Travel tales

Calgary to Toronto: 10 Unforgettable Road Trip Moments

Calgary to Toronto: 10 Unforgettable Road Trip Moments

2017 is going to be Canada’s year. It celebrates its 150th birthday with events all over the country – peaking on Canada Day on 1 July – as well as free entry to all Canadian National Parks for the whole year. So to give you a taste of what Canada has to offer, I’m sharing the most memorable moments from my leg of the #ExploreCanada road trip, from one side of the country to the other in a Cruise Canada RV. Whether they’re big adventures or little things, they all added up to make an unforgettable trip from Calgary to Toronto. And who knows, maybe they’ll inspire you to head out on the road in Canada in 2017 too?

1. Going underground at Moose Jaw

A 1920s haunt of Al Capone with a history of gambling, prostitution and bootlegged booze – Moose Jaw wasn’t what we expected to find in the middle of the prairies. Today the town is full of cafés, colourful murals and some very relaxing thermal springs. But during Prohibition it was christened ‘Little Chicago’. It was a hub for smugglers who used tunnels under the town to produce and supply alcohol across the border. You can go back in time to the bad old days at the Tunnels of Moose Jaw where they run a couple of different interactive tours. We took on the part of wannabe bootleggers on their ‘Chicago Connection’ tour led by gangster’s moll Miss Fanny. We visited a speakeasy, climbed through a fireplace and were chased by through the tunnels by the police, before re-emerging back into the 21st-century.

Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Quirky Moose Jaw

2. Joining in Regina’s Canada Day celebrations

Regina is Saskatchewan’s provincial capital, home of the Mounties – and knows how to throw a good party. Our stopover in nearby Regina Beach coincided with Canada Day, so we headed into the city to join the celebrations. Thousands gathered around the lake in Wascana Park and there was a great atmosphere. Events were a real mix, from First Nations dancers to local bands and weightlifting strongmen. And some more bizarre, like the Plywood Cup where groups built boats from plywood and competed in a race across the lake – or at least tried not to sink along the way. And of course there was food – homemade lemonade, butter tarts and our first poutine (chips, cheese curds and gravy if you’ve not had the pleasure).

Canada Day in Regina

Canada Day celebrations in Regina

3. Campfire nights

Wherever we were on our journey, the evening campfire was my favourite time of day. Normally we were on the move all day, either driving or exploring. So by the evenings we were ready to relax. It became a real ritual – stock up on logs from the park shop, gather some kindling, take at least three attempts to get it lit, set the chairs up then immediately have to move them out of the smoke. Then once the fire was roaring we got the snacks and drinks out and settled down for the evening. Campers are a sociable lot so we’d say hello to anyone passing by and sometimes end up chatting. At some point the hunt for a perfect marshmallow stick would begin and we’d make ‘smores (melted marshmallows and chocolate in a cracker sandwich) or just toast them until gooey, staying out until both the sugar high and the light faded.

Campfire and toasted marshmallows

Marshmallows on the campfire

4. A rainbow waterfall at Kakabeka Falls

Everyone knows Niagara, but Ontario’s Kakabeka Falls is a bit less well-known, so I didn’t know what to expect from our stopover there. We arrived and set up our pitch before heading over to the waterfall just as the sun was starting to go down. At 40 metres high it’s an impressive sight, with water thundering down into the gorge. But it was the rainbows which made it extra beautiful. There were rainbows everywhere we looked – as we crossed the bridge one hovered just over the top of the falls, then as we walked through clouds of spray along the boardwalk they were all around us, always just out of reach.

Kakabeka Falls, Ontario

Kakabeka Falls

5. Sunset over Lake Superior

Lake Superior was my favourite campsite, stretching right along the shore of North America’s largest lake. Just a few metres from our pitch we had miles of beach stretching in each direction and and water as far as you could see. We headed straight down to the water’s edge and dipped our toes in the lake before retreating back up the beach. Someone had conveniently placed a bench with this inscription: “Have a seat, enjoy this bench. Love, peace and blessings to all who pass here”. You can’t argue with that, so we made a gin and tonic, took a seat and watched the colours of the sky change, reflected in the lake.

Sunset over Lake Superior

Sunset over Lake Superior

6. Fish and chips on the waterfront in Killarney

Most of our road trip route kept us away from big towns and we spent almost every night in Provincial Parks. So dinner usually involved us cooking up something on the RV stove (followed by toasted marshmallows for dessert of course). I think we did a pretty good job, but when we arrived into Killarney and heard that the village was home to a fantastic fish and chip shop, we were happy to abandon the stove for the night. Herbert Fisheries sits right on the water in Killarney Harbour surrounded by boats. Every table was packed so we joined the queue and came away with a plate full of incredibly fresh fish and crispy chips cooked to perfection, doused in salt and vinegar. Sometimes the best meals are the simplest.

Fish and chips at Herbert Fisheries, Killarney

Herbert Fisheries’ fish and chips

7. Canoeing through the lily pads at Algonquin

There aren’t many times I’m ever really still, when I’m not trying to do at least two things at once. But being out on the water in Algonquin Provincial Park was the most peaceful I’ve felt in a long time. As we paddled out into Costello Creek all we could hear was the splash of our paddles through the water and the hum of dragonflies. We listened to our guide tell us about the park and kept one eye open for wildlife. But mostly we just paddled along, listened to the birds calling, soaked up the scenery and the sunshine.

Algonquin Provincial Park

Canoeing in Costello Creek

8. Meeting a Canadian icon

On my first trip to Canada I was lucky enough to see bears in the wild. But one Canadian wildlife icon eluded us – the moose. So I was hoping to get lucky second time around. The moose hunt hadn’t been going well though, and we arrived at our final stop in Algonquin Provincial Park still not having spotted one. When we heard the park was home to 3000 moose we thought our luck was in. That was until we realised the park covered 2946 square miles – so that’s about a square mile per moose and a lot of places to hide. We’d canoed and hiked around the park and still nothing. But on our final drive back to our campsite something caught my eye out of the RV window and there she was. Munching away totally nonchalantly, she turned slowly to look right at us, before putting her head back down and tucking back in.

Moose in Algonquin Provincial Park

A moose in Algonquin Provincial Park

9. Toronto rooftop views

After handing back our RV, we headed into Toronto for our final night at the Thompson Hotel. Our room wasn’t ready when we arrived, so the receptionist suggested we wait in the rooftop bar. So we emerged out onto the terrace to the most amazing view of Toronto – our first proper look at the city. In front of us was a forest of skyscrapers with the CN Tower rising up between them. Our mosquito-bitten, smoked-infused, slightly grubby, campsite look was a bit of a contrast to the rest of the glam rooftop crowd around the pool. But a few drinks and an amazing cheese plate later we were starting to feel right at home.

Toronto views from the Thompson Hotel

Rooftop views from The Thompson

10. Life on the road

When your driving days vary from four to eight hours long, you have to find ways to entertain yourself. But the random moments and in-jokes became as much a part of the fun as the places we visited. Along the way we discovered a love for Reese’s Pieces and Miss Vickie’s crisps. We stopped to pose for photos by the sign for every state or time zone line we crossed. I developed an obsession with town slogans – from the rather low-ambition ‘Redcliffe: Greenhouse Capital of the Prairies’ to the genius ‘Echo Bay: Worth repeating’. Each leg of the journey had a different soundtrack – we sang our way from Regina to Manitoba to Elton John, and saw how many 80s classics we could still remember the words to on the way through Ontario. But mostly we laughed, we chatted, we soaked up the views – and we fell in love with Canada.

Manitoba and Ontario signs

Never miss a photo opportunity!

So would you like to take a road trip around Canada?

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My most memorable moments from a RV road trip from Calgary to Toronto, from spectacular sunsets and wildlife encounters to campfire nights and great food.

I visited Canada as a guest of Destination Canada as part of a Travelator Media campaign.

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34 Comments

  • Reply
    Gary Bembridge
    December 3, 2016 at 8:11 pm

    Sounds like an amazing trip. Some amazing places on your journey!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      December 6, 2016 at 8:53 am

      Certainly were, it was a fantastic experience!

  • Reply
    Heyjude
    December 3, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    Maybe 2017 should be the year we visit the Atlantic Provinces then…

    • Reply
      Lucy
      December 6, 2016 at 8:53 am

      Now that’s one route I’d love to do next time!

  • Reply
    Noelle
    December 3, 2016 at 9:50 pm

    Poutine is amazing – and I love the view of Toronto from the rooftop bar of your hotel!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      December 6, 2016 at 8:52 am

      Poutine is so good – totally unhealthy I’m sure but that’s what makes it so tasty!

  • Reply
    Kathryn Burrington
    December 4, 2016 at 10:11 am

    Such a wonderful mixture of things you packed into your two weeks on the road. canoeing through those lilies looks enchanting and I’d love to visit Toronoto one day. ‘Smores around the campfire, sunsets and rainbows – what more could you ask for?

    • Reply
      Lucy
      December 6, 2016 at 8:51 am

      Exactly, it was so lovely to get back to nature – an unforgettable journey!

  • Reply
    heathercowper
    December 5, 2016 at 11:38 am

    We also enjoyed the canoe trip in Algonquin but unfortunately we weren’t lucky enough to see a Moose – still we did see a beaver diving right in front of the canoe!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      December 6, 2016 at 8:50 am

      We saw a lot of beaver lodges but never managed to spot a beaver – one for next time!

  • Reply
    Sara Dobak
    December 5, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    Ohhh, this is just sublime, Lucy – what an eclectic mix of highlights. I just literally laughed out loud in the office at ‘Echo Bay: Worth Repeating’. No. 10 triggers some emotion and makes me want to return to Canada IMMEDIATELY!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      December 6, 2016 at 8:48 am

      So made me want to go back while I was writing it too (not least to actually go and have a look around Echo Bay to see if they had a point or not!).

  • Reply
    uhrblock
    December 6, 2016 at 11:42 am

    We did the same thing this summer – what a great country and a great trip. One of our surprisingly favourite stops was in Winnipeg but of course nothing can compare to the mountains. Great blog!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      December 6, 2016 at 12:45 pm

      The scenery is just so beautiful, like nowhere else in the world! We didn’t get chance to have a proper look around Winnipeg but I’ve heard some good things about it – one for next time.

  • Reply
    James Denis Dinneen
    December 6, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    Yes its a wonderful place to visit but give yourself time to explore as you won’t cover it in 2 weeks as there’s beautiful places in between as it will take a full week or more to explore Ontario

    • Reply
      Lucy
      December 6, 2016 at 12:44 pm

      Definitely agree it would be good to have a lot more time to explore if you have it – though we did manage to fit quite a lot into our two weeks!

  • Reply
    Nicola
    December 6, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    This sounds amazing! I’d love to see a wild moose! I hadn’t realised next year was Canada’s 150th birthday. It’s been on the bucket list for ages so it sounds like the perfect time to go…

    • Reply
      Lucy
      December 7, 2016 at 8:52 am

      Such a good time to go, sounds like there are going to be lots of great events – and the free National Park entry is a bonus!

  • Reply
    Zoe Dawes
    December 7, 2016 at 10:36 am

    What a great selection of memories and experiences – you obviously had a very special trip. Yet more reasons to visit this amazing country.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      December 8, 2016 at 9:54 am

      It really was an amazing experience, and I’d love to go back and see more!

  • Reply
    Thomas Zenkert
    December 20, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    Great travel tales. Thanks. This autumn I went to Minnesota up to the Canadian border but stoped there, Next tme I will continue. Welcome to Sweden – we have a lot of mooses here 😉

    • Reply
      Lucy
      December 20, 2016 at 6:07 pm

      Thanks, there’s so much to see in Canada it’s perfect for a road trip. And I’d love to come and visit Sweden sometime, I’ve had plans to go for the last couple of years but it never quite worked out – here’s hoping 2017 will do a bit better!

  • Reply
    Thomas Zenkert
    December 21, 2016 at 9:55 am

    You are welcome! Feel free to contact me if you need info or support.

  • Reply
    budgettraveltalk
    December 23, 2016 at 9:47 pm

    Loved reading about your roadtrip. We did a 3 week RV trip around British Columbia and into the Rockies in 2010. We will definitely be returning – maybe soon after reading this!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      December 23, 2016 at 9:51 pm

      We had such a great trip across the country, but I’d love to go and see the Rockies next – one of the other bloggers on our trip did that section and it looked amazing!

  • Reply
    budgettraveltalk
    December 23, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    I thought I’d add that I visited from Pinterest FB Group. 🙂

  • Reply
    Leigh | Campfires & Concierges
    January 7, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    Ah, so that explains why Canada (the whole country) was #1 on the New York Times Destinations list for 2017 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy
      January 9, 2017 at 12:58 pm

      The only problem with Canada is it’s so big and there’s so much to see that it’s hard to narrow it down!

  • Reply
    ADAM DOOLITTLE
    January 11, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    A beautiful journey. We recently did the trip from PEI to Tofino. 10,080km in all and enjoyed many of the same areas you stopped by. Glad to see you had a great trip.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      January 12, 2017 at 4:13 pm

      Thanks – it was an incredible experience! Your trip sounds amazing too, PEI is on my to-visit list for next time for sure.

  • Reply
    Anna
    January 12, 2017 at 5:03 pm

    Sounds like a lot of fun!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      January 16, 2017 at 10:15 am

      Thanks, it was a fantastic trip!

  • Reply
    Ahsan
    January 29, 2017 at 9:39 am

    You certainly had lots of fun, and I did my Toronto and Banff National Park trip last summer in August. I flew from Toronto with family after staying eight days to Calgary, then hired a car for four days and stayed in Banff.

    Lake Moraine is one of the most surreal lakes I have ever seen, Lake Louise and Bow lake are also stunning. Driving from Baff National Park and Jasper Park is one of the most scenic drives in the world. Did you not do Banff National park?

    We as a family travelled around 40 countries in different continent extensively. I love your blogs and had so much information from your Jordan trips & Petra.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      January 30, 2017 at 11:24 am

      Thanks so much! This trip was focused on the prairies and Ontario so we only headed east from Calgary, but I would love to see Banff next time.

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