When you think of vacationing in Canada, chances are the country's three most-visited cities come to mind: Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto.
But east of Quebec, four provinces known as Atlantic Canada offer thousands of miles of scenic coastline and a mix of cultural attractions, from the farmhouse in "Anne of Green Gables" to one of the oldest French Acadian settlements. Activities range from mud-sliding and golf to year-round surfing. Offbeat destinations include the Herring Hall of Fame.
The provinces that make up this region are New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Together Newfoundland-Labrador comprise one province located north and east of the other three provinces. The southern part of Newfoundland, and the most easterly part of Atlantic Canada, has its very own time zone, an hour and a half ahead of Eastern time. The other three provinces — New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island — are sometimes referred to collectively as the Canadian Maritimes.
Some fall cruises from Boston and New York make port calls in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Saint John, New Brunswick, while Halifax is the busiest Canadian airport east of Montreal, with direct flights from the U.S. on a half-dozen major airlines.
But many visitors drive and take ferries from one province to the next. New Brunswick shares a land border with Maine, and from Saint John, there is daily year-round ferry service to Digby, Nova Scotia, which is famous for its scallops. Prince Edward Island is reachable via ferry from Nova Scotia or by driving across the 8-mile-long Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick. Quebec shares a land border with Labrador, while Newfoundland can be reached by ferry from Nova Scotia or by air from several cities.
Here are a few highlights from the region:
Bay of Fundy
New Brunswick's southern coast, and Nova Scotia's northern coast, lie along the Bay of Fundy, which has some of the world's highest tides, with high and low tides every six hours. There are rafting trips in the tidal bore, which is the term used to describe the big waves generated by the tidal flow, as well as whale watches, with several species of whales in the bay throughout the summer and into early fall. Enormous flowerpot-shaped rock formations at Hopewell Rocks in New Brunswick can be explored on foot at low tide and by kayak at high tide.
Anne of Green Gables
Lucy Maud Montgomery grew up on Prince Edward Island and set her famous 1908 book "Anne of Green Gables" here. The island is home to a white farmhouse with green gables, where relatives of Montgomery lived; a park attraction called Avonlea Village; the home Montgomery was born in; and the Anne of Green Gables Museum at Silverbush.
This driving loop through Nova Scotia takes its name from a tragic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that tells the story of the deportation of the Acadians, French settlers who were kicked out of Nova Scotia by the British in the 18th century. Some of them resettled in Louisiana. A statue of Evangeline is located at the Grand Pre National Historic Site, where visitors can learn about the history of the community.
International Appalachian Trail
The northern U.S. terminus of the Appalachian Trail is Mount Katahdin, Maine, but the hiking route continues through Mount Carleton Provincial Park in New Brunswick up to the Gaspe region of Quebec, and on to Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland-Labrador.
Year-round surfing in Atlantic Canada? Heck yes, just make sure you wear a wetsuit. Laurencetown Beach, about a half-hour drive from Halifax, is known for extremely high surf conditions, especially during hurricane season. One Life Surf School offers women-only surfing lessons.
The Shubenacadie River in Nova Scotia has soft mud and sloping banks that add up to slippery fun — as long as you don't mind being caked head to toe in mushy dirt.
Golf, herring and wildlife
Prince Edward Island is home to some 30 golf courses, including Crowbush, rated one of the top courses in the country. Meanwhile, the Sardine Museum and Herring Hall of Fame are located on Grand Manan Island, in New Brunswick, in what was once a herring smokehouse. And through early September, the Torngat Safari company offers trips to Northern Labrador's Torngat Mountains National Park that include wildlife watching and native culture, while O'Brien's Boat Tours in Bull's Bay, near St. John's, Newfoundland, offers puffin tours through September.
Events in the region include the Not Since Moses Run, Aug. 14, where competitors race to beat the tides in the Bay of Fundy at Five Islands, Nova Scotia; the Winterset in Summer Literary Festival in the Eastport Peninsula of Newfoundland, Aug. 13-15; the Wild Blueberry Harvest Festival, in Nova Scotia, Aug. 20-Sept. 4; Seasons in the Bight Festival in Trinity, Newfoundland, through October, which presents plays and dinner theater; and the Fall Flavours Event on Prince Edward Island, during the month of September.
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