Road trip! In a country this big, there’s a lot of road to travel, and nothing makes a good road trip better than taking in some roadside attractions. Lucky for us, no matter where you’re headed in Canada, you’re sure to find something spectacularly big, culturally significant or downright oddball around most corners. And who wouldn’t want to grab a selfie with the world’s largest endangered
ferruginous hawk (in Leader, Saskatchewan) or spend some time exploring the two-hundred-year-old Old Fort Henry (in Kingston, Ontario)? So, the next time you’re planning to hit the road, schedule a few 10-minute breaks—or a whole afternoon—to take in a few sometimes-strange-but-always-wonderful roadside attractions. Enjoy the ride!
Constructed in 1975 and dedicated to the centennial of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, this Ukrainian Easter egg, called a pysanka, honours the early Ukrainian settlements in the area. Three-and-a-half stories high and constructed of anodized aluminum, this giant pysanka showcases 524 star patterns, 3,512 facets, 2,206 equilateral triangles, as well as 6,978 nuts and bolts, and 177 internal struts. It sits in a small park where you can admire it while stretching your legs or enjoying a picnic lunch. For a more immersive Ukrainian experience, continue on your way west down the Yellowhead Highway for 30 minutes and visit the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village.
In the wee hours of April 29, 1903, half of Turtle Mountain slid down and obliterated the town of Frank in the deadliest rockslide in Canadian history. One-and-a-half hours west of Lethbridge, the Crowsnest Highway passes right through the middle of this site, so be sure to plan to stop for a few minutes, climb one of the giant boulders and stand in the shadow of a shattered mountain. If you have the time, don’t miss driving up to the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre and spending the afternoon exploring the museum and walking the trails. It’s an experience not to be missed.
Grand Marais, Manitoba
Just an hour north of Winnipeg at Grand Beach Provincial Park lies one of the best beach experiences in Canada. Situated on the shores of Lake Winnipeg, this huge stretch of soft beach is the hot spot for sun seekers and campers. The powdery, white-sand beaches and grass-topped dunes make this one of the top beaches in North America and brings an astonishingly Caribbean experience to our “frozen north” vibe. Whether you want to swim, wind surf or hike, the park has it all: a campground, outdoor amphitheatre, picnic shelters, restaurant, concession services, playground and wheelchair access down to the beach. It’s the perfect stop for a chill afternoon of working on your tan.
This world-famous Big Nickel is the largest coin in the world. The 1951, 5-cent piece was built in 1964 to celebrate the long history of mining in the Sudbury region, which includes copper, silver, cobalt and—yes—nickel. This massive twelve-sided monument weighs approximately 13,000 kilograms (64,000,000 times the weight of a real Canadian nickel!), stands 9 metres tall and is constructed from stainless steel. You’ll find it on a small hill overlooking Sudbury, nestled among two world-class science centres: Science North and the Dynamic Earth Science Centre. A must-see whether you’re wanting a short stop or to make a day of it.
No trip to Montreal is complete without a stop at this massive orange just off Décarie Boulevard. Originally built in 1945 by Hermas Gibeau to house his two-storey-high, orange concrete restaurant, it was rebuilt in 1966—even larger—using prefab fiberglass segments laid over a wood shell. Once noted for its roller-skating waitresses, today the restaurant is most famous for its namesake Orange Julep and its classic fast food that can be enjoyed outside at one of their picnic tables. Or, if you want a longer break, order takeout and head down the road to dine among the maples in lovely Mount Royal Park, just 15 minutes away.
Alert Bay, British Columbia
In the village of Alert Bay on Cormorant Island (a short ferry ride from Port McNeill) you will find the world’s tallest totem pole. Standing 173 feet tall and raised in 1973, this wooden totem was built from two sections (one that is 163 feet tall; the other 10 feet). The totem, carved by Chief Kwaxsistala Jimmy Dick, represents the different families of the Kwakwaka’wakw people with figures like the Sun God, Whale, Wolf, the Thunderbird, Bear and the Salmon, and Raven Holding Copper. Alert Bay also is home to the U’mista Cultural Centre, which houses the recently returned sacred regalia that had once been scattered to museums and private collections around the world. The ferry runs every three hours, so although it’s a bit off the beaten track, it’s worth an afternoon’s detour if you are heading up the island. If you have time to spend the whole day, be sure to explore the trails, museums and the fantastic collection of memorial totems.
Watson Lake, Yukon
Venturing north? Then a stop at the Sign Post Forest on mile 635 of the Alaska Highway is a must. Back in the 1940s, it became a practice for the US Army of Engineers (who were building the Alaska Highway) to put up directional signposts in their camps that gave directions and mileage to their hometowns. The tradition caught on, and today there are over 77,000 signs that make up a literal forest of signposts. That number continues to grow as travellers from around the world carry on the tradition of posting hometown signs, and the forest now occupies acres, featuring everything from street signs to license plates from around the world. If you want to take a longer break, check out the Northern Lights Space and Science Centre to learn about the famous Aurora Borealis. t8n
Canada’s Largest Roadside Attractions
In 1998, Ed Solonyka started roadsideattractions.ca and created the list of large roadside attractions in Canada. Over the years, travellers have added their own discoveries and continue to plan their vacations around the over 1,350 attractions. Ed passed away in 2015, but the website is still maintained in his memory.
The idea that bigger is better is alive and well in the world of roadside attractions.
Giant beaver—Beaverlodge, AB
World’s largest dinosaur—Drumheller, AB
Giant tin soldier—New Westminister, BC
Giant van Gogh painting—Altona, MB
World’s largest curling rock—Arborg, MB
Giant swan—Swan River, MB
World’s largest lobster—Shediac, NB
Giant squid—Glovers Harbour, NL
World’s largest illuminated fiddle—Port of Sydney, NS
Giant loonie—Echo Bay, ON
Giant twoonie—Campbellford, ON
Giant Spirit Catcher—Barrie, ON
World’s largest tomahawk—Cut Knife, SK
Giant moose—Moose Jaw, SK
Giant cross—Mont Royal, QC