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9 Scenic Canada Road Trips Within 2 Hours of the U.S. Border

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After over a year of border restrictions, Canada is now allowing fully vaccinated Americans to visit—and a U.S. to Canada road trip is a great way to take advantage, while also avoiding the often-crowded airport experience. For travelers looking to head north of the border this summer in the privacy of their own car, these are nine scenic routes that we love, with tips on where to stay, eat, and more. The best part? Each of these Canada road trip itineraries has starting points in the U.S., so you can enjoy every bit of the drive.

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Niagara Parkway: Buffalo, New York to Toronto, Ontario

Just across the border from Buffalo, New York, lies the city of Niagara Falls, best known for being the home of the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. For those looking to extend their trip, travel along the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW), which will take you from Niagara to downtown Toronto in 90 minutes (if traffic is flowing smoothly).

Where to stop: Follow the Niagara parkway to the picturesque town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, where you’ll spot preserved 19th-century colonial architecture. The Niagara region is also known for having dozens of wineries on the Niagara Wine Trail, and some are as close as 10 minutes to the border.

Where to eat: The family-run Ravine Vineyard Estate has an on-site restaurant and general store-style gift shop offering a la carte selections, and pantry picnic essentials to stock up on between wine tastings.  

Where to stay: Charming Niagara-on-the-Lake has several landmark properties like the Harbour House Hotel and Prince of Wales Hotel. If your road trip takes you to Toronto, continue your trip back in time by staying at One King West Hotel & Residence, inside Toronto’s original Dominion Bank skyscraper, which dates back to 1914.

Icefields Parkway: Montana to Banff National Park, Alberta

The quickest way from the American border to Banff National Park in Alberta is to drive through British Columbia. From northern Montana, head north on the BC-93 highway driving through the small towns along the way. The Icefields Parkway links Lake Louise in Banff National Park to Jasper National Park, and whirls drivers through the Rocky Mountains, beside glacier-like icefields and along the Continental Divide. 

Where to stop: On your way to Banff National Park you’ll pass though several mountain towns brimming with outdoor activities, like skiing and waterfalls to visit; Cranbrook, Fernie, and Kimberly are all just off the BC-93 and worth pulling over for. Stop by the village of Radium Hot Springs, which is open to visitors year-round, for a dip in the Lussier Natural Hot Springs, or one of their thermal pools.  

Where to eat: During your drive on the Icefields Parkway, dine beside the Columbia Ice Field at the Glacier View Lodge. From the on-site Altitude Restaurant you’ll have spectacular dinner views of the mountains, or you can visit the more-casual Chalet for lunch fare. 

Where to stay: Known as the “Castle in the Rockies,” the Fairmont Banff Springs was built as one of the original Canadian Pacific Railway hotels in 1886. Today, Fairmont also operates other historic properties in the region that include the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. 

Fundy Coastal Trail: Maine to Saint John, New Brunswick

Explore New Brunswick’s 286-mile drive along the Bay of Fundy coastline to see the world’s highest tides up-close. Depending on the time of day, you can marvel at the tides two ways: by kayaking on the water when it’s at its peak, or by walking on the sprawling ocean floor when the waves have recessed. The Bay of Fundy can be seen from Saint John to Moncton, or plan a visit to the otherworldly Hopewell Rocks, which were formed by tidal erosions and stand alone when the tide goes out. 

Where to stop: St. Andrews by the sea is the midway point between Maine and the Bay of Fundy. For a short visit, wander down the town’s main strip and along its historic pier; if you have some more time, wander through the 27-acre Kingsbrae Garden or play 18 holes at the award-winning Algonquin Golf Course. 

Where to eat: Dine at the Saint John City Market, where you’ll find locally caught seafood and other seasonal goods. For a sit-down meal, stop by Bigtide Brewing Company for craft beer and pub fare. 

Where to stay: In downtown Saint John, the Delta Hotel by Marriott Saint John is conveniently within walking distance to the city’s best attractions and its famed reversing falls, which appear to swirl backwards into the Bay of Fundy. For the resort experience, book a night at The Algonquin in St. Andrews by the sea.

Sea to Sky Highway: Washington State to Whistler, British Columbia

You can drive from the edge of Washington state to the mountains in Whistler in just over two hours, cutting through vibrant Vancouver along the way. The Sea-to-Sky Highway, also known as the BC-99, connects North Vancouver to Whistler on a picturesque coastal drive where the mountain and the water meet.

Where to stop: To break up your drive, stop in Squamish at the Sea to Sky Gondola to get an aerial view of the region. If time permits, enhance your visit with a free guided tour to learn about the history of the land on the Spirit Trail. 

Where to eat: Head to the Nicklaus North Golf Course to try and snag a spot on the patio at Table Nineteen for scenic views of Green Lake, and the descending floatplanes flying in from Vancouver. 

Where to stay: Book a few nights in Whistler to explore this bustling mountain town. Budget-travelers flock to the boutique capsule Pangea Pod Hotel, located in the center of the main strip. For a lakeside respite, the Nita Lake Lodge is a stone’s throw away in Creekside Village.

Autoroute 73: Maine to Quebec City, Quebec

While several of the New England states border Québec, the capital city of Québec City is in the Eastern part of the province, closest to Maine. This Francophone city feels more like Europe than other areas of Canada, with narrow alleyways and cobblestone streets. Continue your road trip along the St. Lawrence River to scenic Baie-Saint Paul in Charlevoix for country walks, cheese shops, and the Galerie d’art Iris. 

Where to stop: Mark the Montmorency Falls on your map for a quick stop just outside of Québec City, on your way to Charlevoix. The magnificent falls tower 99 feet higher than Niagara Falls and adventurous travelers can explore them by cable car, a suspended bridge, or zip-line.

Where to eat: Stop by the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac for an afternoon tea at the castle, or dine onsite at Champlain Restaurant or Sam Bistro. 

Where to stay: Auberge Saint-Antoine in the Old Port of Quebec City is a Relais & Châteaux that has preserved relics from the archeological dig within the property. In Baie-Saint Paul, the Hôtel & Spa Le Germain Charlevoix blends a peaceful escape in a charming town with sophisticated amenities and an onsite Spa Nordique Le Germain.

The Southwest Nova Scotia Route: Bar Harbor, Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia

When the CAT ferry that travels between Bar Harbor, Maine, and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, resumes in spring 2022, you can get from coast to coast on this high-speed catamaran in just over three hours. RVs, pickups, SUVs, cars, tour buses, motorcycles, and bicycles are welcome aboard—making this the best way for road trippers to cross the Atlantic Ocean into Canada. Once in Nova Scotia, drive along the jaw-dropping coastline along the 101 to Halifax, and back down the 103 to the ferry in Yarmouth.

Where to stop: Plan to make several stops during your road trip, in the small coastal towns of Digby, Lunenburg, and Mahone Bay. After Halifax, head to Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse to visit one of the most recognizable sites in Canada.

Where to eat: A trip to Nova Scotia isn’t complete with indulging in fresh seafood. Swing by one of the stalls at Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market, or grab a lobster roll along the water’s edge in one of the small towns that you visit along the way. 

Where to stay: Break up your drive by staying a night or two in downtown Halifax. For a touch of history, book your stay at the Lord Nelson Hotel and Suites by the Halifax Public Gardens. For a contemporary option, check out Muir, Autograph Collection Hotel–slated to open in fall 2021.

Alaska-Canadian Highway: Alaska to Haines Junction, Yukon

The 1390-mile route along the Alaska-Canadian Highway takes you through the Pacific Northwest, from Seattle to British Columbia, and then into Alaska and the Yukon. For a shorter jaunt, take just the northern leg along the St. Elias Mountains and Kluane National Park and Reserve, traveling north from Alaska through Haines Junction.

Where to stop: At the Thechàl Dhâl Visitor Centre, you can pick up hiking maps, register for backcountry camping, and learn more about Kluane National Park and Reserve. During the spring and fall, Dall Sheep can often be seen nearby. This national park is home to Canada’s highest mountain, Mt. Logan, the largest non-polar ice fields on the planet, and is part of one the largest internationally protected areas connected to Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park in British Columbia, and Glacier Bay National Park and Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park in Alaska.

Where to eat: There are several dining options in Haines Junction, but due to the secluded nature of this region you’ll want to pack a few snacks in a bear-proof container to bring on your drive. Rely on on-site dining options during your hotel stay, and healthy breakfasts and hearty family-style dinners at the Mount Logan EcoLodge. 

Where to stay: The Mount Logan EcoLodge is a rustic escape tucked within the mountains, in a prime location for those wanting to catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis during the winter months.

ellowhead Highway: North Dakota to Winnipeg, Manitoba

The Yellowhead Highway runs through the Canadian Prairie from Winnipeg, Manitoba, through Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and Edmonton, Alberta. From the North Dakota border, drive up to Winnipeg for an overnight stay before continuing west toward Riding Mountain National Park. 

Where to stop: Spend a day or two in Winnipeg to explore the city. During your visit, see the Inuit art museum Qaumajuq, in the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and Assiniboine Park Zoo’s Journey to Churchill exhibit. 

Where to eat: Under the direction of Chef Mandel Hitzer, deer + almond’s menu offers a fusion of flavors. Hitzer is also the brains behind the winter pop-up restaurant RAW:almond, constructed atop Winnipeg’s frozen river. 

Where to stay: The Inn at the Forks is centrally located in the city’s tourist area within walking distance to several restaurants and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. 

Red Coat Trail Saskatchewan Badlands: Montana to Saskatchewan

The historic Red Coat Trail along Highway 13 stretches through the Prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. Explore the midway section of the route in Saskatchewan, a short drive away from the Montana-Saskatchewan border. For the closest crossing to Grasslands National Park, head north along the 191 in Montana crossing the border in Morgan.

Where to stop: Visit the wide-open plains of Grasslands National Park on your way from the U.S.-Canada border toward Highway 13. This national park is one of the largest Dark Sky Preserves in Canada, making it the perfect place to stargaze during your overnight stay. 

Where to eat: Stop by Harvest Eatery in Shaunavon, Saskatchewan, located along the Red Coat Trail. Their extensive globally inspired menu serves farm-fresh salads, family-style mains, and a kid’s menu to accommodate young travelers. 

Where to stay: Stay within Grasslands National Park in a Parks Canada oTENTik. Found in Frenchman Valley and Rock Creek Campgrounds, the oTENTiks are built in equipped A-frame cabins offering the camping experience without the hassle.

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