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10 Day Trip to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick

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We are planning a 10 day trip of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, flying in and out of Bangor, Maine in early October and could use some advice. We are traveling without kids and our main interest is in scenery, hiking, quaint towns, leisurely drives, wildlife. We will try to work in museums/history, local music, and a bit of city (presumably Halifax), but those goals are secondary. Our favorite scenery are cliffs, rocks, waterfalls, crashing waves, fall foliage, and winding roads. For hiking we prefer multiple short hikes (e.g., 0.5 to 2 miles each) over lengthy day hikes, but for the right scenery we’ll do longer hikes of up to 5 miles or so.

Definite plans so far include Fundy tides, Cabot Trail, and getting at least as far as Lunenburg/Mahone Bay area. Beyond that, we are flexible depending on time. Here is our tentative itinerary:

Day 1 – Fly into Bangor (arrive around 1:00 eastern time), head straight for NB and try to end up close to Fundy National Park (e.g., Alma, if we can get there in daylight).

Day 2 (and maybe 3?) – Fundy National Park, Hopewell Rocks, and that general area.

Next few days – Cape Breton, especially Cabot Trail and nearby areas.

Next few days – Head from Cape Breton, through Halifax, to Lunenburg/Mahone Bay area. Depending on time, possible routes back to Bangor we are considering are (1) inland route back across Amherst-Sackville crossing; (2) inland route to Digby + ferry back to NB; (3) long southwest coastal route through Yarmouth to Digby + ferry back to NB; or (4) even longer coastal route around southwest coast, through Digby, Wolfville, Truro, and back across Amherst-Sackville crossing (we know this last alternative is very optimistic!).

With that in mind, a few questions:

1. For day 1, should we head straight to FNP area, or is there anything worth the time investment along the way? (E.g., St. Andrews, Grand Manan, St. Martin/Fundy Trail Parkway?)

2. Best way to see Fundy tides in the FNP/Hopewell area? We know seeing low tide is a must, and we hope to see both low and high tides. Any suggestions? E.g., Would it make sense to catch one tide (low or high) at FNP and then the other tide (high or low) at Hopewell? Or is it worth trying to catch both low and high at a single location, so as to best appreciate the contrast? If so, which single location would you recommend?

3. For Cape Breton – since we like coastal scenery, our current thought is to follow the west coast of Cape Breton (Route 19, I think) after crossing the causeway, stay over in Cheticamp, do the Cabot Trail clockwise through Ingonish and St Ann area, perhaps staying the night in between (Cape North area, or really anywhere it makes sense in light of hiking and daylight). If we do that general route, and leave Cape Breton via either the west or east side of Bras d’Or lake (route 105 or 4, I think), we’d miss the inland part of the Cabot Trail between Baddeck and Margaree Harbour. Would that be a mistake? If so, is there a better 3-4 day route you’d recommend? Any preferences for heading south on the west side of Bras d’Or lake (route 105) vs. the east side (route 4)?

4. Big decision for us is Fortress of Louisbourg. We like history but aren’t really history buffs, so we’re wrestling with this one. It sounds interesting (and scenic as well?), but if we skip the Fortress (and also skip Sydney), it’ll leave a lot more time for the latter portion of the trip (Lunenburg and the southwest coast). Any suggestions re that trade off?

5. Any particular roads you’d recommend, given our preference for scenic roads, especially coastal? E.g., When we first head into NS from NB, take Route 6 along Cumberland Strait, or the Amherst-Parrsboro-Truro route that one commenter on another post recommended, or take what looks like the shortest route (Amherst-Truro-to points east via route 104)? And after leaving Cape Breton, we’re inclined to head to Halifax via Route 7 along the coast; but one commenter or another post suggested that route isn’t all that nice. Other opinions about that?

6. Particular hikes you’d recommend along Cabot Trail (we hear great things about Skyline; anything else?) or in Fundy Nat’l Park?

7. Thoughts on where/how to spend a day (or half day) in Halifax?

8. Thoughts on the four alternative routes from Lunenburg back to NB and Bangor that I’ve noted in my rough-draft itinerary above? Obviously very much time-dependent, but if you’d put any of those alternative routes in the “definitely try to do” or “waste of time” categories, that would be helpful for us to know.

I know we have a lot of questions. Thanks for any thoughts or advice.

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