Park might be too challenging for the casual outdoor lover. Located in a remote location near the tip of the province, the park is only accessible by boat or charter plane. “The scenery is worth the extra effort, as northern lights are very bright and frequent,” the Space Agency says. “Inuit culture, astronomy and captivating landscapes collide for an unforgettable excursion.”
HOPEWELL ROCKS PROVINCIAL PARK, NEW BRUNSWICK
The stunning New Brunswick tourist spot is typically visited for its beaches and the fascination with the high- and low-tide viewing of the Hopewell Rocks, also known as the Flower Pot Rocks, a wonder of millions of years of tidal erosion. It’s “the perfect spot for those who are interested in both geology and astronomy,” says the Space Agency.
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND NATIONAL PARK, P.E.I.
This small, 27 square km national park features low light pollution and is a pleasant seaside escape, whether you’re stargazing or not. The Canadian Space Agency says the nearby Cavendish Beach is also a good option for nighttime stargazing.
KEJIMKUJIK NATIONAL PARK, NOVA SCOTIA
Designated a Dark-Sky Preserve in 2010, Kejimkujik National Park -- also known as “Keji” -- offers public stargazing events twice a year called the “Dark Sky Weekend.” The park also has a close relationship with First Nations traditions, so visitors can learn about the importance of astronomy in Mi’kmaq culture while they stargaze.
WATSON LAKE, YUKON
Home to the Northern Lights Space and Science Centre, Watson Lake provides an educational experience with its stargazing. Lucky visitors might catch a glimpse of the aurora too.
With short daylight hours in the winter, Iqaluit is a prime location for stargazing and viewing the northern lights. “You can enjoy a colourful night sky from October to April,” says the Space Agency, “but be sure to bundle up: it can get extremely cold during those months.”
WOOD BUFFALO NATIONAL PARK, NORTHWEST TERRITORIES
The largest Dark-Sky Preserve in the whole world at nearly 45,000 square km, Wood Buffalo National Park sits mostly in Alberta, but crosses into the southern edge of the Northwest Territories. The park is also home to the largest herd of free-roaming wood bison. In other words, you can see more than stars at Wood Buffalo National Park.