Atlantic Canada road trip

Canada is in demand these days. The country has a progressive and wildly popular prime minister, and Americans are once again looking to flee north.

But this isn’t a political blog. It’s a travel blog. And summer is coming. Road trip!

The open road! The vast spaces! The freedom to stop whenever you want! Is there a better way to see this huge, friendly country? I think not. We covered the scenic route from Vancouver to Calgary in this fab guest post by local girl Leigh of Hike Bike Travel. Now, it’s time to go east.

The girls and I road tripped around Atlantic Canada a few years ago and loved it. We think you will, too. Now, we only had one week. Two would have been better, but there you are. Is your time limited as well? Here’s what we did:

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Atlantic Canada Road Trip – itinerary

Halifax, capital of Nova Scotia, is easily reached from Europe, especially via Reykjavik. If you’re travelling with young kids, I suggest you plan for a few hours’ layover in the Icelandic capital. Then head for the Blue Lagoon. Physical activity, preferably out in fresh air, that’s the ticket. They’ll be out cold before the iPad is out of the bag, and you’re free to do your thing all the way across the Atlantic. Forget sleeping pills, I say. Wear them out instead. Tried and tested comprehensively by yours truly. But I digress.

We began and ended our Atlantic Canada road trip in Halifax. Over the 7 days, we covered 1000 km, through three Canadian provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

Highlights

Not to be missed on your Atlantic Canada road trip:

  • Halifax: Government Gardens, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, and the Titanic graves at Fairview cemetery
  • Prince Edward Island: Charming Charlottetown, lovely little hamlets and everything Anne of Green Gables
  • Curious Shediac, lobster capital of the world
  • The Bay of Fundy
  • Kejimkujik National Park
  • Annapolis Royal
  • Lovely Lunenburg
  • Nova Scotia’s fishing villages and windswept shores
  • Lighthouses. Lighthouses everywhere.
  • Eating lobster

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Let’s get on with it.

Nova Scotia

Halifax

We spent two days exploring Nova Scotia‘s capital. Halifax is a friendly and very walkable city, with a slight end-of-the-world feel to it, I thought – a bit like Hammerfest (which actually is at the end of the world). We strolled to the centre of town, and stopped at the pretty Halifax Public Gardens for morning tea/ice cream. Just outside is Spring Garden Road, with weird and wonderful little shops.

But Halifax is most of all about the water. The Waterfront Boardwalk was probably our favourite part of town – with more little shops, restaurants, boat trips, playgrounds, the wonderful Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, and just, you know, the salty smell of sea air. And the wave.

 

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Before leaving town, we had a look at the Citadel, where you walk through history and, not least, have fantastic views of Halifax and the Atlantic Ocean.

Pictou

Heading north from Halifax towards the PEI ferry, we stopped at Tim Hortons, a Canadian legend. Well, what can I say: I suppose you have to grow up with it to truly appreciate it, eh? (And it must be said, it beats McDonald’s.) Pictou, on the other hand, was a nice surprise. Home of the Hector, a replica of the sailing ship that brought the first Highland immigrants to Canada in 1773, the Scottish influence is still noticeable in town. Nova Scotia means New Scotland, after all.

Just a few minutes from Pictou is Caribou, where we boarded the car ferry for the 75-minute crossing to Wood Island, PEI.

Prince Edward Island

On fairytale Prince Edward Island (PEI), we spent two nights in Charlottetown. I think we managed to get a good feel for the little island capital. In fact, Alexandra liked Charlottetown so much, she even looked into doing a term at uni here. (She ended up in Wales for a year instead, but that’s a different story.)

We walked and ate and shopped (surprisingly cool shopping in Charlottetown, people), and we drove north to visit Anne of Green Gables. On the way we stopped to ooh and aah at innumerable little beauty-spots with names like North Rustico and New Glasgow, often with lighthouses attached. And weather-beaten boats.

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We walked through the Green Gables House in Cavendish, and pretended we were Anne on an adventure in the surrounding forest. We saw Lucy Maud Montgomery’s birthplace in New London, and Avonlea Village – which we had mostly to ourselves on that chilly October day.

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From Charlottetown, we headed west to Summerside, which appeared closed, more or less (much like Northern Norway is in the off-season), but at least our rambling hotel was lively enough. Summerside was pretty though, and I expect it’s wonderful in summer, with farmers’ markets, museums, even more lighthouses, and a harbourfront theatre. Annoyingly, we just missed an Anne of Green Gables-performance by a few days. But then again, as Anne says,

I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.

My fave month. Couldn’t agree more.

New Brunswick

Crossing Confederation Bridge – a 12.9 kilometre concrete and steel construction where we really felt the autumn wind – we arrived in our third province: New Brunswick. Quebec is the only French-speaking province in Canada, but did you know New Brunswick is bilingual? I was pleased to hear French spoken on the streets and in the cafes of Shediac, home of the world’s biggest lobster.

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We continued to Saint John, where the Reversing Falls was a highlight (it’s at its most spectacular as the tide rises). Now, there’s a zipline here as well. The girls love ziplining.

… and back in Nova Scotia

The next morning, we hopped on a ferry and crossed the beautiful Bay of Fundy (about 3 hours).

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Digby, the ferry port on the Nova Scotia side, seemed an unassuming little town. We had a quick lunch, then drove on to Annapolis Royal. Had I an extra night, I would have spent it here. As it was, we only really had time to see the historic Fort Anne with its ramparts and canons and most of all, views – and the afternoon sun across the landscape. A place that feeds the imagination, Annapolis Royal was.

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But we had to get on. Crossed through Kejimkujik National Park – gorgeous autumn foliage and several deer sightings at dusk – we ended the day in lovely Lunenburg.

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An excellent choice, as it turned out. Lunenburg is a bright and cheerful town, with a handsome harbour, a fab selection of cafes and romantic fishing villages nearby.

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On our last day, we drove back to Halifax, stopping at Fairview cemetery at the outskirts of town. Halifax is where they were brought ashore, 333 recovered victims of the Titanic. Most of them were buried here at Fairview.

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In Halifax, we had time before our evening flight to Reykjavik, and were inspired to have another look at the Titanic exhibits at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. And of course, that wave.

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Where we slept on our Atlantic Canada road trip

Except for the first 2 nights in Halifax, we had no hotel reservations. We just drove into a town, chose a place that looked nice or interesting (or convenient, if it was very late at night). Some sleeps were wonderful, others decidedly meh. Accommodations, and even which towns to stay in – it’s always a choice between more detailed planning and leaving ones options open, isn’t it… I always seem to go for the latter. Here’s where we slept:

  • 2 nights in Halifax, at the Cambridge Suites near the Citadel.
  • 2 nights in Charlottetown, at Fitzroy Hall B&B. Loved this place, full of antiques. And fresh blueberries with breakfast.
  • 1 night in Summerside, at the cheerful, rambling Loyalist Country Inn.
  • 1 night in Saint John, at the Holiday Inn Express. Well, it’s Holiday Inn, rarely anything special.
  • 1 night in Lunenburg, at the Spinnaker Inn, our favourite of the lot.

So, that’s it. Our Atlantic Canada road trip in a nut shell. Hope you found it useful.

Atlantic Canada road trip

Do you like road trips? Ever taken one in Canada?

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28 Responses to “Atlantic Canada road trip”

  1. Stephen Garone 28 April 2016 1856 #

    Very nice! I did the Lunenberg-Halifax leg of the trip in Nova Scotia. Terrific scenery (and so little traffic).

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 30 April 2016 1044 #

      A very nice drive, indeed.

  2. budget jan 29 April 2016 0318 #

    I love places that are all about the water and I’ve seen quite a few posts on Halifax (from Nancie) and I just know I would love it. I like the map showing your trip, it is a trip that we would definitely like to do one day, hopefully with two weeks up our sleeve. 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 30 April 2016 1044 #

      Hope you get a chance soon.

  3. Ruth - Tanama Tales 29 April 2016 0431 #

    On Monday, I read an article about driving the Cabot Trail in New Brunswick. I imagine you took part of this trail on your trip. Canada is a fantastic country (underrated in my opinion). I really want to visit this year.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 30 April 2016 1045 #

      We love Canada. So much I haven’t seen yet.

  4. I loved Anne of Green Gables book! great trip! #travel photo thursday

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 30 April 2016 1102 #

      Lovely, aren’t they… 🙂

  5. Vera Marie Badertscher 29 April 2016 1732 #

    I’m sure you are aware you missed the most striking drive–Cape Breton. ???? And the Scottish north shore of Nova Scotia, and most fantastic rebuilt, living history, Ft. Louisbourg. Loved so many of these places you went, but you do need to go back.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 30 April 2016 1104 #

      Oh I know! One week isn’t nearly enough, but there you are. We do need to go back, especially to see the northern parts of Nova Scotia.

  6. Brooke of Passport Couture 29 April 2016 2035 #

    I love the western part of Canada, but have yet to explore the Eastern Side. Would love to visit Prince Edward Island since I was a huge Anne of Green Gables fan as a kid!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 30 April 2016 1105 #

      We adored PEI. Wouldn’t mind living there for a few months 🙂

  7. Grey World Nomads 30 April 2016 2151 #

    We were now in Scotland and I was wandering if the name Nova Scotia actually also reflects the similar landscape and weather. It looks like there are less mountains and lakes though, but the weather seems to be quite similar #TPThursday

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 30 April 2016 2214 #

      The landscape – at least what we saw of it – is quite different from the Scottish highlands.

  8. Rachel Heller 30 April 2016 2250 #

    Some day I’d like to do the same route more or less, but take a month or so to do it!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 3 May 2016 1221 #

      A month would be great – even two weeks. That said, a week is better than nothing 🙂

  9. Turkey's For Life 2 May 2016 1021 #

    Oh, we love a good road trip. The terrain around this area of Canada looks so different to how I imagined. And yeah, not a politics blog but the Canadian prime minister must be doing wonders for Canadian tourism because he’s so popular. 🙂 We think he’s great.
    Julia

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 3 May 2016 1233 #

      I like him, too. 🙂

  10. Mette 2 May 2016 1845 #

    What a fabulous trip that must have been. It seems you covered a lot of ground in every sense. Our road trips are mainly set in Europe, and I hope we can do it again this summer without having to stop for border controls every time we enter a new country.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 3 May 2016 1236 #

      Schengen is at peril.

  11. Jolene 3 May 2016 0519 #

    Your Road trip looks incredible and what better way to see some incredible destinations!! We love road trips, but have also learnt to take it slow on them, always seem to rush!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 June 2016 1817 #

      Too easy to rush through, isn’t it…

  12. Nancie 4 May 2016 2346 #

    Hi Sophie! What a trip. I cannot believe (but I do) how much you crammed into your week! Nice to read how much you enjoyed my part of the world. Thanks for linking up, and sorry I am so slow getting around, but the semester has consumed me :)#TPThursday

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 June 2016 1819 #

      We do like Atlantic Canada, Nancie 🙂

  13. Marcia 5 May 2016 0351 #

    Lovely, Sophie, and right on time. I’m going to bookmark your post as I’ve actually been thinking of doing a road trip to Canada this summer.
    And since you’ve brought up politics, based on what’s happening here, a move back to Canada might not be such a bad idea. Cant imagine a President Trump, that’s for sure!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 June 2016 1822 #

      It would bring a whole new set of challenges, wouldn’t it…

  14. Dave and Robin 20 May 2017 1730 #

    We’re originally from the South Shore of Nova Scotia, Lunenburg area, so we’re kind of partial to the area. 🙂 It’s a beautiful place to visit for sure. Did you get to see Theodore Tugboat in Halifax?

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 24 May 2017 1646 #

      Yes! My then 7-yr-old loved Theodore the Tugboat. Lots to see in Halifax, and your area is just beautiful 🙂

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