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Riding the buses » Canada, Road trips, Travel itinerary » Road trip itinerary: Maritimes and Newfoundland & Labrador

Road trip itinerary: Maritimes and Newfoundland & Labrador

Itinerary

Itinerary

Many visitors to the Maritimes want to see all three provinces (Nova Scotia including Cape Breton, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island) and some continue on to Newfoundland & Labrador. I regularly receive questions about how best to do this so offer this itinerary based on articles I wrote on my travels to the region, particularly:

My favourite road trip through Canada’s Maritime Provinces
Road trip around Cape Breton Island, NS
A special place called Newfoundland

This itinerary starts in Halifax, which has the largest airport, but those driving to the Maritimes from other parts of Canada or from the United States will probably start in New Brunswick.

Halifax, NS
What came first, the universities or the pubs! There’s much to like about Nova Scotia’s capital. Food and live music tend to top the list. I also love its waterfront and museums, Pier 21 (where one million immigrants landed) and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (the tiny Maud Lewis house is so moving) topping my list.

Lighthouse Route, NS
Follow the South Shore along Hwy 3 past lighthouses and charming fishing villages. Highlights include Peggy’s Cove, a quaint fishing village and one of the province’s most photographed places, Memorial to Swissair Flight 111 at Whalesback, Mahone Bay, which is nestled where the Mush-a-Mush and Maggie rivers empty, and Lunenburg, the birthplace of the Bluenose schooner and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Liverpool to Digby, NS
Take Hwy 8 across the province towards the Bay of Fundy. Highlights include Kejimbujik National Park (often referred to as Keji) and the fortress Port Royal at Annapolis Royal, one of the earliest European settlements in North America. Digby is the scallop capital of the world and a great place for whale watching and clam digging.

Ferry from NS to NB
The  Fundy Rose ferry takes you from Digby, NS to Saint John, NB in less than 3 hours.

Bay of Fundy, NB
St. Andrew’s-by-the-Sea in Passamaquoddy Bay is one of the oldest and loveliest towns in the Maritimes. Fundy National Park near Alma has 100 km of trails. At Hopewell Rocks off Highway 114 the water can rise as high as 16 meters, which is the height of a four-story building—the highest tides in the world. Up to 12 species of whales visit the Bay of Fundy during the summer so be sure to go whale watching on either the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick side of the Bay.

Bridge from NB to PEI
You take the Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick to PEI at Cape Jourimain. This is the longest bridge in the world — 12.9 km (8 mile) long—and it takes about 10 minutes to cross it. You don’t pay a toll going to PEI, either by bridge or by ferry, only when you leave. Consider stopping first at Parlee Beach, which is one of the warmest saltwater beaches in the country.

PEI National Park
PEI, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, is the ‘birthplace of Confederation’. The province is famous for its sand beaches, red soil, flattish landscape and Anne of Green Gables. This is a perfect place to walk the dunes, have a lobster dinner, buy some pottery and go biking.

Ferry from PEI to NS
On the eastern side of the island, take the ferry across the Northumberland Strait from Wood Islands, PEI to Caribou, NS (just outside Pictou), which takes 75 minutes.

Cape Breton, NS
The Canso Causeway crosses the Strait of Canso that separates Cape Breton Island from the mainland of NS so there is no need to catch a ferry. Cape Breton Highlands National Park is home to the 300 km Cabot Trail, famous for its spectacular ocean and mountain views. Baddeck is on Bras d’Or, which is an enormous inland sea and where you find the Alexander Graham Bell Museum. Less than an hour from Sydney is Fort Louisbourg, founded in 1713 as the capital of New France and restored to reflect life back then.

Ferry from North Sydney, Cape Breton, to Port aux Basques, NL
This 6-hour, 178 km ride ends at Port aux Basques on Newfoundland’s west coast.

Great Northern Peninsula
It’s a 700 km trip up the west coast of NL to the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula and the drive is incredible. North of Deer Lake it is called the Viking Trail (Route 430) and the first stop is Gros Morne National Park, famous for its freshwater fjords, glacial valleys and pristine lakes. Near the end of the trail, on Route 436, is L’Anse aux Meadows where Vikings led by Leif Eriksson arrived from Greenland in around 1000 A.D; sod houses typical of the time have been resurrected here. St. Anthony’s at the tip of the peninsula is where we first saw the big icebergs.

Ferry to the Labrador Coastal Drive
Take the 80-minute ferry across the Strait of Belle Isle from St. Barbe to Blanc Sablon on the Quebec-Labrador border. Watch out for the blackflies. The drive along the paved Labrador Coastal Drive (85 km) is eerie and other worldly, including the stop at the 16th century Red Bay Basque Whaling Station. Return to the mainland.

Avalon Peninsula
Drive from Deer Lake to St. John’s (640 km), stopping at Twillingate on Iceberg Alley if you didn’t see icebergs at St. Anthony’s. St. John’s is where you find crazy coloured houses and where you’ll get ‘screeched-in’ as an honourary Newfoundlander. Witless Bay Ecological Reserve has the largest puffin colony in North America and if you haven’t seen your share of whales by now, well 20 species swim along this coast! Don’t miss the lighthouse at Cape Spear, the oldest surviving lighthouse in the province and the easternmost point of land in North America.

Ferry from Argentia, NL to North Sydney, NS
Argentia is 130 km from St. John’s and the passage to NS takes 12 to 14 hours and doesn’t operate every day.

Back to the start of your itinerary. Be sure to make reservations!

By Sylvia Fanjoy

Photo credits Sylvia Fanjoy

© Riding the buses 2016™

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16 Responses to "Road trip itinerary: Maritimes and Newfoundland & Labrador"

  1. Bob MacIntosh says:

    We are planning a 3 week road trip around the Maritimes beginning and ending with flights to and from Halifax. Our intent is to in Halifax October 1st and depart October 21st.We would like to include at least a partial trip to Newfoundland. We love the outdoors and historical sights. Any suggestions for an itinerary. Thanks

    1. Sylvia Fanjoy says:

      Hi Bob. Sorry I was not able to respond before you made your trip. I just provided a quick itinerary to Dianna (below) for the 3 Maritime provinces and an extension up the west coast of Newfoundland (taking the ferry from Cape Breton) would be doable within your timeframe and certainly a very valuable add-on.

      Would love to hear your suggestions having recently done it!

      Thanks for writing Bob.

      – Sylvia

  2. Hello, 5 of us would like to travel New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI in two weeks. Is this possible and if so what is the best way to get there from California? Flying to Maine, and driving i.e.? Any ideas for an itinerary.
    We want to rent a car (LARGE) for 5 people. I am reading all on the internet but am overwhelmed. We are not kayakers, fishermen, etc., just want to sightsee and, of course, eat. Some of us are birders. Any response is appreciated.

    1. Sylvia Fanjoy says:

      Hello Dianna. I have taken almost a year off from this website and am sorry for the delay in responding.

      A trip through Canada’s Maritime provinces should be a relaxed affair. It you happen to get a little lost—well you just turn around.

      That said, here are some suggestions…

      – Fly right to Halifax because it is an international airport and you can go through customs there. Arrange in advance to rent your BIG car (maybe a small van?) at the airport. It’s quite a drive from the airport to Halifax so you so feel quite comfortable with the vehicle by the time you reach the city!

      – Spend at least 2 days in Halifax for there is much to experience.
      – Follow the South Shore along Hwy 3 past lighthouses and charming fishing villages. Highlights include Peggy’s Cove, Mahone Bay, the Memorial to Swissair Flight 111, and Lunenburg.
      – Take Hwy 8 across the province to Digby on the Bay of Fundy. Stops to consider are Kejimbujik National Park, Port Royal fortress at Annapolis Royal, and Digby, the scallop capital of the world.
      – Take the Fundy Rose ferry from Digby, Nova Scotia to Saint John, New Brunswick. The ride takes less than 3 hours. I would make a reservation.
      – Visit the New Brunswick side of the Bay of Fundy. Favourite stops are St. Andrew’s-by-the-Sea, Fundy National Park near Alma, and Hopewell Rocks off Highway 114 (highest tides in the world).
      – Now you’re off to Prince Edward Island (and everyone refers to it as PEI). So make your way to Cape Jourimain where you’ll find the Confederation Bridge, which is the longest bridge in the world. It takes about 10 minutes to drive across it!
      – PEI is small but take your time for it is rather divine and offers something to suit just about everyone.
      – Time for another ferry, this one from Wood Islands, PEI to Caribou, Nova Scotia. This one only takes 75 minutes.
      – It is an easy drive to Halifax from here. Or if you have the time and inclination, head first to Cape Breton. It’s a bit of a drive but well worth it because it’s where you’ll find the Cabot Trail, famous for its spectacular ocean and mountain views and other charming villages and historic sites.

      If you haven’t already made the trip (!), you will have a great time. The food is SPECTACULAR. Yum. And birds love the Bay of Fundy.

      Thanks for writing.

      – Sylvia

  3. Judy Janes says:

    We have two weeks of travel in this area. Do you think we will be able to complete your Maritimes Road Trip Itinerary writhing that time?
    Thank you for your interesting website.

    1. Sylvia Fanjoy says:

      Sorry to be so slow in responding, Judy. Perhaps you have already made your trip! Yes, you can easily see the Maritimes in two weeks. Lots of variation, great food, friendly people, world heritage sites, sandy beaches. What more could we ask for. A perfect summer vacation destination.

      1. Robert Buttery says:

        Dear Sylvia,

        We are in the initial “skeletal” phase of planning a first trip to the Maritimes, including Newfoundland/Labrador. My wife and I (and Maine Coon cat Molly) will be traveling from Florida in our 35′ motorhome, and will be towing a car. We have allocated two months, probably July and August (but we have flexibility), of our six month trip to the Maritimes.

        My first impression of a Maritimes RV trip is that our 2016 six month trip to Alaska was probably excellent preparation and training.

        After we get our planned route sketched out, would you be so kind as to critique and comment on it for us? Like you, we are planners, and like to have reservations where possible, which seems especially important for this trip considering all the ferry travel.

        Thank you, and Happy Holidays.

        1. Sylvia Fanjoy says:

          My goodness, Robert. What an ambitious undertaking. Very exciting. I have never driven a trailer in my life and to do it while hauling a car is beyond imagination. I have travelled up the Alaska highway (I hitch hiked up with a British cook–many years ago) and I sure remember there were lots of very steep mountains to climb so I imagine you will do just fine in the Maritimes!That being said, I think you leave the trailer at the campsite when you go around the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton.

          I have a feeling that you won’t need my feedback but if you want to send the itinerary I will post it here for it will probably be a great resource for others.

          Thanks for writing (and sorry that the Holidays are long past–I am a bit behind in life!)

  4. Jessie says:

    Hi! We will be flying into Halifax and will have 10 full days for a road trip. We love to hike, eat, and stay in Bed and Breakfasts. Anything you would suggest would be great!

    1. Sylvia Fanjoy says:

      Hi Jessie. Fundy National Park and Cape Breton Highlands National Park are well known as hiking destinations, so you probably won’t go wrong spending time in either park. And all three Maritime provinces have outstanding B&Bs so it all sounds like a perfect fit.

      Thanks for writing.

      – Sylvia

  5. Jeanne Pengelly says:

    Hi there. This thread is very helpful. I am planning a trip to the east coast leaving Toronto Aug 6 and returning to Toronto Aug 17. We are planning to drive straight to the east coast, and then begin our adventure there. I would like to take in as much as possible of the highlights, since I’ve never been east. So PEI, NS and NFLD are on the list. We do have relatives in St. Johns, so we would like to spend 3 or 4 days there. Do you have some suggestions? I would LOVE to cross to Labrador for a little time.

    1. Sylvia Fanjoy says:

      I have always wanted to drive to Labrador through Quebec (Baie Comeau, Goose Bay, Blanc-Sablon) but it is almost 2,000 km one way and some of the road is gravel. To get a “taste” of Labrador I think taking the ferry from St. Barbe, Nfld is the most doable.

      It’s a 14 hour drive from Toronto to St. Johns, NB where you’ll probably want to stop for a couple of nights to visit your relatives and see the Fundy tides (and maybe whale watching). Then I think it is a choice of either driving to Cape Breton, taking the ferry to Port aux Basques, Nfld, and driving up the west coast of Nfld with a side trip to Labrador OR driving around the Maritimes.

      Either itinerary would be a great vacation choice.

      – Sylvia Fanjoy

  6. Catherine says:

    Hi there:

    My husband and I are planning a trip to the Maritimes, Newfoundland and Labrador. We have 9 or 10 days. Starting Saturday September 3 to Saturday September 10 or Sunday September 11, 2016. We are flying from Ontario. We don’t mind flying from one city and departing from another or renting a car. We have never been and would love to see lots. I have no idea on where to start and what to plan to see. I need help. All is appreciated it. Catherine

    1. Sylvia Fanjoy says:

      If I were to do it in such a short timeframe and wanted to see all four Atlantic provinces (an admirable undertaking), then I would fly to Halifax and do the itinerary as suggested through Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island by car (but skip Cape Breton) and fly to St. John’s, Nfld, visiting the Avalon Peninsula. It would give you a really good sense of that part of the country.

      Thanks for writing.

      – Sylvia Fanjoy

  7. Elen Borja says:

    Hello -we will be traveling to NS in August and was wondering if you could suggest a road map for us.
    Day 1 arrival Halifax
    Day 2 explore Halifax
    Day 3 Drive from Halifax to NB see Fundy Tides
    stay overnight
    Day 4 drive to PEI -is this where we cross the confederation bridge?
    Stay overnight
    Day 5 drive to cape Breton see lunenberg
    Stay overnight
    Day 6 drive back to Halifax to catch 2 pm flight
    Can u suggest where to stop in between for a sightseeing spot?
    With the short time we have -can u please suggest what to see absolutely not to be missed in NB, PEI, Cape Breton and where to eat?

    1. Sylvia Fanjoy says:

      Good to hear from you, Elen. I don’t think your plans are doable in 6 days and that you need to choose between Cape Breton and New Brunswick/PEI (and Lunenburg in not in Cape Breton but on Nova Scotia’s South Shore).

      I think that one of the reasons so many visitors travel to Nova Scotia is to see the villages along the South Shore and experience the force of the Atlantic Ocean.

      If I had your timeframe (very tight with little chance for error), this is what I would do (and I would book my accommodations and ferries in advance).

      Day 1: Arrive in Halifax
      – Visit Halifax
      – Have dinner overlooking Halifax harbour
      – Overnight Halifax

      Day 2: Lighthouse route and ferry to NB
      – Get up early
      – Arrive at Peggy’s Cove before the tour buses
      – Consider having breakfast at Sou’Wester, Peggy’s Cove (pricy but historic)
      – Continue along the Lighthouse route (Hwy 3) to Lunenburg
      – Visit and have lunch in Lunenburg
      – Drive to Digby (165 km)
      – Take ferry from Digby to Saint John, New Brunswick (17:30 ferry; must arrive 1 hr ahead)
      – Overnight Saint John

      Day 3: Bay of Fundy and bridge to PEI
      – Drive from Saint John to Hopewell Rocks on Bay of Fundy (175 km), arriving when tides are low (see Tides table)
      – Drive to Cape Jourimain (135 km) and take the bridge to Prince Edward Island
      – Overnight Charlottetown or PEI National Park

      Day 4: Prince Edward Island
      – Sights of PEI
      – Lobster supper
      – Overnight PEI

      Day 5: Halifax, NS
      – Take ferry from Wood Islands to Caribou, NS
      – Drive to Halifax (170 km)
      – Overnight Halifax

      Day 6: Halifax and departure
      Hope this is helpful.

      – Sylvia Fanjoy

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