Where to Find Canada’s Most Mesmerizing Turquoise Waters

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From Yukon’s Emerald Lake to Quebec’s Magdalen Islands ‑ take a dip, paddle a canoe or simply bask in the sun and feel like you're on a far‑flung voyage.

If you dream of sitting by shimmering blue water this summer but want to do it close to home, we have you covered with a roundup of turquoise waters to escape to across Canada. Ever wonder why some Canadian bodies of water end up looking turquoise? In the case of glacial lakes, the colour is caused by runoff when nearby glaciers melt. Water from the glaciers contains particles of silt or rock flour, and the sun reflects off these particles, creating blue and green wavelengths of light. The water is at its peak vibrancy when the surrounding area is entirely thawed, typically in July and August. In other bodies of water, the turquoise effect is created by a combination of the water's depth and the colour of the sand, gravel or clay beneath.

July 5, 2021
A bright turquoise lake set among mountains and trees; Peyto Lake in Alberta.
   Photo: Matt Thomason
  1. Peyto Lake, Alberta

    — Banff National Park boasts plenty of spectacular views and Peyto Lake is no exception. The shimmering natural freshwater lake is 5.3 km2 in area. A marvelous lookout point can be found on Peyto Lake Trail, a 1.6 km paved path suitable for beginners. Parks Canada began a rehabilitation project on the lake viewpoint in 2019 and the grand reopening is set for August, 2021.

  2. Carter’s Beach, Nova Scotia

    — One of the most beautiful beaches along Nova Scotia’s coastline can be found in Queens County. Carter’s Beach has soft white sand and salty turquoise water that pools in from the North Atlantic Ocean. This is the ideal beach for paddle‑boarding, swimming, sun‑bathing, snorkeling and sand‑dollar searching. There are plenty of rental cottages nearby to turn your visit into a weekend beach town getaway.

An turquoise coloured lake with red canoes in the foreground and a chalet surrounded by trees in front of a mountain in the background.
   Photo: Hayden Scott
  1. Emerald Lake, British Columbia

    Yoho National Park is home to the appropriately named Emerald Lake. It is the park’s best‑known attraction with spectacular views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains in the background. Due to a relatively high altitude of 1,300 metres above sea level, the lake is frozen from November to June, so the best time to visit is in July as the snow melts from the surrounding mountains. Be sure to check out the rewarding, beginner‑friendly walking trail around the lake (leashed furry friends are also welcome).

Turquoise waters in front of a tree-filled shoreline with a partially obscured bridge at The Grotto in Ontario.
   Photo: Sahil Nimje
  1. The Grotto, Ontario

    — You can find a turquoise pool of water within a carved natural limestone cave at the Bruce Peninsula National Park. The open cave of the Grotto and Indian Head Cove is made especially beautiful by the light that emerges from an underwater tunnel in the grotto that leads into the main body of the lake. The water is very cold (even during summer months), although that does not deter the many swimmers that visit the grotto each year. There are plenty of other hikes that lead to beautiful waters within the Bruce Peninsula National Park including the Bruce and Horse Lake Trail Loop and the Bruce Trail. After working up an appetite, visit the village of Tobermory to enjoy a post‑swim lunch and explore the local shops.

A large rock in the foreground with a rocky beach and a tree-filled shoreline beyond, curving along blue water in Little Limestone Lake, Manitoba.
   Photo: Rob Swystun
  1. Little Limestone Lake, Manitoba

    — Drive five hours north of Winnipeg to reach this gorgeous lake with fluorescent blue waters that mimic the shades typically found in the Caribbean or Maldives. Little Limestone Lake is the world's largest marl lake – a lake rich in calcium carbonate that brings out the turquoise colour in warm water. In winter, when the water is cold, the same phenomenon makes the lake crystal clear.

Emerald-blue water in a lake with a large rock in the foreground and tree-covered rocky outcrops at the shoreline in the background in Morrison's Quarry, Quebec.
   Photo: Laila Goubran
  1. Morrison’s Quarry, Quebec

    — Morrison’s Quarry is a swimming hole with vivid blue water complete with a beach, volleyball nets and areas to have a barbecue or picnic. This is also the location of “The Rock”, Canada’s highest bungee jumping spot – packages are available from Great Canadian Bungee – and a world‑famous scuba diving training site featuring purposely sunken ships for wreck‑diving lessons. If that’s not enough adventure for you, there is also a 309‑metre zipline that carries visitors over the blue waters.

A view of the turquoise-coloured water at Emerald Lake in Yoho Park, Yukon, with trees and mountains in the background.
   Photo: Joris Beugels
  1. Emerald Lake, Yukon

    — Located in the southern Yukon, Emerald Lake is known for the bright ring of turquoise water that appears each summer along its shoreline. This impressive phenomenon is caused by the sunlight reflecting off the white layer of marl that lies at the edges of the lake. Thanks to the coloured water and breathtaking mountain scenery, Emerald Lake – known as “Rainbow Lake” among First Nations peoples – is the most photographed body of water in the Yukon.

An aerial shot of a spit of beach heading out into blue waters at Sandy Hook Beach in Iles de la Madeleine, Quebec.
   Photo: Tourisme Îles de la Madeleine
  1. Sandy Hook Beach, Magdalen Islands, Quebec

    — Ever wonder what the perfect combination of the Canadian Arctic and Hawaii would look like? We imagine it would be something like the Magdalen Islands, a small archipelago located in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence that is also part of Quebec. The island is blessed with fine‑sand beaches, red sand dunes, snow seals and maritime‑influenced culture with a lively kitesurfing community. The island is a popular destination in both winter and summer. We recommend Sandy Hook Beach for its golden sand and turquoise water and especially because it is home to the world's largest annual sandcastle competition.