The second largest country in the world, Canada has plenty to be proud of: beautiful natural parks, a rich and diverse culture and heritage, a coastline spanning three oceans, Old World charm, and New World ideas, hockey.
Yes, that’s right! In today’s post I shine the spotlight on Canada. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help you plan your next trip to the second-largest country in the world. With its sprawling wilderness and endless beauty, you would be hard-pressed to not enjoy your stay.
So, as the clicks add up while you’re heading to The Peg (Winnipeg) or wherever your plans take you, be sure to treat yourself to a Timmies Double Double and some Timbits from Tim Hortons.
Crossing the Border
What awaits you at the Canada-United States border? If you’re thinking of taking an RV trip from one country to the other, make sure you hone up on current border crossing requirements. Know the rules for each country including similarities and differences to experience a smooth, hassle-free crossing.
Having correct documentation is the key. To drive across the border, you’ll have to present identification to border-crossing officials. Acceptable forms of ID include a passport, a trusted traveler card such as NEXUS, or an enhanced driver’s license. American citizens entering Canada also may use paperwork that shows proof of U.S. citizenship such as a birth certificate. For Canadian citizens crossing the border into the United States, a birth certificate is acceptable identification only for children under 16. Each passenger in your vehicle needs appropriate identification.
Have copies of the registration and insurance information for each of your vehicles as well. Bring proof of up-to-date rabies vaccinations for your dogs and cats on board. As for COVID-19 requirements, Canada has removed their rules for those arriving from the United States has done the same.
What can I bring? When entering the United States, you’re required to disclose the following items to border-crossing officials: firearms, fruits and vegetables, plants and cut flowers, meat and animal products, and live animals. Numerous foods are restricted or prohibited such as most fruits and vegetables (unless commercially canned) and many milk/dairy and poultry/egg products. Canada also maintains a list of restricted/prohibited food items. Both countries prohibit bringing in firewood as well as soil (make sure any camping equipment is free of soil and pests). Most Canadian provinces and territories prohibit radar detectors also. According to Ezbordercrossing.com, both countries have strict firearms protocols.
At the border, open the windows in your RV so the interior is visible. Remove your sunglasses. Turn off phones and the radio. Clearly and courteously communicate your reasons for travel, travel dates, and destinations to border officials.
Declare all money or currency equal to or over CAN$10,000. It is not illegal to bring such amounts into Canada but you must declare it on arrival.
The Great White North offers so much to see and do. Canada is full of national parks, lakes, mountain ranges, coastal views, and great camping locations. Here’s a sampling of sites worth seeing.
Banff is Canada’s most famous national park and the oldest national park in the country. Banff was designated as a national park in 1885 after the discovery of its hot springs by employees of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Located in Alberta just 1 hour and 30 minutes west of Calgary, Banff national park is nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies.
There is a reason everyone flocks to Banff. With snowcapped mountains, glacier lakes, and world-class four-season activities, it’s Canada’s outdoor playground. Banff National Park is so beautiful that one of its most famous lakes, Moraine Lake was depicted on Canada’s twenty-dollar bill.
Another location is Jasper National Park in Alberta, the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies and the second-largest dark-sky preserve in the world. An extensive network of trails provides views of its abundant wildlife.
Driving along the Icefields Parkway, you will be able to see parts of the Columbia Icefields—the biggest icefield in the Rocky Mountains. It feeds six large glaciers and covers 125 square miles. Athabasca Glacier is one of the six and it is the most visited glacier in North America due to ease of access. The Icefield Interpretive Centre and paid tours are nearby and definitely recommended as a stop on your road trip.
Folks who love wineries, beaches, and bird-watching may gravitate to the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. The Okanagan is characterized by a dry, sunny climate, beautiful landscapes, and a series of lakes. The region receives less than 12 inches of rain and two inches of snow annually and is the hottest and driest place in Canada. On the horizon are mountains of green foliage, aqua blue lakes, and, in the distance, rolling vineyards as far as the eye can see.
In central British Columbia, Wells Gray has something to offer every outdoor interest: lush alpine meadows, excellent birding and wildlife viewing opportunities, hiking, boating, canoeing, and kayaking. Guiding businesses offer horseback riding, canoeing, whitewater rafting, fishing, and hiking. The history enthusiast can learn about the early homesteaders, trappers, and prospectors or about the natural forces that produced Wells Gray’s many volcanoes, waterfalls, mineral springs, and glaciers.
Many people head to Wells Gray for the lakes but there are also over 40 named waterfalls in the park. Many of them are in remote corners of the park but eight of them are easy to reach from Clearwater Valley Road.
In Newfoundland, Gros Morne National Park features a unique mountain landscape that resembles a massive gorge. The park which was forged by colliding continents and grinding glaciers will surely take your breath away.
You can’t visit Newfoundland without a stop in St. John’s, Newfoundland’s charming capital city filled with windswept hikes, delicious eats, charming landmarks, whale watching, and iceberg hunting, yes, iceberg hunting!
Long drives in Nova Scotia are definitely desired more than they are dreaded. One of the most scenic routes in Canada is Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail; this 185 mile (298 km) highway runs along the Cape Breton coast line. Stop at the famous Ingonish Beach where you can jump from ocean saltwater to fresh lake water with just a few steps.
Do this drive in the fall and you will be stunned by the natural beauty of the fall trees and the coastal views along the way. If you’re looking for stop along the drive, there is no shortage of things to do and see in Cape Breton. Hike or camp at Cape Breton Highlands National Park, play a round of golf at Highlands Links, peruse artisan shops along the trail, or book your spot on a sea kayaking, cycling, or whale watching tour.
With its breathtaking northern coastline, beautiful red sand, and incredible seafood cuisine, it’s no surprise that Prince Edward Island is a popular maritime destination. Dip your toes in the ocean at Cavendish beach, one of P.E.I’s major summertime destinations.
Here you can also visit the famous green-roofed farmhouse and find the Anne of Green Gables Historic site. Golf lovers can enjoy the coastal view while playing a round of Golf at the Green Gables Golf Course. For a scenic drive, Points East Coastal Drive explores the eastern end of the island where beautiful beaches, rare dune systems, and lighthouses mark the coastline.
Quebec City has a special feature that makes it unique in Canada (and the U.S., for that matter): it has walls. Quebec City is the only city north of Mexico that still has fortified walls. First the French and later the English built up Quebec City’s fortifications between the 17th and the 19th centuries.
Quebec’s entire historic district including the ramparts has since been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. You can also tour the Citadelle de Quebec which is the largest active military fortress in Canada. Don’t miss visiting the iconic Chateau Frontenac, also a national historic site.
Niagara Falls is made up of three falls with Horseshoe Falls, the largest of the three on the Canadian side. Enjoy clear views of Horseshoe Falls and stay past sundown for a chance to see the falls illuminated any night of the year. During the summer and early winter staying past sundown will see you treated to a fireworks show.
Don’t leave the Niagara region without visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake. Begin exploring this famous wine region with the gorgeous scenic drive from Niagara Falls to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Summer is peak season but fall harvest season and January’s Icewine Festival can also be great times to visit.
Manitoba is known for its golden prairies, magic skies, and hundreds of thousands of lakes. Asessippi Provincial Park offers camping facilities, trails for hiking and snowmobiling, boating, swimming and water sports on the lake, and some of the best walleye fishing in the province, all accompanied by breathtaking views.
Saskatchewan is home to two national parks that are very different from one another: Prince Albert National Park in the northern boreal forest and Grasslands National Park in the prairie grassland natural region. The two national parks are perfect examples of the provinces varied landscape. Just over six hours separating the two parks it is the perfect way to see a wide variety of what Saskatchewan has to offer while visiting this prairie province.
The year is still young. Consider a trip to the Great White North in 2023!
My truck tore across Montana
Ian Tyson sang a lonesome lullaby
And so I cranked up the radio
Cause there’s just a little more to go
For I’d cross the border at that Sweet Grass sign
I’m Alberta Bound.
—Lyrics and recording by Alberta born Country Music singer, Paul Brandt, 2004