The Best Road Trips in Canada
Ahh, Canada, where else can you tap maple syrup, watch a thrilling hockey game, and feast on French cuisine all in the same day?
Canada is a vast country filled with pristine landscapes. Want a quiet backdrop of massive mountains? You got it. Prefer getting close to the shore? No problem. Want to be in the middle of a bustling city? Canada has it all.
On top of that, the friendly locals make some of the best food around (Nanaimo bars, poutine, and butter tarts, anyone?). And when it comes to road tripping, there are a host of opportunities to get out onto the open road and see something new.
With a rental car
, you can really take advantage of the many road trips that Canada has in store. You won’t have to wait around for public transport, and you can easily travel from one province to another while following your own schedule, spending as long as you want before moving on to the next adventure.
From east to west and in between, here are a few of the top road trips in Canada that you can add to your to-do list.
Explore the East: A Combo of City and Country Settings
For a mix of nature and culture, plan a road trip that will take you to some of the top destinations on the eastern side of the country. Give yourself a couple of weeks to complete this excursion, which will take you from Toronto to Niagara Falls.
Start your road trip in Toronto by checking out some of the unique things that this vibrant city has to offer: head up to the top of the CN Tower for outstanding views (get CN Tower tickts here
), go shopping at the famous Toronto Eaton Centre
, and dine at the finest restaurants, such as Hawthorne
and La Palma
To switch things up, you can make your way from the city to the serene atmosphere found in Huntsville. There, you can hike through forests, lounge by lakes, and go boating to relax the day away. Then, you can drive to Ottawa, the capital of Canada, where you can check out Rideau Canal and Parliament Hill, as well as walk through museums like the Canadian Museum of Nature
Go from the city back into nature again by heading into Tremblant, where you can enjoy outdoor activities on the Laurentian Mountains. If you’re there from December through March, you can partake in winter sports, such as skiing, snowmobiling, ice climbing, and snowboarding. If you’re there between June and August, there are summer activities to participate in, such as camping, hiking, kayaking, and rafting. And, of course, there’s gorgeous fall foliage to be seen in the autumn, and the maple harvest takes place in March and April. There’s always something to do, and there are also plenty of resorts, inns, cottages, and BnBs to choose from, so you can rest up before moving on to Quebec City, where you can check out Montmorency Falls Park, as well as experience the timeless beauty of Old Quebec.
Finally, you can make your way to Montreal for its cosmopolitan vibe and love of the arts, before you head to Kingston and Niagara Falls, where you can see the famous waterfalls from the ground level or head up to the Skylon Tower, which has a revolving dining room where you can have dinner with an unforgettable view (make your reservation here
Embark on the Sea to Sky Highway in the West
One of the best things about road tripping is the access to spectacular views that you simply can’t get any other way. And if it’s picturesque views that you’re after, the Sea to Sky Highway (a.k.a. Highway 99) is a must.
Outdoor enthusiasts, in particular, will marvel at the eclectic landscape during this trip, from mountains to a coastal rainforest. Plus, the great thing about this trek is that it only takes a few hours to get from your starting point to your end point, so this is a great road trip that you can plan when you only have a day to get away, or when you want to add something special to your longer trip itinerary.
The Sea to Sky Highway provides breathtaking views of Howe Sound and the Coast Mountains, and it runs from Vancouver to Whistler. Once you’re on this highway, you’ll quickly realise why this is considered one of the most beautiful drives in all of North America. Along the way, there are several lookouts that are worth stopping for, such as the Tantalus Range Lookout, where the views are so magnificent that even photos don’t do them justice.
Be sure to stop off and go for a hike to Shannon Falls, which is the third highest waterfall in British Columbia, and a spectacular sight to behold. You can also stop at Brackendale and keep an eye out for some of the bald eagles there, or take the incredible Sea-to-Sky Gondola (get your tickets here
) for views that can’t be matched.
The best time to take this trip would be from July through September. This is the dry season, so it increases your odds of having ideal weather for time in the great outdoors.
Canada's Quintessential Coast-to-Coast Road Trip
Ready to go all-out with your next road trip? For an epic and unforgettable adventure that’s packed to the brim with photo ops, take the Trans-Canada Highway from one Canadian coast to the other. Be prepared, though, as this journey consists of 7,821 km (4,860 miles) along the longest national highway in the world, and it will take you from Victoria in British Columbia all the way to St. John’s in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The fabulous thing about this road trip is the fact that you can experience so much of what Canada has to offer. You’ll have loads of opportunities to stop at some of the country’s top destinations as you make your way through the provinces and see what each one is all about.
Road trippers can take their time as they explore must-see cities like Ottawa and Quebec City, as well as natural wonders like:
- Banff National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s packed to the brim with out-of-this-world views and untouched wilderness. You could easily spend several days exploring the area, including famous Lake Louise and its turquoise water. You can even stay at the luxurious Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise so you can relax in between outdoor excursions.
- Alberta Badlands, where you can visit Dinosaur Provincial Park and search for dinosaur fossils, hike Horseshoe Canyon, and go canoeing in Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park.
- Fundy National Park, where you can explore unspoiled forests with trails that lead to photo-worthy waterfalls. You can also go camping and kayaking, as well as walk along the sea floor at low tide.
- Gros Morne National Park, which is another UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the second largest national park found in Atlantic Canada. Hike along the moon-like landscape of the Tablelands, or test your skills by hiking up to the top of Gros Morne Mountain, the second highest peak in Newfoundland. For more low-key activities, there are also opportunities for kayaking, biking, and snowshoeing.
Because this is such an extensive trip, planning ahead is key. You’ll likely want to set aside a few weeks to complete this journey and to give yourself the time that’s necessary to not feel rushed. To increase your odds of great weather all along the way, consider heading out between March and October.
Fun fact: Canada’s motto is, “A Mari usque ad Mare,” which translates to, “From sea to sea.” A perfect motto for this road trip as well!
A Few Things You Should Know About Driving in Canada
Before heading off on the road trip of a lifetime in Canada, there are a few rules of the road that you should know.
- First thing’s first, you need to have a valid driver’s license in order to get a rental car and drive in Canada. If you’re from the U.S., you’re in luck because your license will be valid across the border. But if you’re from another country, get your international driver’s license, and keep your proof of car insurance with you as well.
- You can make a right-hand turn at a red light anywhere in Canada, except Montreal.
- Canadians drive on the right-hand side of the road.
- Road signs in Canada will be in English, French, or both languages, but you might only find some signs in French while in Quebec.
- Speed limits will vary, depending upon where you are, so keep an eye out for signs. Generally, if you’re in a city, the speed limit may be 50 kph (31mph). Also, if you’re on a major highway, the speed limit might be 100 kph (62 mph), while two-lane highways have speed limits that are typically around 80 kph (50 mph).
It’s also wise to get extra insurance
for your rental car, especially if you’re planning on going on a longer road trip to more remote areas that might even include unpaved roads. You never know what might happen while you’re out and about, and if you’re travelling during the Canadian winter, you may encounter snowy and icy conditions, so coverage for things like roadside assistance
can definitely help give you additional peace of mind.
When you opt to use RentalCover, our rental car insurance will cost up to 50% less than what you’d have to pay at the rental company. Most of our policies even bring the excess all the way down to zero with fewer exclusions. Translation: you’ll be able to have more money to spend on poutine.
Eager to Jump into Your Next Road Trip
If you’re ready to dive into Canadian culture and explore what this unique country has to offer, all you need is your rental car, your GPS (and a backup map, just in case), and a tank full of fuel to be on your way. Whether you’re planning a road trip that will take a day or a few weeks, Canada has it all.