MEC Pride Logo

Must-hit stops on an Eastern Canada outdoor adventure

January 11, 2017

Found in Activities, Travel and places

An Eastern Canada road trip is a must for serious Canadian adventurers. The variety of experiences is hard to beat, plus you can easily make your way through the area and up the coast on only a few weeks of vacation time. This guide will take you from Toronto up through the rivers and parks of Ottawa and Quebec City before moving onto the southern shores of the St. Lawrence River down to the Bay of Fundy and beyond.

Sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it? Here are our top picks for your next Eastern Canada vacation.

Rock climb at Rattlesnake Point

Rattlesnake Point in autumn

A fairly under-the-radar conservation area in the GTA, Rattlesnake Point offers some of the best rock climbing in Ontario, so you’ll want to pack your climbing gear. More than 200 routes are housed in the cliffs and crags of this Halton park, located along the Niagara Escarpment. These routes are great for a variety of skill levels. Plus, the views from the top are just as impressive as the climbs, with ancient cedars and turkey vultures populating the valley below.

Camp in the Thousand Islands

Thousand Islands near Toronto

About three and a half hours east of Toronto, the Thousand Islands are a true oasis for anyone who loves the water. You can book a paddle-in site at Thousand Islands National Park just off the shores of Gananoque. Take your time exploring granite islands and secluded bays before pitching your tent for the night. It’s a scenic spot to enjoy a relaxing morning cup of joe before pressing onward (check out our coffee addict’s guide to camp coffee for brewing inspiration).

Go rafting in the Ottawa River

Ottawa River

There’s nothing quite like the rush of whitewater rafting. Head to Canada’s capital to battle the whitecaps of the Ottawa River and maybe soak up some culture, too. If you’re looking to amp things up, consider giving whitewater kayaking a shot – just make sure you pack the proper waterproof gear. There are a few different companies that have whitewater kayak courses and rafting trips.

Hike outside Quebec City

Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier

Residents of Quebec City are blessed with beautiful parks that combine city and nature into the ultimate mini-getaway. Spend the night in a hostel – you get a discount as a Hostelling International member – before heading to Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier, where over 100km of hiking trails await you. The Quebec parks’ free Park Path Explorer app is available to help you plan your circuits, and has maps and photographs to guide your explorations.

Kayak in the Bay of Fundy

Hopewell Rocks in the Bay of Fundy

While there are plenty of spectacular places to paddle in eastern Canada, sea kayaking is a unique adventure. In the Bay of Fundy, you can paddle among the famous flowerpot-shaped rock formations of Hopewell Rocks, and float past lighthouses and quaint fishing villages. Keep an eye out for wildlife, including bald eagles, harbour seals and even humpback whales – and don’t forget to bring your binoculars, along with other items on the kayak checklist.

Bike (or drive) the Cabot Trail

Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia

If you’re travelling all the way to Newfoundland (as you should on a proper East Coast road trip) you’ll most likely be making a stop at Cape Breton to board the ferry at North Sydney to Channel-Port Aux Basques. In North Sydney, you’ll be less than an hour from Nova Scotia’s famed Cabot Trail, an accessible and scenic roadway that makes for the perfect side trip. If you have time, you can drive or cycle at least a portion of the trail – just be aware that there aren’t too many paved shoulders so stay safe with bike lights.

Travel through fjords in Gros Morne

Gros Morne Fjord National Park

Once off the ferry at Channel-Port Aux Basques, it’s just a three-hour-drive north to Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park. In a previous list of Canadian destinations, we recommended climbing the mountain, one of the most epic (and achievable) adventures on the East Coast. But this national park also has a fjord system that you can enjoy from a variety of vantage points, whether you scale the 806-m summit in your hiking boots or take a relaxed boat ride down below.

Bonus adventure: Climb the Torngat Mountains

With Whistler and the Rockies dominating the Canadian mountain scene, many forget that eastern Canada has impressive mountains, too. For the hardcore adventurer, the Torngat Mountains of Newfoundland and Labrador are a must-visit. They can be a little tricky to reach –the national park rests on Labrador’s northern tip – but true mountaineers who love a remote trip will find the Torngat Mountains to be well worth it.

There’s no shortage of possible adventures on an East Coast Canadian road trip. So browse through some guidebooks and maps, do a little research and check out whatever piques your interest along the way.

Photo credits: David P. Lewis /, Wally Stemberger /, LesPalenik /,daryl_mitchell,Pablo Sanchez, Josef Hanus /, Ken Felepchuk / Shutterstock,Emmanuel Milou

Recent articles