The Great White North is a nation overflowing with idyllic natural landscapes, vibrant, bustling cities, quaint and charming small towns, world-class ski resorts, and an abundance more… and poutine, of course. Even though its population hovers around 37 million (slightly less than the state of California), its size is 200,000 square miles larger than the entire USA. So while there’s plenty of vast nothingness if you make a wrong turn, there’s also plenty of amazing memories to be made on a road trip across the more populous areas.
So let’s fill up our tanks, charge our camera batteries, put together the perfect roadie playlist and let’s get on our way, eh?
While it’s almost guaranteed that you’d fly into Vancouver as a starting point, we’re skipping it (for now) and catching the ferry out west to the outdoor lover’s haven, Vancouver Island. Victoria might be the province’s capital, however, it often lays in the shadow of its mainland counterpart.
Nestled at the southern end of the island, Victoria is jam-packed with parkland as is widely known for its plentiful outdoor activities. A stroll through the stunning Butchart Gardens is a must for the itinerary, as is a wander along one of the abandoned railroads and a meet-and-greet with some of the region’s unique wildlife.
We’re hopping across the Strait of Georgia back to Vancouver on the mainland. Constantly rated amongst the world’s most livable cities, Vancouver offers up a serene blend of often-snow-capped mountains, sparkling waters, and a laid-back urban environment. It echoes the vibes of its US counterparts further south in Seattle and San Francisco, churning out an attractive blend of charm, variety and progressive culture.
With a few days in Vancouver, make sure to make it up to the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Van and the Cleveland Dam just a few minutes drive further north.
After getting a taste of nature from an urban perspective over in lovely Vancouver, we’re turning it up to eleven with our next stop - Kelowna. Located in one of Canada’s most beautiful regions, Kelowna is home to one of the world’s premier ski resorts in the winter, and consequently, two stellar hiking locales in the warmer months. Regardless of the season, make sure to pack a camera, because the vistas are as good as it gets.
Wine connoisseurs will be head over heels, as Kelowna sits smack bang in the heart of the revered Okanagan Wine Region.
We’re jumping back into the car (or van - whatever floats your boat) and up to the Trans-Canada highway, driving further east into the heart of one of the world’s most picturesque slices of nature - the Rocky Mountains.
You’ll think you’ve stepped into paradise as you stare in awe at one of Banff’s shimmering turquoise lakes - take your pick of Lake Louise, Moraine Lake or Peyto Lake, which is almost uncannily shaped like a wolf.
After a couple of days of hiking around the stunning region, kick up your feet in the small ski town of Banff, which is chock-full of tourists and backpackers ready to have a good time.
Thanks, Banff, you’ve been a blast, but we’re heading back to the big city life. Well, big by Canada’s standards. We’re talking, of course, about Alberta’s largest city, Calgary. Only an hour and a half’s drive further east and sitting on the Trans-Canada Highway, Calgary is a convenient next stop. With so much left to see we’ll make it a quick one, but make sure to check out the local zoo and the archeological site, awkwardly titled Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump.
If you can line up the visit in July, the Calgary Stampede is a famous rodeo-style festival not to be missed.
In the effort of full honestly, there isn’t a truckload of stuff to do in Regina. However, you simply can’t drive forever, so it welcomes road-trippers as a common stopover between Calgary and Winnipeg.
Let’s make the most of it while we’re in the heart of the Prairies (meaning the flatlands, and yes, home of the Prairie dog) by checking out the MacKenzie Art Gallery or working on our tan at the lakeside Regina Beach. We won’t blame you for getting in and out of this city relatively quickly, because there’s so much more to see around the corner.
We’re back behind the wheel and moving one province further east, over to Manitoba’s capital city, Winnipeg. The drive between this stop and the last is only about six hours, and while it’s not the most picturesque leg of the trip, it’s simple and convenient, staying on the Trans-Canada highway all the way.
Despite Winnipeg being a pretty large city population and size-wise (again, on the Canadain spectrum), it still boasts a small-town feel. Surprisingly, the foodie scene is splendid, and there is plenty of cultural events happening throughout most of the year. As for points of interest, the Canadian Museum For Human Rights is impressive, as are the polar bears in Assiniboine Park Zoo.
It’s about an 8-hour drive to our next stop, Thunder Bay, and we haven’t even left Ontario yet - in fact, we’re not even close! The province is nothing short of enormous and most people don’t realize that until they’re driving for what feels like forever. For that reason, its Northern population is sparse, so make sure to top up on gas at every opportunity.
Once we’ve gotten into Thunder Bay, it’s definitely worth exploring the Fort William Historical Park, and snapping a couple of selfies atop the Kakabeka Falls. Make sure you’re well-rested because the next drive is another long one!
We’ve almost made it cross-country, but with a fair distance left to drive, let’s take a pause and stretch our legs in Canada’s biggest city, Toronto (which isn’t the capital - that’s Ottawa). As the country’s most popular tourist destination, Toronto is Canada’s answer to New York - a bustling, populous and culturally diverse metropolis.
Sports fanatics can rejoice at a Maple Leafs (hockey), Raptors (basketball), or Bluejays (baseball) game, while nature lovers can take the short ferry out to Toronto Island. The open-air oasis offers a much-needed breath of fresh air from the concrete jungle, while the boat ride provides views that are second to none.
It’s been a heck of a journey, but we’ve finally made it to our final stop - the eccentric, vibrant, bilingual Quebec city of Montreal. As the largest French-speaking city in the world outside of Paris, Montreal has a unique culture unlike anywhere else. Its nightlife is up there with the continent’s best, so the colorful locale presents itself as the perfect to unwind after a tumultuous trek across the country.
Foodies can rejoice with a dozen of Montreal’s world-famous bagels, pig out with a smoked meat sandwich, or throw their calorie counters out the window to indulge in some delicious, gravy-loaded poutine.