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NB, Nova Scotia, and PEI

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My family and I are planning on taking a trip to NB, Nova Scotia, and PEI this summer. We'll be coming up from Boston, will go to Acadia NP, where we'll spend a day, and then we will have 10 days only to do the above provinces.

My question to anyone who can help is how many days, based on a 10-day itinerary, would you spend in each province, and what would the must-sees be in each province? Or would you cut one of the provinces out? We are from the west and will probably never have the opportunity to come back to this region, which is why we're willing to go at a fast pace and see as much as possible.

We are mostly interested in beautiful scenery (coastal scapes, lighthouses, etc.) with maybe some mild hikes, as one in the party is slightly handicapped.

We are all Anne of Green Gables fans, so PEI is a must, but the bare minimum amount of time there is okay, especially since I have heard that PEI isn't quite as beautiful as the other two provinces . . .

Any tips or advice would be GREATLY appreciated.

Thank you!

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    Hi juwels,

    I can't speak to New Brunswick as I've only ever been there briefly so I'll leave that to someone else. I tend to wax lyrical about Cape Breton and as far south as Lunenburg so my apologies if I come off like a broken record. BTW, is your 10-day timeframe circle route from Acadia NP?

    Assuming it is, I'd lay things out like this:

    Day 1: Arcadia NP-Summerside, PEI
    Days 2&3: PEI mania :)
    Day 4: Summerside to Baddeck, NS.
    Day 5: Baddeck-Ingonish on the Cabot Trail
    Day 6: Ingonish-Louisbourg (by way of the shore road through New Waterford, Glace Bay and Donkin or direct if you want more time in Louisbourg)
    Day 7: Louisbourg-Halifax
    Day 8: Halifax-Lunenburg (by way of Peggy's Cove and Mahone Bay)
    Day 9: Lunenburg-Digby (either direct or around the coast by way of Yarmouth)
    Day 10: Digby-Boston

    Looking at things in Google Maps, from Acadia National Park you have basically a day's drive to PEI (7 hours to Summerside not allowing for stops) which takes you through Moncton. Presuming you're going to want to spend 2 full days in PEI, that leaves you with a week to play with for NB & NS.

    Summerside to Baddeck, NS will run you a 5-hour drive and it's a nice small town to arrive early at (especially on a summer's day) and visit the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site. From there, you can do the Cabot Trail (1 day without stopping much, 2 better IMHO). I visited by myself and I'm a bit of a driving fiend so if you're like me, you could do clockwise Baddeck-Ingonish on day 1 and then Ingonish-Louisbourg on day 2.

    I highly recommend the Cabot Trail which in and of itself will give you as much seascape and varied scenery as I could imagine you'd find in the area. It's very Highlands-like especially on the northeast end (which makes sense because apparently Scotland broke off from what's now Cape Breton some time ago). You can go round trip from Baddeck in a comfortable day of driving (though there's much worth stopping for along the way). There's a GPS tour rentable out of the Inverary Inn I'd recommend which makes the tour that much more interesting.

    There're a number of possible hikes along the route and many roadside vistas to take in not to mention the Acadian (Cajun to the US cousins) flavour in the Cheticamp vicinity. If whale-watching is on the platter, that can be indulged either in Cape Breton or Digby Neck according to this Fodor's Forum thread:

    Lousibourg is a great visit if history is your bag (as it is mine) and is well worth the visit to acquaint yourself with the history of the area back to its French colonial days. Depending on your inclination, you might want to consider continuing on to Port Hawkesbury to give yourself more time in Halifax.

    Halifax is also well worth visiting for a number of reasons not least of which is its history. On the fort front, there's the famous Citadel and St. Paul's Church is also a worthwhile visit to see some of the effects of the Halifax Explosion of 1917. Halifax to Lunenburg I'd recommend along the coast road as the highway is (as highways are) practical, direct and not overly scenic. Peggy's Cove and Mahone Bay are both worth visits along the way and of course if the Blue Nose II is in port, that makes Lunenburg that much more appealing as a visit.

    From Lunenburg, you can either take the coast road around to Digby by way of Yarmouth (if you still haven't had enough seascape) or direct depending on where you want to do your whale watching.

    HTH and that others will chime in with things to do/see in New Brunswick and/or corrections/additions to my suggestions


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    Wow, that first response was plenty thorough, although Hopewell Cape was not mentioned, and that is a must given your path.

    Thankfully PEI is easy to get around, so with careful preparation and homework you can chart the must-sees for your Anne of Green Gables interests and cover them.

    I fully agree with those from far away making serious tracks in an attempt to see as much as possible of an area which isn't on the way to anywhere.

    From Acadia NP, it makes sense to take the scenic route through Calais and St. John before then, depending upon the timing, ducking down through Fundy NP and to/past Hopewell Cape enroute to Moncton and PEI.

    You can predict the tides years in advance, and you'll want daylight and a low tide for your first experience at Hopewell Cape. In a perfect world you'll have a way to kill 6 (or 18) hours to see the contrast from the same spot/area. If you can't talk yourself into returning, well, just take a photo of the ominous sign which reads: "Warning: You must be off of this beach by _____ o'clock to avoid being trapped by the incoming tide" to get the point.

    Bay of Fundy tide times link:


    Night 1 in/near Acadia NP

    Night 2 in/near Hopewell Cape/Moncton, NB

    Nights 3 & 4 someplace on PEI

    Nights 5 & 6 Baddeck area, NS

    Nights 7 & 8 Halifax area, NS

    Night 9 midway on the path back toward Boston???

    Be sure to allow for the chance of FOG on the Cabot Trail by affording yourself at least one extra day in the area. You do the circuit of the Cabot Trail on the first day offering clear weather, and then ad-lib if you must.

    Perhaps Hopewell Cape is the best spot to gain the most vivid impression of the tides in the Bay of Fundy but I would suggest keeping your eye out for other tide-related ventures you could undergo if convenient.

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    You said you are mostly interested in "beautiful scenery (coastal scapes, lighthouses, etc.) with maybe some mild hikes".

    So, based on multiple vacations in the area (only one of which, admittedly, included time in PEI) - and having similar interests (e.g. scenery being top of list), my suggestions:

    1) Cape Breton: The Cabot Trail, especially through Cape Breton Highlands National Park, is one of North America's top scenic drives. There are a variety of hikes in the park, see for details. "Mild" is a bit relative - popular ones include Skyline, Bog (very easy) and Middle Head but there are full details on the website. The Ceilidh Trail is also quite scenic especially if you explore some of the small coastal roads (get a good Atlas). And drives around the Bras D'or Lakes are also pleasant. Louisbourg is a "re-creation" of the original French Fortress with costumed actors, etc., that may or may not be of interest depending on your tastes.

    2) The South Shore/Lighthouse Route southwest of Halifax. Get off the highway and hug the shore as much as time permits. Historic towns, many lighthouses and quaint fishing villages, coastal vistas, quiet hidden gem beaches (cold water but great for photos, picnics, strolls).

    3) The New Brunswick Fundy Shore with dramatic views of the tides at Alma/Fundy National Park and Hopewell Rocks (best to plan enough time to see the contrast of low and high tide, but if not possible time your visit for low tide).

    The Advocate Harbour/Parrsoboro areas and Digby Neck/Brier Island are also very scenic, but I personally would prioritize the above 3 first and they together with a little time on PEI can easily keep you very busy for 10 days.

    When exactly are you visiting? People often warn of fog on Cape Breton, but we've been very lucky - all but one of our visits was in late summer and fog has only been an issue for us rarely, and only early morning or evening. On the other hand, as luck would have it, we have had occasional fog days when visiting the South Shore.

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    Wow. I cannot believe how incredibly helpful and thorough these responses are. I am so grateful to you all! I've never used Fodor's before and thought they would email me when someone posted something to my link. So, I haven't responded because I didn't realize anyone had posted anything.

    To answer your questions:

    UTour: Yes, the 10-day time frame begins departing from Acadia, so your assumption was correct and MOST helpful. We will have already spent some time in Acadia, which is not included in this 10-day time frame

    mat54: We will be coming in mid-August. Do you have any recommendations regarding fog this time of year?

    Northwest: Thank you for your recommendation of adding in Hopewell. I think that is a must as well.

    All: I will process all of this and I'm sure be back with more questions. Thanks again for all your help! Most appreciated.

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    Hi juwels. We were in Cape Breton in mid-late August last summer 2012 for 3 nights - no fog at all. We were there for 6 nights in late August 2010 - some fog a few mornings early that burned off. In a 2001 mid August visit I only remember fog one evening because we were driving through the Highlands section of the Park at dusk and almost hit a moose on the road in the fog. Same thing happened early one morning driving over Cape Smokey (caution!). I don't remember fog being a problem otherwise. I don't remember major Cape Breton fog issues from visits in the 90's either.

    We also spent 5 nights along the South Shore in August 2012 (Lockeport). Got fog several evenings and we had one drizzly slightly foggy day, but otherwise had sun and lovely weather. I remember similar weather on previous trips to the South Shore, e.g. maybe one day of fog and rain out of several, and fog some mornings and evenings, but most days were nice. We've had similar luck with our Fundy Shore visits although there the fog sometimes rolls in with those huge (and cold) tides. But I don't remember ever having a full day of it there either.

    Of course, weather is unpredictable and maybe we've been especially lucky, but I have the impression that late summer tends on average to be less foggy than earlier in the season.

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    Hi mat54. Thank you. That's encouraging. Hopefully we will be similarly lucky!

    A couple more questions for anybody feeling so inclined to answer. Instead of spending a night in Baddeck and a night in Ingonish, I think we'd like to stay in one place while doing Cape Breton. Would you suggest Baddeck or Ingonish as a base? Or perhaps another location?

    Also, UTour or anyone, would you suggest staying in Summerside over Charlottetown in PEI, and why? Would anyone have any good suggestions of quaint places to stay on PEI?

    Finally, would you suggest taking the ferry from Woods Island out of PEI or driving around to get to Baddeck?

    Thank you!

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    Never been to PEI so I couldn't give you any worthwhile advice.

    Dealing with your last question first, given all the driving you're doing I would think the ferry would be a really excellent way to not drive an additional four hours. As for Cape Breton, what're your post-Cape intentions? Would you get to St. John, NB by the Digby ferry or are you going to retrace your route around the Bay of Fundy? Personally, I'd go for the former just as another break from being behind the wheel with the added sea air bonus.

    As far as Cape Breton's concerned, I don't know that you'd be doing yourself a favour basing out of one place or another unless your plan is just to do a straight drive-around (which'd be a crying shame IMHO). You CAN do the Cabot Trail in about 6-7 hours without much stopping but I think you'd really be missing out on some wonderful side trips and stopping-off along the way. However, if you had to base out of one place I'd think Baddeck personally.

    Also, on the fog front in late September I only encountered one patch in the highest part of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park east of Pleasant Bay. Aside from that it was clear sailing all through. However, YMMV.


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    Yeah, I think Baddeck too, in part because you want something central-ish, so in the event your first day in the area doesn't come fit with weather suitable to the Cabot Trail, then you are well-spotted for another activity.

    Baddeck is convenient to the Cabot Trail, convenient enough to Sydney, and on a main Freeway in the event an early retreat back to the south is in the cards.

    (Ingonish, by contrast, 'commits' you much farther up there, requiring a longer drive to reach it on the way in, and affording fewer options if needing to do something else on a foggy day)

    Nova Scotia driving is not like the high-speed driving throughout much of the rest of the continent. Much of Nova Scotia's charm lies in its not being on the way to anywhere, thus the roads are not optimized for getting through it quickly.

    If one were on Cape Breton for two nights, there is the chance that the first day would be as clear as a bell, and that the most stunning visuals could be taken-in on that day, by people who could then, later, put the extra day to use elsewhere on the trip, in southern NS.

    For that reason Baddeck keeps options open more widely. Now sure, if one were honeymooning for several days, then Ingonish all the way, but this assumes they'd have plenty to occupy their time on foggy days.

    PS - the fog in the area can be much thicker than more typical fog... like when you can't even see the stripe on the road over the hood ornament... and you're looking out the side window while trying to drive (slowly and) parallel to the center line.

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    Thanks everyone for your help. So I think we'll pick Baddeck as a base just because we'll be on the move so much it would be nice not to have to constantly pack up all the time and also in case we run into fog. That said, we'd still like to take a day to drive to Ingonish from Baddeck and then take a day to do the rest.

    Google Maps says we can make the drive back to Baddeck from Ingonish in 1.5 hours. Does that sound right, or does it take longer because the driving isn't high-speed driving? Would this be different in the fog? Maybe we'll still just stay in Ingonish the second night if this would be a long sort of drive.

    UTour, we're now going to take the Digby ferry as well.

    I think that might be it for questions, for now.

    Thank you!!

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    Hi juwels,

    Just to clarify your itinerary. This is a Google Maps version of what I suggested in my initial post.

    If you do Baddeck-Ingonish direct, the drive would be about an hour-and-a-half; clockwise by way of Cheticamp and Pleasant Bay about double that as far as straight driving is concerned. Non-stop you can do the entire Trail in about 4 1/2 hours but that's far from the best way to enjoy it given the various hiking trails, scenic vistas, stop-offs like Cheticamp, etc. along the way. Also, after having driven around clockwise, I found the Ingonish-Baddeck section kind of anti-climatic in comparison; that's why I was suggesting Ingonish-Lousiburg as a day unto itself. I found Baddeck-Pleasant Bay-Ingonish an easy day driving and that wasn't factoring-in many of the potential stop-offs.


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    Hi UTour,

    Thank you SO much for the map. That is soo kind and helpful and definitely helps clarify things in my mind. So it looks like, unfortunately, our trip will be cut short one day. Would you shave off a night in PEI or in Lunenberg/Digby and do the Lighthouse Route in one day, just based off of the must-see status of these two places? Or, would you spend one instead of two nights in Alma? (Our trip got lengthened after my first query so we added in two nights in Alma . . . but now we must shorten it a day).

    Also, my cousin describes a fishing experience he had in the maritime corner of the world. Do you know of a good place for this sort of thing? Anywhere along the route you've suggested?:

    "I was pretty little when we went to the Maritimes, so I’m a little fuzzy. Unlike most deep sea fishing where you’re out trawling for larger fish, the captain of our relatively small boat took us out and anchored the boat. We lowered lines into the water from large spools of fishing line, and then held the line in our hands (i.e., no rods). When we’d feel a nibble, we’d jerk the line, and then pull the line up hand over hand using the huge spool. I’ve never caught so much fish in my life, and it was delicious. It was awesome. Everyone was reeling fish in that we ate just about as fast as we could get lines in the water. The bait was smashed up clams (which I had never seen, nor since). So anyways, that’s that."


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    Hi juwels,

    Sorry for the delay in replying. OTTOMH, I'd say lose the extra night in Alma; it just seems like the most straightforward approach given your stated preferences and that you're covering an awful lot of ground on this trip. As for the fishing, maybe NorthwestMale or mat54 can speak to that as that's (so to speak) out of my depth.


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    Juwels- we are planning a similar 1 week trip from Arcadia to Nova Scotia in October (minus PEI). Can you share your final itinerary, trip highlights and insights on anything you would have done differently (more or less time spent in a certain area?).

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