If you had months, you could hop in your car and explore Canada from coast to coast. Most of us, however, don't have that kind of time. But it's safe to say that wherever you are living in Canada, a short road trip is a great way to explore the beauty and diversity of our country.
A good way to get started when you are planning your road trip is to check out road map publisher Rand McNally's site at www.randmcnally.com. On the home page, you'll find a section called, "Plan a Road Trip." If you click on the "Explore America" subheading, and then on "Canada" when the map of North America comes up, you are on your way to planning a Canadian road trip. The site breaks up the trips by province. For example, clicking on British Columbia gives you a map of the province, suggested areas of interest, and useful phone numbers for information on tourism and road conditions.
We have handpicked two sample trips below but as mentioned, there are dozens of other ideas on the Rand McNally site.
Pacific Rim National Park
This national park reserve is on Vancouver Island and runs from Port Renfrew to the south to Tofino in the north. It consists of three main regions: the West Coast Trail, Long Beach and the Broken Group Islands. Rand McNally suggests that once you get to the park, you visit the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve Information Centre, located just inside the park boundaries of the Long Beach area.
The drive from Vancouver to Tofino and nearby Long Beach is breathtaking: take a ferry trip to Nanaimo, and then drive through beautiful rainforest for a few hours until you reach this small fishing town. Tofino and Long Beach get a lot of visitors in the summer but if you don't mind inclement weather, they are equally stunning during winter months. Long Beach is also known as a surfing mecca for really serious surfers: waves can be big and the undertow strong. But it's still fun to watch from the shore. There are plenty of places to stay in the area, from campgrounds, to cabins to the very upscale Wikaninnish Inn. Visit www.hellobc.com or www.travel.bc.ca for more accommodation information.
Experienced hikers may want to check out the West Coast trail, 77-kilometres long and along the park's western shore. This spectacular trail is recommended for those looking for more than "just a leisurely walk in the woods", and reservations are recommended (800-663-6000).
The Broken Group Islands are in Barkley Sound, between Ucluelet and Bamfield. Accessible only by boat, this group of 100 small islands has eight "primitive" islands available for overnight stay. The waterways in and around these islands are extremely popular for canoers, kayakers, and scuba divers. "About 50 shipwrecks, located just offshore, are available for underwater exploration," notes the Rand McNally literature.
The entire Pacific Rim National Park region has plenty to offer every kind of tourist, from the more adventurous outdoorsperson to those just wanting to stroll along beautiful stretches of sandy beach, bird watch, or take in a tasty seafood dinner.
Just a two-hour-drive south of Toronto is a picturesque town called Niagara-on-the-Lake. According to information on www.niagara-on-the-lake.com, the town is the site of the old Neutral Indian village of Onghiara. Loyalists who came to Upper Canada settled it at the close of the American Revolution. During the war of 1812, however, the town was burned. After being rebuilt, NOTL developed a busy shipping and shipbuilding industry.
Two hundred years later, NOTL is now abuzz with tourist activity and worth a visit. If you're not satisfied with browsing around in the shops on the main street, there are other activities to take in. The town has three theatres, which are home to the Shaw Festival during the summer months, and you can also visit famous Fort George. There are golf courses nearby as well as the Niagara wineries, which you can tour.
Accommodation in the town varies from bed and breakfasts, to cottages and inns and hotels. The historic Prince of Wales Hotel, restored in recent years, is pricey, though worth a visit to see the restoration work. Contact (905) 468-4263 or visit the NOTL website (listed above) for more information on accommodation in NOTL.
A good day trip from NOTL is the world-famous Niagara Falls, which flank the Canadian/U.S. border. The waterfalls are a short, picturesque drive from the town. Typically, you park your car and take one of the frequent buses up to the falls. Niagara Falls remains one of the great wonders of the world and is definitely worth seeing. Once there, you will find three observatories from which to view the falls and a host of restaurants and lounges. If you don't mind getting a bit wet (although rain gear is supplied), you can take a trip on the Maid of the Mist boat to get an up-close look at the falls. Rand McNally suggests a few other attractions in the area, including an amusement park, a casino, and a cable car trip over the Whirlpool Basin.