Guide to a Working Holiday in Canada (free illustrated PDF guide)

Chapter 7: An overview of Canadian provinces and territories

Published: 02-03-2020

Author

Julie

An overview of Canadian provinces and territories

From west to east, Canada has ten provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island. There are also three territories which make up the northern half or so of the country: Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.

Yes, it’s a big place.

Let’s take a closer look!

This is Canada:

  • A country 40 times larger than the United Kingdom
  • 10 provinces and 3 territories
  • A population of 36 million people
  • 3.6 people per km2 (412 inhabitants per km2 in the Netherlands!)
  • A very large territory, Nunavut, and a very small province, Prince Edward Island
  • Two official languages: French and English and several other Indigenous languages
  • 60% of the land covered by forests
  • A national motto, “Ad mare usque ad mare” (“From sea to sea”)
  • A queen, Elizabeth II, and a Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau
  • Fun city names like Punkeydoodles Corners (Ontario), Happy Adventure (Newfoundland and Labrador) or Sober Island (Nova Scotia
  • The country with the most lakes in the world!
  • The 7,821-kilometre-long TransCanada Highway
  • 71% of the world’s pure maple syrup, 91% of which is produced in Quebec
  • -62.8 °C, the coldest temperature ever recorded in Canada in Snag, Yukon in 1967
  • L’Anse aux Meadows (Newfoundland and Labrador), a 1000-year-old Viking settlement and the first known evidence of European presence in the Americas

Alberta

Alberta is nicknamed the “Texas of Canada”—like the American state, it’s big and the main industry is oil.

The cowboy culture is still very much alive, as most Canadian farms are in Alberta. It’s often described as a conservative province but it’s becoming more diverse and more cultural. The famous Stampede (an annual rodeo taking place in Calgary) is a renowned event across the country.

Alberta is also one of the driving economic forces in Canada, although it’s been hit hard by the latest oil shock. Currently, it’s in recovery after a long economic boom and a crash. The main industries are hospitality (there are many ski resorts in the Rockies), construction and energy. The second-largest oil sand reserves on the planet provide Canada with a relatively secure source of energy but are an environmental disaster.

Alberta is an outdoorsy province, quieter and a bit off the beaten track compared to other typical WHP destinations.

Main cities in Alberta

Calgary

Population of 1.2 million
Average temperature in winter: -9 °C
Average temperature in summer: 18 °C

Located between the Prairies and the Rocky Mountains, Calgary is Alberta’s largest and most dynamic city. However, Calgary rides the roller coaster of a boom and bust economy.

Work opportunities: There are plenty of restaurants, hotels and businesses. Calgary is the epicentre of the energy industry in Canada with head offices of every major company in the sector.

Accommodation: A room in a shared house is about $1,200/month.

Activities: Many festivals all year round, with the Stampede as the highlight. Check out the Telus Spark (the science museum), the Calgary Zoo (and Zoolights during the winter holidays), the surrounding mountains and WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park.

The pros: A city with plenty of green spaces and close to nature. Quality of life is good, especially if you enjoy a quiet atmosphere. There’s a growing foodie scene. People are nice and it’s a family-friendly city.

The cons: You often need a car to get around unless you live right in the downtown core or very close to a bus station. The arts scene isn’t very lively. Cost of living is higher than in Montreal but lower than in Vancouver and Toronto.

Edmonton

Population of 820,000
Average temperature in winter: -12 °C
Average temperature in summer: 18 °C

North of Calgary and right in the middle of Alberta, Edmonton is a bit out of the way. Most travellers don’t stop by and fewer even consider settling down here. But after all… why not?

Work opportunities: Mostly construction jobs and positions in the petrochemical industry. There are plenty of shopping centres, including North America’s largest shopping mall, so the retail and the food industries are often hiring for jobs in shops, fast-food chains, coffee shops and restaurants.

Accommodation: Rent is high. A one-bedroom apartment is about $1,200/month and a room in a shared house is between $600 and $700/month.

Activities: Edmonton is a college town, you’ll find tons of cool places to hang out, especially on Whyte Avenue.

The pros: A relatively good public transit system. As long as you don’t live in a faraway suburb, you probably won’t need a car.

The cons: Harsh and long winters. Edmonton is a bit out of the way if you want to explore Alberta and around.

Work opportunities in the oil industry: Many WHP holders head to Alberta, and especially to Fort McMurray, to work on oil rigs. It’s a demanding job and it’s not that easy to get hired.

Banff, Jasper and Canmore

Average temperature in winter: -8 °C
Average temperature in summer: 15 °C

These three towns are all ski resorts and they are busy in both winter and summer because they are close to national parks. Jasper has a population of 4,000, Banff 8,000 and Canmore counts close to 13,000 residents.

Work opportunities: It’s a good area to find ski resort jobs (program leaders, ski instructors, technicians) as well as opportunities in the hospitality and retail industry (receptionist, janitor, sales, dishwasher, etc.).

Accommodation: Around $1,100/month for a small apartment and $700/month for a room in a shared house.

Activities: Many bars and restaurants—they often cater to tourists and charge accordingly.

Don’t miss: The highlights of a trip to Canada, namely Lake Louise and Lake Moraine, as well as Banff and Jasper National Parks.

The pros: A lovely setting between lakes, forests and mountains. Outdoorsy people will love the many activities offered.

The cons: The high cost of groceries and rent (unless your employer provides staff accommodation) in ski resorts. Travellers from all over the world tend to congregate around this touristic part of Canada and competition is fierce for jobs.

British Columbia

From the Rocky Mountains to the fjords of the Pacific Ocean coast, British Columbia offers breathtaking scenery.

This is one of Canada’s most outdoorsy provinces. Vancouver is a vibrant city and this gateway to the Pacific Rim is a growing economy that leads the nation.

But there’s more to British Columbia than just Vancouver—you could choose to live in a town, in a ski resort or even in a rural setting close to a farm, a ranch or vineyards.

Good to know—Southern BC experiences the country’s warmest winter, which means that subzero temperatures aren’t common.

Main cities in British Columbia

Vancouver

Population of 2.3 million (greater Vancouver area)
Average temperature in winter: 5 °C
Average temperature in summer: 21 °C

Vancouver is one of the largest cities in Canada and it’s often described as a great place to live with a stunning location between the ocean and the mountains. Vancouver is definitely a city with a West Coast vibe, where locals love outdoor activities.

Work opportunities: Jobs in the tertiary sector (import/export, port activities), IT, video games and animation, hospitality and the food industry.

Accommodation: Budget at least $1,000/month for a room in a shared house close to downtown. It drops to $650/month in the suburb, less if you don’t mind a basement apartment.

Activities: Stanley Park, right in the city, is a dream for nature lovers. The famous Seawall Path offers scenic views of both the ocean and the mountains. There are many micro-breweries and other trendy bars in the Commercial Drive area. Gastown is a small neighbourhood with a friendly atmosphere, while Yaletown is a bit more posh.

Don’t miss: The most famous tourist attractions are the Vancouver Aquarium, Grouse Mountain, Canada Place and Stanley Park! But there’s a long list of places to check out including Science World, Chinatown, Queen Elizabeth Park, Cypress and Seymour for the mountains, Kitsilano for the beach, Lynn Canyon Park in North Vancouver, a good old hockey game with the Canucks, etc.

The pros: You won’t need a car, the public transit system is reliable. It’s easy to escape from the city and there are many activities offered in and around Vancouver.

The cons: Vancouver is the most expensive city in Canada. The rental market is crazy and owning a car in Vancouver is also expensive. On the job market you’ll be competing with WHP holders from all over the world, including from Asia, English-speaking countries, Germany, etc. Vancouver is best for those who like outdoors activities more than cultural activities. Oh, and you gotta embrace the rainy weather!

Vancouver Island: Victoria and Nanaimo

Population of 80,000 in each of these cities
Average temperature in winter: 1 °C
Average temperature in summer: 11 °C

Just off Canada’s Pacific Coast, Vancouver Island is a fascinating place with temperate rainforests that support many mammal and bird species, both abundant and threatened in numbers. Marine mammals such as orcas can be seen along the coastline. It’s a great spot for nature lovers!

Victoria, the provincial capital and the main city on the island, is a lovely, historic place.

Nanaimo isn’t just a ferry stop from Vancouver to Vancouver Island but a cute, lively community. Nanaimo is mostly a harbour city with a seaside vibe where you’ll find hostels, bars, restaurants and a few shops.

Work opportunities: Jobs in the tourism, hospitality and food service industries.

Accommodation: Budget between $500/month to $650/month for a room in a shared house and about $1,000/month for a small, centrally located apartment.

The pros: A really off-the-beaten-track experience close to nature. There are tons of activities to try on Vancouver Island alone.

The cons: You’re on an island, so travelling to the mainland takes a bit of planning even if there are many options (by sea or by air) to get to Vancouver and to the United States.

Activities: Anything outdoors, in the forest or in the ocean, like kayaking or hiking.

Don’t miss: in Victoria, Butchart Gardens, the Royal BC Museum, Fisherman’s Wharf, and for those who love a physical challenge, the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail! You can check out Newcastle Island and Protection Island from Nanaimo. It’s an easy day trip by boat, just write down the schedule otherwise you’ll end up camping overnight!

Kamloops

Population of 90,000
Average temperature in winter: – 3 °C
Average temperature in winter: 22 °C

Kamloops is located in the only true Canadian desert. The semi-arid weather is perfect for agriculture, especially vineyards.

Work opportunities: Mostly in the food industry.

Accommodation: Around $1,200/month for a small apartment in the town centre and between $500 to $700 for a room in a shared house.

Activities: A few art galleries and museums.

Don’t miss: The lake, Sun Peaks resort, the British Columbia Wildlife Park.

The pros: Kamloops is a cute, quiet town with great quality of life. The location is great, between national parks and the Pacific Coast. There’s less competition to find a job.

Fruit picking jobs in British Columbia: With a warm, desert-like climate—unique in Canada!—the Okanagan Valley is popular with young Canadians and international travellers. It’s also known for its wineries and fruit orchards and every year, thousands of short-term employees are required at harvest time (there are also volunteer positions). Kelowna is a good place to start looking for fruit-picking jobs.

The cons: You’re a bit out of the way in British Columbia.

Whistler

Population of 9,000
Average temperature in winter: – 2 °C
Average temperature in summer: 16 °C

Whistler, one of the largest ski resorts in North America, is perfect for outdoorsy people and winter sports fans. It’s also a dynamic town with plenty of unskilled and short-term work opportunities.

Activities: Anything outdoor—skiing in winter, mountain biking in summer, and hiking.

Don’t miss: The amazing scenery!

Work opportunities: Ski resort jobs (instructors, ski lift operators, technicians), positions in the hospitality and food service industries (many high-end restaurants and hotels around) as well as general customer service positions during the winter and summer tourist seasons.

Accommodation: Between $400/month and $500/month for a shared room and between $700/month and $900/month for a private room in a shared house.

The pros: Finding a job is relatively easy because of the size and popularity of the resort. Whistler is easy to get to from Vancouver. It’s a typical resort town with a young and festive vibe.

The cons: Cost of living is very high and there isn’t much to do except outdoor activities.

Ontario

Ontario, the largest economy in Canada, is a popular destination for travellers, temporary workers and permanent residents. The vast majority of Ontario’s population lives in Southern Ontario, between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.

Toronto is Canada’s largest city and Ottawa is the federal capital of the country. These two destinations, both very different, can offer equally interesting experiences. And don’t forget to consider smaller cities, like Hamilton or Kingston!

Main cities in Ontario

Toronto

Population of 2.6 million
Average temperature in winter: – 4 °C
Average temperature in summer: 26 °C

Toronto is a vibrant, multicultural city where you feel like every single country on earth is represented. You can find any type of ethnic food and practise any language—it’s kind of the Canadian version of New York.

Work opportunities: Positions in the hospitality and food service industries, customer service, IT, and sales (import/export and retail).

Accommodation: Budget at the very least $800/month for a room in a central neighbourhood and $500/month in a suburb. A one-bedroom apartment is around $1,700/month in a central neighbourhood.

Activities: Toronto is a culturally vibrant city. There are many concerts and festivals, as well as bars and restaurants.

Don’t miss: The CN Tower, the Waterfront, Kensington Market, Toronto Island, and all the different neighbourhoods, each with a different atmosphere.

The pros: Toronto never stops, even in the dead of winter! This is the perfect place for those who want to enjoy the big-city lifestyle and urban activities. Need a break? Head to the lakeside beaches close to downtown and pick a place in a quieter neighbourhood.

The cons: Cost of living is extremely high, especially rent and food (and it’s not easy to find a place to live). You need strong English skills to be considered as a candidate, even for unskilled positions.

Ottawa

Population of 900,000
Average temperature in winter: – 10 °C
Average temperature in summer: 21 °C

Ottawa is the federal capital of Canada and the bigger National Capital Region includes Gatineau, in Quebec. Ottawa is officially bilingual but it’s a predominantly English-speaking city. With Quebec just across the river and many bilingual positions in the federal government, being comfortable in both French and English is a strong asset in the job market.

Accommodation: Budget $600/month for a room in a central neighbourhood, and $1,100/month for a one-bedroom apartment.

Activities: many museums.

Don’t miss: skating on the Rideau Canal in winter, the Tulip Festival in May, Parliament Hill and Canada Day festivities on July 1.

Work opportunities: The biggest employer is the federal government, so there are many office positions (accounting, admin, translation, policy analysts, teaching). There are also jobs in the hospitality and food service industry, communication and IT.

The pros: Ottawa is a peaceful, family-oriented city with immigrants from all over the world and cost of living is reasonable.

The cons: It’s a government town, don’t expect street parties! There are plenty of events and activities but it’s still a city where people go to bed early. You will have to go through a staffing agency to get a term position with the federal government—don’t hope for a permanent position, priority is given to Canadian citizens.

Quebec

“La belle Province,” is the only province in Canada whose sole official language is French. Culturally and historically different, it’s a vibrant place with a strong sense of identity. Quebec is the top destination for French speakers who are hoping to land in North America’s French corner—but beware, it’s very different from France and Europe in general!

Quebec offers very different experiences—big-city life in Montreal, history and culture in Quebec City and the proximity to nature in Sherbrooke or Saguenay.

Main cities in Quebec

Quebec City

Population of 540,000
Average temperature in winter: – 12 °C
Average temperature in summer: 25 °C

Quebec City, the provincial capital of Quebec, is home to the National Assembly of Quebec. As the only fortified city in the Americas north of Mexico, it may feel European at first glance. However, it does have a very North American vibe.

Work opportunities: Jobs in the tourism industry, trade and public administration.

Accommodation: From $450/month for a room in a shared house in a central neighbourhood, one-bedroom apartments from $700/month in the downtown core.

Activities: Plenty of festivals year-round, like the Winter Festival and the Festival d’été de Québec. With nature so close, there are plenty of outdoor activities as well as a number of entertainment options in the city (improv theatres, concerts, bars …).

Don’t miss: Wandering around Old Quebec and along the St. Lawrence, the Montmorency Falls, the Île d’Orléans.

The pros: Quebec City is a big city without too many big-city problems. It’s also both historic and close to nature.

The cons: Some will find it too quiet. Most residents have a car because the public transit system is expensive and unreliable.

Montreal

Population of 2 million
Average temperature in winter: – 10 °C
Average temperature in summer: 21 °C

Top destination for francophones and Francophiles, Montreal is a vibrant and lively cosmopolitan city with tons of activities and opportunities. Centred on the Island of Montreal, it’s an economic and cultural life force with a green heart.

Work opportunities: Jobs in the telco industry, IT, communication, hospitality, etc.

Accommodation: Budget at least $450/month for a room in a shared house and around $800/month or $900/month for a one-bedroom apartment just outside the city core but in a neighbourhood with easy access to the subway network.

Activities: Many concerts and festivals, outdoor activities in parks outside the city and easy trips to the US.

Don’t miss: A hike to the top of Mount Royal, a stroll down Saint Lawrence Boulevard through the various waves of immigrant neighbourhoods (Greek, Italian, Jewish, etc.) that make up the city, a walk around the Old Port, the Botanical Garden, bars and restaurant in Le Plateau-Mont-Royal Plateau and in Mile End.

Pros: Montreal is still an affordable and vibrant North American metropolis with the perks of any big city and a very diverse population. It offers interesting neighbourhoods and it’s easy to take trips out of the city.

The cons: Montreal is a popular destination, especially for French speakers. Expect competition for both jobs and affordable apartments.

Sherbrooke

Population of 160,000
Average temperature in winter: – 12 °C
Average temperature in summer: 18 °C

Sherbrooke is a small town in the heart of the lovely Eastern Townships. This peripheral region is a bit far from the major urban centres—driving distance from Montreal and Quebec City is respectively 1 hour 40 minutes and 2 hours 25 minutes—but it offers an exceptional natural environment.

Work opportunities: This academic hub offers teaching and admin staff opportunities, as well as jobs in healthcare.

Accommodation: Between $200/month and $400/month for a room in a shared house, two-bedroom apartments starting at $600/month.

Activities: Many for outdoors lovers!

Don’t miss: The Eastern Townships, a historic tourist region featuring agrotourism and small towns with a New England vibe.

The pros: It’s an off-the-beaten-track destination with less competition. During the school year, Sherbrooke is pretty lively. Cost of living is very reasonable. The US is a short drive away.

The cons: Entertainment options are limited and it’s a city on the quiet side.

Saguenay

Population of 150,000
Average temperature in winter: – 16 °C
Average temperature in summer: 18 °C

Saguenay was formed by merging the cities of Chicoutimi and Jonquière and the town of La Baie. It’s a popular tourist destination only a 200-kilometre drive from Quebec City as well as a stop on the way to the coast or to one of the national parks.

Work opportunities: Job in the tourism, hospitality and food service industries, sales and the natural resources sector (wood, aluminum).

Accommodation: About $300/month for a room in a shared house, two-bedroom apartments starting at $500/month.

Activities: Anything outdoorsy!

Don’t miss: The Saguenay Fjord National Park.

The pros: An off-the-beaten-track destination with less competition and true cultural immersion in small-town Quebec.

The cons: Relatively remote—which will be an asset for some!

Prince Edward Island

With a population of only 140,000, Prince Edward Island (PEI) is Canada’s smallest province. Immigrants are always welcome, especially French speakers. If you are looking for a quiet lifestyle close to nature, PEI is a good option.

Charlottetown

Population of 35,000
Average temperature in winter: – 8 °C
Average temperature in summer: 18 °C

Founded in 1885, Charlottetown is the provincial capital and the largest city in PEI, yet it feels like a charming seaside town.

Work opportunities: In the tourism industry (hotels, restaurants and activities), agriculture and fishing, construction and retail.

Accommodation: About $300/month for a room in a shared house, a two-bedroom house is around $700/month.

Activities: Plenty of outdoor sports!

Don’t miss: It’s an island, so expect great beaches, scenic drives and delicious seafood!

The pros: An off-the-beaten-track destination with a lively Francophone community.

The cons: Not a major airline hub and getting here costs extra.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia is bigger than Prince Edward Island in terms of size and population. Forests stretch all the way to the Atlantic coast and you can have either an urban experience in Halifax or a more rural lifestyle in a typical fishing village like Yarmouth.

Halifax

Population of 390,000
Average temperature in winter: – 6 °C
Average temperature in summer: 18 °C

Halifax is the most populated city in the Maritimes. It’s both a port and an industrial city with fishing, commercial and military activities and an academic hub with a lively student atmosphere, plenty of heritage sites and a great arts scene. For a change of scenery, just get out of the city and enjoy one of the many fishing towns nearby!

Work opportunities: Jobs related to port activities (import/export, shipping and receiving, general operations, fishing), tourism, and academia.

Accommodation: About $500/month for a room in a shared house, one-bedroom house from $1,200/month.

Activities: Halifax is the cultural hub of the Maritimes—oh, and plenty of pubs to try out!

Don’t miss: The Bay of Fundy, whale watching, national parks.

The pros: A vibrant and lively student city in the heart of the Maritimes with nature all around—you get the best of both worlds.

The cons: High demand for rentals because of the large student population.

New Brunswick

New Brunswick, Canada’s only officially bilingual province, lies between the Atlantic Ocean, Quebec and the US border in a very rural setting. Acadian culture is still very much alive and French communities are thriving. The province is actively trying to attract young francophone immigrants.

Main cities in New Brunswick

Moncton

Population of 70,000
Average temperature in winter: – 9 °C
Average temperature in summer: 21 °C

Moncton’s metropolitan area is one of the most dynamic regions in Canada. Surrounded by marshy flatlands, it developed along the river valley. Moncton is a stop on the way to Prince Edward Island or Nova Scotia.

Work opportunities: Jobs in trade (wholesale or retail) and transportation.

Accommodation: About $350/month for a room in a shared house and from $700/month for a two-bedroom house.

Activities: For all your entertainment needs, head to Main Street East.

Don’t miss: Centennial Park and Magnetic Hill Zoo. To discover Acadian culture, check out the Pays de la Sagouine, near Bouctouche.

The pros: The largest French-speaking community outside Quebec and New Brunswick’s most vibrant city.

The cons: Moncton can’t possibly be described as “charming.”

Saint John

Population of 70,000
Average temperature in winter: – 15 °C
Average temperature in summer: 25 °C

Saint John is a port city located at the mouth of the eponymous river. The second-largest city in New Brunswick, it’s also one of Canada’s oldest cities—it was founded in 1631!

Work opportunities: The trade industry (wholesale and retail) is the fastest growing sector.

Accommodation: About $400/month for a room in a shared house, one-bedroom apartments from $800/month.

Activities: Saint John City Market, the oldest continuously operated farmer’s market in Canada, and Irving Nature Park (a great sport for hikers!)

The pros: A unique, off the beaten track destination.

The Cons: Except for the historic centre and the red-brick buildings, it’s not a cute city. The Bay of Fundy is amazing, though!

Fredericton

Population of 56,000
Average temperature in winter: – 11 °C
Average temperature in summer: 20 °C

New Brunswick’s capital is a peaceful city and life mostly revolves around the provincial governments. There’s a strong French community with vibrant Acadian culture and it’s a good place for bilingual positions.

Work opportunities: In the trade industry (wholesale or retail) and many office jobs.

Accommodation: About $400/month for a room in a shared house with one bedroom apartments starting at $700/month.

Activities: Many heritage buildings to explore.

The pros: A cute city with many red-brick buildings.

The cons: The relatively high cost of living considering the size of the city and the housing shortage.

Newfoundland and Labrador

For a complete change of scenery and a unique Canadian experience, head to Newfoundland and Labrador, the easternmost province. The island of Newfoundland and mainland Labrador bordering Quebec are sparsely populated but St. John’s, the provincial capital, is a vibrant city worth visiting.

St. John’s

Population of 100,000
Average temperature in winter: – 9 °C
Average temperature in summer: 11 °C

There’s Saint John, New Brunswick, and St. John’s, Newfoundland, a colourful city surrounded by stunning wild landscapes and bordered by the Atlantic Ocean.

Work opportunities: Jobs in the oil industry, services and admin positions, and the tourism industry during the high season.

Accommodation: About $600/month for a room in a shared house and $1,000/month for a one-bedroom apartment.

Activities: This festive city boasts a pub culture and bar crawling is a great way to make friends!

Don’t miss: The many national parks, including Gros Morne National Park.

The pros: St. John’s is a lovely city and it’s pretty lively during the tourist season. There’s a lot to see with breathtaking nature all around which doubles as a playground for outdoor activities.

The cons: St. John’s is hard to get to and it feels like a remote corner of Canada—but it could be the experience you’re looking for.

Yukon

If you say “Yukon,” Jack London and the Gold Rush immediately comes to mind. You probably won’t find gold but expect Northern Lights and a unique true North experience in this remote territory.

Tempted to live up North for a few weeks or a few months? Go for it but remember it can be both rewarding and challenging.

Main cities in Yukon

Dawson

Population of 1,400
Average temperature in winter: – 22 °C
Average temperature in summer: 14 °C

Dawson is a charming, remote town inseparably linked to the Gold Rush—with its dirt streets, wooden sidewalks and laid-back atmosphere you’d almost feel like you travelled back to the late 19th century. Today, tourism overtakes gold mining. Most visitors come to volunteer through the HelpX or WWOOF programs or to experience a true Far North job as a musher, carpenter or lumberjack.

Work opportunities: The tourism industry (hotels, restaurants) is the largest employer. Working at the casino is also an option during the summer season.

Accommodation: Up North, the best way to find a place is to ask around! A few employers offer good deals for staff members.

Activities: The main attractions are all within walking distance, such as the Jack London Museum, the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre and Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Gambling Hall where you can experience a night at the saloon just like back in the days. Dawson also has lively nightlife, especially in summer.

Don’t miss: Tombstone Territorial Park.

The pros: Dawson City is very remote and feels isolated, especially in winter, which is quite a unique experience. You’re close to many national parks as well as to the state of Alaska. Locals are known to be welcoming and the city is very walkable.

The cons: Just like in Whitehorse, groceries are expensive and finding a place to live is both challenging and pricey. You will need a vehicle to explore the surrounding area, including the Top of the World Highway and Tombstone Territorial Park. In summer, Dawson City is popular with tourists and the atmosphere changes drastically.

Whitehorse

Population of 29,960
Average temperature in winter: – 14 °C
Average temperature in summer: 13 °C

Whitehorse, the territorial capital, is also the largest city in Yukon. The architecture is nothing to write home about and it’s often said to be somewhat seedy, yet it’s fascinatingly remote and special—some love it, some hate it! However, no one can argue about the stunning setting. “Wilderness City” sits in the boreal forest, framed by three nearby mountains.

Work opportunities: Jobs in the tourism industry, mining, retail, healthcare and early childhood education, as well as the construction sector. Summer is the hiring season for unskilled jobs.

Accommodation: Budget between $600 and $900/month for a room in a shared house.

Activities: You’re here for the vibe, not the sights! Start with a drink in one of the many bars open year-round.

Don’t miss: Hike in the nearby mountains, check out the many museums, discover Miles Canyons, the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre, the Takhini Hot Springs and attend the Yukon Quest 1,000-mile International Sled Dog Race.

The pros: Despite low population density, Whitehorse has the same range of services any provincial or territorial capital offers, and it’s very close to nature. The local community is warm and welcoming.

The cons: There’s more demand than supply for housing and rent is high. There’s a public transit network but outside rush hour, it runs infrequently. You need a car to explore the region.

Northwest Territories

Getting there is half the fun—the Northwest Territories are not exactly next door, no matter where you are in Canada. But if you make it, you’ll get to enjoy this amazing outdoor playground with boreal forests, ice roads and northern lights.

Yellowknife

Population of 22,000
Average temperature in winter: – 23 °C
Average temperature in summer: 15 °C

Yellowknife is the territorial capital and the biggest city. This is where 5,000 km from Toronto, you can enjoy life in a stunning, unique environment, far from everyone and everything you know.

Work opportunities: Jobs in the mining and forestry industries and office positions with the provincial government.

Accommodation: Between $700 and $1,000/month for a room in a shared house. A neighbourhood bobs on the waves of Great Slave Lake, where you can rent a houseboat.

Activities: Head outdoors to watch the northern lights or experience the midnight sun. Enjoy the Snowking’s Winter Festival held in a snow castle in March (party in a snow castle!), the Long John Jamboree on Great Slave Lake, or an ice-road adventure, go dog sledding, canoeing, camping, fishing or ice fishing, eat s’mores around a campfire by the lake… March is a great month for outdoors activities—days are longer and temperatures go up slightly.

Don’t miss: Wood Buffalo National Park.

The pros: Yellowknife seems remote but in fact, it doesn’t feel isolated. If you are looking for a true back-of-beyond experience, you have to head further north and live in one of the small communities. Yellowknife offers a good work-life balance—you can walk to work and go camping in the evening. All the conveniences of a big city are available with the additional perks of nature and vast, open spaces just next door. It’s a very interesting place to learn more about First Nations, Metis and Inuit culture—Indigenous peoples make up 22.7% of residents and 11 official languages are spoken.

The cons: Like with most off-the-beaten-track destinations, cost of living is high and there is a housing shortage. However, residents tend to be super helpful and welcoming!

Nunavut

Nunavut is the largest and northernmost Canadian territory, and it’s also the newest one since it separated officially from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999. Nunavut means “our land” in Inuktitut—about 80% of the population is Inuit and four official languages are spoken: Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun, English and French.

Manitoba

Manitoba is more than just a Prairie province you cross on your way from Toronto to Vancouver. Some settle in friendly Winnipeg for work opportunities while others stop in Churchill to observe polar bears in the wild.

Main cities in Manitoba

Churchill

Population of 23,000
Average temperature in winter: – 18 °C
Average temperature in summer: 14 °C

On the west shore of Hudson Bay, close to the border with Nunavut, Churchill is far from being the biggest city in Manitoba but it’s the “Polar Bear Capital of the World.” Pack your winter coat to observe the many polar bears that move toward the shore from inland in the autumn.

Work opportunities: Jobs in the tourism industry (hospitality and food service) and a few volunteer opportunities.

Accommodation: It’s hard to find a rental, most tourists volunteer for room and board or stay in a hotel.

Activities: Spotting white bears in white snow.

The pros: Cuddly-looking polar bears.

The cons: Polar bears aren’t that into cuddles, apparently.

Winnipeg

Population of 630,000
Average temperature in winter: – 18 °C
Average temperature in summer: 19 °C

Never mind the nicknames (“Winterpeg,” “Murderpeg,” etc.), Winnipeg is a friendly and welcoming big enough city. However, one stereotype is true—expect very cold winters!

Work opportunities: Office positions, teaching, jobs in the tertiary sector (mostly in sales).

Accommodation: From $600/month for a room in a shared house, from $900/month for a one-bedroom apartment.

Activities: Many festivals all year long and a very lively arts scene (music, theatre plays, museums…).

Don’t miss: Saint Boniface and The Forks neighbourhoods, the many museums and FortWhyte Alive to see bisons!

The pros: Bilingual (English and French) candidates can find work easily, speaking French is a strong asset.

The cons: There’s a housing shortage and winters are long and cold, especially with the windchill factor.

Saskatchewan

Few choose Saskatchewan as a destination but it does offer a unique experience. The “Land of Living Skies” is home to prairie flatlands that stretch for kilometres over the horizon—expect stunning cloud patterns and sunsets! Regina and Saskatoon are two cosmopolitan cities and locals are extremely welcoming.

Main cities in Saskatchewan

Saskatoon

Population of 222,000
Average temperature in winter: – 15 °C
Average temperature in summer: 18 °C

Saskatoon is Saskatchewan’s largest city—try to say that three times fast! It still has a quiet Prairie vibe but it’s booming thanks to its resources, food, fuel, fertilizers and farmers.

Work opportunities: Agriculture is the main industry in the Prairies. There are also jobs in transportation, the supply chain industry, call centres and the tertiary sector.

Accommodation: Between $400 and $500/month for a room in a shared apartment and one-bedroom apartments from $700/month.

Activities: Many outdoor festivals, especially in the summer.

Don’t miss: Landscaped parks and natural areas, like along the Meewasin Valley Trail.

The pros: The tree-filled city centre is very compact and easy to navigate. Saskatoon is a booming city so there are many job opportunities.

The cons: The transit system is reliable enough within the city but you need a car to explore the areas around Saskatoon. Winters are harsh and long, like anywhere in the Prairies.

Regina

Population of 193,000
Average temperature in winter: – 14 °C
Average temperature in summer: 19 °C

Regina, the provincial capital, is also booming and it offers a number of work opportunities.

Work opportunities: In the tertiary sector and the food industry.

Accommodation: From $400/month for a room in a shared house.

Activities: Cathedral, Lakeview and Albert Park are vibrant neighbourhoods with plenty of entertainment options.

Don’t miss: Wascana Park, the Globe Theatre, the Saskatchewan Science Centre.

The pros: A medium-sized city with friendly and welcoming locals offering a true Canadian experience.

The cons: Finding a rental is getting tricky. The downtown core empties after the business day so it’s actually best to live in a close suburb or neighbourhood.

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