Canada is a massive country - the second largest in the world after Russia and just larger than China and the United States. Spanning such a vast area it is made up of a number of very different regions. Canada covers everything from the Atlantic Ocean, to the Arctic Ocean and tundra, to the Canadian shield, to the prairies, to the Canadian Rockies

So when visiting Canada, which side should one pick? These regions are completely different have very different attractions on offer. Here we will consider the two east and west extremes of Canada - the Maritimes and the Rockies.


The Canadian Maritimes

The Maritimes have some of the longest colonial histories of Canada and were British colonies at the time of the American War of Independence. During that time, they were unwilling or unable to join the 13 Original Colonies and when on to become part of Canada.

The Maritimes are made up of three provinces - New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island (PEI). They typically do not include Newfoundland which instead is thought of as part of the larger region of Atlantic Canada.

  • Population: 1.8 Million (5.6% of Canada)
  • Provinces: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island

These provinces have a long colonial history (for North America) and in the case of New Brunswick, a strong French influence. These provinces are stunning but lack the eye-watering dramatic landscapes of the Rockies. They are, however, historic, and often charming and quaint and often a blend of French and English influence.

Related: Why You Should Be Visiting Newfoundland, If Only For These Unique Accommodations

The Provinces of The Canadian Maritimes

Prince Edward Island:

Prince Edward Island is a charming island of rolling green hills it is the setting of Anne of Green Gables. Being a beautiful island, it is known by nicknames including "Garden of the Gulf".

It was first colonized by the French in 1604 as part of their colony of Acadia. But it was later ceded to Britain after the French loss of the French and Indian War. Today it has only a small population of around 158,000 residents.

  • Population: 158,000 Residents
  • Fun Fact: It Produces Around 25% of Canada's Potatoes

New Brunswick:

New Brunswick is the only Canadian province to have both English and French as official languages (although English predominates in most of the province - about two-thirds). The French influence is mostly that of Acadian French with the local variety of French being called Acadian French.

It is a stunning province being around 83% forested and much of its forming the northern extreme of the Appalachian mountains. It was first settled by the French in 1604 before being lost to the British years later.

  • Size: 28,150 sq miles
  • Population: 775,000 Residents

Nova Scotia:

Nova Scotia is Latin for "New Scotland" and is the most populous of the Atlantic provinces of Canada. It occupies a very distinctive peninsula and was also originally part of France's New France. Many Loyalists settled there in the wake of the American War of Independence.

  • Size: 21,345 sq miles
  • Population: 1 Million Residents

Related: Jasper Vs. Banff National Park: Which One Should Be On Your List?

The Canadian Rockies

The Canadian Rockies are the mountains stretching all the way from New Mexico for 3,000 miles up to northern Canada. They dominate British Columbia and western Alberta. It is this region that includes some of Canada's most picture-perfect settings and most well-known national parks.

National Parks of The Canadian Rockies:

  • Banff National Park
  • Jasper National Park
  • Kootenay National Park
  • Yoho National Park
  • Waterton National Park

The Canadian Rockies are made up of both the Alberta Rockies and the British Columbian Rockies. They are a northern extension of the southern American Rocky Mountains system. The Canadian Rockies generally don't include the Rockies of Yukon and Alaska (they are sometimes called the "Arctic Rockies").

  • Highest Peak: 12,972 feet or 3,954 Meters - Mount Robson

The main attractions to these stunning mountain ranges are to see some of Canada's most dramatic national parks and scenery. Here one can see unspoiled landscapes and some of the best of Canadian wildlife. See grey wolves, grizzly bears, moose, bald eagles, and much more (consider a wildlife tour in Banff). Although the best place to see North American wildlife is arguably Yellowstone National Park in the United States.

  • Different: The Canadian Rockies Are Different To The South American Rockies
  • Treeline: Lower In The Canadian Rockies

The Canadian Rockies are more than just a continuation of the American Rockies. The Canadian Rockies are made up more of layered sedimentary rock like limestone and shale while the American Rockies are mostly granite and gneiss and other igneous and metamorphic rock. They are also more jagged than their American counterparts and are more hewn out by many years of glacial action - plus the tree line is much lower.

Next: Waterton Lakes Is Right Across From Glacier National Park, And This Is Why You Should Visit