The soon-to-be-former HRH Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s much-publicised stepping back from royal duties and move to Canada has set tongues wagging. But where could the most famous of couples find sanctuary across the pond?
Here are some of the best options.
Tofino, Vancouver Island
For the couple partial to long, blustery beachy walks, Tofino is just the ticket (although they may want to keep their eyes peeled for rogue paparazzo lurking behind the western red cedars). Locals here are a friendly bunch (any hint of stress being extinguished by rolling Pacific waves and the island’s surfy vibe) and the teeny fishing villages that smatter the Vancouver Island coastline thrum with a cheerful energy.
Over the years, Tofino itself has gone from hippy to hip, and the town draws in plenty of food-loving tourists who flit about its streets (not ideal if M&H want to stuff themselves full of seafood chowder in peace, though). If, however, they’re looking to socialise (and have bagged themselves a babysitter), Tofino Brewing Co is where it’s at, serving up kelp stout and coffee porter to chirpy punters. Given Harry’s passion for wildlife, he’ll have plenty to get Attenborough about here too, whether it’s watching sea otters float by from the shore, or taking to a dinghy to catch black bears foraging for crabs on the coastline and grey whales bobbing about in inky inlets.
Compatibility score: 6/10
Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador
On the salt-drenched island of Newfoundland – in Canada’s quirky easternmost province – the wind howls like wandering ghouls and the oceans roil with the flukes of mighty humpback whales. So if “remote and wind-beaten” is what Meghan and Harry are gunning for, they’ll certainly feel it here. Kindness is woven into the fabric of Gander, a tiny town which doubled its population by welcoming in nearly 6,700 people when the 9/11 terror attacks forced 38 planes to land there.
But if the duke and duchess have their sights set on something fancier, Fogo Island Inn – marooned on an island off Newfoundland’s craggy “Iceberg Alley” – is the secret holidaying spot of Barack Obama, Gwyneth Paltrow and Justin Trudeau (which would make post-dinner drinks extremely interesting). Nearby Brimstone Head, a massive rock jutting out from the island’s northwest coast, has actually been designated by the eccentric Flat Earth Society as one of the four corners of the earth. A dream! Surely no one will find them here! Well, in reality, it’s just a short flight from the UK (around four and a half hours with the wind behind you); but that should keep royal relatives, and Harry’s polo mates, happy.
Compatibility score: 8/10
Toronto is a gloriously diverse, friendly city, filled with world-class galleries, a buzzing LGBT+ scene and an infinite number of fantastic places to eat poutine. Plus Meghan lived in the city for six years while filming Suits, so it may have a home-from-home feel to it. But is there not something a little frying pan and fire about swapping one huge metropolis for another?
It has, however, been posited that Harry and Meghan are set to become the world’s biggest ever Instagram influencers, and a city like Toronto offers plenty of posing and #spon opportunities, from painstakingly curated dumpling pictures in Chinatown, to “carefree jumping in the air” shots in Toronto’s many leafy parks and green spaces. There’s plenty to keep visiting (famous) friends occupied here too, from sleek martini bars and fancy cocktail lounges to stand-up paddle-boarding adventures around the Toronto Islands (for when the sporty sorts roll in).
Compatibility score: 4/10
Haida Gwaii, British Columbia
Perhaps their former royal highnesses might like to stake out the rainforests of beautiful Haida Gwaii (they may find themselves with nothing but bald eagles for company, but there’s the charm). Known as Canada’s answer to the Galapagos Islands, the torch-shaped archipelago, rich with First Nations history, is flung some 70 miles off the coast of British Columbia, and is reached via the choppy Hectare Strait (which should see off a fair number of unwelcome guests).
The 175-mile-long island chain reaps the benefits of extreme isolation; here you’ll find some of the oldest spruce trees on the planet and animal subspecies that exist nowhere else on earth, such as the Haida Gwaii black bear, the cute, robin-sized hairy woodpecker and the snow-white Haida ermine. The pace of life here is luxuriously slow (if a buzzy city crash pad is what they’re after, this most certainly is not it) but the archipelago does share something special with Meg and Harry: it has a former royal moniker, and used to be known as the Queen Charlotte Islands. Match made in heaven.
Compatibility score: 9/10
Rumour has it Meghan is something of a linguist (she reportedly studied French for six years), so she should be home in francophone Quebec. The province also represents the perfect blend of North American and European (handy that), from its snow-cloaked mountains to its distinctive “terroir”. If the couple get tired of Canada’s wide open spaces (but really, why would you?), metropolitan Montreal and Quebec City are as buzzy as they come, with playful music, art and food scenes and enough culture to keep the two occupied for the rest of their days, now they are no longer required to open swimming pools and shake hands with world leaders. But should a Quebecois pied-a-terre appeal, they’ll still find the great outdoors right on their doorstep, from the rugged coasts of the pristine Gaspe Peninsula (home to four national parks and the continent’s largest colony of seabirds), to the wind-whipped beauty of the Iles de la Madeleine, filled with lagoons, wetlands and beaches for getting away from it all.
Compatibility score: 7/10
Now this would be interesting. Clinging to the windswept shores of Manitoba’s Hudson Bay, Churchill sits on a peninsula that cuts directly across the migration route for polar bears. This means the town’s 900-odd residents share their home with hundreds of hungry apex predators. If the duke and duchess fancy a bit of a challenge, Churchill could be it. The town is starkly beautiful (in summer the fields come ablaze with a glow of amethyst-coloured fireweed) and the locals are as warm and as welcoming as they come. But signs on almost every street corner warn you that you’re in “bear territory” (locals also leave their car and house doors unlocked, just in case they come up against a bear on the way home from the pub). Winnipeg, Manitoba’s capital, represents a far less “toothy” option, with fascinating museums, a burgeoning foodie scene and plenty of Winnie the Pooh history (which, let’s be fair, is a much better sort of bear for baby Archie to be associating with).
Compatibility score: 5/10