5 scenic road trips… in Canada
Between the pristine shores and the towering mountain ranges is the rugged Canadian wilderness, which is longing to be explored. With plenty of opportunities to spot birdlife, wild flowers and endless walking trails with scenic views, self-driving offers you the luxury to spend as much or as little time as you like in each place.
Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99), British Columbia
Embark on the Sea to Sky Highway, so-called as you will drive from the emerald Straight of Georgia to the snow-capped peaks of the Blackcomb mountains. Officially named Highway 99, the 408-kilometre route takes approximately 2 hours without stops from Vancouver to Whistler, a town famed for having one of the largest ski resorts in North America. During the summer months, the walking trails through the verdant mountains are stunning, while the 4.4-kilometre Peak 2 Peak gondola offers impressive panoramic views.
Not far from Vancouver is Howe Sound, a network of fjords dotted with small islets. Take in the beautiful views from above on the 10-minute Sea to Sky gondola. At the top, there are two walking loops with viewing platforms and a suspension bridge as well as many more hiking trails. The Whytecliff Park, Shannon Falls – British Columbia’s third largest waterfall – and Brandywine Falls are all worth visiting too. If you want to continue through the forests of Cayoosh Creek valley, you will arrive at the gold-rush town of Lillooet.
Sea to Sky Highway, Howe Sound
Icefields Parkway, Alberta
This scenic 232-kilometre drive through the spine of the Canadian Rockies passes the Banff and Jasper National Parks. Without stops, the journey along Highway 93 takes approximately 3 hours, but we highly recommend stopping at the many incredible vistas. Stop at the Columbia Icefield and take an Ice Explorer ride, then drive on to the stunning turquoise Lake Louise and Peyto lake, with their remarkable colour owing to the glaciers.
Banff National Park is home to the Weeping Wall, so-named as in spring and summer the cliff face has a series of cascading waterfalls, which freeze during the winter months. Continue on to the Athabasca falls and glacier, learning about the geology as you walk around. During July and August the road can get particularly busy. Keep an eye out for wildlife on the road as grizzly and black bears, elk and mountain goats are often seen in the area.
Frank McDougall Parkway, Ontario
This 180-kilometre route is the section of Highway 60 that passes through the southern part of Algonquin Provincial Park. The route was named after the pioneering forest ranger Frank McDougall, known as the ‘flying superintendent of Algonquin Park’ as he used airplanes to inspect the park.
Established in the late 19th century, the park covers 7,800 sq km of unspoilt beauty with thick pine forests, turbulent rivers and thousands of picture-perfect lakes. Bird enthusiasts come to this park to spot Gray Jays, Spruce Grouse, Boreal Chickadees and Black-backed Woodpeckers. The park is also home to otters, beavers and moose that often cross the road unexpectedly!
Moose, Algonquin Park
The Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia
On the northern tip of Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island is the Cabot Trail. Looping a 297-kilometre route, it passes coastal mountains and through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Within the national park there are 28 walking trails, which offer cliff-top views of the river valleys, lakes and coastline. Look out for the resident wildlife, which includes moose, Canadian lynx, bears and eagles.
Named ‘New Scotland’, the region of Nova Scotia has a mix of cultures with influences from the Scottish settlers and native Mi’kmaq people. Delve into the local culture at the Glenora whisky distillery – one of the few Scottish-style distilleries in Canada – and the Celtic Music Interpretative Centre.
Skyline Trail, Cape Breton
Viking Trail, Newfoundland
This 489-kilometre remote drive explores the northern tip of Newfoundland; a wild and fascinating coastal area steeped with history and culture. Taking approximately 5 hours without stops, you can learn about the aboriginal heritage and the local cultures at the museums along the way. The road passes fjords, glaciers, waterfalls, dunes and fields carpeted with wildflowers.
Take a stop at the quaint fishing village of Woody Point, and don’t miss the Unesco-listed Gros Morne National Park, where large populations of moose and caribou live. There’s also L’Anse aux Meadows (Jellyfish Cove), an archaeological site discovered in 1960, and the location of a Viking settlement where Norse sailors first settled in North America. If you want to visit, make sure you go between June and the first week of October.
L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland
Find out more about Cox & Kings’ self-drive itineraries here. Alternatively, speak to one of our Canada experts that can organise you a tailor-made holiday.