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:
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.
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.
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™