Your guide to the ultimate Canada road trip

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Rocky Mountain Road Trip

Read time: 11 minutes

With 900,000 km of driving routes, Canada has enough roads to circle the globe 22 times, making it a great place to take a road trip. But despite the vast distances, planning a driving holiday in one of the world’s largest countries couldn’t be easier. You’ll find plentiful car hire in Canada, well-paved open roads and friendly stop-offs—all of which make journeying a breeze.

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In this guide, we’ve rounded up a few of our favourite road trip itineraries to get you started, as well as our top tips for planning a road trip holiday in Canada. Be sure to explore our interactive maps for a sneak peek at the stunning views awaiting you.

SEE ALSO: How to plan the perfect self-drive holiday with Canadian Affair

Contents

1. The best road trips in Canada

– Unlimited Adventures
Whales, Bears and Vancouver Island
Great Parks of the East
Tides and Parks of Atlantic Canada

2. Top tips for planning a road trip in Canada

Applying for visas
Hiring a car
Car insurance
Canada road trip checklist

The best road trips in Canada

Unlimited Adventures – 16 days

Towering snowy peaks, impressive mountain roads and an abundance of wildlife make the Rocky Mountains one of Canada’s star attractions. This route takes in three of western Canada’s best national parks and is perfect for an open jaw flight into Calgary and out of Vancouver.

Day 1 – Calgary

After your flight to Calgary, you’ll be able to pick up your personalised road book and take in the sights of Stampede City on your first day here.

Day 2 & 3 – Banff

(1 hour 25-minute drive)

Spend the day hiking, biking, horse riding, or just relaxing in the hot springs. Take a gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain for spectacular views of Bow Valley below.

Day 4 – Lake Louise

(40-minute drive)

The sparkling, blue lake is jaw-dropping with its proud backdrop of the rugged Victoria Glacier. Stroll around the water’s edge or take a chair lift to the top of Whitethorn Mountain.

Day 5 – Jasper

(7 hour 20-minute’ drive – this is one of the longest stretches in Canada but is along arguably the most beautiful road, Canada’s Icefields Parkway.)

Enjoy the endless sights along the Icefields Parkway, including a walk on the Athabasca Glacier and over the glass-bottomed Glacier Skywalk. You can also see Bow Lake and Peyto Lake before coming into the quaint town of Jasper.

SEE ALSO: A Guide to the Icefields Parkway’s Top Stops

Day 6 – Clearwater

(3 hour 20-minute drive)

The Yellowhead Highway takes you along the Thompson Valley to Clearwater, a beautiful unspoiled area north of Kamloops. En-route you’ll pass the majestic Mount Robson—the highest peak in the Rockies.

Day 7 & 8 – Gold Bridge

(6 hour 15-minute drive)

This quaint area is perfect for exploring British Columbia’s Gold Rush history. Investigate the old mine ruins and ghost towns left by early prospectors.

Day 9 – Whistler

(2 hour 20-minute drive)

You’ll be spoilt for choice in this active mountain community. There’s hiking and mountain biking to keep you busy, as well as a fantastic al fresco dining scene. A must-do is the Peak-2-Peak Gondola where you’ll witness superb views.

Day 11 – Tofino

(6 hours 35 minutes, including a two-hour ferry)

Situated along the south-western coast of Vancouver Island, the Pacific Rim National Park is a thin strip of magnificent islands, beaches, and dramatic seascapes. The ferry across the Strait of Georgia to Vancouver Island is beautiful in itself.

Day 13 – Victoria

(4 hour 20-minute drive)

The charming colonial city of Victoria is the capital of British Columbia. Enjoy the colourful downtown area full of boutiques, shops and restaurants, or unwind by Victoria’s beautiful Inner Harbour.

Day 15 & 16 – Vancouver

(3 hours 15 minutes, including a two-hour ferry to Vancouver Island)

Even if you are planning a separate Vancouver holiday, this bustling city shouldn’t be missed on your road trip; perfect for shopping, dining and sightseeing. Visit Stanley Park, head to the beach, or visit the city’s museums.

road trips in alberta

Whales, Bears and Vancouver Island – 9 days

One of our quickest road trips, this short-but-sweet itinerary proves you don’t need two weeks or hundreds of miles to get to the good stuff in Canada. With return flights to Vancouver, it’s the best way to squeeze city and wilderness into one holiday on a time limit.

Day 1 – Vancouver to Victoria

(3 hours 15 minutes, including a two-hour ferry to Vancouver Island)

Pick up your hire car and start your adventure! Hop on the ferry from Vancouver to Vancouver Island across the stunning Strait of Georgia.

Day 2 – Victoria

Embark on a whale-watching adventure aboard a Zodiac boat. Learn about the environment and habits of killer whales, minke whales and grey whales as you keep your eyes peeled for ocean giants and other marine wildlife.

Day 3 & 4 – Tofino

(4 hour 20-minute drive)

This scenic road through Vancouver Island passes spectacular, old-growth temperate rainforests as it leads you to the Pacific Rim National Park and the surf haven of Tofino. On your second day in Tofino, you’ll enjoy an unforgettable boat trip to see the region’s coastal black bears foraging on the shores.

SEE ALSO: What is your perfect Canada road trip driving song?

Day 5 & 6 – Sonora Resort

(3 hour 20-minute drive, then a short water taxi)

This luxury wilderness resort is like nothing you’ll have experienced before. Wildlife spotting opportunities are boundless and the natural beauty of the area will take your breath away.

Day 7, 8 & 9 – Vancouver

(4 hours 10 minutes, including a two-hour ferry)

Finish your tour in the vibrant metropolis of Vancouver for shopping, dining and sightseeing. Hop on a floatplane or boat ride for a unique view of the city from the water, or head over to the North Shore for more outdoor adventures.

driving on Vancouver Island

Great Parks of the East – 15 days

This two-week circular tour starts in the cosmopolitan behemoth of Toronto before taking in the most vibrant cities on the east coast. Culture and nature come head-to-head on this diverse trail from Canada’s capital, Ottawa, to its beautiful regional parks.

Day 1 – Toronto

Collect your hire car ready for your adventure! Spend the day exploring Toronto, with highlights including a visit to the CN Tower and some of its trendy neighbourhoods for shopping and dining.

Day 2 – Midland

(1 hour 50-minute drive)

Drive through scenic Huron Country via Penetanguishene, an old native village.

Day 3 & 4 – Huntsville

(1 hour 35-minute drive)

It doesn’t get much better than the peaceful setting of Huntsville, surrounded by forests and lakes and perfect for boating and horse riding.

Day 5 – Ottawa

(4-hour drive)

Drive to Canada’s capital city via Gatineau Park with miles of cycling trails. In the city, explore the historic Parliament buildings or stroll by the scenic Rideau Canal.

Day 6 & 7 – Tremblant

(1 hour 50-minute drive)

Enjoy relaxing in the tranquil setting of the Laurentian Mountains.

Day 8 & 9 – Québec City

(3 hour 45-minute drive)

Soak in the history of this Francophone city, from Place Royal to Montmorency Falls.

Day 10 & 11 – St Michel-Des-Saints

(3 hour 20-minute drive)

Fertile plains, rolling hills and a beautiful lake. The scenery here is ideal for kayaking, mountain biking and hiking.

Day 12 – Montréal

(2 hour 15-minute’ drive)

Montréal is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city famed for its arts scene.

Day 13 – Kingston

(3-hour drive)

A trip to Kingston wouldn’t be complete without a cruise through the 1000 Islands waterway.

Day 14 – Niagara Falls(3 hour 45-minute drive)

Tick off one of the world’s most iconic sights when you experience these thundering falls first-hand.

SEE ALSO: Best scenic drives around Ontario

Day 15 – Toronto

(1 hour 25-minute drive)

The perfect way to end your tour. The short driving distance allows you a little more time in the city before flying home.

road trips in ontario

Tides and Parks of Atlantic Canada – 20 days

This tour takes in the best of the east as it meanders through Atlantic Canada. Charming maritime villages compete with lighthouses, whales and icebergs for your attention. With the most stunning coastlines and delicious seafood along the way, this region of Canada is an unspoilt gem.

Day 1 & 2 – Halifax

Pick up your car and personalised road book ready for your adventure. Spend your time in Halifax exploring the historic Citadel, Public Gardens and the natural harbours.

Day 3 – Bridgewater

(1 hour 15-minute drive)

Drive along the Lighthouse Route to the fishing community of Peggy’s Cove, where you’ll see one of Canada’s most iconic lighthouses.

Day 4 & 5 – Digby

(1 hour 45-minute drive)

A visit to Digby wouldn’t be complete without sampling some of their fresh local scallops, which can be as big as the size of your palm. The bustling harbour is home to the largest scallop fishing fleet in the world.

Day 6 – Fredericton

(4 hours, including a two-and-a-half-hour ferry)

Enjoy a ferry ride across the Bay of Fundy with its enormous tides and rich marine life.

Day 7 – Moncton

(1-hour 50 minutes’ drive)

Explore more of the Fundy National Park, including Hopewell Rocks and Shediac—the lobster capital of the world.

Day 8 & 9 – Charlottetown

(1 hour 55-minute drive)

Discover the rich Acadian and British history on the Northumberland coast of New Brunswick.

SEE ALSO: Top Tips for Driving in Canada

Day 10 & 11 – Baddeck

(4 hours 40 minutes, including a 1 hour 40-minute ferry)

Pass Orwell Corner Historic Site on your way to Nova Scotia. See Cape Breton Island, the Bras d’Or Lake and the scenic Cabot Trail.

Day 12 – Corner Brook

(12 hour 20-minute, including a 9-hour ferry to Newfoundland)

Cross into Newfoundland by ferry and keep your eyes peeled for whales and dolphins.

Day 13 – Gros Morne National Park

(1 hour drive)

The rugged beauty of UNESCO World Heritage Site, Gros Morne is simply spellbinding. Steep fjords and tablelands will take your breath away.

Day 14 & 15 – Gander

(3 hour 30-minute drive)

Drive through woodlands to the Kittiwake Coast, filled with inlets, coves and islands.

Day 16 – Clarenville

(1 hour 30-minute drive)

Experience the beauty of Terra Nova National Park on your way to Clarenville. There are moose, black bears and foxes here.

Day 17 & 18 – St John’s

(2 hour drive)

The colourful waterfront at St John’s has so much to explore, with historic buildings and unique architecture.

Day 19 – Sydney

(18 hours, including a 14-hour ferry)

Cross the Avalon Peninsula to enjoy a cruise on the Atlantic Ocean.

Day 20 – Halifax

(4 hour 25-minute drive)

End your tour in Halifax for a final look before flying home.

driving in atlantic canada

Top tips for planning a road trip in Canada

As you can see, a road trip through Canada is the ultimate adventure and now that you have an idea about some of the amazing routes available, check out a few of our top planning tips below.

Visas you need for a Canada road trip

Before you book anything, you’ll need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA) to enter Canada by air. If you wish to visit the USA as part of your trip (and we recommend Alaska), you will need to apply for an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) to enter America.

How to hire a Car in Canada

Car driving in Canada

There are plenty of options for car hire in Canada. Depending on what time of year you’re travelling, you may want to choose your car based on potential road conditions. If you’re planning on going off the beaten track or driving through the winter, a sturdy car such as an SUV might be more suitable. Be sure to check that you are allowed to drive your hire car in winter conditions, as there are laws on snow tyres and chains.

SEE ALSO: 10 best road trips in Alberta

Don’t forget travel insurance

Travel insurance is usually pretty cheap and when you’re setting off on a big journey, it’s important to make sure you’re covered. As there are plenty of adventure activities on offer in Canada, if you’re planning on trying rafting, skiing or something similar, make sure you are covered. While it’s unpleasant to think of an accident or illness ruining your road trip, experiencing either of these without travel insurance would be a nightmare.

Canada road trip checklist

For a full planning agenda, take a look at the below checklist for a few more tips to help you plan your road adventure in Canada.

– Pick a route

– Know how long the routes are to help you plan

– Plan your pit stops for breaks and photo opportunities

– Choose which season is best for your route

– Avoid snowy seasons. May is a perfect time due to less traffic and increasing light.

– Apply for visas

– Book flights

Vancouver, Toronto, Québec, Calgary, and Montréal are all ideal locations to fly to.

– Don’t forget travel insurance

As you can see, a road trip in Canada is a truly wonderful way to see the many delights of this great country. With various sights and sounds on display, the open roads of Canada are the perfect option for a memorable adventure.

Check out further articles and guides to Canada on our blog for even more inspiration.

If all of this has got you excited for what’s possible, make sure to take a look at some of our fly drive holidays to Canada so you can get planning!

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