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Driving Eastern Canada ... how are the drives?

Driving Eastern Canada ... how are the drives?

May 30th, 2003, 06:33 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 28
Driving Eastern Canada ... how are the drives?

I'll be driving through Eastern Canada with my 2 children for about 8 days in early August. My goal is to drive from New Hampshire to Quebec City, then on to Montreal, to Ottowa and then to Toronto, before circling back to Buffalo (staying two nights in each of the 4 Canadian cities).
We Californians love our cars and road trips, but can any Canadians offer me tips for my very first visit to Canda's roadways? What's the driving time between these cities? What's the speed limit on Canadian highways (in mph, please) and are the road conditions good during the summer? Are gasoline prices in Canada comparable to US gas prices?
Am I biting off more than I can chew?
Many thanks!
San_Diego_Mom is offline  
May 30th, 2003, 07:11 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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I'll try and answer your questions.
First, the times. Quebec City to Montreal is about 2 and half hours.
Montreal to Ottawa is 2 hours and Ottawa to Toronto is 5 hours.
Of course it depends how often you stop, with 2 children.
The speed limit on the highways is 62 mph and the road conditions are no different than what you are used to in California. The difference will be that the speed limit signs are in metric and (100 km per hour) in Quebec you will see french signs.
You will be basically using a four lane divided highway, except in the cities ( in Toronto the main highway is 16 lanes or so), so I suppose you will have to decide if you are biting off more than you can chew. If you are used to driving in the bigger cities in California, then you'll be fine.
Gas is more expensive here, and fluctuates from 59 to 75 cents (CND) a litre.
The only other tip I can give you is ... don't cruise along in the fast lane. Pass and get over again.
Good luck.
kodi is offline  
May 30th, 2003, 07:17 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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Hello San Diego Mom! Sounds like fun! In answer to your questions:
1.Driving times: Check www.mapquest.com
2.Speed limit is 60 MPH (100Km/hr)
3.Road conditions: Excellent
4. CDN Gas prices comparable to US prices? Check back in August!
5.Eastern Canada comprises Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. You will be in Central Canada: Quebec(Quebec City & Montreal...long drive b/t these 2!) and Ontario (Ottawa & Toronto). Buffalo is about 2 hours from Toronto but allow more time if travelling in rush hour(s). Also there can be extensive delays @ the border.
6. You mention that you will be travelling "early August". Keep in mind that August 4th is a Civic Holiday in Ontario so traffic will be very, very heavy August 1-4 especially around Toronto.
wow is offline  
May 30th, 2003, 07:26 PM
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Sorry San Diego Mom!... I goofed up on driving time b/t Montreal & Quebec City. Was thinking Toronto to Quebec City!
wow is offline  
May 31st, 2003, 09:46 AM
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As I gather you will be crossing the US?Canada border by car, be aware that the rules are the same as for air travel.

You MUST have photo ID, preferably passport, for yourself and the children. If you are travelling without your spouse and with your kids, you should probably also have a letter of permission to take children out of country. Both border patrols are particularly sensitive to this issue of child abduction, even or esp., parental abduction. Not a bad thing, of course, but you do need to be prepared. I speak from experience on this issue.
LJ is offline  
May 31st, 2003, 10:12 AM
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For crossing the borders, you need PROOF OF CITIZENSHIP (not a "photo ID").

For children traveling with only one parent, you may be asked for a legal affidavit signed by the other parent granting you permission to travel into Canada with them.

You're not stopping in Niagara Falls?
djkbooks is offline  
May 31st, 2003, 01:32 PM
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Additional thoughts.

To some extent, how old the kids are makes a difference, and how interested you are in getting up early to get started on your drives makes a difference, and how interested are you in driving at night matters.

And how much scenery do you want to look at in between the cities? You could, for instance, stop at the Grandby Zoo, which is fairly small but you get close to the animals, between Quebbec City and Montreal, but that would make the drive almost a whole day affair.

Assuming you are staying in downtown Montreal, you'll be going against the traffic when you leave Montreal for Ottawa ifyou leave Montreal in the morning, although Montreal traffic is always bad at the best of times, very bad some times, and really awful sometimes. Leaving Montreal will be "bad" but you'll be on 50mph roads, and probably travelling about 40, stopping every once in a while, for the first 25 miles. Then it will be smooth sailing at 60mph all the way to Ottawa on interstate-quality roads.

You'll be in Ottawa in time for lunch.

If you leave Montreal at 5 pm, traffic will be awful. Leave at 7 pm, traffic will be much better, and you'll be in Ottawa at 9pm, and wake up in the morning to visit the city, is another option.

You'll need to decide when to leave Ottawa. Choices are early morning, after spending a nice evening in the city; late afternoon, and drive half way to Toronto; late afternoon and drive all the way to Toronto, arriving around 11 p.m. after having driven through the dark for a couple of hours. Assume it's dark about 9 to 9:30 pm in August. You don't miss anything that matters in the last two hours drive from Ottawa to Toronto, so you could do it in the dark.

There are several routes from Ottawa to Toronto. Fastest and dullest is straight south on highway 16, which is mostly four lanes, to intersect with highway 401 -- interstate-like -- which runs east-west, and you want west towards Toronto. You'll see farms on both sides, all the way, unless you make an effort to get off the highway and see more interesting things.

You could instead head west from Ottawa on highway 7, two lanes, 50 mph, and see northern Ontario scenery, lakes, cottage country, small towns, and pick any of several points to turn south.

Main options are south through Smiths Falls, or South through Perth, both of which take you down to highway 401 near Kingston. Back to this is a second.

Or you keep going west past Algonquin Park, into more cottage country, see how Toronto people spend their summers, and turn south at Hunstville, straight to Toronto.

Back to the "Kingston" route. Kingston is at the join between the St. Lawrence River (with the Thousand Islands,) and Lake Ontario. A boat cruise for several hours on the Thousand Islands, either from Kingston or, just a bit east, Gananoque, is a traveller's treat. Kingston has an old fort (Fort Henry) children love to visit, and an interesting harbor. Plus several prisons and a prison museum. You could leave Kingston along highway 2, at the edge of Lake Ontario, take a ferry boat to Prince Edward County (not Prince Edward Island, which is 1000 miles further east) but which is also an island, and then cross a bridge back to the mainland at Belleville or Trenton, and meet up with highway 401 into Toronto. If you or the kids like old airplanes, there's an airplane museum in Trenton that's fun and inexpensive. By the way, there's a fancier airplane museum in Ottawa, too, more or less on the way into the city from Montreal.

To me, with medium-sized (5 - 12 years old) kids, I'd be tempted to leave Ottawa the second afternoon and get to Kingston that night, and then look around Kingston in the morning before heading off for Toronto.

Ottawa-Kingston and seeing stuff -- Toronto is a day's drive. Ottawa-Toronto without stopping much is, as mentioned, about 5 hours.

Toronto-Buffalo should be Toronto - Niagara on the Lake - Niagara Falls - and then either - Fort Erie - Buffalo or Niagara Falls Canada to Niagara Falls USA to Buffalo.

And depending on where you are going in the USA, you might not need to go to Buffalo. Niagara Falls might lead you to the NY Thruway, and back toward NH if that's your goal.

Niagara on the Lake is a tourist town -- think Stockbridge, Mass or Carmel -- but worth at least an hour, and Niagara Falls is well worth a few hours. What you do varies from The Maid of The Mist boat to the bottom of the falls, which I think is the best tourist attraction in Canada, and the butterfly conservatory to, on the other hand, a casino and a wax museum and a tacky but fun crime museum.

Leaving Toronto at 9 am will get you to Niagara on the Lake before 11 am.
NotL to NF is half an hour at 40 mph along a parkway beside the Niagara River.


BAK is offline  
May 31st, 2003, 03:03 PM
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Great suggestions from BAK for things to do along the way if you want to take your time and not do the major highways. BTW, so as not to confuse you, Highway 16 out of Ottawa is now designated 416 and is a major highway all the way down to the 401 highway.
BAK is also soooo right about rush hours. It will be so much easier if you do all you can to aviod them.
kodi is offline  
May 31st, 2003, 08:15 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 328
San Diego Mom:

A couple of other points ...

While in Quebec the road signs are in French but the 'numbering scheme' for highways tend to follow US conventions (e.g., 2-digit major route, 3-digit feeder, x0 somewhat East/West, x5 somewhat North/South, if 40 is a main route then 440 will be a feeder road to it eventually) ...

While Ontario uses a dfferent 'numbering scheme' where '400 class highways' (401, 416, 400, 407) are the major ones, the 1/2 digit ones are the older highways (builtup rural roads) & the 3-digit ones tend to still be rural ...

Canadian tend to drive somewhat faster than Americans (I don't know why) but I've found on many US highways where 60mph is posted at 70mph your passing virtually everyone ... in Quebec/Ontario is 100kmph (62mph) is posted your generally the norm at 120mph (75mph) but still may be passed consistently ...

After the $$ & US-gallon to litre conversion gas is still 20-25% more expensive in Canada , but to make up for it most stations do have better quality (well stronger anyway) coffee than US stations ...

And while its best to avoid rush hour traffic, but compared to most major US cities rush hour traffic everythere but Toronto means you may have to drive the speed limit rather than exceed it by 20% ...

And if renting a car check to see if you can bring it into Canada (but that would be an insurance thing, not a legal one) ...

And if you can cross the border at a 'rural' stop rather than a 'major' one on the highway it can save a lot of time at customs ...


TravelMaster is offline  
Jun 1st, 2003, 09:21 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 28
Just want to email everyone back a great big thank you! Canadians are so gracious and welcoming.
I have printed out all your instructions and will use them carefully. And thanks for the detail. It helps a lot.
We haven't completely decided on our itinerary or roadside stops, but I will take the holiday and traffic info. into account. My children are 9 and 13 and I'm a single mom, but it never occurred to me to consider the child abduction issue. I will bring along my custody papers, just in case. Whew! Thank you so much LJ!
San_Diego_Mom is offline  
Jun 1st, 2003, 10:10 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 612
TravelMaster-greetings! Where in canada are you from?
pattysuericia is offline  

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