9 February 2017 by Simon Langley
Spread over 43,000 kilometres of diverse coastline, the four provinces that make up Atlantic Canada showcase a shared appreciation of unique wildlife, festive cheer, fresher-than-fresh seafood, and, above all, the natural world. End days spent chasing whales, hiking mountain-framed cliffs and kayaking through forest-clad rivers with salmon delicacies and a year-round programme of festivals predicated on that famous Canadian cheer. Yet, although there’s a culture shared, there’s much to separate each province, whether it’s the red-sand beaches of Prince Edward Island or the dramatic icebergs of Newfoundland & Labrador.
As such, we’ve put together this collection of their highlights, but you’ll quickly realise there’s much more to discover. What’s more, as the closest North American destination to Europe, it’s all just a 5–6 hour flight from the UK, with non-stop services from Gatwick, Heathrow, Glasgow and Dublin.
The power of Atlantic Canada’s eponymous ocean is perhaps most keenly felt at New Brunswick’s Hopewell Rocks. Here you can walk among giant sandstone formations in the morning, and, in the afternoon, return to kayak among their peaks, 50 feet higher. If you head out further onto the Bay of Fundy, you’ll be entering whale territory. A fertile feeding ground, everything from giant humpbacks to the rare North Atlantic right whales flock to these treasured waters. You can even combine it with a day or two spent island hopping around the Fundy Isles.
The bay is also lined by New Brunswick’s Fundy National Park where hiking trails lead to waterfalls hidden among old-growth Acadian forests and low tide offers the chance to walk on a lunar sea floor. Lastly, if you tear yourself away from the province’s 50-or-so beaches, a different kind of culture opens up in Fredericton’s Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival. Each year, the region’s best performers put on an award-winning show. The capital city embraces the outdoors with over 88 kilometres of trails; many are along the scenic Saint John River. Hit the trails and then raise a glass to local flavours. Fredericton has the highest concentration of award winning craft breweries in the Maritimes.
Newfoundland & Labrador
In Newfoundland & Labrador, experience nature viewing on a grand scale and a unique culture that lives in its music, food, language and history. In St. John's, watch the sun rise from Cape Spear National Historic Site, the most easterly point in North America and explore the colourful streets of the downtown which rise up from the harbourfront.
Meander the contours of Conception Bay to Trinity, once the thriving mercantile centre of the saltfish trade. Get up close & personal with a humpback whale on a whale watching excursion before continuing to Terra Nova National Park. Immerse yourself in local culture during a stay at the architecturally-unique Fogo Island Inn. Try your hand at hooking a rug or explore the picturesque island with your community host or simply relax in one of the Inn’s rooftop hot tubs. Finish with a two night stay in Gros Morne National Park, one of the province’s four UNESCO World Heritage Sites and an excursion to Quirpon Island where you can stay in a restored light keeper’s residence.Feeling a bit of wanderlust? Browse our Atlantic Canada itineraries
Although peninsular it shares the Bay of Fundy’s whales with New Brunswick, Nova Scotia enjoys an identity all of its own. It’s a land of welcoming locals and rolling hills hidden behind towering sea cliffs – scenery exemplified by the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, found on the province’s very northern tip. Here, along the Cabot Trail, one of the World’s most scenic drives, great mountains cascade towards the cragged coast as river canyons ply its forested interior. It’s all animated by bald eagles and the iconic Canadian moose.
Nova Scotia is also home to Atlantic Canada’s largest city – Halifax. A seaport at heart, it’s here that many of Canada’s diverse population first made land; the superb Canadian Museum of Immigration memorialises the struggle of the country’s refugees, immigrants and evacuees. Boardwalk strolls will also bring you between seafood restaurants, historic sites and such attractions as the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which tells the story of the city’s seafaring heritage and fateful connection to the Titanic. Sightseeing concluded, be sure to enjoy a walk through the Victorian public gardens and sample the efforts of Keith’s Nova Scotia Brewery – one of the oldest working breweries in North America.
Prince Edward Island
Daring to jut into the windswept Gulf of St. Lawrence, Prince Edward Island is fissured into a spectacular coastline, best taken in on scenic drives. Highlights include the island’s homonymous national park, where sun-blessed beaches front a network of criss-crossing hiking trails. In turn, the south shore is marked by dramatic ochre cliffs – the island’s distinctive icon – that crumble into distinctive red sands. It’s here that you’ll also be treated to sheltered, warm waters, ideal for a summer swim or kayaking session.
However, it’s perhaps the island’s eastern tip that presents its most interesting proposition – ‘singing sand’. So called for the squeaking sound made when you walk along them, it’s a phenomenon caused by their uniquely high quartz content. But, the island is much more than its good looks. The Cavendish Beach Music Festival is one of Canada’s largest country concerts and, across 30 top-rated courses, it’s Canada’s premier golfing destination, attracting amateurs and professionals alike.