The Best Scenic Drives in Canada
Oh, Canada. What is often believed to be a friendlier, colder offshoot of America and the little brother (hypothetically, not size-wise), is an amazing country and noteworthy in its own right. With mile after mile of Atlantic Coast beaches, roaming caribou and Rocky Mountain wilderness, historic landmarks are as plentiful as campgrounds and rustic cabins for sleeping under the stars. While some destinations are only reachable by flying like the more remote Northern providences or the islands, Canada has some of the most breathtaking scenic drives in the world. Plus, there are plenty of Tim Horton’s along the way to refuel.
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
One of the greatest road trips on Earth, the Cabot Trail loops around the northern tip of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia for 185 miles. You’ll pass Cape Breton Highlands National Park, whale watching spots and unbelievable seafood. Stay at a variety of accommodations from picturesque B/Bs to lodges, oceanfront campgrounds or five-star resorts. Along the way, enjoy the famed Highland Links Golf Course, hiking and sea kayaking. Cape Brenton is the Celtic Heart of North America so enjoy lively Gaelic music and traditional dancing at a number of festivals throughout the summer. Magically be transported to the French countryside at the enchanting Acadian fishing village of Cheticamp where world-famous hooked rugs are handcrafted. It’s a journey with old-world appeal that can be experienced in 3-5 days.
The Sea to Sky Highway
BC highway 99 links Vancouver to beautiful Whistler, North America’s most popular ski resort. A major artery in Canada and a nature lover’s dream, the journey can take 1 to 3 days and spans 81 miles, depending how much you indulge in the outdoor recreation along the way. Built on a steep cliff overlooking Howe Sound, discover sweeping ocean vistas, bald eagles, soaring mountains, and dramatic waterfalls. Start at the Capilano Suspension Bridge and ride the aerial tram down Grouse Grind for truly amazing pictures. Take a break to scuba at Porteau Cove Provincial Park to explore artificial shipwrecks and underwater reefs. Traverse the mines at Britannia Beach to pan for gold and scale the rock walls at Murrin Provincial Park. Stop at Shannon Falls for an easy hike to the cascading waters. Not challenging enough? The next point, Stawamus Chief, is one of the largest granite monoliths in the world before reaching Squamish, the “Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada,” home to 600 mountain biking trails among other active pursuits.
Banff and Jasper National Parks
The crown jewel of Western Canada, begin near Cochrane Historic Site, Alberta's first large-scale ranch near Calgary. The route heads west 84 miles to the border of Banff, continuing 36 miles to Lake Louise. For 144 miles, follow the Icefields Parkway, one of the world's most stunning roads to end in Jasper. You’ll wind through the prairie foothills of Banff among glaciers, elk and bears. Arrive at the birthplace of Canada's national park system, Cave and Basin National Historic Site to explore bubbling hot springs and underground caves. The Sulphur Mountain gondola will take you to an old bathhouse, trails and a summit restaurant. You can hike at Lake Minnewanka, Johnston Canyon and Lake Louise up to the teahouse at Plain of Six Glaciers. Once in Jasper, ride the tram for a breathtaking aerial view of the wildflower fields and Columbia Icefields. Weather-wise, the drive is best June through September to see the most diverse flora and fauna.