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Colours of Eastern Canada

It's beautiful at any time of year, but blanketed in orange, red and yellow leaves, Eastern Canada in Autumn is a delight for the senses, as Brian Crisp discovers.

Make sure you pack the camera because the phone just won’t do this scenery justice. Also make sure it’s a good camera with a macro lens for those close-up leaf photos. I know, right now you are thinking that you won’t be taking photos of leaves. Trust me, you will. You won’t be able to stop yourself. 

View of clifs with winding roads, Canada
In autumn, Canada – especially the eastern part of the country – is like no other place on earth. The air is crisp. The sky is the colour of a sparkling aquamarine. And it doesn’t really matter which direction you choose to look, there’s always an endless canvas of foliage in patchwork splashes of pumpkin orange, Big Bird yellow and flaming reds. Autumn (September to November), or fall as it’s termed there, is the perfect time to get into Canada’s great outdoors and do what the locals like to call “leaf peeping”.

East Coastline

Travellers are spoilt for choice when it comes to seeing stunning fall foliage: there are countless opportunities around almost every corner to immerse yourself in the vibrant colours. Perhaps your journey will take you to Sydney, the gateway of Cape Breton Island and gasp at the blanket of orange covering the highlands. Maybe you’ll head to Prince Edward Island where the forests are bear-free so it’s safe to wander around for hours through the trees.


The changing of the colours is not confined to the wilderness though. Canada’s cities also offer some amazing views. On your 10 Day Eastern Canada journey, spend time in the French-inspired city of Montreal (it’s one of the largest French-speaking cities in the world after Paris). In autumn it’s cool, with an average high temperature of about 12 degrees, so dress in layers. 
Old Montreal, Bonsecours Market reflections in autumn
Even as the temperature gauge falls, Montreal is about being outside, so take a long walk around Mount Royal Park, just west of the city. Frederick Law Olmsted, the man behind New York’s Central Park, also designed the sprawling hilltop oasis, inaugurated in 1876. This is where locals go to breathe and where visitors wander to capture city views from the Kondiaronk lookout. If you turn your attention skyward, you might even see geese flying overhead as they migrate south for the winter. 


Just an hour north of Montreal you will find Quebec’s Laurentian Mountains, once described by a Parks Canada spokesperson as where “sugar maples mix decorously with red and white pines”. This area is also home to the provincial yellow birch and American beech trees, which usually change colour from the end of September through to late October. Speaking of sugar maples, on the journey from Quebec City to Montreal, stop at Sugar Shack for a Quebecois lunch. Think crepes, eggs, bacon, sausages and ham drenched in maple syrup. Try the grand-peres au sirop d’erable (deep-fried dough cooked in maple syrup). It sounds better in French, but in any language it tastes heavenly.
View of Old City in Quebec, Canada
Quebec City will sweep you up with its European charm and you will fall in love with the quaint cobblestone lanes and stone houses in the tree-lined historic district. On your free day drop in to the hole-in-the-wall diner Chez Gaston, and try Canada’s national dish, poutine: crisp fries and cheese curds doused in gravy. 


The drive from Ottawa, the Canadian capital to Quebec City, takes about four hours. A brilliant place to base yourself here is the beautiful Fairmont Chateau Laurier. Anyone who is anyone – dignitaries, film stars, musicians and even royalty – stays at this swanky hotel. Stay here on day 4 and 5 on the 17-day Eastern Canada and New England Cruise. If you want to take a walk in the wilderness, cross the river that divides the city and hike the five-kilometre Skyline Trail in Gatineau Park. 
Ottawa Parliament Hill sunny day, Canada


Next stop is Toronto (make sure you visit Algonquin Park, where you can take in the beauty of the season from the lake) and Niagara Falls. If you take the Niagara Parkway, then you’re in for a treat. Winston Churchill once described this stretch of quiet road as “the prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world”. And who would argue with him? The changing colours of the leaves in the wineries and peach orchards as you head towards Queenston are exceptional. And yes, you’ll need your good camera here as well.
People milling around water pool in city centre with the illuminated sign spelling out Toronto
Images courtesy of Vlad, Steven_Kriemadis