These great road trips from major cities in Canada allow you to explore the beauty of the country with its contrasting landscapes and magnificent natural wonders. Picturesque highways and alpine parkways lead you through the vast Canadian regions – each with a speciality to wow you after a bend in a valley or a cliffside road.

    Here, we present a few of the best Canadian road trip itineraries, linking well-known towns and cities in Canada’s major provinces. Some highlight scenic trips through the Canadian Rockies and around vast peninsulas – others even take you across the Salish Sea. Read on and learn how you can explore the best of Canada on a self-drive tour.


    Montreal to Gaspe

    Journey through gorgeous Gaspesia in Quebec

    A road trip from Montreal to Gaspe takes you on a picturesque tour of the Bas-Saint-Laurent region in Quebec. From an island in the Saint Lawrence River, you’ll follow the river’s north-easterly course until it broadens and flows to the Atlantic Ocean. The vast Gaspe Peninsula is your rewarding highlight on this scenic Canadian road trip.

    As you escape Montreal’s big city scene, Autoroute 40 E leads you to Trois-Rivieres. The 90-minute drive skirts the Saint Lawrence’s northern bank before reaching the old city where the Saint Lawrence and the Saint-Maurice rivers meet. Trois-Rivieres is a city that wears French heritage on its sleeve with beautiful architecture, monuments, and riverfront museums.

    Another 90-minute drive north-east leads you to Quebec City, a UNESCO World Heritage site with an old-world European charm. After taking in the centuries-old wonders such as the Citadelle and Le Château Frontenac, Quebec Autoroute 73 takes you across the Pierre Laporte Bridge (Canada’s longest suspension bridge) to the Saint Lawrence’s southern bank.

    Cruising along the coastal Route 132 – the longest highway in Quebec – you see the Saint Lawrence widening and appearing more ocean-like. Lush nature reserves like Parc national du Bic (home of grey seals and small islands like Île du Bic) help spice up your 3- to 4-hour-long scenic drive towards Rimouski. Check out Pointe-au-Père’s maritime museum and lighthouse before further navigating the Gaspe Peninsula (aka Gaspesia).

    Huge and rugged, Gaspesia has breathtaking forests and waterfalls. Its north-eastern coastline is dotted with lighthouses and viewpoints from where you can often spot whales. Besides Parc national du Bic, Lac-Témiscouata National Park, Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve, and Forillon National Park also call the peninsula home. The namesake city at the eastern tip is home to the Gaspesie Museum and the Birthplace of Canada landmark, where the monolithic Cross of Gaspé stands.

    Location: Quebec, Canada


    Toronto through cottage country

    Drive by beautiful lakes and through the wine region of Ontario

    A road trip from Toronto to cottage country in Ontario lets you admire some of the province's charming lakes and lakeshore towns. Toronto itself lies on the north-western edge of the great Lake Ontario. And while you can enjoy a scenic drive directly eastward along the north shore, it’s worth heading up to the beautiful town of Wasaga Beach, northward along King's Highway 400.

    Wasaga Beach’s long and sandy shores – the longest freshwater beach in the world at 14 km – overlooks Lake Huron’s wide Georgian Bay. At its heart is Nancy Island – home to a historic site at the mouth of the Nottawasaga River as well as the long spit of Wasaga Beach Provincial Park, which is a nesting ground for piping plovers.

    Continuing northeast along King's Highway 11, a 90-minute drive through the lush countryside takes you to Ontario’s quaint cottage country of Muskoka. Muskoka’s known for its beautiful lake scenery – best taken in from a plank recliner chair that’s named after it. Driving through Muskoka at the time of peak autumn colours is heavenly.

    From Muskoka, turn south-eastward for the next 90 minutes to the serene and rural Kawartha Lakes. This area is home to 250 lakes and a variety of charming communities – some featuring local breweries while others produce local maple syrup. Check out the pre-Columbian rock carvings at Petroglyphs Provincial Park, too. 

    From Kawartha, Ontario 401 leads you back to Lake Ontario’s north shore. It’s a 2.5-hour drive mostly with pine and lake views before reaching Prince Edward. This gorgeous lakeshore county is home to Sandbanks Provincial Park, with its sandy beaches and towering limestone cliffs. Check out Macaulay Heritage Park to admire its stately 19th-century buildings.

    Location: Ontario, Canada


    Vancouver to Okanagan Valley

    From littoral to alpine on the Trans-Canada Highway in British Columbia

    A road trip from Vancouver to Okanagan Valley in British Columbia follows the mighty Trans-Canada Highway. Leaving the high-rise coastal metropolis of Vancouver behind, your first 3.5-hour trip northeast towards Thompson-Nicola is a mini-expedition through the breathtaking wilderness in the sparse BC highland.

    Thompson-Nicola is home to scenic Fraser Canyon and a collection of beautiful gold-mining towns. There’s also Kamloops’ BC Wildlife Park and the well-preserved Historic Hat Creek ranch to visit and explore. Next on your British Columbia road trip is Kelowna by Okanagan Lake. Then, just slightly over half an hour’s drive north, is Okanagan Valley.

    Besides Okanagan Lake, the scenic drive through this area passes Wood Lake and Kalamalka Lake, with world-class vineyards, serene beaches, and a few ski hills in between. The Okanagan is home to 10 provincial parks, each with its own picturesque waterfall, pine forest, river, or lake. Driving along major roads like Highway 97 shows you geological formations that date as far back as the Pleistocene.

    Location: British Columbia, Canada


    Vancouver to Tofino

    Ferry across the Salish Sea for a scenic Vancouver Island drive

    Though Vancouver and Vancouver Island share a name, they aren’t connected – this road trip links both. A half-hour drive south from the big city takes you to the Tsawassen Ferry Terminal, from where you’ll cross the waters of the Salish Sea and reach Swartz Bay after 1 hour and 45 minutes.

    After docking, you’ll begin your Vancouver Island journey. Follow the Patricia Bay towards Victoria. The half-hour drive is full of beautiful coastal scenery, with North Saanich and the San Juan Islands along the way.

    Victoria, as the capital of British Columbia, is big on outdoor fun and Victorian architecture. Among its must-sees are the splendid Craigdarroch Castle and the Butchart Gardens. From Victoria, it's a 1-hour and 40-minute drive up north to Nanaimo, passing Maple Bay along the Trans-Canada Highway and British Columbia Highway 1.

    Among the highlights of the port city of Nanaimo are the Nanaimo Museum, the 19th-century Bastion with its wooden tower and cannons, and great shopping and seaside dining in the Old City Quarter. Next, it’s a solid 3-hour scenic drive up to Tofino, on the northern tip of Vancouver Island.

    Tofino is a go-to beach destination on Vancouver Island. This is thanks mainly to its 35-km sandy shoreline, with surfable waves just a paddle out. Cox Bay, Chesterman Beach, and Long Beach are among its most popular stretches. The beautiful wilderness of Clayoquot Sound and the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve appeals to nature lovers, as do the many lakes and ancient rainforest around this peninsular area.

    Location: British Columbia, Canada


    Calgary to Edmonton via the Icefields Parkway

    A long, scenic round trip through the heart of Alberta

    Take in the rugged and varied landscapes of Alberta’s Rockies on a road trip through its famous mountain towns. Starting at Calgary, follow the Trans-Canada Highway and the Alberta Provincial Highway No. 1 westward to Banff. This resort town and the national park it gives its name to offer winter fun and wide-ranging ways to enjoy the great Canadian outdoors.

    The peaks of Mt. Rundle and Mt. Cascade dominate the skyline, even as you leave for Lake Louise, just a short and sweet half-hour drive northwest. Further along Alberta Highway 93, the stunning peaks and glaciers of the famous Icefields Parkway filling your windscreen make it seem like you're watching a 3-hour feature film at a drive-in cinema.

    The dramatic scenes persist as you proceed northwards to Jasper National Park. Gorgeous vistas of the lakes Bow and Peyto accompany you throughout the ride with their deep emerald hues. After the sharp turn east to Edmonton, the landscape along the 4-hour journey drastically changes to green valleys and countryside.

    In Edmonton, you’re treated to a fine balance between beautiful nature and impressive – if not superlative – man-made attractions. Among these are Fort Edmonton Park, the largest living history museum in Canada, and West Edmonton Mall, the largest mall in North America.

    A 1-hour-and-40-minute drive south from Edmonton takes you to the central Alberta town of Red Deer. Check out the Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery, which showcases local history and a large collection of First Nations art. Red Deer’s aspen parkland setting make it a pleasure to drive through during autumn.

    The 90-minute drive back south to Calgary ends your road trip through beautiful and diverse Alberta.

    Location: Alberta, Canada

    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveller

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