6 wacky and wonderful places to visit around Canada
Submarine sleepovers, taxidermied gophers among quirky Canadian tourist destinations
On Friday, CBC Calgary's The Eyeopener brought listeners the story of Alex Tilley — the man behind the iconic Tilley hat — as he prepared to visit the hamlet of Tilley, Alta., which has become something of a travel destination for fans of his hats.
Birdwatchers and others who love the hats flock to take their picture with the hamlet's welcome sign.
In the search for similarly wacky and wonderful Canadian hidden secrets, CBC Calgary asked staff from across the country to share some of the quirky and unusual things to do around their regions. Here are their top picks for off-the-beaten-path spots to visit, from coast to coast to coast.
Torrington, Alta., Gopher Hole Museum
Every year, thousands of tourists stop through the hamlet of Torrington, about an hour and a half northeast of Calgary, to check out the Gopher Hole Musuem.
Here, stuffed gophers are arranged in 47 anthropomorphic scenes, from a hair dresser to a preacher to an RCMP officer. The museum has been around since 1996 and is only open for a few months each year. This year, visitors can stop by seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. MT until Sept. 30.
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Tuktoyaktuk's community freezer in N.W.T.
Deep underground in Tuktoyaktuk, there's a place few claustrophobics venture.
The Tuktoyaktuk community freezer is a cave dug into the permafrost, with a nine-metre ladder descending into it from ground level.
Residents used to store meat there to keep it cold, and some still do, but recently more and more have started using indoor freezers as a convenience. Still, visitors can make the climb underground to see the walls covered in sparkling ice crystals, which gives the freezer the effect of being a crystal cave.
Visits are informal and locals will usually ask about $10 to unlock the freezer for a visitor. Several tour companies also offer a stop at the freezer along with guided tours of the community. Visits are available year round.
Happy Rock in Gladstone, Man.
Gladstone is a small community that may not seem like much more than another stop along the Yellowhead Highway.
But according to locals, stopping for a photo under the roadside Happy Rock will bring travellers good luck on their trek along the highway.
Visitors are free to stop by as they please but the adjoining information centre is only open from May until September.
Submarine sleepover in Pointe-au-Père, Que.
The Onondaga is Canada's first submarine to open to the public and offers visitors the chance to stay overnight aboard the sub for $75. It was in operation from 1967 to 2000 and participated in several NATO missions.
Visitors spending the night will be welcomed by the coxswain and will play the role of an apprentice submariner for the whole night. For those looking for a bit less immersion, the site also offers 45-minute guided audio tours.
The Onondaga is open from May 28 until October 5, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (but tickets aren't sold after 5 p.m.).
Go au naturel on Vancouver's Wreck Beach
North America's largest nude beach is located 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver and generates more than $60 million in tourist revenue every year.
During the beach season, Wreck Beach can draw up to 14,000 visitors every day, many of whom choose to go "au naturel" to enjoy the elements.
Wreck Beach is Canada's first official clothing-optional beach and it's set within a large regional park. It closes at sunset every day.
Cave exploring in Corner Brook, Nfld.
Just a short drive outside Corner Brook is a cave system carved into limestone from thousands of years of water running from the Corner Brook Stream.
While those with a fear of small spaces might want to count this one out, group tours are available for the brave at heart to go crawling and climbing through roughly one kilometre of dark tunnels and passageways.
The temperature in the caves is about 10 C to 12 C all year round, making it a great way to beat the heat in the summer.