Encompassing beautiful national parks, rugged mountains, and dynamic cities, this is the ultimate Canada road trip. It takes you through ten provinces, through of the country’s major cities, and across a variety of climates; from lush vineyards in the south to the approach to the Arctic Circle.
A road trip across Canada is no easy feat, and you’ll have to have a lot of time (and to like driving) to do it all. However, this Canada road trip itinerary can be split into smaller chunks, depending on which state you want to explore – or, if you have the whole summer, then why not see it all?
This Canada road trip begins in one of the easternmost parts of the country; St John’s in Newfoundland, and ventures westwards, ultimately arriving at Vancouver. This just covers the south of the country but if you want to visit the north, the itinerary ventures to The Yukon, close to the border with Alaska.
The itinerary does not stop in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, not because they’re not worth visiting; on the contrary, Nunavut, in particular, is one of the most spectacular and unique parts of the country. However, Nunavut is inaccessible by land, so to visit this province, you’ll need to fly to Iqaluit; the capital.
However, most of Canada’s highlights can be seen on this epic drive across the south and western part of the country!
Let’s get stuck into your ultimate Canadian road trip.
The state capital and largest city of Newfoundland and Labrador, St John’s is also the oldest and most easterly city in the whole of North America. The city manages to be effortlessly classic and contemporary at the same time, offering a range of attractions to please any type of traveler. Some of the best things to do in St John’s include Signal Hill which has a spectacular lookout over the city, the East Coast Trail, Basilica of St John the Baptist, and various cafes, bars, and restaurants in the city center.
Gros Morne National Park
One of Newfoundland’s most spectacular nature spots, Gros Morne National Park is home to lush gorges, pine forests, numerous hiking trails, and some of Canada’s most scenic campsites. There is nowhere in the world quite like this spectacular park, making it a must-stop on your Canada itinerary.
The state of Nova Scotia is famed for its maritime history and culture, and its capital, Halifax, is certainly no exception. Some of the city’s best attractions include the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, the Citadel which was used as a naval station, Pier 21 which tells the tale of Canadian immigration and the iconic Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse.
Once you’ve seen all the attractions, a pleasant afternoon can be had strolling around the Halifax waterfront, watching the crashing Atlantic Ocean and dining at one of the seafood restaurants.
One of the most beautiful towns in Nova Scotia, Lunenburg is a must-visit on your Canadian road trip.
The old town is a UNESCO world heritage site, with distinct architecture and gorgeously quaint streets. Some of the best things to do in Lunenburg include strolling down its colorful waterfront, hearing tales from the region at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, and checking out some of its historic buildings.
Canada is a land of extremes, and here’s possibly the first one you’ll encounter on your across Canada road trip; the highest tides in the world. They occur at Hopewell Rocks, which are located within the Hopewell Rocks provincial park. Caused by tidal erosion, these impressive natural spectacles sit at 12-21 meters tall. They’re spookily otherworldly and make for some great photo opportunities! Within the provincial park, there are lots of other hiking opportunities.
Fundy National Park
Known as one of New Brunswick’s wildest areas, Fundy National Park is a spot to be at one with nature. The national park encompasses 129 square miles which dot along the shore of the Bay of Fundy. Spectacular sports to enjoy are the red boulders, crimson beaches and forest walks, which often lead to dramatic waterfalls.
Your second stop that alludes to the Baptist saint, Saint John is different from its Newfoundland cousin with a similar name, yet is a great place to visit also.
With lots of historical and cultural sites within the city, as well as dramatic surrounding scenery, it’s worth resting up for a couple of days in Saint John on your Canada road trip. One of Saint John’s best attractions is the crashing Reversing Falls; which are impressive rapids within a gorge. They can be viewed above, on a boat, or a zip line tour!
Other things to do include the Irving Nature Park, the Saint John City Market, and the New Brunswick Museum, which explains the history of the area.
The sprawling Quebec City is a must-visit for any city slickers and is a great spot to experience a slice of Europe within North America. Quebec is Canada’s French region; and its language, culture, and customs bear a stark difference to the Anglicized areas.
The historic district is a UNESCO world heritage site (it is the only city in North America north of Mexico City to have a preserved wall) and the streets are perfect for ambling around in.
There’s a beautiful basilica, enthralling museums, a photogenic library, and beautiful Chateaus – one of which is the most photographed hotel in the world. In the surrounding areas, you can enjoy marvelous countryside which spans over waterfalls and lush green plains – which turn into ski slopes in the winter.
A Canadian must-see, Charlevoix is famous for a few things; its skiing pistes, its shops, its food, and its wildlife. The Flavor Trail is a must for any foodie travelers – some of Canada’s best ciders, beers, cheeses, and chocolates all hail from this region. Other popular things to do in Charlevoix include whale watching in spring or hiking in the summer. And in the winter- hit the slopes!
The second most populous city in Canada, Montreal effortlessly fuses the best parts of North America and Europe; and is a one-of-a-kind city to visit on your Canada road trip.
Some great spots to check out are the Jean-Talon open-air market, Mount Royal which is a mountain with epic views over the urban area and the artsy neighborhood of Le Plateau. If you’re visiting at the right time, there are lots of events and festivals in Montreal as well.
On the border of Ontario and Quebec, Ottawa is such a chilled out capital city – and although many travelers skip over visiting, nearly all of those who don’t are very glad about it! While walking the streets of Ottawa, you’ll hear English and French being spoken and there are lots of opportunities to appreciate both nationalities in this capital city.
Attractions include the National Gallery of Canada, the Ottawa River, Parliament Hill, the Rideau Canal (which freezes over in the winter, creating an ice skating route for people to get to work!). There are also markets full of fresh products to peruse, local breweries with craft beer, and world foods to try in Chinatown or Little Italy.
Algonquin Provincial Park
A quintessentially Canadian park, Algonquin is bursting with maple trees and is dotted with lake after lake. The park is home to various hiking trails and moose viewing along highway 60, and the lakes of the park can be explored using a canoe.
Probably Canada’s most famous city and its largest, Toronto is a great place for any city-slickers to visit. It’s a multicultural, cosmopolitan city, and there are lots of fun things to do in and around the city.
Great things to do include the Graffiti Alley, the CN Tower (which you can walk the edge of!), the open-air markets, and Toronto Island.
A popular day trip from Toronto, Niagara Falls are one of Canada’s most iconic attractions and are constantly thought to be some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world. You have to see them with your own eyes to believe the sheer size of these falls! They are also right on the US border – so if you’ve got your passport, why not head down and check them out!
Within Niagara Falls, the most popular thing to do is a boat tour of the falls, followed by Cave of the Winds, which are platforms taking you right up to the falls, and the Niagara Gorge Trail, which is a must-do for hiking enthusiasts.
As you drive north, you’ll be able to fully enjoy what this area of North America is most famous for; lakes. There are plenty of amazing spots to snap photos, picnic, or even camp, but Sudbury is a city set back from the lakes. It was just an old mining town, but now it is a dynamic place of many cultures, with plenty to explore.
Check out Dynamic Earth to learn all about the mining history of this city, and then explore Science North which is a fantastic hands-on exhibition. There are also a variety of restaurants serving world foods around Sudbury.
On the edge of Lake Superior, Terrace Bay is a tranquil place to stop. Head to Terrace Bay to see how colossal the Great Lakes are; with white sand beaches and a lighthouse (which is a replica, but adds to the ambiance!), you could be forgiven for thinking you’re on the coast.
Other points of interest include the Slate Islands, which can be reached by boat or plane, and the Aguasabon Falls and Gorge. There are also numerous hiking trails around Terrace Bay and plenty of opportunities for caribou watching.
See some of the best of Canada’s outdoors in Thunder Bay. Some of the best of the bay lie out in the water; you can see it all on a tour of the harbor.
Other great things to do in the area are to visit Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, which has a trail offering exceptional views of Lake Superior and Ontario; and the living history museum of Fort William Historical Park where you can learn first-hand the history of the fur trade and how life developed in 1816 in this area.
Nestled in the heart of Manitoba’s Prarie land, Winnipeg isn’t the first Canadian city that springs to mind when you’re planning your road trip; but it is seriously up and coming. With a fantastic fusion of Indigenous history, affordable wellness activities, and shopping and restaurants, this city has it all.
Top picks include the Riverwalk, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the Manitoba Museum and the French district of St. Boniface.
The capital of Saskatchewan lacks the craziness of Toronto or Vancouver but is an ideal destination for those favoring smaller cities.
It’s well worth a stopover after a long drive, and there is plenty to keep you busy here for a couple of days! Recommended is the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame, the RCMP Heritage Centre, Royal Saskatchewan Museum, Saskatchewan science center, and Wascana Park.
Big Muddy Valley
Canada’s answer to the Wild West lies here; the big muddy valley attracted outlaws for decades – but now is a tourist attraction for visitors to Saskatchewan. The scenes are barren and arid, straight out of a cowboy movie. There are also Aboriginal effigies and engravings throughout the landscape, which add to the allure of the destination. It’s a fantastic road trip spot!
Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park
Straddling across Saskatchewan and Alberta, Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park is home to a plethora of trails, lookout spots, and places to camp.
In the winter, it’s a great place for snow trekking, and in the summer it is an idyllic spot to camp out and stargaze.
Prince Albert National Park
Head to Prince Albert National Park for forest walks around beautiful lakes and partake in action adventures like water rafting and wakeboarding. There’s also the chance to reach its spots by canoe. The picturesque town of Waskesiu is a great place to stay; there are plenty of restaurants and accommodation spots here.
This arty, foody city is a well-received urban stopover on your Canadian road trip; a great place to enjoy some art galleries, great food, and tall buildings.
Edmonton’s artiness is continued as it is also home to wonderful street art, which can be found all over the city.
The city’s main attractions can be taken in on a walking or Segway tour, and its variety of museums; the Alberta Aviation Museum and the John Walter Museum are popular favorites.
And you can’t miss the Edmonton Mall; which is more like a city of its own. Within the mall are hundreds of shops, as well as an ice rink, an amusement park, and the largest water slide in the world.
A lovely Canadian city, there are plenty of great experiences to have in Calgary. These include ascending the Calgary Tower, which offers spectacular views of the surrounding area. Another popular attraction is the Heritage Park Historical Village, which is Canada’s largest living museum.
There are over 200 exhibits within this museum which are spread over 127 acres. The city was named the cultural capital of Canada in 2012, and there are lots of exhibits around the city center that showcase this.
Another popular pastime is to catch a hockey game – the city’s two Stanley Cup champion teams are the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers.
The heart of the Canadian Rockies is the beautiful town of Banff, which is home to Banff National Park. Here are some of the most iconic Canadian scenes that you’ll see on your road trip; with impossibly blue lakes and soaring peaks. Head to the hamlet of Lake Louise for a wonderfully calm and peaceful stay in some of the world’s most amazing scenery. Other popular spots near Banff are Lake Minnewanka and Banff Upper Hot Springs. In the area, you can enjoy whitewater rafting, canoe tours, and zip lining in the summer and snowshoeing, skiing, and snowboarding in the winter.
Jasper National Park
This is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies and contains some of the world’s greatest hiking opportunities with glorious mountains, alpine lakes, and spectacular viewpoints.
Take the SkyTram up to one of the most spectacular vantage points in the entire park and look out over the mesmerizing scenery.
Other great things to do in Jasper National Park are hiking, mountain biking, and wilderness camping.
Yoho National Park
One of the most important fossil locations in the world, Yoho National Park is a great place to chase waterfalls, hike one of its 400 kilometers of trails, be awed at its mountain peaks, and take a dip in one of its 61 lakes and ponds. The gorgeous Emerald Lake is the largest in the park and Takakkaw Falls is the second-highest lake in Canada.
Kelowna (Okanagan Valley)
The Okanagan Wine Region is a beautiful place to stop on your trans-Canada road trip. With amazing vineyards, great wine tasting opportunities, picture-perfect scenery with stunning lakes, and valleys perfect for any photography keenos. A self-drive trip heading toward the border with Washington in the USA will take you through some of the best vineyards and spots in the area.
One of the Canadian destinations that everyone has heard about, Whistler is renowned for skiing and winter activities. However, in the summer, the Canadian resort turns into an adventure haven, with activities ranging from bungee jumping, zip-lining, and 4×4 tours to long-distance hiking.
One of the lesser explored hiking trails in Canada, Squamish Chief is located midway between Vancouver and Whistler; many Vancouver tourists favor the Grouse Mountain and have never heard of Squamish Chief, which is both bad and good.
Bad, because this place is mesmerizing, yet good because it means that you’ll have it mostly to yourself!
This world-famous cosmopolitan city is the kind of place you could spend a few weeks in… but if you only have a day or two, there are several unmissable highlights.
These include tackling the Grouse Grind – which is known as ‘Mother Nature’s Stairmaster’, strolling around Stanley Park which is the largest urban park in North America and enjoying world foods in Chinatown.
As you start to drive northwards, the landscape will change and get noticeably more rural. It might feel like you’re on top of the world – and you are heading that way – but Prince George is still very much south/ central Canada. Nonetheless, the landscape will start to look that little bit more polar, towns will become more sporadic and your thermometer will most likely drop a few degrees.
It is a fantastic place to visit for lovers of the outdoors and some activities around Prince George include hiking, cross-country skiing, and watersports on the many lakes.
The rugged and beautiful Prince Rupert, set on Canada’s northern Pacific coast, is a fantastic city with a population of 15,000. It’s a great spot for wildlife viewing; here deer and bears can be seen from very close to the town, and it is a popular hiking spot. Not far from the southernmost border with Alaska; at Prince Rupert, you can stare across the turbulent Pacific and experience some wild wildlife.
Once considered the world’s smallest desert, Carcross is one square mile of desert land – it looks like humans left this sand there!
It’s an intriguing place to visit on your Canada road trip.
Whitehorse (Kluane National Park, Takhini Hot Springs)
The capital of Yukon, Whitehorse is a one of a kind city – with lots of Aboriginal history, unique attractions and of course, a cold climate – it’ll be unlike any other city you’ve visited in Canada. Check out the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre which demonstrates Earth’s last ice age, which saw Yukon to Siberia being engulfed in steppes and discusses some of the animals that called these steppes home. The MacBride Museum of Yukon History will tell you all about the past tales of this state, from natural history to stories of the first nations and the gold rush.
If nature’s more your thing, take a dip in the Takhini Hot Pools which have a temperature of 47 degrees Celsius and high calcium, magnesium, and iron content. Or check out the Yukon Wildlife Preserve and see some of the best northern Canada fauna.
Kluane National Park – Mount Logan – the highest mountain in Canada
Encompassing Canada’s highest mountain, Kluane National Park is a must-see. A scenic flight will show you some of the most spectacular views of the Yukon. The park has over 2,000 glaciers, some of which are a kilometer thick; hiking there is possible, but be sure to know how to hike in such conditions. This is most definitely a bear country!
Driving north from Whitehorse to Dawson, you’ll leave central Canada and start to enter the true north – toward the Arctic Circle. Possible stopovers include: visiting Braeburn Lodge to eat cinnamon buns the size of your head (this area of the Yukon is famous for this!), Five Finger Rapids and Favron Mines to pan for gold.
Once you reach Dawson City, you’ll probably be closer to the Arctic than you’ve ever been (around 300 kilometers). There are still some unique attractions in the city though; including Bonanza Creek, a spot where miners struck gold (literally!), boating on the Klondike, the Midnight Dome hill summit, walks in and around the city and a variety of museums including the Dawson City Firefighting Museum and the S.S. Keno.
Dawson is such a unique city, being so far north, that one of the best things to do in the area is just to enjoy the city and see what makes it so unique.
The Dempster Highway
Something to check off the bucket list for sure, and a great way to end your trans-Canada road trip, is a drive to the Arctic Circle. This area is barren, you’re unlikely to see another vehicle or form of human life – but you will see spectacular scenery, amazing flora and some of the most Canadian animals you can think of – like grizzly bears, black foxes, and moose.
Highlights of the drive north include the Tombstone Territorial Park, Chapman Lake, and of course the Arctic Circle crossing. Timing this drive for June means that you’ll be able to experience the midnight sun and when you’ll get to a certain point, 24-hour sunlight. It’s also a great road trip a little later in the summer, but not in winter, for obvious reasons!
The road extends to Tuktoyaktuk on the north coast of Canada – and the only way back is to take the road you came on!
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