9 socially distant things you can still do when you travel this summer
After so many weeks in lockdown, we’re all craving a holiday. And while your passport is gathering dust in the sock drawer, this summer is the perfect time for a close-to-home getaway. Some things might have changed—goodbye crowded airports and tourist attractions, jam-packed music festivals and shoulder-to-shoulder bars, hello mountain hikes, masks in museums and socially distanced dorms—but the butterflies that flutter in your stomach when you embark on an adventure sure haven’t. So stick some hand sanitizer in your backpack and hit the road responsibly—these are the eight travel things you can still do in the summer of coronavirus.
1. Be a tourist in your local area
While red tape tangles the idea of travelling beyond our nation’s borders, there’s little stopping you from exploring your own backyard. How you define that backyard? Well that’s up to you, and maybe provincial guidelines. But even within your own province or town, a staycation gives you a fresh perspective… plus, you don’t have to spend much money on transport (or waste much energy on packing). Grab a visitors map and seek out sights you never normally notice. Cycle to a neighbourhood you haven’t visited. And check out the cheesy tourist spots while they’re not too crowded with international visitors. Like every other slice of society, the travel industry has taken a huge blow during the pandemic, so local businesses will appreciate the help getting them back on their feet.
2. Or visit another corner of the country
Coronavirus closed international borders, as well as some provincial ones for a while. But as the crisis calms down, Canada’s provinces open up and the authorities give the green light to nearby travel, a domestic escape is calling. It’s easy to ignore the big-ticket attractions in your own country in favour of exotic international destinations. But with a massive question mark lingering over our ability to fly abroad, what better time for Canadians to tick hiking through the Rockies, venturing out to Tofino or road tripping to Gaspesie off your bucket list.
3. Head out on a hike
Canada is the second largest nation on the face of the earth, meaning there’s plenty of room to roam without coming within two metres of anyone else. National parks have reopened and they’re a treasure trove of trails from coast to coast. The West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island, the Long Range Traverse in Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park, the Skyline Trail in Jasper plus an absolute buffet in Banff, Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park, the Chief in Squamish… the list goes on and on and on. And with virtually no international visitors to compete with, hikers have even more space for themselves this summer.
4. Go mountain biking
If hiking up a mountain sounds like too much work, how about throwing yourself down one on two wheels. The great outdoors are bound to get a serious workout this summer as many indoor venues remain closed or are tied up by health regulations. British Columbia, in particular, is a mountain-biking Mecca. Cumberland is a hub of trails on Vancouver Island. The Seven Summits Trail earns Rossland a reputation as Canada’s MTB capital. And then, of course, there’s Whistler.
5. Grab some takeaway for a picnic
Your passport might not be able to take you overseas right now, but your taste buds certainly can. In fact, a multicultural meal might just be the most exotic experience on the menu right now. Hospitality—like travel—has been hammered by the pandemic, and cafes, restaurants and bars would love your business. While restaurants are starting to open for dine-in or patio service, many places are still serving takeaway dishes that you can enjoy in the park in your own little bubble of tasty tranquility. Wash down your cosmopolitan cooking with something to drink from Canada’s 700-odd breweries—beer-makers also need a hand after pubs have been closed for so long.
6. Visit a museum
The risk of catching coronavirus is lower outside, which is why museums and other indoor attractions will be among the last things to open up again. One by one, though, Canada’s cultural institutions are releasing their reopening dates, as well as the safety measures that will be in place this summer. The Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton—one of the first out of the blocks—restarted with a strict limit on numbers, as well as timed tickets that need to be bought in advance and floor markers to direct traffic, for example. The Vancouver Art Gallery does something similar.
7. Make a beeline to the beach
Canada boasts more than 200,000 kilometres of coastline—twice as much as any other country on earth. And even though most of it is a little too frosty for any creature that isn’t a narwal, there are stacks of swimming spots fit for humans. The surf breaks around Tofino, the sand beneath Toronto’s Scarborough Bluffs, Gaspesie’s sunny coast, the sunset and mountain views at Vancouver's Jericho Beach and the dry heat of Penticton’s Skaha Beach are some of the best. And yes, it’s a lot easier to maintain social distancing at the beach than it is at the pool. Just keep that two metres while you’re sitting on the sand.
8. Snap crowd-free photos
The pandemic taketh a lot away but it also giveth a few nice things in return. With borders mostly sealed tight for the near future, some of Canada's top tourist attractions might be feeling a little empty this high season. So grab your camera (okay your phone) and take the opportunity to finally get that 'gram-worthy shot of Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Peyto Lake—okay any lake in the Rockies—or Niagara Falls or Vancouver's Seawall. And hey, while you're there, enjoy the extra breathing room.
9. Stay in a hostel!
Following the health advice of the local authorities, step by step, HI Canada hostels are reopening our doors this summer. Hostels in BC, Alberta and Quebec are already open and more will open through the summer. Find out more about what we’re doing at our hostels to keep you safe, and take a look at our reopening schedule so you can start to plan a getaway.
An obligatory heads up: Be sure to look into any provincial or municipal travel restrictions that may be in place depending on where you’re coming from and where you’re going.