Hello sunshine! With many borders being closed, most of us saw our upcoming trips being cancelled. Although it sucks big time, I thought I would put together a guide for the best east coast Canada road trips. In my opinion, road trips are the best vacation you can get. Indeed, you call me control freak, but I love being able to take control of the itinerary, the time we spent on the road and so forth. With the Canadian dollar likely to remain low for the next couple of months, Canadian road trips will be a good alternative for any Canadian out there, and a steal for Americans who are willing to drive North.
Quebec’s best road trips
Mont-Tremblant is one of the most beautiful spots you can find, yet not TOOOO much touristy. And by that, I mean you don’t walk on other people’s shoes as you could do in Quebec or Montreal. Mont-Tremblant is found north of Montreal and it’s one of Quebec’s best road trips in my opinion. Although I find it better in autumn, Mont-Tremblant is always a favourite destination.
Whoever talks about road trip knows that there is some driving involved. If you plan to drive to Mont-Tremblant during your East coast Canada road trip, the easiest way would be to take the 15 North and then the 117. While you are at it, don’t hesitate to stop by Sainte-Adèle, about 40-60 min before Tremblant. I highly encourage you to eat at Les Garçons. A French-inspired, bistro where the food is outstanding and the service personalized. If you prefer to reach your destination prior to eating, fear not, Tremblant has a plethora of excellent tables.
What to do
First and foremost, Tremblant is a ski station. However, I understand that if you take a summer vacation, ski might not be an option. Even if everybody knows about Quebec’s cold weather, rest assured, there is no snow in the middle of July. If you plan a road trip to Canada, don’t worry, even up north, you will be free from snow.
Aside from ski, you can imagine you can hike and prepare a picnic in the mountain, there is also the “village” in the mountain that is worth a tour. You can shop for trendy sports clothes or chocolate at the Rocky Mountain Factory. There is plenty of outdoor activities to do in Tremblant, but you can also enjoy spa treatments.
If landscape photography is your thing, be prepared to be amazed by Tremblant’s beauty. Don’t forget to pack your gear, and feel free to check my post about the best travel cameras.
Finally, if you would like to steal some good deals, stop by Saint-Sauveur on your way up, you will find a collection of outlets, maybe you’ll find your next Coach Bag!
Firstly, let’s settle something to make sure you don’t get in trouble upon your arrival. There is a distinction between the Lac St-Jean and the Saguenay, I am never sure where one starts and the other ends. But don’t make the mistake!
The Saguenay / Lac St-Jean region definitely qualifies for an East Coast Canada road trip as it is found east of Québec.
Now, that being said, the best time to visit the Saguenay is during blueberry season. Saguenay people are tremendously proud of their blueberries and during the season, everything revolves around the blueberries. Typically, blueberries are ripe around the end of June or during the month of July. And everybody knows that the best road trip one can get, is a road trip with plenty of local food!
Once you reach Quebec City, take the 175 either all the way to Saguenay, or you can switch for the 169 and get to the Lac St-Jean. Make sure you have plenty of gas once you pass Quebec, the only place you can fill-up between Québec and the Lac is at L’Étape (literally the milestone). It takes about two hours to cross the park, so you want to keep that in mind.
What to do
Although you might think this East coast Canada road trip will bring you to cute villages with not much to do, don’t let this fool you! You will be overwhelmed by all the fun activities you can do!
You can visit an aluminum plant in Alma, the best thing about this visit? it’s free! Make sure you bring closed-toe shoes if you plan on visiting Alcan.
I highly encourage you to stop in Val Jalbert to visit the old village, they reproduced an ancient village, with people in old-fashioned clothes and everything, if you are comedian a little, keep up with the stories and gossip with the characters.
Also, don’t forget to stop by cheese factory Perron, where you can visit and learn about the cheddar curds, famous in Québec for the use in the poutine.
Finally, for the province of Québec, a list of the best East coast Canada road trips couldn’t be complete without including Québec City.
Although I find the hype around the capital to be a little over-rated, if you have never been to Québec, it’s truly beautiful. Honestly, I find it best during fall or winter, because the snow adds some kind of whimsical magic around the city, but the roads are safer in summer!
You can reach Québec city from either side of the river. From the south shore, take the 20 east until you reach Pierre-Laporte Bridge. From the north shore, take the 40 east until you reach Québec.
Things to do
If you are fond of history like I am, visiting the Citadelle, the Plaines d’Abraham and the old town, in general, is really fun. The old town is filled with fabulous restaurants. However, if you want an insider’s trick, stay away from restaurants on Grande-Allée and St-Louis. They tend to be crowded and touristy.
Ontario’s best road trips
Toronto is kind of the New York of the poor. If you want the big city feel for a fraction of the price, go to Toronto. The Canadian Stock Exchange capital has some cool museum to offer as well as the well known CN tower.
To get to Toronto, you either take the most boring highway, the 401 till you die. If you do so (not dying, taking the 401) make sure you stop by the cute little town of Kingston. On the other hand, if you arrive from the US, take the 90 then the 190, to get to the 403 and finally the 401. If you take this road, stop by Burlington to have a bite.
Things to do
Did you know you can explore a castle in Canada? In fact, Toronto hosts one of the only castles in Canada, named Casa Loma, this one is definitely worth a visit. Also, if you are passionate about history like I am, you will likely enjoy visiting fort York, a 43-acre property relating the Canadian history along with a few battles against the Americans.
Another must-do in Toronto would be, as mentioned earlier, a visit to the CN tower. If you are a city lover and are more comfortable surrounded by skyscrapers, fear not, Toronto has what you need. Aside from the CN Tower, Toronto is home to many designers and Canadian flagship stores you can visit, along with numerous festivals.
The Canadian capital, in my opinion, is more worthy of your vacation time than Toronto. Nevertheless, I included Toronto in my list of the best East Coast Canada road trip as this is a major city. However, if you ask, where should I spend my time between Ottawa and Toronto, hands-down Ottawa.
Ottawa is on the Quebec border, you will likely pass by Gatineau if you arrive from the east, or you can take the 416 from the 401.
Things to do
Don’t get me wrong here, Ottawa is home of the Parliement and most of the public functions buildings, there is no nightlife whatsoever in Ottawa. If you are in to clubbing and dancing, don’t hesitate to cross the Quebec border to party in Gatineau.
However, during the daytime, Ottawa is a highly cultural city, worth visiting any time of the year. Famous for the tulips festival, taking place during spring around mid-May, the tulips festival is when Ottawa is a its best. Each year, the Netherlands sends thousands of bulbs as a thank you for the support Canada offered to the Royal Family during WWII. The city is filled with tulips.
If you can’t make it during spring, winter is just as fun with the Rideau canal being a humongous ice skate rink. Did you know that the eight locks along the Rideau Canal are still manually operated? You can witness this event pretty much at any time during the warm months. The Rideau Canal is indeed one of the major attractions, where you can skate, paddle, bike…
Aside from the Canal, don’t forget to stop by the By Market, next to the parliement. You will find amazing irish pub and diverse brewery and a bunch of local stores.
A MAJOR tourist-trap. Nevertheless, it is worth to see Niagara falls at least once in a lifetime. The views from the top and from the river are absolutely breath-taking. Be prepare to spend good money on the boat trip that takes you close to the falls. The Maid of the mist is one of the most popular activity to perform at Niagara.
If you like hiking and walking in nature, don’t miss the opportunity to take the pathways along the river. Don’t be surprised if the area is filled with tourists though.
Niagara falls is definitely not my top recommended East coast Canada road trip, but as mentioned, you need to see this at least once!
East coast Canada Road Trip – Take home message
Although travelling might be hard in the near future, there are many options available, where we can have a blast. We just need to make the most of our vacation time.
In the meantime, have a drink, stay for a while!