• Bow Lake area near the Icefields Parkway in Alberta

    Bow Lake area near the Icefields Parkway in Alberta (Photo: Florian Fuchs)

Spring. The word is like a collective sigh of relief that comes after a long, cold winter. But it’s also a magical time to explore Canada (just make sure you still pack enough layers). Travel writer Robin Esrock shares some of his favourite spring activities from his recent book The Great Canadian Bucket List.

Iceberg encounters in Newfoundland
April through early June is iceberg season in Newfoundland and Labrador, and beholding their hulking presence is Esrock’s number-one spring activity. Head to Twillingate, on Newfoundland’s northeast coast, where you can easily see the floating giants from land, or get up-close-and-personal views with a boat tour or from a rented kayak.

Snake spotting in Manitoba
Travelling in spring allows you to beat the summer crowds, says Esrock. But in late April and early May near Narcisse, 130 kilometres north of Winnipeg, the masses could be unavoidable — masses of snakes, that is. The Narcisse Snake Dens are home to tens of thousands of red-sided garter snakes, which surface from their winter lairs to mate in the largest gathering of vertebrates in the world.

Driving the Icefields Parkway
The 232-kilometre drive from Banff to Jasper, Alta., along the Icefields Parkway through the Rocky Mountains, is postcard- perfect at any time of year, but especially so in spring. “You’ve still kind of got winter,” says Esrock. “The glaciers and the snow-capped mountains look really stunning, but the roads are clear!”

Storm watching on Vancouver Island
“Spring in Canada is so weird,” says Esrock. “It can be gorgeous or really miserable.” Hope for the latter when visiting Tofino, a small town on the western shore of Vancouver Island, where winter storms crash into the coast until the end of March. Tofino has a host of places in which to eat and sleep, many with seafacing windows that provide excellent views of the squalls. Hunker down and enjoy the show.