Best Road Trips in Eastern Canada
Updated: April 19, 2023
AAA Travel Editors
Provinces in Eastern Canada
For the purposes of this guide, Eastern Canada refers to the provinces of Labrador, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Québec. (Though it is geographically in the center of Canada, Manitoba is sometimes included in the eastern region.)
The Best Niagara Falls Road Trip (on the Canadian Side)
Niagara Falls is at the top of the list for most people who are planning a vacation in Canada, and a drive on the Niagara River Scenic Parkway is one of the best ways to see it. Even Winston Churchill called it “the prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world.” See other attractions while you’re there—your must-do list should include Journey Behind the Falls and Hornblower Niagara Cruises, where you’ll feel the mist and get a close-up view of the falls from a large double-decker boat. Be prepared to get a little wet, even with the rain ponchos provided.
Where to See Fall Foliage in Eastern Canada
Fall is a magnificent time of year for leaf peepers, when an array of breathtaking colors blanket the region. Here are a few of our favorite places to go to see Mother Nature unleash her paint brush in Eastern Canada.
• Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park Scenic Highway Road Trip is a feast for the eyes in September and October and a great way to see fall colors in Ontario. Sugar and red maple trees are first in line to put on their coats of many autumn colors, followed by aspens and tamaracks in October.
• The Laurentides Region Scenic Highway Road Trip in Québec roughly parallels Riviére du Nord at first, then passes forested mountains and grassy pastures as it heads north, slipping past Riviére Rouge for the remainder of the route. In the fall, take this two-hour drive to see sugar maple, yellow birch and American beech turn the mountainsides glorious shades of brilliant tangerine and golden yellow.
• The Red Sands Shore Region Scenic Drive Road Trip boasts one of the longest and more varied shows in North America, thanks to Prince Edward Island’s moderate climate. Plan your travel for September and October to set your eyes on a kaleidoscope of colors provided by maple, cherry, sumac, poplar, birch and beech trees.
The Most Instagrammable Things to See on an Eastern Canada Road Trip
You’re bound to see fantastic scenery everywhere you look on any road trip across Eastern Canada, but the following drives are the cream of the crop. Views bursting with incredible sights (think lush forests and sparkling lakes) are the highlight of your journey along Canadian highways. Have your camera or cell phone at the ready!
• The 810-mile Cape Breton Road Trip encircles roughly two-thirds of the island that is Nova Scotia. Some argue that it’s the prettiest road trip in Eastern Canada. It’s probably best to set aside at least three days to absorb the enchanting beauty of it all. Be prepared to see mind-blowing gifts of nature, ranging from glistening lakes and verdant valleys, to rocky cliffs and coastline, the Atlantic Ocean, and puffins and bald eagles.
• Gape at migrating icebergs on the Labrador Coastal Scenic Drive Road Trip, which delivers eye-popping views of drifting icebergs in the Strait of Belle Isle. Make time to see the 1857 Point Amour Lighthouse, one of the tallest in Canada.
• Lake Ontario’s North Shore Scenic Drive provides otherworldly views of the Northern Lights. Your best chance to see them is from December through January, as they’re only visible during winter months.
• At the tail end of the 6.6-mile Fundy Coastal Scenic Drive, PR 111 to Gardner Creek in New Brunswick, be prepared to ogle various types of whales (especially humpback and minke) that generally appear from June through October. On the same drive, go for a walk on the ocean floor and see the amazing Hopewell Rocks during low tide in the Bay of Fundy.
Best Canada Road Trips for Outdoorsy Adventurers
• Near the beginning of Manitoba's Scenic Trans Canada Hwy 1, Ontario Border To Sandilands Park Road Trip lies Whiteshell Provincial Park. Open year-round for outdoor recreation, its 13 lakes allow for fishing, boating, kayaking, sailing, scuba diving and swimming. On land, visitors will enjoy activities such as mountain biking, hiking, golf, cycling, camping, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing.
• The Laurentides Region Scenic Highway Road Trip travels through part of Québec’s Laurentian Mountain Range, which lays claim to Mont-Tremblant, one of the area’s highest peaks, and is home to numerous ski resorts and hundreds of ski runs. The area also has cross-country skiing and hiking trails, golf courses and small rivers that seem custom-made for canoeing and swimming.
Discover Eastern Canada's Small Towns
If small villages filled with antique shops and quaint cafés are your cup of tea, you’ll find some along these routes:
• Only 25 miles long, Ontario’s Land of Lakes Scenic Drive Road Trip might take longer than expected if you add in the time it takes to check out nearby villages. In the towns of Bracebridge and Port Carling, you’ll discover boutiques, art galleries, antique shops, cafés and general stores.
• A stop in Bouctouche, New Brunswick, along the 25-mile Acadian Coastal Scenic Drive Road Trip, will be worth your while. Steeped in Victorian elegance, this charming town has a farmers’ market where you can buy locally grown produce. You can also pay a visit to the Kent Museum and Le Pays de la Sagouine, a theme park with an Acadian-themed living village where you can experience theater, comedy, music and Acadian food; both are AAA recommended attractions.
When to Visit Eastern Canada
Summer months are the best time to visit the region, of course, especially for those who enjoy warmer temperatures or are not accustomed to driving in winter weather. Bear in mind that if you plan on going to any attractions, many are not open during winter. However, don’t rule out that season, as this part of Canada is wonderful to visit if you’re into winter sports. Also, if seeing the northern lights is on your bucket list, remember they can only be seen in winter months. Consider the shoulder season, too, when you might see some snow. Be sure to pack the proper attire to keep you toasty, like down-filled parkas, insulated and waterproof boots and gloves, and hats and scarves. Prepare your vehicle, too, for cold weather before you take to the open road.
Start Your Next Vacation with AAA
AAA Travel provides peace of mind for travelers—from the first mile of the journey to the last. Get inspiration for your next road trip with AAA’s TripTik Travel Planner, or browse pre-planned itineraries on AAA.com/RoadTrips. Estimating fuel costs for your trip is easy with the AAA Gas Cost Calculator, and if your car needs a quick tune-up before the trip, find a AAA Approved auto repair facility near you at AAA.com/AutoRepair. For printed maps, AAA TourBook guides and trip planning advice, visit your local AAA office.
AAA Travel Editors
AAA Travel Editors are AAA Travel Experts.