As the second-largest country in the world, Canada has some of the most beautiful, diverse landscapes on Earth. Explorers can’t get enough of the panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains out west, and culture seekers are always pleasantly surprised with the historic seaside towns and ocean side adventures to experience in the Atlantic provinces. With domestic travel becoming more accessible over the past few years thanks to new airline carriers and expanded flight routes, these epic road trips in Canada are still a practical and cost-efficient way to see this extraordinary country. Plus, who doesn’t love the freedom of the open road?
From scenic drives in Ontario to the ultimate cross-Canada road trip, we’ve rounded up the best road trips in Canada to help you discover our country’s natural beauty from the Skwxwú7mesh to the Miꞌkmaꞌki. You have to see it to believe it!
What are the best road trips to take in Canada?
- Icefields Parkway, Alberta
- Sea to Sky Highway, British Columbia
- Georgian Bay Coastal Route, Ontario
- Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia
- Trans-Canada Highway: ultimate cross-Canada road trip
Best Canadian road trip for: outdoor adventurers looking for out-of-this-world travel experiences
Ideal time to visit: June to September or February to April
If you’re looking for the ultimate experience of the Canadian Rockies, then a week-long adventure along the Icefields Parkway, also called Highway 93, is the road trip for you. A 232km drive from north to south between Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta, this route passes some of Canada’s top hot springs, waterfalls, and even the most sparkling glacial lakes you will ever witness. Hit the road and you’ll see why the Icefields Parkway is frequently listed as one of the best drives in the world.
Must-see spots along the Icefields Parkway
The Icefields Parkway road trip features some of Canada’s prettiest lakes, so be sure to make room in your itinerary. Must-sees include Lake Louise, Bow Lake, and Peyto Lake, all of which can be visited year-round. After the lakes, continue north towards the Columbia Icefields, one of the world’s largest non-polar ice fields. Daring adventurers can attempt a walk along the Glacier Skywalk, a cliff-edge walkway that leads to a glass-floored observation platform – 280 m (918 ft) above the Sunwapta Valley – with incredible views of the glacier below.
Before arriving at Jasper National Park, plan to spend at least a half-day exploring Athabasca Falls. Entrance is free to the falls, and the quick hike (dog-friendly, too!) offers amazing views of the waterfalls, with the mountains serving as the perfect backdrop.
There are plenty of hotels and guesthouses in and around the national parks, but because this area is quite popular with travellers throughout the year, we highly recommend booking your accommodation ahead of time. Check out this blog post for tips on travelling through Banff for some inspiration.
Travel tip: Alberta’s Icefields Parkway is one of the best winter road trips to take in Canada, with lots of winter activities and world-class ski trails in the area.
Best Canadian road trip for: experiencing the best of Western Canada in all its glory
Ideal time to visit: July to September
Experience the surreal beauty of the Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) Territory by driving along BC’s beloved Sea to Sky Highway. Covering the distance between the city of Vancouver north to Whistler, this Western Canada road trip offers some of the province’s best scenery, with everything from temperate rainforest land to rigid mountain peaks that will leave you amazed and inspired.
Must-see spots along the Sea to Sky Highway
Be prepared to pull over often! These are some of the notable stops you’ll want to make en route to Whistler.
Start your road trip off in Whytecliff Park, a rocky, swimmable beach in Vancouver popular for walking trails and diving. Then, continue North to the Brittania Mine Museum, where you can see everything from machines and ore carts to a working Lime Tank from this historic mining town.
Next up is Shannon Falls, the third-highest waterfall in all of British Columbia. Right next to it is the Sea-to-Sky Gondola, one of the most popular attractions in the area. Take a scenic ride on the gondola up to the summit, where you’ll get sweeping views of Howe Sound, the surrounding mountain ranges, and lush coastal forests.
Want to save money on your next car rental for this Western Canada road trip? We’ve got six tips to help you save money here.
Best road trip for: scenic beaches and hiking in Ontario
Best time to visit: late August to mid-September
Scenic drives in the province of Ontario? There’s nothing like the Georgian Bay Coastal Route. This epic Canadian road trip let’s you experience the best sights along Lake Huron like the Blue Mountains, Manitoulin Island, Sauble Beach, and the iconic Tobermory in the Bruce Peninsula, just to name a few.
Must-see spots along the Georgian Bay Coastal Route
The Georgian Bay has long been considered the ‘Sixth Great Lake’ – a massive freshwater lake with numerous natural scenes surrounding it that you cannot miss.
If you’re starting from the north, make your first stop at La Cloche Mountains, a gorgeous mountain range just a short drive southwest of Sudbury. Here, you’ll find some of the best hiking trails in Ontario in Killarney Provincial Park. Stay a few days in a cozy eco lodge and explore parts of the rugged and beautiful “Heaven’s Gate Trail”. Next, continue South towards Wasaga Beach, one of the most popular destinations in Ontario during the summer months. Vacationers and locals alike can’t get enough of the white sandy shorelines that stretch across South Georgian Bay.
From there, make your way to Bruce Peninsula National Park, and hike along dramatic cliffs that rise from the turquoise waters of Georgian Bay below. Finally, don’t miss the chance to visit the famous Flower Pot Island nearby. Most visitors take a tour boat from the town of Tobermory and spend a half or full day on the island, exploring the rock pillars, caves, and impressive hiking trails.
Looking for more scenic drives in Ontario? Check out these easy road trips from Toronto.
Best Canadian road trip for: camping, food experiences, and some of the best views in Atlantic Canada
Ideal time to visit: July to September
One of the many gems along Canada’s East Coast is the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia. What makes this Canadian road trip so appealing are the small communities that you’ll pass along the way. You can get a great sense of Canadian hospitality in all the small towns of the Maritime provinces.
Must-see spots along The Cabot Trail
Not-to-be-missed stops on the Cabot Trail include Cheticamp, a fishing village with Acadian roots. Here, visitors can learn a little about Acadian culture and traditions by chatting with the residents and trying some local cuisine at one of the village’s family-run restaurants. Ever heard of Acadian-style meat pies? You can try one here in town.
Since this drive takes you right through Cape Breton Highlands National Park, be sure to plan some time for hiking one of the many trails at the park. Camping sites are also available for visitors if you’re longing for some full days enjoying the outdoors.
Another fun-filled destination on this East Coast road trip is Pleasant Bay, where you can take a whale-watching tour to see pilot whales and seals and get a different view of the island from the water. On the other side of the park, be sure to stop in Ingonish and pack a picnic to enjoy on the beautiful sandy beaches.
Remember that the East Coast of Canada is also famous for its seafood, so combine this road trip with a food tour (book a guided tour or just self-guided). Some of the top foods to try along the Cabot Trail are lobster rolls, crab, oysters, and fresh mussels sourced directly from nearby St Ann’s Bay.
Best road trip for: experiencing the longest highway in the world
Visit: between March to October
Can’t decide between the East or West of Canada? Why not cover both! Canada’s Trans-Canada Highway covers all 10 provinces along the southern end of the country and is, without a doubt, the road trip of a lifetime.
The road will take you from St John’s, Newfoundland, to Victoria, British Columbia. Travellers can go from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean along this 8,030-kilometre highway, which is one of the longest in the world. A Trans-Canada Highway road trip isn’t technically a single route, but rather a network of routes, so you can easily detour as you please. Get those road trip songs ready!
Must-see spots along the Trans-Canada Highway
As you make your way across this diverse country, you’ll be truly spoiled with things to do. Some highlights you don’t want to miss are Montreal’s culinary world, the many festivals in Toronto, the underrated city of Winnipeg, and exploring nature and culture in Vancouver’s hip neighbourhoods.
And of course, as you are driving and landscapes are constantly changing, there are some more under-the-radar natural beauties worth a stop. If you don’t have time to do the entire Trans-Canada, choose a shorter section like a Toronto to Vancouver road trip or the Calgary to Vancouver drive. The Toronto to Vancouver road trip (with overnight stops) takes up to a week. On the drive, you’ll still witness some of the best landscapes in Ontario, the Prairies, and even witness the flatland become the Rocky Mountains in almost an instant right before you enter the city of Calgary.
More road trip inspiration
- Easy Road Trips You Can Take From Toronto
- 5 Essential American Road Trips
- Plan a Road Trip Through the Gaspé Peninsula
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The ultimate Canada road trip is the Trans-Canada Highway, which stretches across 10 provinces from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to Vancouver, British Columbia. But if you don’t have time to drive this entire route, choose a shorter section like a Calgary to Vancouver road trip that will take you through the stunning Rocky Mountains.
The Sea-to-Sky Highway in British Columbia and Icefields Parkway in the Canadian Rockies are two of the most popular road trips in Western Canada, and the Cabot Trail in eastern Canada is continuously named one the most popular drives in the world.
With over 8,000 km to cover, the minimum time you need to drive this route would be one week, but that would be driving at least 12 hours each day. As there are so many attractions to see driving across Canada, one to two months would give you a much more relaxing experience to explore all the hidden gems and side routes on the cross-Canada trip.
Want to read more?
- Our Coronavirus Travel Advice page is updated regularly with the latest news and information for Canadians
- Looking for more inspiration for domestic travel in Canada? Here are the best staycations from coast to coast.
- Need to fly domestically to reach your road trip starting point? Here’s the updated Air Canada routes schedule for 2021.
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