Sea to Sky Highway, BC
Start in Vancouver, where it’s a pleasure to finally get through the traffic, and cross the bridges onto the fast moving Highway 99. Expanded for the 2010 Winter Olympics, the perilous corners are gone, but fortunately, the breathtaking views of the Howe Sound remain. Along the way to Whistler, stop into Brackendale, where thousands of bald eagles roost every winter. Hike up to Shannon Falls, and the imposing Stawamus Chief towering over the highway (a Canadian Bucket List hike). If you don’t want to sweat for your views, the new Sea-to-Sky Gondola is a must. Once you get to Whistler, stop over to enjoy the village, or conclude your drive in Pemberton.
Icefields Parkway, AB
Connecting Banff and Jasper National Parks, the Icefields Parkway (aka Highway 93) is one of the world’s most spectacular drives. Named for the massive glaciers that sit atop the imposing Rocky Mountains, it’s a popular road-trip destination in the summer. Besides the spectacular views, stop in at the Columbia Icefields to take a 4×4 ride onto a glacier itself, or take a stroll on the stunning Glacier Skywalk. The bright coloured mineral water of Peyto and Moraine Lake amaze visitors every summer. Watch out for wildlife, go slow, and soak in this epic drive, an easy addition to the Canadian Bucket List.
Alaska Highway, YK
Built during World War II to transport US soldiers to bases in Alaska, this epic road trip (also known as the ALCAN Highway) begins in Dawson Creek, BC, running north for over 1300 miles to Delta Junction, Alaska. Although its length and remoteness can be challenging, the highway itself is in relatively good shape, paved all the way with occasional potholes or construction due to constant upgrading. Weather conditions can be treacherous however, so it’s wise to plan ahead. Most people continue onto Fairbanks Alaska, and complete the drive in 7 – 10 days.
Viking Trail, NL
The largest themed road trip in Newfoundland & Labrador, the Viking Trial cuts from the west coast of Newfoundland through to southern Labrador, two UNESCO World Heritage Sites along the way. Interpretation centres, hikes and exhibits at Gros Morne National Park and L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site detail the long history of the land, its aboriginal people, and the Vikings who landed here over a thousand years ago. Along the way, check out the icebergs, beautiful bays, and the tallest lighthouse in Atlantic Canada, along with numerous historical sites to complement the natural beauty.
St John River, NB
New Brunswick is a province made for road trips, and the tourism board has obliged by routing out five great trips: The Fundy Coastal Drive, the Acadian Coastal Drive, the Appalachian Range Route, and my favourite, the River Valley Scenic Drive. Following the wide St John River for some 400km, you’ll see tranquil fields, picturesque barns, and several old covered bridges (including the world’s longest, in nearby Hartland). Pop into the historic old town of Fredericton, and overnight in the small town of Sussex just to see its history wonderfully painted on murals around town.
Brandon to Spruce Woods Provincial Park, MB
National Geographic picked out this prairie roadtrip in western Manitoba as one of the best on the continent. Ramble by rich farmland, river valleys and highlands. Enjoy that big prairie sky and vast sense of space, along with some interesting stops along the way. The Chapman Museum looks at the region’s pioneering history, the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre has the remains of a huge marine lizard discovered in the area, or just enjoy the beauty of the International Peace Gardens, celebrating the peaceful relationship between the US and Canada. The drive ends at Spruce Woods Provincial Park, where you can see wildlife, or venture out into the meadows and sand dunes.
Cabot Trail, NS
One of Canada’s best-known drives, the Cabot Trail is a loop that traces the northern shoreline of Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island. The reason for its reputation: Striking highland scenery, vast ocean views, and an eclectic mix of culture along the way. Some of the communities you might pass along the way include Ingonish, at the eastern entrance to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. To the west of the park is Chéticamp, an Acadian fishing village known for rugs and fiddles . The Cabot Trail is open year-round.
Dempster Highway, YK & NWT
Experience the tundra, mountains, and sheer wilderness on Canada’s first all-weather highway to cross the Arctic Circle. The Dempster highway stretches 671km from Dawson City, Yukon to Inuvik, capital of the Northwest Territories. During the summer months, when the road is uncovered with snow or ice, expect to, encounter bears, caribou, wolves, moose, and blooming Arctic flowers. Best of all: driving under the midnight sun, you’ll be able to see it all.
The Gaspésie Tour, QC
Here’s a 1442km road trip that starts in Montreal, explores the surrounding region, and then makes it way to Bas-Saint-Laurent and the Québec maritime. Leaving Montreal, you’ll head south to Chambly, before continuing on Route 223 through the Richelieu Valley. Passing Fort Lennox, you make your way towards Quebec’s wine route near the US border, continuing to the Eastern Townships. From here, the route takes you to towns like Abbaye de Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, Sherbrooke, Ulverton, Drummondville, Trois-Rivières and Lac Saint-Pierre. Like all the best road trips, this weeklong adventure blends history, scenery and culture.
Prince Edward County, ON
Once off the beaten track, Prince Edward County is attracting road-trippers with vineyards, artisans, and a gorgeous scenic drive along the Loyalist Parkway, also known as Highway 33. It runs along Lake Ontario through the county, along red brick farmhouses, bucolic pasture, and pioneer cemeteries. Just a two-hour drive outside of Toronto, stops include the beaches at North Beach Provincial Park, and 40km down the road, the more popular Sandbanks Provincial Park. The towns of Wellington and Picton have lots of history, and appear to be enjoying the region’s renaissance.
Lake Superior’s North Shore, ON
Lake Superior may not give up her dead, but she certainly offers up one of the smoothest Bucket List drives in the country, by car or bike. The curving black top (blessed with ample passing lanes) cuts through boreal forest and Canadian Shield as it traces the North Shore of the greatest of all the Great Lakes, and the largest freshwater protected area in the world. As you make your way from Thunder Bay to Sault Ste Marie, check out sites like the Oumert Canyon, Wawa’s Goose and Old Woman’s Bay, and find your very own Yellow Brick Road.
Trans-Labrador Highway, NL
Epic and challenging, the Trans-Labrador Highway is the only road that crosses Canada’s vast, eastern mainland. Its remoteness calls out to drivers with modern cars, seeking old world challenges. Narrow with soft shoulders, the 1185km highway gets dusty in the sun, sticky in the rain, with amenities few and far between. Two spare tires are highly recommended, and drivers are loaned satellite phones by the government. Some road trips are pretty, others are fun. The TLH is an adventure.