A home-away-from-home on the Atlantic coast of Canada
With jaw-dropping natural wonders, tales and tunes around every corner and notoriously incredible seafood, a vacation spent exploring Atlantic Canada is bound to throw a few delights your way. Here are some you can most definitely count on: Vistas that take your breath away. The peace of pristine wilderness. Food, fresh from the garden and sea. Smiles for miles and warm welcomes from new friends.
The four provinces of Atlantic Canada – Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick – are bursting with cultural and natural diversity, so consider this guide a jumping-off point, helping you to plan your own adventure (and perhaps the next one after that)
Illustrations by Jeannie Phan
Motion design by Yan Aftimus Rosa
Fly to and experience St. John’s,
Newfoundland and Labrador
Begin your time in Atlantic Canada in the heart of its oldest city. Spend an afternoon in downtown St. John’s along historic Water and Duckworth Streets, lined with boutiques, studios, restaurants, cafes and breweries. Enjoy live music at one of the pubs such as The Duke of Duckworth and rub elbows with the locals.
See the colourful houses on Jellybean Row in St. John’s.
Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism
Cabot Tower tops Signal Hill, a National Historic Site.
As you walk, you’ll see the city’s famous jellybean-coloured houses lining every downtown street. (Fun fact: St. John’s houses were traditionally painted in bright colours to help sailors and fishermen find their way to shore in rainy and foggy conditions.) Drive to the top of Signal Hill (or, better, hike the 1.7-km cliff-hugging trail) – a National Historic Site and the receiving point of the first transatlantic wireless signal. Signal Hill offers dramatic coastline views, as well as sightings of bald eagles, whales and icebergs if you’re lucky.
For a different vantage point, take an Iceberg Quest boat tour from St. John’s harbour. The sunset cruise includes live music to warm you up for a night on the water.
Road trip around Newfoundland
From St. John’s, hop in your car and head westward along the Trans-Canada Highway. If you’re looking for icebergs (May-July) or whales (June-August), visit Twillingate, a five-hour drive from St. John’s. Perched along Iceberg Alley, Twillingate is a picturesque fishing community with some of the best iceberg and wildlife watching (including whales, dolphins and seabirds) in the country.
Hike one of the area’s many coastal trails or take Iceberg Quest’s Twillingate boat tour for a closer look at the glacial giants. Soak in ocean views from Long Point Lighthouse at Crow Head.
Long Point Lighthouse in Twillingate is one of the many lighthouses dotting the coasts.
Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism
Take to the water in Gros Morne National Park with Western Brook Pond’s Fjord boat tour.
Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism
Gros Morne National Park is a few more hours down the highway (7-hour drive from St. John’s, 3.5 hours from Twillingate). A UNESCO World Heritage Site and haven for hikers and kayakers, here you can stroll on the Earth’s mantle at the otherworldly Tablelands, tackle the highest summit in Newfoundland and Labrador or book a BonTours boat expedition through Western Brook Pond’s spectacular fjords. In season (generally July and August), BonTours will take you out on the water to go jigging for codfish – and you get to keep your catch. (Please note though - you’ll need to bring a cooler for your fish and prepare it yourself, which might be tricky while travelling!)
You can also step back in time and experience Gros Morne through the eyes of its original inhabitants. Gros Morne Adventures’ three-hour Discover Mekapisk tour offers insight into local Indigenous life and history, including a bonfire, storytelling and cooking bannock and roasting capelin over an open fire. As you drive back to St. John’s, take a quick detour to visit fishing villages like Green Bay, Trinity and Brigus that dot the province’s coastline. Each one has its own story, seascape, attractions – and accent.
Fly to Halifax
Start your Nova Scotia adventure on the Halifax Waterfront. The four kilometres of bustling boardwalk will introduce you to some of the city’s rich history and arts scene, as well as shopping and lively entertainment options. For a deeper dive into the city’s past starting in the mid 1700s, step away from the seaside once night falls and join the Halifax Ghost Walk, starting from the town clock on Citadel Hill and winding through the oldest streets of the city.
The next day, shake off the creepy cobwebs and follow the Good Cheer Trail, celebrating local beverage makers in the province. Take in the lush scenery of Nova Scotia’s wine region and sample the best of the local wineries such as Gaspereau Vineyards and Lunenburg County Winery. Thirsty for something other than wine? The Good Cheer Trail also leads to craft breweries, distilleries, cideries and even meaderies.
There are stunning waterfronts at every turn in Nova Scotia.
Tourism Nova Scotia / Photographer: Acorn Art Photography
The city of Halifax comes alive at night.
Don’t miss the chance to stop and shop in charming Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stroll through the old town, where colourful, carefully-preserved buildings make this a living museum from the 18th century – think tall ships, vibrantly hued Cape Cod-style houses and salty tales alongside modern restaurants and shops.
Choose your own adventure
for more Maritime fun
Complete your Atlantic adventure with a road trip to remember through Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and/or PEI. With so much to do in the region, the ways to customize your maritimes adventure are endless.
Option #1: Drive northward to Cape Breton for one of the globe’s great scenic drives. The Cabot Trail winds through the Cape Breton Highlands, old-growth forests and glacier-scarred rocks, with stunning ocean vistas at every turn. The Cabot Trail drive takes about five hours, but you’ll want to build in time to dine on fresh seafood or take part in a ceilidh (a rollicking party with traditional music and dancing) – top locales include the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre in Judique or The Barn in Margaree Valley. The next day, hike the Skyline Trail: This 8km, mostly level loop is an easy hike to a dramatic headland, perfectly situated to catch the sunset or spot migrating whales and boreal birds.
Option #2: Turn your wheels westward to New Brunswick. Stick to the coastline of the Bay of Fundy and marvel at the world’s highest tides, which recede up to five kilometres. Stop at Hopewell Rocks during low tide to walk the ocean floor. Or venture on to Saint John and zipline over Reversing Falls Rapids and watch the waves and whirlpools created by the natural phenomena. On your second day in New Brunswick, take a jaunt inland to Atlantic Canada’s craft brewing capital. Fredericton might have the most taprooms per capita in Canada, with one taproom per 5,400 people – and counting.
Catch a ride in the Cape Smokey gondola on Cape Breton Island - the first of its kind in Atlantic Canada.
At Hopewell Rocks, you can walk along the ocean floor at low tide.
Option #3: A three-hour drive from Halifax will bring you to Confederation bridge, which connects New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island. Visit the home of Anne of Green Gables and spend time on the glowing beaches of the Red Sands Shore. Stop for a dinner of fresh seafood – from savoury lobster rolls to marinated mussels – or mouthwatering PEI beef at Claddagh Oyster House in Charlottetown.
Island-hop one more time via the short causeway and bridge that connects the mainland to Lennox Island, home to Lennox Island First Nation (about an hour and a half drive from Charlottetown). Visit the Lennox Island Mi’kmaq Cultural Centre or sign up for a once-in-a-lifetime cultural experience and learn quill work on birch bark, make your own moose-hide drum, or gather for bannock and clams in the sand.
Though you may not be able to see it all in one trip, the East Coast is sure to provide you with gorgeous food, great memories and much more to keep you coming back year after year.