Loren Christie on great summer road trips
Published Friday, July 22, 2011 8:49AM EDT
If the lure of the open road is calling you, just pick a stretch of highway somewhere between Trinity and Tofino. From coast to coast Canada has limitless options when it comes to the makings of a great summer road trip.
Back in the nineties, working as a guide I floated up Alberta's Icefields Parkway many times in a tour bus. A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to get down to the ground -- practically licking the pavement -- as I rode sidecar as part of a Jasper Motorcycle Tours experience. It was awesome. You get up close and personal with not only the road, but the scenery and the wildlife. We saw a brown bear, some big horned sheep and more elk than I could count. My driver, Stan, was fully knowledgeable about the area so not only did I get the experience of riding in a side-car but I got a full guided tour. It was nice to be the one listening, not talking…for once!
Jasper Motorcycle Tours is the only place in North America where you can take a side-car tour. It's perfect if you are either travelling without a car or just want to see what it's like to drive a bike. www.jaspermotorcycletours.com
If you prefer something a little more "fancy" check out Niagara Classic Cabs in Southern Ontario. They will customize your tour through the Niagara wine-growing region in high style. It's also perfect for people who want to hit the wineries without worrying about the driving. www.nctcanada.com
Route 132 in Quebec's Gaspé region offers a scenic, shore-hugging drive through silver-steepled villages surrounded by mountains and serenaded by the sea. The route forms a loop of about 900 kilometres and was listed in National Geographic Traveller's 50 Places of a Lifetime in 2009. As the seaway widens into the gulf, try some ferry-hopping to explore both coasts of the St Lawrence River. www. quebecmaritime.ca
Nova Scotia's Cabot Trail has always been a personal favourite. I guided tours there as well. It offers stunning scenery, wildlife viewing (whales and moose) and the opportunity to touch the two distinct cultures that colour the history of the province -- Acadian and Scottish. It is an ongoing debate whether to do the drive clockwise or counter-clockwise. I prefer clockwise. It just feels like a more logical build up of all the sites along the route. www.novascotia.com
The Trans Labrador Highway is a new, 1,054 kilometre frontier highway that allows you to explore the wilderness, culture, history and adventure of Labrador. Several years ago, I explored the section around Red Bay and it is totally other-worldly. The highlight of Red Bay is a 16th century Basque whaling station turned National Historic Site. This one section of the highway also offers numerous whale and iceberg viewing spots and the chance to visit the tallest lighthouse in Atlantic Canada. www. newfoundlandlabrador.com
New Brunswick's St. John River Valley drive offers a variety of sites. Upriver, you have the spectacular Grand Falls and gorge, as well as the link between the river and the War of 1812. As you come down the river, you can cross it at the world' longest covered bridge in Hartland, see the potato fields that spawned the McCain Foods empire, travel through the provincial capital of Fredericton, enjoy the artisans in Gagetown, and use the small cable ferries (free!) to crisscross the River. www.destinationstjohns.com
Back out West, you can hit seven hot springs in seven days on an 868-kilometre drive through British Columbia's Kootenay Rockies region. There are a string of natural pools along the route, from lavish resorts to secret dips in the woods. Cranbrook is the nominal starting point. www.destinationstjohns.com