The Atlantic Provinces of Canada are a great place to be. Located on the Atlantic coast of our beautiful country, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island have gorgeous beaches, impressive landscapes and lobsters to spare. Two years ago, my fiancé and I had the pleasure to discover this part of Canada during our summer vacation. We had the most amazing trip!
During our road trip, we explored three of the four Atlantic provinces: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. Together, these provinces make up the Maritimes region of Canada. Today, I wanted to share with you our itinerary and the highlights of our travel. I hope my recollection of our journey inspires you to visit this beautiful part of Canada and helps you plan your trip.
For the first days of our travel, we drove towards the eastern provinces while remaining in Quebec. Leaving from Montreal, you can reach the New Brunswick border within 5 hours if you don’t hit traffic. However, we wanted to take our time and decided to spend some time in the lower St Lawrence region on the way.
1. Montreal to Levis
First off, we left Montreal and drove 2 and a half hours towards the city of Levis where we stopped for lunch in a park. From our picknick table, we had the most amazing view of the St Lawrence River and Quebec City.
This was a really good place to stop and eat a sandwich. I mean, just look at the view!
2. Levis to Le Bic
After lunch, we drove 3 hours to reach Le Bic. We stayed a few days in this part of the city of Rimouski. It has an amazing national park and a few cute inns to stay in.
In Le Bic, we indulge ourselves with one of the best restaurants we’ve ever visited: Chez St-Pierre. If you’re a foodie visiting the area, or if you don’t mind doing a detour in the name of gastronomy, you must visit. Chez St-Pierre specializes in Boreal cuisine. It can be a very expensive restaurant if you go all out and choose the degustation menu with matching wines. However, it’s possible to have a more reasonable bill if you prefer.
Chez St-Pierre, 129 Rue du Mont Saint Louis, Le Bic, QC G0L 1B0 Website
This eatery is rated 4.5 stars on Tripadvisor and 4.8 stars on Google. The chef, Colombe St-Pierre, focuses on regional cuisine showcasing amazing local produce. During our visit, we had to pleasure of tasting some amazing food like a scallop ceviche, oysters with white pepper ice cream, zucchini flowers stuffed with seafood and a tiny strawberries tart.
If you’re in the lower St Lawrence area, you need to check out the landscapes and wildlife of Bic National Park. It’s a beautiful place during the day and the sunsets are spectacular.
A really cool thing we didn’t have a chance to try at the park is the guided sea kayak excursion at nightfall. Imagine kayaking with such a gorgeous sunset as a backdrop. The prospect seems magical! Unfortunately, this kayak adventure didn’t work in our schedule this time around, but will definitively try it someday.
Bic national park has many beautiful trails you can explore by foot or on your bike. A lot of these trails have a view of the St Lawrence river and, if you’re lucky, a stag or two trotting along the way. A cool thing about this park is the seal population that you can observe on its coast. It’s rare that you can observe as many of them and from as close.
I don’t have any picture of the seals, but here’s a little taste of what the park looks like:
After a few days of these impressive landscapes, we packed our bags and prepared to drive to New Brunswick. Leaving the area, we made a stop at Pointe-au-Père, also in Rimouski, to see HMCS Onondaga. Which is…. a submarine of course!
HMCS Onondaga was built in the 60’s. The submarine was in service for the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Forces for 40 years. Since 2008, it’s anchored at Pointe-au-Père and has been transformed into a museum open to the public. It was really cool to visit the inside of a real submarine. I don’t know what’s your idea of everyday life in a submarine, but let me tell you that all the movies you have seen aren’t realistic. There’s just NO space. I always thought it must be a claustrophobic experience to go on a mission in one of these. But after visiting one I can’t even fathom it.
3. Le Bic to Caraquet (NB)
Leaving Rimouski, we soon entered our first Atlantic Province of Canada: New Brunswick. We did see a lot of cool stuff in New Brunswick. However, it wasn’t where we spent most of our trip. Therefore, we might have missed a few things. If you have suggestions of places that must be seen in this province, please share them with us in the comment section. We do plan to go back eventually.
Here’s what we did see and love in New Brunswick.
Miscou is a small island situated in an isolated part of New Brunswick. It’s one hour away from Caraquet by car. The bridge that links the island to Lameque Island (that then links to the mainland) only exists since 1996. Maybe because of this physical isolation that endured for a long time, the population of the island is of around 585 permanent residents. Even if not many people know it, this island is very important in the history of Canada. Indeed, it’s thought to be one of the first spots visited by Jacques Cartier in 1534.
One of the things to see on the island is its lighthouse. The panoramic view from the top is very special.
Another great reason to make a detour to Miscou Island is a restaurant. Looking at its rustic decor and sandy terrace, you wouldn’t necessarily expect this diner to serve amazing food. But looks can be deceiving! La Terrasse à Steve on Miscou Island has some of the freshest and most delicious seafood we’ve ever tasted.
La Terrasse à Steve, 9650 New Brunswick 113, Miscou, NB, E8T 2C5 Website
During our visit, we shared a decadent seafood plater that was seriously good. It had half a lobster, half a crab, seafood sushi, steamed mussels, a bacon-wrapped scallop, and more. The most impressive thing about this feast was how fresh the seafood was. It was so tasty!
The town of Shediac was another beautiful stop on our road trip through the Maritimes. In case you don’t know, this is the Lobster Capital of the World! There’s a Lobster Festival, lobsters in the sea, lobsters in your plate, and this huge lobster statue. The lobster statue is the largest in the world and you have to go take a slightly cheesy picture alongside it if you go to Shediac. It’s a must. Personally, I named the lobster Dan. Please take note that he might already have another name.
Bay of Fundy
The Bay of Fundy, situated between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, has the highest tides on earth. We visited its coast at Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park in New Brunswick. In this park, you can walk on the seafloor when the tides are low for a special experience. To know when to visit, make sure to check the tide times. If you don’t (like us), you might have to wait longer than anticipated. After your walk on the seafloor, you should stick around for a bit to see the water go up. It’s cool to see the before/after landscape and experience how fast it changes.
4. Caraquet to Charlottetown (PEI)
“The woods call to us with a hundred voices, but the sea has one only — a mighty voice that drowns our souls in its majestic music. The woods are human, but the sea is of the company of the archangels.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams
Prince Edward Island was a place I had wanted to visit for a long time. A thing that is said about this province of Canada is that wherever you stand on the island, you always have a sense of being close to the sea. It turned out to be very true. All soft hills and seaside, this part of the country turned out to be extremely charming.
Isolated from the rest of the world for a long time, Prince Edward Island counts less than 145,000 inhabitants. It’s mostly known for it gorgeous red-sand soil and for a heroine with bright red hair.
On the island, we stayed in a charming Bed & Breakfast in Charlottetown. The price was reasonable and the room comfortable. I would recommend this place for the generosity of the hosts and the delicious breakfast. The hosts owned a breakfast joint in Ontario before starting their B&B. Not surprisingly given their experience, the breakfast served were very tasty. The portions were so generous that, the second day, I asked for half a portion.
A Country Home Bed & Breakfast, 139 Upton Road, Charlottetown, PEI, C1E 1Z4 Website
Lucy Maud Montgomery is the author of Anne of Green Gables, one of the most popular books ever written by a Canadian. If you don’t know anything about it before coming to Prince Edward Island, you might be surprised to see depictions of a red-haired little girl everywhere on the island. Since the book was first published in 1908, tourists started to show up on the island to see the famous Green Gables where Anne lived. In response to this phenomenon, the Green Gables Heritage Place was soon opened. On this site, you can visit the famous Green Gables: house of the beloved fictional character.
If you’re a big fan, you can also stop at Avonlea Village, take Matthew’s carriage ride, and more.
Not a big Anne enthusiast, one of the things my fiancé loved must about Prince Edward Island is the amazing milkshakes from Cows Creamery. There are 7 Cows locations on the island. I highly suggest that you try their delicious ice cream cones. What makes this creamery stands out is that their ice cream is made with love: handmade and using quality ingredients.
In Prince Edward Island, we also discovered a jaw-dropping spot called Greenwich National Park. With its amazing beach, floating bridge and parabolic dunes, it’s a truly gorgeous spot that looks like nowhere else. From Charlottetown or Cavendish, it won’t take you more than 1 hour and fifteen minutes to drive to this park.
Even though we explore different parts of PEI during our visit, we stayed at the same B&B in Cavendish. Given its size, whatever attraction we wanted to see on the island, it couldn’t be much more than 1 hour and a half away by car.
If the highlights of our travel to Prince Edward Island have already been discussed, I would also like to mention the delicious seafood available everywhere and all the great antique stores. I brought back a few vintage porcelain cups that hold very special memories.
5. Charlottetown to Halifax (NS)
Leaving Prince Edward Island, we drove toward Halifax to explore Nova Scotia, the last Atlantic province of our journey. In Nova Scotia, we mostly visited the capital city of Halifax and Cape Breton. There are a lot of other beautiful places to see in Nova Scotia, but we had to make tough decisions given the limited time we had.
In case you need suggestions of what to read on your trip to the Maritimes (in addition of Anne of Green Gables), Canadian author Alistair MacLeod has written beautiful short stories about Scottish immigrants in Cape Breton trying to reconnecting to the culture of their ancestors. Since Nova Scotia means New Scotland in Latin, you might figure that Scottish settlers have had an important role in this province’s history.
A little detour to Peggy’s Cove
On our way from Charlottetown to Halifax, we made a little detour to see the Peggy’s Cove lighthouse. The small town of Peggy’s Cove is only 45 minutes away from Halifax. It’s a very picturesque spot. On the day we went, it was raining and it fitted perfectly with the landscape.
The village is very accommodating towards tourists with a lot of parking, public restrooms and a lot of gift stores. Walking in the small streets towards the seashore, the feeling that this once housed a fishing community transpires everywhere.
In Halifax, we ate a beaver tail from one of the waterfront stands, bought a few gifts and went on a boat to see the city from the water. The capital city of Nova Scotia isn’t huge, but its history is very rich. You can get of taste of this history by visiting Citadel Hill, a fortified citadel on a hilltop in downtown Halifax.
You can visit Alexander Keith Brewery while you’re in town. However, we thought it was too pricey for the duration of the tour. Plus, we wanted more info on how the beer is made and less of the live show in an old tavern. Looking at the reviews on TripAdvisor, you can see for yourself that it’s a love it or hate it type of tour.
6. Halifax to Baddeck
Leaving Halifax, we drove towards Baddeck, a village on Cape Breton Island. This town was where Alexander Graham Bell built a summer house where he lived and experimented for about 30 years. Now home to the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, this is a really cool place to visit. Naturally, I knew that Bell invented the telephone. But I didn’t know that he had experimented so much with aviation, aeronautics and all these other things.
There are a lot of cool artifacts to see in the museum and quite a lot to learn, even if (like me) you aren’t a big science fan.
The village of Baddeck is the gateway to the famous Cabot Trail. With its magnificent views of the ocean, its picturesque fishing villages and the mountains that surround it all, the Cabot Trail has often been named one of the most scenic road in the world. To get a taste of the superb landscape, we went to Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
In the Cape Breton park, you can drive around looking for a wonderful spot to stop and start hiking. In a beautifully wild setting, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in nature as well as see the great view of the ocean and surrounding area. If you’re lucky, you might also meet moose on the way.
During our visit, we saw two moose. To see just how close the moose were from us, check out this video we filmed in Cape Breton:
It might have been a grey day when we were on Cape Breton’s Cabot Trail, but the view from the top was still very impressive. If you plan on hiking or biking a lot in this region, you might want to leave with a good coat: resistant to wind and rain. In all the pictures of me we took on this windy day, all my hair are in my face.
For our final day in Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island, we had the pleasure of visiting the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site. The fortress was initially built by the French in 1720 to guard the entrance to the St Lawrence river (it’s only when to fort had fallen that the British were able to launch their attack on Quebec in 1759).
The town and fortifications we can visit today are reconstructions since the originals were destroyed by the British in 1760. These reconstructions were made with great care and are now a must-see in your travel to Cape Breton.
As you explore the fortifications, you can talk to villagers about their lives in the 18th century, learn a lot about the history of Canada, assist to the firing of cannons, and more. Inside the fort, it was way prettier than I expected. As I discovered, the French high-ranking officers were living with style even during times of war.
Once you visited the fort, you can take a walk to see tombstones of important people who once lived in the fortified city. The view from this more secluded spot was breathtaking.
After our time in Nova Scotia, we made our way back home in Quebec. It was the end of our great tour of the Maritimes region of Canada.
We have wonderful memories of our road trip to the lower St Lawrence region of Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. I hope my experience inspires you to visit these east coast provinces and helps you plan your trip.
I do plan on going back to this part of Canada eventually. In fact, we might be back in Prince Edward Island as soon as next summer. So, if you have suggestions of places to see, please share them with us in the comment section.
Have a great day 🙂