A Canada road trip is a fantastic way to explore the world’s second largest country.
With dramatic mountain ranges, countless crystal-clear lakes, and the longest coastline on the planet, Canada almost feels purpose-built for road trips.
A road trip gives you the freedom to explore exciting places you might not get to see otherwise, and in a country so vast and with so much to offer, there is no better way to get off the beaten path.
But how do you choose where to go in such a big place? Surely you can’t cover it all?
Fear not, in this post, I count down the 9 best routes in the Great White North.
This list of ultimate Canadian road trips has everything.
There are striking coastal routes, mountainous adventures, and charming villages and towns.
Whether you want to escape normality for a couple of weeks, or simply get out for a day trip, you are sure to find something you’ll like.
Without further ado, let’s begin the countdown of the best Canada road trips out there…
THE CABOT TRAIL
The Cabot Trail is one of the most famous road trips in Canada, and kicks off our list.
This 298km route on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia takes you past breathtaking coastal views, off-the-beaten-track hiking trails and quaint fishing hamlets.
Take time to explore the walking trails cutting through the dramatic landscapes of Cape Breton Highlands National Park, seeking out moose, black bears and bald eagles.
Sample the region’s famous local lobster and seasonal crab dishes and enjoy the outstanding hospitality and live music in local pubs, influenced by the Cape Breton islanders’ proud French and Celtic heritage.
Take a boat trip from Pleasant Bay to spot whales and seals out in the ocean.
Locals insist fall is the best time to travel, as the foliage only enhances the views, but Summer provides consistently better weather.
Saskatchewan, bordering the United States to the south of Canada, is known as the flat, prairie province.
Much of this picturesque region can be enjoyed from the Trans-Canada Highway.
However, with the southernmost plains covered in grassland, and coniferous forests, lakes and craggy rock of the Canadian Shield to the north, the area is a fantastic place for a Canadian road trip.
Start your trip in Regina, the provincial capital.
Here you’ll find the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Heritage Centre and every Tuesday in July and August, the Mounties go on parade in the Sunset-Retreat Ceremony.
Next, head to Moose Jaw in southern Saskatchewan. Learn about the Prohibition era, the rumoured Al Capone connection and how mobsters ran booze into the USA from the small city.Actors recount the story at the underground Tunnels.
Head north-west up to Lake Diefenbaker where you can golf, fish, hike, horse ride and enjoy watersports to your hearts content.
Finally, work your way up to Saskatoon via the Beaver Creek Conservation Area.
MONTREAL TO GASPÉ PENINSULA
This list would not be complete without a vintage French-Canadian road trip. The 900km Chemin du Roy tourist route follows the St. Lawrence River, from Montreal to Québec City, and onward to Gaspé Peninsula.
The views are excellent for most of the drive, and this trip combines the best of city and country.
If you have time, take a couple of days to explore the beautifully fascinating old town and Citadelle de Québec in Québec City.
Next, make your way further east to Gaspé, which overlooks the Gulf of St. Lawrence, at the tip of the peninsula.
Whale-watching boats run from Gaspé and neighboring Percé, where the famous “pierced” rock just out from the water.
Take a boat tour to Bonaventure Island, and Parc de la Gaspésie and marvel at the hundreds of species of seabird.
Head out on this trip between June and September for the best weather conditions.
Not usually touted as a classic Canadian road trip route, the Okanagan valley offers something a little different to the other routes in this list.
Nestled in the British Columbia interior. The Okanagan is known for its wineries and fruit orchards and is a gastronomic hot spot. Ensure you dine at one of the many farm-to-table restaurants in the area.
Start your trip in the main city of Kelowna, perched on the shore of the ginormous Okanagan Lake. Here you’ll be surrounded by beatiful pine forests, rolling hills and provincial parks – perfect for hiking. Why not take part in some watersports on the lake if the weather allows?
From here, head south toward the Naramata bench and Penticton, to sample the wineries and gorgeous views. You’ll be forgiven if you find yourself thinking you’re in Mediterranean France for a moment.
Top tip: hire a bicycle in Penticton and create your own winery tour, stopping at any that take your fancy. Bench 1775 is personal highlight.
Also referred to as Yukon Highway 5 and Northwest Territories Highway 8, The Dempster Highway is a Spectacular drive to Canada’s Western Arctic and a Canada road trip for the more adventurous.
The 737.5 km route from Dawson City (Yukon) to Inuvik (Northwest Territories) is one of the world’s unique driving routes and offers up some spectacular scenery; dramatic peaks, vast forests and thundering rivers are the feature hits.
Be warned, this drive is an extremely isolated part of the world, with the only “real” accommodation option along the route found in Eagle Plains.
Take a camper! Or at least camping equipment.
For a map of available campsites, use the Northwest Territories Parks website.
As you work north, cross the Arctic Circle and visit Tombstone Park, a must for hiking and backcountry camping. Further north still, take two river ferries into the Northwest Territories.
If possible, time your arrival in Inuvik with the Great Northern Arts Festival, held every July.
Summer is the only time to access this part of the world, so plan accordingly.
SEA TO SKY HIGHWAY
Officially known as Highway 99, this spectacular road trip starts in Vancouver and winds north to Pemberton (just outside Whistler).
At just 163km the Sea to Sky Highway is one of the shorter drives in this list, but with a continuous view of the Coast Mountains, glistening ocean, lush rainforests and intimidating glaciers, it’s one of the most beautiful road trips in Canada.
Don’t complete the 2-hour drive all at once. Stop and enjoy everything there is to offer.
As a minimum, stop at the many pullouts along the way. Breathtaking views are enhanced with interesting information kiosks.
As you head north, admire the dramatic Shannon Falls – the third tallest waterfall in British Columbia.
Next, enjoy the old mill town of Squamish. Climb the Stawamus Chief or ride the 2,904-foot-high Sea to Sky Gondola for unrivalled views of where mountain meets ocean across the Howe Sound.
A further 45-minute drive further will bring you to Whistler.
An outdoor enthusiast’s playground, there is plenty to do in Whistler in Summer. From world-class mountain biking to the record-breaking PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola, make sure to set aside a few days here if you can!
Finally, follow Highway 99 to Pemberton, where you’ll find excellent hiking trails and striking views of Mount Currie.
For a scenic route back to Vancouver, continue further north still to Lillooet on the Duffey Lake Road. DO NOT miss Joffre Lakes Provincial Park en route – quite possibly the most Instagram worthy set of lakes one can see. From Lilooet take Highway 1 back to Vancouver.
Vancouver Island is packed with rainforests, mountains, and sandy coastlines making it one of Canada’s most beautiful islands and the perfect place for a road trip.
Your road trip will start with a ferry crossing. Head to Horseshoe Bay take in the views while crossing the Strait of Georgia to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.
Keep an eye out for humpback whales and orcas from the top of the ferry!
The city of Victoria to the South is worth visiting for a couple of days. Enjoy the Victorian architecture from its British colonial past and some excellent fish and chips!
Otherwise, head northwest on the Pacific Rim Highway (BC Highway 4).
The 207km drive from Nanimo to Tofino is a beautiful route that winds through ancient rainforests past mountains and lakes.
En route, stop in Cowichan Valley, famous for its orchards and wineries, and MacMillan Provincial Park to marvel at the majestic Douglas fir trees, some of which are 800 years old!
Just before Tofino, you’ll reach Ucluelet. A charming village with beautiful beaches, excellent surfing and a laid-back vibe.
Finally, relax and enjoy Tofino, Canada’s surfing capital. There are an abundance of things to do in Tofino.
As well as world-famous surfing at Chesterman Beach, and mesmerizing sunsets on Long Beach, you can enjoy whale-watching tours, scenic flights, fishing and hiking.
Head out on your trip between March and May for excellent weather and fewer crowds.
An all-time Canadian road trip, the Icefields Parkway (also known as Highway 93 N) stretches for 232 kilometers between the towns of Jasper and Banff.
You could complete the drive in 3-4 hours, but that simply would not do this route justice.
Often described as one of the most scenic drives on the planet, the way is littered with views of dazzling glaciers, dramatic cliffs, wild woodlands, thundering waterfalls, turquoise lakes, and the snow-capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies.
The views really are unparalleled in this part of the world.
Keep an eye out for the abundance of wildlife roaming the area. You will likely see elk, moose, deer, goats, and black bears. If you’re lucky, you might also spot grizzly bears and wolves.
Must-see stops along the way include:
- Lake Louise
- Crowfoot Glacier
- Bow and Peyto Lakes
- Columbia Icefield
- Sunwapta and Athabasca Falls
Spend the night at one of Jasper National Park’s many campsites, and marvel at twinkling star constellations in one of the world’s biggest dark sky reserves.
On sunny days, snow-topped mountains form perfect reflections on the surfaces of the lakes. If there was a place ready-made for a photo shoot… this is it.
The Trans-Canada Highway is Canada’s answer to Route 66, and without doubt the most epic road trip you can take in the country.
The world’s longest national road stretches through all ten provinces of Canada from Victoria on the Pacific Ocean, right across to St. John’s in Newfoundland and Labrador on the Atlantic.
It spans a massive 7,821 km from West to East, and is not a road trip for people in a hurry.
That being said, this coast-to-coast trail incorporates most of the highlights of the above 8 road trips.
Can’t make up your mind?
The Trans-Canada Highway road trip is for you.
You’ll cross four islands, pass through national parks, prairies, ranches and forests, and marvel at mighty peaks, glistening lakes, and dramatic glaciers.
Notable highlights include Vancouver and the surrounding area, Lake Louise and Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies, the Alberta Badlands, Quebec City, and St. John’s.
Don’t worry about getting lost.
The Trans-Canada Highway is easily recognizable thanks to its distinctive green and white maple leaf road signs.
Head out betweenMarch and October for optimal weather coast to coast.
Take your time!
CANADA ROAD TRIP – NOW IT’S YOUR TURN…
There you have my top 9 Canadian road trip routes.
Which one are you most excited to go take?
Or do you have any other great Canada road trip recommendations?
Either way, leave a comment below and let me know.