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Planning a summer road trip through Canada on a budget

Canada is known worldwide for its natural beauty. With rolling hills, sparkling blue waters, boreal forests, natural parks and mountain peaks, Canada really has it all. 

If you’re looking to explore more of this beautiful country over the summer without breaking the bank, follow this helpful guide of national attractions you can visit that won’t cost you much more than the gas required to take you there.

British Columbia Road Trip Stops 

  • Victoria – A visit to the province’s capital, also known as ‘The Garden City’, brings you beautiful historic buildings such as the Parliament Buildings and the Empress Hotel, as well as rugged shorelines and beaches. Snap a photo with the iconic Mile 0 marker, and your epic Canadian road trip is officially underway!
  • Lynn Canyon Park – The perfect spot for a quiet picnic and a day of relaxation surrounded by some of Vancouver’s famously lush forests. If you’re more of a thrill seeker, you can hike up one of Lynn Canyon’s many park trails to the 50-meter-high suspension bridge that stretches over a canyon of waterfalls and deep pools. The best part? No admission fees!
  • Stanley Park – A 400-hectare natural West Coast rainforest that boasts views of the ocean, mountains and the original forest of ‘giant trees’ that are almost 1,000 years old. Be sure to check out the many trails, beaches, historical landmarks and national wildlife the park has to offer as you walk the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path known as the Stanley Park Seawall. Since Stanley Park is a city-owned park, it is completely free for you to enjoy. 
  • Sea-to-Sky Highway – If you’re planning on driving up to Whistler make sure that you take the legendary Sea-to-Sky Highway – officially known as BC Highway 99. This scenic route takes you directly from Vancouver to Whistler with spectacular views of the shore of Howe Sound, the Coast Mountains and the old-growth rainforests on your way up. If you can spare the time, make a stop at the spectacular Garibaldi Provincial Park along the way for a free hike among crystal-clear lakes, alpine wildflowers and mountain vistas. 

Alberta Road Trip Stops

  • Lake Louise and Banff National Park – No trip to Alberta would be complete without a visit to the picturesque Banff National Park. While this park does charge admission ($9.80 per adult, $8.30 per senior), youth 17 and under are free, making it a thrifty road trip stop for families. Enjoy views of the surreal blue waters of the glacial Lake Louise alongside the famous Canadian Rocky Mountains as you hike, camp, canoe, cycle, swim or even horseback ride around the enormous park.  
  • Grassi Lakes – The Grassi Lakes in Canmore are known for their family-friendly hiking trail (if you choose the ‘Easy’ route over the ‘More Difficult’ route at the fork in the road). The free-admission hike offers views of the beautiful turquoise waters, Canadian Rocky Mountains, waterfalls, wildflowers and scores of reflections that are sure to be any photographer’s dream.
  • Dinosaur Provincial Park – What is currently known as the Badlands were once – 75 million years ago – a subtropical paradise with palm trees, ferns and of course, dinosaurs. More than 150 full dinosaur skeletons have been unearthed in this excavation site, and today the park is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site that you are free to explore as you search for real dinosaur bones on your own.

Saskatchewan Road Trip Stops 

  • Limestone Crevices – The limestone crevices and caverns you see today are actually ancient sea remains that were compacted by coral reefs and lime mud over time. While you’re free to climb down to explore the kilometres of limestone crevices on your own, the area is meant for the modern-day adventurist and is not suited for pets, small children or those with mobility concerns. 
  • Grasslands National Park – If you want to enjoy Saskatchewan’s famous prairies in all their glory, be sure to check out Grasslands National Park. There is no admission to enter the park during the day, so you are free to gaze upon what the province’s grassy prairies would have looked like before the boom of the agricultural industry.  

Manitoba Road Trip Stops 

  • Little Limestone Lake – Despite the ‘little’ in its name, Little Limestone Lake is one of the biggest and best marl, colour-changing lakes in the world. Marl is created when calcite, an element of the limestone, precipitates from warm water. In the summer, when the temperature rises, the amount of marl increases, causing the lake to change from a bright turquoise in the morning to a beautiful robin’s egg blue in the afternoon. 
  • Pinawa Heritage Suspension Bridge – If your trip to the Lynn Canyon suspension bridge in Vancouver wasn’t enough to satisfy your craving for adventure, then a trip to the Pinawa Heritage Suspension Bridge should be your next stop. This bridge is 54 metres long and crosses the lush Pinawa Channel. The bridge was built by a group of volunteers in the late 1990s under direction of the Pinawa Trails Group and is known affectionately by locals as the ‘Labour of Love’. 

Ontario Road Trip Stops

  • Niagara Falls – No Canadian road trip would be complete without a visit to one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Niagara Falls is free to visit and there are several lookout points that offer varying views of the natural wonder. If you really want to get up close, you can pay to take a voyage on the Hornblower Niagara cruise, which will take you on a 20-minute voyage behind the Falls.
  • Ottawa – Just because school’s out for summer doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of opportunities for learning. From a visit to Parliament Hill, to a walk through the Canadian Museum of History, there are plenty of free opportunities to learn more about this great country in the nation’s capital. Be sure to make it to Parliament Hill promptly at 10:00 AM to witness the Changing of the Guard ceremony. 
  • Toronto – Whether you enjoy the hustle and bustle of city life, or want to relax and unwind in one of Toronto’s many parks, the city has it all. Toronto hosts free events almost every day in different parts of the city, so make sure to check the city’s event calendar ahead of your trip to plan your time in Toronto accordingly. 
  • Bruce Peninsula National Park – If you’re looking to see more of Canada’s natural beauty on your road trip, then the Bruce Peninsula National Park is a must-see. The Park is home to the Cyrpus Lake Grotto – a large sea cave containing a pool of water. On sunny days, it can appear is if the pool is glowing thanks to an underwater tunnel that extends through the cliff to Georgian Bay. If you plan on visiting the Grotto, you’ll have to book your reservation ahead of time and be ready to pay for parking. 

Quebec Road Trip Stops 

  • Montreal – Montreal is well-known for being a cultural hub. The city is home to several free museums, including the Redpath Museum and The Musee des Beaux Arts. Montreal also boasts The Grande Bibliotheque, a five-story tall library containing over 4,000,000 works. Plan to take a walk along the peaceful Quays of the Old Port of Montreal where you can learn more about the Old Port’s marine life and historical heritage.  
  • Battlefields Park (Parc des Champs-de-Bataille) – If you’re a history buff, you’ll want to visit the 267-strip of land often referred to as the Plains of Abraham where historic The Battle of Quebec took place.
  • Old Quebec (Vieux-Quebec) -- Walking the streets of Old Quebec will feel like you’ve been transported back in time. With horse-drawn carriages, quaint stone builds and narrow, winding streets, this historic neighbourhood is full of sightseeing opportunities. From the Citadel, the Quartier Petit-Champlain and the Notre-Dame Basilica, you’ll be wowed by the city’s breathtaking architecture. 

Nova Scotia Road Trip Stops 

  • Peggy’s Cove – Head to Peggy’s Cove for an essential postcard perfect shot of the east coast. Walk around the charming fishing village before visiting the site of the famous Peggy’s Point Lighthouse perched on top of the rocks, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. 
  • Cape Breton National Park – Travel the world-famous Cabot Trail coastline to get to this lush park where forested canyons are carved into the ancient plateau and mountains meet the sea. Cape Breton National Park is also home to iconic Canadian wildlife. Be sure to keep your eyes open for moose roaming the forest and whales breaking waves in the Atlantic. 

New Brunswick Road Trip Stops 

  • St. John – St. John was Canada’s first incorporated city in 1785, so it’s teeming with national and local history. Make sure you take the time to visit the St. John City Market, which is the oldest running market in Canada.
  • Bay of Fundy – Home to the world’s highest tides, the Bay of Fundy has plenty of exploration opportunities. You can walk on the ocean floor at the site of the Hopewell Rocks, or kayak around the rock formations once the tide rolls in. 

Prince Edward Island Road Trip Stops

  • Cavendish – Cavendish is home to PEI’s famous red sand beaches, Green Gables Heritage Place (the inspiration for the setting of L.M. Montgomery’s nationally iconic novel Anne of Green Gables), as well as some of the country’s best potatoes. There is a small entrance fee required to visit Prince Edward Island National Park and Green Gables Heritage Place, but youth 17 and under are free. 

Not all road trips can go as expected, so it’s important to review your insurance policy ahead of time and know what you’re covered for. Then you can drive Canada’s scenic roads with the peace of mind that you and your loved ones are protected.

If you have any questions about your existing auto policy coverage, or want to know more about recommended coverage for long distance driving, contact your OTIP insurance broker at 1-866-561-5559.


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