Have you ever gazed up at the night sky and wished that the city lights were just a bit dimmer? Luckily, you don’t need to find good stargazing spots on your own. Canada is the leading country in the world to preserve the dark sky so that you can experience the beauty of the Milky Way Galaxy, the constellations, and sometimes even planets.
Here are some of the best places in Canada to view the cosmos. Most of these places have careful laws regarding the light pollution of nearby cities or are conveniently located in areas that block out city lights. Best of all, you can see the galaxy without any special equipment. All you need is your eyes and the dark night sky.
McDonald Park, BC
Although most of the dark sky preserves that you’ll find on this list are relatively remote, McDonald Park is in the Fraser Valley near Abbotsford. Located in a valley, the light pollution from nearby cities is blocked by the surrounding mountains. Go for events or hike into the park at night to experience millions of sparkling stars. The site is run by the Fraser Valley Astronomers Society. Become a member or check out their events here.
Wood Buffalo National Park, NWT
As the second-largest national park globally, Wood Buffalo National Park is larger than the country of Switzerland, expanding from northeastern Alberta to southern Northwest Territories. The 45,000 square kilometers of protected land is the largest dark-sky preserve in the world. Naturally, there are a plethora of things to discover in this expansive park, from the world’s largest freshwater deltas to the largest herd of free-roaming buffalo. Still, the vast dark sky is a true treat to the eyes. You can observe constellations, the Milky Way, and the northern lights. You’ll also likely see owls and nighthawks roaming the sky. If you come in August, you can enjoy the night sky festival that focuses on astronomy. If you can’t go to the park, you can still see the northern lights live on AuroraMAX in Yellowknife.
Jasper National Park, AB
The second biggest night-sky preserve in Canada, Jasper National Park is far away from any city. Known for its dark skies and recurrent northern lights, it makes a prime area for astronomical observations. With the Jasper Planetarium gazing at the stars is an easy task. But don’t miss the Jasper Night Sky Festival in October. Distinguished speakers like Chris Hadfield partake in this annual event celebrating the breathtaking beauty of the solar system. Aside from the sky, the Canadian Rockies are also home to stunning landscapes.
Grasslands National Park, SK
If you’re looking for the darkest night sky preserve in Canada, look no further. The Grasslands National Park is optimal for stargazing, as the open prairies mean that there is nothing to obscure the starry night sky. You can marvel at astronomical phenomena such as the Milky Way, constellations, and the northern lights, as well as deep-space objects, making it a popular site for astronomers. The almost perfect darkness also makes it a haven for nocturnal animals, and more than 12 owl species and various bats call the park home.
White Shell Provincial Park, MB
White Shell Park is a hidden gem whether you visit at night or during the day. While there are over 200 lakes to explore in the park, you’ll want to check out West Hawk Lake. A meteorite impact millions of years ago formed West Hawk Lake, the deepest lake in the province. The spot is now a popular place for swimming, diving and colourful sunsets. But you’d be remiss to pack up after watching the rainbow-coloured sky turn to darkness because White Shell Provincial Park is one of the best places to see the swirling Milky Way. Only a couple of hours from Winnipeg, White Shell Provincial Park makes the perfect weekend getaway.
Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Preserve, ON
The natural beauty of this land in Ontario’s cottage country led to its designation as the country’s first dark sky preserve in 1999. The unique hard rock landscape, only two hours from Toronto, makes it a great place to set up telescopes and take photos for night sky photography. Moreover, the relatively low height of the trees and bushes ensures unobstructed sky viewing from any angle.
Bruce Peninsula National Park, ON
For the darkest skies in southern Ontario, look no further than Bruce Peninsula National Park. While the park is relatively close to Toronto, the expansive atmosphere is not polluted by city lights, and you can see sky-wide views of the Milky Way. In the summer, ecologists host free astronomy nights at an observing platform with permanently mounted telescopes. On select night crossings of the local ferry, you can also view the skies through image-stabilized binoculars. Located on the longest stretch of undeveloped Niagara and Lake Huron shoreline, spending a few days will be well worth your while. The sunset across the lake is especially spectacular. You’ll be mesmerized by the glistening turquoise waters of Georgian Bay, lined with stunning cliffs. Orchids, old-growth cedars, and ferns grace this national park, a worthwhile visit whether or not you stay to watch the night sky.
Mont Megantic International Dark Sky Preserve, QC
If you’re looking for a place to see the Milky Way in Quebec, head over to the Mont Mégantic Observatory. Canada’s fourth-largest dark sky preserve, and the world’s first International Dark Sky Reserve in 2007 is three hours from Montreal. All 35 nearby municipalities have strict lighting regulations to prevent light pollution. Want to learn more when you’re visiting? A look at local universities’ 200-ton telescope is one way AstroLab provides astronomy education to visitors.
Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site, NS
The only night sky preserve in Nova Scotia, Kejmkujik National Park offers the lapping Atlantic ocean, millions of stars in the Dark Sky Preserve, historic petroglyphs, and world-class outdoor activities. Before watching the starlight show, learn about the importance of astronomy to the Mi’kmaq peoples, an indigenous group that has called the National Park home for over 4000 years. A canoe tour or a hiking tour with a history theme are other options for admiring the night sky.
Fundy National Park, NB
The park known for its tides is also a designated Dark Sky Preserve in Canada. Views of the Milky Way can be seen with the naked eye or using a telescope. A favourite viewing spot is through the arches of the Hopewell Rocks. Go out during low tide for breathtaking sights and fantastic photos. You’ll be in the good company of many enthusiasts and astronomy connoisseurs.
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