Having been to Nova Scotia/Cape Breton/Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland in the past and badly in need of a sea “fix” we organized a last-minute whistlestop tour around select Maritime destinations:
Halifax – 4 nights
Saint Johns, New Brunswick – 2 nights
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island – 2 nights
Word of warning if you are thinking about visiting the Maritimes in October – the “shoulder” season – no matter what the guide book says – businesses, especially those outside of the cities shut when they please.
The big maritime cities in these provinces however are in the swing of Fall Cruise season so when the ship is in port the shops and major attractions are open. The major Hotel chains, many of the bigger Inns and the restaurants and bars in these cities are also open for business.
Downside of traveling in the Maritimes in the down season is that once off the beaten track it is virtually impossible to find somewhere picturesque to enjoy a cup of tea and slice of fruit cake (ha-ha). However it is possible to capture — unimpeded by fellow tourists – the very essence of the fabled north American Fall colours during this time.
Another advantage is that whilst the National and Provincial Parks visitor and interpretive centres are all clised from mid October, you can still enter the parks’ spectacular scenic road systems and enjoy fabulous views for free.
Check websites for seasonal hours.
Just take a great guidebook and/or print off some website information to take with you and have your own self-guided experience.
Other upsides of shoulder-season travel is the “low-season accommodation rates and if an Inn/Hotel doesn’t quote these, ask for a reduced rate when booking.
Express Nova Scotia
Hours for most attractions are 9-5 except on Sundays when many museums open at midday.
Keep a look out for the Halifax “Nocturne” event which happens mid October for one night only when major attractions, museums and art installations are “open” till midnight and free
The Maritime Museum which houses – notably – a Titanic exhibition (by dint of its proximity to the disaster site Halifax became the last resting place or transit site of the victims and many are buried here. Also hugely interesting is the “Halifax explosion” exhibit. Outside of Hiroshima the great 1917 Halifax explosion was the largest man originated explosion the world has ever experienced!
The museum ticket also includes a visit aboard both “HMCS Sackville a WW2 corvette and a tall ship, the HMCS Acadia.
Pier 7 is especially worth a visit if any of your relatives emigrated and entered Canada through Halifax. A sort of mini New York “Ellis Island” equivalent.
Whilst down that end of the shore drop in for a tasting session at the Garrison craft brewery AND visit the new site of the Halifax Farmers market.
The Citadel spanning the high ground atop the city is a must if only for the amazing views. If possible try to time your visit this time of year to the truncated opening hours of the interpretive centre in order to visit the barracks and watch a firing demonstration etc.
The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is also worth a few hours exploration and an especially good diversion for a rainy day.
A cluster of original and well preserved properties constitutes the “Historic” area at the southern end of the boardwalked waterfront and houses a number of bars, restaurants and shops.
A couple of hours west of Halifax is the highly photogenic though much over -rated Lighthouse and enclave of “Peggy’s Cove”. Try to get here either very early in the morning or in the late afternoon to avoid the masses of coach-ridden, camera snapping tourists in need of a leg stretch, a pee and a picture (in that order) They will for sure ruin the wild and rugged picture perfect illusion you are trying to capture of this accessible lighthouse perched upon swathes of grey lichen punctuated wave-carved rockscape.
Travel on through Mahone – cutesy gift shops and tea rooms- to Lunenberg – cutesy gift shops and tea rooms ( most closed in the shoulder season)
Both the above very colorful especially Lunenberg, home of thr world Famous tall ship “The Bluenose II”, with its historic shingled houses clinging to the steep coastline in primary coloured layers. Get your hiking boots on if you want to explore each strata of this community.
To get to Saint Johns New Brunswick you can either drive north and east around Nova Scotia or take a very scenic ferry ride direct from Digby on the north coast.
Saint Johns is famous as being the gateway city to The Bay of Fundy which has the highest tidal range in the world. It also has something called The Reversing Falls where the tides meet and churn violently at tide turning. You can view from the bridge or take a jet boat ride right into it.
Saint Johns has a tiny downtown core full of handsome buildings – a vestige of the days when it was the third most important port (based on tonnage) in the world and one of the worlds foremost ship-building cities.
Check out the “Big Tide” brewing company for craft beer and authentic warehouse style ambiance.
Saint Johns also has a “skyway” walk through it’s buildings and malls which at it’s northernmost point culminates at the tiny cute market (longest continually running market in North America)
On the way out of New Brunswick and eastbound check out Fundy National Park and a little further eastward Hopewell Rocks. Hopewell Rocks – when visiting at low tide you can walk out on the sand to view the stem like base of these flowerpots formations carved by the tremendous tidal forces in operation at this neck of the inlet. Check the tide tables to make sure you visit at low tide otherwise you will simply see some rocks sticking out of the sea and the point of this visit will have eluded you (I speak from experience here)
Drive over the miracle of engineering that is the 8 mile “Confederation Bridge” and onto Prince Edward Island. At this time of year the Island is “closed” with the exception of Charlottetown.
Again you can pick up great hotel deals and stay at the best historic inns at much reduced rates. We loved both “The Great George Inn” and the “Fairhome Historic Inn” both downtown.
Visit Confederation House -site if the signing of; ; do the whole “Anne of Green Gables” stint if you feel so inclined or simply toad-trip it along the empty roads taking in the gloriously gentle and pastoral scenery. Best for me was Greenwich Provincial Park on the north of the island with it’s boardwalks, miles of deserted beach and sand dunes.
At Souris just below the north east tip of the island is Souris lighthouse with it’s tiny gift shop (open when all else was closed) and lovely gift shop staff who specially opened the lighthouse up for us to visit.
Best fish lunch ever and again one of the only places open was the – at first glance -uninspiring looking “Sheltered Harbour” Cafe right opposite the lighthouse and Souris Port and Ferry Terminal ( for ferries to Isles de la Madeleine).
Take a ferry back to Nova Scotia from Wood Island to Caribou and continue the two hour or so journey to Halifax.
And there you have it – 8 days of Fall touring possibilities in a tiny circular tour of three Maritime Provinces.
Over and out