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Maine, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in October

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I was looking at a Boston to Quebec cruise in October but I'm afraid we won't have enough time in the ports to really appreciate any of them so I'm trying to come up with a 10 day driving route that starts and finishes in Boston and includes Acadia National Park, Bay of Fundy, Halifax and Cape Breton.

Our options would be either Sat Sept 25- Mon Oct 5th or Fri Oct 9th- Mon, Oct 19th. It sounds like the later option would give us a better chance of seeing good fall colors but the last day Hopewell Rocks is open is Oct 12, which is also Canadian Thanksgiving/Columbus Day. Between the leaves changing and the holidays are we going to have a tough time getting reasonable lodging this late? We don't need anything fancy. We just use the room to bathe and sleep. When we stay at a B&B, more often than not, we're gone before they even serve breakfast.

I need to hurry up and figure out if either the cruise or road trip will work for us. One thing nice about the cruise is that we don't have to worry about packing, unpacking and checking in and out of hotels! Any suggestions as to what route to take and stops along the way to break up the drive? We generally cover twice as much ground as most people because we start early and go all day. I researched my options in Bar Harbor, Saint John, Halifax and Sydney when I was looking into the cruise but I don't about places in between. I've also heard that PEI is nice and it's so close but I don't know how that would fit in the routing.

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    I'm doing a very similar trip in early October and started out with similar goals. My trip is technically 12 days with the first just being a late flight to Boston, getting a rental car and driving about an hour or so outside of Boston. The last day is an early flight out of Boston. I don't know if your 10 days includes your travel days, so you may have even less time than I do for all this driving.

    I wanted to hit Boston, Coastal Maine, New Brunswick, PEI, Halifax, Sydney, Cape Breton, and Quebec...The reality for me is that is way too much driving (moreso because I'd need to return to Boston)...And that statement comes from someone who loves the drive and is doing the trip alone without having to worry about how much others are enjoying the scenery.

    I have worked out an itinerary that I'm very excited about even though it doesn't hit all the spots on my list. I left out Halifax, Sydney, PEI, and Quebec. It was more important to me to experience Cape Breton than the rest of Nova Scotia. Considering the short about of time that I'd have to spend on PEI, it didn't seem worth the extra drive time and toll cost. Quebec could have worked with an open jaw ticket (and outrageous rental car drop off fees - if even available), but I planned this trip based on a cheap roundtrip flight to Boston.

    Having never been to this area before, I'm not 100% sure of the feasibility of my own plans, but it seems reasonable after doing lots of research and knowing that I will be driving a lot - and a couple of days are long driving days.

    I am willing to be flexible along the way due to time/traffic/weather, but my accommodations are already reserved, so my flexibility will lie in having to forfeit a planned activity/stop in order to make it to my rest point for the night.

    A side note - If you are planning on starting this in Boston, car rental prices are outrageous. The going rate right now for an ECONOMY ranges from $60-75/day!!! I managed to book on a sale (or possibly a fluke) and got an economy for about $35/day, but I have not seen prices drop anywhere near that again. I think that I'm still paying too much and keep hoping to find something lower. Had I realized that car rental prices were so high, I would have shopped around on the flight some more - willing to pay more for the flight to a nearby location with more reasonable car rental prices if the overall price would have made sense.

    The following are the highlighted stops along the way...Will be stopping often for pics, short walks, etc.

    - Late flight to Boston, get rental car, drive to York, ME - Staying at Microtel Inn (cheapest place I could find in the area and seems clean/safe enough).
    - Next day is driving to Bar Harbor with stops along the way (I have listed a lot of stops, but I know I won't have time for all of it...weather/mood will dictate):
    - Nubble Lighthouse
    - Cape Elizabeth (Two Lights)
    - Portland Head Lighthouse & Museum
    - I've seen recommendations for stops in Bath, ME, but haven't investigated
    - Possibly stop at Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, ME (Robert Indiana exhibit)
    - Camden (I think there is a drive up a hill for good views that I haven't investigated fully yet)
    - Penobscot Narrows Observatory (there is also a fort on the same complex)
    - Sunset at Bass Harbor Head Light
    - Evening/Night in Bar Harbor
    - Night at Canterbury Cottage in Bar Harbor
    - Sunrise/Early morning from Cadillac Mountain (Acadia National Park)
    - Most of the day at Acadia National Park (circle drive, Jordan Pond House, short hikes, etc)
    - Evening drive to Lubec, ME and night at Home Port Inn
    - In the morning, West Quoddy Lighthouse.
    - Cross over to Campobello Island (lose an hour due to time zone) - East Quoddy Lighthouse, watch/listen for whales from shore
    - Roosevelt Campobello Park
    - There is a ferry that goes from Campbello to Deer Island and then you can ferry again over to mainland Canada, but when I am going, the ferry from Campobello Island to Deer Island will not be running, so I'll have to go back to Lubec and head up to St Stephens in order to head north in New Brunswick. I think the ferry between Campobello and Deer Island stops running in mid-September. http://www.eastcoastferries.nb.ca/timetables.htm
    - In St. Stephens, I might stop at the Ganong Bros Chocolate Museum gift shop (I keep reading about some candy called "chicken bones").
    - Fundy Trail Parkway near St Martins (stop a lot along the way..drive to end...walk out to footbridge)
    - Possibly sea caves at St. Martins (not high on my priority list)
    - Night near Alma, NB at An Artist's Garden
    - Cape Enrage (lighthouse, fossil beach, look for seaglass)
    - Hopewell Rocks
    - Head to Cape Breton...Night at Bear on the Lake Guesthouse in Aberdeen (before you get to Baddeck) - It's a hostel, but also has private rooms...Probably not the type of accommodations you are looking for, but there seem to be lots of options in the area.
    (My next few days on Cape Breton are at a slower pace than I've been going so far...I really want to have time to see and experience this area)
    - Morning, stop in Baddeck - maybe a sailing tour
    - Ingonish Beach and Ingonish
    - Night at Driftwood Lodge in Ingonish
    - Slowly make way up to Bay St. Lawrence - lots of stopping, some hiking...Whale watch tour with Oshan Whale Watch
    - Meat Cove - Hike
    - Night at the Inlet Bed and Breakfast in Dingwall
    - Continue on Cabot Trail to Cheticamp, stopping at lookouts and hiking trails
    - Night at L'Auberge Doucet Inn in Cheticamp
    - Explore Cheticamp...might backtrack on the Cabot Trail to Pleasant Bay for views from opposite direction and to spend a little time in Pleasant Bay; might explore in Margaree Valley area; stop at Joe's Scarecrows
    - Performance at Red Shoe Pub in Mabou at night
    - Night at Mabou River Inn
    - Start early and drive all the way to St. Andrews by the Sea, NB - not much stopping
    - Evening in St Andrews by the Sea
    - Night at Europa Inn in St Andrews by the Sea
    - Drive back to Boston. Gaining an hour due to time zone change. I'm hoping to make it back to Boston in time to explore a little (the goal is 3:00p). The plan is to park the car in a cheap lot I found nearby, check into the hotel (Sheraton in Back Bay - got for about $120 for the night through Priceline - very content with that). Start a walking tour of Boston beginning by walking next door to the Prudential Skywalk Observatory.
    - Walk down Boylston to Copley Square
    - Cross over to Newbury St and window shop on the way to the Public Garden
    - Walk through Public Garden, Boston Commons
    - Pick up the Freedom Trail at Park Street Station.
    - Walk the trail to the North End stopping along the way (based on whether places are open, time, interest) at Granary Burying Ground, Kings Chapel, the Old State House, Old North Church
    - Dinner in the North End
    - Pastries in the North End
    - Head back to hotel, admiring night skyline from the Rose Kennedy Greenway and Fan Pier.
    (Approximately 3.5 miles of walking)
    - Morning flight home

    I planned my days with the knowledge of tide times when important - Your tide times are probably not the same as mine, so you would possibly need to adjust depending on what you hope to see. I want to see Hopewell Rocks at low tide, beachcomb, explore sea caves, fossil cliffs, etc., so it was important to me.

    I posted an itinerary similar to the above already for feedback and much of the feedback was "too much driving." The above was after doing a little revising, but I think that for most it is probably still "too much driving."

    By the way, I didn't have any problems with getting a reservation at my first choice locations. I did do my planning a little over a month ago, but I suspect that the only areas you may have problems with room reservations would be on the Maine coast...and maybe over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend depending on where you are...and if you go then. Many places on Cape Breton close for the season sometime between mid-September and mid-October, so pay attention to whether they are seasonal and, if so, when they close.

    Good luck...and have a great time and report back!

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    Thanks mrkindallas. Coincidenatlly, I just printed out the post about your car trip and was looking at your route.
    My husband says he doesn't want to drive 1500-2000 miles and is willing to go with the cruise even if we don't get to see nearly as much of each port. I've been crunching various alternatives all day. Flying into Bangor instead of Boston would save us driving time but with the layover and limited flights, we'd actually have less time at our destination. There's steady stream of things to do on the way out but the backtracking is killing me. I also looked into taking the ferry from Yarmouth to Bar Harbor but by the time we drive from Halifax to Yarmouth and wait for the ferry, etc. it doesn't really save us any time either, we're limited in when the ferry leaves and it's expensive.

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    Yeah, the ferry option didn't make much sense for me either because it is quite expensive and you have to plan around the very limited departure times.

    I thought about doing just a one way drive and then flying from Halifax or Sydney back to Boston, but I couldn't find any car rental places that allowed a Boston to Halifax one way rental...and I'm sure that if I had, the cost would have been prohibitive.

    I'm not a big fan of cruises because I feel like I'm wasting time on public transportation, so the choice would be easy for me despite the driving...But at the same time, I wouldn't want someone along with me who didn't want to do it.

    I don't know if you have the ability to add a few extra days...If you do, then the backtracking doesn't have to be so horrible if you slow down coming back across the Northumberland Shore area of NS...and then coming through the New Brunswick river valley area...across inland Maine and Hew Hampshire.

    I don't think you can really go wrong in this area, so maybe instead you decide to just do the Boston to Hopewell Rocks section, up to the coast of New Brunswick, maybe Quebec City (not looking at driving distances) and come back around through the river valley, etc. Save Nova Scotia and PEI for another trip...And Quebec for yet another if it doesn't fit in. Actually, if you did this, you'd possibly want to reverse the route to do the inland portion first and then the coastal portion so that you don't end up doing the inland portion after the peak leaf color.

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    Well...The price on the cruise just dropped again for the inside cabins, which is fine we us. Everybody gets the same food and entertainment and goes to the same ports. Since I've already booked my flight home from Montreal with FF miles and it will cost me $175 to get them reinstated, it just doesn't make sense to pass up this cruise. We will be going to Bar Harbor,Saint John, Halifax, Sydney, La Baie (on the Saquenay River)and Quebec. Even a sampling of those places should make a great trip and who knows if prices will ever be this good again.

    I never thought I'd like cruises either. I was in the middle of buying a new office space last year and didn't know when we'd be moving so I couldn't make advanced plans for our usual April/May vacation last year but I kept my eyes out for a last minute trip. I found a good deal on an Alaskan Cruise out of Seattle and decided to go for it since we'd never been and a cruise is the best way to see the Inside Passage anyway. We then got a cheap deal on a 7 day cruise from Charleston to the Bahamas the second week of Dec so we took my youngest daughter and her best friend on that since she hadn't been on a vacation with us since our two older kids went to college.

    It was totally different than our typical travel style where we try to hit the trails before the typical tourists get out of bed and run full bore all day. We did our own excursions and were able to fit a lot more into the time we had in port than the ship excursions but you're still lucky to have 7-8 hours in port. We're not into shopping and don't care about eating out so we were able to concentrate on seeing the sights while we're in port. One word of caution, if you are touring on your own and miss the boat, you are up the creek! We were talking to a local in Ketchikan that said 10 or 12 people got back from a tour late and missed their ship the night before. That would not be fun.

    Although we didn't get to do our usual in-depth touring of an area, we had good excursions at every port and had plenty of activities to keep us busy on sea days. There's a lot to be said for not having to pack and unpack and check in and out of hotels. They had decent entertainment in the evening and we went dancing a couple of nights (which we haven't done in ages). We loved the flexibility of NCL's freestyle dining where you don't have assigned dining times and their casual dress code.

    In many ports, tour providers will come to the docks or there are activities within walking distance or have good public transportation. We rented cars in a couple of places and will do that for this cruise. Unfortunately, the ship docks in Saint John at 8 AM but the rental offices by the docks don't open until 10 on Sun. We should be able to make it to St Martins for low tide around noon and hopefully drive the nearby Fundy Trail Parkway but I was hoping we would be able to have more time to watch the tides change.

    Good luck with your trip. At least my decision is finally made. Now I can spend my time figuring out how to make the best of our time in each port!

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    I don't think you get to change the route of a cruise ship! but even if you did I wouldn't shy away from either Saint John or Sydney...

    We are not talking industrial waste-lands here. Saint John is a very popular cruise ship destination and they have imaginative and attractive trips for visitors to take. The area around St. John has some great parks and the tides are fascinating.

    Sydney is a cute small town that has seen better days but is trying very hard and once again is the window to a beautiful area.

    Cruise ships don't set up agendas that disappoint their paying guests. I have been to both those towns within the past year and ate, went sight-seeing and snapped pics very happily.

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    The port cities themselves are not great but there are nearby excursions of value.

    In Saint Johns we are renting a car and driving out to St Martins (<1 hour) to walk out to the caves at low tide and then onto nearby Bay of Fundy Parkway which is supposed to have a bunch of nice lookouts and short walks. Then if we have time we will see the Reversing Falls in Saint John on the way back. I'd love to go to Hopewell Rocks but it's a 2 hour drive and the rental car office doesn't open until 10 AM on Sunday.

    We've also got a car rental in Sydney but I haven't decided what to do yet. Where there form 9-6 so there's not enough time to drive the loop around Cape Breton. We could drive out to Ingonish but I hate to get too far out in case we run into traffic coming back. We could combine the Louisburg Fortress and the Miner's Museum. But we've been down in the mines near Beckley, WV and the Big Pit Miner's Museum in Wales so I'm not sure we need to do that again. Baddeck is another option.

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    Sounds as if you have Saint John figured out (and not to be pedantic but it is Saint John, New Brunswick-there is a city called St. John's in Newfoundland Labrador and many the surprized tourist has discovered when they ended up at the wrong airport!).

    For Cape Breton in October, when the leaves are at their best, any drive will do. That traffic thing won't be a problem either (I had a giggle over that one). If it is after our Thanksgiving (October 12th this year) then Fort Louisbourg won't be at full throttle...it will still be open. But I suspect your cruise-ship will have a number of options well-timed for you on offer.

    Have a wonderful trip to a beautiful part of my country!

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