It may be hard to fathom, but summer’s already in full swing. If you’re trying to make the most of these warm, yet fleeting months, we have something that may help: eight of the best Canadian road trips. After all, what summer is complete without a good road trip?

Brandon to Spruce Woods Provincial Park

  • Distance: 50 miles (77 kilometers)
  • Expected Duration: One hour

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Prairie summers are long and hot. The sky seems to never end, just like the roads that unfold flatly before you. Compared to others on this list, the drive from Brandon, Manitoba, to Spruce Woods Provincial Park may seem short, but it sure is sweet. During the hour or so it takes to get from Brandon to Spruce Woods, you can relax and take in the fields and vistas that surround you. As you get closer to the park, the landscape begins to change, surprising you with marshy hills and meadows full of wildflowers. Once there, strap on your hiking boots and enjoy the array of outdoor activities such as swimming and camping that awaits.

Cabot Trail

  • Distance: 185 miles (300 kilometers)
  • Expected Duration: Three to five days

Cape Breton Island has been voted one of the world’s best on multiple occasions, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this Nova Scotian paradise serves up one of the best summer road trips in the country (though it’s also great when the leaves are changing, too). Winding through the scenic Cape Breton Highlands National Park, the trail passes through fishing villages, along dramatic cliffs, and up to white, sandy beaches. With views like this, your head will surely be on a swivel as you try to take in all the views. But don’t worry — there are plenty of look-outs where you can pull over. Convinced yet?

The Dempster Highway

  • Distance: 500 miles (750 kilometers)
  • Expected Duration: Three to five days

The Dempster Highway shouldn’t be taken lightly — and its name is a constant reminder of that. 1910 was the year of the Lost Patrol, when Francis Joseph Fitzgerald, along with three other mounties, left Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories, for Dawson City, Yukon. Battling temperatures of nearly -80°F (-62°C), the men lost their way, only to be found weeks later by William Dempster, a fellow Yukon Mountie.

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A century later, the Dempster Highway is still no average Sunday drive. For long stretches, there is nothing: no houses, no pavement, no cell service. It’s just you, your potential comrades, and the unwavering summer daylight (the sun rarely sets before midnight during this time of year). This certain stretch of highway is the only public highway to cross the Arctic Circle in Canada, and it’s known for its resilient communities and barren, yet serene landscapes — ones formed from the Western Arctic’s tundra and boreal forests. Be sure you come prepared for the adventure that lies ahead.

Gaspé Peninsula

  • Distance: 800 miles (1,250 kilometers)
  • Expected Duration: Five to seven days

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When most people think of Québec, they quickly envision the province’s historic and culturally enriched cities — and rightfully so. But one region is often overlooked: Québec’s Gaspé Peninsula, which borders the Gulf of the Saint Lawrence and juts into the Atlantic Ocean (both amazing areas for sea kayaking). This maritime region also houses an ambitious roadway that showcases Québec’s small-town culture unlike any other place in the province. You’ll have a chance to visit townships such as Rimouski and Percé, explore the wooded mountains of Forillon or Gaspésie National Park, wander lighthouse-speckled shorelines, and indulge in the endless supply of local seafood and craft beer — just be on the lookout for moose while driving!

Icefields Parkway

  • Distance: 140 miles (230 kilometers)
  • Expected Duration: Two to four days

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With its rocky and mountainous views, Icefields Parkway continually proves to be one of the best road trips in the country. The highway cruises through the heart of Canada’s Rocky Mountains, at times clinging to the sides of the peaks and creating a rush rarely felt behind the wheel. And, with so many points of interest along this rugged route, it’s best suited for those not in a rush. These intriguing locales are some of Alberta’s best, including Peyto Lake, Sunwapta Falls, and Columbia Icefield — the largest of its type south of the Arctic Circle.

Nanaimo to Tofino

  • Distance: 125 miles (200 kilometers)
  • Expected Duration: One to two days

Close your eyes and picture it: an open road twisting through Vancouver Island’s interior, the pavement lined by mountains, their majestic slopes and summits draped in a thick coat of evergreens, vibrant with life and color all year round. It doesn’t get much better in Canada.

The drive can be completed in around three hours, but you’re going to want to set aside a little more than that to experience what makes the Pacific Northwest so special. You’ll discover the giant moss-covered trees of Cathedral Grove, the rushing rivers and waterfalls of Englishman River Provincial Park, and plenty of rugged beaches waiting to have their picture taken. The best part, though? The adventure doesn’t stop when the highway does, as Tofino is filled with things to do, including a rich arts and culture scene, endless hiking trails, and world-class cuisine.

Sea to Sky Highway

  • Distance: 100 miles (160 kilometers)
  • Expected Duration: One to three days

The Sea to Sky Highway offers the perfect escape from city life during the summer. From Vancouver, head north over Lion’s Gate Bridge and soon you will see the expansive beauty of Canada’s west coast. Once on the highway, the road’s bending curves become almost therapeutic, especially with the glacier and ocean views to your left.

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The highway continues north to Squamish, past Whistler, Pemberton, and Lillooet before meeting the Trans Canada Highway and looping back toward Vancouver. As the Pacific Ocean sends a salty breeze through your open windows, take in the beauty of Howe Sound, explore the surrounding rainforests and waterfalls, and learn about the indigenous cultures, like that of the Squamish Nation and Lil’wat Nation, that make these locations truly special.

Viking Trail

  • Distance: 270 miles (430 kilometers)
  • Expected Duration: Five to seven days

The Viking Trail (also known as Route 430) soars through Newfoundland and Labrador’s Great Northern Peninsula, a place defined by its rugged and untouched landscapes. Throughout the trip you’ll witness the pristine beauty of Canada’s northern wilderness, a place decorated with not only meadows, fjords, and mountains, but also with beaches, forests, and, depending on the season, icebergs (most of which come all the way from Greenland!). 

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This highway is also home to two UNESCO Heritage sites: Gros Morne National Park and L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, the latter being a 1000-year-old archeological site dating back to the first signs of European contact. If you have the time, be sure to explore these areas and stop in at the smaller parks and communities, such as Arches Provincial Park and Flower’s Cove, that the route is known for as well.

Canada’s pristine highways and varied landscapes make it a perfect country for summer road trips. If you’ve recently explored one of these routes — or have another we should know about — share your story in the comments below!

Header image by Frank Mckenna

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Brad Donaldson is a writer and editor proudly based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Although his roots are in Canada, his desire to see more of the world frequently takes him away from home. His work, both as an editor and writer, has appeared in local newspapers and publications.