We’ve loaded this blog post with images so you can see that there’s nothing like Canada’s east coast. It’s bursting at the seams with gorgeous views, great food, good people and fun times!
Famous for their hospitality, the people living in Canada’s Atlantic provinces are some of the friendliest in the world. It’s not uncommon to make lifelong friends, even after just a short vacation to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador.
People come from all over the globe to explore Canada, and the Maritimes is definitely on their bucket list. Did you know that Canada was ranked as the second-best country in the world? In January 2020, the US News ‘Best Countries list’ came out with Canada on top – second only to Switzerland.
Explore Atlantic Canada: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador
Atlantic Canada is where many Europeans settled when they crossed the pond. It was particularly popular with settlers from England, Scotland, Ireland and France. It is also home to First Nations people such as the Mikmaq.
Despite the Aboriginal and Acadian cultural heritage, however, there is a strong Celtic influence. As you explore Atlantic Canada you will discover the many Scottish and Irish influences. And in parts of Nova Scotia, Gaelic is still a dominant language.
Nova Scotia, or New Scotland, has a 13,300-km coastline just waiting for you to explore. It’s absolutely perfect for a road trip. Dotted with cities, picturesque towns and quaint fishing villages, your camera will get a workout!
Here are just a few of the things to do and see in Nova Scotia:
Halifax is the capital city of Nova Scotia. It is also the largest city and definitely a cultural hub, no matter what your interests are. There is a multitude of unique dining, shopping and live music venues. Take a walk along the 4-km long, harbour-front boardwalk and stop in all the little shops and cafes along the way. Visit the Halifax Citadel atop Citadel Hill and take in the history and the view of the entire city and harbour. You can even take an evening ‘ghost tour’ from July to October and learn about the ghost stories and bizarre legends of the citadel. And while you’re in Halifax enjoying all it has to offer – from great music to world-famous seafood – you will want to check out the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Found in the heart of Halifax’s historic waterfront, you will be in awe of the rich history. Learn about the city’s connection to the Titanic and relive the horror of the 1917 Halifax Explosion.
Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse
Open year round, Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse is the most famous of its 160 historic lighthouses. Built in 1915, it’s a magnificent beacon. It’s definitely worth a separate trip – just an hour from Halifax – to spend the day watching the waves and exploring around the rocks on the shores of St. Margaret’s Bay. You might even want to stay longer at one of the many lovely B&Bs. You’ll discover wonderful hiking trails, whale watching, pristine beaches and exceptional birding opportunities. As well, you could take a kayak adventure or play a round of golf where the views are spectacular.
Bluenose II (Lunenburg) Bluenose exhibit
The original Bluenose fishing and racing schooner is so famous it its image is proudly displayed on one side of the Canadian dime. It was built in 1921 and was unbeaten as a racing vessel until 1946 when it stuck a reef off of Haiti. It was indeed a sad day for all Canadians, but especial Nova Scotians. In 1963, the Bluenose II was built and launched from in the same shipyard as the original in Lunenburg, NS. If you’re lucky – and plan it right – you can see the Bluenose II as it embarks on a Sail Past summer tour. Otherwise, you can visit it in its home port and enjoy the Bluenose exhibit at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. The old town of Lunenburg is absolutely charming and has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site.
Cape Breton Island
Cape Breton Island is part of Nova Scotia, but strangely separate as well. It is physically connected to the mainland by the Canso Causeway, which crosses the Strait of Canso. The island is the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mik’kmaq People. And if her craggy cliffs could talk, what stories they would tell. Its beauty is staggering, which could be one of the reasons the island was ranked No 1 in Canada by the 2020 Travel & Leisure World’s Best Awards. Don’t miss an opportunity to travel the gorgeous Cabot Trail, play a few rounds at the Highland Links Golf Course and enjoy the hospitality that Sydney has to offer.
Similar to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick is a great place to go exploring. The province has so much to offer, such as wonderful accommodations, fun road trips, whale watching, beaches, hiking, fishing, provincial parks, city life, and fabulous food and beverages. New Brunswick is Canada’s only bilingual province. About two-thirds of the population are anglophones, while the other third declare they are francophones.
The capital city of Fredericton calls itself Atlantic Canada’s Riverfront Capital. The Saint John River bisects the city and flows west to east. As you can imagine, a lot of activity takes place on the spectacular riverfront. If you like to walk, run, bike or even ski, the Fredericton Trail system is for you. This incredible network of more than 120 km meanders along the river with its many streams and wooded paths – beckoning you to go exploring.
While in Fredericton, you should check out King’s Landing, just 35 km west of the city. You will be transported back in time nearly 200 years as you explore the open-air museum with more than 40 exhibits. There is also a 19th century village with people in full costume and farm animals. You can also go horseback riding, enjoy shopping or have a bit to eat You can also participate in hands-on workshops such as milking a cow or firing a musket.
Other vibrant cities to visit in New Brunswick are Moncton and Greater Saint John, where you will find the Port of Saint John. Each year nearly 100 cruise ships call into port. Although the numbers have lessened recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bay of Fundy
The Bay of Fundy is considered one of the seven wonders of North America. (Find out the other six here.) A trip to New Brunswick would be far less fun without a visit to this amazing natural wonder. Your TierOne Travel agent can find you the best accommodations and ensure you get booked on an incredible tour that will have you viewing the rarest whales and the highest tides on earth. You will be able to paddle in a kayak as the waters rise to over 12 metres … and then you can actually walk on the ocean floor at low tide. If you venture inland, you will discover waterfalls deep in the Acadian forest. So many great camping opportunities too. And you absolutely must check out the Hopewell Rocks at Hopewell Cape at low tide. Bring your camera!
Roosevelt Campobello International Park
If time permits, a visit to Roosevelt Campobello International Park would be worth your while. Just across the way from Lubec, Maine, the easternmost town on the continental U.S., is Campobello Island New Brunswick. This park is unique since it is jointly managed by the U.S. and Canada. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States, had a beautiful summer cottage on the island. Things to do in the park include touring FDRs cottage, explore the beautiful gardens, picnic areas, and ocean views. You can also enjoy a hike in the area and see bogs, forests, shoreline, beaches, and more!
The Swallowtail Lighthouse is located on Grand Manan Island the wooden 1860 lighthouse is a National Historic Building. Some of the activities that can be enjoyed at the lighthouse include sightseeing, picnicking, hiking, and birdwatching! Some other highlights, amenities and services located at the lighthouse include a gift shop, welcome centre, museum, viewing deck, and picnic areas. The Swallowtail Lighthouse is one of the must-see attractions on the island. Not only is the location beautiful it’s also one of the best spots for watching the sunsets and seeing ferries coming and going.
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island is Canada’s smallest province! Even though it is small in size it offers so many amazing experiences such as, red-sand beaches, lighthouses, stunning coastal vistas in the world and heading inland experience rolling green hills and picturesque and fertile farmland. The island is renowned for fresh seafood like lobster, oysters, and mussels as well as other farm-to-table cuisine. PEI paints a postcard-worthy picture of rural Canada.
Charlottetown is the capital of Prince Edward Island. Victoria Row is a street mall downtown Charlottetown, it is located in the heart of the Charlottetown shopping district with restaurants, cafes and gift shops. The architecture in the area dates back to the Victorian era and surrounds the cobblestone streets. In the summer Victoria Row closed the road and is a pedestrian only area.
Charlottetown is home to the modern Confederation Centre of the Green Gables Heritage Place. When travelers think of PEI a lot of them will immediately think of the adventures of a red-headed, straw-hatted little girl, Anne Shirley! Published in the early 1900s, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s books Anne of Green Gables are still as popular as ever.
At the Green Gables Heritage Place you can walk in the footsteps of one of Canada’s most celebrated authors and immerse yourself in the scenery that inspired the setting of Anne of Green Gables. Explore the visitor centre, original Green Gables house, 19th century gardens, farmyard, walking trails – including the Haunted Wood and Lovers Lane – gift shop and a café. Green Gables tells the story of both the author, L.M. Montgomery, and her most famous heroine, Anne Shirley, it is definitely worth a visit!
Prince Edward Island National Park
Prince Edward Island National Park covers a spectacular stretch of land containing sand dunes, salt marshes, traces of an Acadian forest, beaches, and sandstone cliffs. Both Green Gables and Dalvay-by-the Sea, a National Historic Site, are Canadian treasures showcased within the park.
The hamlet of Greenwich is home to archaeological sites which show us history of the ancestors of the Mi’kmaq that lived here for thousands of years, a heritage which is very much alive today. Greenwich Beach is a star attraction that local Islanders try to keep a secret. It has the largest sand dunes on the Island with boardwalks and trails that roll across marshes and grass. Pristine sand seems to go on forever making it perfect for anyone who loves a long walk on the beach.
Basin Head Provincial Park
Basin Head has one of the top beaches in Canada! A beautiful white sand beach, play area, restaurants, and more is what awaits you in Basin Head. The water is warm during the summer months and the sand is fine. The sand squeaks when you walk on it, so it was given the name “singing sands”. The park is also home to the Basin Head Fisheries Museum which is dedicated to maintaining the history of fisheries in the area and is also a Federal Marine Protected area since there is rare flora and fauna only found there.
West Point Lighthouse
West Point Lighthouse is a four-star inn that offers 13 unique rooms that give the rare opportunity to sleep in a lighthouse! The West Point Lighthouse is one of the Island’s most recognizable places. It’s PEI’s tallest and one of the most unique lighthouses because of its unique square shape and black and white striped paint. There’s also a museum in the lighthouse that explores the islands coastal history and is home to one PEI’s most complete collections of Lighthouse information and memorabilia. Artifacts, displays, and exhibits tell the story of the community, and the lightkeepers.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador create the most eastern province of Canada. From iceberg viewing, whale watching to museums, historic sites and more. Newfoundland and Labrador have so many unique things to see and do. It has been compared to Ireland with more
colour and less tourists. It is a wonder why this province is not on everyone’s bucket list! With beautiful landscapes, kind locals, you’ll create memories to treasure forever.
St. John’s is the province’s capital, it is the perfect combination of big city living and traditional small-town charm! It is one of the oldest and most eastern cities in North America and has become a unique destination full of character and charisma, with a modern and stylish edge.
Hike up and stand at the top of Signal Hill, the hill is home to the iconic Cabot Tower, a castle-like structure built to celebrate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s voyage to Newfoundland. It was here that Guglielmo Marconi, an Italian inventor, and electrical engineer, famously received the first transatlantic wireless message in 1901! Experience amazing views of St. John’s and the North Atlantic at the top of Cabot Tower.
Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site
Newfoundland’s oldest surviving lighthouse is the Cape Spear East Coast Trail. The East Coast Trail is among Canada’s most breathtaking hikes, over 300 kilometers of trails run along the East Coast of Newfoundland. The trail starts at Cape St. Francis and runs to Cappahayden. There are several different access points to individual sections of the trail for shorter hikes!
Along towering cliffs, hikers can find fjords, sea stacks, seabirds, lighthouses, abandoned coastal villages, whales, icebergs, puffins, archaeological digs, and the world’s southernmost caribou herd! A section of the trail leading from Bay Bulls to Shoal Bay, takes you to a natural sea geyser called The Spout. Hiking along the East Coast Trail is truly an unforgettable experience!
Gros Morne National Park
Gros Morne National Park is a Canadian national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site Located on the west coast of Newfoundland. Hike through amazing landscapes or climb high to incredible summits. Travel through fjords shaped by glaciers thousands of years ago, leaving behind gigantic cliffs and roaring waterfalls. Alongside the natural wonders are highlights of a cultural heritage rich in creativity, festivals, music, art that can be found throughout the park in quaint towns like Cow Head and Woody Point.
Fogo Island (Fogo Island Inn)
Fogo Island is the largest of the offshore islands in Newfoundland and Labrador. There is so much to do on Fogo Island, you can visit one of the many museums, hike one of the several, scenic trails, shop at local small businesses and more!
Fogo Island Inn is one of the most amazing accommodations on the island! Every one of the 29 one-of-a-kind guest rooms and suites has dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto the most powerful ocean on the planet. This award-winning Inn is built on the values of sustainability and respect for nature and culture. The Inn is a community resource, 100% of operational surpluses are invested into the community to help ensure a sustainable future for Fogo Island.
Twillingate is the iceberg viewing capital of the world! Twillingate is one of the stops along Iceberg Alley, a huge corridor of ocean that stretches from the coast of Labrador to the southeast coast of the island of Newfoundland. Stunning, rugged coastline, historical, picturesque streets, and green countryside roads await you in Twillingate. In the waters off the coast, look for whales, dolphins, harp seals, seabirds, and icebergs, the best time for iceberg viewing is mid-May to mid-July. One of the best places to view all these sights is at Long Point Lighthouse, which looks out over the distant reaches of Notre Dame Bay. Take a boat tour and witness icebergs up close and whales breaching just meters away!
EXPLORE YOUR OWN BACKYARD – BEAUTIFUL CANADA
This is the sixth blog in our TierOne Travel ‘Explore Canada’ series, which provides a glimpse into some of the most incredible cities and regions to explore from coast to coast to coast. Our expert travel agents can put together an awesome itinerary to suit your interests, timelines and budgets. We also work with some of the best tour operators in Canada, so we can book the most amazing tour packages for you.
Be sure to read our past ‘Explore Canada’ blogs and other great articles about exploring your own backyard!
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