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9-day Eatern Canada road trip - any suggestions? :)

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by genegri, Jan 30, 2011.

  1. genegri

    genegri Active Member

    DH and I plan to take off the week before or after 7/4 to have a road trip in Eastern Canada. We live in Central NJ and will have 9 full days.

    So far we know we definitely want to visit Montreal and Quebec City. But are kind of not sure what else are must sees. Wonder if anyone can give us some suggestions? :D

    How about Parc du Mont Tremblant? Do you recommend it? How about Nova Scotia? It will be a long drive, is it worth it? We plan to find budget motels along the way and won't mind camping a day or two.

    A little info about us: we are 30 (me) and 31 (DH), no kids. Love nature, historical sites and architecture. We are not into shopping or drinking. (getting too old for that ;))

    Any suggestion is highly appreciated! TIA!! :summer::saint:
  2. Gazpacho

    Gazpacho Well-Known Member

    If you have time and are interested in outdoor/nature stuff, I highly recommend venturing further east to the eastern part of Nova Scotia and the western part of Newfoundland. The scenery is absolutely spectacular. Because you need to take the ferry to Newfoundland, you have to budget more days than you might think. But it's worth it. Completely worth it.

    There's not much worth seeing in New Brunswick. Prince Edward Island is nice and quaint. It can be covered in less than a day. The long bridge is a must-drive! Northern Quebec is also stunning, but if you don't speak French competently, you'll have a hard time.
  3. Really

    Really I need a new title

    The Citadel in Halifax, old churches in 'northern' New Brunswick (which isn't that far from the Confederation Bridge that goes to PEI), Peggy's Cove (NS), Lunenberg (NS)...

    I don't know, there's just so much to see in the Maritimes -- I'd love to have a month to toodle around there. Google the individual province names and what you're interested in seeing -- I'm sure there will be many suggestions for you!
  4. Chele615

    Chele615 Let's go Anacode!!!

    Prince Edward Island is amazing!!! I went there last summer and am totally tempted to go back this summer. Halifax was a ton of fun when I went there for Canadians. Granted, it was January....so it's probably even better in the summer.
  5. Mozart

    Mozart Well-Known Member

    I live on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia and there are so many nice places here on the Island to see and do. There's the Fortress of Louisbourg, the Cabot Trail, Ingonish, Miner's Museum, Alexander Graham Bell museum, nice beaches and nature
  6. ElizabethAnne

    ElizabethAnne Active Member

    If you do decide to include some Maritime provinces, I would recommend the Hopewell Rocks Provincial park in NB (you have to time it right for the tides); lobster supper on PEI; and Lunenburg NS. We did a round trip a few years ago and just missed the Bluenose II when we were in Lunenburg. Luckily we were circling back to fly out of Halifax so booked a 2 hour trip for the end of our vacation. The Bluenose II was the highlight for us. Also loved poking around in the little towns with the houses painted bright colours.

    It might be too much of a stretch timewise to include this with Montreal and Quebec City (both great).
  7. pat c

    pat c Well-Known Member

    If you're coming in thru Maine, stop in St. Stephen's and eat some chocolate at the Ganong chocolate factory. Stopping to see the Bay of Fundy is a must.
  8. genegri

    genegri Active Member

    Thank you so much everyone!! FSU is the best!

    Within a couple of hours, we went from not knowing how to fill nine days to not knowing to fit so many great places in 9 days. :lol:

    Ok, now I got a rough itinerary going:

    Day 1: Drive to Saint John, NB (11 hour drive, we may start the day before after work)
    Day 2: Visit Fundy NP and do the coastal drive and hopefully time the tide in Hopewell Rocks
    Day 3: Visit Halifax (Citadel, Peggy's cove, don't know if we can squeeze in Lunenburg)
    Day 4: Visit Cape Breton Highlands NP
    Day 5: Visit Louisbourg and drive to somewhere close to PEI
    Day 6: Visit PEI and drive to Miramichi
    Day 7: Do a scenic drive through New Brunswick (I want to see Chaluer Bay)
    Day 8: Quebec City
    Day 9: Montreal
    Day 10: Drive back to NJ (DH needs to be in the airport by 6pm)

    I wish we could swing in a few more days, but we are planning a lot of traveling this year and will use up every last vacation day, so no wiggle room. So will have to skip Newfoundland. Big sigh.

    Anyway, does it sound doable? Is it too ambitious and rushed? Any suggestions to move things around? We are both very good long distance drivers, but we don't want to rush the sightseeing. Big thanks in advance!
  9. rjblue

    rjblue Having a great day!

    My husband and I both love to roadtrip around the Maritimes, so we've done a lot of the drives you are considering.

    I'd definitely leave the day before to get to Saint John.

    If you want to drive the Fundy Trail, you need to take your time, and stop at all the lookouts and walking paths. It is gorgeous, and well worth your time, but it is a dead end. You'd have to backtrack and then have a long drive mostly through trees and rocks to get to Fundy NP. Hopewell Cape is very touristy now, and I'd choose the Fundy Trail now- much wilder feeling. Although if you choose Fundy NP and Hopewell Cape, I'd recommend you go see the lighthouse at Cape Enrage.

    So I'd do the Fundy Trail, and then catch the ferry from Saint John to Digby and go to Halifax via the Evangeline Trail.

    Louisbourg is absolutely wonderful, as is the Cabot Trail.

    Skip PEI. It's going to add too much driving to your trip.

    When you leave Cape Breton, go along the Sunrise Trail through Pictou and Tatamagouche. Go along the coast of NB and stop in Buctouche, or Kouchibiquac
    for some glorious sandy beaches. There's no fast highway route through NB, except the extremely boring Trans-Canada highway. It's a much more interesting drive to go around the coast through Mirimichi like it looks you have planned, but it's a LOT of driving. I'd plan to stop my trip in Quebec otherwise you just won't have time to stop and see anything.

    If Montreal is a must, I'd skip Cape Breton.

    eta- I edited in a few links.

    Also- I'd really recommend that you do either 9 days of touring just in the Maritimes, or 9 days in Quebec. You could go to Gaspesie for the more wild and natural part of your tour.
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2011
  10. overedge

    overedge Janny uber

    From an ex-resident of the area: this is not doable in two days, unless you want to spend most of those two days inside a car.

    I also don't think you could go to Halifax, then get to Cape Breton in the next day in enough time to actually see anything in CB.

    Don't be fooled by the road maps (and I say this with all affection for the area); when it says "highway" it is most probably not going to be a four-lane road with 100mph speed limits. More like one lane in either direction with a 50 or 60 mph speed limit. And the occasional cow and/or tractor :lol:

    Given where you're starting from and ending at, I would suggest sticking to Nova Scotia (outside Cape Breton) and New Brunswick. There's plenty to see and you can have a nice restful time as well.
  11. UMBS Go Blue


    I'd say spend all of it in PEI if nature driving and tranquility is your thing. Endless, beautiful, quaint seaside villages. Cue up the last movement of Beethoven's sixth symphony in your car CD player.

    Since you'd drive in from New Brunswick, make sure to try poutine. Lots of Acadians there and in Nova Scotia.
  12. victorskid

    victorskid Skating supporter

    As a Nova Scotian "living away" who does the drive "home" every year and has toured English relatives around a couple of times, your schedule is way too ambitious. You'll spend all your time driving and have no time to actually visit some of the sites that would interest you.

    I would suggest that you consider a Maritime tour only or a Quebec tour. Trying to do both in such a short period would put you in the category of the classic American tourist who "does" the mainland of Nova Scotia in a day :)

    If, as someone suggested, you want to take the ferry from St. John to Digby, you need to make a reservation for that time of year and you need to be on the wharf an hour before the ferry leaves. There are several trips a day but you'll need to check the schedules. [I know whereof I speak - I take the ferry one way every year.]
  13. pat c

    pat c Well-Known Member



    This is on the way to cape enrage, you can wine test and they're very friendly chatty people.

    And as overedge said, do NS and NB or NB and PEI.

    If you're going through Saint John, stop at the market. It's right on the water, and if you see the Delta Hotel right down town, it's there. Go for a walk through it, it shaped like an upside down boat. :) But it would take you a couple of hours to do it.

    Enjoy, whatever you decide to do.
  14. eusebius

    eusebius Active Member

    Saint John High Class of '85 here :)

    Lots of great suggestions already. I'll just add that if you are driving from the Calais/St. Stephen border crossing to Saint John, there are a couple of great stops along the way that won't be completely inundated by tourists:

    1. St. Andrews by the Sea - beautiful village with a couple of gorgeous inns/B&Bs and some nice restaurants.
    2. If you take Route 790 south off Route 1, you get a drop-dead gorgeous drive through three characteristic fishing villages: Dipper Harbour, Maces Bay and Chance Harbour. These are almost completely untouched by the tourist industry and offer great views of the Bay of Fundy and its unbelievable tides.
    3. St. Martin's - another great village - is at the west entrance to the Fundy Trail. There are three awesome seafood restaurants on the beach here.
    4. :sekret: Oven Head Salmon Smokers. Best smoked salmon On. The. Planet. You heard it here first :lol:
    rjblue and (deleted member) like this.
  15. smurfy

    smurfy Well-Known Member

    Nova Scotia is lovely.
    Peggys Cove - highly recommend
    Halifax is great. Maritime museum is very cool, and I usually am not into it. Has exhibit on Titanic and for the ship that blew up in the harbor during WWI killing 2 thousand. Very informative and compelling.
    I luv Montreal, great city, museums, beautiful churches, food, shopping.

    I have not been to Quebec City, yet, but It seems cool and have heard wonderful things always.
  16. rjblue

    rjblue Having a great day!

    I could recommend enough nature and history in New Brunswick to fill nine days without even going to the other two Maritime provinces. :)

    Saint Andrews was a summering destination for the rich in earlier times, and it still is a wonderful charming town to visit. Ministers Island would probably be a place you'd enjoy.

    If you travel by land from NB to NS Fort Beausejour is a great place to stop and tour, to break up the drive.

    I live in the Saint John River Valley, above Fredericton, and I'd have to recommend King's Landing to anyone who likes history and architecture on a less grand scale. When they built the Mactaquac Dam on the river, there were so many historic buildings that were going to be lost, that they moved them to a single location, and have built a wonderful historical settlement that spans hundreds of years of how the settlers lived. Some of the buildings are very simple pioneer types, and some are more upper class buildings, all with gardens, furnishings, livestock, etc, that were found in the period they represent. There is a grist mill and a sawmill that operate with a waterwheel. My family visits about every other year, because there is too much to see with one visit.

    If you do go to PEI, you HAVE to eat at Rick's Fish 'n' Chips in St. Peter's Bay. It's the best I've ever had, and I'm a Maritimer so I know good fish.

    Acadians have been eating poutine for hundreds of years, but don't confuse it with the fast food french fries, cheese and gravy Quebec dish of the same name.
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2011
    eusebius and (deleted member) like this.
  17. UMBS Go Blue


    Oops. May need to head back and try that (poutine rapee) out. :shuffle:
  18. Desperado

    Desperado Well-Known Member

    I agree with everyone that says this is quite ambitious. Like victorskid suggested, I would split the Maritimes and Quebec in two trips. Spending two days in Quebec City and three in Mtl would be ideal if you're into cities. If not, take it down one day for each. Traffic in Mtl could slow down your visit unles you concentrate on one specific area and travel by foot or subway.
  19. Artemis@BC

    Artemis@BC Well-Known Member

    As others have said, this is extremely ambitious, and frankly quite a waste. The driving time from QC to Montreal alone is at minimum 3 hours, and more like 4 -- and that's highway driving, not the most scenic. Both cities have so much to do and see, you wouldn't be able to justice to either.

    Personally I'd recommend spending the whole time in the Maritimes and doing it properly. Alternately, spend the whole trip in Quebec.
  20. Norlite

    Norlite Well-Known Member

    I agree with the others. IMO, you won't see a quarter of what there is to see and do in either Quebec or Montreal on your schedule.
  21. Gazpacho

    Gazpacho Well-Known Member

    It's too bad the ferry between Maine and New Brunswick has been discontinued :( That would have saved you a lot of time.

    Given that your husband has a 6pm flight to catch, I'd say yes, it's too much to squeeze in unless you want only a cursory glance of places. Also, customs is hit-or-miss. Sometimes it can be sloooooow. I don't know the priorities of your interests, but I think you're misjudging some timing.

    Some things depend on timing. For instance, if you want to see the Fundy tides, something I recommend, you have to time your visit accordingly. The weather can also get bad, preventing you from enjoying some of the sights until a later day. This is more relevant in Newfoundland, but the weather in the Maritimes is unpredictable in general.

    Why don't you fly to Montreal or Halifax and rent a car? Since you're in NJ, I assume you're flying out of New York, Newark, or Philadelphia. All those airports have direct flights to both Montreal and Halifax.

    If you fly to Montreal, which is probably a better option, I would recommend not renting a car until you're done with Montreal, as it can be difficult to find parking.

    I previously said there was not much worth seeing in New Brunswick but forgot the Bay of Fundy is there--definitely worth seeing!

    The Maine coast is also stunning, but I don't think you'll have time for that.
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2011
  22. genegri

    genegri Active Member

    Thank you everyone for the sanity check! I thought it was too good to be true to be able to visit them all! :lol:

    Ok, we will focus on NB and NS this time. Montreal and QC are not too far from NJ and we can pop over another long weekend.

    Now the revised itinerary: (Can you tell I love vacation planning? One of few things in life I actually start early :D)

    Day 0: Start driving after work, probably get to Boston
    Day 1: Do the coastal drive via Route 1 from Maine to NB, crossing the border at Saint Stephen,
    Day 2: Visit Fundy (hopefully time it right to see the tide, do I have time to see Cape Enrage and Hopewell Rocks?)
    Day 3: Take the ferry (it sounds interesting!) and visit Halifax (should I plan another day for Halifax and the Evangeline trail?)
    Day 4: Visit Louisbourg, Cabot trail
    Day 5: Visit Cape Breton, we both love wilderness
    Day 6: Drive from Cape Breton to PEI, the Sunrise trail, right?
    Day 7: Visit PEI (I love bridges and do not want to miss it)
    Day 8: Do the scenic drive northbound (Appalachian trail?) in New Brunswick (I want to see Chaluer Bay)
    Day 9: Turn around and continue the scenic drive southbound to somewhere close to the border (which way do you suggest I take?)
    Day 10: Drive back (DH needs to be in the airport by 6pm. I may ask him to book the flight out of Boston instead of Newark NJ. I will drive the last 5 or 6 hours home to NJ by myself)

    Day 8 and 9 are contingency days. If any of previous days takes longer, I will give up Chaleur Bay. The bottom line is, we need to be somewhere close to the border at the end of Day 9.

    We both actually enjoy driving very much and don't like flying. But I will consider that option if there is no way to get around. To me, any driving less than 6 hours is a short drive. :)

    And yes, I certainly look forward to having lots and lots of lobsters and poutine. :) We both lived in Boston for years and had our fill of lobsters. But neither of us has ever had poutine before.
  23. jeffisjeff

    jeffisjeff Well-Known Member

    It takes all day to see the tide because to really see what is amazing about it, you need to see both high and low tide. Same for reversing falls in Saint John - you have to go twice to see it "reverse".

    Ferry from where? If you mean from Saint John, it doesn't go all that close to Halifax. It goes to Digby which is 2-3 hour drive away (I think). So you won't have a whole lot of time left to see Halifax on that day.
  24. Gazpacho

    Gazpacho Well-Known Member

    With that scheduled itinerary, you'll be doing plenty of driving! But flying there--a short flight--would essentially give you two extra days and allow you to see some of Quebec.
  25. minuet

    minuet Well-Known Member

    Obviously not going to fit into your trip this time but when you do decide to come to Newfoundland, let me know :)
    We have all sorts of wonderful things to see!
  26. rjblue

    rjblue Having a great day!

    Yes. If you choose to go to Fundy National Park, and Hopewell Cape, you are much closer to drive to Halifax. I mentioned the ferry in case you decided to explore the Fundy Trail instead.

    But- when you take the Sunrise Trail back from Cape Breton, you can take the ferry from Caribou NS to Wood Island PEI, and then you leave the Island by the Confederation Bridge. The last time I took that ferry, they had live music on the deck during the trip. (about 2 hours)

    If you drive through New Brunswick on the Trans-Canada, you'll see nothing but trees and rocks. Don't use it unless racking up kilometres is your goal. The old highway that parallels the Saint John River has some of the most scenic views in the country. (Hence NB is called the Picture Province.) I must warn you though, that there is a lot of wilderness in Northern NB, and you'll drive through a lot of forest, crossing from the coast to the western part of the province.

    There's a campground up there- Mount Carleton Provincial Park, that caters mostly to people who want to canoe and hike and camp.
  27. 4rkidz

    4rkidz plotting, planning and travelling

    If your going to squeeze some of Quebec in.. I would suggest doing Quebec city but skipping Montreal and instead driving south through the Eastern townships crossing the border at Vermont or New Hampshire.. Quebec city is like visiting Europe - the old city is incredible and if you love architecture and little shops, cobble streets and wonderful cafe's .. you will love it.
    Montreal is terrible for traffic - you could lose a day just with that.. the Eastern townships are beautiful, scenery on par with the Maritimes.. and would give you a different return -

    if your anything like me (we do driving vacations all the time with crazy schedules) you likely hate driving back the same way you came? So by adding this to your schedule - you can do a full circle and not have to cover the same place twice :p
  28. JasperBoy

    JasperBoy Aging in a great place

    Whatever you do, don't miss a lobster feed. You can go to a church supper put on by locals, or to a restaurant. The best is to buy them at a lobster pound, fresh from the boat. Take them to a nearby park (I'm thinking of Shediac) and have a feast. There are oil drums conveniently placed for the inedible parts.

    If you are really lucky you can buy some wild blueberries at a roadside stand and eat a few handfuls for dessert.

    ETA I never travel to the Maritimes without taking my lobster-eating equipment. Makes for trouble at the airport, though!
  29. skategal

    skategal Bunny slave

    I think it is going to be difficult to do Cape Breton and Halifax consecutively especially as you pass the turn-off to PEI midway between the two places. Cape Breton and Halifax are your most northerly and southerly points on your itinerary. I would suggest doing NB, then Cape Breton, then PEI, then Halifax.

    To give you some ideas of driving times, here are some driving distances/times that we have done from Halifax:

    Driving time on the highways between Cape Breton and Halifax is 4 hours, Halifax to PEI is 3.5 hours to the end of the bridge and then extra time to get anywhere else in PEI (besides Summerside where the bridge ends.)

    Driving time between Hailfax and Moncton, NB (Bay of Fundy) is 3 hours, Boston to Halifax is 14 hours, Bangor, ME to Halifax is 7 hours, North Conway, NH to Halifax is 11 hours, St. John, NB to Halifax is 5 hours.

    Have fun, I think you will enjoy it.
  30. victorskid

    victorskid Skating supporter

    I would suggest that visiting Louisbourg and the Cabot Trail both in one day means that you really won't experience either one. Not to mention that you don't just walk in the gates of the reconstructed fortress from the car park - you park at a visitors centre and await transportation to the site on a bus, doing the same thing on your return.

    When I had an English cousin visiting 2 years ago, we spent 3 nights in Baddeck (overlooking the Bras d'Or lake) - driving to Louisbourg and touring there one day and spending another day doing the drive around the Cabot Trail. We had spent the night before in Shediac, NB and spent the following night on St. Margaret's Bay (outside Halifax) near Peggy's Cove. [We didn't see much on the 2nd half of the Trail due to the arrival of fog and rain & might have appreciated an extra "contingency" day.]

    For the suggested driving distances mentioned above - remember those are on the major highways which, as stated above, do not allow you to actually see the scenery. When I drive back to Nova Scotia each summer the drive has become more and more boring through New Brunswick as I no longer see the Saint John River Valley views but rather see a lot of rock cuts, trees, and moose fencing. If you want to see the local scenery, you need to get off these sometimes four-laned highways and that's guaranteed to increase your driving time.

    There is so much to see and experience in the Maritimes - trying to do it all in one short trip may mean that you really won't enjoy any of it :(