Best Summer Road Trips in Canada4 min read
Visitors to Canada might be surprised to find that, in the summer months, the great white north gets pretty hot and humid. Given the lack of good public transit outside of the main cities and the vast expanse of land to explore, jumping in a car and heading to the nearest coast, lake or glacier is the best way to make the most out of Canada’s beautiful summer landscapes.
The Newfoundland Trans-Canada Highway (Newfoundland)
Lovingly nicknamed “the rock” the friendly people make up for the cold and wind-battered grey rocky coast of this eastern province. Traveling along the Trans-Canada Highway, starting in St. John’s and ending in Cornerbrook will give you time to get to know this interesting Canadian province. In St. John’s, take a walk around Signal Hill where the first transatlantic phone call was made. Follow the highway to Gander which will be of interest to both aviation fans and theatergoers (this was the place that inspired the musical, “Come from Away”). Continuing west, take a small detour off the highway to Gros Morne National Park where you can spend a few days exploring the otherworldly scenery and hiking amongst the rocky coast. Finally, head to Cornerbrook where James Cook spent time drawing maps of Canada. This 430-mile road trip is best done over a week so you have plenty of time to stop and enjoy the scenery, history and culture of this quirky Canadian province.
The Cabot Trail (Nova Scotia)
Just south of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia is a charming maritime province famous for seafood and friendly people. In the summer, you’ll spot whales swimming in the Atlantic, watch fishermen unload fresh crates of Lobsters and enjoy stunning coastal views. Start your trip in Sydney, the capital of Cape Breton, and spend a couple of days wandering the historic streets, listening to Gaelic music, and learning about the history of the island. From there, make your way to North River Bridge to get on the Cabot Trail. Driving north along the coast you’ll hit Breton Cove for whale watching. On the north tip of the island, you’ll find plenty of hiking in Cape Breton national park Follow the road down the west coast for cliffy coastlines and delightful seafood. Check out the Cheer Trail for more ideas of where to stop along the way.
Gaspe Peninsula (Quebec)
This trip can be started either from Montreal or Quebec City. Drive along the Gaspe Peninsula and take in the St. Lawrence River, a wide and wild river that connects Lake Ontario to the Atlantic Ocean. Learn about the history of the river, experience Quebecois culture, and enjoy the spectacular views of this natural landmark. Give yourself about a week to get to Perce to see limestone rock formations in the water and a migratory bird sanctuary. Along the way, you’ll want to make plenty of stops to get out on the water for whale watching, to visit the Fjord national park and to stop at small towns along the way to appreciate Quebecois culture and its famous cuisine.
Icefields Parkway (Alberta)
Immerse yourself in the Canadian Rockies with this incredible summer road trip. Starting in Jasper, Banff’s older and less pretentious northern cousin, you’ll make your way through the mountains until you get to Lake Louise just west of Banff. The drive can be done in a day, but if you throw some camping gear in your car you can enjoy hiking, swimming, waterfall hunting and wildlife spotting on a multi-day trip. Jasper is the largest dark-sky preserve in the world, so finding the perfect campground to build a fire and gaze up at the stars is a must for any road trippers in the area. Once you get to Lake Louise, you’ll want to plan a hike to one of the mountain teahouses where you can reward yourself with a hot cuppa and a view.
Pacific Marine Circle Route (British Columbia)
The small island of Victoria just off the coast of Vancouver makes for a pleasant West Coast road trip. Starting at either Sydney or Victoria, you’ll hit Lake Cochiwan, Port Renfrew and Soote before completing the loop. You’ll pass through rugged West Coast wilderness while also driving through quaint towns with fine dining and art galleries. The mild climate in the area means you’ll be able to tour vineyards at the end of an exhilarating day of hiking or whale watching. There’s no shortage of cute B-and-Bs to stay in or seafood restaurants to try, and the laid-back vibe of the island will charm even the most reluctant travelers making this a great place for a family holiday.