Plenty of famous A-listers hail from north of the 49th parallel — Ryan Gosling, Justin Bieber, Rachel McAdams, Sandra Oh, Keanu Reeves, Seth Rogen, Ellen Page. Many own homes in some of the more picturesque regions of the country (the Muskokas in Ontario are a particular hotspot for celebrity sightings each summer), while others return for regular weekend getaways, finding privacy and refuge far from the Hollywood paparazzi.
The call of the North has always been strong for American and European celebrities as well. Today’s biggest icons of all nationalities have flocked to some of the most remote regions of Canada, drawn to its relative quiet, its retro retreats, its rustic beauty, its world-class ski slopes, and its architectural wonders.
Below we take a look at some of the finest celebrity haunts across the country, each of which is particularly ideal for a visit in the wintertime months.
Fairmont Banff Springs (Alberta)
Image via Fairmont
Situated in the picturesque alpine town of Banff, in the heart of Banff National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), this grand hotel is perhaps one of the most iconic in the country. A year-round luxury resort, the Banff Springs is especially stunning in the wintertime months, once the peaked mountains that serve as its backdrop become snow-capped and the surrounding trees are dusted with a heavy blanket of frost.
The nearby skiing is world-class, with multiple slopes and resorts to choose from: Sunshine Village, the Lake Louise Ski Resort, Banff Mount Norquay, and Kicking Horse. There’s plenty of Canadiana to be found in the 1888 Chop House, where guests can sample authentic Canadian cuisine.
This luxury hotel has hosted some of the most iconic figures of the twentieth century, like Mikhail Gorbachev and Marilyn Monroe. More recently, however, it has reportedly been visited by Catherine Zeta-Jones and husband Michael Douglas, Pierce Brosnan, Woody Harrelson, and Alec Baldwin.
Fogo Island Inn (Newfoundland and Labrador)
Image via Fogo Island Inn
Since opening its doors in 2013, the Fogo Island Inn has gained international attention for its unusual, breathtaking architecture. Perched on the edge of Fogo, a small island off the coast of Newfoundland, this inn-on-stilts (a nod to fishing stages, a historic staple of the island’s culture) is a perfect focal point for a region the Flat Earth Society deems one of the “four corners of the world.” The distinct Scandinavian vibes are no coincidence, as the inn — as well as numerous artist retreats dotted along the barren landscape — was designed by Saunders Architecture of Norway. It has attracted a swath of celebrities in the past few years, including the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow (who described it as “#heaven” via Instagram), David Letterman, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
While the weather on Fogo in winter can be formidable, what with those North Atlantic storms, there’s also a unique beauty to be found here in the darkest months. Much like the Danes who practice the art of hygge once the days get short, the residents of Fogo make the most of winter by skating, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and tobogganing, often ending the day with a bottle of preserves around a wood stove. It’s a very unique kind of winter wonderland — and yes, caribou sightings aren’t uncommon!
Skoki Ski Lodge (Alberta)
Image via Skoki Ski Lodge
The first commercial accommodations for ski-tourists built in the region, Skoki opened its doors in 1931. This rustic lodge, made from local logs, is located in Banff National Park. An 11-kilometre trail winds its way from the famous blue waters of Lake Louise to the Skoki Valley. This is the ideal spot for travellers who truly wish to leave the grid for a while; Skoki has no electricity or running water (though warm water is always available to guests for washing). The place becomes especially cozy at night when it is filled with the soft light of candles and kerosene lamps. Its remote location makes this an ideal place to see the stars.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge reportedly stayed at Skoki during their first official Canadian tour, seeking out a little quiet time in this backcountry dwelling. Certain special accommodations were made for the royal pair; instead of the 11-kilometre hike, William and Kate arrived via helicopter, and a bespoke bathroom was retrofitted for the duration of their stay.
Fairmont Chateau Whistler (British Columbia)
Image via Fairmont
Situated at the base of Blackcomb Mountain in Whistler, this 528-room hotel is a now-iconic landmark amongst the sweeping vistas of the alpine region. In summer it’s a popular golfing destination, but once the winter months hit, this grand Chateau becomes a dreamy, glowing haven in the picturesque snowy mountains. Blackcomb is rated the #1 ski resort in Canada by SKI Magazine readers’ poll, and there’s plenty of other winter activities for the outdoor adventurers: think sleigh rides, snowshoeing, helicopter sightseeing tours, ziplining, and more. For those more interested in local culture, the nearby Audain Art Museum and Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre will impress.
This luxurious mountain retreat is reportedly a beloved destination of Justin Timberlake, who has been known to visit with his family. Reese Witherspoon has also been sighted here.
Blachford Lake Lodge (Yellowknife)
Image via Blachford Lake Lodge
William and Kate certainly love a rustic setting. Described by the Daily Mail as “one of the most remote — and romantic — places on earth,” the Blachford Lake Lodge is where the royal couple reportedly celebrated their second honeymoon. This is a little slice of luxury in the wilderness, as the Lodge is equipped with hot running water, plumbing, electricity, and even Wi-Fi. The rustic-chic rooms feature warm down duvets and each cabin is heated by a wood or pellet stove.
The Daily Mail followed the royal couple’s whirlwind tryst here with great enthusiasm, reporting that they feasted on local cranberries, bannock bread, and caribou steaks. The getaway was a surprise for Kate, and the couple made the most of this time by canoeing, touring the teepees on the Blachford site, and learning about the ancient ways of life in the region.
A special bonus about Blachford Lake Lodge? Guests visiting during the winter months have a very good chance of spotting the breathtaking colours of the Aurora Borealis.