We’ve traveled between Ontario and British Columbia many times, both for work and vacation. Quick 4-5 hour flight, no problem! Well, this time, we decided to drive from Toronto, Ontario to Kelowna, British Columbia. There are few things that make you appreciate the sheer size of Canada than trying to travel across it by land. It’s like the popular saying about the difference between the UK and Canada: “In Canada they think 400 years is a long time, in the UK they think 400 km is a long distance”. And yup, that pretty much sums it up!
Ontario to British Columbia
Our outbound leg was in early September, so the weather was still warm. We decided to take the Canadian route. According to Google Maps, the trip was just over 4,000 km and would take approximately 43 hours of driving. We spread the trip out over about a week, with a rest day in Winnipeg and an extra day to see friends in Calgary.
On the way back, we took a different route through the US. Check that out here.
Trees and Lakes
We drove northwest from Toronto, up through Ontario’s cottage country, stopping in Sault Ste. Marie for our first night. From there, we continued along the shores of Lake Superior towards Thunder Bay, where we spent our 2nd night. This part of Ontario is beautiful and rugged. The towns are small and feel a bit isolated.
Just before arriving in Thunder Bay, we stopped at the Terry Fox Memorial, perched on the side of a hill looking out over the lake. Considering that Terry Fox is a Canadian icon that we’ve heard about since we were kids, it was an interesting stop and great to know that the example he set is still not forgotten.
From Thunder Bay, we headed a bit north and more west towards Manitoba. Driving through northern Ontario is really just a never-ending route set among trees and lakes. The first part is mostly lakes, the last part is mostly trees. For 3 days!
The joke on the Prairies is that if your dog runs away, it’s so flat you can see him run for 3 days. Yeah, that’s pretty much it. A whole lotta nuthin’. Pretty much from when you cross the border from Ontario into Manitoba, until you arrive in Calgary, you see nothing except farmland. Although, we did stop at the “Centre of Canada”, just east of Winnipeg, which served to remind us just how much further we had to drive.
After an extra night’s stop in Winnipeg to recharge, we continued on through Manitoba and Saskatchewan, where we spent a night near Moose Jaw. It was at this point that we could really see and smell the smoke from the nearby wildfires.
Leaving Calgary, we finally found what we were looking for – mountains! The last day of our drive, from Calgary to Kelowna, was by far the most scenic. If we’d had more time, we might have stopped in Banff or Lake Louise, but we just wanted to get to BC.
We Finally Arrived in Kelowna
It only took us 6 days of driving (plus our two days off). Granted, I’m sure we could have done it in less time. To be honest, we wish we’d taken more time. We didn’t stop to see that many sights along the way. While we definitely got a great feel for the diversity and varied geography of the country, it would have been nice to get a better feel for the differing cultures as well.