Jordan, Ont., to Fort Erie, Ont.
Start in Jordan, about 100 kilometres west of Toronto, but skip the overcrowded QEW in favour of the back roads through wine and farm country along Highway 8. Stop at farmers’ markets, hike at Ball’s Falls Conservation Area or go horseback riding at Short Hills Provincial Park. Take a break at the Welland Canal Museum and check out the elevated observation deck in St. Catharines to watch ships from around the world navigate through Lock 3 on their way through the St. Lawrence Seaway. Then take Highway 55 to the old town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, where you can drive on the Niagara Parkway, a gorgeous road that hugs the Niagara River, through Niagara Falls to Fort Erie, for 55 km. Along this famous stretch you’ll pass historical sites such as Fort George, the British army headquarters in the War of 1812, and the Laura Secord Homestead, where you can learn more about the Canadian icon who helped prevent an American attack during the war. Adventurers can take jetboat rides along the fast-flowing Niagara River and even take a cruise at the foot of the falls.
Banff, Alta., to Jasper, Alta.
One of the most spectacular and unforgettable mountain drives is in Alberta, from Banff to Jasper. The almost 290-km stretch is filled with postcard views of the Canadian Rockies, pine forests, pristine wilderness and wild animals basking in their natural habitat. Start in Banff and take Highway 1A, the Bow Valley Parkway, to the quaint village of Lake Louise. Then take the world-renowned Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) to Jasper National Park. This road winds along the Continental Divide and is surrounded by breathtaking hiking trails, emerald lakes, cascading waterfalls, hot springs and ancient glaciers. Must-see places to stop for a break include Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park and, for thrill seekers, the glass-bottomed Glacier Skywalk tour, which will get the blood flowing fast. Be warned: There’s no cellphone service for most of this drive.
North Cape Coastal Drive, PEI
Even though Prince Edward Island is Canada’s smallest province, it’s filled with fantastic driving routes, such as the North Cape Coastal Drive. The 350-km route winds through beautiful seaside fishing villages, charming inlets and spectacular red, sandy beaches. Seafood lovers can savour delicacies such as lobster, oysters, mussels and snow crabs at the peak of freshness. Cross into PEI from New Brunswick via the Confederation Bridge – that’s a better option than taking the ferry or flying into Charlottetown. At almost 13 kilometres, it’s the world’s longest bridge over icy waters. Then, head to the northwest tip of the province via Route 2 to North Cape. It’s home to the longest natural rock reef where the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Northumberland Strait meet – and the views are mesmerizing. Other must-see spots include the Acadian Museum in Miscouche and the Canadian Potato Museum in O’Leary (look for the giant spud at the entrance). If you have time, make a pit stop to visit Lucy Maud Montgomery’s famous redhead at the Anne of Green Gables Museum in Kensington, in the central part of the island.
Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., to Thunder Bay
Most people have probably never explored Northern Ontario, but it’s well worth the drive. The route from Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay follows the rugged shoreline of Lake Superior, with its spectacular views, winding back roads through farms and charming little towns (even the highways have little traffic and congestion). It’s not complicated, either – just follow Highway 17 and be sure to visit the numerous provincial parks along the route. Go for a quick dip off the sandy beaches at Pancake Bay, hike or paddle in Pukaskwa National Park near Marathon or tour Amethyst Mine Panorama – the largest amethyst mine in North America – and pick up a few precious gems handcrafted into jewellery. (It’s about 60 km east of Thunder Bay.) The drive is roughly 700 km total, and makes for a great motorcycle ride, too.
Victoria to Port Hardy, B.C.
Vancouver Island is another worthy road trip, especially the coastal drive from Victoria to Port Hardy. From Victoria, take Highway 1 – it merges to become Highway 19 – and follow it to Port Hardy. Non-stop, it’s an almost six-hour drive – about 500 km – but take your time and explore the sites along the way. Visit Nanaimo, home of the famous three-layered dessert bars, and the family-owned Old Country Market in Coombs. Once a roadside fruit stand, it has morphed into shops and restaurants and has gained fame for its live goats roaming on the roof. Telegraph Cove, an iconic community known for its ecotourism and vibrant, multicoloured homes that cling to the rocky shoreline, is also a worthy stop. From there you can head out on wilderness tours – hop on a whale-watching cruise, do a grizzly-bear safari by boat or try fishing, kayaking or hiking.
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