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Moon Atlantic Canada
Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland & Labrador
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- Strategic, flexible itineraries including scenic drives, ocean excursions, and the best of Atlantic Canada
- Top experiences and activities: Take in stunning scenery while driving the Cabot Trail or the Irish Loop, visit an active archeological dig at the Colony of Avalon, or study artifacts from the Titanic at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Savor local oysters at a waterfront restaurant, sample seasonal beers at North America's oldest operating brewery, and refuel with a hearty rappie pie after a day of touring Nova Scotia. Relax at cozy a colonial inn or listen to live jazz at a neighborhood pub
- Best outdoor adventures: Bike through UNESCO-protected towns or cruise past massive icebergs. Cross-country ski and snowmobile in Sugarloaf Park or skate on frozen lakes near Halifax. Hike along rocky shoreline or through wildflower-filled river valleys. Kayak to a secluded island for a picnic lunch and camp out under the stars at oceanside parks
- Expert advice from local Andrew Hempstead on when to go, where to stay, and how to get around
- Full-color photos and detailed maps throughout
- Background information on the environment, culture, and history
- In-depth coverage of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and Labrador
Get to know the best of Atlantic Canada with Moon's local insight, expert tips, and unique experiences.
Sticking to one province? Check out Moon Newfoundland & Labrador or Moon Nova Scotia, New Brunswick & Prince Edward Island.
About Moon Travel Guides: Moon was founded in 1973 to empower independent, active, and conscious travel. We prioritize local businesses, outdoor recreation, and traveling strategically and sustainably. Moon Travel Guides are written by local, expert authors with great stories to tell—and they can't wait to share their favorite places with you.
For more inspiration, follow @moonguides on social media.
DISCOVER Atlantic Canada
10 TOP EXPERIENCES
Planning Your Trip
IF YOU HAVE . . .
The Best of Atlantic Canada
FRESH FROM THE SEA
TOP 10 CULTURAL ATTRACTIONS
The Maritime Tour
A FAMILY AFFAIR
Rugged Atlantic Canada
BEST SCENIC DRIVES
Atlantic Canada, the sea-bound northeastern corner of North America, comprises four provinces—Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador—that have their own personalities but are inextricably entwined in history, people, and place. Each province holds the promise of fabulous scenery and rich history.
The scene at Peggy’s Cove on a foggy morning is alone worth the trip, and similarly memorable views of rugged coastline, forest-encircled lakes, and ancient landscapes present themselves at almost every turn. You can hike through flower-filled alpine meadows, stride the fairways of some of the world’s best golf courses, and bike along red-clay lanes—or just take it easy, stepping back in time at historic attractions and soaking up culture in cosmopolitan cities.
The ocean is a defining feature of Atlantic Canada. It permeates all aspects of life on the edge of the continent, as it has done for centuries. Kayaking to an uninhabited island for a picnic lunch and searching out the world’s rarest whales are just two possible watery adventures. Long stretches of sand are perfect for beach walking, and the warm waters of Northumberland Strait encourage summer swimming. The surrounding waters also offer a veritable smorgasbord of seafood.
Some of your most treasured memories will be of the people. For centuries, the folk of Atlantic Canada have gone down to the sea to ply their trade on the great waters. The hard seafaring life has given them what so much of the modern world has thoughtlessly let slip through its fingers: nearness to nature’s honest rhythms, replete with the old values of kindness, thrift, and rugged self-reliance. In a world crowded with too many people and too much development, Atlantic Canada remains a refuge of sorts, and its friendly people will make you feel welcome and comfortable.
Sure, you’ll remember the sight and sound of bagpipers marching across Halifax’s Citadel Hill, you’ll snap the requisite photo of the lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove, and you won’t want to miss walking along the beaches of Prince Edward Island National Park. But there are many unexpected pleasures here as well: personal experiences that come about through intangible ingredients beyond the scope of any guidebook. In Atlantic Canada, you’ll find adventures of your own making.
10 TOP EXPERIENCES
1 Get close to icebergs at Twillingate: This is one of the most accessible places in the world to see icebergs up close and personal—either from the shoreline or on a boat tour.
2 Soak in the views at Peggy’s Cove: Hundreds of lighthouses line the rugged coastlines of Atlantic Canada, but there’s something magical about the rocky setting of Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse and the postcard-perfect village in its shadow.
3 Cruise on the Bluenose II: Set sail aboard a replica of Canada’s most famous sailing ship and you are immersed in experiencing maritime history.
4 Drive the Cabot Trail: The 311-kilometer (190-mile) Cabot Trail winds through Cape Breton Highlands National Park, a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife-loving visitors.
5 Wander St. Andrews National Historic District: The bright and cheery main street of St. Andrews is lined with historic wooden buildings filled with interesting boutiques and friendly cafés.
6 Relax on the beaches of Prince Edward Island National Park: The red-sand beaches and warm waters of the island’s only national park make it a focal point for summer vacationers.
7 Make a meal an adventure at the FireWorks Feast: The FireWorks Feast at Inn at Bay Fortune takes you from a stroll through a farm, to an on-demand oyster bar, to a main meal cooked by one of Canada’s best-known chefs.
8 Get lost in time at the Colony of Avalon: Journey back to the 17th century at this active archaeological dig.
9 Dive deep at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic: This magnificent museum in Halifax tells the many stories of Atlantic Canada’s links to the ocean, from the Titanic tragedy to fishing the Grand Banks.
10 Follow in the footsteps of the Vikings at L’Anse aux Meadows: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the excavated remains of the Viking settlement signify the arrival of the first Europeans to step foot on North American soil over 1,000 years ago.
Planning Your Trip
Where to Go
Atlantic Canada is made up of four provinces, which makes dividing the region into manageable areas easy. But even among Canadians, there is sometimes confusion about the definition of “Atlantic Canada” versus “the Maritimes.” The latter comprises New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, while Atlantic Canada comprises the Maritime provinces together with Newfoundland and Labrador.
Nova Scotia typifies Atlantic Canada, with a dramatic, 7,459-kilometer-long (4,635-mile-long) coastline notched with innumerable coves and bays holding scores of picturesque fishing villages. It would be easy to spend an entire vacation exploring Nova Scotia, yet still leave feeling you hadn’t seen everything. The cosmopolitan streets of Halifax, the colorful port of Lunenburg, the historical ambience of Annapolis Royal, and the wilds of Cape Breton Island are just a taste of what you can expect in this diverse province.
New Brunswick is the largest of the Maritime provinces, but is the least known to outsiders. Although the province is mostly forested, it is its coastline and fertile Saint John River valley that attract the most attention. Here you’ll find the elegant resort town of St. Andrews, the phenomenal Fundy tides, and pristine beaches such as Parlee. These attractions, along with the three main cities—Fredericton, Saint John, and Moncton—and a distinct Acadian flavor to the north coast, create a destination with something for everyone.
Prince Edward Island
Little PEI ranks as Canada’s smallest province, as well as its most densely populated, most cultivated, most ribboned with roads, and most bereft of original wilderness. PEI also has the country’s smallest provincial capital—Charlottetown, with a population of just 33,000. Tourism revolves around Cavendish, but the island’s low-key charm is found elsewhere, along rural roads that end at the ocean and drift through neat villages that have changed little over the last century.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Three times the size of the Maritimes put together, this province redefines the region as Atlantic Canada. It comprises the island of Newfoundland as well as Labrador on the mainland. The Maritimes share a kindred climate, history, and lineage, but Newfoundland is different. About half of the island is boreal forest, while much of the rest is rocky, barren, or boggy. The people, many of whom live in the capital, St. John’s, in some ways seem more akin to their Irish or English forebears than culturally blended or archetypically Canadian.
Know Before You Go
When to Go
Summer revolves around outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, swimming, canoeing, and fishing. July and August are especially busy. This is the time of year when school is out and the parks come alive with campers, the lakes and streams with anglers, the beaches with swimmers and sunbathers, the woods with wildlife, and the roadsides with stalls selling fresh produce.
Spring and fall are excellent times to visit Atlantic Canada. While May-June is considered a shoulder season, in many ways the province is at its blooming best in spring. After the first weekend in September, there is a noticeable decrease in travelers across the province. But early fall (Sept.-Oct.) provides pleasant daytime temperatures, reduced room rates, and uncrowded attractions. By late September, fall colors are at their peak, creating a mini-surge in visitors.
Officially, winter extends from late December into March, but in reality, most attractions and visitor information centers, as well as accommodations in resort towns, start closing in mid-October.
Passports and Visas
To enter Canada, a passport is required of citizens and permanent residents of the United States. For further information, see the website http://travel.state.gov. For current entry requirements to Canada, check the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website (www.cic.gc.ca).
All other foreign visitors must have a valid passport and may need a visa or visitors permit, depending on their country of residence and the vagaries of international politics. At present, visas are not required for citizens of the United States, the British Commonwealth, or Western Europe. The standard entry permit is for six months, and you may be asked to show onward tickets or proof of sufficient funds to last you through your intended stay.
Visitors to Atlantic Canada have the option of arriving by road, rail, ferry, or air. The main gateway city for flights from North America and Europe is Halifax. Ferries cross to Yarmouth from Maine, while the main rail line enters the region from Québec and terminates at Halifax. Driving, whether in your own vehicle or a rental car, is by far the best way to get around Atlantic Canada, although some towns are served by bus.
The Best of Atlantic Canada
Two weeks is an excellent length of time for visiting each of the four provinces and not feeling too rushed along the way. You could just spend the entire two weeks in the three Maritimes provinces, or only explore the far reaches of Newfoundland and Labrador, but this itinerary has it all.
After arriving in Halifax, settle in at a historic downtown B&B such as The Halliburton. Spend the afternoon taking in sights such as Halifax Citadel National Historic Site and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, and make dinner reservations at a waterfront restaurant.
Drive south through Peggy’s Cove (take the obligatory lighthouse photo) and Mahone Bay (browse the arts and crafts shops, eat lunch at Rebecca’s Restaurant) to Lunenburg. There’s plenty to see en route, but arrive in time for an afternoon walk through the UNESCO-protected core of downtown, which is filled with colorful buildings. For the views alone, the Salt Shaker Deli & Inn is my favorite Lunenburg lodging.
Drive across to Annapolis Royal to explore the historic town and visit Fort Anne. Stop in Digby for a meal of plump Digby scallops and board the afternoon ferry for New Brunswick and an overnight at one of the lodgings within walking distance of Fundy National Park.
Mornings are a delight in Fundy National Park, so plan on a coastal hike and then drive through to Fredericton. Here, the Historic Garrison District packs in the past (and art lovers will want to schedule a stop at Beaverbrook Art Gallery), but the highlight of this day will be watching Loyalist history come to life at Kings Landing Historical Settlement. There’s no advantage to staying right downtown, so reserve a room at On the Pond.
Drive up the Saint John River, making a crossing at the Hartland Covered Bridge, then soaking up the wilderness of Mount Carleton Provincial Park en route to Miramichi. You’ll learn about Acadians and their struggles at Village Historique Acadien.
Drive to Prince Edward Island via the Confederation Bridge. Check in early to Charlottetown’s Shipwright Inn and spend the afternoon on a rural jaunt through Cavendish, passing through Prince Edward Island National Park and stopping at Green Gables Heritage Place.
Rise early to catch the ferry from Wood Islands to Caribou. Learn about the arrival of the early Scottish settlers at Hector Heritage Quay in Pictou, then drive through to Baddeck, on Cape Breton Island. Squeeze in a visit to Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site. Most rooms at Baddeck’s Water’s Edge Inn have balconies with views of the sun setting over the lake.
Spend the day driving the famously scenic Cabot Trail, choosing between hiking coastal trails, relaxing on the beach, and a whale-watching trip. Catch the evening ferry to Argentia (reserve a cabin for extra comfort).
You’ll wake to your first views of Newfoundland as the ferry pulls into Argentia. There’s plenty to see on the way to the capital, including the archaeological dig at the Colony of Avalon. Once in St. John’s, head to The Rooms to learn about local history and Signal Hill National Historic Site for the views. Make reservations at Mallard Cottage for dinner. Still feeling energetic? The lively downtown bars of George Street come alive after dark.
Head west, stopping at Trinity, a tiny fishing village where little has changed in over a century, en route to Gros Morne National Park, where during the long days of summer you have time for a walk through the Tablelands and can still be at Lobster Cove Head in time to watch the sunset. Gros Morne Cabins are a centrally located base in Rocky Harbour.
Join a morning boat tour of Western Brook Pond and drive north along the Northern Peninsula. Make sure to stop at Port au Choix National Historic Site and the thrombolites of Flowers Cove en route to Southwest Pond Cabins in L’Anse aux Meadows. Dinner at the Norseman Restaurant is a must.
Visit L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, then drive to St. Barbe and put your feet up for a couple of hours on the ferry crossing to Labrador. Head north along the Labrador Straits to Mary’s Harbour. Park your vehicle and pack an overnight bag for the short boat trip to Battle Harbour, an “outport” (remote fishing village) that was abandoned in the 1960s, but where restoration efforts include a restaurant and an inn.
Return to the mainland and spend the day exploring this remote stretch of coast. Red Bay National Historic Site should definitely be on your itinerary, as should the lighthouse at L’Anse Amour. Catch the ferry back to St. Barbe and continue south to Port-aux-Basques in time for the evening ferry back to Nova Scotia.
Arriving in North Sydney around dawn, you have plenty of time to make an afternoon flight home from Halifax. If you’re not flying out until the following morning, take Marine Drive along the Eastern Shore and spend the night along this remote stretch of coast, where Sherbrooke Village is a historical highlight and where the beaches of Taylor Head Provincial Park are perfect for a walk.
The Maritime Tour
It may be possible to touch down in all four provinces in one week, but such a rushed schedule is neither practical nor enjoyable. Therefore, in this itinerary, we’ll stick to the three Maritime provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island). This itinerary and those that follow assume you have your own vehicle or a rental.
Arrive in Halifax and spend the afternoon exploring the downtown precinct; include a visit to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and a tour of Alexander Keith’s Brewery. Enjoy your first evening in the city by tucking into seafood at an outdoor waterfront restaurant such as Salty’s. For lodging, choose The Halliburton for historic charm or the Prince George Hotel for modern conveniences.
Rise early to beat the crowd to Peggy’s Cove, then follow the scenic coastal route through Chester to Mahone Bay. After lunch, spend time admiring the local arts and crafts scene and walk along the waterfront to view the trio of waterfront churches. At nearby Lunenburg, you’ll find enough time for a sunset harbor cruise before turning in for the night at the Spinnaker Inn.
Drive across southwestern Nova Scotia to Annapolis Royal and spend the afternoon exploring North America’s oldest downtown street as well as attractions like Port-Royal National Historic Site.
- On Sale
- Sep 21, 2021
- Page Count
- 512 pages
- Moon Travel