Top 3 Canadian Scenic Drives

With its vast natural landscape, Canada offers a wide-range of scenic drives. Beginning in the west of Canada and working east, following are three of Canada’s best scenic drives.

Sea-to-Sky Highway (British Columbia)

A legendary route from Vancouver to Whistler and beyond, the Sea-to-Sky Highway is a drive with incredible sights at just about every turn. (Source: stay.com)

A legendary route from Vancouver to Whistler and beyond, the Sea-to-Sky Highway is a drive with incredible sights at just about every turn. (Source: stay.com)

Considered one of the world’s most beautiful drives, the Sea-to-Sky Highway (Highway 99) offers awe-inspiring scenery. A legendary route from Vancouver to Whistler and beyond, it’s a drive with incredible sights at just about every turn. It’s also filled with fun stops, including outdoor destinations, cultural points of interest, and historic sites.

Discover scenic ocean vistas, soaring mountains, dramatic waterfalls, bustling communities, parks, and outdoor activities. Beginning at sea level and tracing a route along the shore of Howe Sound, the route weaves deep into the Coast Mountains and then climbs through old-growth rainforests before reaching Whistler 2,200 feet (670 metres) above sea level.

It takes you from downtown Vancouver through Stanley Park, over the Lions Gate Bridge, and along the upper levels of West Vancouver into the Sea-to-Sky Corridor, which starts at Horseshoe Bay.

The amazing Sea-to-Sky Highway has several stops along the way that are often missed. From the more obvious, Brandywine Falls and Porteau Cove to the less well known, Whistler Train Wreck and Lighthouse Park.

The highway has many viewing points and interpretive storyboards (the Cultural Journey) on the history of the land and its deep ties with the Coast Salish Aboriginal People. Located about half way between Horseshoe Bay and Whistler, the newly opened Sea to Sky Gondola is a spectacular place stop to see the spectacular views of the world renowned geography of alpine mountains, great rivers, valleys, and the Howe Sound fjord from above.

Icefields Parkway (Alberta)

Glacier Skywalk Offers Stunning Views of Columbia Icefield (Credit: Brewster Travel Canada)

Glacier Skywalk Offers Stunning Views of Columbia Icefield (Credit: Brewster Travel Canada)

Named for the massive glaciers it sneaks in-between, the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) is a spectacular drive that winds its way you through Banff and Jasper national parks.

To travel the Icefields Parkway is to experience one of Canada’s national treasures and most rewarding destinations. Stretching 144 miles (231 kilometres) through the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site, this world-class journey offers access to a vast wilderness of pristine mountain lakes, ancient glaciers, and broad sweeping valleys.

“This wondertrail will be world renowned,” a surveyor predicted in 1920 when Highway 93 was only a dream. When it opened 20 years later, thanks to a Depression-era public works program, The Banff Crag and Canyon crowed, “20 Switzerlands in one.”

Stretching from Lake Louise to Jasper, the Icefields Parkway affords constantly changing views of more than 600 glaciers, six icefields, and an abundance of mountains.

Selected highlights (from south to north) include: Bow Summit and Peyto Lake viewpoint; Saskatchewan River Crossing; The Weeping Wall; Sunwapta Pass; Columbia Icefield, Athabasca Glacier, Icefield Centre, and the newly opened Glacier Skywalk; Sunwapta Falls; and Athabasca Falls.

Cabot Trail (Nova Scotia)

One of the most famous drives in Canada, the Cabot Trail makes a loop around Cape Breton Island, cutting across the top of the island and closely following the western and eastern coastlines.

One of the most famous drives in Canada, the Cabot Trail makes a loop around Cape Breton Island, cutting across the top of the island and closely following the western and eastern coastlines. (Source: cabottrail.travel)

Named for explorer John Cabot, the 185-mile (300-kilometre) -long Cabot Trail is a scenic roadway that takes you around the greater part of Cape Breton. Many visitors to Cape Breton Island set aside an entire day—or two, three, or four days—to see the sights along the Cabot Trail. Because there are so many scenic overlooks, cultural heritage sites, whale watching, and hiking trails on the Cabot Trail, spending some time planning your excursion and campgrounds will make your road trip much more enjoyable.

One of the most famous drives in Canada, the Cabot Trail makes a loop around Cape Breton Island, cutting across the top of the island and closely following the western and eastern coastlines. If you travel in a clockwise direction, you’ll be on the “inside” lane as you drive along both coasts. Because the road goes up and down steep grades and curves, the clockwise direction is better for RVers who dislike driving next to steep drops. Many of the turnoffs into Cape Breton Highlands National Park are right turns if you are traveling clockwise.

Some of the more popular Cabot Trail stops include: Margaree Harbour and villages in the Margaree River valley;  Chéticamp, the largest village on Cape Breton Island’s Acadian coast; Pleasant Bay, for whale watching; hiking trails and scenic viewpoints in Cape Breton Highlands National Park; Ingonish and the surrounding beaches; St. Ann’s, for the Gaelic College and local art studios; Baddeck, for the Alexander Graham Bell Museum, golf and summer ceilidhs (Celtic music and dance events).

Worth Pondering…

I have traveled around the globe.

I have seen the Canadian and American Rockies, the Andes and the Alps and the Highlands of Scotland; but for simple beauty, Cape Breton Island outrivals them all.

—Alexander Graham Bell

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