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Five bucket list road trips in Canada to try before summer is over.

Miriam Porter August 18, 2017
View of the Inner Harbour with B.C. Parliament lit up in the background.
With warm summery weather still shining down upon us it’s not to late to pack up the car with your friends or family, grab a picnic basket full of goodies, your camera, GPS, and of course your desire to explore all the wonderful driving routes of the Great White North. From the Lake of Bays in Ontario to The Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia, there is a road trip adventure for everyone. Drive safely and enjoy the tail end of summer.

Ontario – Lake of Bays.

Muskoka is always a hot summer destination in Ontario and a drive along the Lake of Bays makes for an excellent road trip up north. You can drive an 80 km loop right around the lake and check out adorable villages such as Dorset, Dwight, and Baysville. The Lake of Bays is known for it’s stunning beauty in all seasons; in fact Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven were inspired by the landscapes. There are over 90 murals in a distinctive outdoor gallery around the lake in Huntsville. August and into autumn is a great time to check out local artists or tour a studio. There are many hidden gems in the Lake of Bays including local farmers markets, museums, and wildlife watching. You can continue on towards Bracebridge and Gravenhurst should you want to keep going, or drive to famous Algonquin Provincial Park about an hour away on highway 60.

Dock at Lake of Bays, Ontario.

Alberta – Kananaskis Trail.

Start in Calgary and head west via The Trans Canada Highway 1 towards Kanaksis Village for about an hour. Don’t expect cell phone coverage and be prepared with an old school paper map and a full tank of gas. This trail is known as a wild drive deep within forest territory and the glorious smell of pine is strong. The adorable Kanaksis Village is a great resting spot with spectacular views of the Canadian Rockies. There are hiking and biking trails and kayaking along the lake. The Kananaskis Trail continues towards Spray Valley Provincial Park for another hour. Set up camp for the night or continue driving on highway 742 towards Canmore surrounded by the glorious Rocky Mountains. Turquoise blue lakes and waterfalls are at your doorstep in Canmore and you may even meet a mule deer grazing or a golden eagle flying overhead.

Calgary Zoo in Alberta.

New Brunswick – Acadian Coastal Drive.

If you have always wanted to explore New Brunswick, a drive along the dazzling Acadian Coast is the answer to your maritime road trip prayers. If you don’t live in New Brunswick you can fly into Moncton or Fredericton and make your way to Miscou Island, it’s three and a half hours from Moncton. This coastal island has stunning beaches, great hiking trails, and the historic lighthouse at the tip. It’s about a two and a half hour drive to Charlo and much of the route is along the coast. You will pass the Acadian forest and the Appalachian Mountain Range with glorious evergreens. Or head two and a half hours in the opposite direction and visit Kouchibouguac National Park with salt marshes and warm ocean beaches. Top off your trip with midnight stargazing, due to the Dark Sky Preserve the universe glows without the glare from artificial light.

Acadian Fall Trail in New Brunswick with beautiful orange foliage.

British Columbia – Pacific Marine Circle.

If it’s all about the road less traveled then an adventure along the Pacific Marine Circle on Vancouver Island is waiting.  You can start in the capital city of Victoria and drive to Sooke in under an hour via Highway 1 north and then west along Highway 14. Sooke is an authentic west coast destination complete with surfing, hiking, and rugged coastlines. Stay in town for the night or keep driving towards Port Renfrew, Lake Cowichan, and Duncan.  Duncan is located in the southeastern corner of Vancouver Island along scenic back roads with more than 80 First Nations carvings scattered throughout town. This trip will take you in a circle so from Duncan you will drive to South Cowichan and then back towards Victoria. If you have time take a refreshing dip in Cowichan River Provincial Park before heading home. Beware of steep drop-offs and overhanging bluffs when driving this route.

View of the Inner Harbour with B.C. Parliament lit up in the background.

Nova Scotia – The Cabot Trail.

Not only is The Cabot Trail one of the most scenic drives in Canada, it’s one of the most stunning drives in the world and definitely bucket list worthy. Whether it’s the lighthouses, music, or Indigenous influences – you are in for a unique adventure. The trail makes a 297 km loop around the island so if you drive in the clockwise direction you will be on the inside lane following the western and eastern coastlines. You will eventually pass through Cape Breton Highlands National Park, known for the best hiking in the region.  Be on the lookout for wild moose, black bears, and bald eagles.  This route is not for the faint of heart as the trail clings to steep ocean side cliffs. If you start from Baddeck driving along the Trans Canada Highway allow eight hours including several scenic stops. If you enjoy whale watching, Capt Mark’s Whale & Sea Cruise provides some of the best spots on the Cabot Trail.  Since the rise in popularity of the documentary Blackfish, more people are opting for humane encounters with whales and Nova Scotia is definitely the place to be for viewing these spectacular creatures in their natural environment.

Tourists enjoy view of Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia.