3 Top UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Canada

by admin on November 1, 2013

Old Town Lunenburg


Canada is chocked full of incredible natural scenery from one coast to the other, so it is not surprising that UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization), the United Nationals agency whose job it is to identify and protect both natural and cultural sites around the world, has identified a number of such natural sites, including glaciers, fossil cliffs, and, of course, a portion of the magnificent Canadian Rocky Mountains.

UNESCO has also chosen several cultural sites in Canada that it deems to be of global significance in the understanding of the advance of human civilization. We’ll look at three of these here, each a great place in its own right for a travel destination.

1. Old Town Lunenburg
This picturesque fishing village, located on the southeast shore of Nova Scotia, was established by the British as a Protestant settlement in 1753. UNESCO has identified it as a World Heritage Cultural Site due to its remarkable preservation as the longest-surviving example of British 18th century architecture and settlement planning in North America.

The fact that the buildings of Old Town Lunenburg have remained intact for over 250 years is even more amazing when one learns that this experiment by the British government to establish a Protestant settlement was met with anger by the British Catholic settlers who mounted raids on the town no less than nine times. The town also was forced to endure the French and Indian War, the American Revolution and the War of 1812.

Out of it all, however, Lunenburg emerged as a major fishing center, a position it continues to hold. Today the town is the site of the largest fish-processing plant in Canada, and the port of its deep-sea trawler fleet.

Getting to Lunenburg is fairly easy as the town is just 40 miles from Halifax which is served by an international airport. Information for self-guided tours is available in Lunenburg, and you’ll also enjoy several museums including the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. Located on the waterfront this museum has the tall ship Theresa E. Connor, a salt banker, which you can actually board and explore.

2. Rideau Canal
Built in 1832, the Rideau Canal transverses an amazing 124 miles (200 km) to connect the Ottowa River at the city of Ottowa, to Lake Huron at the town of Kingston.

Originally constructed as a hedge against the possibility of war with the United States, the canal sports a number of fortifications along its length. This military precaution was to prevent a slice through the supply life-line of the St. Lawrence River, and also to give the Canadian ships another route where they would not be so vulnerable to U.S. attack.

The canal was designated a World Heritage Site due to its preservation as an example of the 19th century European canal technology known as “slack water,” adapted to a huge scale. It is also considered to have cultural significance to the world in its contribution to the establishment of the two separate and distinct countries of Canada and the United States.

Today the Rideau Canal is the only canal built in the 19th century to still be fully operational along most of its entire line. It is now used for pleasure boating, and canal cruises are available.

In the winter when the water freezes, the portion of the canal that passes through downtown Ottowa is opened to the public as a skating rink. The length of 4.8 miles (7.8 km) makes this skating rink larger than nine Olympic hockey rinks.

3. Red Bay Basque Whaling Station
Located on the Strait of Belle Isle in Labrador, in Canada’s northeast Arctic region, this whaling station was built by Basque whalers in the 1500s. It was established as a World Heritage Site as it is considered the best-preserved example of the archaeology of pre-industrial whaling.

Built as a large, comprehensive whaling factory, the station was used as a port for the whaling ships, a facility for the butchering of the whales, oil rendering, the storage of the oil, and the shipment of the oil to Europe.

Today much of the station can still be seen, including a wharf and the ovens used for rendering the oil, as well as living quarters and a cemetery.

There are also a number of underwater shipwrecks including three whaling galleons of Basque origin, and four smaller boats used in the capturing of whales known as chalupas. Because of these shipwrecks Red Bay is considered one of the most important underwater archeological sites in the Western Hemisphere. One of the chalupas, considered the oldest-known whaling boat in North America, has been salvaged and preserved and is on display at the museum.

Red Bay is one of Canada’s National Historic Sites, and is maintained by the country’s national parks organization. It can be accessed by car and ferry, or by flying into the regional airport at Blanc Sablon, Quebec.

The Visitors Center includes a museum as well as interactive programs. In August you won’t want to miss the Red Bay Basque Festival which offers music, entertainment and a sampling of Basque cuisine, both modern and 16th century.

Alice Perkins is a travel blogger for RedWeek.com, the largest online market place for timeshare rentals, where vacationers can find luxury accommodations for less than the cost of a typical hotel room.

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