As the world’s second-largest country, spanning more than half the Northern Hemisphere and stretching across six time zones, Canada is the explorer’s dream. It has something for everyone and whether you are looking for majestic mountains, gorgeous forests, stunning beaches, rolling prairies, fantastic cities or incredible wildlife, Canada is the place for you. With around 900,000 km of roads and routes, there is no better way to experience this magnificent country than by hitting the open road, and with famously friendly people and car-hire available everywhere, planning a road trip holiday in Canada couldn’t be easier. There are an infinite number of trip possibilities which would take a lifetime to complete, but here are five of the very best.
This is the biggie! Starting at Victoria on the Pacific coast and stretching across 10 provinces to its end at St John’s in Newfoundland & Labrador on the Atlantic coast, you can travel around 7,800 km on the world’s longest national highway. You will find many incredible experiences along the way. You can take in the culture and sights of bustling cities such as Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City, discover the awe-inspiring Glacier National Park (Illecillewaet Glacier and Rogers Pass are must-sees) and the stunning Banff National Park with the gorgeous Moraine and Peyto Lakes. Mind-blowing scenery is everywhere and many say you just haven’t experienced Canada until you’ve driven across the prairies. If you have the luxury of a month or so you could look to go big and go the whole way, or you can break it up into shorter, yet still amazing road trips. There is so much to see in each province there are opportunities for trips of all lengths.
Cabot Trail – Nova Scotia
This stunning coastal drive is one of the most famous trips in Canada, and with good reason. Located on Cape Breton Island, this 300 km route hugs the coastline and offers panoramic views of the Gulf of St Lawrence, beautiful beaches and bays, waterfalls and stunning highland scenery. The island is renowned for its culture and you can experience the indigenous Mi’kmaq, the French-influenced Acadian and Scottish Gaelic cultures, music, dance and heritage – walk into the Visitor’s Centre in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park and the signs read “Welcome. Bienvenue. Pjila’si. Failte.” Hikers will be delighted with the many superb walks on the island, including the famous Skyline Trail – make sure you do this at sunset! The island is also famous for whale-watching, and for lovers of seafood, do not miss delicious Nova Scotia lobster, available everywhere locally. The island can be driven around in a day but there are so many things to do and see you really need at least three days to really take in the experience.
Sea To Sky Highway – British Columbia
Moving all the way across Canada to British Columbia, the Sea to Sky Highway is a 120km long coastal road stretching from coastal Vancouver to the Whistler ski village in the mountains, passing through Squamish on the way. It is a relatively short distance for a Canadian road trip, but it is a beautiful drive along the side of an ocean fjord and there is so much to see and do. Vancouver is a top spot for holidaymakers and people come from around the world to see its amazing parks, great culture, terrific nightlife and excellent food and drink. You can hike and zipline on Grouse Mountain, also known as the Peak of Vancouver, and get your culture fix at the Pacific Arts Market where local artists exhibit paintings, pottery, jewellery and other crafts. Travel up the highway for the Sea to Sky Gondola – this ten-minute ride takes you up 2,800 feet with gorgeous views of Vancouver, Howe Sound and Shannon Falls. Outdoor sports enthusiasts will love Squamish and Whistler – home to world-class skiing, hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing.
Icefields Parkway – Alberta
Running 232km through the Canadian Rockies, connecting the mountain towns of Jasper and Banff, the Icefields Parkway boasts over 100 ancient glaciers, and coupled with epic mountain views, thick forests, dramatic rock formations and beautiful clear lakes, is one of the most spectacular drives in the world. Without stopping the trip takes around three and half hours but allow for a full day as you’ll be going slow and stopping a lot to take in everything there is to see. Recommended stops include Lake Louise, Bow Lake and Peyto Lake (famous for its vibrant mineral hues) and the stunning Sunwapta and Athabasca waterfalls. You can step out on the spectacular Glacier Skywalk and don’t leave without taking a 4×4 ride on the actual glacier at the Columbia Icefields. Don’t forget to take your camera on one of the most wonderful road trips in the whole world.
Dempster Highway – Yukon & The Northwest Territories
If you want to get away from it all, this could be for you – a journey through the Canadian wilderness on one of the most remote highways on the planet. The Dempster Highway is a 736 km stretch of unpaved road heading due north from Dawson City in Yukon (synonymous with the Klondike Gold Rush of the 1890s) to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories and will take you across the Arctic Circle to the land of the midnight sun. Dawson City offers a real taste of the history of the Gold Rush and also the culture of the indigenous Tr’ondek Hwech’in people who have lived along the Yukon River for thousands of years. Tour the Gold Fields, enjoy a stunning Yukon sunset then play roulette and watch the can-can shows at Diamond Tooth Gerties, Canada’s oldest gambling venue, you can get into practice before your trip or indeed during it, at the many available Canada Casinos online.
A vast wilderness of tundra landscapes, mountain peaks and incredible vistas with amazing wildlife then await you. Travel north to the Tombstone Territorial Park then the Blackstone Uplands, then bask in the silence at Two Moose Lake. Keep an eye out for the wildlife – eagles, grizzly bears and caribou. Take two river ferries into the Northwest Territories and see life in the Arctic Circle. This is one for the most adventurous road tripper only – plan ahead and make sure you have spare tyres, a good vehicle and an extra jerry can of gasoline – for much of the Dempster Highway has no sign of human life!