The midsummer heat of Toronto hit us hard even though it was shortly after midnight as we clambered out of our taxis downtown.
But the long, tired and sweaty journey already felt like yesterday after washing down a rosemary and cardamom-inspired G&T at the Scaddabush bar.
Now we were ready to throw ourselves into Canada’s biggest city.
Matt’s road trip began in the stunning city of Toronto, home to the 553-metre-high CN Tower
Matt (top left) and his girlfriend Lizzie (green top), along with friends Rich (right) and Sarah (left), – had two weeks to visit five cities and four provinces across 4,000km in eastern Canada in a motorhome
The four of us – Lizzie and I and our friends Rich and Sarah – had two weeks to visit five cities and four provinces across 4,000km in eastern Canada in a motorhome.
The Royal Ontario Museum – Canada’s biggest museum – was a logical place to start. The modern exterior, which looks like a giant crystal, contrasts with the natural history on show inside.
The variety of the six million objects inside is staggering and caters to all ages and interests.
The size of the museum gives visitors plenty of breathing space, something we didn’t get when we finally reached the front of the queue at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, which is located right next to the Rogers Centre – home of Toronto’s famous Blue Jays baseball team.
But the aquarium is very well designed, with a one-way system and a walk-through tank. In the morning we gazed at lifeless animals and spent the afternoon eye-to-eye with some magnificent sharks.
Olives, sun-dried tomatoes, anchovies and plenty more is on offer from the many food stalls in St Lawrence Market, Toronto
The market should be on the to-do list of any self-respecting foodie
The highlight of Toronto was undoubtedly the three-course lunch we enjoyed 350-metres up the CN Tower.
The 360 restaurant does exactly what it says on the tin – it revolves as you wine and dine, offering breath-taking views of Toronto and 100 miles beyond on a clear day and giving you an idea of the size of Lake Ontario.
And the taste of the food matches the stunning views.
Matt walked beneath sharks in the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, located right next to the Rogers Centre – home of Toronto’s famous Blue Jays baseball team
The aquarium is very well designed, with a one-way system and a walk-through tank
The 360 restaurant does exactly what it says on the tin – it revolves as you wine and dine, offering breath-taking views of Toronto and 100 miles beyond on a clear day, giving you an idea of the size of Lake Ontario
The highlight of Toronto was undoubtedly the three-course lunch at 350-metres up in the CN Tower, Matt writes
The taste of the food matches the stunning views – the courgette carpaccio starter a particular stand-out
The next day we picked up our campervan up in Bolton – about an hour’s drive away, and having argued over who should dare drive the massive RV – 7.5 metres in length – we were on our way.
We headed towards Algonquin Park, Canada’s oldest and largest national park, which boasts 7,800 sq km of forests, trails, cliffs and thousands of lakes.
As we arrived at Rock Lake campsite we were met with an incredible sight – a camping spot nestled among the trees and looking out onto the calm, blue lake that stretched for miles before melting into the green of the mountain forests behind.
Early next morning we drove to Lake Opeongo, where we hired canoes and a young guide, who took us out on the quiet lake and up the creek and back. We paddled through water lilies and kept our eyes open for mouse and beavers.
Matt was told by Canadians that stopping at the burger joint Weber’s on his way north from Toronto to Algonquin Park on Highway 11 was a must – and as soon as you pull into the car park you can smell the charcoal burgers. The shakes are also unmissable
After lunch we found the Booth’s Rock Trail and stopped halfway to plunge head-first into the cool, clear blue water of Lake Rock.
Next was a three-hour drive to Wesley Clover Campgrounds – 20km south west of downtown Ottawa.
We crossed the grand bridge into Quebec. You can’t miss the striking building that houses the Canadian Museum of Civilisation to the left, the smooth curves of its exterior are like a giant wave that has leaped onto the river bank. Inside we read, saw and felt the story of Canada from the perspective of its Aboriginal peoples.
The campervan was huge, but easy to drive, thanks to the gigantic roads
Matt hired canoes and a young guide who took him out on the quiet Lake Opeongo in Algonquin Park
Matt paddled through protected water lilies, while keeping his eyes open for mouse and beavers on the banks
Looking back across the river gives you a perfect view of Parliament Hill. The Harry Potter-like mass of Gothic spires and turrets that poke high into the sky give the building the imposing aura that a nation’s Parliament should.
Ottawa felt like a microcosm of our experience in Canada – the characters of the country felt particularly pronounced here.
One thing that struck us was the friendly nature of the locals. Unlike other capital cities – such as London or Paris – they made an effort to help and get to know foreign tourists.
As soon as a bus driver heard our English accent he not only told us exactly where to get off but gave us all free day passes.
It’s best to keep a beady eye out for bears in Algonquin Park
A campfire and a barbecue feast were the order of the day at the Algonquin campsite
Then there was the taxi driver who dropped us back at the campsite late at night and refused to take our money – despite our insistence – because he wanted to help his ‘colonial ancestors’.
And – as we left Ottawa and made our way towards our next destination – a checkout assistant in a town near Edmundston in New Brunswick told us her day was made because they never have foreign visitors.
The next leg of our journey was a gruelling 1,300km drive that we split over two days. There’s only one way to enter Prince Edward Island – over the famous 13km Confederation Bridge linking it to the mainland.
The first thing that comes to mind when remembering Prince Edward Island is the primary colours of the blue sea, the rich green of the pastoral and very arable land and the dark red cliffs and sand.
Booth’s Rock Trail offers amazing views of Lake Rock in Algonquin Park
But the second thing that comes to mind when I remember the island is the freshness of its food – and it was surprisingly cheap. Oysters and lobsters are the island’s equivalent of hamburgers – they’re sold everywhere.
But the best oysters can be found at the small and simple Oyster Barn restaurant at Malpeque Bay.
They slipped down our throats as we looked over the quaint harbour full of fishing boats and lobster pots. We also glugged down some wine as it was only a short walk back up the hill to the campground at Cabot Beach Provincial Park.
The bus drops you off at Parliament Hill – the centrepiece of Ottawa, pictured
The guard might not look happy but Matt and his friends certainly were as they basked in the 35 degrees heat on Parliament Hill after the changing of the guards
The Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers restaurant in the rustic fishing village of North Rustico was another great venue in which to sample the island’s seafood.
The main course was an experience to say the least for someone who was eating their first whole lobster.
Next was Quebec City – which was completely different to anywhere else we visited in Canada – perhaps unsurprising as it’s the French capital of Canada.
Quebec City’s quaint Old Town is full of small lanes and squares
All the descriptions in guide books of a quaint European city were correct, with the Old Town containing small lanes and squares lined with quirky stalls and interspersed with small art galleries, souvenir shops and street food stops.
However, for nourishment our port of call was a fast-food chain called Chez Ashton, where were sampled Poutine – Quebec’s traditional dish made with French fries, cheese curds and a light brown gravy topping.
After this we watched the international fireworks competition from a boat on the bank of the St Lawrence River – the perfect finish to the day.
Confederation Bridge linking Prince Edward Island to the mainland is so long that in the middle of the 13km bridge you can be forgiven for feeling a little adrift
Ahead of Matt’s nine hour drive to Quebec City he stopped at Cumberland Cove Seaside Campground right next to Confederation Bridge. He woke up to the most stunning sun rise over the sea, with the sky changing from a dark pink to a bright orange within minutes
Prince Edward Island was memorable for its ‘primary sea colours, the rich green of the pastoral and very arable land and the dark red cliffs and sand’
Malpeque Bay, where fishing boats and small yachts – surrounded by lobster pots – floated peacefully in the harbour
Visiting the oldest lighthouse on the island at Point Prim was another highlight of Prince Edward Island
The leaning Montreal Tower at the Olympic Stadium sticks out like a sore thumb in the distance
Poutine – Quebec’s traditional dish made with French fries, cheese curds and topped with a light brown gravy
The Notre-Dame Basilica – modelled after the Paris cathedral – sits opposite the Bank of Montreal’s head branch at the Place d’Armes
Our final leg of our journey took us to Montreal – a three-hour drive from Quebec City.
The best place to take in the city is from the ‘Au Sommet’ observation deck 185 metres above ground, accessible from the Place Ville Marie shopping mall.
Not only does this give visitors a great perspective of the city but it also offers interactive terminals that help you explore the city. All you have to do is tell the computers what you’re into and it. Select sport and it will literally point you in the direction of the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Montreal Tower that sticks out like a sore thumb in the distance.
After 11 days sleeping in the campervan we were grateful to return back to where we started – the luxury of the Chelsea Eaton hotel in Toronto.
After driving just over 4,000km we felt exhausted – but once we had washed down another few cocktails at the Scaddabush bar opposite the hotel, we were ready to go again.
Canadian Sky (www.canadiansky.co.uk) can offer a ten day motorhome self-drive tour from £1,099 per person, arriving and leaving from Toronto.
The tour can be tailored to travel beyond Ontario and for longer stays, as required. The price includes return flights from London Gatwick to Toronto with Air Transat, one night accommodation in Toronto and nine nights motorhome with unlimited mileage. Campground fees and additional hotel nights are not included.
For more information about visiting Canada, go to www.explore-canada.co.uk and www.canadiansky.co.uk/ontario-holidays/toronto/classic-ontario-by-motorhome-tour.