Driving across Canada in our Sprinter has become a tradition for Go-Van.
Like many vanlifers, we like to chase warm weather, which means we hit the road whenever the snow starts to fall in Québec. Over our many years living the vanlife, we’ve driven almost every possible variation of the cross-Canada road trip. We’ve travelled both the northern and southern routes, making a list of everything we loved along the way. In this article, we’ve compiled all of our must-see places and experiences, from east to west, so everyone in the Go-Van community can start exploring Canada too. Enjoy!
The Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island is high on our list of favourites when exploring Canada. It is one of Nova Scotia’s (and perhaps the world’s)most scenic destinations. Along these roads, you’ll experience mountainous seaside terrain that’s easy to navigate with the Sprinter’s exceptional torque and Downhill Speed Regulation. If you’re looking for something a bit more relaxing, Annapolis Valley is the way to go. Filled with beautiful wineries, this is a great area to stop and unwind. If you happen to be there during the month of August, we highly recommend exploring the blooming sunflower fields!
Another unique stop in Nova Scotia is the Shubenacadie River. The river tide rises so quickly that it pushes against the natural current, creating a tidal bore–a rare and captivating phenomenon where a wall of water surges powerfully upriver. During peak season, you can raft down the river and ride the waves created by the bore.
Speaking of aquatic entertainment, Lawrencetown Beach Provincial Park is an excellent destination for surfing, especially from September to November.
New Brunswick has much to offer, including an incredible natural wonder –the world’s highest tides. Similar to the Shubenacadie River in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick’s Bay of Fundy also creates a tidal bore with powerful tides, making this region prime feeding waters for whales. For an exciting, up-close experience at the Bay of Fundy, you can book a guided kayak excursion near the Hopewell Rocks.
The New Brunswick coastline is filled with hiking trails, bird watching, and campgrounds, as well as Fundy Trail Parkway–a slow-paced coastal drive with perfect lookouts and picnic areas. Don’t forget to stop at Reversing Falls Bridge to see the waterfall that flows upstream! Pro tip: when you find yourself in New Brunswick’s small towns, the Sprinter’s 360° camera is a must-have for navigating and parking on the narrow streets.
Québec has many beautiful provincial parks and landscapes to experience, and one of our personal favourites when exploring Canada is Parc national du Bic. Located near the St. Lawrence River, this park is home to various capes, bays, coves, islands, and mountains. Incredible van and tent camping are both available.
If you choose to take the Trans-Canada highway on your road trip, we recommend detouring through Aiguebelle National Park. It is famous for its river that flows into the fjord (a long, narrow body of water that stretches inland), creating the highest fjord in Saguenay. It lies between two huge cliffs that are connected by the park’s famous suspension bridge. Be sure to make time for a walk or hike – you won’t regret it.
Ontario is the home of Bruce Peninsula, with pristine, bright-blue water. From the peninsula, we enjoy hopping on a ferry and taking the unique northern route, which passes through wild boondocking and permaculture farms. This beautiful area has heavy “island vibes”.
Rolling on Highway 6, you’ll experience an eccentric bridge unlike any other. Instead of raising up to let boats pass under, the Little Current Swing Bridge turns 90-degrees to allow them through, before turning back!
Continuing on your way, you’ll pass striking landscapes, including Lake Helen. Alternatively, you can always follow the southern route and experience the beauty of Lake Superior.
Manitoba’s Lake Winnipeg is an excellent destination when exploring Canada if you love to be by the water. It is surrounded by beautiful beaches and views you don’t want to miss.
From there, we prefer to take Route 59 all the way to the southern border. This stretch is also known as the “French Route”. You’ll pass through many small French towns that are extraordinarily lively and tight-knit with community. There are numerous festivals you can visit along the way in St-Malo, St-Pierre-Jolys, and more.
Saskatchewan is one of our favourite provinces, filled with enjoyable excursions and fun. There are two different routes we recommend here: north towards a curiously named town or south towards the grasslands.
If you choose the northern route, you’ll run into a small town coincidentally called Govan! We always love to drive through in our van and marvel at the name. You’ll also pass some of the biggest hay rolls you’ll ever see before continuing on toward Great Sand Hills.
Great Sand Hills is an amazing hidden gem, sitting nearly in the middle of nowhere. Fun fact: this area has the least amount of light pollution in Canada. This makes it one of the best places to star gaze, with August being the best time to see shooting stars!
The southern route will take you to Grasslands National Park. With an average of only 12,000 visitors annually, the park is a great place to experience nature and enjoy beautiful hikes without too much commotion.
Alberta’s Rocky Mountains are incredible and well-worth the trip when you explore Canada, especially if you have the freedom to do a bit of off-road exploring with the Sprinter’s 4×4 feature. Before you arrive at Banff, Jasper, or Waterton Lakes, you’ll find Canmore, a beautiful site filled with boondocking and a thriving vanlife community.
Drumheller is another one of our favourite Albertan towns, known as the epicenter of dinosaur valley. It is rich with deposits of dinosaur fossils and diverse topography – definitely a must-visit for families with kids.
If you follow Route 11, you’ll drive right beside an incredible turquoise glacier river until you arrive at Abraham Lake. We like to call this the boondocking heaven of Canada. During our recent visit in the fall, we were extremely lucky to experience the foliage. The intense orange leaves of the larch trees with the backdrop of the water is nothing short of spectacular.
Mainland British Columbia holds much to see, and we have a special place in our hearts for the islands. We usually find ourselves drawn to Vancouver Island for all that it has to offer, especially in the northern section.
The southern section of the island is our go-to for great surf spots with an abundance of quality waves. The great thing about that region is that if you can’t find the perfect wave in one place, you can just continue down the road to the next town. Jordan River, Port Renfrew and Sombrio Beach are some of our favourites, the latter is home to a beautiful waterfall in Emerald Canyon. We always recommend a roof rack on your Sprinter for this part of the journey – you’ll want to have your boards with you!
If you’re looking to branch out from Vancouver Island, we also highly recommend Salt Spring Island, Bowen Island, and Galiano Island. Not only are they beautifully scenic drives and fun to explore, you’ll also likely run into less crowds.
Canada’s provinces have so much charm and are home to countless amazing attractions. We discover new and exciting places every time we set off on a cross-country road trip! While we hope you visit some of our favourites, don’t be afraid to take the road less travelled. You never know what kind of magical destinations you might find.
If you’re ready to begin your adventure, here is a great place to start.