Why Take A Road Trip Across Canada

Why Take A Road Trip Across Canada

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I love road trips. Maybe it’s part of being Canadian and our collective unconscious, or perhaps it’s just me. To me, nothing says travel and summer as going on a road trip across Canada. I grew up on road trips, driving around Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. I’ve road-tripped out east in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. In 2013 I drove by myself from Calgary to Toronto. I drove across four provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario) for a distance of about 3400 km or 2112 miles.

Here are some reasons why you should take a road trip across Canada, or part of it. I recommend going in the summer or early fall.

Rocky red sand beach in Prince Edward Island.
I made a detour while driving in Prince Edward Island to admire the red sand at the beach. It’s even redder in person.

Why Road Trip Across Canada? You Decide

When you fly or take the train, there’s usually only one route you take. Sure, you might have to make an emergency landing somewhere (like if there’s a medical issue), but mostly you’re getting from point A to point B. It’s okay, but it’s also a bit boring. Often travel is more about the journey than the destination, and no more is this more apparent than with road trips. You can change your route, spend more time in one place, and less time elsewhere. When you’re on a plane or train, you don’t get to choose the route you take or the pace at which you can travel. When you’re on a road trip, you have more freedom and more choice.

Some of my best road trip memories came from taking detours and other routes. Whether it’s seeing the Icefield Parkway in Alberta or detouring to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan (yes that’s the town’s name) instead of the usual route I take when visiting my family in Saskatchewan, the detours are what make memories, and road trips special.

Rocky Mountains on the Icefield Parkway Drive in Alberta
The Icefield Parkway in the Alberta Rockies. The drive, which goes from Banff to Jasper (and vice versa) is one of the most scenic drives in Canada.

You See More

Something that I love about road trips is stopping at cheesy tourist attractions. If it says the “world’s biggest” or “world’s smallest” then I’m there. People miss seeing these quirky attractions, small towns, and beautiful landscapes when they fly. Even taking the train, while you might see some (not all) of these sites out the window, you can’t get out and see them up close.

One reason why I went on my big road trip in 2013 was to see more of my own country. I’d never been to Manitoba or Ontario (well aside from Toronto) before that point. Granted I didn’t spend much time in Manitoba and only spent one night in Winnipeg, but it seemed like an underrated city and one I’d like to visit again. In Ontario, I was awestruck on the drive along Lake Superior (from Wawa Ontario to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario). Lake Superior is so big (the biggest of The Great Lakes) that it felt like driving along the ocean.

An Inukshuk at Lake Superior in Ontario. Driving along Lake Superior (the largest of the five Great Lakes) feels like driving by the ocean.

You Can Do More

It’s great to see landscapes and new places up close from a car window, instead of seeing it as a quilt patch from the sky. Road trips are also great because you can stop and explore what you want when you want to. You might be limited by time and by your budget, but you can usually do a lot more on a road trip than you can with any other type of travel.

When I was on my epic road trip, I made sure to stop at The Hoito in Thunder Bay, Ontario for Finnish pancakes (so yummy). I was able to spend an hour at The Forks in Winnipeg, and I could stop at Wolseley, Saskatchewan to stretch and see an opera house. It might take longer to get there, but all those stops and detours are what make the journey.

The Oodena Celebration Circle at The Forks in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The Oodena Celebration Circle at The Forks in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I only had a short time in Winnipeg, but I’m glad I was able to walk around The Forks and see a bit of the city.

With a road trip it’s about the journey, and not just about the final destination. You’re not waiting for luggage or waiting in an airport or train terminal. You’re in transit and continuously seeing something new. Whether you take a big road trip or a small local road trip, and whether you travel alone or with others a road trip is a perfect way to see Canada.

Tips for Your Road Trip

Canada is a big country and depending on where you are there could be a considerable distance between towns and rest stops/gas stations. Check Google Maps or Travel Math to see the distance from one town to another. Travel Math can also help you calculate how much your road trip will cost. Make sure your gas tank is at least half full. Carry a jerry can of gas if you are driving somewhere sparsely populated. If you’re doing a multiday road trip be sure to book some accommodation to get a good night’s sleep. You don’t want to drive tired.

Pack a little cooler with healthy snacks (like fruit, and veggies and hummus), water, and bring some nuts, granola/trail mix. Bring some music to sing along to as well. On my solo road trip I also enjoyed listening to podcasts to keep myself entertained.

Things To Know
Make sure to get a vehicle inspection before taking a road trip. Have an emergency kit, a spare tire and jack in your vehicle. Be sure to know how to change a tire or get an automobile membership like CAA if you don’t. You may have roadside assistance with your credit card company, so call before your trip and find out. If renting a car, check to see if the rental company offers any roadside assistance. If driving in winter (or even in the fall or spring depending on weather conditions) you may need winter tires. Driving in the mountains may require you to have tire chains in winter driving conditions.
If you are starting to feel tired stop at the nearest town and get a hotel for the night. Don’t push yourself to drive long hours if you are tired as this can be dangerous (for yourself and others on the road). Be safe and have fun.

What places would you visit on a road trip in Canada?

11 thoughts on “Why Take A Road Trip Across Canada”

  1. I love road trips, especially in Canada. You go can where you want and make as many or as few stops as you need.I just got back from a road trip to and from Lytton, BC and was able to stop to jump in a lake, hime to a waterfall and explore old train tunnels.

  2. I love road trips. They give you the freedom, as you mentioned, to see as much or as little you want.
    I am hoping to go on a long road trip next summer in either Canada or both Canada and the USA. Normally I plan a trip to Europe but after my last visit to Paris I felt as though I needed some one on one time with vast landscapes and nature.

    Have you been to the Okanagan?

  3. I have extended family in Kelowna that I visited a couple years ago, but I would definitely love to go back and spend more time in the Okanagan. A road trip in Canada and the US sounds like the perfect way to spend some time next summer.

  4. One of the more interesting area for roadtripping in Canada in my humble opinion is in teh Yukon. Big spaces, wildlife, mountains… such a great place to explore yet few people do.

  5. The Yukon looks like an amazing road trip destination, and it seems pretty underrated on the Canadian travel scene. Thanks for the comment Leigh.

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