Ten reasons to visit Atlantic Canada

So close but so different

Peggy's Cove, Nova ScotiaAtlantic Canada is the closest region of Canada to Britain. Halifax is the gateway to Nova Scotia and the neighbouring provinces of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island – barely six hours’ flight from the UK. Or fly to St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador in 5-6 hours. An enchanting seacoast holiday awaits in Atlantic Canada.

Great scenery; easy driving

Atlantic Canada offers a huge variety of scenery in a relatively compact area – perfect for a relaxing self-drive holiday. Drive the famous Cabot Trail around Cape Breton Island, linked to Nova Scotia by causeway, or take the Lighthouse Route from Halifax stopping in UNESCO town of Lunenburg with its seafaring history and picturesque waterfront. Follow the Fundy Coastal Drive, where you will find Hopewell Rocks, Fundy National Park and magnificent views of the Bay of Fundy to the buzzing harbour city of Saint John. Or meander through Newfoundland to see the early summer spectacle of ‘Iceberg Alley’.   

History comes alive

Cabot TrailFrench explorer Samuel de Champlain helped start the colony of Acadie – Acadia – at Port-Royal in 1605 before heading off to kick-start Quebec. The British followed close behind, struggling to establish supremacy, before finally taking over in 1713 and renaming the colony Nova Scotia, or New Scotland. Today, there are still French-speaking communities like Chéticamp dotted through the province. Tour the hilltop British citadel in Halifax; tread in the footsteps of the first Scottish settlers at Pictou; and explore the Ceilidh Trail along the eastern shore of Cape Breton Island. Witness the Acadian culture of New Brunswick, where French Acadians have a true ‘joie de vivre’, or love of life to share with visitors. Many communities celebrate with museums, festivals and unique Acadian cuisine. New Brunswick is Canada’s only bilingual province, with a 40% French-speaking population.  

The birthplace of Canada

The Federation of Canada was born from a meeting in Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island (PEI) in 1864 to discuss a possible Maritime union. Politicians from the Province of Canada asked to join in and after further conferences in Quebec and London, the Confederation was launched on 1 July 1867 between New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec. Discover the full story at the Confederation Centre of the Arts and take a walking tour of this delightful waterside city with a costumed guide. 

Historic Halifax

HalifaxThe sinking of the ocean liner Titanic in April 1912 still fascinates people across the world, the victims and survivors brought ashore by rescue boats from Halifax. Visit the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic to see artefacts recovered from the wreckage and take a walk amongst the Titanic gravestones in Fairview Lawn Cemetery. Discover too the Halifax Explosion of 1915 when the town was devastated by a naval explosion, and visit the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, a museum and resource centre to immigrants who arrived between 1928 and 1971.

Sublime seafood and winning wines

Shediac in New Brunswick is renowned as the lobster capital of the world, but you can dine royally on scrumptious seafood throughout the region. Digby on the Fundy shore of Nova Scotia is famed for its scallops, and Prince Edward Island for its mussels and oysters. Something to drink with it? The gentle slopes of the Annapolis and Gaspereau Valleys north of Halifax produce a wide range of quality Nova Scotian wines. 

World’s highest tides

Fundy coastTwice a day, tides surge in and out of the Bay of Fundy, a marine bottleneck 45 miles wide between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Tides can peak here at 52 feet – officially the highest in the world – and spectacularly fall to leave boats stranded on the rich red mud and reveal strange ‘flowerpot’ shaped structures like Hopewell Rocks. For a real adrenalin rush, go Tidal Bore Rafting to ride the Shubenacadie river at Urbania in Nova Scotia.

Outdoor adventures for all

Whatever your taste in the outdoors, you’ll find it in Atlantic Canada. Spring and summer are best for water sports and whale watching, whilst late September to mid-October brings autumn colours and a pumpkin on every porch. Cruise the Bay of Fundy for the chance to see minke whales, finbacks and even humpbacks. Try cycling along Prince Edward Island’s tranquil trails, go sea kayaking, or just relax on the island’s pristine sandy beaches.

Relive Anne of Green Gables

Acadia National Park in the autumnThe painted clapboard houses, small farms and lighthouses of Prince Edward Island inspired local author L M Montgomery to write Anne of Green Gables in the early 1900s, still read across the world. Visit the heritage properties associated with the writer for a glorious wallow in childhood nostalgia.

A warm welcome

One of the best things about Atlantic Canada is its people – warm, friendly and always eager to show off their beautiful homeland. And who can blame them? No wonder those early settlers called it Acadia!

Atlantic Canada
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Gillian Thornton

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