As the country often referred to as the “Great White North,” Canada’s reputation is as a cold, isolated place filled with very polite people. While Canadian winters can be frigid and the people are nice, spending some time in Canada will quickly show you that there is a lot more to Canada than meets the eye. While Canadians aren’t ones to brag, this third largest country in the world is the source of many of the worlds’ resources, inventions, and famous celebrities. The best way to truly experience this vast nation is to visit, but for now, here are twenty interesting facts about Canada to pique your curiosity.
1. Longest Coastline in the World - With an area of 9,984,670 square kilometers, it should be no surprise that Canada has the world’s longest coastline, measuring 202, 080 kilometers long. These vast stretches of coast touch several bodies of water including the Atlantic Ocean, Arctic Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean as well as the Great Lakes.
2. Freshwater Lakes- Speaking of the Great Lakes, Canada has more lakes within its borders than any other country, which should make it no surprise that 20% of the world’s freshwater exists within Canada.
3. Largest Freshwater Island - And with all that freshwater, it is no surprise that Canada also has the world’s largest freshwater island, Manitoulin Island. Belonging to Ontario, Canada, the island resides in Lake Huron and provides kayaking, hiking, small towns, and museums for visitors’ delight.
4. What’s in a Name?- Ever wonder how Canada got its name? Well, naturally, it got its name by mistake. When the French explorer Jaques Cartier arrived in the new world, he met the local natives. These natives invited him into their “Kanata” or “village” in their native tongue. The exploration party mistook the word as the name for the country, and began calling it “Kanata” or Canada.
5. Maple Syrup Production - Along with the famous Canadian phrase “eh,” you may also have a stereotype about Canadians that involves a love for maple syrup. In this case, that stereotype is well-founded as 77% of the world’s maple syrup supply is made in the province of Quebec. So the next time you are enjoying some pancakes, there’s a good chance you’re getting a small taste of Canada.
6. Winnipeg the Bear Cub - Whether you are aware of it or not, Winnipeg, the capital of the province Manitoba, has made a significant impact on many of our childhoods. Back in 1915, a bear named for the city was exported from Canada to the London Zoo. A little British boy named Christopher Robin Milne loved to visit the little bear cub, called Winnie for short. Inspired by his son’s love for the bear cub, A.A. Milne wrote the stories we know and love as “Winnie-the-Pooh.”
7. Inventor of Basketball- Beyond its influence on children’s literature, Canada also changed the world of sports forever when Canadian James Naismith invented the game “basket-ball” while teaching at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts. While the game originally used two peach baskets, a soccer ball, and teams of nine players, James Naismith’s games and rules would become the modern version of the game we know and love today.
8. A Welcoming Nation- Like James Naismith, many Canadians have moved all over the world, but the reverse is also true. Many people born all over the world have immigrated to this friendly nation. In fact, 1 in 5 Canadians were actually born outside Canada.
9. Alien Visitors- Interested in UFOs and extraterrestrial activity? Well, then you need to head to Alberta to see the world’s first UFO landing pad. Built in St. Paul, Alberta during 1967, the landing pad was built as joint effort between the town and local business and was inaugurated by the Minister of Defense as he flew a helicopter over it.
10. SNOLAB- For those who are more interested in microphysics than UFOs, Canada is also home to the world’s deepest underground lab. Built in an old mine nearly 2 kilometers (1 mile) under Sudbury, Ontario, the SNOLAB studies neutrinos and dark matter physics.
11. Garter-Snakes Galore- Along with its capital city being the inspiration for Winnie-the Pooh, Manitoba makes the list again as the garter-snake capital of the world. Head north from Winnipeg about 150 kilometers and you’ll arrive at the Narcisse Snake Dens conservation area, where, every spring, tens of thousands red-sided garter snakes slither out of their dens. If you visit during mid-April to mid-May you can witness this phenomenon from viewing platforms that keep you at a safe distance.
12. Longest Street - While you’re in that neck of the woods, you can also visit the longest street in the world. Covering a distance of almost 2000 kilometers, Yonge Street begins at Lake Ontario and runs north through Ontario to the Minnesota border.
13. Burly Men- Speaking of longest records, many may not be surprised that the longest beard in the world, measured at 2.37 meters (or around 9 feet) belongs to a Canadian.
14. Beards and Beer - And in Canada, growing beards and playing hockey goes hand-in-hand with drinking beer, which accounts for 80% of all the alcohol consumed in Canada.
15. The Christmas Spirit -Come Christmas time, you making your Christmas list and checking it twice, but who do you send it to? Well, Santa Claus of course, at postal code H0H 0H0. The good folks at Canada Post have been serving as Santa’s elves for years and will write back to any letter in any language they receive addressed to that postal code.
16. Safest Highways- Canada is home to diverse wildlife, including many moose, bears, and wolf packs, and Canada is committed to keeping it that way, which is why Canada owns the world’s safest highway for animals. Within Banff National Park, Canada has protected the wildlife from human visitors by building 37 overpasses and 6 underpasses specifically for animal use. Grizzly bear, wolves, elk, deer, and bighorn sheep use these underpasses to safely traverse the roads and keep the national parks thriving.
17. Out of this World- Newfoundland may have been the last province to join Canada, but its impact outside of Canada reaches furthest, stretching all the way to Mars. In honor of Gander, Newfoundland and the town’s rich history of pioneering aviation and aerospace, Mar’s 39 kilometer crater has been named Gander.
18. Bathtub Racing - Bathtub racing is another one-of-a-kind Canadian activity. Held on Vancouver Island during the Nanaimo Marine Festival every July, the Annual Bathtub Race began in 1967 where 200 bathtubers raced a 36 mile course. Only 46 finished. Today the Bathtub Race involves racers completing a 90 minute course in “high performance” bathtubs and a Bathtub Parade on race day.
19. Unique Harvest- Despite rumors otherwise, Canadians don’t place their elderly on icebergs, but they do harvest icebergs. Every year, icebergs break off from Greenland, travel down Iceberg Alley, and arrive on the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador where companies harvest chunks to use in products like wine, vodka, beer, and skincare products.
20. Famous Canadians- Canadians are too polite to brag about them, but they are fiercely proud of the many famous people who claim Canada has their homeland. The list includes celebrities like Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, Jim Carey, Leonard Cohen, Avril Lavigne, Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Margaret Atwood, Neil Young, Mike Myers, and Alex Trebek to name just a few.