The Atlantic Provinces: New Brunswick and PEI
Truth be told, the Maritimes were the meat and potatoes of our cross-Canada trip. 80 days may sound like a long time, but when you end up driving 18,000 kms it really isn’t. We reserved a good portion of our days for this part of Canada.
There was a lot of spontaneous decision-making when we hit the Atlantic provinces. The Bay of Fundy was central to our exploration of New Brunswick, but we came across some really nice surprises, such as a great network of moderate mountain biking trails in Edmunston called the Madawaska biking trails. If you brought your bikes with you, don’t miss it.
Grand Manan Island off the southcoast of New Brunswick is pretty special. It’s not very developed; you get a real sense of how slow it moves. It was something a bit off the beaten-path so we went for it. Check the ferry schedules and rates here.
Hole-in-the-Wall Park & Campground
Grand Manan, Canada
Brilliant #campground on Grand Manan island, situated on top of dramatic cliffs that drop right of into the ocean. The tenting sites are amazing, near the edges with unobstructed views. There’s a path that goes along the cliffs and lead to the Hole In the Wall…a rocky arch jutting out into the sea. #free-wifi #camping #hiking #views #viewpoint
Swallow Tail Lighthouse
Grand Manan, Canada
This is the #lighthouse you see as you approach the island on the ferry. It was first built in 1860. You can volunteer to be a light keeper! #history
Back on the mainland and driving northeast along the coast you’ll have plenty of options to explore. The sea caves in St. Martin’s are an attraction as is the seafood chowder at one of the restaurants on the beach there.
St Martins Sea Caves
Bay View, Canada
At low tide you can explore these sea caves, but watch the tide! There’s also some yummy seafood chowder to be eaten here…
CAFE TIP: In Alma there’s an excellent cafe that was so welcoming and warm we ended up staying there for many hours escaping the rain. The owner (from Buenos Aires) made us feel at home and everything is super casual. And the coffee and food were excellent, too. And free wi-fi.
An Octopus’ Garden Cafe
This place was a great respite for us, escaping bad weather and needed a break from outside living in the van. They treat everyone like family, very easy going and friendly. They even have a sign that says “please loiter”. They have live music some days and they’re open til 10pm. #free-wifi #open-late #coffee
Hopewell Rocks is a main attraction and where you can see close up the effects of the world’s largest tides in the Bay of Fundy. To get the full experience visit at low tide, then again at high tide. Even better, take a guided kayak tour during high tide so you can explore the rocks and arches by water.
Hopewell Cape, Canada
Great place to experience the highest tides in the world at the Bay of Fundy. Neat rock formations that you can explore by foot at low tide. At high tide you can kayak around and through the rocks, right where you were walking. The tide rises over 40 feet, it’s pretty insane.
Hopewell Rocks Park
Hopewell Cape, Canada
I highly recommend taking a #kayaking tour during high tide. This Bay of Fundy’s tides rise over 40 feet so a lot of what you walk on and see at low tide is completely covered with water. It’s neat to explore the rocks in a different way, cruising through the arches and seeing the shore from the water. The info the guides give is also very interesting. #kayak #paddling
It’s exciting approaching the Confederation Bridge. At 13kms / 8mi long it’s the “longest bridge over ice-covered waters in the world.” Take the last exit before you get on the bridge and pause at the rest stop. There’s a little path leading to the shore where you can get great views of the span.
13 kms/8mi long, the #bridge was built between 1993 and 1997. It’s free to cross over onto PEI but you pay a toll on the way back. It was around $50 in summer 2016. This view is from the New Brunswick side, the last exit before the bridge.
Prince Edward Island
The place to be on the island is the coast, in our opinion. Driving inland was cruising through a lot of farm land and not very inspiring. Most of the native forests on PEI were cut down for agriculture when it was settled, so there’s not much going on in terms of large wooded areas. But the beaches there are among the best in Canada.
It’s fun to wander the streets of Charlottetown, down to the wharf, and then all along the promenade through Victoria Park. If you’re a beer drinker, check out The Gahan House, a restaurant and local craft brewery. I really enjoyed their blueberry ale.
The Gahan House
Gahans is the locally made #beer. I’ve tried their blueberry and the harvest gold, both very nice. They also have a restaurant with good food. This is the lobster club with potato and veggies, which I quite enjoyed. #craftbeer
Head to the water for #icecream and souvenirs, and in the summer daily #live #music! #free #livemusic
As I said before, the beaches on PEI are stunning. Many are fine white or red sand and some have big sand dunes. In the north there are protected areas that form Prince Edward National Park (the different areas are Cavendish, Brackley-Dalvay, and Greenwich). If you’re an Anne of Green Gables fan you’ll probably also head to Green Gables for that experience.
New Glasgow, Canada
This #campground is right in PEI National Park, Cavendish and on a really beautiful stretch of fine sand beach that goes on for a long time in either direction. There are lots of camp sites with great ocean views, and plenty of #biking options nearby. #camping
When you’re done in the national park, check out the “singing sands” in Basin Head Provincial Park. They don’t so much sing as they squeak, but a pretty cool phenomenon nonetheless. Panmure Island to the south is connected by a thin causeway; on one side of it the sand is red, on the other it’s white. If you drive onto the island you can also visit a lighthouse.
Basin Head Provincial Park
Really nice fine, white sand #beaches here. They call them “singing sands” because it squeaks when you walk on the #beach… We were told this is due to a high silica content, but my quick research says scientists don’t have an exact answer. There’s a little bridge (pictured above) that you can jump into the channel from. The current in the channel flows into the ocean but it’s fairly safe… Although there are signs forbidding diving and jumping into the channel, but people did it anyway and the life guards just watched. #swimming #swimminghole
Panmure Island Provincial Park
A neat little nook of PEI to explore. There’s a narrow causeway that connects to the #island. On one side of it the beach has red sand, on the other side it’s white sand. There’s a campground near the causeway and also a food shack with #free-wifi. On the island is a #lighthouse.
PRO TIP: If you have an oversized vehicle (over 6’6 high or 20′ long) you won’t be able to make a reservation for the Wood Islands ferry to Nova Scotia. Or at least that was the case for us in July. We drove there hoping to get on as standby but were told it was highly unlikely as commercial vehicles and tour buses always have priority. We ended up driving back to the Confederation Bridge which is around $50 to get off the island (free to get on).