Everyone loves a road trip, right? And why wouldn’t you? It’s one of the best ways to see the real bits of a country (as well as getting in all the touristy stuff) – not to mention travelling in whatever comfort and style you want.
Canada and Alaska are two of the best destinations to see on a self-drive thanks to its jaw-dropping scenery, exciting wildlife and all-round picture perfect landscape. Because really, a tour bus isn’t going to stop a billion times for photo ops, is it? We also understand that it can sometimes be a bit tricky to figure out what the best itineraries and routes are, which is why we’ve made this handy guide!
In terms of when to go, Canada & Alaska Specialist Holidays said that Spring and Autumn are some of the best times to jump in your car and travel through Canada and Alaska. In Spring, you’ll experience the wilderness slowly waking and defrosting from the winter – making it the perfect opportunity to start seeing some of the wildlife to come out of hibernation. In Autumn, you’ll get to drive through the countries as the leaves change from green to yellow or red – a sight to behold!
So here are six itineraries with cool places to visit along the way that you can drive yourself! Just rent a cute lil’ van (or a luxury BMW depending on how you want to travel) and go!
Discover Whistler & the Rockies (Vancouver – Whistler – Sun Peaks – Jasper – Banff – Calgary)
Start this trip in bustling Vancouver, where you can drive on up to Whistler, for some of the best mountains in the world. The Sea-to-Sky Highway is one of the most scenic drives you will ever do. Along the way, you could stop in Squamish or carry on to Whistler for some epic adventures. Think hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, river rafting, ziplining! If adventure isn’t your thing, Whistler can also offer you the ultimate in serenity and relaxation.
Head through more mountains as you drive towards Sun Peaks, a charming ski town, and then make your way to the majestic Rockies. The Icefields Parkway, which connects Jasper to Banff, is a Canadian icon in itself; with access to the magnificent Jasper National Park, the Athabasca Glacier, the Glacier Skywalk Experience and many more beautiful landscapes. En route to Banff, visit the famous Lake Louise where you can spend the day kayaking in the lake or having a tea party at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Next, head to the unforgettable Banff National Park, take a dip in the hot springs, go up the Banff Gondola and even take a helicopter ride. Your road trip ends in Calgary, a foodie-haven with impressive museums, architecture and hipster vibes. If you time it right, you can even catch the unmissable Calgary Stampede!
Sunshine Coast Circle (Vancouver – Sunshine Coast – Quadra Island – Tofino – Victoria – Vancouver)
Starting again in Vancouver, head towards the Sunshine Coast (that’s right, it’s not only Australia that has one). This stretch of paradise is like island living, but driving means you can explore as much as you want. As a treat, after catching a quick ferry, spend a night on Quadra Island, hidden along the Inside Passage seaway between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia, Canada.
After some island living, head to the West Coast of Vancouver Island to Tofino, a small town best known for its wild natural scenery, wild storms and wild animals. After some whale watching and surfing, head further south to the vibrant city of Victoria, capital of British Columbia, a stop with delicious food, a fun night life, quirky neighbourhoods and home to the famous Butchart Gardens.
Eastern Canada Highlights (Toronto – Ottawa – Mont Tremblant – Quebec City – Montreal – Kingston – Toronto)
No, you don’t have to start in Vancouver again. This time, head to the dynamic metropolis of Toronto! Make sure you see the iconic CN Tower and visit the St.Lawrence Market before driving on up to Canada’s capital, the riverside city of Ottawa. Here, entertain yourself with a ton of museums (plus Parliament Hill) before driving further north past Mont Tremblant to Québec City – where the majority of people speak French and where you will find the best Poutine of your life.
After sampling the French-Canadian way of life, drive down to Montreal, the largest city in Canada’s Québec province to take a squiz at one of the most aesthetic cities around. Montreal offers the perfect mix of old and new, and we recommend making the short hike up Mont Royal to take in the scenic views over the city at sunset. Then, make a quick stop at the lakeside city of Kingston, where you can take a cruise to see the 1000 islands, before rounding up your road trip back in Toronto.
Celtic Trail (Halifax – Baddeck – Halifax)
Start this Celtic road trip in Halifax, a city with more pubs and clubs than almost anywhere else in Canada. Fun fact: the city’s most famous brewmaster was the mayor three times. This city is also the capital of the province of Nova Scotia, Canada, and, in addition to having a huge craft brewing culture, has a thriving arts, theater and culinary scene guaranteed to knock your socks off.
From Halifax, you can also do short day trips to see Peggy’s Cove and the colourful city of Lunenburg. Take a scenic three hour drive to the small, vibrant village of Baddeck and step back in time before heading back to the city.
Iceberg Alley Newfoundland (St John’s – Trinity – Twillingate – Norris Point – Deer Lake)
Starting in St John’s, this trip to one of the lesser-visited areas of Canada is made suuuuuper easy by driving. After an obligatory visit to the colourful row houses in downtown St Johns, drive from one tip to another, ending up in the small town of Trinity before driving through Twillingate, a teenie tiny town on the Twillingate Islands in Notre Dame Bay before driving straight across the province of Newfoundland and Labrador to Norris Point.
This coastal spot, just off the Viking Trail, is perfect for some adventure activities before finishing up at the picturesque Deer Lake.
Denali Adventure (Anchorage – Talkeetna – Denali – Anchorage)
This trip is best booked between mid-May to the start of September, due to National Park closures. Start this Alaskan road trip in Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage. Make sure you check out some traditional crafts at the Alaska Native Heritage Centre before heading to the barely-populated Talkeetna, where you can partake in flight seeing, river and zipline tours as well as fishing – the town is home to the convergence of three major glacial rivers. Talkeetna was also home to a cat, Stubbs, who was the mayor from July 1997 until his death last year.
Next, visit Denali, the tallest land-based mountain on Earth, for some more outdoor, adrenalin pinching activities in the accompanying National Park where you’ll have access to an abundance of scenic wilderness, wildlife and Instagram worthy photos of Mt Mckinley before a gorgeous drive back down to Anchorage. You’re welcome.
For more information on self-drives through Canada and Alaska, contact Canada & Alaska Specialist Holidays on 1300 794 959 or firstname.lastname@example.org.