Article by Mark Stachiew originally published in the May-October 2018 edition of the Atmosphere magazine. Read the latest edition here.
You don’t have to travel far from Canada’s largest cities to enjoy the country’s natural beauty. With these short road trips, escape the concrete jungle for the real jungle. Or at least a boreal forest.
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Point your car in any direction from Vancouver, and you’ll be surrounded by landscapes of sublime beauty, like the views on the drive up the Sea-to-Sky Highway to the delightful mountain village of Whistler.
En route, visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park to explore a forest of towering trees. Then stop off in Squamish to ride the Sea to Sky Gondola to the top of the Stawamus Chief. This towering granite massif offers stunning views of Howe Sound and surrounding mountains.
Foodies, head east to take the Circle Farm Tour through the bountiful Fraser Valley and discover unique agricultural experiences. At the end of the road, take a dip in the world-renowned Harrison Hot Springs.
The beloved 1970s TV show The Beachcombers introduced the beauty of British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast to the world. Take the ferry to Gibsons to see where the series was filmed, then set off to explore the area’s many charming islands and communities.
PERFECT ROAD-TRIPPING SONG: “Windshield Wiper” by The Enigmas
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Toronto is so big that it can take a while to leave the city behind, but within a few hours’ drive, you can find yourself in a land of forests and lakes.
Two hours east of Toronto, visit the fascinating Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough. Let it inspire you to try a bit of paddling of your own: loop back through rural roads to one of the many lakes and rivers near the welcoming communities around Kawartha Lakes.
A bit further on is Prince Edward County, a fertile slice of land that juts into Lake Ontario. Foodies come for the Taste Trail and the abundant fare in Wellington Farmers’ Market. Families come for the picturesque sand dunes and beaches in nearby Sandbanks Provincial Park.
If you’ve only got one day, don’t miss Niagara Falls, a two-hour drive from the big city. Be sure to take a boat ride to the base of the falls to better appreciate their mighty power. When you’re done, tour some of the Niagara Peninsula’s many outstanding vineyards.
PERFECT ROAD-TRIPPING SONG: “Life Is a Highway” by Tom Cochrane
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When Montrealers want to escape the city, they drive north to the Laurentian Mountains or south to the bucolic countryside of the Eastern Townships.
Follow their lead to the popular mountain resort town of Mont-Tremblant. Ride a gondola to the summit for spectacular views, then ride to the bottom on Quebec’s longest zip-line. The view is especially beautiful in autumn, when the trees take on vibrant hues of red, yellow and orange.
On the way to Tremblant, you can take little detours through the farming towns of the Lower Laurentians. Fresh strawberries and corn are abundant in summer, as are massive pumpkins in the fall. Learn how to carve the perfect Halloween pumpkin at the Centre d’interprétation de la courge in Saint-Joseph-du-Lac.
In the Townships, follow the wine trail or cheese trail or maybe both. For something unique, cycle through the treetops with VéloVolant in Sutton. Or head to Lake Memphremagog near Magog to see if you can spot Memphre, a legendary underwater monster that might be a cousin of Loch Ness’s own Nessie.
PERFECT ROAD-TRIPPING SONG: “La Rue Principale” by Les Colocs
Cover Photo Credit: Destination Canada