9 of the greatest summer drives in Canada

drive-to-lake-louise Photo by Yaya Ernst/Shutterstock

The warm weather is finally here, which means it’s time to crack open the moonroof, roll down those windows, and pack a cooler full of snacks. There’s no better time to hit the open road and take advantage of the vast Canadian landscape than summer, so take your pick from this list of must-see summer drives and stop pumping the breaks on your trip of a lifetime.

The Icefields Parkway, AB

Despite the name, this scenic, 230-kilometer stretch of mountain road through Banff and Jasper National Parks is best enjoyed between June and September, when wildlife is out and hiking trails are open. Pack a picnic and stop off at any of the swoon-worthy scenic pullouts, or go for a stroll and soak in all of the beautiful waterfalls, lakes, and views of the Canadian Rockies.

Viking Trail, NL

Nothing screams summer like the wind sweeping through your hair while you cruise by the seacoast, traversing an ancient trail. This 526-kilometer hike kicks off near Deer Lake, and as you wind along in the summer months you may see Atlantic salmon leaping out of the water. Or perhaps you’ll feel like pausing at Gros Morne National Park, or at the aboriginal burial grounds at Port au Choix. However you decide to relive the spot where the Vikings once landed in Canada, plan for plenty of interesting stops along the way.

Fundy Coastal Drive, NB

The Bay of Fundy is a picturesque drive any time of the year, but during the summer months motorists can take full advantage of the weather to discover the fossil-filled mudflats or to picnic on the scenic coastal islands. June to October is also prime whale- and dolphin-spotting season. Looking for more adventure? Carve out time to stop at Hopewell Rocks, where when the tide falls you can walk along the ocean floor, or pitch a tent for some memorable camping at Fundy National Park.

The Cabot Trail, NS

This 300-kilometre loop is known worldwide for its beautiful East Coast landscapes, panoramic views, and wide range of wildlife. Head out in the summer to spot whales and eagles, hike at the Middle Head trail, which offers stunning cliffside views, or stop along the way for some of the freshest seafood the province has to offer. (Lobster rolls, anyone?) This trek hits many of the province’s pretty parks and interesting maritime communities, while providing ample opportunity to cool off from the balmy weather at the beach.

Sea-to-Sky Highway, BC

The BC Highway 99 trek from Vancouver to Whistler is legendary for its breathtaking views and incredible sights, but thanks to its winding roads and proximity to some steep drops, it’s also safest during the warm, summer months. The route features plenty of spots to stop for some fun-in-the-sun activities, such as the waterfront playground in Horseshoe Bay, scuba diving among artificial shipwrecks in Porteau Cove Provincial Park, or the Sea-to-Sky Gondola, which offers sweeping views of the suspension bridge.

The Gaspesie Tour, QB

Head east on coastal Highway 132 to discover all of the jaw-dropping views and pristine beaches this 1,235-kilometre stretch of road along the Gulf of St. Lawrence has to offer. Along the way, you can stop and spot seals at Parc National du Bic and caribou at Gaspésie National Park, take in a microbrew and hit the water at Carlton-sur-Mer, learn about Mi’gmaq culture, or even go whale-watching.

Georgian Bay Coastal Route, ON

Soak in more than 2,000-kilometers of beautiful Georgian Bay waters along this 1,350-kilometre route, which spans the picturesque towns of Tobermory and Collingwood before stretching out to Orillia, Parry Sound, and Sudbury. There are plenty of summer attractions, hiking trails, and beaches to check out along the way, or you can hit up some of the smaller towns to indulge in local markets and sample seasonal Ontario fare.

Dempster Highway, YK

This 740-kilometre trek through Yukon’s Dawson City and the Northwest Territories is a bucket-list item for many travellers, as it showcases the best of the western Canadian Arctic Circle. Summer is hands-down the best time to traverse it thanks to the warmer temperatures, the longer hours of sunlight, and the operating ferry crossings, which are open from June to October. Meanwhile, the summer is also the best time to spot bears, foxes, and wolves, while also soaking in views of gorgeous mountain ranges, the boreal forest, and the tundra hills.

Central Coastal Drive, PEI

Catch the summer vibe and many of PEI’s popular landmarks on this 253-kilometre drive, which heads along the Northumberland Strait’s sandstone cliffs, the foot of the Confederation Bridge, and the sweeping oceanic views on the island’s Northern side. In the warmer months you can relax along the way at several beaches, learn more about Anne of Green Gables, or stop for some unforgettable local seafood.

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