Charter a Toronto bus to begin your Great Canadian Bus Tour
We’ve already shared “The Great American Bus Tour,” a guide highlighting some of the amazing, awe-inspiring, and wacky must-sees of the USA. Now, we’re turning to North America’s northern country to explore its natural wonders, cultural institutions, and secret oddities. So, Canada, let’s see what you’ve got!
We begin our tour in Toronto and follow a loop, but you could begin your tour anywhere along the Trans Canada Highway. Do the whole trip or break it up into smaller weekend excursions. Bus.com has a network of Canadian bus companies, so we’ll hook you up with a bus operator close to your starting point.
If you want to hit the road in ultimate comfort, rent a charter bus to take you on your cross-Canadian journey. A coach bus is especially perfect for road trips, with inviting, reclining seats to take a snooze in between locations, enough undercarriage storage for your group’s luggage and gear, and a DVD set up to keep you and your crew entertained on the road.
Let’s get started!
Gather your group in Toronto and get ready to begin the adventure of a lifetime. But before you head out on the road, be sure to hit up a few of Toronto’s biggest attractions. Of course, you’ll have to stop at the CN Tower. You literally cannot miss it! Traveling with hockey fans? Stop at the Hockey Hall of Fame. And before you leave, tour the Distillery District’s galleries and boutiques. Once you’ve had your fill of the city, enjoy some Ontario provincial parks. Toronto coach buses come with loads of luggage space, so fill it with camping gear for stops at Lake Superior, Ouimet Canyon, and Quetico Provincial Parks.
Small town eccentricities through Manitoba
On your way into the Prairies, stop at some of the small towns near the Ontario-Manitoba border. They’re full of hidden treasures, ‘grammable oddities, and historic wonders. There’s Kenora, Ontario (once called Rat Portage), known for its giant fish sculpture and tranquil lake. Or check out the snake dens and Icelandic village in Gimli, Manitoba. Next stop: Spruce Woods. There you’ll find sand dunes and expertly maintained glamping grounds. You’ll need to do some research to find secret spots like these, but the extra effort goes a long way towards making your trip memorable and unique.
Saskatchewan and Alberta badlands
Alberta and parts of Saskatchewan are hotbeds for fossil discovery. If you’re into dinosaurs and other ancient history topics, this leg of the trip is for you! Start your trip with some recent history in the bootleg tunnels of Moosejaw, SK, then head back in time to the T.Rex Discovery Centre in Eastend, SK. Once you cross into Alberta, you’ll hit Drumheller, a town famous for being the site of some of the most important fossil finds of all time, and only a short ways away from Calgary. And don’t forget to add the Royal Tyrrell Museum to your paleontology tour of The Energy Province.
It’s Vancouver time!
After taking in small town quirks in the Prairies, it’s time for big city lights! Vancouver is known for its film industry, thriving art scene, vibrant hippie culture, and spectacular skyline. Take in Hollywood North over a few days. Include visits to stand-out attractions like Vancouver Aquarium and Stanley Park. Check out the unique public art, like the Giants Murals painted on industrial silos or the Digital Orca at the Vancouver Convention Centre. On your way back to the open road, stop at the Vandusen Botanical Gardens for some tranquil reflection and breath of fresh air.
With a reputation that precedes them, the Rockies are majestic must-sees to be included in any self-respecting Canadian road trip. But these snow-capped beauties are more than a cluster of mountains. Some of the best national parks are located in the region. There’s Banff, home to the Banff Centre for the Arts and the Banff Springs Hotel. There’s also Jasper, where you’ll find the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre, Jasper Sky Tram, and the Maligne Canyon. And, of course, there’s Whistler, where you can enjoy top tier skiing and glamorous chalets. The Rockies will please every group—from high schoolers to glamazons—offering a full range of attractions, activities, and accommodations.
The Prairies: Flat but fun!
Travel blogs too often brush the Prairies aside. But there are some fantastic cities between the Rockies and the Great Lakes, each with their own unique qualities, mysterious neighborhoods, and surprise wonders. Take Edmonton. It’s known primarily for being home to the biggest mall in Canada, but there’s so much more to see in the Big E. There’s the Art Gallery of Alberta, Muttart Conservatory, and all of Whyte Avenue to explore. Then you’ve got Saskatoon, home to Gordon Tootoosis Nīkānīwin Theatre, Meewasin Park, and the Congress Beer House. Heading East, you’ve got Winnipeg, where you’ll find important Canadian history sites like Prairie Dog Central Railway and Riel House. Take your time with the Prairies. Enjoy the long scenic roads. Stop at a few roadside attractions. Stretch out in the wide open space.
What would the Great Canadian Bus Tour be without a stop at the nation’s capital? Of course, you’ll make time for Parliament Hill, the Chateau Laurier, the War Memorial, but there are so many sleeper secrets that will provide a sense of mystery to your tour of Ottawa. Start with the Diefenbunker, an underground Cold War Museum, then head over to the Old Jail House which doubles as a historic site and a hostel. Next, traverse the Ottawa river to the Quebec side of the border. There you’ll find the Wallingford Back Mine, once the largest mine in North America, and now a set of spooky caverns to explore. There’s a lot to see in the Ottawa Valley, so you can fine tune your itinerary for your group’s interests.
Montreal, Quebec City, and the Rest of La Belle Province
Quebec is stunning! Vast forests, quiet lakes, fields of flowers, and, of course, historic cities with deep artistic routes Montreal is about 45 minutes from the Ontario border and your first stop on the QC leg of your trip. Here, you’ll want to sample both French cuisine and poutine in the Old Port of Montreal. While in MTL, visit the Olympic Stadium, the site of the 1976 Summer Games, then ride the roller coasters at La Ronde. Next stop: Quebec City. There you’ll find the Chateau Frontenac, the Hotel de Glace, and the Montmorency Falls. Before you head towards your Maritimes finish line, visit the other-worldly sites of the Saguenay Area, like Parc Pyramide Ha Ha, Route de la Trou de Fée, and the Jardins de Quatre Vents.
For the Maritimes stretch of your trip, pick and choose a few stops or bed down in a town to get to know the locals. Halifax, Moncton, Fredericton, Charlottetown, St. John, and St. John’s (see if you can tell them apart by the end of your trip), are all excellent places to take in some Maritime culture. Be sure to visit the Halifax Public Gardens, Peggy’s Cove, Green Gables Heritage Place, and the Giant Lobster in Shediac, New Brunswick. Oh, and don’t forget to go whale watching! The Maritimes are all about coastal living, so take in the seafaring culture, breathe in the salty air, and leave your landlubber tendencies behind.
East-West vs. North-South
The Canadian highway system is better for east-west travel than it is for north-south, but there is so much to see north of the 49th Parallel. The trip might be a little on the long side, but with the right amenities, clever packing, and a good group of friends, Northern adventure could be in your future. We recommend visiting Red Bay in Newfoundland, Akami–uapishku – Kakkasuak National Park Reserve in Labrador, the Athabasca Sand Dunes in Saskatchewan, Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta, Sikanni Chief National Protected Land in BC, Dawson City in the Yukon, and the Diavik Diamond Mine in the Northwest Territories.
What’re you waiting for? Time to start rounding up the troops for your Great Canadian bus tour! Rest assured that you’re in for the experience of a lifetime.