Take to the open road of the world’s second largest country to gaze at its astonishing wildlife, grand national parks, and 2 million lakes. With a landmass of 3,800 square miles a Canada road trip may sound rather daunting, but here at Exoticca we’ve compiled a list of East Coast highlights to get you behind the wheel. Peppered with historic cities founded by 15th century British and French explorers, rugged cliffs and breathtaking waterfalls, a road trip through Canada’s east coast is an idyllic introduction to the Great White North.
Comfortably sitting in first place as the largest, this buzzing commercial hub is a fitting start to any Canada road trip. Before hitting the streets in search of culture, inexhaustible nightlife and mighty servings of poutine (a hearty dish of chips smothered in gravy and curds), gain a vantage point by climbing 533 metres up the iconic CN Tower. Looming over the vast glittering waters of Lake Ontario and dwarfing the surrounding skyscrapers, this needle-like structure is home to the highest glass floor paneled elevator in the world and an unbeatable viewing point. After a good dose of vertigo meander through the historic avenues of Old Town to see Rosedale, Forest Hill, Yorkville and the gigantic grounds of Casa Loma. Continue the wandering at Yonge Street, for the Hockey Hall of Fame and The Royal Ontario Museum for a multitude of cultural delights.
The great thundering waters descending into the torrents below covers over 30 million onlookers a year in a thick veil of icy mist. Straddling the Canada-United States border, the United States’ northern neighbours have the lion’s share of this unmissable marvel. Park the car and embark on a boat tour to get up close and personal with this hypnotising spectacle. If Toronto’s CN Tower has given you a taste for the heavens, take to the skies via the Whirlpool Aero Car (a cable car shuttle) to peer at the swirling depths below.
The Thousand Islands
The 1000 Islands is another haven of natural splendour residing on the peaceful border of New York State (United States) and southeastern Ontario (Canada). Over 1,700 islets call this stretch of the Saint Lawrence River home and it has been a holiday hotspot since the early 19th century. Smattered with an array of multicoloured leaves in autumn, the islands are best savoured from one of the many cruises that leave from various zones dotted along the river. Float down stream to marvel at Castle Boldt, a grand mansion that occupies one of the islands.
French and English (albeit with a canadian twang) can be heard in the grand colonial avenues and hipster filled alleys of this capital city. With winter temperatures in this charming metropolis often plummeting to as low as -18º, the warmer months are meant to be savoured by walking its extremely pedestrian-friendly centre. Brimming with world class museums and trendy micro breweries, such as the Mill Street Brew Club, Lowerton Brewery and Kichesippi Beer Co, Ottawa cures the car seat pins and needles quicker than you can say IPA. Take a guided tour around Parliament Hill or the National Gallery of Canada for a much-needed shot of culture before getting back on the highway.
French roots weave through the architecture, language and cuisine of this lively city. Stellar market stalls selling local produce of apple honey, artisanal bread and pungent yet mouthwatering cheeses sit in front of walls draped in vibrant street art. The people that line the buzzing streets of Montreal hail from Greece to Haiti ensuring a wealth of exotic eateries. Start your tour of this diverse hub from the viewing point of Parc du Mont-Royal to gaze at the urban megastructures occupying the skyline including its tallest addition of 1000 de la Gauchetière standing at 673ft. The church of Notre Dame taking centre stage in the cobblestone laden historical neighbourhood undercuts its Parisian brother with entrance fees of £3.95. If the bustling streets get too much, seek refuge on Île Sainte-Hélène AKA Saint Helen’s Island, home to The Museum of Science. Petrolheads should make the pilgrimage to The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve by hopping to the adjacent island of Parc Jean-Drapeau.
This quaint city seems as if it was carved out of mainland Europe and dragged across the North Atlantic. Awash with French glamour etched into its buildings, the historical centre of Petit Champlain is a charming neighbourhood alive with street performers and leafy terraces lined with chatty locals. After traipsing this lively chunk of Quebec rest those weary legs with a much-needed afternoon tea at the grand Château Frontenac, for a generous helping of Québécois luxury. For the untiring traveller plod on to Observatoire de la Capitale for some breathtaking views of the Saint Lawrence River.
Quebec National Parks
Being the last stop on our Canada road trip, the northern region of Quebec is a vast land of natural gems. The National parks of Mont-Tremblant National are home to the adventurous Jacque Cartier Park, where you can try your hand at canoeing, kayaking or mini rafting. Stay overnight in a yurt in Parc National de Gaspésie to sleep in the land of moose and elk. If these mammals aren’t grand enough for you go blue whale watching from the Gaspé bay in Forillon National Park. This old port is also known as an Atlantic salmon fly fishing paradise if you fancy landing a truly wild catch of the day. If not, take to the water to sail across to Bonaventure Island to see the hoards of grey seals basking on rocks at the feet of rugged coastal cliffs.
If our list has filled you with North American wanderlust have a look at our unforgettable escapes to Canada to stop dreaming and start doing.