Canada is second only to Russia when it comes to being the largest country. It also has one of the most extensive coastlines. Dotting the Canadian landscape are millions of freshwater lakes and river systems. They snake through 8 forest regions. It is not surprising then why many Americans drive up north to marvel at the natural beauty of the Canadian landscape. If you want to head to the Maple Leaf country, too, here are the suggested routes for the best road trips in Canada.
Vancouver to Tofino Pacific Tour
Surfers and nature trippers will love taking a road trip to Canada’s surfing capital in Tofino on Vancouver Island. It does not matter from which part of the country or the world you will be coming from. You can always fly into Vancouver International Airport and then rent a car. For those coming from the US, it is best to head straight to Horseshoe Bay. You will need to take the ferry that will take you to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.
Start your Canada road trip on the Pacific Rim Highway. The drive gives you a different kind of scenery. There are ancient temperate forests that provide a remarkable view of the Canadian peaks. In some cases, the Vancouver coastline and freshwater lakes will also greet you. Whatever you do, do not blink. Stay vigilant in your surroundings. You might get a rare chance to spot a bear and her little cubs frolicking in one of the island’s streams.
As you make your way towards Tofino, be sure to stop by the Old Country Market for some souvenirs. You won’t get these anywhere else. The Cathedral Grove is also worth strolling into. This is a forest of majestic, ancient Douglas fir trees. Many of these trees are more than 8 centuries old. Don’t forget to look for the Goats on the Roof.
Drive several miles more and you will get to Ucluelet. It has a more laid-back vibe than Tofino. However, the waves here are also worthy of a Hang Ten. The best part of this village is that you get to enjoy surfing and all the different amenities without having to spend a fortune.
When you arrive at Tofino, head straight to the Wickaninnish Inn. This is the headquarters of the Chesterman Beach which is the favorite playground of world-class surfers. If you are not in the mood for surfing, you might want to go winter storm-watching or join a whale-watching tour. There are also plenty of routes for hiking. The waters are also teeming with fish, perfect for putting your angling skills to the test.
After all these activities, sit back and reflect on your trip. Enjoy the great locavore cuisine of the region. Get your muscles soothed and your soul refreshed at the Ancient Cedars Spa at The Wicks. The adventure is short, yet it is one of the top road trips in Canada.
Calgary to Vancouver Western Adventure
This road trip will take you about 15 days to complete, so it is best to check your calendar. You will drive through one of Canada’s most scenic routes, dotted with historical and cultural places worth visiting. It would be ideal to get an RV or a motorhome for this trip.
You will start this Canada road trip in Calgary. Head to the Calgary Tower for a stunning 360-degree view of the city’s landscape and beyond. Shop on 8th Avenue and pay the Glenbow Museum a visit. For history buffs, Stephen Avenue Walk’s National Historical District is a must-visit.
From Calgary, drive west towards Banff. Test your driving skills as you snake your way through the heart of the Canadian Rockies. Banff is a small resort town, yet it has one of the best environments for alpine skiing. Marvel at the mountain lakes that look more like an extension of the blue sky. The glaciers provide a rare glimpse of how Earth continues to move and change its face. Hike the trail on Sulphur Mountain and be mesmerized by the beauty of the Minnewanka Lake, the Bow River valley, and the Johnston Canyon. Relax at the Cave and Basin Hot Springs. Don’t forget to look for something very special at the town’s many boutiques.
Your next destination is Jasper. As you take the 182-mile journey, stop by Lake Louise. You’ll be speechless as you watch its turquoise green waters. From here, you will drive along the Icefields Parkway. This place will prove that this route is one of the best road trips in Canada. There are also the Peyto Lake trail and the Athabasca Glacier. Before reaching Jasper, stop by Sunwapta Falls and Canyon. This is one of the planet’s most stunning areas because of its well-known “hanging valley”.
Spend the whole day at Jasper National Park. This is home to the Maligne Lake and Spirit Island. It remains the world’s most photographed island so it would be best if you have your DSLR and tripod ready with you. Hike the trails of Mount Edith Cavell and the Maligne Canyon. If you have kids, make sure to take a stroll down the streets of the village. You might chance upon an elk wandering the neighborhood. Finish your Jasper adventure with a scenic sunset view from Whistler’s Mountain.
As one of the top road trips in Canada, this route will take you through the Yellowhead Highway. It is the perfect route for watching wildlife in their natural habitat. Stop at the Wells Gray Provincial Park, where its waterfalls never fail to impress. The park also has one of the most spectacular wilderness areas in the Northern hemisphere.
Continue driving your motorhome towards Whistler. This was the site of the Winter Olympic Games in 2010. It also remains the top ski resort in North America. Sidewalk cafes, restaurants, and boutiques dot the center of the resort town. Ride the Peak 2 Peak gondola. It will take you from the peak of Whistler Mountain to the peak of the Blackcomb Mountain.
The last segment of your journey will take you through the “Sea to Sky” highway of North America. Your journey ends in Victoria, where you can continue towards Vancouver and Tofino on Vancouver Island. Architecture fanatics will love the Art Deco walking tour on Wharf Street. The Butchart Gardens and the Royal British Columbia Museum are also worth visiting.
Nova Scotia Cabot Trail Coastal Scenery
If you don’t like the Pacific view of the west, then make your way towards Canada’s southeastern region of Nova Scotia. This is the perfect Canada road trip for Americans living on the East Coast. One only needs to cross the border in Maine and drive straight to Prince Edward Island before reaching Nova Scotia. One can also drive via Montreal or Quebec City, although this will be a longer trip.
The road trip takes you around the northern section of Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island. There is not much that you can see here, except for the stunning view of the North Atlantic. The 185-mile route is mostly coastal. It gives you fascinating views of the mountains on one side and the blue waters of the Atlantic on the other.
Islanders say that the best time to take a road trip on this part of Canada is during the fall. However, the Cape Breton Highlands National Park offers dramatic landscapes that are worth visiting all year round. Trails are perfect for hikers. You can take more frequent breaks along the trail to fill your lungs with the freshest air. And if you’re in luck, a moose might also join you in your respite. Go ride a horse or paddle a kayak. Try scuba diving or swimming. You can go fishing, too. For a different kind of activity, try comparing the many lighthouses on the island.
The local villages have Celtic ancestry and Acadian heritage. The best way to enjoy one of the top road trips in Canada is by having dinner at any of the restaurants in Cheticamp. It is a small fishing village. However, their seasonal seafood and lobster dishes are items that visitors keep coming back to. Local pubs play loud live music as they celebrate their proud heritage.
And if you think Vancouver is the only place in Canada where you can go watch the whales, think again. Pleasant Bay also provides a remarkable whale-watching experience. Join a tour and spend several hours on the bay spotting seals on the coast. You will not see Willy among the whales here, though. Regardless, the experience itself is worth it.
There are also 6 world-class golf courses on the island. Teeing off should be fun with the blue Atlantic in the foreground. Do not forget to rest on the sandy beaches of Ingonish. It is the perfect way to culminate your 5-day road trip.
Montreal to Quebec City Wilderness Trail
If you decide to take this Canada road trip, we recommend brushing up on your French. Having a pocket translator works fine, too. The reason is quite obvious. The route will take you through Canada’s French-speaking region. While people here do speak English, it would be best if you know a phrase or two of French.
Kick off the journey in Montreal. With thousands of attractions, you can spend several days in this great city. It would be great if you can make a trip to each of the 5 main neighborhoods of the city. Drive through Old Montreal and discover why this city is a prized jewel in the 19th century. There is also the Latin Quarter for the more eccentric individuals. Mont Royal Park, Downtown, and Mont Royal are also worth visiting. Each of these neighborhoods can provide their own unique charms.
Your next stop is the La Maurice National Park. This park covers 207 square miles of variegated forests and undulating terrain. There are rivers and lakes that follow the rhythm of the natural environment. It would not be surprising if you no longer want to leave this place. It is a serene and peaceful place that makes you forget all your worries.
From Mauricie, you will drive towards Charlevoix. This is one of Quebec province’s most picturesque regions. Marvel at the Canadian Shield and learn why it is the planet’s oldest rock formation. Throughout Charlevoix are stunning attractions. Join a photo safari so you can pose with a black bear. A bear trapper is there to let you in on the secrets of the trade.
Continue your Canadian wilderness adventure at the Saguenay Fjord. Like the rest of the trail, the scenes here will leave you breathless. Hike on the Sentier de la Statue trail. This offers the best vantage point for the breathtaking fjord. Don’t forget to stop by the Ste-Rose-Du-Nord and l’Anse-St-Jean villages. The scenery here is also stunning.
The small village of Tadoussac has something that the famed whale-rich waters of Vancouver doesn’t. This area is the best place on the planet to watch whales. A visit to Tadoussac is never complete without joining an internationally-recognized whale-watching safari. It is not surprising why this can make one of the top road trips in Canada.
The trip to the continent’s cradle of French culture culminates your wilderness adventure. The historic city of Quebec is well-known for its fabulous French architecture and way of life. It provides a sweeping view of the majestic St. Lawrence River. It remains North America’s only fortified city. Its location atop the cliffs of Cap Diamant makes the city almost impregnable to invaders.
There is the Place Royale and Chateau Frontenac to take your breath away. It is also worth visiting the Dufferin Terrace and the Petit Champlain. Muster enough courage to follow the alleys that wind through the old town of the city. Discover many hidden gems, giving you the impression that you’re like Columbus or Magellan discovering a new land. And when you make the road trip in July, make sure to participate in the Festival d’Ete festivities.
Going on the best road trips in Canada can take you a lifetime to complete. That is how immense the country is and how numerous its fascinating destinations are.
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- 10 Canadian Road Trips You Need to Take at Least Once – Reader’s Digest Canada
- Road Trip Canada: 5 of the Best Routes – Rough Guides
- Road Trips – Authentik Canada