Top 10 Road Trip Destinations on a Cross Canada Adventure
There are many places to visit while road tripping, but Wheels.ca offers some of the best places to visit in Canada.
If you’re planning on taking a road trip, you’ve come to the right place. Canada, being the world’s second largest country in the world, has a lot to offer. Below you’ll find a list of a few places to visit while road tripping across Canada starting on the west coast from beautiful British Columbia. Grab your spare tire, some snacks and a few friends and hit the road with the following tips.
British Columbia is arguably one of the most beautiful provinces in Canada for a road trip. And since you’re on the west coast, seeing the Rocky Mountains is a must. Observe Mount Robson (3, 954 m), the highest peak of the Canadian Rockies. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even attempt to climb it.
A popular driving route is within the Kootenay Rockies, which allows you to take in the incredible mountain landscape. Enjoy national parks, hot springs and much more. There are many routes you can take within this region and many places to explore from the Great Northern Circle Route to the Silvery Slocan Circle Route, it’ll be hard to decide which to explore.
If you’ve got plenty of time to explore, we suggest doing both. Begin your journey exploring British Columbia’s capital city Victoria, then catch a ferry over to B.C.’s biggest city, Vancouver and drive east to beautiful Kelowna. Enjoy Award winning wineries and breathtaking vineyards before driving east to the Silvery Slocan Circle Route. If you’re in for the long haul, head north for an approximately 11 hr drive to the Great Northern Circle Route. This route winds around Northern BC ending close to the Albertan border from where you can discover Jasper National Park. If you’re on a tighter schedule, head east from the Silvery Slocan Circle and you’ll be in beautiful Banff in approximately 6 hrs.
If you’re on the long journey, Jasper has plenty to discover. We suggest flying high in the Jasper SkyTram. You’ll get to see a birds eye-view of Jasper National Park and when you land, you can hike to the Summit Of Whistlers Mountain.
Jasper also offers plenty of outdoor activities like rock and ice climbing, hiking, golfing, horseback riding and camping . Don’t miss the Maligne Canyone Ice Walk or exploring the Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure. When you’ve finished taking in Jasper, head south down the picturesque Icefields Parkway to Lake Louise (approx. 3hrs). Lake Louise is a beautiful stop along the way and also the point where you can exit the Trans Canada Highway and head onto Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy 1A); this scenic heritage road offers viewpoints, trails, roadside interpretive panels to learn more about Canadian history and accommodations, so you can stay as long as you’d like. If you’re planning on driving between November 1st and March 31st , snow tires or chains are required by law. The Bow Valley Parkway will lead you into Lake Banff (approx. 1hr).
Alberta offers gorgeous scenery, but none quite like what you’ll see at Banff National Park. Established in 1885 in the Rocky Mountains, this is Canada’s oldest national park. It’s got something for everyone during every season: mountainous terrain, glaciers, ice fields, forestry and alpine landscapes. There is also plenty of wildlife to observe while exploring the Albertan landscape.
Heading east, drive along to Calgary (aprox. 1½hrs). If you’re there in July, be sure to stop in at the Calgary Stampede, an annual rodeo exhibition that is quintessentially Albertan. If you make it there in the winter be sure to check out our Top 10 Winter Road Trips in Alberta.
Head east from Calgary for approximately 6½ hrs to Saskatoon. Then head up Highway #11 for 2½ hrs to Prince Albert National Park; both a recreational and historical destination (be sure to visit Waskesiu, the only town located within the park). There are areas for picnicking, scenic driving tours, hiking, canoeing and more. Some of the popular scenic tours are: the Narrows Road (located along Waskesiu Lake’s southern shore), Lakeview Drive (Scenic Route #26) and Highway 264 to Kingsmere River.
If you’ve never seen the prairies—or Little House on the Prairie—be sure to observe some of the flattest lands you’ll ever see (thanks to the last ice age). Yellowhead Route (#16) is a popular northern route of the Trans-Canada Highway.
Drive south back to Saskatoon along Hwy#11. After passing through Saskatoon, be sure to keep an eye out for roadside monuments that many small communities display. Stop and take a picture, while driving on The Louis Riel Trail (Hwy#11) as there are sculptures depicting the culture and the Métis way of life especially between the towns of Chamberlain and Dundurn.
A special aspect of driving through the prairies is the relaxing and serene drive. The road can be a great place to sit back, drive and relax.
From Saskatoon drive south to Regina (aprox. 2½hrs) and then east towards Riding Mountain National Park. Here you’ll experience a plethora of outdoor activities in this sprawling 3000km prairie parkland. You’ll also find the seasonal town of Wasagaming (also known as Clear Lake). Wasagaming is a beautiful picturesque prairie town that is known for its very clear waters and beautiful scenery. After enjoying this priairie delight, head south to Brandon, MB (aprox. 1hr) and take a peek at major agricultural centres such as the Chapman Museum (a truer version of the region’s Black Creek Pioneer village). Veer east to Spruce Woods Provincial Park (aprox. 45min) where—according to National Geographic—the drive from Brandon to Spruce Woods Provincial Park is a must do. Enjoy the rolling farmlands that stretch as far as the eye can see, the highlands and the vast uninterrupted blue sky.
If you’re in it for the long run, head south to Manitoba’s bible belt beginning in Morden (aprox. 1½hrs). The town holds a block party each year in June where there are plenty of activities to partake in, including a car show!
Continue along on Hwy#3 which turns into Hwy#14 and ends at Hwy#75 to take in the last of the bible belt. From there head north towards Winnipeg (aprox. 1½hrs) to experience Manitoba’s capital.
From Winnipeg drive towards Thunder Bay (arpox. 7½hrs), or if you’re in it for the long haul head south on Hwy#12 towards Quetico Provincial Park for some great hiking and outdoors activities. Continue on east towards Thunder Bay (aprox. 2½ hrs) to experience outdoor art, history and nature. Thunder Bay is home to Fort William Historical Park, a masive reproduction of the frontier fur trading post and Kakebeka Falls, the “Niagara Falls of the North”. Get ready for a long drive east to Sudbury (aprox. 11½hrs) to visit the Big Nickel-the largest coin in the world—and Science North, an interactive science experience. From Sudbury to Toronto there are tons of great camping spots along the way. Stop in at Parry Sound (arpox. 2½hrs) to experience the 30,000 island tour and Ontario’s wind swept pines in Muskoka-Georgian Bay region.
A trip to Ontario is not complete without visiting the biggest city in Canada. Toronto (aprox. 3hrs from Parry Sound) offers tons of culture and sights. Visit the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario and of course, the C.N. Tower-Canada’s largest tower and the worlds largest freestanding structure up until 2009 .
Whether you’re in for the long haul or not, you must check out Niagara Falls (aprox. 2hrs). Niagara Falls is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and is a remarkable site that must be experienced in person.
If you’re in if for the long haul, drive west to Grand Bend (aprox. 2 ¾hrs) and enjoy sandy beaches, including 30 km of continuous beach. Located on the shores of Lake Huron, you can enjoy the beautiful scenery while attending different kinds of events, including but not limited to: the Grand Bend Motorplex (for professional drag racing), festivals and the Pinery Provincial Park. Or check out Tobermory (aprox. 4½hrs from Niagara Falls), located on the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula, it is only 300 km from Toronto and features clear waters, a popular grotto, hiking trails (including the 700 km long Bruce Trail), Flowerpot Island and old shipwrecks you can view from a glass bottom boat.
Up next on your trip across the country is Canada’s capital city Ottawa (aprox. 6½hrs from Grand Bend and 7½hrs from Tobermory ). Ottawa is home to Canada’s parliament buildings which can be seen daily in a guided tour. If you’re there in the winter, rent a pair of skates and button up your jacket because skating on the Rideau Canal is a truly fun experience. Be sure to visit Byward Market for shopping and restaurants and of course Ottawa’s famous Beaver Tail.
Next stop Montreal (aprox 2 ¼hrs)! When it comes to road tripping though Quebec, Montreal and Quebec City are always popular options. Both cities provide amazing food (Schwartz Deli in Montreal is a fan favourite, alongside Juliette & Chocolat). Montreal boasts an old city European charm and is home to many old churches including the Notre-Dame Basilica which is worth a visit.
Heading east, drive to Quebec’s capital(aprox. 2 ¾hrs). Quebec city has the same old world European charm especially on Rue du Petit Champlain. Here you can meander through the tiny street, grab a treat, window shop and ride the funiculaire-a trolly system built on a 45 degree angle.
If you’re looking for something different, there are many other amazing routes to explore. An amazing choice is commonly referred to as Quebec’s North Shore Whale Route. The Saquenay-St. Lawrence Marin Park is world famous for whale watching. Explore the sights of the St. Lawrence River, wilderness and beaches, not to mention the different species of whales you might catch a glimpse of. You can start from the town of Tadoussa and Natashquan and head out from there. Some places are accessible only by boat or ferry, so plan accordingly.
five routes road trippers should take. The five are: River Valley Scenic Drive, Fundy Coastal Drive, Acadian Coastal Drive, Miramichi River Route and the Appalachian Range Tour. Each one offers something different and unique. For the purposes of this road trip, we recommend combining the River Valley Scenic Drive with the Fundy Coastal Drive. From Quebec City you can drive to Edmundston (aprox. 3hrs) then head south for a quick stop in Fredericton (aprox. 2½hrs) the provinces capital, and then along to St.Stephen(aprox. 1hr) for the full Fundy Coastal Drive. Head along to St.John’s (aprox. 1¼hrs)—the largest city in NewBrunswick—to experience city life in the maritimes. A little off-route to your next destination is Fundy National Park, worth a stop on your way to Moncton(aprox. 3½hrs).
From sandy beaches, fresh seafood, fishing, river tubing to world-class waterways and hiking through majestic parks, the options here are infinite. You really have to ask yourself, “What do you really want to do?” When it comes to the best routes, remember that there is no such thing. Figure out what you want to see and go from there. Seeing EVERYTHING a province has to offer might take weeks.
Prince Edward Island
P.E.I. offers a little bit of everything: the red sands shore, rolling green hills and the famous jagged red cliffs. If you’re in these parts, a visit to the Green Gables House is a must. A popular tourism spot that attracts countless visitors from across the globe, see the inspiration for the famous red-haired orphan created by celebrated author L.M. Montgomery. Enjoy some seafood in Avonlea, visit the attractions and definitely try the seafood. Stay in Charlottetown and take in the Peakes Quay, Victorian-era houses and check out the Province House, home of the Charlottetown Conference. From Moncton to P.E.I is aprox 2½hrs driving over the Confederation Bridge.
The Cabot Trail is, arguably, the most popular option for those road tripping throughout Nova Scotia. Located in northern Victoria County on Cape Breton Island. The route offers a beautiful 298 km stretch that loops around the north side of the island. A popular destination on the route is the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, offering pristine & jaw dropping views unmatched in Canada. Take in the ocean, the highlands or simply observe the natural beauty that nature offers. From P.E.I. hop on the ferry out of Wood Islands; it will take you to Caribou, NS. From there you can drive to Cape Breton Island (aprox. 3hrs)
Newfoundland & Labrador
The drive through Newfoundland can take days (or weeks), due to the sheer size of the province. You can explore the coast, experience inland drives, traverse the mountains or visit the bays. Newfoundland is ideal to watch humpback whales and offers plenty of awe inspiring massive icebergs. You can take a ferry from Sydney on the east coast of Nova Scotia to Marine Atlantic, NL and then drive along there to St.John’s (aprox. 9½hrs). This route takes you around the western, northern and eastern coast of Newfoundland landing in the most eastern part of Canada.
One of the oldest cities in North America and the capital of the province, St. John’s offers architecture that is distinct from the rest of Canada. St. John’s is also the closest you can get to San Franciso in Canada, as houses are usually painted in bright colours and the hilly terrain and steep roads resemble our south of the border counterparts.
If you’re looking for a picturesque drive, the Baccalieu Trail is very popular. In 2010, the National Post rated the Avalon Penninsula #1 in their annual destination scorecard. This is the area between the Trinity Bay and Conception Bay, and many consider a trip to Newfoundland incomplete without driving on the sprawling coastline and visiting the scenic outpost communities.
Remember to figure out what you want to see. Exploring everything a province has to offer is time consuming, and can be daunting, so cater to what you want to experience. What happens if you want to see something else while on the road? That’s the beauty of road trips; you can always adjust on the fly (or road).
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