Let’s face it, Canada has a lot of things working in its favour: money that smells like maple syrup, a Disney Prince Prime Minister, amazing food, epic nightlife, and some of the most stunning scenery in the world.
There’s no better way to see it all than by cruising from coast to coast (to coast) with some mates. But what’s the best route to take? And what about all the practical things you need to consider?
Our guide will tell you everything you need to know aboot the road trip of your dreams.
Here are the best Canada road trips:
First things first: decide your Canada road trip itinerary
Whether you’re headed from West to East or vice versa, you’re in for a wide range of mind-blowing sights that are just as diverse as they are spectacular. This mammoth country has enough highways and roads to circle around the Earth 22 times, including the world-famous Trans-Canada Highway which stretches a whopping 7500km, making it the longest highway in the entire world. For some, traversing the entire country for weeks on this highway is the dream – a chance to connect with the diverse landscapes alternating between emerald lakes, flat wheat fields, sprawling cities and picturesque coast lines. But for those not keen to tackle it all in one go, here are some of the key routes you can explore on your Canada road trip:
1. British Columbia to Alberta
Starting on one end of the Trans-Canada Highway is Victoria, British Columbia, a slice of European flair on Canada’s West Coast. Surfers can take a few days detour to explore Tofino, Canada’s surf capital, before heading out to the mainland where the foodie metropolis of Vancouver awaits.
After sampling its world class range of international cuisine, venture onward to Whistler on the impossibly scenic Sea to Sky Highway, and then to the Okanagan where you’ll find class A wineries, Canada’s only desert and the eerie Spotted Lake, whose peculiar polka dotted pattern baffles visitors from all around the world.
Once in Alberta, you’ll come face to face with some of the most spectacular and photogenic natural wonders in the country. The Icefields Parkway is a must-do route that takes you into the heart of the Rocky Mountains, where the Instagram-famous national parks of Banff and Jasper await. Photographers be warned: you might pass out from excitement.
2. The Prairies
Widely recognised as being a flat and uneventful stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway, the Prairie provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba are great places to kick back on your road trip and enjoy the quaint Canadian countryside and mingle with the friendly locals (hot contenders for the nicest people in the world title).
Don’t miss the giant sculpture of Mac the Moose. the largest moose in North America, (and probably one of the most Canadian things you’ll ever see in your life).
3. Ontario and Quebec
Onward to the East Coast is where you’ll find a balanced blend of history, culture and badass natural sights. Be sure to budget time for swimming in one of Ontario’s 250,000+ lakes alongside your big city visits in Toronto and Ottawa (the nation’s capital). Of course, Niagara Falls is a mandatory stop, if even just to take a boat ride through the falls (yes this is an actual thing you can do) and briefly wave hello to the Americans across the border.
After getting your fill of Mother Nature, it’s time to continue on the road trip and enter French Canada, where you’ll likely not understand a word (even if you speak French). The Québecois accent has an interesting twang that baffles visitors from around the world, so don’t feel too bad if you’re lost. While here, a visit to the province’s capital (also named Québec) is a must for its quaint European charm, and of course, I’d be insane to omit the greatest part of this province: visiting Montréal, where a tasting of Canada’s national drunk food, poutine, is in order. Made up of crispy French fries topped with hot gravy and squeaky cheese curds, this is the perfect meal to warm your cold soul after a few hours on the road… or after a few beers… or at any time really. Yes, we even do breakfast poutine.
4. The Maritimes and Newfoundland
The Maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia are where you’ll see some of the most gorgeous landscapes on your Canadian road trip (and enjoy the freshest seafood) of your life. Drive along New Brunswick’s Fundy Trail Parkway for a real treat, or the Cabot Trail, which wraps around Cape Breton for surreal views of the Atlantic. One rule: Don’t leave without having some of this region’s world-famous lobster.
Venturing onward East, you’ll soon hit Newfoundland, the home stretch, where you’ll find quaint fishing villages, gorgeous national parks (Terra Nova being a must) and Canada’s oldest city, St John’s. It is here that the Trans-Canada Highway comes to an end, marked by the Mile One Stadium in the heart of the city.
Important things to know when planning a road trip across Canada
Pick the right season
It goes without saying that winter would be a pretty terrible time to road trip across the country. Not only are road conditions unpredictable, but on certain routes you’ll face random closures too. For a more pleasant experience, get your summer road trip on.
Make sure you’re legally allowed to drive
The legal driving age differs across provinces and territories (see a full list here), but if you have a valid license, (whether Canadian or foreign), you should be fine. Those from outside Canada though should make sure to get an International Driver Permit, and carry it at all times. If you’re dreaming of wild and fun road trips across North America, make sure it doesn’t end early because of legal issues!
Secure a vehicle
Unless you’re a Canadian citizen or at least living in Canada long-term, it will be tough for you to purchase a car because doing so requires a permanent Canadian address. The minimum rental age varies across companies and provinces, but for the most part it will be 21 or 24. Under 25-ers should expect to pay significantly higher costs though for insurance.
On that note, whether you have your own car or you’re renting, what’s absolutely mandatory is that you have valid car insurance. Make sure that you’re covered for the entirety of your Canadian road trip, because you never know when you’ll need coverage.
Prep your vehicle
Make sure your ride is well stocked with an emergency car kit (jumper cables, flashlight, batteries, etc.) and first aid supplies (bandaids, gauze, antiseptic, etc.), in addition to some light snacks, medication and of course, wet wipes!
Respect the wildlife
At some point during this road trip, you’ll probably spot a bear, deer or something else awesome. Remember that these are wild animals, and refrain from interacting with them (and losing an arm, potentially).
A road trip across Canada is one of those unforgettable experiences that will wreck your travel expectations for life, but hey, with almost 10 million square kilometres of beauty to explore… Isn’t it all worth it? Sounds like Canada’s calling! Check out our hostels in Canada and book your road trip!
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About the author
Christina is a travel blogger who prides herself on honest advice & practical guides for juggling travel, adulting and building a life you love. Interested in wanderlust inspiration with a side of sass and wit? Check out her blog, Happy to Wander.
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