Five Great Canadian Road Trips to Plan for When This is all Over
Once the freedom to travel returns, consider prioritizing this beautiful country of ours
Back in early March, when we had no idea how dramatically the world was about to change, my biggest stressor was trying to plan a Vancouver Island getaway for this past summer and finding everything was booked solid.
How time changes perspective.
Today, as we hunker down at home and wait for this pandemic to blow over, daydreaming about what to do with all this pent-up wanderlust is helping me get through the longer days.
But interestingly, it hasn’t once occurred to me that leaving Canada needs to be a part of those plans. I’ve said it many times, and it’s more important now than ever: there is an astonishing of beauty and culture to explore in this country. Plus, our tourism industry is hurting right now and could use a helping hand from us once travel restrictions ease and it’s safe to move about again. If you’ve ever considered curbing that reflex to jump on an overseas flight every time you take a vacation, now is the time to do it.
My bucket list of the places in Canada I still want to see is ridiculously long, so narrowing it down to five is a chore. Here’s what I’ve come up with, but don’t let this list stifle your creativity. A little imagination and ability with Google will net dozens more ideas to fit any taste and budget.
Banff and Jasper National Parks.
I rarely go back to places I’ve already visited, but I’m pining to return to Banff and Jasper because our drive through the area was a peak-season whirlwind when my daughter and I were there three summers ago. There might be a brief respite as restrictions lift when domestic travel is possible but international travel hasn’t yet picked up. If that happens, I’ll prioritize getting back to Alberta and taking our time hiking through mountain trails, driving the Icefields Parkway, and touring the Athabasca Glacier, which is a unique experience that we missed on our first go-around.
Prince Edward Island.
I’ve had this trip mapped out in my head for a few years: read Anne of Green Gables with my daughter, then take her to see this source of classic Canadian literature for herself. I decided to wait until Parks Canada completes its restoration work on Province House National Historic Site so that we can see and learn together about the birthplace of Canada’s confederation. That work is scheduled to be finished by 2022, at which point we’ll make a beeline for picturesque lighthouses, red sand beaches, and Cows ice cream.
Yukon’s Dempster Highway.
I’ve been pining to take this drive for a long time, for a few reasons. On a personal note, there’s only one ocean left on Earth that I haven’t seen with my own eyes, and that’s the Arctic Ocean. With the permanent, year-round extension road to Tuktoyaktuk open as of 2017, it’s now possible to reach it without getting on a plane. On top of that, 2020 has taught us that listening and understanding are keys to embracing diversity, and there’s no better way to learn about Indigenous peoples than to visit welcoming communities with an open mind and heart. These are values that I hope to demonstrate to my daughter through my own actions while she’s still young. (A secondary point: the scenery is also thoroughly breathtaking.)
Why? Mostly because I’ve never been, not even for a drive-through. Canada’s flattest and hardest-to-spell province is often accused of being a boring expanse of wheat fields, but I don’t buy it, and the only way to debunk this is to get out there and find out for myself. Seeing a Roughriders game in Regina and finding what’s left of the sets from Corner Gas in the village of Rouleau are good enough reasons to make the trip on their own, and I’ll figure out the rest once I’m there. Sometimes, the best adventures come from the least-laid plans.
Mingan Archipelago on Quebec’s Côte-Nord.
I’ve taken a few roads trips for which I could be considered certifiable, and this had the potential to be one of them: two summers ago, I packed my daughter and myself up into a pick-up and a tiny trailer and drove us 12 hours northeast of Quebec City to visit the Mingan Archipelago on Quebec’s Côte-Nord. I’m happy to report that if you speak even passable French, Quebec offers easy-going and picturesque driving from end to end, and that trip across Route 138 is one of Canada’s best-kept secrets. From whale and dolphin sightings to the islands’ otherworldly landscapes and ducking to dodge swooping pelicans on Île aux Perroquets, not only would I take this journey again in a heartbeat, but also I can see myself picking up and spending an entire summer there someday.