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Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, PEI

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I am in the early stages of planning our family trip from Florida. We would like to visit Acadia National Park in Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and PEI. We would fly into Portland, Maine or Halifax, rent a car, and drive a circle route, returning the car and flying home. What would be the best option---fly to Portland or Halifax? Can we see all of the provinces if we do a circle route drive tour? I can't take any ferries. I get very sea sick (Yes, I get sea sick in the swimming pool!)

Thank you in advance for your advice. Once I get my "general route" idea, I will post specific places we would like to visit and ask for suggestions. We plan to visit the end of June 2014. We are both teachers, so we have a flexible schedule but limited funds. Thanks again

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    First of all, renting a car can be tricky if renting in a foreign country and bringing the car back into your own country. Many/most companies won't let you do so.

    Portland, Maine is very doable when it comes to trips to the Maritimes, especially as there are plenty of things to see along the path.

    Were it me, I would fly to Portland, visit Acadia N.P. on the way east (withOUT dawdling!)... then (endure) the slow-seeming path toward St. John via Calais. Pause at St. John for the Reversing Waterfalls if you want, and maybe spend a night there if the timing is right.

    Then find your way to Fundy Nat'l Park... and on to Hopewell Cape (on the way IN, so you will make SURE you see it - timed to correspond with LOW tide for that first visit).

    Then on to Moncton, where I don't think I'd spend much time, considering more important destinations ahead, and the idea that you will likely pass through Moncton again, on the way back.

    I (hope) that the very top priority is Cape Breton, and the Cabot Trail for spectacular scenery, so that is where you should target next... If timing is suitable, and you need to stay another night on the path, shoot for Pictou, or possibly Antigonish.

    Once on Cape Breton, I suggest using Baddeck as your home base, and maybe staying there 2 (or 3, depending upon how worn-out you are) nights. IF the weather is clear on the first morning, that's when you high-tail it for the Cabot Trail. If it's cloudy/foggy then you spend that first day in the Sydney/Louisbourg area, and save the Cabot Trail for the next day.

    Then I expect you'll want to travel down to Halifax, which is worth 2 or 3 nights, and a day trip to Peggy's Cove and Mahone Bay/Lunenburg is a must.

    The best way I could fit PEI into what now seems like a crazy 8-like path... is to suggest leaving Halifax and heading for Pictou, where you would take a ferry to the east end of PEI, and then, if you can afford the time, a night or two there, before driving off the island via the Confederation Bridge with its $44.50 toll!!!.

    Soon you're back to Moncton, and then it's on to Fredericton, and back to Main via the I-95 freeway.


    *** IF you have any interest in seeing Hopewell Cape at high tide, for contrast, you could take that side trip from Moncton, but better then return to Moncton to take the easier path out of the area.

    Hope this gets you started...

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    Sounds like you put a lot of thought in your post, northwestmale. Very helpful, I'm sure, and i concur with your strong recommendation for the Cabot trail, and the need to allow flexibility due to weather. Lunenberg and Mahone Bay are also top choices, IMHO. Staci1, I note you avoid ferries because of seasickness (me too) but the one between Pictou and PEI is a very short ride so unless the weather is very bad you could chance it. Actually, if you don't have a lot of time and need to whittle down your itinerary I would give PEI a miss. Pleasant, but not spectacular.

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    Oh darn, I clearly read the part about not taking any ferries (and of course, in my head at the time, was the longer routes {from Maine or NB}, some of which may not be running anymore)... and now I feel bad for having even mentioned the ferry to PEI.

    In truth I was merely trying to add variety. The option is many more miles of driving, but no additional toll, because the toll bridge only collects when leaving the island.

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    NorthwestMale, thank you so much for your wonderful response. Your help has done much more than get me started...I am going to follow your suggested route. I wasn't that familiar with Cape Breton until your post. I have researched the area and it sounds like it will be one of the highlights of our trip.

    eliztravels2, you mention the ferry between Pictou and PEI is very short...is that 5-10 minutes short? That is about all I can handle..yes, I am a whimp. To be honest, one of the only reasons we considered visiting PEI is because we saw the Anne of Green Gables movie and thought it would be cool to go there, so maybe we could miss it. It sounds like there are so many fantastic places to see in NB and NS.

    Have either of you heard of Joggins Fossil Cliffs? If so, is it worth the visit and where would it fit in, according to the route?

    In addition to enjoying the natural beauty of the places we visit, we enjoy learning about the culture of the people that live there. Are you familiar with any experiences with the indigenous cultures of the area? We also are adventuresome eaters. Any restaurant ideas that are not to miss or that are very different?

    Lastly (for now), can you recommend any accomodations along the route? We typically like to rent a cabin/cottage, etc., but I don't think we can do that on this trip because most places require a minimum of a week stay...

    JulieDWIlson, I think you misunderstood. We are from Ft. Lauderdale, FL. We have been to Orlando many times, and you are right, Islands of Adventure is a great place for the amusement rides.

    Thanks again for yoiur help and I look forward to your replies.

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    NorthwestMale has hit some highlights seen in our trip last summer (www.fodors.com/community/canada/trip-to-maritime-provinces.cfm) This did include transport on one long ferry from P.E.I. Seems renting a car in Boston or Portland would be OK. You may be covering lots of miles. Good luck.

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    Anne of Green Gables certainly is the big draw for P.E.I. She has an international following. Very nice beach in the national park, too. Maybe someone from Florida should have the experience of swimming in the chilly North Atlantic, all the better to appreciate the pleasures of home!

    I guess the ferry ride, I think about 45 minutes, is out for you. But if you are ever in southern Ontario, I know of a ferry ride in Prince Edward county that lasts about 10 minutes. If you ever feel the desire for a daring adventure at sea, I'll give you directions!

    Sorry I can't help with accommodation suggestions. We always camp, and stay with friends outside of Yarmouth, N.S.

    I can't think of any programs specifically about indigenous people but often the national parks have historical/cultural interpretative programs, usually exceptionally well done. Generally you would have to pay for a day pass if you are not staying in the park, but the programs are free. Parks are often in the most beautiful natural areas, and have hiking trails, nature displays, etc. Call the park office if the info you want is not online.

    www.pc.gc.ca

    I've never heard of Joggins Fossil Cliffs. Sounds intriguing.

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    Thanks, Ozarksbill. I enjoyed reading your trip report and will investigate some of the inns and restaurants that you mentioned.

    eliztravels2, Yup,I guess the ferry is out. I think we might pass on PEI after all. For us, the beach is not a novelty. Thanks for the link to the parks site.

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    yes you can see it all but i don't see anywhere where you say how long your trip is for? if i was driving a circle route maine, new brunswick, nova scotia, pei, i'd want at least 4 weeks. i spent 2 1/2 weeks in nova scotia and would have liked a few more days. cape breton deserves at least 4 nights. for pei, you'll just have to use the confederation bridge. re new brunswick, i was very disappointed with saint john, nb and the reversing falls didn't impress me at all. fundy national park is nice, hopewell rocks is interesting (go at high tide for an hour and then return at low tide for a longer period of time) and kouchibouguac nat'l park was nice

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    ROFL !!

    Speaking of ferries, I know juuuuuuuuuuuust the ferry that would suit you... and it's in Nova Scotia too...

    Imagine rounding a bend on the Atlantic Coast of NS... and seeing a sign that reads: "Ferry ahead... leaves every hour on the hour"... checking your watch and seeing that it is 5 minutes before the hour... and then flooring it... and then rounding another bend to see the tiniest little ferry/BARGE-like contraption, ready to cart you across a body of water over which you could probably hit a golf ball.

    (an old song that goes: "Don't pay the ferryman... until he brings you to the other side" came to mind as I sat there awaiting this short passage)

    That was in "Isaacs Harbor, NS" (don't go there - LOL)


    As to Anne of Green Gables, I have never read the story, but I know someone who was very intrigued over the idea of going to P.E.I. just for that purpose, so because I have a lot of regard for that person's awareness, I would endorse going there to see what you can see. (***note: mainly because Anne of Green Gables piqued your interest - I don't mean to suggest that eliztravels2's response/option about missing PEI isn't well-founded)

    One of the most quiet spots to which I've ever been (at least spots near to civilization)... was on the north shore of PEI, at a park just about due north of Charlottetown... in the middle of March... there weren't even any WAVES coming ashore, and nobody was around, and the whole area was still.

    Oh, and I throw this out there for no grand purpose whatsoever, except to help afford you a sense of the PEI landscape: ... people love to ride bicycles all over PEI, because the landscape features just rolling hills, and limited population, with plenty of room for bikes and few if any foreboding obstacles (with it being an island and all).

    Admittedly I had not heard of "Joggins Fossil Cliffs", but once I finally located a map to hint at just where it is, I'm all for going there!!!

    The Bay of Fundy is really awesome and interesting, and I sense that merely to be in the location of the Cliffs could bring some of the best of the Bay right under your noses.

    Upon reading up on the Cliffs, the part which really drives home my newfound curiosity is embedded somewhere within the following: ""Joggins has two very distinct zones, which are indicated by geological formations. The main section of the beach closest to the Fossil Centre is accessible usually up to an hour or so before and after high tide. There are some areas which are considered "remote" and have a much smaller window for visitation (2 to 3 hours).""

    The fact that the tides dictate when you can go, assures every bit that the Bay of Fundy's awesome presence shall not linger very far from your thoughts upon arrival. If you DO go to Hopewell Cape when reaching the eastern extremes of New Brunswick, you will see the ominous sign that reads: "Warning, you must be off of this beach by ____(time)____ to avoid being trapped by the incoming tide".

    And that sign does not kid around!

    I'm guessing something similar is true of nearby Joggins.

    As to restaurant ideas that are very different... well, where else can you get a McLobster sandwich at McDonalds (if in season)??

    I would suggest that there is enough natural beauty in the area to occupy plenty of your time. A drive I liked was along the north side of the Bay of Fundy between Truro and Parrsboro... and a hike I liked was a 5-hour round-trip to Cape Split, NS (I'm NOT a hiker, traditionally, but I am glad that I gave that one a whirl).

    How long will this trip be???

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    Oh yeah, plan ahead for your Bay of Fundy strategy with the following tide times website:


    http://bayoffundytourism.com/tides/times/


    You can research months in advance just when the tide will be optimum for visiting Hopewell Cape and other various locations on the Bay of Fundy.

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    <<As to restaurant ideas that are very different... well, where else can you get a McLobster sandwich at McDonalds (if in season)??>>

    Well, Ontario. McDonalds introduced it to its restaurants there last summer.

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    I am tagging along on this trip. The seals? Where is the best place to see them? We also are trying to plan a trip but will be flying into Bangor and doing a little of Maine also. We have a little more time and thanks for the tip on PEI. Think we will cross that off our list.

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    Our friends own Rossmount Inn in St Andrews. You will never have a lovlier meal. If you are there and can make dinner reservations, I am Sure you will not be dissapointed.
    Sherri

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    Thanks again for the additional info. Eliztravels2, I will take a look at Alma as an option to stay the night and will research the Rossmount Inn for dinner. Thanks for the suggestion, Sherri1.

    NorthwestMale, that sounds like my kind of ferry! Thanks for the link to the tide chart. I appreciate your writing style as much as the information you have given me! Oh, we plan on staying about 2 weeks.

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    OK, now, with the added "two weeks"-ish info, I shall try to guesstimate a path I'd like given the items and time elements you've listed.

    First, my major (area in which I'm likely to be unfair) is Acadia N.P.. I don't know enough about it, and have never been. Additionally, whenever I've been in Maine I've been high-tailing it for Nova Scotia (or coming back, in something of a hurry).

    Of course the trick is to afford yourself enough time there, without setting-back/depriving the rest of your trip.

    It was mainly because you spoke of being/starting in Acadia N.P. that I implied that the Calais border crossing and Saint John were good targets, but truth be told you could choose between spending time in Fredericton or Saint John, depending upon which path you took. I can't emphasize strongly enough that you should see Hopewell Cape, at low tide, on the way toward Nova Scotia. There aren't many places that could afford you a greater sense for just how awesome the tides are in the Bay of Fundy, and once you've got that down, then some of the rest of your path will seem more meaningful.

    Also, I'd say that both Saint John and Fredericton could be seen as places you might afford extra time to, on the way back, depending upon whether you have time to offer.

    My first-ever (in-person) significant impact of the Bay of Fundy tides was when driving down to the bay shore through Fundy N.P. - and when I got to Alma, NB, I saw boats tied to docks and resting on the ocean floor, with the tide waaaaaay out there (just as I'd come to expect, but it's one of those weird things where seeing is believing). SO, IF you can make that sudden reality for yourself, then it isn't a bad idea.

    Oh, I can't endorse enough the idea of printing out the tide times for various (4 or 5) locations during the entire window of your trip. That because most would never want to wait 6 hours for the complete contrast to the scene they're seeing. If you criss-cross the area enough, you can potentially time things so that you get back to a few spots to see and photograph the opposite effect.

    As for PEI, I went there, and I found it pleasant and certainly not over-run by society. I sense that had I been an Anne of Green Gables fan, it would have meant much more to me.

    So with two weeks for the trip, it probably does make sense to visit PEI. Furthermore, as the Canadian Maritime Provinces aren't on the way to anywhere, when else would somebody from Florida have cause to get back there?

    At any rate, your initial and steady progression should be toward Cape Breton, and the Cabot Trail... so in that interest, I guess the first night in Canada should be strategized so as to plant you in a spot convenient to seeing Hopewell Cape at low tide the next day.

    Research shows that Bar Harbor, ME to Moncton, NB is 281 miles or 5 hours of driving time (via Saint John).

    Keep in mind that June in the far north will afford much longer days than you're used to in Florida.

    Moncton, NB to Baddeck, NS is 261 miles, 4 hours, 17 minutes.

    Of course I am NOT meaning that you need to drive like a bat out of you-know-where, with the only goal being to get there... but I just want to pose the possibility that you could drive reasonable amounts and have time for various meals, sight-seeing, and such, in an area where so very much can be viewed from a moving car.

    And, depending on the tide times, you might opt to see Hopewell Cape at low tide late on an evening beFORE bedding down in, say, Moncton for the night (vs. the next morning). I went to Hopewell Cape after the visitor center place closed, and didn't even have to pay to go down on the beach at low tide.

    (I'm babbling too much, and not putting down anything in orderly fashion: )

    Night #1 (in/near Bar Harbor, Maine) ??

    Night #2 (in the vicinity of Moncton, NB) ??

    Nights 3, 4, (& maybe 5??) in/near Baddeck, NS

    Baddeck to Halifax = 3 hrs. 40 minutes & 217 miles on the most direct and 'speedy' route. If like me you are LURED down toward the Atlantic coastline upon crossing back onto the mainland, you will twist and turn and twist and turn for hours as you make your way down the shore toward Halifax.

    If you at least stay on the red road through that, you will miss that fantastic ferry at Isaac's Harbour while still being able to say you passed through Ecum Secum (keep going...).

    I guess the remoteness of those coastal areas combines with some of the scenery to make for what would be some interesting sights. The road just bends and bends forever, like many coastal roads, and it goes on too long to be convenient.

    Oh good, let me put it this way:

    Antigonish to Halifax going the main road is 130 miles and 2 hours... Antigonish to Halifax via the coast is 162 miles and 4 hours.

    I sure can't fully veto the could-be idea to take that path, but it will go best if you merely know what you'd be getting into (and there is scenery to be had on the coast, but it is fairly abundant in the whole of Nova Scotia).

    Night #5 or #6 in Halifax... and then perhaps two more.

    Halifax Harbour is a neat little area, and consider taking the passenger-only ferry across the water to Dartmouth and back, mostly for the photo opportunities (don't even need to get off the boat on the other side).

    I didn't formally go to the Citadel tourist attraction, but I walked up there, and wasn't sorry that I had done so.

    The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic has some good Titanic-era stuff, but much of the rest of it was a bit of a stretch to fill-out the full museum.

    Speaking of Titanic, you could go to Fairview Lawn Cemetery in the Halifax area and see the grave of J. Dawson (and miss the hordes of teenage girls by about 15 years ).

    A day trip to Peggy's Cove, Mahone Bay, and Lunenburg is a must... and if so inclined, you might even take a night somewhere to the south, and then drive back across to the Bay of Fundy to see Digby and Annapolis Royal.

    So OK, this is me attempting to be orderly again:

    Night 4 Baddeck
    Nights 5 & 6 Halifax
    Night 7 Near Lunenburg
    Nights 8 & 9 Annapolis Royal ???

    I have no idea how energetic you are, but (again), if so inclined, the 5-hour round trip hike out to Cape Split is pretty cool. It's noteworthy that as much water flows through the narrow channel between Cape Split and Parrsboro in a typical day as flows through all of the rivers on earth, COMBINED, in a typical day. (and you can sorta tell, from the tidal bores, with what force it gets shoved through there)

    (clarity: I enjoyed the hike to the upper bluff, overlooking the "split" part... no tide danger up high)


    So now... if so inclined, you could travel a grey road to Burntcoat Head... to see the spot of the highest tide ever recorded... and then on to Truro.

    From Truro I'd take the coastal path to Parrsboro, and then target a night near to Joggins Fossil Cliffs.

    I halfway wonder whether I need to offer you another night in between Annapolis Royal and Joggins, just to afford you time to see a few more things??? (Fundy tide stuff included)

    Night #10 ????

    Night #11 near Joggins, NS

    Maybe night #12 on PEI (Charlottetown?)


    Eh, now I'm needing to make sure you get back toward Portland, Maine for your night #13, and it is 800 miles from Charlottetown to Portland, so I've gotta do something a bit different. (possibly just one night in Annapolis Royal, or maybe cut-out that variable night just after that)

    At any rate, I don't need to pinpoint this, beyond just offering that outline.

    But it really seems thorough enough, and it has some wiggle room in there, so maybe I'll just leave it at that?

    (surely this will inspire closer contemplation on your end, and you'll maybe add new interests as you research)

    Should be a fun trip at any rate!!

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