When it comes to out-of-the-car-window sightseeing, it doesn’t get much better than Canada. From the majestic Rockies to the lesser-known dinosaur fossil fields of Alberta, natural scenery begs for admiration at every turn, intersection and fork in the road. Canada is a driving enthusiasts’ dream: a destination best explored with two hands on the wheel. So get into gear and settle in for a stunning show on these top scenic drives.
The Icefields Parkway never fails to impress; it’s one of the most breathtaking drives on the planet. Winding through the wild heart of the Banff and Jasper National Parks, it takes in the best of the Rocky Mountains over 232 heart-pounding, picture-perfect kilometres. Soaring snow-capped peaks, ancient glaciers, plummeting lush valleys and glassy blue lakes steal the show until another star arrives: the wildlife. Big horn sheep, deer, black bears and coyotes are frequently spotted from the road, while wolves and grizzlies lurk in the background to add to the intrigue.
A legendary and highly popular route, the Sea to Sky Highway takes in a multiplicity of landscapes on the 2.5-hour journey from seaside Vancouver to mountainous Whistler. Watch the city skyline peter out into beautiful beaches and bays before the scenes transform into pristine lakes, rivers and waterfalls overlooked by towering snow-capped peaks. In summer, the dramatic mountainous inclines to Whistler come green and lush, while in winter, it’s topped with a magical layering of snow. Stop at Brakendale along the way to glimpse the largest gathering of bald eagles in North America.
Both unique and fascinating, the Badlands Trail delves into a very different side of Canada: Alberta’s Dinosaur Valley. A 50km scenic loop from Drumheller, it passes through some of the most extensive dinosaur fossil fields in the world. Watch as the rolling hills give way to steep coulees and elaborate sandstone ridges carved out by tiny streams, while peculiar hoodoo rock formations and pinnacles pop up on the horizon. From the striking lunar-like terrain to the fossil houses and a handful of historic museums, the Badlands Trail screams adventure.
Famous for its stunning windswept vistas, the Cabot Trail offers 298km of seaside drama and lush island interiors as it loops its way through the northern tip of Cape Breton Island, in Nova Scotia. At times, the dense foliage-filled mountainsides literally kiss the ocean. It is possible to do the entire route in a day, but it’s by taking it slow that it can truly be savoured. Discover picturesque villages, fabulously fresh seafood, stunning hiking trails and interesting remnants of Gaelic culture across the island. If you’re lucky, you may even spot whales coming up for air as you admire unobstructed ocean panoramas.
Travel back in time with a drive down this stirring themed highway through Newfoundland, which touts fascinating insight into the Viking era. Pass through wooded valleys, over mountains and alongside stunning seacoast dotted with Norse cultural sites that have stood the test of time. Discover ancient burial grounds and two UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Gros Morne National Park of Canada and the L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site of Canada – both only accessible along the trail. Short detours also bring the chance to witness fjords and falls, sand dunes and beautiful fields of wildflowers along the 489km journey.
Have you experienced any of these scenic drives? What other Canadian road trips do you aspire to tick off?
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