Great Road Trips Ideas In Canada: 9 Routes To Get You Pumped For The Summer

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As much as America lays claim to be the automotive centre of the universe, just about all of us have at least one fond (or maybe not so fond) memory of piling into the car with the family or friends and heading off on an adventure to explore new areas of the vast Canadian countryside. | Denis Jr. Tangney via Getty Images

As much as America claims to be the automotive centre of the universe, just about all of us have at least one fond (or maybe not so fond) memory of piling into the car with the family or friends and heading off on an adventure to explore new areas of the vast Canadian countryside. Whether it’s part of summer vacation, a plan to head out and visit a long lost acquaintance, or just the call of the open road, there are countless kilometres to cover from coast to coast, and plenty of exceptional regions and roads that are worth the trip.

So what makes a road trip feel properly “Canadian” other than the physical geography of it all? Scenic vistas are a key component, but as cheesy as it sounds, the community and the culture are what tie it all together. You’d be surprised at how quickly an out-of-province license plate can start a conversation, and before you know it you can be face to face with an impromptu history lesson on the town or area you’ve just arrived in.

After much deliberation here is our comprehensive East-to-West guide to the great Canadian road trips. Now, in theory, you could daisy-chain each of these segments together and turn it into an all-encompassing “see all of Canada in one fell swoop” mega-adventure, but we wouldn’t hold it against you if you just stuck with the more manageable junkets below:

  • Cabot Trail (Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia)
    If you’re looking to see some of the Canadian East Coast’s most picturesque scenery and possibly enjoy some great seafood along the way, Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail has got you covered. The Cabot Trail completes a seaside loop of Cape Breton Island, passing through many small communities along the way.

    For those looking for a more rustic experience there are campgrounds scattered through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, or for a particularly unique experience pop in to the Glenora Inn and Distillery, which is the home of Canada’s only single malt whiskey.
  • Canadian Praries
    As mundane as parts of the journey can be, there is something to be said for experiencing the prairies first-hand at least once in your lifetime. Farming communities, countless grain silos, and amazing sunsets dot the way as you cross from eastern Manitoba through to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains that start just outside of Calgary.

    If there’s one gem to drop in on, it’s the Tunnels of Moose Jaw in Saskatchewan where you’ll be given an interesting lesson on our history during the prohibition years, and the city’s ties to Chicago and the notorious Al Capone.
  • Cowboy Trail
    It wouldn’t be a stop in Alberta if we didn’t drive through the country somewhere along the way. The Cowboy Trail runs north from south of Lethbridge to the outskirts of Edmonton, avoiding major highways and passing through some breathtaking ranch country along the way.

    The route is quite remote, but it offers an interesting glimpse into the Canadian history of the Wild West. Stop for a horseback riding excursion in Waterton Glacier National Park, or for a real step back in time, check out Marv’s Classic Soda Shop and Diner in the town of Black Diamond.
  • Calgary To Jasper
    There’s no way that a list of great Canadian road trips could be compiled without a section dedicated the Rocky Mountains. Any one born and raised east of Alberta will remember that first encounter with the majestic mountain range, and even for those more familiar with the area they are still a sight worth seeing.

    This route pushes you through the heart of the Rockies in Banff National Park and through to Jasper, the home of some incredible glaciers and the newly opened Glacier Skywalk. The Skywalk opened at the beginning of May and allows visitors to walk 30 metres out over the cliff side to a glass-bottomed lookout suspended 280 metres above the Sunwapta River.
  • Vernon To Osoyoos
    For those less concerned with nature and history, the Okanagan Valley is the perfect destination for some good R&R and of course, some of the best wine in the country. Hundreds of wineries are scattered throughout the valley, and each town and sub-region has enough going on to tie you up for at least a day.

    Word to the wise, don’t start buying wine at the first winery if you plan on covering the whole region, as you’ll be destined to run out of trunk space before you run out of road.
  • Percé To Montreal
    This one thousand kilometre road trip starts at the southeastern tip of Quebec, and the home one of the province’s most unique geological landmarks: Percé Rock. From there, the highway rolls northward and tracks its way down the mouth of the Saint Laurence River, following in the footsteps of our country’s early settlers.

    A day or two in Quebec City will provide ample time for another Canadian history lesson before moving on to Montreal for a proper dose of modern Quebecois culture. If you plan your trip for the first weekend of July you’ll be able to catch both Montreal and Quebec City in festival mode, as both the Montreal International Jazz Festival and the Festival D’été du Québec are on at that time.
  • Toronto To Niagara Falls
    Out of this list, this trip is far more about the many pit stops than it is about the road itself. Aside from the end destination at what’s likely one of Canada’s most recognizable landmarks, the interesting detour here is all about Ontario’s blossoming wine country.

    The region has received some serious recognition in recent years and even a few of the big BC wineries have set up shop in the region. If a break from the urban grind is on the agenda there are over 22 Bed and Breakfasts to choose from in St-Catharines, which keeps you right in the heart of Ontario’s wine country.
  • Sunshine Coast
    Even with the now-ridiculous costs associated with ferry travel in British Columbia, the Sunshine Coast still has plenty to offer travellers of all sorts. Adventure seekers will love the many local diving sites, kayak rentals and other excursions on hand, and those looking for a slower pace can hop from town to town and explore the region’s diverse artistic community. If you’re looking to really unwind, The Rockwater Resort and Spa is half way up the coast and is the perfect place to relax after a day of exploring.
  • Vancouver Island
    From its southern tip to its western shores, Vancouver Island is another excellent destination for a proper dose of west coast Canadiana. The province’s capital of Victoria is worth a visit if you’re feeling “touristy”, but the trek out to Tofino is one that cannot be missed.

    There’s something quite special about driving through hours of lush rainforest before breaking through to the coastline. If you wander off and start daydreaming it doesn’t take long to feel like you’re walking through a scene from Jurassic Park. Once in Tofino, you are in BC’s surf paradise, and of course the famed Wickaninnish Inn and the new Way Point Resort are nearby to take care of your premium dining and accommodation needs.

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Another spin on the mining merry-go-round