Ontario to Maritimes

What is the best route from Toronto to Moncton, PEI or Halifax?

Well, if you have a criminal record or 3 kids without passports, it is hard to argue in favour of the American route across Northern Maine. If you opt to stay in Canada, take the Renous Road across New Brunswick and save 60 km, plus whatever gas savings your car gives you by going 85km per hour instead of 120km per hour. Budget for moose, deer, bear and branch damage to your car.

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On all routes from Toronto or Kingston, you can now avoid Montreal by crossing at Victoriaville and picking up the four lanes of highway 30 off highway 132 at Chateauguay. Plus you get to drive through this.

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Most of the 40 kms from Victoriaville to Chatauguay are 70 to 90km/hr, same as the official speed limit on the Montreal highways. However, there are a few 50 km/hr sections and a few stop lights. The Metropolitain on the Island of Montreal was built as an urban by-pass (most of the city is further south) and is usually the fastest route, unless it isn't. Outside rush-hours, congestion usually only happens near the highway 15 exits. The highway 20 tunnel is usually pretty clear. Champlain bridge (highway 15), on the other hand, is very close to downtown, and often the access points are very congested.
From Ottawa, Montreal haters taking the Canadian route can by-pass the city by taking the north shore route (the almost completed 50 to Mirabel, then 15 to 640, then 40 to Quebec City). That will add 11km to your trip and you wont be able to go as fast (speed limits are more strictly enforced on highway 40 and much of highway 50 is only two lanes). But you avoid Montreal congestion.

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For shortcut freaks and American gas price lovers, Maine is the way to go. There are a couple of option (bring a map!), but you might as well take the shortest route. Although I warn you, the empty but longer I95 will be very tempting. Motels in northern Maine are also quite cheap, although not plentiful. Detour via Bangor if you need a city.

 If time is of the essence, take the highway route via Northern New Brunswick. The divided highway is also much safer. You can still hit a moose on a divided highway, but chances of avoiding it are better. 87 km of highway 185 between the Saint-Lawrence River and New Brunswick is still only 2 lanes, but there are many passing lane sections. On the 185, expect to go at about 100km/hr, but allow time for 90. It may be a divided highway if you are reading this in a couple of years.

Saving 113 km each way by going via Maine is nothing to sneeze at. But it is only 48 km less than the Canadian route with the Renous Road. But the Renous Road is a bit kamikaze (no cell phone coverage or even FM radio!), even when conditions are good (the moose enforce the speed limit).

Going to Newfoundland? Consider (but don't actually do it) going via Labrador. The Translabrador has been open over a year now. What are you waiting for?

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