- British Columbia and Alberta: Vancouver Island to the Canadian Rockies
- Alberta through the prairies (Saskatchewan & Manitoba)
- Traversing Ontario and Quebec
- The Atlantic provinces: New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island (PEI)
- The Atlantic provinces: Nova Scotia and Newfoundland
CANADA IS THE BIGGEST COUNTRY in the Americas, and second only to Russia as the biggest country in the world. Across our vast spaces are epic travel possibilities; you can put together the best trip of your life here. This will be even more the case in 2017 with the opening of Great Trail, a nearly 13,000-mile car-free highway. The Great Trail will give hikers, skiers, cyclists, and equestrian riders the ability to traverse Canada on the world’s longest network of recreational trails.
For those wanting to plan major trips across Canada, the following guide breaks down the full coast-to-coast experience into different sections. It took us 80 days and some 18,000 kms (just over 11,000 miles) to drive from southeastern BC to North America’s easternmost point in Newfoundland, and back. We weren’t in a hurry, and took lots of side trips and detours, which is how I recommend doing any road trip in Canada.
To take full advantage of this guide, install the travelstoke app on your mobile device and connect with locals, find spots, and create your own experiences along the way.
Vancouver Island to the Canadian Rockies
You could spend several weeks alone on Vancouver Island exploring cities like Victoria and Nanaimo, surfing or beach-combing in Tofino, and hiking and biking on any number of forested trails and mountains. There’s only one road to Tofino unfortunately so from Victoria you have to go through Nanaimo, which is where you’ll backtrack to take the ferry from to Horseshoe Bay. If you want to spend a bit of extra time there are some cool spots just north of Nanaimo, like Parksville and the Comox Valley.
Once you’re on the island, here are some highlights:
Just did this hike to Christie Falls in Ladysmith, south of Nanaimo. You have to walk down a logging road for a while before you get to the trailhead. This set of falls is the first one you come across, then you cross the creek on a log with roof shingles nailed to it. The hike then keeps elevating, at some parts quite steep, but it keeps alongside other falls. At the top you’re surrounded by water running down the hills, very beautiful. #hiking #waterfalls
Nanoose Bay, Canada
Quiet, beautiful place for easy hikes, nice views, sheltered waters, and pretty okay sunsets.
Strathcona Provincial Park
Comox-Strathcona D, Canada
Strathcona is an absolute gem, with epic multi-day hikes and paddle days. This photo in particular was taken on the flower ridge trail; a pretty big day trip starting near the Ralph River campground and either ending in alpine or continuing on for a multi-day experience to a ice field and contious loop bringing you back to a fairly close trail head. The trail is mostly steep, but enjoyable as there are few switchbacks. Be sure to bring trekking poles for the way down (we didn’t… Oops) #hiking #camping
Getting back to the mainland from Vancouver Island
I recommend leaving the island from Nanaimo’s Departure Bay and taking the ferry to Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver. If you’re up for a gorgeous drive on the Sea-to-Sky Highway scoot up to to Whistler and Squamish for more outdoor adventure, quality stays, and excellent food and drink.
There are hikes and biking options for all levels, world-class skiing/snowboarding in the winter, and any other number of outdoor activities like kayaking, windsurfing, and rock climbing.
Or, don’t do any of those things and just relax in spas, restaurants, and shops.
Brandywine meadows and peak in the early fall is an amazing place to be as all the plant life changes colors. In the past the meadows were swampy and hard to hike through but with the new boardwalks it is a lot more accessible. #hiking #camping
Great Cesar’s and nice brunch selection! Bacon straw on the drink a nice bonus. #brunch #whistler
Best camping spot in Whistler! Great fishing too, we had to pull our lines before catching too many Rainbows and Cutthroats #Cheakamus #BC
Take your time here. Check out the different neighbourhoods like Kitsilano, Commercial Drive, Mt. Pleasant, and downtown. Stroll around Stanley Park and the seawall. Go watch some live music. And, of course, eat and drink!
A lovely walk around Stanley Park. You’ll pass by beaches, go under the Lions Gate Bridge, and you may even see a sea lion in the water! You can walk, but it’s more fun (and faster) to bike. #activekids
Killer sweet and savory waffles at this neighborhood shop in the east village. My favorite is the Abba with bacon, apple, brie and avocado. #coffee #waffles
Definitely one of the best live music venues in Vancouver. Bouncy rubberized dance floor, forever sticky. U2 played their first Vancouver show here in 1981. #livemusic #musicvenue
If you want to be like EVERYONE you’ll head toward the Rocky Mountains via the Trans-Canada Highway (TCH). It’s the most direct, however you’d miss out on a spectacular region of the province called the Kootenays.
As an alternative and the less-traveled road, branch off the TCH at Hope, BC and take the Crowsnest Highway (#3). You’ll go through Manning Provincial Park, resort-like Osoyoos, and up, down, and around mountains. Do not miss Nelson, a storybook mountain town of epic proportions.
This #park just below the hospital in Nelson gives a really accessible and awesome #view over the town and east down Kootenay Lake toward the Big Orange Bridge. In the summer the flower gardens are stunning. There’s also a #playground and a large wading pool for the kiddies. #flowers #greenspace #viewpoint
PRO TIP: Deadwood Junction in historic Greenwood is an excellent stop to stretch and get some refreshments. Their cinnamon buns are out of this world.
No trip to/from Nelson-Vancouver would be complete without a stop at this great little cafe/bakery in the tiny town of Greenwood. Their cinnamon buns are epic. #coffee
Into the Rockies
When you’re done with Nelson and area, head up the Slocan Valley and into Nakusp where you can find several options for hot springs, both wild and developed. Feel free to disrobe in the wild ones, no one cares.
St. Leon natural hot springs
You’ll have to ask a local how to get to these wild #hotsprings tucked away in the forest. They’re down a logging road then, depending if there’s snow or not, a long or short #hike in.
You’ll cross a lake on a free ferry and make your way to Revelstoke, another great outdoorsy town with a ski resort second only to Whistler. Golden is next before you enter Yoho National Park and Banff National Park.
Spend as much time as you can manage admiring the unbelievably coloured turquoise lakes and rivers, the tall jagged peaks, and the wildlife before continuing through to Calgary.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
Such a great mountain to ski with some of the best lift accessed terrain in North America. Cheers! #snow
Home of the gatorade factory! Kidding. Glacial silt gives the water this color. A bit past lake louise, this viewpoint is just past the car park. Its a beauty.
Improvement District No. 9, Canada
New to climbing? The Via Ferrata route on Mount Norquay, near Banff, is where I got my first taste in 2014. Stunning views along the way and at the top. Great for beginner climbers, first timers, and occasional climbers. #climbing #banff