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Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Atlantic Canada’s most scenic road trips

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24 January 2018 by Claire Benktander

From the beauty of Nova Scotia’s rugged coastline to the rich Acadian culture of New Brunswick, Atlantic Canada is a region of natural wonders, fascinating heritage and copious wildlife. A trip out on the open road is one of the best ways to absorb the surrounds, and the four spectacular provinces that make up Atlantic Canada’s eastern shores each boast several of their own ultra-scenic journeys, showcasing wonderful fresh seafood, maritime and First Nations culture and wild nature. With such a wealth of possibilities in each region, we’ve collated this list of the area's most scenic road trips, curated by our specialists.

The Cabot Trail

The Cabot Trail is one of Atlantic Canada’s most renowned and for good reason. Hugging the Cape Breton Highlands National Park's tip in Nova Scotia, here, whales breach along the coast, icebergs swell, and lighthouses and characterful villages all vie for your attention. Ensure you stop along the way to hike one of the national park's hundreds of routes, spot whales from cliffs and sample some famous Nova Scotia seafood – the clams and oysters are particularly noteworthy. Ocean vistas, dense forests, fascinating geology and the remote highlands make for a continually spectacular trip round every winding corner – here, the beauty truly lies in the journey, not the destination. Our Authentic Nova Scotia Fly-Drive encompasses this route, starting in Halifax and driving through Pictou on day 10 to reach Cape Breton and the Canso Causeway, home of the spectacular trail.

Cabot Trail

Fundy Coastal Drive  

The wilds of the Fundy coast are expertly showcased in this drive that bends along the entire southern shore of New Brunswick. A mighty 460km, the Fundy Coastal Drive’s spectacular route winds along natural wonders and Canada's oldest city, Saint John, framed by quaint fishing villages along the way. You'll cross bridges and pass coastal islands and fossil-filled mudflats, with several spots that lend themselves perfectly to whale watching. At low tide, walk the seabeds at the 50 foot tall Hopewell Rocks, a result of years of erosion. Further south along the coast lies Fundy Bay, with a tidal range of just under 15 metres, making it one of the most unique in the world. You can experience part of this drive with our Taste of New Brunswick & Prince Edward Island Self-Drive that will see you driving from Saint John up the coast towards Prince Edward Island, stopping off at Fundy National Park.

Bay of Fundy

Irish Loop

The Irish Loop in the mountainous province of Newfoundland is more than just a drive, playing host to rural coastal communities, ocean vistas, and dense forested inlets along the southern shore of the Avalon Peninsula. The home of colourful row houses and vibrant heritage, St John's, serves as the wonderful start of this route before winding south, passing picturesque harbours, enormous icebergs, lighthouses and archeological sites. The Aquaforte harbour is a worthwhile stop, where fjords evocative of Norway lie alongside villages with a deep fishing history – fishermen have passed through the sheltered harbour for centuries. Make time for lots of stops as along the way you'll spot whales, seabirds and roaming caribou. Our Authentic Newfoundland Fly-Drive offers a perfect taste of this eastern gem, starting in St John's before driving along the rugged coast.

St John Newfoundland

Acadian Coastal Drive

The Acadian coast of New Brunswick is all sandy beaches, fresh seafood and living history, and a road trip here is indeed a step into the past with plenty of old town charm. The Acadian Joyride, as it’s affectionately known, is reflective of the laidback and warm hospitality of its people with a spirited Acadian heritage. You'll embrace living culture in the form of historic villages and effigies edging the sandy-beached coastline with a distinct influence from their French descendants. As you reach scenic Highway 11 be sure to sample some fresh seafood in the form of the largest lobsters you'll ever see, and take a few hours to relax on one of Atlantic Canada's favourite beaches, Moncton Parlee. For a taste of Acadian culture, our Atlantic Canada: Unique Properties of the Maritimes tour follows the Acadian Coastal Drive via Shediac and Cap Pele to the dramatic Confederation Bridge.

Acadian Coast New Brunswick

Viking Trial 

This historic route traces the west coast of Newfoundland up to the south of Labrador and encompasses the UNESCO world heritage sites of Gros Morne National Park, home to moose, caribou and black bears, and L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, the only known viking settlement in north America. The 489-km trail is a wonderful combination of ancient history and maritime culture, featuring ancient rock formations and icebergs that are over 1000 years old. Our Authentic Newfoundland Fly-Drive sees you starting in St John's and encompasses a drive north to Gros Morne National Park, on to Quirpon Dock where from July you might see orcas on their annual migration, and returning to Gros Morne via the Viking Trail.

Caribo Canada

Central Coastal Drive 

This spectacular route hugs the two distinct shores of central Prince Edward Island. Start on the southern coast to explore the rural Red Sands Shore, framed by sandstone cliffs, and marvel at the bright red shade that gave it its name. As you head north, you'll pass scenic look-offs and sandstone caves, before reaching Green Gables Shore, a celebrated site of Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables with a backdrop of rolling fields and broad white beaches. Our Charms of Atlantic Canada self-drive explores parts of this route, where you'll discover the island's north shore and Charlottetown.

Prince Edward Island

Points East Coastal Drive

The entirety of Prince Edward Island is a wonderful road trip in itself, but this route that hugs the east coast is particularly special, where rural communities sit alongside jagged coastlines peppered with farms, forest and lighthouses – Point Prime Lighthouse, the island's oldest, is particularly notable. Reminders of the island's heritage are found in the form of museums and historic settlements along the way, and take the time to sample some fresh fish as you pass North Lake, known as the 'Tuna Capital of the World'. Go on an express version of this drive with our Taste of New Brunswick & Prince Edward Island Self-Drive, where you'll explore the northern part of the route over three days before driving south to Charlottestown.  

Lighthouse Prince Edward Island

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