Having sold his tech consulting business just before the pandemic, Steve Davies and his wife, Erin Horton, who consults as a sommelier, found themselves with more free time. Like many avid travellers, Davies, who lives in St. Margaret’s Bay, N.S., used the province’s extreme lockdowns – which at times restricted residents from leaving their county – to dream of his fantasy vacation: driving his performance cars around Europe.
“I’ve always been very interested in cars,” says Davies, who owns a McLaren, Aston Martin and Lotus Evora. “My wife and I have driven Europe, the U.S. and most of Canada, but the last 18 months of staycations we re-explored the Maritimes and specifically Nova Scotia. This provided the opportunity to combine two passions: performance-oriented vehicles and showing off the province.”
He figured other owners with similar passions would want to travel the same way, so in November, 2020, he and his wife launched DreamDrive Vacations, which he describes as “a high-end, luxury car cruise.”
The guided drives, conducted in a loose convoy with Davies in the lead car acting as a spotter and a sleeper vehicle at the end of the pack to provide whatever assistance guests require, is an opportunity for those with performance cars to enjoy a leisurely exploration of the coastal scenery found on Nova Scotia’s elaborate secondary road system, visiting the lobster-riddled South Shore, the Annapolis Valley’s wine country and Cape Breton’s dramatic Cabot Trail.
The trips are available in four-, five- and seven-day itineraries. A full week’s fee, using your own vehicle, is $9,000. Shipping can be arranged for an additional fee, or, subject to availability, a car can be hired through DreamDrive. The inclusive fee includes the planned itinerary, accommodations, meals with wines and wine tastings.
Driving holidays aren’t a new concept. Guided drive tours can be found in Europe, Australia and parts of the U.S. Davis took these as proof of concept, but added the twist of letting drivers bring their own cars, since most other tours are either offered by companies with their small fleets of high-end cars for hire or for specific car clubs, such as Ferrari or Porsche owners.
Davies believes this type of drive experience will appeal to performance car owners in Ontario, Quebec and the Northeast U.S.
“There are a lot of very nice cars in the Greater Toronto Area, but there’s no place to really drive. It’s congested, flat and laid-out in a grid,” he says.
Nova Scotia’s secondary roads, twist, dip and turn, bringing out the best in high-performance vehicles.
Two of Davies’s friends agreed enough with his vision to become customers. Alice Aiken, VP of research and innovation at Dalhousie University, who has ridden her Harley Davidson in a group ride across Canada and back, signed up for part of the Cape Breton portion of the first DreamDrive in June, 2021. Since her Mercedes SUV didn’t quite fit the performance category, she and husband, David, rented Davies’ 2013 Lotus Evora.
“It was extremely cool. I know it was only in Cape Breton, but we could have been in California or Tuscany or anywhere, it was fabulous,” she says.
Another of the early drivers was Allan Macdonald, former COO of Canadian Tire.
“It would be easy to go into an experience like this thinking it was targeted to people who wanted to drive fancy cars really fast,” he says. “It was anything but. It was group of people who appreciated cars of all sorts.”
He says the experience made converts of those less interested in automobiles.
“My wife’s friend started by saying, ‘I am absolutely not driving any of these cars.’ And then she’s pulling into Pleasant Bay ripping around in a Porsche, having a ball.
“If you think about some of the world’s most famous drives like the Swiss Alps or the Amalfi Coast, this would rival that and it’s right on our doorstep,” says Macdonald.
This year, DreamDrive began with a June tour, conducted two in July and has one planned for each of August and September. As travel restrictions ease more tours may be added, and they also are available for exclusive buy outs for private groups. To maintain exclusivity and service, each drive is limited to 10 participating vehicles.
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