That’s pretty much what we all thought after the Stranger Things 2 season finale. What’s with the Mind Flayer and what will happen now that it knows about Eleven? OK. You haven’t watched Stranger Things, the show written by the Duffer brothers that Rotten Tomatoes describes as a “love letter to the ’80s classics that captivated a generation.” Not to worry. You can catch up on this story that starts off with the mysterious disappearance of a young boy from a small town in Indiana known as Hawkins.
As friends, family and local police search for answers, they are drawn into an extraordinary mystery involving top-secret government experiments, terrifying supernatural forces and one very strange little girl (hint: this is where you get to meet Eleven). You can binge-watch it this summer (along with 91 original Netflix series and 47 movies that Rotten Tomatoes’ editors so graciously review).
But after the binge — and for those still patiently waiting for Stranger Things 3 to be released — consider how these six Canadian towns could easily double for Hawkins, Indiana, the town that’s become the backdrop for this soon-to-be cult-classic show.
In order to put together our list, we wanted to roll with towns that really borrowed from the pieces that make Hawkins that perfect midwestern sci-fi town — whether it’s the surrounding nature, the more mysterious locales (like a laboratory), or simply the sweet charm, we found the perfect Canadian towns that could double for the Stranger Things local.
1. St. Marys (Ontario)
St. Mary’s is essentially the definition of a classic Canadian town. You have the quintessential main drag, not unlike Hawkins, but what really takes the cake is that this Canadian town has a quarry located just off its main strip. While the St. Mary’s quarry is not nearly as tense as the quarry in Stranger Things, it’s still a cool place for kids (and adults) to cool off in the summer. (Word on the street is they even have a water trampoline!)
2. Sauble Beach (Ontario)
One of the most iconic things about Hawkins has to be the sign. The “Welcome To Hawkins” is bold, beautiful and screams 1980s kitsche. It’s the perfect introduction to any small town and in Canada, the best example of this warm welcome is the “Welcome to Sauble Beach” sign. Often photographed, it’s hard to forget this charming beach town in Ontario and part of the attraction is its memorable sign. While it might not look exactly the same as the Hawkins sign, it certainly remains an enduring symbol.
3. Chalk River (Ontario)
If you’ve watched Stranger Things, you know that the Hawkins National Laboratory is a major player in the story. M.A.J.O.R. player. So, we can’t go across Canada looking for a Hawkins stand-in without finding a town with a laboratory. Thankfully, Chalk River, Ontario doesn’t disappoint. Yes, there are differences. The Chalk River lab isn’t surrounded by forest and it played a huge role in Canadian military history, rather than privately-funded scientific research, but the history still lends itself to super-secrecy and cool cover-ups. (We joke!) Turns out the super small town of Chalk River in Northern Ontario actually housed a nuclear research facility during World War II, which is why the Chalk River lab exists — why photographs were once strictly prohibited.
4. Okotoks (Alberta)
Yes, Hawkins is close to a science lab and has a cool welcome sign, but the biggest factor is that the vibe truly encapsulates that great midwestern-American charm. But that doesn’t mean Canada doesn’t have towns with similar charm and neighbourly vibes. One of the best examples is Okotoks, Alberta. Located just south of Calgary, this town is a homey place that is both stunningly picturesque and super-friendly. The only difference? We’re pretty sure nothing nefarious has ever gone down in Okotoks.
5. Kelowna (British Columbia)
Lover’s Lake just outside of Hawkins is a special spot and we had to search across Canada for a suitable comparison. While not quite the awesome shape of Lover’s Lake, we were still struck by the beauty of Kelowna’s Okanagan Lake. This B.C. city offers both abundant green space, plenty of snow sports activities, as well as a beautiful lake. Kelowna’s lake has the charming look down pat plus it’s got that extra-oomph only charming Canadiana and the great outdoors can offer.
6. Chéticamp (Nova Scotia)
One of the most iconic factors of Hawkins is the huge forest right in their own backyard. Forest Hills Park plays a large role in the series and was actually inspired by the lush green spaces of North Carolina. For that reason, we just had to go with Chéticamp in Nova Scotia, which borders the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Known as where the mountains meet the ocean, we’re pretty sure the views and the adventures that could happen here might even rival those in the show.
That’s our dive into the Canadian towns that could play body double to Hawkins in Stranger Things. Do they have their own stories worth telling? That’s going to be for you to find out! All we know is that they already have the look down perfectly.