If you’re thinking ahead to warmer months—and an RV trip with the kids or grandkids—now is the perfect time to start planning. We’re offering tips for success and charted a few road trip stops designed to create memorable Canadian experiences.
Plan for success
- Be realistic about limitations, attention spans, interests, and energy levels.
- Plan driving distances and times that won’t wear everyone out.
- Include younger ones in the planning. Ask what they’d like to do.
- Choose a suitable number of days for a trip. A longer vacation will depend on your comfort level with each other, the kids’ interest level and their sense of wellbeing away from home.
- Use Google Maps to research and plan breaks in the drive. Find swimming spots, splash pads, climbers and parks.
- Talk clearly about travel times, sleeping arrangements, meals and snacks, daily tasks, bathroom and shower facilities, access to electronics and Wi-Fi.
- If possible, travel in the shoulder seasons. It’s easier to book sites.
- Pack a variety of things to keep kids busy—books, craft supplies, puzzles, card games, and sticker books.
- Create a trip scrapbook. Kids can glue, trace and colour.
Where to go
Canada is a huge country, so we’ve highlighted a few top sights and a list of other worthy stops by region.
The Fundy coastline is the place to see the pull of the Moon’s gravity as the ocean water rises and falls twice a day. Head to New Brunswick’s Hopewell Rocks and aim for three hours before or after low tide—the best opportunity to venture onto the ocean floor. Each tide takes just over six hours to come all the way in and all the way out, taking only 27 minutes for the water to rise from foot to chin. Fundy National Park is a Dark Sky Preserve, which makes for perfect overnights at Chignecto Campground.
Newfoundland’s Viking Trail (Route 430) northernmost point is the historic Norse settlement of L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site. The remains of turf-walled houses and strange earthen mounds mark the earliest known evidence of European settlement in the New World. Explore the encampment and hear tales of the ages from costumed Viking interpreters. The closest campground is six kilometres away at Viking RV Park.
Explore everything “Titanic.” With 2023 being the 25th-anniversary of the blockbuster film, you may find it’s on kids’ radars. Dozens of objects are displayed at Halifax’s Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, including an original deck chair recovered from the “unsinkable” ship. Local cemeteries are the final resting place for about 150 bodies, many with no names. Nova Scotia Tourism has a full list of campgrounds to choose from.
On Prince Edward Island, Green Gables Heritage Place’s settings like the farmhouse, Haunted Wood and Lover’s Lane are true to the wildly popular Anne of Green Gables series. Beautiful Prince Edward Island National Park has beachfront and woodland campsites, many with full hookups suitable for larger RVs. The park’s Cavendish Trail and boardwalks through wetlands are popular for walking and biking.
Some other ideas include:
- Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park is a wild place where rock from the Earth’s mantle was pushed to the surface during the jigsaw collision of plate tectonics.
- Need a dip to cool off? Try this interactive map to swimming holes in Newfoundland.
- Visit Newfoundland’s historic Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site, on Canada’s most easterly point of land.
- The Canadian Potato Museum on PEI has a giant potato at the entrance, displays, fries and poutine inside.
- Collect seashells along PEI’s Basin Head Provincial Park’s spectacular white beaches, nicknamed “the Singing Sands.”
- Stop for a scoop of Wowie Cowie at PEI’s COWS Ice Cream.
- Take the Candlelight Graveyard Tour at Annapolis Royal—a cool way to learn about Acadian history.
- Check out all-things-Sidney-Crosby at Halifax’s newly renovated Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame.
- Put yourself in the shoes of a refugee or immigrant sitting at the waiting area and immigration desk at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.
- Visit the Fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island and finish the day with Beggar’s Banquet, dressed in 18th-century outfits.
- Crawl over the giant lobster at Shediac, New Brunswick.
Tadoussac, Canada’s oldest village stands at the mouth of the Saguenay Fjord. The warm months are for whale watching as they come to their summertime feeding grounds. This part of the river is protected as the Saguenay-St.Lawrence Marine Park, to ensure the many whales and sea lions are disturbed as little as possible. The Marine Park’s website has info on whale watching expeditions. Local campground info.
For kids that love dress-up, rent a costume at the New France Festival, Quebec City’s early August celebration of culture, history and heritage. Street actors, locals and visitors step into costumes, embrace their roles become part of the festival. Across the river, the Quebec City KOA is a short drive from the fortifications of the Old City.
At Percé—the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula—hop a boat tour around the famous rock with a stop at Bonaventure Island. Watch for minke whales and seals, hike the island’s trails and see the noisy colony of 48,000 pairs of Northern gannets who come to nest. Spend the night at Camping du Phare de Percé.
Some other ideas include:
- Water slides at day, camping at night at Val Cartier, just north of Quebec City.
- Perfect berry picking across the bridge to Île d’Orléans, close to Old Quebec.
- Pedal along the treetop VéloVolant, a network of recumbent bikes hooked on a kilometre long circuit of high-performance cables suspended through a maple canopy.
- The Canadian Children’s Museum (in Gatineau’s Canadian Museum of History) lets kids “travel” the world by exploring other cultures.
At Upper Canada Village near Morrisburg, interpreters in traditional period costume create a “living history” of the 1860s, with a working bakery, sawmill, blacksmith, schoolhouse and small cheese factory. There are many farm animals and hands-on ways to learn about tasks like carding and dying wool. Take a horse-drawn wagon ride to the Family Activity Centre to play at skills like threading, weaving and puzzles. The Parks of the St. Lawrence has several nearby campgrounds.
The newly renovated Children’s Flight Centre at Sault Ste. Marie’s Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre includes flight simulators, arcade-style gaming consoles, interactive displays, sit in an actual cockpit and watch from a fire tower to call in the sighting of a forest fire. The Sault Ste Marie KOA is close by.
Pukaskwa National Park’s campground often has space and there is activity enough to fill a few days stay. Hike the Bimose Kinoomagewnan circular trail dedicated to the Seven Grandfather Teachings, marked with signs explaining the teachings of the Anishinaabe elders: love, honesty, respect, wisdom, truth, humility and bravery. Or walk atop the jumble of bleached driftwood on Beach Trail.
Ottawa can be a hotbed of kid-focused activity. Look for fossils, wildlife, birds, dinosaurs, volcanoes and earthquakes at the Canadian Museum of Nature. The Canada Science and Technology Museum has steam locomotives, the popular Crazy Kitchen, microscopes and telescopes, and displays on how gadgets, tools and major appliances have shaped our lives. Rideau River Provincial Park is a 40-minute drive south of the city.
Some other ideas include:
- Kids love boat rides and the MS Chi-Cheemaun ferry from Tobermory to Manitoulin Island is one, big boat ride that passes islands and lighthouses.
- The Brockville Railway Tunnel was a historic feat of design and engineering, completed well before construction on the Canadian Pacific Railway even broke ground. Walk the echoey brick tunnel with its groovy sound and light show.
- Hike the Sandbanks Dune Trail at Sandbanks Provincial Park.
- Ride a mountain coaster at Blue Mountain Village or stay at the top and explore the trails and caves at Scenic Caves Nature Adventures.
- The Terry Fox Monument near Thunder Bay celebrates the life of Terry Fox and marks the spot where the young athlete and victim of cancer was forced to end his Marathon of Hope in 1980.
- The short trail at Agawa Bay leads to sacred rock pictographs where generations of Ojibwe recorded their dreams and spirits in red ochre paintings.
- Stop to take photos at the gigantic Wawa Goose.
- Travelling by RV to Toronto—Canada’s largest city—can be intimidating. Kid-friendly highlights include the Royal Ontario Museum, Ontario Science Centre, CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium. Campgrounds close to the city include Indian Line and Albion Hills.
- Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory – wear something pink because it’s the butterflies favourite landing spot colour!
Tips for Canadian RV travel
Investigate provincial park day passes. They let you hop into a provincial park along your route for a quick swim, a hike, to top up your fresh water or dump your black tank.
- Parks Canada’s annual Discovery Pass covers admission (but not campsite fees) to more than 80 destinations for the full year.
- Toronto CityPASS® can be a cost saver if you include some of the city’s stellar stops, including the Royal Ontario Museum, CN Tower, Ontario Science Centre or Toronto Zoo.
It’s a very big country, so whether you decide to keep your RVing to one region or have plans in the works for a cross-Canada expedition, we’ve got lots of suggestions to keep your planning focused and the kids (and adults) happy. In next month’s edition, we’ll head westward and cover the Prairies, the western provinces and the North.