A Canada Road Trip has been on my bucket list since I was little, but I’ve never managed to make it happen—until now! Canada is a huge country, and a cross Canada road trip is a massive undertaking. It deserved time and, ideally, a vehicle that wouldn’t break down on us. We converted Gimli, our overlanding vehicle, in Canada. So, obviously, a Canadian road trip seemed like the right place to start!

A road trip across Canada would allow us to work out any kinks with the vehicle while being able to speak the language (except for Quebec), find spare parts (most parts come from the UK) and still be within our comfort zone, feeling like we were still at home (at the furthest point, we were 6500km away from home)! Okay…so maybe our plan had a few flaws, but I’ll use any excuse to talk Randy into an adventure!

In April 2022 we left home to road trip Canada and explore this beautiful country that we’re so lucky to call home.

As usual, I had some very specific ideas about what our drive across Canada would look like. We live in Alberta, which isn’t in the middle of the country, but it’s also not on the coast. I had decided that if we were road tripping across Canada, we absolutely HAD to do it right. For me, this meant driving the country from coast to coast.

When we left home for our across Canada road trip, we started by driving west—in the opposite direction of our destination, the East Coast. But really, the entire adventure was the destination, so it didn’t seem that wrong to go west first.

Our grand plan is to spend the next decade or more driving Gimli (our blue Land Rover Defender) around the world. Once we drove it out of the driveway, it wasn’t coming back any time soon. Kacela realized that it likely wouldn’t be home again for as long as she still lived in our house. That was a crazy realization and made us all a little sad. Luckily, we’ve got loads of time to share experiences before that happens.

The drive didn’t start with an early morning, and everyone excited to get on the road. Instead, it was a rather late start. We “only” had 10 weeks, and I wanted to take advantage of every possible day we had. So, we left in the afternoon after I’d finished work. The plan was to leave as soon as I finished, but it took longer to get organized and hit the road. At least we didn’t have much planned for day one other than to just leave the house!

During our trip, I decided we should stop at as many of the “world’s largest” items as we could find. For some reason, Canada is full of them. The “World’s Largest Beaver” is just off the highway in Beaverlodge, 45 minutes from our house. So, of course, we had to stop and take a picture with the beaver!

British Columbia

Our time in Northern BC was spent visiting friends and sleeping in hotels rather than in Gimli. It was a late spring, and the snow was stubbornly staying on the ground. If you’ve had the pleasure of experiencing spring in Northern Canada, you’ll know that it’s typically something to be avoided at all costs! It’s either cold and frozen, or warm and a big, brown, muddy mess. Neither scenario is ideal for living out of a vehicle.

We started a bit soft, which didn’t change much throughout our drive across Canada. We didn’t sleep in the vehicle one single time in Northern BC (or anywhere in BC, actually). It was hotels all the way. The only time we put the roof up was to show it to our friends.

We stopped to see the “World’s Largest Tree Crusher” because why not? and soaked up the sun at a few stunning roadside stops. Northern BC is an underrated part of Canada. I’d love to spend some time properly camping in Gimli in this part of the world, but that’ll have to wait until we (someday) drive the Dempster Highway. And we definitely won’t be doing it in the spring.

Ferry from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy

Our first time-sensitive destination was Prince Rupert. We had booked an overnight ferry from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy. I was looking forward to this, although many people thought we were crazy. We took the ferry from Juneau to Prince Rupert years ago, and this felt a bit like the completion of that trip. The scenery was spectacular, and our room was pretty decent, too, all things considered!

We woke up on the ferry on Kacela’s birthday. She wasn’t thrilled to be on the ferry for her birthday, but we managed to see a whale, which helped. Plus, we enjoyed a fresh sushi dinner that night in Port Hardy, which also helped to make up for it!

Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island deserved more time than we gave it. However, it’s somewhere we visit frequently, so it was really only a footnote on our Canada road trip. We drove past the World’s Largest Burl (but didn’t stop; it just seemed a bit silly!) and saw the World’s Tallest Totem Pole in Alert Bay and the World’s Largest Hockey Stick in Duncan. Apparently, a larger hockey stick is being built somewhere in the US, so Duncan will lose the title. I’m not sure who decided it was something they wanted to compete with. The World’s Tallest Totem Pole? Sure, I can get behind that…it was incredibly cool. But the world’s largest hockey stick? Only in Canada…or so I thought 🙂

We also found a friendly black bear on the side of the road and got completely soaked hiking to Elk Falls Suspension Bridge. Kacela was petrified of the suspension bridge, and rightfully so! It was all chain link and quite a long drop to the bottom. Watching her overcome her fear and take those first few steps to walk across the bridge was rewarding. This is what travel is all about: pushing us out of our comfort zone and stretching our boundaries.

This desire to push beyond our comfort zone doesn’t typically include randomly dropping $100 on the trail. But Randy got to practice stretching his boundaries too, when he lost two $50 bills from his pocket during the hike. I hope whoever picked them up did something fun with them!


After spending a night with family in Qualicum, we spent the better part of a week at the Empress Hotel in Victoria. So far, our accommodation had been getting better and better. I knew we’d hit our peak at the Empress. It was only downhill from here…how on earth were we going to get comfortable being uncomfortable in the Defender after the Empress? I figured the best way was to book 2 more Fairmont hotels during the trip. Then we’d have something to look forward to, and it would give me an excuse to save money by camping (or staying with family!).

I was in Victoria for a conference, so I didn’t see much of the city outside the hotel. However, Randy & the girls got to explore Victoria and meet up with family and friends while I worked. They were able to use our folding bikes a few times and always managed to “show park” Gimli right out front. I think Gimli liked the attention!

We also visited Butchart Gardens and enjoyed afternoon tea with my Grandpa. Of course, it rained on us! But it was still pretty magical.

Victoria is the official “Mile 0” of the Trans-Canada Highway, so we took Gimli for a tire dip in the Pacific Ocean. Calais missed it because she stayed back at the hotel with friends. She was a bit disappointed, and it seemed a bit strange that we tire-dipped without her! We brought my friend’s daughter along, so we had a substitute!

Gimli Has Problems Part 1

During our time on the island, Gimli started making a strange noise, which seemed to keep getting worse. Randy had greased everything in Qualicum, but that didn’t fix the problem. He was worried it was the new overdrive he’d installed just before leaving home. So, he took the opportunity to use his cousin’s driveway in Victoria and removed the overdrive. Unfortunately, this didn’t fix the problem!

Now, we had no overdrive, and we still had a noisy vehicle!

We made it off Vancouver Island and drove the ~650km to my mom’s house in Trail without any issues. Gimli was still making the strange noise, but it didn’t seem to be getting any worse. The next day we were driving over the top of the Salmo-Creston mountain pass and Gimli suddenly “clunked”. It was a big, loud, scary clunk that made Randy panic. He coasted, in neutral, the whole way from the summit to Creston, worried some serious damage was being done.

After making it safely to a gas station in Creston, Randy decided he wasn’t willing to risk driving Gimli any further. I had an appointment in Calgary the next morning, so we NEEDED to find a solution ASAP. After a bit of research, we found a Uhaul and trailer that could take us and Gimli. But it was in Trail, where we’d JUST come from! So, we rented a car in Creston, drove back to Trail, picked up the UHaul and drove back to Creston with Calais & me in the rental car and Randy & Kacela in the UHaul (with another rental car on the trailer to deliver to the dealer in Creston!).

We got the rental car unloaded, loaded up Gimli, and drove out of Creston MANY hours after we started! At least the girls were still smiling 🙂

Even with Gimli on the trailer we managed to stop for a few “mandatory” photos on the drive, including the World’s Largest Truck in Sparwood and the “Welcome to Alberta” sign. We finally rolled into Randy’s brother’s place around 11 pm. It was the longest day of the whole Canada road trip!


By 7:30 am the next morning, Randy was already on his way with the UHaul to bring Gimli to TRS Auto in Calgary. It didn’t take long for them to diagnose the problem: a broken drive shaft. This was probably the best possible outcome as it meant no actual damage was done to the vehicle, it just sounded terrible!

Luckily for us, the Defender community is incredible. Our friend’s Landy, Maddy, was parked at the TRS shop with a brand new, super fancy drive shaft. Thankfully, they didn’t have any immediate plans with Maddy, so it became our “organ donor”. We were able to take the brand new drive shaft from Maddy, install it on Gimli, and order a(nother) new drive shaft to be reinstalled on Maddy a few weeks later. We didn’t have to wait for parts and could get back on the road in a few days. Thanks Maddy!!

Although the “minor” breakdown only took a few days, it messed up our plans. We ended up spending the extra days in Calgary visiting with friends and family. Randy & the girls went skiing, we all visited the UNESCO heritage site “Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump” (and learned the story behind the name is false), and us girls went for afternoon tea with Baba and the cousins. The cousins also introduced us to “Hamilton The Musical”, which became the go-to music for the entire trip, and beyond!

The extra time in Calgary meant we had to miss out on something else. We missed visiting friends in Lethbridge and Western Saskatchewan because we just didn’t have time to fit it in. We also missed Writing On Stone Provincial Park, which is a UNESCO site that seems to keep evading us. But we simply can’t do it all.

As we pulled out of Calgary, it felt like a shift in our adventure. Until that point, we’d mostly stayed with family, and we had a schedule we needed to follow. Once we left Calgary, we had no definitive plans, and our next scheduled “stop” was still a few weeks out.

We did have time to fit in a quick visit to Dinosaur Provincial Park, another UNESCO heritage site in Alberta. And we also managed photo ops at the World’s Largest Chess Piece and the World’s Largest TeePee both in Medicine Hat. We were driving by anyways, it just made sense to take a picture and tick them off the list!


What can I say about Saskatchewan? It’s an “in-between” kind of place. There’s not much along the Trans Canada highway, and we’d already done many of the “cool” things to do during our Defender Road Trip in 2021.

During our Road trip across Canada, we only spent ONE night in Saskatchewan. Although we didn’t do the province justice on this trip, at least we had previously spent some time there with Gimli!

The most important thing that happened in Saskatchewan is that we had our first night of the trip camping in Gimli! It was at a small campground near Swift Current, right along the highway, and not really notable otherwise. It’s a bit sad that it took us almost 2 weeks into our journey before we finally slept in the vehicle! (And…I didn’t even take a photo of this momentous occasion…whoops!! Blame it on Saskatchewan!)


We managed to spend a bit more time in Manitoba than in Saskatchewan, but this is only because we had family to visit and we needed to drive through Randy’s hometown (because we really couldn’t drive across the country without driving through our hometowns).

The most direct route from Swift Current to Roblin (Randy’s hometown) doesn’t actually have a “Welcome to Manitoba” sign on the highway. So, we HAD to detour a bit to get a photo with the sign. There’s no way we were going to drive across Canada without getting a photo with each provincial sign 🙂

We spent a lot of time driving in Manitoba because we never seemed to take the most direct route. This was partly because we wanted to visit as many National Parks and National Historic Sites as possible during the trip, so we figured we should at least drive through Riding Mountain National Park. I’m not sure it was worth it to be honest. We didn’t stop because there was still plenty of snow on the ground, and nothing was open yet. It was really a box check, and probably an unnecessary detour.

One worthwhile detour (partly because it was only slightly out of the way) was the World’s Largest Coca-Cola can in Portage la Prairie. It’s made out of concrete, so I’m not sure it really counts. But it was a fun spot to take photos and play around a bit.

Family Time

Apart from randomly driving around to tick boxes, our time in Manitoba was mainly about family visits. We spent the first night with Uncle John and Aunty Joanne, had lunch the next day with Aunt Carole and Uncle Rick, and then supper with Uncle Richard and Aunty Linda! We were well-fed and well-cared for in Manitoba.

The only touristy thing we did in Winnipeg was visit the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, followed by a snack at The Forks. I highly recommend a stop here if you’re going to be in Winnipeg. It’s incredibly well done and presented at a level the girls were able to grasp. It sparked lots of meaningful conversation, and we had plenty of conversation time in the vehicle on our drive across Northern Ontario!

We also technically made it to the halfway point in our journey, the Center of Canada (from an East-West perspective anyway!). It’s hard for me to believe that this place in the middle of Manitoba is the Center of Canada. We still had SO MUCH MORE driving to do after this!


As we crossed into Ontario, the landscape changed from wet and flooded farmland to forested Canadian Shield. The change was more drastic than I expected. Even though the scenery was different, the road was the same: open, expansive, and void of vehicles!

We enjoyed our first wild camping spot in Thunder Bay near the monument for Terry Fox. It wasn’t anything special, just a parking lot. The parking lot had a pit toilet (not our favourite, but significantly better than having no toilet!) and was relatively quiet, so we’ll call it a win. We were able to visit the monument first thing in the morning, before the crowds (if there are any crowds in this part of the world in the early spring!)

We found our second wild camping spot along the shore of Lake Superior at Pancake Bay. The initial place we wanted to stop at was already occupied by a French couple in a Land Cruiser. We asked if they were okay if we pulled in beside them, and they said “no”. Clearly, they’re not Defender owners…dang Toyota drivers! I was a bit put off by this as I can’t imagine ever saying no to a request like this, but since we asked, we figured we should probably move on. Thankfully, we did!

The second spot we found was WAY BETTER!! It ended up being our FAVOURITE campsite of the whole trip. We made a campfire on the beach, and the girls played in the sand, even though it was a bit cold. Unfortunately, we were only able to stay one night. As we left, Kacela decided she was determined to return someday.

Southern Ontario

Southern Ontario was full of more visiting with friends and family! Honestly, sometimes it feels like all we did was bounce from one house to the next, all the way across the country! And, I don’t say this as a negative thing, we’re incredibly blessed to have so many people to stop and visit.

After a quick pit stop in Sudbury at the world’s largest Nickel, we continued onto Barrie for a night at the KOA campground. It was the most expensive campground we’ve ever stayed at—almost $80/night, and we didn’t even need the hookups! It was worth it, though, as we got to have breakfast with Meagan, one of my besties from Optometry school. The girls enjoyed playing with her boys, and I enjoyed catching up with my friend!

Then, it was off to Hamilton to stay with my Auntie Val and Uncle Lawrence. We ended up dropping off the girls, starting some laundry, and then heading down the road for dinner with our friends, Paul and Dawn, in Guelph. My Aunt thought we were crazy to drive so far for dinner, but when you’ve already driven across the country, what’s an hour’s drive to see friends?

The next day, we were up early to meet our besties from home (who were visiting family in Ontario). The girls were SO excited to hang out with the Giles kids for the morning and share a tiny bit of their Canada road trip with their friends. It’s always fun to find a little bit of home on the road, and it helps us connect our life “on the road” with our life at home.

We spent the rest of the time visiting with my Aunt, Uncle, and cousins. We sat in the garden, walked in the sunshine to enjoy the cherry blossoms, and ate outside. It felt like spring for the first time since Victoria. I’m not sure why the prairies have to be so far behind!

After Hamilton, we drove to Toronto to pick up new latches for the Wolf Pack lids. The plastic ones kept breaking, so we needed a better solution. We managed to sneak in a visit with Randy’s friend Dave and got to snuggle his new baby! Then, we drove to Ottawa with a whiny bearing—although we didn’t know that’s what it was at the time.

Ottawa & Gimli Troubles Part 2

By the time we got to Ottawa, Randy was beginning to worry about the vehicle…again. He hopped on Facebook and found the Ottawa Valley Land Rovers group. Through the group, he was able to find a garage that diagnosed the issue quickly, a problem with the idler pulley bearing, but they didn’t have the parts to fix it. Luckily, the group’s admin happened to have a spare bearing in his garage. Not only did he let Randy have the bearing, he also let him use his garage and all his tools to replace it. Honestly, the Land Rover community is incredible. This was the second time we’d been saved in a hurry in a matter of a few weeks.

By this point, we were hoping this would be the last issue…but unfortunately for us, Gimli still had more problems to come 🙁

Although our time in Ottawa was slightly distracted by the bearing issue, we still managed to have an incredible time. We spoiled ourselves at the Fairmont Château Laurier and I wondered if we would ever get the hang of staying in the vehicle. The weather would’ve been great for camping…but there’s really nowhere to camp in Ottawa

I think we made up for not sleeping in Gimli by using our folding bikes (is that a stretch? I don’t think so!). Rideau Canal has a fantastic bike path along both sides, and the weather was perfect for bike riding. The trees were starting to bud, and the tulips were in bloom. It was so pretty. Ottawa is a surprisingly bike friendly city, and we were happy to take advantage of this.

Canadian Parliament

What would a trip to Ottawa be without visiting the Parliament Buildings? And really, what would a Canada road trip be driving past the Parliament Buildings?

I really wanted a pic of Gimli in front of the Parliament Buildings. But, since the “Freedom Convoy” and their protests were still occasionally happening, the street in front of Parliament was barricaded. As we were wandering around the front lawn, we saw a random car drive down the street. It had accidentally turned the wrong way. So clearly the road wasn’t completely blocked off. Randy asked one of the security guards if he could drive down the street for a photo. The guard told him that it wasn’t technically allowed, but as long as he didn’t stop, he wouldn’t do anything about it.

So, Randy went back to the hotel to grab Gimli, and I waited out front with my phone ready for the drive-by photo op. Luckily, we were staying close by, so it didn’t take him long. Once I snapped a few pics, he hurried back to the hotel, and I wandered behind. I think it was worth it!

Ottawa is an incredible city to visit, especially in the spring. We ate some delicious poutine, visited the Canadian History Museum, and enjoyed wandering the streets and soaking it all in. If it weren’t for Quebec City up next, this may have been one of my favourite stops!


The girls go to summer camp in Québec every year, but they’ve only ever visited Montreal and Camp Ouareau. We opted to skip Montreal this trip and head straight for Québec City (and the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac!). Québec is truly a magical city. It’s full of character and charm and perfect for just wandering and taking it all in.

Calais’ best friend from summer camp lives near Québec City, and they picked her up as soon as we arrived. She went off to spend the afternoon with Maude as her tour guide, and the rest of us explored without her. The hotel offered a FREE guided walk (although, like I always tell the girls, with the price of the hotel, it was actually INCLUDED and not free!). This gave us a good feel for the city, and we made it to a few hidden corners we wouldn’t have found otherwise.

After an exhausting (for Kacela anyway) group walking tour, we went off in search of great poutine to re-fortify ourselves. Because poutine makes everything better! We found some bad poutine and some good poutine. I guess it’s not guaranteed that everything will be good just because you are in Québec! I think the poutine we found in Ottawa was better than the best in Québec City…and our favourite is still at the little roadside restaurant on the way to summer camp. But I’ll never say no to poutine!

Kacela and I were up early the next morning and got the chance to do one of my favourite things when travelling: wandering the streets as the city woke up. It was magical to experience the peaceful, quiet streets in an area of the city that can get completely packed with tourists. The Petit Champlain is one of those absolute MUST-dos when visiting Québec City. We wandered it again in the afternoon with all the crowds, and that has a different charm. I’m glad we were able to experience it both ways!

Gimli’s Strut Fiasco Part 1

With all the weight on the roof, especially with the folding bikes, we decided we needed stronger struts for the roof conversion. Randy figured out what we needed and had them shipped to the Fairmont. When he went to pick Calais up from her friend’s house, he attempted to change the roof struts on Gimli. It was NOT successful…so he packed them back up and started to worry about how we’d get them changed!

With our family back together, we enjoyed relaxing around the hotel. I figured, if we’re spending the money, we might as well enjoy the hotel for the hotel too!

We had initially planned to drive from Québec, through Labrador, and swing back West from Newfoundland to New Brunswick. However, once I started researching everything we wanted to do, I discovered that many things wouldn’t be open if we went that way. We were all a bit disappointed as driving through Labrador is the kind of adventure Gimli’s made for. However, it wasn’t worth sacrificing many other sites just for the drive.

So, from Québec City, we made our way to New Brunswick.

New Brunswick

Our first stop in New Brunswick was to see the incredible waterfalls of Grand Falls. However, the waterfall wasn’t going to be our entertainment this stop.

Not long after arriving a lady slipped and dropped her cell phone into a big rock pile. Randy tried to reach in and find it but without any luck. Two other men came over to help. They eventually ended up retrieving the cell phone, but it was a complicated endeavour. One of the men had our kitchen tongs in hand while the other 2 men (Randy included) held him by his feet and lowered him into the crevice. It was an impressive rescue mission…I sure hope that cell phone was worth it!

Gimli’s Strut Fiasco Part 2

We spent our first night in New Brunswick parked at our first (and only) Walmart parking lot. Randy & I decided it was a good time to try to change the struts again. The girls played in the field beside us while we grunted, swore, pushed and pulled…with NO LUCK! We got the old, weaker strut off, but no matter what we did, we couldn’t muster up enough force to get the new, stronger strut on. We bent the bed (just a little bit), broke the piece that connects the strut to the tent, and eventually ended up sleeping with 3 of the 4 struts holding up the roof. Let’s just say our Walmart camping adventure was memorable for all the wrong reasons!

From Grand Falls, we continued through New Brunswick. We stopped to visit friends in Miramichi before camping in Shediac (still with only 3 of the 4 struts holding up the roof) and the World’s Largest Lobster.

The other “must-do” on our New Brunswick list was Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park. But we were still too early in the season, and it wasn’t open yet! Luckily, nothing in this part of the world is very far away, so we moved on and planned to return later in the trip.

Nova Scotia

Of course, our first stop in Nova Scotia was the Welcome to Nova Scotia sign. Even though it was pouring rain, we stopped for the mandatory photo op!

Joggins Fossil Cliffs

Then, despite the rain, we spent the day at Joggins Fossil Cliffs, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The beach is in the Bay of Fundy, and the tide fluctuates wildly. They offer guided tours, but these have to occur around the tide schedule. Luckily for us, we FINALLY timed something properly (by accident!) and arrived at the Joggins Fossil Cliff Centre in time to join the day’s guided tour.

The tour was excellent! Our guide taught us so much about the cliffs and their discovery. We saw the coal seams and found fossils on the beach. They didn’t let us keep the fossils, which was fine because we didn’t have anywhere to keep them anyway! But it was really cool to go fossil hunting and find some pretty amazing fossils!


After an afternoon exploring in the rain, we decided we were fed up with being wet and booked a hotel in Halifax for a few days. I told you we were soft!! My excuse is that the cities aren’t made for being in the Defender—it’s so much easier to stay in a hotel!

We used Halifax as a home base to visit Peggy’s Cove. It’s an incredibly cute little town with the famous lighthouse perched on the edge of the ocean. The girls loved clambering over the smooth rocks along the seaside. They’d read a fable in one of their school books about the dangers of the “dark rocks” (the wet ones), and it scared them enough to keep them on the safety of the dry rocks. It was a lot easier for me to let them explore when I wasn’t worried they were going to make a wrong step and get swept out to sea! The warning is always better when it comes from a fairy tale and not from mom 🙂

We completed our Peggy’s Cove adventure with lobster by the sea. The place was packed in the middle of May; I can’t imagine what it would be like in the summer!

We stopped to meet our new friend Chris on our way back to Halifax from Peggy’s Cove. He’s the friendly Land Rover owner who offered to store Gimli for us while we went home for the summer before putting it on the boat to Europe. It was reassuring to see he was a real person with a real place to store Gimli! We made some plans and headed on our way feeling pretty confident.

The rest of the time in Halifax was devoted to laundry, schoolwork and the occasional lobster roll.

Gimli’s Strut Fiasco Resolved

While we were in Halifax, Randy bought the “right” ratchet strap and finally changed out the struts on the Alucab roof. This was a HUGE relief! We were finally able to put the roof up easily while fully loaded. This made setting up camp significantly faster and easier…not that we did it much on this Canadian road trip! It also made us feel a lot better sleeping inside, I wasn’t worried the roof was going to come down and crush my head.

Since the weather had warmed up a bit and the roof struts were now properly upgraded and functioning, we vowed to do more camping. We were pretty successful during our circumnavigation of Nova Scotia.


Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, therefore, a necessary stop, was one of the highlights of our time in Nova Scotia. We spent 2 nights at a little campground perched up on the hill above the town. It was the perfect base! We joined a walking tour, much to Kacela’s dismay, and learned a bit about the history of one of Canada’s oldest cities. It took us past some of the oldest buildings in North America. Which, compared to Europe, aren’t very old. But for Canada, they’re ancient! The houses, many still with the original design, are painted in bright, vivid colours. They’re stunning, and learning about them during the walking tour was the perfect way to see them!

We also saw the Bluenose II schooner in Lunenburg harbour and compared it to the image on the Canadian dime.

Camping By The Sea

We continued to make our way clockwise around Nova Scotia and had our most memorable camping night to date. I found a great little spot beside a lighthouse on the south coast, with a toilet AND a picnic table. It looked like the perfect place to camp beside the ocean. The one little thing I failed to realize is that the “breeze” coming off the Atlantic can be quite strong and cold, especially in May!

We set ourselves up and enjoyed a lovely dinner outside with a gentle breeze from the ocean. As soon as we got into bed, a switch flipped. Gale-force winds started blowing, and the whole vehicle shook and shuddered all night long. The girls slept, they were in the relative safety of the solid walls down below. But I don’t think Randy or I slept at all that night. I was constantly worried the vehicle was going to tip over! Randy told me that wouldn’t happen, but it didn’t stop me worrying about it. The experience soured my idyllic view of camping by the sea. Maybe in warmer climates, it’ll be more enjoyable!


One of the things we seek out while travelling is good food. It’s something we’ll drive out of our way to find and something we’re prepared to completely blow our budget on! So, we couldn’t visit Nova Scotia and not eat Digby scallops straight from the source!

We found a cute little campground close to the cute little town, set ourselves up, and rode our folding bikes around. We ate juicy, sweet scallops and enjoyed riding along the oceanside paths with a gentle sea breeze—no gale-force winds in Digby!

Grand Pré

We had one more National Historic site (and UNESCO World Heritage site) to visit in Nova Scotia, Grand Pré. It had just opened for the season when we arrived, so for once, our timing was perfect! We learned a bit about Acadian history and culture and the mass deportation of the Acadian people in the 1700s. Although they were allowed to return home less than a decade after their forced deportation, their homes and land had been settled by others, and they were forced to settle elsewhere.

It’s a heart-breaking story and just one of many such stories tied to the settlement of what’s now Canada.

From Grand Pré, we explored one of the Wolfville wineries and then visited friends, where we had a lovely dinner and a chance to catch up. Then, it was time to head BACK to New Brunswick because Hopewell Rocks was finally open for the summer. We detoured slightly on the way to meet up with Kai, Sarah & Vinny and their Defender! It’s always fun to find Defender friends on the road. (We met up with them again later in the summer when we hosted them at our house…something we’re always excited to be able to do!).

New Brunswick Part 2

Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park

Keeping to our camping routine, we found a great little campground adjacent to the Provincial Park. We were given a spot right at the edge of the campground, overlooking the Bay of Fundy. I was a bit worried at first because we were parked right beside the ocean again, but luckily, the wind was gentle this far up the bay, and we managed to get a peaceful sleep.

Visits to the beach are timed with the tides, and it’s well worth seeing the bay at low tide from below and high tide from above. Walking along the mucky sand beside the mushroom-shaped sea stacks that have been shaped by the tides over the past few millenia is truly spectacular. As we climbed down the last stairs and stepped onto the beach, Kacela exclaimed, “This is from the Air Canada safety video”. You know you travel too much when your kids are linking their travel experiences to the safety video on the airplane!

We would’ve been happy to spend all day exploring the beach and the rocks, but the tide doesn’t let that happen. After about an hour on the ocean floor, we climbed back up the stairs to the cliffs’ safety. Our shoes were all covered in mud; it’s a bit of a sloppy mess down there! We rinsed them off and hiked along the many trails as we watched the water fill in the area where we had recently been standing.


Having grown up reading and watching Anne of Green Gables, I was excited to visit PEI and see Green Gables in real life. As with the entire trip, we were a tiny bit early in the season, but luckily, things were just starting to open up for the summer.

There are 2 ways to get to PEI with a vehicle: across the bridge and on the ferry. We decided to take the bridge one way and the ferry in the other direction. The Confederation Bridge is truly incredible. It’s 12.9km long and is the longest bridge in the world (that crosses ice-covered water). It’s a pretty impressive feat of engineering, even if it’s not very exciting to look at.

The Welcome to PEI sign was just across the bridge, but there was no turnout or easy place to take a photo. This didn’t deter us, and we got a mediocre picture from the side of the road. It’s mandatory at this point!

Green Gables

We drove straight across the province and went directly to Green Gables. I wasn’t wasting any time!! And it was worth it. We spent hours at Green Gables, learning about Lucy Maude Montgomery’s life and the role Green Gables played in it. We explored Lover’s Lane and the Haunted Wood, and all the things that inspired one of my favourite childhood stories. I realized I’d completely failed as a parent because I hadn’t instilled my love of Anne of Green Gables in the girls. I’m not sure how I managed to miss this; I blame it on Disney and the princesses 🙂

Avonlea Village was still closed, but we were able to wander the empty streets and at least see the shops. I imagine it gets really busy when it’s open. So we just enjoyed the solitude, we didn’t need to buy anything from the shops anyway!

PEI has some incredible beaches. Unfortunately, in late May, it’s still a bit too chilly to swim. To be honest, I’m not sure it ever warms up enough here for me to want to swim in the icy ocean. I do love a cold beach, though, and I don’t need to swim to enjoy the feeling of the sand between my toes.

It was warm enough to kick off our shoes, roll up our pants, and wander along the beach. Our favourite was the “singing sand” beach. The sand squeaks as you walk along it. The girls loved it, of course! The cooler weather meant we had the beach all to ourselves!

We were lucky enough to camp in a friend’s yard while in PEI. We could’ve stayed inside, but at this point, we were mostly getting used to sleeping in Gimli. It was great to have access to the bathroom, kitchen, and laundry, though! And it was nice to be able to sit inside away from the bugs.

Nova Scotia Part 2

Cape Breton

We took the ferry from PEI back to Nova Scotia, this time heading towards Cape Breton. I was really excited about this part of our trip, but the weather decided it didn’t want to cooperate. The breathtaking views I had expected ended up hidden behind a foggy grey cloud with snippets of the road occasionally peeking through. We did get an intermittent glimpse of the coastline between the rain and the fog, but it wasn’t much.

The girls’ highlight was collecting sea glass on one of the beaches. They had done extensive research to determine which colours were the most valuable and thought they might make some sea glass jewellery. Needless to say, that didn’t ever happen!

We had booked an early ferry from Cape Breton to Newfoundland, our last province! Finding a hotel for the night seemed easiest, so that we wouldn’t have to pack up in the morning. I always get a bit of anxiety before flights and ferries. Most of my friends probably don’t realize that because, at home, I’ll leave the clinic an hour before my flight departs, giving them all of the anxiety! But that’s different. At home, I know what I can get away with. On the road, it’s unknown territory.

Gimli Troubles Part 3

Imagine my anxiety when we jumped in the car to drive to the ferry, and it made a terrifying clunk when Randy turned over the ignition.

And then it died.

There may have been a few curse words and then a bit of panicking from me!!

The belt had completely shredded to pieces.

We’d had issues with the belt back in Ontario, so Randy replaced it at my Aunt’s house. Apparently, when he replaced it, he reinstalled it incorrectly. I’m shocked it got us this far! And, of course, it chose the most inopportune time to completely fail us.

Luckily, he’d kept the old belt, which wasn’t in perfect condition, but at least it was still in one piece. I quickly looked up the correct installation method, and the two of us managed to get the old, shredded belt off and the not-new, not-perfect but not-shredded old belt back on Gimli. We still made it to the ferry with time to spare (barely).

Now it was Randy’s turn to be anxious as he immediately started to worry about the belt. A replacement was nowhere to be found in Newfoundland, but he did find a shop that could order it for us. We had it ordered, and Randy worried about it for the week or so we drove around until we got our hands on the new one.


We dedicated a significant portion of our time in the Maritimes to Newfoundland. It’s a relatively large Province, especially when you factor in Labrador, and it’s the furthest away and hardest for us to get to. We spent 2.5 weeks here, which was about the perfect amount of time in my opinion. There’s more detail in my Newfoundland Road Trip post if you’re interested!

For our first night in Newfoundland we decided to wild camp in a very uneventful location, tucked behind a Tim Hortons outside Cornerbrook. It was just far enough from the ferry to feel like we got somewhere but close enough to town that Randy could go first thing the next morning to order our new belts.

Our time in Newfoundland was focused mainly on UNESCO sites, Canada Parks, and National Historic Sites, just like the rest of our Canadian road trip! We started at Gros Morne on the West Coast before making our way up the Northern Peninsula.

There’s an incredible number of things to do in Gros Morne National Park, and we were only able to do a few of them, but I think we picked some good activities! We visited the lighthouse at Rocky Harbour, took a boat ride on the spectacular Western Brook Pond, and learned about Pitcher Plants while hiking the Tablelands Trail. I think this was the girl’s favourite activity. They were given a small pipette at the discovery center and used these to suck the liquid out of the inside of the plant. From here, they could see what the plant was eating. It was fascinating! They learned that different coloured liquids meant the plant had eaten different things: black for flies, grey for snails and red for spiders. Most of the liquid they found was black. All those poor little flies!

Heading North from Gros Morne, we stopped for breakfast at the Sunrise Bakery and Cafe, the only place open within a few hundred kilometers! When we pulled in, Randy realized that he’d left his phone in his jeans pocket, hanging on the shower stall back at the Gros Morne campsite. It was 50km back down the road! Being without his jeans for a few days until we drove through again would’ve been one thing, but being without his phone wasn’t an option, so he had to drive back. The staff at the cafe was lovely and let the girls and I sit and enjoy our breakfast for as long as needed until Randy made it back, with his cell phone and jeans this time.

The detour put us a little behind, but we still had time to make it all the way up to l’Anse Aux Meadows. We even had time to stop in St. Anthony at Mary Brown’s for lunch (if you know, you know!).

L’Anse Aux Meadows is incredible. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit, even in the cold and rain. It’s a pretty significant place in human history as this was the location where, in 1000AD (or so), the Vikings encountered the Indigenous people of present-day North America, completing the loop of human migration around the globe. I had no idea about this, and it was a bit mind-blowing!

Our next goal was to find an Iceberg. There are apps and websites that track every single iceberg, and luckily for us, there was a relatively large one pretty close by. We drove Gimli as close as we could, then got out to walk across the bog (we were on a path, don’t worry!). It was SO wet and squishy, but we got an incredible view of the berg. On the way back, we found some smaller chunks of iceberg that had been washed up on the beach. We collected a few to bring back to have in our drinks. I’m not sure why, but drinks taste better with thousand-year-old ice!


It didn’t seem right to do a trip across the country and miss Labrador. Yes, we missed all 3 Territories, but we’ll visit them on another trip sometime WAY in the future. Labrador is part of Newfoundland, one of the provinces, and we wanted to drive through all the provinces. Plus, Labrador is home to the Red Bay Basque Whaling Center, a Canadian National Historic Site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This seemed like an excuse enough to visit and gave us something specific to do once we were there. It wasn’t the best UNESCO site we’ve visited, but I think we all learned something. Randy & I talked about missing the drive from Quebec across Labrador and vowed we’d do it one day! But for now, this was enough.

Back in Newfoundland, we learned about the 6,000 years of human history at Port au Choix National Historic Site and searched for the resident Caribou herd, which we didn’t find. Then we picked up the replacement belt for Gimli (Randy was much more relaxed after this!) and drove the long road that connects the West of Newfoundland to the East.

Instead of driving to St. John’s, we went essentially as far as we could go, to Mistaken Point on the Southeast tip of Newfoundland, another UNESCO site. It doesn’t show up a lot on Newfoundland itineraries, and I’m not sure why. We went on a guided tour to the fossil bed, on some “almost cliffs” beside the ocean. We had to take our shoes off before walking on the rocks because there were fossils embedded in the rock absolutely everywhere. It’s the largest and oldest collection of Edicaran (the first multicellular organisms) on the planet. We had reference sheets to identify the different fossils, and then we learned all about them at the Edge of Avalon Interpretation Center.

Icebergs and Puffins were the two things we all really wanted to see in Newfoundland, and we were there at the right time to find both of them. We’d already checked icebergs off the list, so after visiting the fossils we went on a hunt for Puffins at Witless Bay. But we didn’t find any! We did find a cute little fox on the side of the road. I think it was used to being fed by people in the cars because it came right up to us very expectantly!

St. John’s

Gimli’s made more for the wilderness and small towns than big cities, but we couldn’t visit Newfoundland without visiting St. John’s. Instead of camping, we decided to stay in the Sheraton so we’d have easy access to town. Gimli got a bit of a break as we were able to walk to most places. But, there were a few things we NEEDED Gimli for, like the Atlantic tire dip in Quidi Vidi and a visit to the most Eastern point in Canada, Cape Spear Lighthouse.

St. John’s is such a charming city, and we enjoyed just wandering the streets and admiring the multi-coloured houses. There’s also a LOT of things to do, it was hard to narrow it down. We visited Signal Hill to learn about the first Transatlantic radio transmission. While there we were lucky enough to watch a canon training, which was very loud, and they fired the canon a lot of times! We also visited the Johnson Geo Center, The Rooms Museum, and the Terry Fox Mile 0 Statue.

I think our favourite thing in St. John’s was the Ethiopian restaurant just up the street from our hotel. We all LOVE Ethiopian food, and finding this delicious, family-run restaurant in St. John’s was such a treat. Plus, it was a nice break from the fried fish, baked fish and fish soup we’d been eating so much.

Our Biggest Mistake

At this point, we were headed to Trinity, and along the way, we had the choice to visit Hawthorn Cottage National Historic Site in Brigus OR we could drive a little out of the way and go to Castle Hill National Historic Site near Argentia. It seemed like an easy option to choose the one that didn’t require a detour, plus Brigus looked like a cute little town. This was probably our biggest “fail” of the trip. The National Historic Site was really quite terrible, and the girls were extra disappointed because it wasn’t part of the Xplorer program, so they didn’t even get to collect a tag for it! The garden was nice, though, and Brigus is a cute little town, so it wasn’t all a loss.


Trinity is THE place to go whale-watching in Newfoundland, so obviously, we needed to visit! We’d booked a couple of nights in an apartment because it was spring, and the weather was unpredictable, and we didn’t want to be finished with cold whale-watching and return to a cold Gimli!

Even though it still wasn’t high season, I decided to prebook our whale watching tour so we wouldn’t miss out. But, I chose the wrong week and mis-booked the trip. The owner was lovely, although initially very confused when we were knocking on her door looking for a whale-watching trip that wasn’t happening! Thankfully, there was still room on the boat the next day, we were able to adjust our booking, and all was right with the world. I don’t often make mistakes when booking things, but it has been known to happen occasionally.

Whale Watching

The whale-watching trip was incredible. We saw a Minke whale beside the boat, drove up next to an iceberg (from a safe distance, of course, those things are unpredictable!), saw a baby eagle in its nest, and finally saw some Puffins. Honestly, I know it was a whale-watching trip, but the puffins really stole the show.

We drove out towards one of the major nesting islands, and the sea was completely covered with puffins. There were hundreds on the water and in the air! When we got close, some would take off. They’re hilarious when they’re taking off from the water. The locals call them “Jesus birds” because they run across the water while they’re trying to get up in the air. We still wanted to see puffins up close on land, but this experience was something we didn’t even realize we wanted!

Whale watching was the main reason for visiting Trinity. The other reason was to go to the Trinity Theatre and eat at Twine Loft. I had booked these 2 things the day after our whale-watching trip, but that obviously isn’t how it ended up. We had a delicious dinner at Twine Loft, but unfortunately, the lights weren’t working at the theatre the night we had our play booked, so they had to cancel. It was probably a good thing the theatre was cancelled, or we would’ve been exhausted doing all these things on the same day!


Our time in Newfoundland was coming to an end, and we still hadn’t seen proper puffins! Our experience near Trinity was incredible, but we were still hoping to find some cute little puffins hopping around on a cliff somewhere. Elliston seemed like our best chance, and it was close enough to Trinity that it was worth trying.

It paid off! We found the cutest little colony of puffins on the cliffs, which was only a short walk from the road. We weren’t the only ones searching for puffins here, but it was still pretty quiet, and we were able to take our time and soak it all in.

A trip to Newfoundland wouldn’t be complete without learning about the cod fisheries since we were right on the edge of the Grand Banks. We chose to do this at Ryan Premises National Historic Site. Not only does it give the history of the Ryan family’s salt cod fishing operations, but it also goes through about 500 years of cod fishing history in Canada. Much to the girl’s dismay, it wasn’t part of the Xplorer’s club, but it was interactive and interesting, so they didn’t mind. They even got to “fillet” a stuffed cod!

We finished our time in Newfoundland with a Terra Nova National Park hike and a wild camp at Thunder Brook parking lot. The weather was finally starting to turn into true spring, and there were SO many bugs. It made us grateful to have visited before the flying onslaught.

Our ferry back to Nova Scotia left early in the morning, so we joined the other campers in the parking lot beside the ferry terminal. According to iOverlander, the parking lot had toilets, but this is only during the summer, which we didn’t realize. It was the one and only time we used the chemical porta-potty on the whole trip! It made it quite obvious that the toilet didn’t need to be shipped across the Atlantic with Gimli.

Nova Scotia (Part 3!)

We had one last night of wild camping with Gimli in Canada, along the ocean near Antigonish.

Then, we packed up and made our way to the hotel in Dartmouth. I think the receptionist wasn’t sure what to make of us as we brought in load after load of Wolf packs, folding bikes, porta potty, bags, and lots of other random things into the hotel room. We sold a handful of things on Facebook, like the 5lb propane tank that wasn’t allowed on the ship and the porta-potty we really didn’t need. Then, we repacked and managed to cram everything inside for safe passage over the Atlantic.

We all said goodbye to Gimli, and Randy drove it to Chris’ house, where it would stay until he came back a month later to get it on the boat to Europe.

Our Canada Road Trip By The Numbers

It was so much fun road tripping across Canada. Sure, it didn’t end up exactly like we’d initially planned, but that’s how life goes. We’ve come to learn that traveling with Gimli means we need to be flexible and adaptable. Actually, travel in general requires us to be flexible and adaptable!

Here’s some of the fun stats from the best Canada road trip EVER!!!

  • Total km driven: 16,393 km
  • Longest drive: 809 km (from Trail to Creston to Trail to Creston to Okotoks!)
  • Provinces visited: All 10!
  • Ferries: 6
  • Stops to visit friends/family: 24
  • Nights spent at friend/family house: 11 (in 7 places)
  • Nights spent in Gimli: 21 (out of 67)
  • Fairmont hotels: 3
  • Cheapest fuel: $1.979 CAD/L in Greenwich, Nova Scotia
  • Most expensive fuel: $2.587 CAD/L in Miramichi, New Brunswick
  • Best mileage: 11.91 L/100km
  • Worst mileage: 14.53 L/100km
  • UNESCO sites: 11
  • Canadian National Parks & National Historic Sites: 16
  • World’s “Largest” Things: 9
  • Number of times Gimli broke down: 3

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