Written by: Mikaela Ferguson; This post is part four of the series Great Canadian Road Trip. Feature photo by Albert Normandin, taken from HelloBC.
Here’s a quick recap of where we’ve been so far. In part one, we left from Toronto and drove north over Lake Superior, seeing three national parks: Bruce Peninsula, Georgian Bay Islands and Pukaskwa National Park.
In part two, we drove across the prairies to the Rocky Mountains, visiting Riding Mountain, Grasslands, Waterton Lakes, Elk Island, Banff, Yoho and Kootenay.
Finally, in part three, we visited Glacier and Mount Revelstoke national parks and then drove north to Kluane National Park in the Yukon, after passing through Jasper and Gwaii Haanas. We then drove south over two days to reach Vancouver.
I mentioned in part three that if you don’t have the time or funds to go to Yukon, you can keep south (see map below) and drive directly to Vancouver (F) after Mount Revelstoke National Park (D). This drive on its own is beautiful (my parents are doing it this summer). I’d still recommend taking a little extra time to visit Jasper National Park (B) because the park is so beautiful and a Canadian classic.
This drive takes you through the Okanagan Valley. The soil in the valley is so fertile that an abundance of fruit and veggies is grown there (that includes grapes, so if you like wine, the Okanagan Valley is not to be missed). The valley is dry and sunny with picturesque lakes and rolling hills in view. Make a stop in Kelowna (E) where there are wine festivals and other fun events in the summer if that’s something you’re interested in.
Ah Vancouver. This is one of my favourite cities in the world. I’m realizing now that I have too many recommendations in the city for this post, so I’ll highlight a few and refer you to another post solely focused on Vancouver. First, you’ll want to visit Stanley Park.
Situated on a peninsula between downtown and North Van, Stanley Park is like a little taste of rainforest in the middle of the city. You can walk around the peninsula via the Sea Wall to get great ocean views.
Another thing to do is check out Capilano or Lynn Valley suspension bridges. You can walk through the rainforest and over mountain streams.
Or, leave Vancouver and drive 25 km north to catch a ferry to Bowen Island.
After spending some time in Vancouver, get back in the car for the road trip to continue to Vancouver Island.
Pacific Rim National Park (B) is a three hour drive from Nanaimo with options for car camping at Long Beach (C) or you can take a boat to a backcountry campsite on one of the seven Broken Group Islands. The park has a lot of short hikes (less than 3 km) that take you through the rainforest or to the beach, but the real gem is the water. There are places to rent equipment for surfing and kayaking, both of which are great activities in this area. The water is cold, but with a wet suit it is a fun experience!
Alternatively, Tofino (D) is quick drive from Long Beach (C) and offers a similar environment, but also has quaint shops, restaurants and B&Bs. It’s popping with surfer-dudes and has a lively atmosphere.
Finally, if you’re interested in visiting the capital of British Columbia, you end your time on Vancouver Island by passing through Nanaimo (A) and heading to Victoria (E). I don’t know much about Victoria, but I hear it’s a pretty city with things to do. However, I’d rather dedicate those days to extending my time in other areas of the trip (specifically Gwaii Haanas and Kluane national parks), so I don’t think I’d personally stop there.
At this point, take the ferry back to Vancouver and this leg of the road trip is done! What you do next depends on where you come from and where you’re going. If you drove your own vehicle out from Toronto, you could drive back through the states. If you’ve flown into Canada from south or overseas and rented a vehicle, this would be a good place to catch a flight home.
But what about the east of Canada? When I wrote part 1, I had us start in Toronto (because that’s the most central location) and went west, as this could be a stand alone road trip. But it wouldn’t be the Great Canadian Road Trip if we neglected the east! In my next post I’ll start in Toronto and head east, which could also be a stand alone road trip. If you’re super keen and looking to do ALL of Canada, you can combine the two. This is all for another post though. Stay tuned for more!
If you’ve done a trip across Canada and have ideas/insights/suggestions, leave a comment! I’m always updating my resources and love hearing about other people’s trips!