Holiday shopping and winter vacations can wreak havoc on your bank account, but who doesn’t get the itch to do some travelling in the spring? Road trips are a cost-effective way to satisfy those spring travel cravings as they offer fresh air, open roads and flexibility that you just won’t find at the airport.
If you’re planning to hit the road this spring, here are 10 stunning road trips from across the country. Each trip begins in a capital city and takes you on a journey to experience Canada’s true beauty.
St. John’s, N.L.
There’s so much to see and do in the city of St. John’s, but you can also use this a jumping off point for a road trip full of awesome scenery and hiking opportunities! The Avalon Region of Newfoundland is one of those rare places where nature meets the city, housing the province’s capital city as well as some incredible natural wonders. Hop on The East Coast Trail for a day hike, then keep moving to the Avalon Wilderness Reserve Avalon Wilderness which is just a short 72 km drive from St. John’s. Here you can really immerse yourself in nature, staying at the park’s campground and spending your days hiking, canoeing, and watching the various species of birds and other wildlife that call this area home.
Halifax can be a great starting point for an east-coast tour that will let you see all the sites while still hanging on the cash you’d been hoping to save for lobster rolls. Why not start in Halifax and head south to Yarmouth and the Acadian Shores? It’s a 325 km trip but take your time and spend a few days exploring the colourful fishing villages, historic architecture and local theatres and museums. Stop by the Eel Lake Oyster farm just 20 minutes outside of Yarmouth and discover what oysters are meant to taste like – fresh out of the pristine Eel Lake waters! Visit the world’s smallest working drawbridge in Sandford, all while enjoying the breathtaking Acadian Shores.
The Bay of Fundy is one of those places that every Canadian should see in their lifetime. This world famous attraction is home to seven species of whales, boasts the highest tides in the world and tourists can watch 160 billion tonnes of seawater flow in and out of this bay every day. This is also a great place to travel on a budget as Fundy National Park offers camping options and you can gain entry to the park for under $10 per day. The main access to the area is via Alma, N.B. which is a quick two hour drive from Fredericton.
In addition to the gorgeous red sand beaches and loads of Canadian history, part of P.E.I.’s appeal is its size. At just 224 km long you are never far from the beach in P.E.I., as no spot on the island is more than 16 km from the coast. P.E.I. is home to many high quality hostels and campgrounds as well as some world class hotels and vacation rentals. There are three main scenic drives that can each begin right in Charlottetown or just a quick drive away – the North Cape Coastal Drive, the Central Coastal Drive and the Points East Coastal Drive. Each will take you through a different part of the island where you’ll visit picturesque fishing villages and secluded beaches, and best of all you can end each drive in the province’s small but bustling capital city where you can spend the evening enjoying Charlottetown’s great restaurants and animated live music scene.
Quebec City, QC.
The often overlooked Jacques-Cartier National Park is a quick 30 minute drive from Quebec City and offers beautiful vistas and outdoor activities for every season and every level of adventure. Visit this park if you’re looking for mountains to climb, lakes and rivers to paddle, wildlife to spot and fresh air to breathe. There are hiking trails that range from an easy, hour-long stroll, to a challenging full day climb so make sure to consult the park's website to find activities that are up your alley. A wide range of budget-friendly accommodations are available – camp with all of the luxuries you can fit in your car, or leave that vehicle behind and portage to your vacation destination. You can also check out one of the yurts or rustic cabins that the park offers for rent! Road trip adventure awaits at this little known Canadian jewel.
When Torontonians take off for a road trip, they often head north to Algonquin Park or Muskoka, leaving the Northern Bruce Peninsula to the west of Ontario’s capital as a relatively unspoiled and quaint vacation spot. Stay at one of the many motels in the town of Tobermory, or in a campground in Bruce Peninsula National Park and use this as your jumping off point for day trips to Flower Pot Island, the Grotto or day hikes in the park! Situated on the crystal clear waters of Georgian Bay, you’ll find some impressive swimming and scuba diving opportunities, but wear your wetsuit – these waters are known to stay chilly right into August!
Whiteshell Provincial Park is cottage country for Winnipeggers. It’s just a quick 130 km drive from Manitoba’s capital, and offers a variety of budget accommodation options including campsites, rustic cabins and a family resort. Go hiking or mountain biking, swim or scuba dive in a meteor lake, go fishing in one of the park’s 200 bodies of water, relax on the beach, or play a round of golf. A trip to this park can be as comfortable or as rustic as you’d like – it’s up to you!
Situated on the Trans-Canada highway, Regina is a great starting point for a tour of this prairie province. Travel northwest for an hour to the quaint waterfront town of Regina Beach. When you’re ready to move on, continue north for another three hours to reach Saskatoon, a city of 254,000 people that is full of history and culture. Saskatoon has many annual festivals so check out the city’s website before you plan your trip so you can catch their Folkfest or Jazz Festival. Spend the night in one of Saskatoon’s many hotels and motels, and head out in the morning to start the 225 km trip to Moose Jaw. Moose Jaw is a small, walkable city that boasts golf courses, museums and galleries and the chance to visit Mac the Giant Moose! Once you’ve seen the sights in Moose Jaw it’s just a quick 75 km drive back to Regina where you started your triangular prairie journey!
It takes about 3.5 hours to drive from Edmonton to Drumheller, the entry way to the Canadian Badlands, one of our country’s most amazing and overlooked natural attractions. Once you arrive, you’ll hardly believe you’re still in Canada as you explore scenery similar to what you’d expect to see on the moon. Accommodation options are plentiful and can suit any budget, and there’s lots to see and do for everyone. If you’re into archeology, this is a great spot for you as Drumheller is home to the Royal Tyrrell Museum – Canada’s only museum exclusively dedicated to paleontology. Explore a coal mine, take day trips to hiking destinations like Red Rock Coulee Natural Area or take a step back in time at the Last Chance Saloon and Rosedeer Hotel. There is lots to explore in this region and you can easily make this a weekend or week-long trip.
Vancouver Island offers a host of road trip opportunities, the most popular of which would probably be Tofino and Ucluelet. Although Tofino is a 4.5 hour direct drive from Victoria, the Parksville/Qualicum Beach area is well worth a few hours stop to visit the incredible low tides of the beaches, as well as Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park. Cathedral Grove offers easy access to 800 year-old, giant Douglas fir trees that will take your breath away with their impressive size. Take a walk around the area before hopping back in your car for the final stretch to Tofino and/or Ucluelet.
Widely known as Canada’s surfer destination, Tofino is home to Pacific Rim National Park and our country’s largest rainforest, and is a haven for natural living, surfing, hiking and almost any outdoor activity you can imagine. The area is increasingly developed as its tourism industry grows, but it remains quaint and charming, and its location on the west coast of Canada’s western-most island makes it an incredible place for storm watching, fishing, whale watching and immersion into the vibrant arts and culture scene based on local First Nations culture. There are many hiking options that range from stroller-friendly paths to challenging climbs offering spectacular vistas with views of the Pacific Ocean and the thick, moss covered forests that make the region famous. Stick to your budget and stay at one of the areas many campgrounds and motels or splurge and treat yourself to some pampering at one of the ritzy resorts that have been popping up along this magnificent stretch of Canada’s west coast.
These 10 road trips cover a good portion of Southern Canada taking you from coast-to-coast, through prairies, mountains, islands and old growth forests, and offer a huge variety of activities, wildlife watching, accommodation options and cultural opportunities. Take the time to explore this incredible country of ours by spending a few days on the road this year.