Canada self-drives: Spectacular road trips agents can sell

Canada self-drives: Spectacular road trips agents can sell

The freedom of a self-drive holiday has an obvious appeal, and Canada’s waterfalls, epic mountain ranges and long, wide roads only add to it.

The country has plenty of routes tourists can choose from, and flydrives are popular with repeat visitors who have got a feel for Canada and feel safe going it alone.

In addition to the flexibility offered by being able to make up your itinerary as you go along (and choosing your travelling companions), active types get space for their gear, while families and budget travellers can save money by renting a motorhome.

Thomas Cook Signature’s motor-home packages, designed for families, include national park entrance fees, so the only additional costs are food and fuel.

While many operators offer independent packages that just include flights and car hire, an itinerary can be a great way to ensure clients get the most out of their trip, taking in the major highlights and avoiding spending days driving hundreds of miles and finding nothing.

More photos or video tagged with trans-canada highway on Flickr

Remind your clients that Canada is the second largest country in the world, five times the size of Europe. Even Toronto and Montreal, which look like neighbours on the map, are more than 300 miles apart.

Recommend customers spend two nights at each stop so they have time to explore and aren’t constantly on the road.

Most operators’ itineraries focus on the coasts, although the world’s longest national highway, the Trans-Canada Highway, runs 4,800 miles from Victoria, British Columbia, to St John’s, Newfoundland, snaking through all 10 provinces.

More manageable drives include Highway 19, which runs up the east coast of Vancouver Island, Highway 97, which passes through the wineries of the Okanagan Valley, the Icefields Parkway joining Lake Louise and Jasper, and the Chemin du Roy, which makes its way along the St Laurence River between Quebec City and Montreal.

Western Canada

British Columbia and Alberta are home to the country’s biggest draw, the Rocky Mountains. As well as great views there’s skiing, hiking, biking, swimming and white-water rafting on offer.

There was a Wild West in Canada and Stampede City, Calgary, is the centre of cowboy country. Visitors can follow trails on horseback, or discover how the Old West lived at the Heritage Park Historical Village.

The West’s history didn’t begin with the settlers – First Nation tourism thrives at attractions like Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump and Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park. Send dinosaur fans to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller.

Coastal British Columbia has much to offer, from whales and bears to Vancouver Island’s quiet beaches and mini-Britain capital city, Victoria. Then there’s cosmopolitan Vancouver, where skyscrapers are framed by mountain views.

Sample itineraries

Thomas Cook Signature: The 13-night Motorhome Adventure West visits Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper, Whistler and Vancouver from £2,299 for up to four people. 

Hayes and Jarvis: The Totem Peaks 14-night programme moves from Vancouver through the Okanagan Valley to Banff and Jasper, up to Prince George and Prince Rupert in the north before returning to Victoria, Vancouver Island, from £949.

Premier Holidays: Vancouver Island Discovery is an eight-night tour circling the island and hopping over to Vancouver, from £1,635, including flights.

Kuoni: Unlimited Adventures is a 15-night programme visiting Calgary, highlights of the Rockies, The Pacific Rim National Park, Victoria and Vancouver, with activity packages including horse riding, rafting, and whale watching from £2,125, with  flights.

North America Travel Service: The 14-night Rocky Mountain Explorer includes Vancouver, Sun Peaks, Jasper, Lake Louise, Banff, Calgary and a Rocky Moutaineer train journey, from £2,079, with flights.

Ontario and Quebec

Visitors to Ontario and Quebec can enjoy great versatility, from the buzzing city of Toronto to the awe-inspiring Niagara Falls and the legendary Great Lakes.

There are national parks like Tremblant and Algonquin, and history and heritage in Ottowa and Montreal.

There’s the influence of many civilisations to discover, from First Nation groups like the Iroquois and Mohawk, to the farming Mennonite communities, and the French – which renders it a great destination for foodies. Wildlife abounds too, from wolves to moose.

Sample itineraries

Thomas Cook Signature: Bears, Native Culture and Great Lakes is a 15-day itinerary from £1,249 visiting Toronto, Algonquin Park for campfires and canoeing, Temagami, Cochrane, where visitors can swim with polar bears (with a glass wall in between!), a First-Nation reserve on Manitoulan Island and Blue Island.

Le Voyage Quebecois, from £639, immerses visitors in French Canada for 10 days, visiting Montreal, Quebec City, Tadoussac, for whale watching, and historical sights at Montmagny and Sherbrooke.

Premier Holidays: The 13-night Lakeside Family Adventure visits Toronto and Niagara before heading to the lakes to Blue Mountain, Manitoulan Island, Huntsville and Algonquin Park, from £1,595, including flights.

Canadian Affair: The Ontario and Quebec Highlights visits Toronto, Montreal, Quebec, Ottowa and Niagara Falls, from £523, if booked before March 31 for a 10% saving.

The Atlantic Maritimes

Nautical is the name of the game in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.

These far-eastern provinces are buffeted by the Atlantic – visitors will see clapperboard lighthouses, tall ships and sandy beaches.

They can windsurf or kayak, eat lobster dinners, spot whales, moose, bears and puffins, or enjoy the Celtic-influenced culture at ceilidhs.

Evidence of the early settlers can be seen in the history of the houses and many museums. In the north, lucky visitors can see the aurora borealis lighting up the sky.

Distances in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia are fractional compared to the scale of much of the rest of the country, so it’s a great area for those who don’t enjoy long drives.

Sample itineraries

Kuoni: The eight-night Atlantic Maritimes tour visits Halifax, Digby, Moncton, Charlottetown and Baddeck, and starts from £2,045, with flights.

Thomas Cook Signature: The 13-night Nova Scotia and Newfoundland Explorer visits Halifax, Baddock, and Antgonish in Nova Scotia, and Corner Brook, Twillingate, Gander, Clarenville and St John in Newfoundland and Labrador, from £1,049.

Tour operator contact details

Thomas Cook Signature
0844 871 0672

01306 744447

Canadian Affair
020 7616 9185

Premier Holidays
01223 535293

North America Travel Service
0113 246 1466

Hayes and Jarvis
0871 664 0262


This is a community-moderated forum.
All post are the individual views of the respective commenter and are not the expressed views of Travel Weekly.
By posting your comments you agree to accept our Terms & Conditions.

More in Destinations