As a travel destination, the Maritimes have largely flown under the radar, but the region is home to breathtaking landscapes, delicious seafood, and historic sites that are well worth a visit!
As you may have guessed, Canada’s Maritime Provinces – Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island–are dominated by the sea, with a long, jagged coastline punctured by picturesque bays, sandy beaches, and towering cliffs.
As a travel destination, Canada’s Maritime Provinces have largely flown under the radar, but the region is home to some of the highest tides in the world, breathtaking landscapes, delicious seafood, historic sites, and charming villages. Here’s how to make the most of your time out east.
Most travellers focus on Nova Scotia, where the provincial capital of Halifax makes an appealing base from which to explore the picturesque coastline. Nova Scotia is often referred to as a country within a country; you’ll find influences from both the French and British settlers here, blended with a prevailing Canadian maritime culture.
There’s no doubt that Halifax is a stunning coastal city. From its delicious eats to the waterfront and buildings, there is so much to see and do in the city. Stroll the Halifax harbor, enjoy boutique shopping in the historic Hydrostone District, and take a ride on the Halifax-Dartmouth ferry, the oldest saltwater ferry in North America, and the second oldest in the world!
It’s easy to see why thousands of tourists flock to Peggy’s Cove each year. The lighthouse is one of the most famous in Canada and the town surrounding it is equally as impressive. Peggy’s Cove is famed for its picturesque and typically East-Coast profile, with houses perched along a narrow inlet and on wave-washed boulders facing the Atlantic. Although this unique environment has been designated a preservation area, it is still an active fishing community.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Grand Pré is a monument to the Acadian people who settled here and were eventually deported in the 18th century. The Acadians settled in the area, using dykes and sluice systems to farm the land. The site commemorates the Grand Pré area as a centre of Acadian settlement from 1682 to 1755 and the Deportation of the Acadians, which began in 1755 and continued until 1762. For many Acadians throughout the world, the site remains the heart of their ancestral homeland and the symbol of the ties that unite them to this day.
New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province in Canada, and has truly embraced its Acadian heritage. New Brunswick isn’t a large province, especially in comparison to its neighbour Quebec, but it has a range of landscapes like the northern edge of the Appalachian Mountains, the rugged and hardy coastline of the Bay of Fundy, and the fertile arable land of the east.
Saint Andrews by-the-Sea
If the quaint name doesn’t make you want to jet all the way here, then the charming village will. It was voted top destination in Canada in 2017 by USA Today and has ranked high in many top 10 lists.
Saint Andrews by-the-Sea is not only a picturesque town but a jumping-off point for many whale watching and scuba diving tours. The best way to experience the town is to sit in one of the many restaurants along the water and feast on local, fresh-caught seafood.
Not to be confused with St. John’s, Newfoundland, Saint John is Canada’s oldest incorporated city. It’s situated strategically in the Bay of Fundy, and Saint John has become a place that soldiers mustered many times over the history of the New World.
It’s full of rich Canadian and American history, as many loyalists fled to this city during the American Revolution. The history means there are many old buildings to discover. Walk through the loyalist cemetery, become a soldier at Carleton Martello Tower, and enjoy fresh finds at Saint John city market, the oldest continuing farmers’ market in Canada.
Prince Edward Island
There’s no doubt that Prince Edward Island –known as PEI for short– is an iconic Canadian location. This little island province is known for its red sandy beaches, delicious seafood, and its relaxed way of life.
Prince Edward Island is the birthplace of Canada, although the province didn’t join confederation until a few years after its independence. Until the nineties, PEI was only accessible by ferry or plane. Then engineers decided to build the longest (13 kilometres) bridge that spans over ice-covered water, connecting PEI to the mainland. At just 139 miles long and 40 miles wide it’s the country’s smallest and only island province but it packs a lot into a small space, with plenty of things to do in Prince Edward Island.
Argyle Provincial Park
If you want to experience the red shores that make PEI famous, then Argyle Provincial Park is the place for you. The day use park is located along the red sands shore drive, about 30 minutes from Charlottetown. You can also walk along the ocean floor here when the tide is low.
Green Gables Heritage House
When you mention PEI, for many people, the first thing that comes to mind is Anne of Green Gables. If you want to really experience this province, a stop at the Green Gables Heritage House is a must-do. For fans of the story, this is the house where it all began, the house that inspired the setting for L.M. Montgomery’s novels. Walk through the rooms of the Victorian home, restored to the period of the late 1800s, and experience farm life in the barn, granary and wood shed. Even if you haven’t read the book, the Green Gables Heritage House still provides a unique look back at a period in time on this beautiful island.
Prince Edward Island National Park
The 37-mile Prince Edward Island National Park captures the beautiful north shore of the province, including the many picturesque white and red sand beaches—and you may want to take a swim after spending the day hiking, cycling, golfing, or geocaching! The park also hosts the Greenwich Interpretation Centre, which features 20 interactive and multimedia exhibits about the region.
TLW Tip: Don’t expect glitzy accommodations in the Maritimes. The Maritime provinces are where you escape for rest and relaxation in cozy inns, B&Bs, and lodges. Instead of high-end concierges and Michelin-starred dining, you’ll find friendly proprietors happy to offer tips about what to see and do, and plenty of fresh seafood paired with local produce.
For Andrew, travel is so much more than just learning history or taking photos. Rather, the value of travel is witnessing a lifestyle, bonding with locals, and gaining rich cultural experiences. That’s why he founded the Luxury Wanderer; a place to share itineraries, offer advice, swap stories, and foster a like-minded community of curious travellers.