Cross-Canada Road Trip – Part 1
Canada welcomes millions of tourists each year yet many Canadians haven’t been to more than one or two provinces. Unless they’re camping or visiting family most people tend to head out of the country for their vacations. We sometimes forget how many amazing sights and experiences we have in our own backyard!
One trip that many visitors to Canada love to make is a drive across the Trans-Canada Highway (or if they’re Francophones La Route Transcanadienne). Spanning over 8000km between Canada’s east and west coasts it’s a major endeavour! Quite a few Canadians have this journey on their bucket list too so why not add it to yours? Here is a list of the major cities along the way working west to east. For part two click here .
Mile 0 the beginning of the Trans-Canada highway is in Victoria BC which is located on Vancouver Island. This is a wonderful little city that enjoys fantastic weather nearly year-round. BC’s Parliament buildings are definitely worth a visit. The architecture is beautiful especially when the building is lit up at night. Stop by the Royal BC Museum to learn the history of the area or you can take High Tea at the Empress Hotel as you look over the picturesque harbour! Walking through the Bouchart Gardens is a world renowned experience and a wonderful way to begin your trip across the country.
Canada’s second-largest city has a wealth of attractions to keep you busy. This city boasts an excellent food and entertainment scene as well as access to fabulous water activities beaches and even hiking in the nearby mountains. Check out Jericho Beach where you can lie in the sand rent a kayak or watch the many sea birds and ships pass by. If you’re into hiking there are parks surrounding the city. Only a short drive away and you’re immersed in beautiful forest and mountains.
An excellent transit system makes it easy to take a break from driving and there’s lots to see and do downtown or on Granville Island. Go whale-watching or take in a museum or visit the impressive public library. This is a great city to spend a few days in and there’s really something for everyone.
Driving through the mountains from Vancouver to Calgary is truly picturesque. From the winding mountain roads you can often spot wildlife like mountain goats deer and even bears. Be sure to stop at Lake Louise and Banff located in Banff National Park. This area is world renowned for its scenery hiking and skiing. It’s perfect if you’re interested in trying white water rafting caving climbing enjoy hot springs or just want to visit some quaint mountain towns!
Once you’ve made it through the mountains you reach Calgary which holds on to its cowboy heritage while mixing it with an urban feel. If you’re there during the Stampede in early July you’ll see the city transform into a western playground with cowboy hats and hay bales everywhere as the world’s biggest rodeo arrives in the city. Heritage Park and Fort Calgary are great places to explore the history of the west and the Bar U Ranch offers an authentic Albertan ranching experience. The city is often used as a base for access to world-class skiing at Lake Louise Sunshine and countless other ski hills as well as hiking and fishing in Kananaskis Country or nearby provincial parks such as Sheep River. Calgary also offers great shopping at Chinook mall and you absolutely can’t leave Alberta without having one of our famous steaks!
Heading east from Calgary you enter the Canadian prairie home to many farms and ranches. The prairies has its own distinct beauty with its wide open sky offering stunning views of the stars at night and wonderfully sunny days.
From Calgary you head southeast through Medicine Hat where you can stop to climb the coulees or visit the Medalta museum to explore local artists and history. From Medicine Hat you cross the border into Saskatchewan where the rolling hills begin. Take a break in Swift Current where you can wander around the lovely Riverside Park or visit Black Bridge Brewery if you’re interested in trying an excellent and local craft beer.
Moose Jaw may seem like just another small town – but it’s definitely one place you’ll want to experience! Enjoy the murals as you meander the streets and be sure to explore the Tunnels of Moose Jaw to learn about the town’s shady past. The Western Development Museum and Sukanen Ship Pioneer Village and Museum are offer a huge collection of vehicles planes and trains and are worth a stop if you’re interested in history or transportation.
Detour – Saskatoon
Though the largest city in Saskatchewan Saskatoon is a few hours north of the Trans-Canada highway it’s well worth a visit. The Western Development Museum gives visitors true feel for how life on the prairies was in the past. The Ukrainian Museum of Canada is also a good place to stop as you can learn the story of the many Ukrainian immigrants who came to this country many of whom settled as farmers in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Pick some saskatoon berries wander through Meewasin Valley and visit the Museum of Natural Sciences to learn more about the world around you.
Whether you opt to visit Saskatoon or keep on going on the Trans-Canada the next stop on your trip is Saskatchewan’s capital city Regina. This is a great place to stop the car and stretch your legs as the city has dedicated a large area to parks and recreational activities like Wascana Centre Park. Walk or bike the 5km loop take in the scenery and stop to get a snack at one of the vendors. Learn more about Canada’s famous RCMP officers at the RCMP Heritage Centre or discover the area’s natural history at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. The Saskatchewan Science Centre is another great place to stop and Regina has a lovely collection of churches to visit as well.
Portage la Prairie
Heading east into Manitoba be sure to stop in at Brandon if you’re driving through in March (to see the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair) June (for the Manitoba Summer Fair) or November (for the Manitoba Livestock Expo). If not keep heading east until you reach Portage la Prairie. This small city has the most sunny days during summer in all of Canada – definitely worth spending some time there if you’re wanting to enjoy some sunshine!
As a transportation and agricultural centre Portage also has a lot of history. Visit the Fort La Reine Museum to learn more about how the city emerged or see one of many historical buildings for yourself. You can also explore the city’s parks (where geocaching is very popular) stop to see the world’s largest Coca Cola can or pick some world-famous strawberries.
Winnipeg is the capital and largest city of Manitoba. Long before European settlers came the city was a trading centre for Aboriginal peoples. It’s also been the site of many historically important events in Canada’s history such as the Red River Rebellion and the 1919 strike. Today you can visit a number of fantastic museums such as the Canadian Museum for Human Rights Manitoba Children’s Museum Manitoba Museum Western Canada Aviation Museum Winnipeg Art Gallery and more. You can also see a show from Canada’s oldest ballet company or visit one of many festivals that happen year-round in this vibrant city.
Winnipeg the “gateway to the west” marks a sort of halfway point in the journey across the country. Tune in to the next article for the second half of the Trans-Canada Road Trip which will cover Ontario to Newfoundland.