So, you’re thinking about going to Canada “eh”? It’s a beautiful country with so much to offer but where do you start? Canada is the second largest country in the world, so it can be challenging to fit everything in for a month long trip. I’ve simplified the planning process for you, detailing transportation, accommodation, activities and everything in between so you don’t need to! This one month Canada Itinerary is perfect for first timers and you’ll see the best the country has to offer. We’re starting on the west coast and making our way over to the east, but you could always do this itinerary in verse if that works best for you.
Now let’s get into the good stuff!
The Best Time To Visit Canada
Canada’s climate varies tremendously. There are warm and sunny days in summer, July to August, and then there can be sub zero temperatures in winter, December to February. I guess, it depends on what you want out of Canada. Do you want to visit the ski fields and maybe work a season, or two? Are you wanting to see the Northern Lights which are best viewed from November to March. Maybe you love sport and want to experience an Ice Hockey game during the season running from October to June. Or would you like to see Grizzly and Black bears in their natural habitats during May to October. So it just depends on what you want to see, but really, any time is a good time to visit Canada.
Best Transit Options
As you can imagine, due to the sheer size of Canada, knowing how you’re going to get from place to place is a must. There are a variety of options that work for different budgets, so there’s something for everyone!
Travelling Canada by Car/Campervan
If you’re looking for the freedom to travel at your own pace, hiring a car or campervan might be your best bet. There are many places in the mountainous areas of Canada where there isn’t access to public transit, making this option one of the most popular among tourists. There are a variety of car rental companies to choose from with comparable prices, allowing you to pick which one works for you. Campervans also take accommodation out of the picture, combining your stay and transportation. You can find affordable campervan rentals with Wicked Campers or you can hire a car. Check out hire car specials here.
Travelling Canada by Train
Travelling by train might be one of the best ways to see Canada. After all, you can kick back and relax, while taking in the beautiful views throughout the entire journey! There are many options when it comes to train travel but the most popular is Via Rail, which is the government run train system and Rocky Mountaineer, which is a world-renowned and privately-owned train system. You can find trips from coast to coast, as well as shorter distances. Keep in mind that since the train provides a once in a lifetime view and experience, it comes at a higher price point than other modes of transportation!
Travelling Canada by Bus
It is doable to travel through Canada on a bus but will take a little more planning, coordinating and a resilient attitude! Local transit throughout major cities and towns have great bus routes and for longer journeys, you can hop aboard a Greyhound bus. The bus will take longer than most other modes of transportation, so it’s best for those who aren’t on a strict timeline!
Travelling Canada by Plane
Of course, air travel is often the most convenient option to get from place to place within Canada because it’s such a large country. With that being said, flights are often shockingly priced for the distance. There are many airlines that fly within Canada, the most popular and reputable being Air Canada and WestJet. A few budget airlines have recently popped up, such as Flair Airlines and Swoop (an offshoot of WestJet), making air travel in Canada more affordable! You can also fly directly from the centre of the city of Toronto to many places around the country with Porter Airlines.
Places to Visit
While a month may not feel like enough time to see all of Canada, you’ll be able to cover quite a lot of ground! This one month Canada Itinerary will get you started and help you plan an amazing adventure.
Vancouver is one of the largest cities in Canada, with lots of action going on year round! With a relatively warm climate (for Canada), there are many outdoor activities to partake in. Maybe get your bearings from the Vancouver Lookout, where you will receive 360 degree views of the city. A visit to the iconic Stanley Park to wander amongst the totem poles is a must. Afterwards heading by Canada Place where you can take in the beautiful Vancouver waterfront and take a photo with the 2010 Olympic cauldron!
On a rainy day, spend your time wandering through the Vancouver Art Gallery or head about 20 minutes out of the city to walk along the Capilano Suspension Bridge! The rain and fog will only add to the stunning scenery. There are also many unique neighbourhoods such as Gastown, Chinatown and Yaletown that are worth checking out during your stay. Each offer different shopping and dining options, so you can’t go wrong.
Maybe take a ferry across to Vancouver Island where you will find the capital of British Columbia, Victoria. Victoria boasts stunning natural beauty and has a rich heritage. Visit the Parliament Buildings and the Royal BC Museum or take a ride in a horse pulled carriage down the cobblestone streets.
Next up on our one month Canada itinerary are the Rockies! The Rocky Mountains span over different parts of British Columbia and Alberta and there are many breathtaking spots to hike, ski, snowboard, mountain bike and more, along the way. You’ll first want to head towards Whistler which is just a two hour drive north of Vancouver. Whistler is one of Canada’s favourite year-round destinations. Imagine sparkling lakes, charming villages nestled between snow-capped mountains. Then make your way across British Columbia until you reach Alberta. As you leave Whistler, take the Sea to Sky Highway for a magnificent drive!
Once you reach the Canadian Rockies in Alberta, you must spend some time in Jasper and Banff! Jasper National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with dazzling glaciers, crystal-clear lakes, thundering waterfalls and mountains. Here you could undertake the Maligne Canyon Ice Walk, try cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or ice skating. And come out at night as Jasper National Park is a dark sky preserve, meaning it is an area where almost no artificial light is visible at night.
Banff is nestled high in the Canadian Rockies with a long list of things to do. Hike the 4.3 kilometre trail up Tunnel Mountain to get a great perspective of the town and valley. Or enjoy a meal by a warming fireplace in one of the lively streets which are lined with top-class restaurants and bars. And the shopping is pretty good too.
Your trip won’t be complete until you’ve made it to Lake Louise to see its emerald green water and rugged peaks and glaciers. Fantastic winter activities to be done here or canoeing in bright blue water during the summer months. Don’t be surprised if you see bears or other wildlife while hiking or venturing through the mountainous landscape! Always be prepared with bear spray or a whistle just in case.
Time in the Rocky Mountains: 6 days
Distance from Vancouver: The drive directly from Vancouver to Banff is about 9 hours, so you’ll probably want to break the drive up and stop at a few places along the way!
READ MORE: Like the Rocky Mountains? Here’s how to find a job at a Canadian Ski Resort.
The Rocky Mountains to Saskatoon via Calgary
Watch out for bucking bulls!
When you decide it’s time to say goodbye to the Rocky Mountains, you’ll want to make your way even further east. Saskatoon is a fairly long drive from Banff so you should consider stopping in Calgary to see what the city has to offer. If you go during the right time of year you may even catch the Calgary Stampede, which is a rodeo or really a 10 day event that takes place annually, every July. If there any other time of year there is plenty to do. Visit the Calgary Zoo or check out the views from Calgary Tower.
Afterwards, continue on your journey until you make it to Saskatoon. This underrated city is the largest city in the province of Saskatchewan is known as the Paris of the Prairies, because of it’s excellent cuisine. It’s an amazing spot for foodies who can check out the local farmer’s markets and restaurants. It’s also home to a large Jazz scene, so it may be worthwhile to plan your trip around the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival!
Distance from the Rockies: Saskatoon is about an 8 hour drive from Banff.
Time in Saskatoon: 2 days
Where to stay in Saskatoon: Book yourself an Airbnb for a night or stay at Park Town Hotel.
Saskatoon to Winnipeg
Winnipeg is another lesser-known city in Canada but it’s actually the largest city in Manitoba and has a relaxed feel. Some activities you can do while exploring Winnipeg include a trip to the Royal Canadian Mint (maybe you’ll find out where toonies & loonies come from!), learn about the local indigenous culture and take part in the different arts and cultural events!
Distance from Saskatoon: Winnipeg is about an 8 hour drive from Saskatoon.
Time in Winnipeg: 2 days
Where to stay in Winnipeg: The Mere Hotel is a beautiful boutique hotel in the heart of Winnipeg. It won’t disappoint!
Winnipeg to Thunder Bay
Sleeping Giant, Thunder Bay
As you leave Winnipeg and head for Ontario, the scenery will start to change. The Prairies are very flat and most of the land is used for farming but once you reach Northern Ontario, you’ll be surrounded by vast forests once again.
You’ll want to have a few days in Thunder Bay to explore all of the natural wonders such as the Ouimet Canyon, the Kakabeka Falls and the most noteworthy landmark – the Sleeping Giant.
Distance from Winnipeg: Just another quick 8 hour drive until you reach Thunder Bay.
Time in Thunder Bay: 3 days
Thunder Bay to Toronto
As you say farewell to Thunder Bay, you’ll head south towards Toronto – Canada’s largest city and one of the most multicultural cities in the world! Since the drive is quite long, you’ll want to make a few stops along the way and allow for a few extra days for travel. There are many National Parks on the way where you can stop for hiking and a dip in the lakes (if weather permits!). You can’t miss Algonquin Park, especially during the fall season when all of the leaves are changing colour!
Once you finally reach Toronto, there are heaps of things to see and do. Take a trip to the CN Tower in the heart of downtown which was at one point, the tallest freestanding building in the world. Maybe brave the Edge Walk! Watch the Raptors go for another NBA Championship win at the Scotiabank Arena, or enjoy a Blue Jays game at the Rogers Centre. And Canadians love their ice hockey so check out the memorabilia at the Hockey Hall of Fame. Go for a stroll along the waterfront, spend an entire day visiting the Toronto Islands and explore the many diverse neighbourhoods throughout the city! The nightlife can be found mostly along King Street West but you’ll be able to find a good bar just about anywhere throughout the city.
Distance from Thunder Bay: 14-15 hour drive
Time in Toronto: 4 days
Where to stay in Toronto: While Toronto receives many visitors each year, it’s not much of a backpacking city. More often than not, people stay in Airbnb’s or boutique hotels like the Drake Hotel.
Toronto to Niagara
Niagara Falls – From the Canada Side
A trip to Niagara can easily be a day trip if you’re short on time but it’s worth spending a few nights in the area if you can! When most people think of Canada, they usually think of Niagara Falls. The iconic falls are on the border of the United States and are a sight to be seen! Niagara is best viewed aboard a boat cruise or scenic flight. Book a cruise or scenic flight here.
There’s also Fallsview Casino if you’re feeling lucky and the beautiful wine region of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Spend an entire day sipping on some of Ontario’s best vino and wandering through the quaint town.
Distance from Toronto: 1.5 hour drive
Time in Niagara: 3 days
Where to stay in Niagara: You can find a variety of hotels along Niagra Falls and b&b’s along Niagara-on-the-Lake!
Niagara to Ottawa
Did you think Toronto was Canada’s capital city? If so, you’re not alone but it’s actually Ottawa. That’s where you’ll stumble upon the Canadian Parliament and where the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau resides. On your way to Ottawa, stop at the waterfall capital of the world – Hamilton! With over 100 waterfalls, this city is a great pit stop.
Yum – Beaver Tails
If you’re visiting Ottawa in the winter, you must try skating on the Rideau Canal and try a Canadian fave – Beavertails. Don’t let the name fool you, no beavers were harmed in the making of this delicious pastry!
Distance from Niagara: 5-6 hour drive
Time in Ottawa: 2 days
Where to stay in Ottawa: There are many hotels within walking distance to the city centre and Airbnb is also a popular choice among tourists! If after a hostel try the Ottawa Backpackers Inn or the Barefoot Hostel for women only. For a hotel try the Byward Blue Inn.
Ottawa to Montreal
Poutine – a local food
Nearing the end of the one month Canada itinerary, it’s time to cross over to Quebec to say Bonjour! Montreal is just a hop, skip and jump away from Ottawa but it has an entirely different feel to it. Montreal has an amazing food and music scene, with large festivals such as Osheaga held each summer.
Head up to the Mount Royal Lookout for a view of the entire city and explore the underground city in downtown Montreal – it’s never a dull moment there! Walk along the cobblestone streets and discovery Old Montreal’s galleries and historic sites. Maybe sample the local cuisine of poutine, French Fries served with cheese curds topped with brown gravey, Quebec’s favourite way to eat French fries!
Distance from Ottawa: 2 hour drive
Time in Montreal: 3 days
Montreal to Quebec City
Through the Gate – Quebec City
Once you get to Quebec City, you’ll feel like you’re in a completely different country. With a European feel and French being the first language of most residents, it’s a pretty unique place to see! It is the only remaining fortified city in North America. You can discover all four surviving gates, Porte St. Jean, Porte St Louise, Porte Prescott and Porte Kent.
If you’re visiting during the winter, you can’t miss the Carnaval, where you can see ice sculptures and experience the best of winter in Quebec! You can also go dog sledding, tap a maple tree and taste fresh Canadian maple syrup.
Distance from Montreal: 3 hour drive
Time in Quebec City: 3 days
Where to stay in Quebec City: There are many places to choose from in Quebec City, the most prestigious and unique being Le Chateau Frontenac – the most photographed hotel in the world and the Hotel de Glace (Ice Hotel), which you can only stay at during the winter, for obvious reasons! Or for a hostel try the Auberge Jeunesse LouLou’s Backpacker Hostel.
If you end up having extra time on your itinerary, it’s worth extending your trip to see the east coast of Canada! Halifax and Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia should be next on your list.
While you certainly won’t be able to see all of Canada with limited time, this one month Canada itinerary should help you get started on an adventure of a lifetime! If you are in Canada on a working holiday you will have 1-2 years to enjoy much more it.
READ MORE: Like to spend extra time in Canada? What About A Working Holiday in Canada
Sharyn McCullum has travelled all her life thanks to her dad who worked for an airline. She loves travelling to different countries to immerse herself in the culture and in particular, enjoy the food. She currently calls Melbourne, Australia home.