Travel Tips Canada – What to See and Do
Canada is the world’s 2nd largest country, so trying to see it all in one trip is a daunting task. Luckily most of the major cities are concentrated in the southern most regions of the country near to the border (the longest border in the world) with the USA, making it easier for you to explore by car.
Starting in the east coast, in the province of Nova Scotia you can find the city of Halifax which was founded in 1769 as the first permanent European settlement. During the 19th and 20th centuries the city served as a major entry point for immigrants from Europe. You can learn more about this era at the exhibit at Pier 21 (Canada’s Immigration Museum) and perhaps follow the trail of your long lost cousins. During the summer this area serves as a popular beach destination.
Canada Car Hire Tip: When you are driving in Canada remember to drive on the right.
To the west at the top of the River St Lawrence Estuary you’ll find the city of Quebec (The name actually means “Where the river narrows”). This city was the first city founded by the French during their establishment of New France and remains the oldest city on the continent. The Old Town is the most interesting part of the city for tourists.
Canada Car Hire Tip: Canada is such a vast country, it’s quite possible that your journey across the nation will change times zones a couple of times as Canada has six primary time zones!
Also located in the province of Quebec is the city of Montreal. It’s just about a 3 hour drive southwest from the city of Quebec. This is the largest French speaking city in the western world after Paris. The primary language of the city and the rest of the province is still French, and though English is widely spoken it may be wise to brush up on some of your French as most of the roadsigns are in French. The city has been seen as a party town ever since the prohibition era forced fun seeking Americans north of the border where alcohol was still legal. This may also be due to the city having the largest proportion of students in the country.
Canada Car Hire Tip: Driving in cities is much more forgiving in Canada as opposed to in Europe, as many of the cities are quite young and were designed with cars in mind.
Next stop on the journey west, is Canada’s capital, Ottawa. The drive from Montreal to Ottawa is around 199km which should take you about 2 hours depending on traffic. Ottawa city started as a simple lumber town, but was chosen as the capital by Queen Victoria as a compromise because it lay nicely between the two prime candidates Montreal and Toronto. The city is now the fastest growing city on the continent and has a very active nightlife. One must-visit site is the Gatineau Park, which is an excellent opportunity for many outdoor activities.
Canada Car Hire Tip: When driving in the cities, be aware that pedestrians have the right of way. So be ready to stop at a moments notice, as many pedestrians may walk out and assume you will stop.
Continuing west and south towards the Great Lakes you can find Toronto, Canada’s largest and most populated city. To get from Ottawa to here, it will take you almost 5 hours driving. Ottawa is reputed to be the most multi-cultural in the world. If you want to get out of the city you can head for the border where you will find Niagara Falls, one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world. (It’s about a 1.5 hour journey from Toronto so you really should take the opportunity to see this amazing natural wonder.)
Canada Car Hire Tip: If you’re driving in the countryside beware of wild animals. In a collision you may well come out worse, especially in cases involving moose.
Much further west you can find Calgary which is located in Alberta Province. This is one of the last cities you’ll find before you head up into the Canadian Rockies. In 1988, the city hosted the Winter Olympics. The city is located just about an hour and a half from Banff National Park which is one of the most beautiful mountainous scenery in the world.
Canada Car Hire Tip: Remember if you’re driving in the mountains to have your winter tyres on and snow chains ready.
On the other side of the mountains and on the coast of the Pacific you can find Vancouver. The city has earned the nickname “Hollywood North” as it has become a major filming destination 3rd only to New York and Los Angeles in North America. In 2010, the Winter Olympics will be held in Vancouver in conjunction with the nearby town of Whistler.
Canada Car Hire Tip: In cities in Canada, the max speed is 50km/hr and 80km/hr on highways. In rural areas the speed limit is 100km/hr.
There is much more to Canada than could possibly be fit in one blog, but hopefully this will have given you an appetite to explore further. But as the obvious way to travel is by car why not have a look through out car hire Canada page.
If you’ve any questions or tips on hiring a car in Canada just drop us a comment in the box below.