When I travel, I like getting Lonely Planet guidebooks to look at beforehand. Finding out what the writers recommend provides a starting point when I'm planning what I want to see and do. Of course, I never follow their recommendations 100% since I want to make the experience my own, but I certainly appreciate the inspiration and ideas they offer.
I thought it would be cool to try my hand at writing a similar guide for the part of the world I call home: the Maritime Provinces of Canada (i.e. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and PEI). If you've never been here, maybe this post will inspire a visit.
I've written this guide in the form of a two week itinerary, with suggestions (more than could be covered in just the time allocated) for things to see in each place. It covers some of my favourite places in the Maritimes. It assumes starting out from Fredericton.
Days 1 – 2, Fredericton:
- Check out the historic Garrison District
- If you're here on a Saturday, visit the Boyce Farmers' Market
- Rent bikes and explore the trail system (I like the trail along the Nashwaak River to Marysville)
- Rent kayaks or canoes on the St. John River
- Visit King's Landing, a re-created 19th Century village outside of Fredericton
- The Beaverbrook Art Gallery has an impressive collection
- Odell Park and Killarney Lake Park both have good woodland trails
- There are a lot of unique shops and good restaurants downtown (King St. and Queen St.)
Day 3, Saint John and southwestern NB:
- The New Brunswick Museum is in Saint John
- Market Square and the harbour-front along Water Street is a good place to spend a few hours
- Hit the City Market
- You can get a boat ride on Reversing Falls (it flows backwards at high tide) or see it from the shore
- Irving Nature Park is a good place to see the Fundy coastline just a short drive from the city centre; Rockwood Park is also conveniently located
Alternatively, for Day 3 (or as an extra day)
- Take a day trip to St. Andrew's or St. Martin's, two picturesque coastal towns in opposite directions from Saint John
- You could even take the ferry across to the island of Grand Manan
- Near St. Martin's is the Fundy Coastal Trail
- The Huntsman Marine Science Centre in St. Andrew's has an aquarium focussed on the Bay of Fundy
- Try a whale watching tour in the Bay of Fundy, available in St. Andrew's and elsewhere
Days 4 – 5, Fundy:
- The town of Sussex is a good place to stop for lunch/coffee/ice cream on the way to Fundy from Saint John
- The best way to get the full experience of this part of New Brunswick is to camp in Fundy National Park, although other accomodations can be found
- Fundy National Park is full of great hiking trails through diverse types of terrain: from coastal cliffs, to waterfalls, to bogs
- At low tide, walking out on the mud flats provides a chance to see lots of tidal life
- The small town of Alma is a good place to get fresh seafood
- There are many Amazing Places in the Fundy Biosphere outside of the boundaries of the National Park; for example, you could stop at Cape Enrage and/or the Hopewell Rocks on the way to Moncton (the next destination in the itinerary)
Day 6, Moncton area:
- Moncton itself has good places to eat and shop (plus amusement parks for kids), but the surrounding countryside has more to see, in my opinion
- You can go to the beach in Shediac (Parlee) or Cap-Pelé (L'Aboiteau) for swimming in the Northumberland Strait (warmer than most Atlantic waters this far North)
- Even if you don't have time to cross to PEI, the impressive engineering of the Confederation Bridge is worth seeing
- The sand dune eco-system is preserved and interpreted at the Irving Eco-Centre in Bouctouche
- Also in Bouctouche, you can get a taste of Acadian culture at the Pays de la Sagouine dinner theatre
If you have an extra day or two at this point, the other National Park in New Brunswick (Kouchibouguac National Park) would make a good visit.
Days 7 – 8, PEI:
- Driving to PEI, you get to cross the Confederation Bridge—12 kilometres over seasonally iced-up salt water
- Charlottetown, the capital of Prince Edward Island, has a nice waterfront, music and performing arts venues and events, and a key role in Canadian history (its legislature, Province House, hosted the first conference on Canadian confederation)
- Cavendish beach, and the rest of PEI National Park, is a popular destination
- PEI's compact size and relatively flat terrain makes it a great spot to rent bikes and explore the island that way; for example, you can bike from Charlottetown to Cavendish in an afternoon
- Red soil and Anne of Green Gables are the conventional icons of tourism on PEI
- Immediately off the Confederation Bridge in Borden, there is a large collection of tourist shops (although it's no challenge to find souvenirs in Charlottetown or Cavendish, either)
- Get some seafood while you're on the island!
Days 9 – 11, Halifax and area:
- On the drive to Halifax from PEI, some possible stops are the Sackville Waterfowl Park and/or the Glooscap Heritage Centre in Truro
- Halifax is the largest and liveliest city in the Maritimes, so it gets the most allotted days in this itinerary
- The Halifax Citadel is an excellent historic site with knowledgeable costumed guides
- The Halifax Waterfront has plenty to see and do: Peir 21 immigration museum, Seaport Farmers' Market, wharves & tall ships, buskers, Bishop's landing, Privateers' Wharf, etc.
- Halifax has a number of museums; I recommend the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and the aviation museum at CFB Shearwater
- Halifax has a lot to choose from when it comes to restaurants and pubs, especially along Spring Garden Road and Barrington Street, and in the surrounding areas; two that I really like are The Wooden Monkey and Henry House
- Halifax is also a good place to get donairs and other Turkish/Lebanese food
- Lawrencetown Beach is apparently a good spot for surfing
- Outside of the Halifax metro area, day trips to the hamlet of Peggy's Cove and/or the town of Lunenburg are popular
Day 12, Drive to Cape Breton
Cape Breton is a bit out of the way, but very much worth a visit. It takes several hours to drive there from Halifax, so you basically need to set aside a day to plan around the travel time.
Day 13, Cape Breton:
- The town of Baddeck is conveniently located on the shores of the Bras-d'Or Lake and near the start of the Cabot Trail
- Driving the Cabot Trail through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park (and stopping for a hike or two along the way) is a great way to see Cape Breton.
- The Fortress of Louisbourg is a restored historic site
- The Glenora distillery offers tours
Day 14, Drive back to Fredericton (or next destination)
From Sydney, Nova Scotia, you can board a ferry to Newfoundland to make this a tour of all the Atlantic Provinces rather than just the Maritimes.
- This itinerary includes one national park each in NB and NS. Going to the other one (Kejimkujik and Kouchibouquac) as well is definitely recommended if time permits
- With extra time in Nova Scotia, see the western part of the province by going to Yarmouth via the South Shore (Hwy 103) one way and the Annapolis Valley (Hwy 101) on the way back (starting and ending the loop in Halifax); or with extra time in New Brunswick go to the Miramichi river and/or the Baie des Chaleurs coast
I put this itinerary into Google Earth as shown in the following map. Some photos of a few of the places mentioned above can be seen below.