© Wolfgang Weber / GNWT
Great Canadian road trips
Some of the best travel memories are made in the car, scenery flashing by and tunes on the radio
What a thrill it is to outrun the world for a few days, to dip out of cellphone range and live in a zone of uninterrupted motion. We’re talking road trips here — of CBC Radio, bags of chips and truck-stop coffee.
Hurtle across Canada on the 7821-kilometre Trans-Canada Highway, and you’ll touch two oceans — the Pacific and the Atlantic — and sweep through alpine meadows, valleys of fruit, sagebrush plains, the rocky spine of the Canadian Shield, lake after lake and forest after forest.
If you can’t see our entire country by highway, pick one province, a piece of blacktop and take the nearest entry ramp.
Heritage Discovery Circle Route, BC
This 2,423-kilometre epic road trip begins in Vancouver, zigzags north to 100 Mile House, heads to the historic gold-rush town of Barkerville, then on to Prince Rupert, where you can access (by boat only) the Khutzeymateen (Canada’s first grizzly bear sanctuary) as well as take a spectacular ferry ride to Haida Gwaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands). hellobc.com
The Icefields Parkway, AB
Sure, you can drive one of North America’s most scenic roads (Hwy 93) that bisects 100 glaciers, two national parks (Banff and Jasper) and sweeps past dozens of peacock-blue lakes. But even more impressive is to cycle this wide-shouldered, hostel-studded highway. Be sure to cool down with a tiptoe up to the Athabasca Glacier. icefieldsparkway.ca
Qu’Appelle Valley, SK
If you’re speeding along the Trans-Canada Highway, remember to veer north at the tiny community of Qu’Appelle. The endless swath of golden wheat fields splits open on Hwy 210 into a spectacular valley laced with a series of lakes, coulees and groves of trees—a recreational mecca for Reginans, who live 45 minutes away. virtualsk.com
Prairie Parkland, MB
If you’re slicing across Canada on the Yellowhead Highway (#16), don’t whiz by the prettiest town on the prairies: Neepawa. Just west of the town, veer north on Hwy 10 through Riding Mountain National Park to Dauphin and west to Inglis, home of five historic grain elevators—a fantastic site at sunset. pc.gc.ca
Clearly Superior, ON
Now you’ll know why Canada’s Group of Seven artists lingered around this necklace of wide sandy bays on Lake Superior’s east shore in Ontario. Take Hwy 17 north from Sault Ste. Marie to Wawa, and be soothed by all that freshwater, the Lego-like blocky cliffs and spots like Pancake Bay—where voyageurs stopped to fry up some pancakes before restocking supplies in “the Soo.” wawa.cc/tourism
Route de fleuve (The St. Lawrence Route), QC
Linking Baie-Saint-Paul to La Malbaie, Hwy 362 meanders through the artsy villages of Charlevoix and over mountains that tumble into the St. Lawrence—the result of a meteorite two km (1.25 mi) in diameter that crashed here 350 million years ago. bonjourquebec.com
The Cabot Trail, NS
Drive along the skirts of Cape Breton Island, and you’ll breeze through beech forests and swoop over ocean bluffs. Dotted with fishing ports, craft barns (noted for their hooked rugs), quirky road stops and absurdly stunning ocean views, look for pods of whales in the water and moose along the forest trails. cabottrail.com
Fundy Coastal Drive, NB
We love this maritime journey especially in the fall, when the forests look like they’ve been shellacked with marmalade. Besides the fiery colours, you can marvel at some of the highest tides on earth. tourismnewbrunswick.ca
Viking Trail, NL
Inhabited by Aboriginals centuries ago and landed on by the Vikings 1,000 years ago, the land this weeklong road trip slices through was later populated by 16th-century Basque whalers and is now home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: spectacular Gros Morne National Park and L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site. vikingtrail.org
Dempster Highway, NWT
Drive the Dempster, one of this continent’s loneliest strips of loose gravel, and you’ll cross the Continental Divide (three times), two mountain ranges and touch the Arctic Circle. Begin in Dawson City and head northeast for 736 km (457 mi) to Inuvik, NWT—you’ll feel like you’re driving to the ends of the earth. (You kinda are.) travelyukon.com
The Top of the World Highway, YT
Only open in the summer, this unpaved road—running from Dawson City, YT, to Alaska (USA)—is so named because much of it runs along the tops of mountains providing amazing views. Top_of_the_World_Highway
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