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Trans-Canada Highway

Trans Canada Hwy.

Adventure on
the Trans-Canada Highway

The world's longest highway -- the Trans-Canada -- is the huge nation's main street, and in many towns along the way, it is "Main Street."

More than 3,000 miles of road stretch between St. John's, Newfoundland and Victoria, British Columbia, connected by several ferry rides and offering thrilling scenery. This is roadway that leads through the Atlantic Provinces and Quebec, then through the forests of the Canadian Shield, in Ontario, lonely miles across the vast prairie lands in the middle of the country, and (in the western stretch) the magnificent Canadian Rockies and then the Pacific Coast.

There are several alternate Trans-Canada routes. The most traveled is the main, southern, route, that stays within a hundred miles of the U.S. border through Quebec and Ontario -- along the northern shores of the Great Lakes. A scenic option leads farther north into the dense northern forests of Northern Ontario, providing access to wild rivers, untouched lakes, small towns, and much wildlife. An optional more southerly route leaves Thunder Bay (atop Lake Superior so it's still quite north) and then proceeds west, through lake country to Fort Francis, and then curves north to meet the main Trans-Canada at Kenora.

At Portage La Prairie, west of Winnipeg, you have a major choice to make.

Highway 1 -- the main Trans-Canada route -- crosses the southern edge of the three prairie provinces. The northern route (Highway 16) runs through Yorkton and Saskatoon (both in Saskatchewan), and then heads into Alberta at Lloydminster

The southern prairie route passes Regina and Moose Jaw, and arrives at Calgary before climbing into the Rockies.

The northern route (Hwy. 16) continues across the mid-section of Alberta, through Edmonton, and becomes the Yellowhead Highway, leading through Jasper National Park and the northern Rockies. It loses its Trans-Canada status near the British Columbia Border, where you can take the Yellowhead South Highway (Hwy. 5) to meet the main Trans-Canada route at the city of Kamloops.

Back on the main route, just west of Calgary, the highway visits Banff, Yoho, and Glacier National Parks, crossing five mountain ranges, and dropping into the Fraser River Canyon before reaching Vancouver. The Trans-Canada continues, after a ferry ride, to its end, on Vancouver Island.

You'll find the Trans-Canada Highway taking you on an amazing drive with a wide range of landscapes and cities and towns, across the ten Canadian provinces—from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Have a great trip on all or part of this country-wide drive.!


Gros Morne National Park

Gros Morne National Park

St. John's, capital city of the island province of Newfoundland, and Canada's oldest city, is the eastern starting point of the Trans-Canada Highway.

The road croses the Avalon Peninsula, heading west, and then leads northwest to the town of Gander, and then passes Bishop's Falls, Grand Falls, and Springdale.

At Deer Lake, Route 430 leads a few miles north to reach Gros Morne National Park. The Trans-Canada then leads south, to Corner Brook, and the ferry landing at Port Aux Basques.

Corner Brook, Newfoundland's second largest city, is 444 miles (714 km) from St. John's. To reach the ferry to Nova Scotia, drive another 133 miles (214 km).

Many provincial parks, with campgrounds, are located along the route.

About the photo, above: Gros Morne, This magnificent national park is located on the east coast of the island, north of the city of Cornerbrook. It is noted for its dramatic fjords, wildflower meadows, and historic sites.

While the Trans-Canada offers great scenery and natural attractions, driving a few miles off the highway provides glimpses of many small fishing villages that echo life in Newfoundland of more than a hundred years ago. Brigus, Harbour Grace, Come By Chance, and Musgravetown, are just a few mintes from the Trans-Canada.

In the middle part of the trip, the highway crosses the island's interior, wih many small lakes (called ponds), rocky outcroppings, and unique ecosystems. The Long Range Muntains come into view as you approach Deer Lake, the gateway to Gros Morne.

If you have a few days to spare, leave the highway at Goobies, and take Route 210 south to Fortune, and catch a ferry to the French Islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon. This is the last French colony in North America, and a fascinating world apart.

Nova Scotia

Cape Breton Island
Cape Breton Highlands National Park

The ferry from Newfoundland lands at North Sydney, and the Trans-Canada Highway proceeds along the shoreline of several bays, crossing to the mainland over the Streit of Canso.

It dips south, to Truro, and then wanders to Amherst, and the border with New Brunswick. There are many opportunities to take short drives to the small towns on St. George's Bay (inc.uding Havre Boucher, Tracadie, andPomquet), and on Northumberland Strait (Pictou, Pugwash, and Northport).

The distance from Sydney to Amherst is 252 miles (405 KM), but a nonstop tour of the Cabot Trail will add a day to your visit.

About the photo, above: Leading north from the Trans-Canada Highway, the Cabot Trail circles the northern section of Cape Breton Island. The national park is located near the northern tip, at Ingonish Beach, offering camping, swimming, fishing, and hiking.

Nova Scotia, one of Canada's Atlantic Provinces, is a quiet land of bays and lakes, picturesque fishing villages, and wonderful parks. The Cabot Trail is a must-see tour route, hugging the coastline for almost all of its journey around the northern peninsula of Cape Breton Island.

Visit the town of Baddeck (on the Trans-Canada) where you'll find Alexander Graham Bell's Canadian home, a national historic park. Seafood is plentiful along the way, along the Cabot Trail, in Antoginish, New Glasgow, and Truro.

The Trans-Canada does not pass through Halifax, the provincial capital and Nova Scotia's largest city, but it's only 63 miles southwest of Truro, and worth visiting.

As it leads toward New Brunswick, the Trans-Canada (Route 104) moves inland, passing Wentworth Provincial Park, with Amgerst Shore Provincial Park a 30-minute drive north of Amherst.

The next province on this tour is Prince Edward Island. To get there, cross the border into New Brunswick. Then turn east onto Trans Canada Route 16, and cross to the island on the 11-mile bridge. You can also take a privately-operated car ferry to PEI, from Pictou, Nova Scotia -- a 75-minute cruise.

Prince Edward Island

Green Gables

Green Gables

The Trans-Canada Highway loops across the mid section of the island, from the Confederation Bridge, at Borden, to the Woods Islands Ferry Terminal, from which you can take the car ferry to Nova Scotia. The ferry trip takes 75 minutes across the 14-mile Northumberland Strait.

From the northern end of the Trans-Canada, at Borden, the route leads northeast through the city of Charlottetown, meeting the sea again at Cherry Valley (on Pownal Bay). It curves around Orwell Bay, heading south through a half-dozen small towns, ending at Wood Islands.

To really enjoy the island, you have to leave the Trans-Canada and take to the narrow sideroads that lace the countryside. Many of these roads lead to seaside resorts and villages, and through the extensive farmlands that produce the famous PEI potatoes.

If you take Highway 2, heading north, you'll reach the Malbeque Bay area, and then the North Cape peninsula.

About the photo, above: Green Gables, the home of author Lucy Maude Montgomery is a favorite with visitors to Prince Edward Island. It's at Cavendish, just north of Charlottetown, and is one of many historic sites on PEI.

Green Gables House is operated by Parks Canada, and Prince Edward Island National Park stretches along the northern shore of the island from new London Bay to Tracadie Bay.

Other Anne-related sites are the Green Gables Post Office, the Anne of Green Gables Museum , Montomery Manor, and Cavendish Cemetery, where the author was buried in 1942. The annual Lucy Maude Montgomery festival is held in August. The best way to tour the Cavendish area is to take Route 2 (the King's Byway) from downtown Charlottetown.


PEI is a great place for golfers, with scenic courses on all parts of the island. The Links at Crowbush, opened in 1994, is a rolling Scottish-style course beside the water of the north shore. Brudenell is nearby, as are Stanhope, Rustico, and Green Gables (all on the north shore). Clyde River and Glen Aften are on the south shore, near Charlottetown. Mill River is close to the north end of the island.


You can catch broom trout in the inland streams, rivers, and ponds. The Morell River is famous for its Atlantic Salmon. Deep Sea fishing is at its best just offshore, with mackerel, cod, and flounder available. Tuna charters leave from North Lake. Deep Sea tours operate from July 1st to September 15.

Outdoor Fun:

The island is perfect for easy cycling, with mild temperatures and gentle slopes. The backroads of the island are perfect for cyclists: uncrowded and very scenic. Hikers enjoy the serene beauty of PEI, on Parks Canada trails in the Cavendish, Stanhope, and Calvay areas, and in four provincial parks (Green Park, Mill River, Brudenell, and Strathgartney). The Confederation Trail uses a former railway right of way and is open to hikers and cyclists, and for snowmobilers in winter.

The island is lined with beaches -- 40 of them -- with a beach within 15 minutes' drive from anywhere on PEI. You'll find white sand beaches at several provincial parks, and many of the best beaches are in out-of-the-way places at the end of island sideroads. Birding is a prime activity with 315 species sighted across the island. Bird lists are available from the Visitor Information Centers throughout the island. Colonies of seals inhabit the rivers.

New Brunswick

Historic Site

Kings Landing Historic Settlement

Although the Trans-Canada Highway passes through several cities, and two-dozen towns, the thrill comes when driving through the great valley of the St. John River. Leading north from Fredericton, the highway passes through the area known as the Rhine of North America, In Hartland, the river is crossed by the longest covered bridge in the world.

Kings Landing Historic Settlement (picture on the left) is a fine restoration of early rural life in New Brunswick. Located a few minutes north of Fredericton, on the St John River, Kings Landing is a living history museum, offering a glimpse of pioneer life from the time of the Loyalists (refugees from the American Revolution). From June to October, costumer interpreters show how life was lived from the Loyalists to the late Vistorians. the site is found at Exit 259 of the Trans-Canada Highway. It's open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The Trans-Canada Highway leads 325 miles (523 KM) through this beautiful province, from Sackville, on the Nova Scotia border, to just north of Edmondston, at the border with Quebec. Most of the trip is along the St. John River, after passing through Moncton, Sussex and Fredericton.

To travel the Trans-Canada route to Prince Edward Island, take Highway 16 at the Nova Scotia/New Brunswick border, and drive 36 miles to the bridge, which after many years of yearning for a car-route to the mainland, opened in 1997.


Parc Mont Bruno

Parc Mont Bruno - Quebec

The Trans-Canada Highway touches only the most southerly regions of this huge province, but provides a great introduction to the regions along the St. Lawrence River and allows you to explore the cities of Quebec and Montreal.

From the New Brunswick border, Route 185 links Edmonton (NB)) to Riviere du-Loup, on the St. Lawrence. From there, it's a 120-mile (193 KM) drive to Quebec City, all along the south shore of the river. The highway (Route20) is divided between Levis (south of Quebec) and Montreal.

At Montreal, the Trans-Canada (#17) heads northwest, leading beside the Ottawa River, toward the nation's capital, exiting the province at Hull, just across the river from Ottawa, Ontario.

All of the Trans-Canada sections in Quebec are scenic, with several provincial parks providing handy overnight camping opportunities.


Jacques Cartier Provincial Park is located just north of Quebec City, a half-hour drive off the Trans-Canada. Take Route 175. Mount Bruno Provincial Park is found south of the Trans-Canada, a few miles east of Montreal. Mont Tremblant Provincial Park is located east of the route between Montreal and Hull/Ottawa. Take Route 322 to Temblant Village and the western park entrance. When you get close to Hull, look for Gatineau Park. This fine park is in a national recreation and conservation area. Paul Sauvé Provincial Park is just northwest of Montreal, via Route 344.

Nearby Places to Visit:

Any of the many villages along the south shore of the St. Lawrence River offer sight-seeing and Quebec-style eating, including street-side vending of Potates Frites. Isle Orleans, is an island off the north shore of the river, just east of Quebec City. This is a great place to visit, to stay in a B&B, and to drive around the rustic countryside.

The Laurentian Autoroute is the part of the Trans-Canada Highway leading north from Montreal. The route leads into the Laurentian Mountains, with small villages along the way, and resort accommodations at many of them.


Lake of the Woods
Lake of the Woods Provincial Park

Both the northern and southern Trans-Canada routes in Ontario avoid freeways, mainly passing through rural landscape in the south, and through the forests of the Canadian Shield north of Orillia and Ottawa.

Those who love the outdoors should probably plan a combination of northern and southern routes. The road along the east shore of Lake Superior is one of the Canada's great drives, with scenic parks along the way. The more northerly route, through Hearst, offers hundreds of miles of wilderness driving, with nary a village to mar the view. Both routes linking Thunder Bay and Kenora offer hundreds of lakes, forest, and convenient provincial parks with campgrounds.

Ottawa is the largest city on any of the Ontario routes, with Sudbury, North Bay and Sault Ste. Marie much smaller. Toronto is not on the Trans-Canada, but is 80 miles (128 KM) west of Peterborough.

About the photo, above: Lake of the Woods Provincial Park is in the beautiful lake country north of Lake Superior, near the Ontario-Manitoba border. To get there, take the southern Trans-Canada route, leading west from Thunder Bay, or east from Kenora.

You'll find provincial parks across Ontario, particularly in the northern sections north of Orilia, although a dozen parks with campgrounds lie along the Highway 7 route between Ottawa and Orillia (on Lake Simcoe).


Spruce Woods

Spruce Woods Provincial Park

This province of prairie and lakes offers much to tourists, including parks and forests just west of the border with Ontario, plus the beginnings of the vast prairie region that stretches across the mid-section of the nation.

Winnipeg is the largest city, and the capital of the province. Other major centers on the southern Trans-Canada route are Portage la Prairie, and Brandon.

For those heading for Saskatoon and Edmonton, take the northern route at Portage la Prairie. To cross the province, by the main -- southern -- route, keep on Highway 1 (through Brandon). Both Trans-Canada routes lead through farming country, with many small towns along the way.

About the photo, above: Located just south of the Trans-Canada Highway, in southern Manitoba, Spruce Woods offers camping and hiking in a quiet setting. To get there take either Route 5 -- south from Carberry -- or Route 34, from MacGregor, and drive to the sideroad that leads through the park. Spruce Woods Provincial Forest is west of the park boundary.

Some of the prettiest scenery in Canada is found just west of the Ontario border, where the Trans-Canada passes through Whiteshell Provincial Park. This huge park offers wonderful recreation, including camping, hiking, and swimming. As you drive west, and the prairies appear, the route leads into Sandlands Provincial Park.

Winnipeg is a large, multicultural city, with a thriving cultural scene, and lots of fine restaurants. Highway 59 leads north of the city to the southern edge of Lake Winnipeg, and several resort areas. Those who choose to travel the northern Trans Canada route should check-out Riding Mountain National Park, located 22 miles north of the highway. Route 10 leads through the midle of the park, providing access to campgrounds. This is a particularly scenic drive. If you're taking the southern route across the privince, and looking to spend some extra time, drive to the U.S. border from Brandon, on Route 10, and visit Turtle Mountain Provincial Park and the International Peace Garden.


Fort Walsh National Historic Site

Fort Walsh

The two Trans-Canada routes cross the southern half of the province -- the northern stretch leads in a northwest direction through Saskatoon, North Battlefield, and Lloydminster, while the main, southern route runs east to west, about 80 miles north of the U.S. border, passing through Regina and Swift Current.

Both routes cross the vast prairie landscape. This is cattle and wheat farming country, with gentle hills, swales, and much flatland. On the western side of the province, the South Saskatchewan River flows between the two routes.

A half-dozen provincial park are found within a half-hour drive of the southern route, with only two located close to the Saskatoon route.

Driving across Saskatchewan is a unique Canadian experience -- with endless prairie stretching to the horizon, punctuated only by a succession of small farming towns and hamlets.

About the photo, above: Now a national historic site, Fort Walsh was the Northwest Mounted Police (RCMP) post from 1878 to 1883, and reopened from 1942 to 1968 to breed horses for the famed RCMP Musical Ride. Visit the old, townsite -- including two cemeteries and a reconstructed Whiskey trading post. Self guided trails lead along the Battle Creek Ridge. The fort is found south of the Trans-Canada, near the U.S. border, in the southwest corner of the province.

The historic site is located south of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. This park has two sections -- one directly north of Fort Walsh, and the other to the east (see below).

Both Regina and Saskatoon are sizable cities, with full visitor facilities, a range of restaurants, hotels, motels, and private RV parks. Swift Current, North Battleford and Lloydminster are smaller, but offer many of the same services.

Along the southern route, you'll find Moose Mountain Provincial Park south of the Trans-Canada, via Route 9 from Whitewood. Crooked Lake, Katepwa, and Echo Valley provincial parks are north of the highway, east of Regina. To get to Crooked Lake, take Route 201 at Broadview. Echo Valley and Katepwa parks are on opposite ends of Qu'Appelle, close to Regina. Saskatoon Landing Provincial Park is on the river, north of Swift Current, via Route 4.

Camping is also available at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, south of the main, southern, Trans-Canada Highway, via Route 21. An interesting circle route will take you to this park, and then leads south on Route 21 -- to the junction with Route 13. Turn right on Route 13 and travel only a few miles to Route 615 (unpaved). Then take Route 615 north, to Route 271, and you'll see signs for Fort Walsh National Historic Park and the western section of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park (also with a campground). Take Route 271 north to rejoin Route 21 and the Trans-Canada highway.

Along the northern leg of the Trans-Canada, you'll find Good Spirit Lake Provincial Park just north of Yorkton (via Route 47), and The Battlefords Provincial Park 20 miles north of North Battlefield (via Route 4).


Banff National Park

Banff National Park

Banff National Park is at the extreme western edge of this large province. Driving west, you'll find many miles of prairie grasslands, before reaching Calgary. From this modern city, the rockies are clearly viewed, and lie just 30 miles to the west. Medicine Hat is the other city on the southern Trans-Canada route.

The northern Trans-Canada leg (Highway 16) leads from the Saskatchewan border to Edmonton, and then runs to the British Columbia border, passing through Jasper National Park and much fine Rocky Mountain scenery. You'll find motels in the town of Jasper, and Jasper Park Lodge is located in the park, a few miles out of town.

Either way you go, the Rockies are magnificent, the parks are superb, and you'll come away with long lasting memories.

The Rockies have to be the main attractions in Alberta, but there are other things to see and do. These include sampling the multicultural lifestyles of Calgary and Edmonton, stopping in the many small towns along the two highway routes, visiting provincial parks, and exploring scenic sideroads off the main highways. A few miles west of Calgary, Route 40 leads south at the feet of the Rockies, through Kananaskis Country and Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. Route 66 leads from the Trans-Canada, at Cochrane, to campgrounds in the Rocky Mountain Forest Reserve.

About the photo, above: The sights in Banff National Park are among the many majestic scenes of the Canadian Rockies. Among the must-see places is Lake Louise, located 17 miles northwest of the Banff townsite. You could spend a week, or a month, exploring the natural glories of the national parks of the Rockies, and still only scratch the surface. Kootenay National Park is located south of Banff NP, in British Columbia. Yoho NP is also in B.C., to the west. Jasper NP lies a half-day's drive to the north, via the Icefields Parkway (Route 93).

If Banff National Park is your major vacation destination, plan for an extra day or two to drive the Icefields Parkway, through the northern section of Banff NP, and into Jasper National Park. This road takes you beside the Athabaska Glacier, where you can walk to the glacier's toe, or on a glass-bottomed walkway, and also take a Columbia Icefield trip in a bus equipped with huge icegoing tires.

Another great side trip from Banff is the drive south into British Columbia and Kootenay National Park. Take Route 93 to drive through the beautiful Kootenay River Valley. This road ends at Radium Hotsprings, in the Columbia Valley.

Provincial parks, with campgrounds, are located at frequent intervals along both the northern and southern Tranms-Canada routes.

British Columbia

Mt. Revelstoke

Mt. Revelstoke National Park

From the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean, British Columbia is a wonderland of mounytains, deep river valleys, and large interior plateaus. Officially, the northern Trans-Canada route stops at or near the Alberta border, but you can continue on Route 16, the Yellowhead Highway, all the way to Prince Rupert, and the Pacific Coast.

You can also take the South Yellowhead (Route 5) south from Tete Jaune Cache, to meet the main Trans-Canada route at Kamloops, and then continue west to Vancouver and Victoria.

The southern route crosses not only the Rockies, but leads across the Selkirk, Monashee, and Coast Mountains before reaching the Fraser River Valley and Vancouver. After a ferry crossing from the Vancouver area, the Trans-Canada leads from Nanaimo to Victoria, completing the cross-country journey on Vancouver Island.

About the photo, above: One of the national parks along the Trans-Canada Highway in eastern B.C., Mt. Revelstoke is set in the Selkirk Mounmtains, north of the town of Revelstoke. The Columbia River flows along the western side of the park. Glacier National Park is a few miles to the east. Recreational activities available include camping, hiking, wildlife observation, and skiing. Canyon Hot Springs Resort is across the highway from the park.

Leaving the Alberta border, you have a full day of driving through mountain ranges, passing through Yoho National Park, and through the Selkirkss and Monashees before reaching the Shyswap Lakes region, and then the city of Kamloops. By now, you're on the Interior Plateau. The Trans-Canada route heads west and then south, while the Coquihalla Highway (a toll route, #5A) cuts time by heading directly south to the town of Hope. The Trans-Canada Route follows the Thompson and Fraser Rivers, through deep canyons, before reaching the farmlands of the Fraser River Delta, and the outskirts of Vancouver.

The mainland section of the Trans-Canada ends at the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal (across the harbor from the city of Vancouver). Nanaimo is the Vancouver Island ferry terminus. Victoria is a two-hour drive from Nanaimo.

British Columbia has an extensive park system, and Trans-Canada drivers will find many parks, with campsites, right on the route. Accommodations guides and regional provincial park maps are available at the B.C. Tourist Infocentres.

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Trans-Canada Highway

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Nova Scotia

Prince Edward Island

New Brunswick






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