Having travelled to over 100 countries, Robin Esrock has been called the “King of Road Trips.” As he drives across Canada in a Ford Escape promoting his bestselling book – The Great Canadian Bucket List – Robin picks the Top 8 Drives to Do in Canada before you die. He penned this post for the Ford Blog.
1. Lake Superior’s North Shore
Lake Superior is infamously choppy and treacherous, but her shoreline certainly offers up some of the smoothest drives in the country. The curving black top (blessed with ample passing lanes) cuts through boreal forest and Canadian Shield as it traces the North Shore of the greatest of all the Great Lakes, and the largest freshwater protected area in the world. On my own treks from Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie, I made sure to stop and check out sites like the Ouimet Canyons, Wawa’s Goose and Old Woman Bay. Cutting a trail through Ontario’s north, it’s not hard to feel the same adventurous spirit that fur traders and explorers felt long ago.
I had a rare day off during my national speaking tour, a chance to stretch my legs outside the car. But I happened to be in Banff and the weather was clear, so I did what any sane driver would: I jumped back into the Escape to explore the Icefields Parkway. Highway 93, connecting Banff and Jasper National Parks, is hands-down the world’s most spectacular drive. Postcard views of the snowcapped Rockies await each bend, with must-see stops like Peyto Lake and the Columbia Icefield.
Epic and challenging, the TLH is the only road that crosses Canada’s vast, eastern mainland. Its remoteness calls out to drivers with capable vehicles seeking old world challenges. Narrow with soft shoulders, the 1,185-kilometre highway gets dusty in the sun, sticky in the rain, with amenities few and far between. Two spare tires are highly recommended, and drivers are loaned satellite phones by the government. Some road trips are pretty, others are fun; the TLH is an adventure.
This road trip runs from the west coast of Newfoundland to southern Labrador, passing two of Canada’s best UNESCO World Heritage Sites along the way. Stunning views, hikes and exhibits at Gros Morne National Park and L’Anse aux Meadows showcase the history and beauty of the area, where Vikings lived 500 years before Columbus. Together with the icebergs floating down the coast, there’s so much eye candy it can be a challenge keeping your eyes on the road.
With its meandering, empty highways, New Brunswick makes a great road trip. The region is divided into the Fundy Coastal Drive, the Acadian Coastal Drive, the Appalachian Range Route, and my favourite, the River Valley Scenic Drive. Following the wide Saint John River for some 400 km, expect picturesque fields, welcoming villages, and a hard time staying within the speed limit. Attractions along the way include the historic old town of Fredericton, and the world’s longest covered bridge in Hartland.
As you drive through farmland into Manitoba’s underrated highlands, enjoy that big prairie sky, along with some quirky stops along the way. The Chapman Museum looks at the region’s pioneering history, the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre displays the remains of a huge marine lizard discovered in the area, or just enjoy the beauty of the International Peace Gardens. The drive ends at Spruce Woods, where you can watch for wildlife, or venture out into the meadows and sand dunes.
Another Bucket List drive featured in my book, the Cabot Trail loops the northern shoreline of Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island. Striking highland scenery, jaw-dropping ocean views, and an eclectic mix of Acadian and Scottish culture await. Cape Breton Highlands National Park and the Cabot Trail continue to capture the imagination of hikers, campers, and drivers.
8. Dempster Highway, Yukon/Northwest Territories
Experience the tundra, mountains, and sheer wilderness on Canada’s first all-weather highway to cross the Arctic Circle. The Dempster Highway stretches 671 km from Dawson City, Yukon to Inuvik, the capital of the Northwest Territories. There’s a bounty of views and wildlife, and if you’re driving in the summer months, the midnight sun helps you see it all no matter what time of day it is.
Have some favourite drives of your own? Share them with us.
Robin drove from Vancouver to Ottawa for The Great Canadian Bucket List Fall Speaking Tour, presented by Ford Canada.
The Great Canadian Bucket List: One-of-a-Kind Travel Experiences is now available on bookshelves nationwide.