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NS and PEI with kids - please help with the road map

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Hello dear travelers -

My husband and I, with our 3 boys - ages 8, 5 and 3, are planning a trip to NS and PEI in mid- August. We plan for the trip, including the travel to and from (we live in NJ) to take 8-10 days. I've been spending some time reading suggestions and ideas previously posted on this forum in hopes of putting together a nice itinerary for us. However, I can't seem to figure out what would be the best way to start.

We plan to drive up to Portland, ME and take the ferry over to Yarmouth. From here, I'm not sure how to plan out the itinerary, considering that the bridge to PEI is all the way up by Amherst. What I"m thinking is to explore the South Shore first (including Halifax), then drive up to Amherst and over to PEI, then explore Bay of Fundy on our way back to Yarmouth. Am I at all on the right track? I know that in doing so, we would be omitting Cape Breton but not sure we have enough time to include it in as well.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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    Yes, you are on the right "track". However, you will have to drive past Amherst to New Brunswick if you want to drive to PEI on Confederation Bridge which takes about 10 minutes. There is a toll fee when leaving PEI which is approximately $45.00CAD.

    Let Fodor's know if you want more detailed information.

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    I, uh, am not extremely fond of the track that you are on.

    While I can appreciate the allure of taking a ferry, this is a case in which you are consenting to let that ferry place you on the relative far side of the moon upon your arrival in NS.

    You should at least drive up and around on one segment of your trip (meaning 'coming', or 'going' ).

    If you consider the ferry time, the mileage, and the drive to the northeast (either from Portland to Moncton, OR from Yarmouth to Truro, lets say)... you probably aren't gaining a whole lot by taking what you sense to be a more direct way to reach NS.

    From New Jersey, having 8 to 10 days for the trip affords plenty of time to drive both ways and give you and your family a good sense of what NS is all about.

    Because Nova Scotia is not on the way to anywhere, it means you should probably give it your all this one time, as it doesn't seem you and the troops will be going back there soon.

    So were it me, I would just drive on the way up there, for sure...

    Between Bangor and Moncton, it doesn't matter too much which path you take... the freeway path through Houlton makes for a fairly routine drive, and the southern route through Calais is another option.

    A third idea, which I'd never even pondered before, is the path from Lincoln, ME through McAdam, NB, which my map assures is a scenic route.

    The time/miles differences between various routes from Bangor to Moncton are minimal (30 minutes, 45 miles).

    If on the path through Saint John, NB... definitely detour off of hwy #1 toward Fundy National Park. If you're lucky (or time it right) you'll come around a bend, and reach the bay shore, at Alma, NB when the tide is waaaaaaaaaay out, and ocean-going vessels are tied to docks while sitting on the sandy beach down below.

    That should give the kids quite a 'jolt' of strange reality.

    Perhaps you'll stop there to go waaaaaaaaaay out in the sand, to the edge of the water, while being particularly mindful of the TIDE SCHEDULE

    Soon you pile back into the car, and drive on toward Hopewell Cape, NB. You pay some fee to go down on the beach at LOW TIDE... where you can walk waaaaaaaay out in the sand, while meandering among these giant Flower Pots which help to make it very clear just how impressive the Fundy tides really are.

    I'm thinking some of it will fascinate kids.

    So then... depending upon your choices with regard to whether you'll come back on the ferry, or whether you'll drive back... you'd probably want to make your trip to PEI.

    I don't especially know much about PEI's appeal to kids. It's a long, flat-ish island with gentle rolling hills, and minimally-disturbed countryside, with towns that are not overrun by society... but I still just don't know....

    For plotting your trip in the way I've suggested, now you're suddenly at a point where you can give Cape Breton its due. Amherst to Truro to Antigonish, and perhaps to stay in Baddeck. (maybe stop and visit Pictou en route - or even take the FERRY to Pictou in exiting PEI).

    Let me backtrack and set this up more logically:

    I dunno where you are in NJ, but I'm gonna use Levittown, PA as a starting point, just to be "fair" in terms of mileage, and in allowing for your not likely living at the very Northeastern-most point in NJ.

    So perhaps, then, night #1 in Augusta, Maine ??

    Night #2 in Saint John or Fredericton, NB ???

    Night #3 in/near Moncton, NB or Charlottetown, PEI ??

    Nights #4 & #5 in Baddeck, NS (circuit of the Cabot Trail in between)

    Nights #6 & #7 in/near Halifax.

    IF taking the ferry back to Maine then Night #8 in/near Yarmouth, NS

    Otherwise, maybe night #8 in/near Fredericton, NB.

    And then you could randomly select night #9 depending upon your progress in returning home.

    I have to admit that I'm not up on the specific stuff to do, for kids, in most of the areas. IF there are things suggested by others, on Cape Breton, or on PEI, then you might adjust for those.

    My Cape Breton vision had you doing the Cabot Trail on the middle day... and IF there were particular attractions of interest to the kids, say, near Sydney, you could do those the next day before heading off to Halifax (Sydney to Halifax is 250 miles / 4 1/2 hours).

    Indeed I wish that I could feel comfortable with regard to what will no doubt be so much time in the car. I can't even fathom the restlessness with which you'll have to cope when toting 3 boys on such a long trip. (I'm sure a lot of it is part of your life now, so you are more talented at filling that time than I could be)

    I suppose you combat some of it by doing your homework/research and discovering the truly fun activities for kids, and then making those a definite part of your trip wherever they are. (I wonder if people take 3-year-old kids white water river rafting up stream) (which is something you can do, near to the town of Truro).

    Speaking of homework... as you probably already know the full window of your time in the area, I think you should print right now the tide tables for 3 or 4 various spots in the Bay of Fundy for the ENTIRE window of your time in the area!

    Have that in the glove box, for easy reference as you go along.

    Be sure to print the tides for Hopewell Cape, and Truro among anything you print. for all of your window of time in the area.

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    I think you are on the right track. You do not have time to do mainland NS, Cape Breton and PEI ... at least not with 3 kids. So, I think the route you have chosen will give you some of the best with out the kids going crazy in the car. I would probably break it up with 2 days on the South Shore, 1 day in Halifax, 3 days in PEI, 2 days on the Bay of Fundy.

    Although there are some very interesting things to see and do around Yarmouth, I'd probably drive at least as far as Shelburne before slowing down and stopping. Carter's Beach or Kejimkujik Adjunct would be two options for great walks/beaches to visit on your way up the coast. Shelburne and Liverpool would both make great stops for lunch or a walk.

    I'd suggest spending your first two nights in Lunenburg or Mahone Bay. On your full day, you could visit the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic (my kids 3 & 1 LOVE it!), Ross Farm Museum, Sand Dollar Beach (perfect warm shallow water & only small waves for little kids - just don't go at high tide), take a carriage ride through Lunenburg after dinner one night, walk through Mahone Bay for some great shopping and lots of ice cream stops for the kids, if you want to get out on the water try South Shore Boat Tours or even better, take the Tancook Ferry from Chester to Tancook Island and spend half a day wandering the small inhabited island.

    Spend your next night in Halifax. Exploring the Citadel would give the kids a chance to run and play and let their imaginations go wild. A walk along the waterfront is great too. You could take a boat trip out to McNab's Island or just do one of the many great harbour tours (the kids might love a fun harbour tour on Theodore Tugboat).

    Although there are plenty of great things to see on your way to PEI, I'd probably head straight there the next day (on longer drives with my kids, I like to try and get the driving out of the way in the morning while they are in a mood to be patient). With kids, you will probably want to stay in or near Cavendish. There are PLENTY of kid-friendly options for places to stay and things to do while you are there. The island is small so you can do a drive from Cavendish area to almost anywhere else on the island in about an hour or a little more.

    After your time in PEI, I would again head straight back to Nova Scotia (not that there aren't great things to see, just trying to get the best out of the kids). Maybe go as far as Windsor before you slow down. You might want to break up your nights here and spend the first in Wolfville and the second in Annapolis Royal or Digby area. The kids might love a stop at Tangled Garden in New Minas (it's a shop but the gardens behind it are fun to explore), you can get onto the mud flats when the tide is out (that extreme tide the previous poster was talking about) at Blomidan Provincial Park, Grand Pre would be a great history lesson with space for kids to play, Oaklawn Farm Zoo is good if you need a kid focused activity, I've always loved the forts at Annapolis Royal and Port Royal. You could go whale watching off Brier Island.

    I hope this help give you a good kick-start on planning your trip.

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    Great ideas, chrrentzell. If family stops in Windsor, the Super 8 Motel has a swimming pool which the children will like. Also in Grand Pre the Evangeline Motel also has a swimming pool and a great diner! You can't depend on the tides for swimming in those areas--but lots fun walking on the mud flats.

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    The ferry still makes zero sense for these people.

    It's a 10-hour ferry ride where you can see very little (because of darkness) and you could drive around to the other side in 12 hours of driving time!

    NOT to mention that somebody getting the bread and butter of all the Maritimes have to offer doesn't want or need to be anywhere near to Yarmouth.

    The savings on ferry fare offsets the cost of gas, PLUS they can stop, oh, I dunno, THREE HUNDRED MILES shy of the pointless destination that is Yarmouth... and instead be at the Confederation bridge.

    This equation shouldn't be that difficult:

    Beginning in Portland, Maine, you can either take 10 hours and be at Yarmouth to start it all off, OR you can take 7 hours and drive to Amherst. Now this would be great if there were, say, relatives in Yarmouth, but it makes no sense otherwise...

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    I did not look at the ferry schedule from Portland. Travelling with three small children might be a consideration as the ferry leaves at 9 PM from Portland. This article in the Chronicle Herald caught my interest this morning as it states electrical outlets in cabins are European-style receptacles.

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    We planned a Bay of Fundy (NB side), PEI, and Nova Scotia trip when our kids were 7 and 4 (in 2010). They loved it! We drove from Cambridge MA (there wasn't a Portland ferry at that point). We stopped in Bar Harbor ME then next day got to Saint John. Then next day 2 hrs Fundy National Park (NB) where we stayed in the park at the little chalets. The park was spectacular, and we all enjoyed nearby Hopewell Rocks before heading on to PEI. We planned to stay there 2 nights then head on to NS but an approaching hurricane (which was to make landfall in Southern NS the day we'd scheduled return by ferry from Digby to Saint John) made us change plans and stay 4 nights in PEI then head back home. We camped at a place on north shore near the beach, did Anne of Green Gables house and some lovely walking and hiking and picking wild raspberries. Lobster dinner by the campfire. Fabulous trip. Lots of driving though!
    Next week we are finally going back to do the Nova Scotia portion of the trip. Kids are 11 and 8 now. We're taking the ferry from Portland to Yarmouth and have planned the following route:
    Day 1 - Yarmouth to Pictou, stay in cottage there (Pictou Lodge/Beach Resort)
    Day 2 - Pictou to Cape Breton, drive up west side of island (Celidh trail) to the National Park, stay at Cheticamp campground in park
    Day 3 - part of Cabot Trail and some hiking, stay at Broadcove Campground also in ntl park (stay 2 nights)
    Day 4 - rest of Cabot trail, wander around Baddeck and the lake, or go to Fortress Louisburg
    Day 5 - drive to Halifax, stay there (Lord Nelson hotel)
    Day 6 - wander around south coast, stay in Lunenburg at Atlantic Coast Cottages
    Day 7 - continue along a coast to Yarmouth (haven't booked a place yet)
    Day 8 - take ferry back across to Portland
    One thing we've found in traveling with kids is the little cottages that have grass right outside/places to run around are super after a lot of driving.
    I think if we hadn't already done PEI and Bay of Fundy we would have planned our trip so we drove and did Bay of Fundy NB, then PEI and then NS, taking ferry back after doing NS. Or the reverse.
    Very excited about our trip, and good luck w yours!

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    Starlight'... your effort here is why people come back to Fodors Forums.

    You are offering perspective which the rest of us can't (yet) offer. Your having previously done the high road (with kids) (and met with success in so doing) is priceless info to have.

    And of course it makes sense that, for having previously covered the other ground, you are giving the ferry route a go.

    Quite interesting, too, that you are getting back to Nova Scotia, as prime concerns for some are the unlikely prospects of returning for it not being on the way to anywhere (else).

    I still think that someone driving into NS (for the first time???) looking for "... the best way to start" would be on the better path if driving right to the heart of the area and a spot more central to her interests.

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    We're back from our trip (itinerary above) and here are some comments.
    Our favorite part was Cape Breton for its rugged beauty, hiking, and fiddle music. Will definitely go back.
    Ferry on the way over was excellent, had drinks in the bar then slept in a cabin, saw porpoises out the porthole in the morning when woke up.
    Ferry on the way back was looooong and i would not do it again. You're on from 8:30am until 7:30pm--that's a long time for anyone, especially kids. If you want to sit in a comfortable chair (other than the low back bar, cafe and restaurant chairs on deck 7) you have to pay $30 for EACH high back chair on deck 9. The kind of chairs you'd get for free on a regular ferry. I was really annoyed about having to pay $120 on top of the tickets etc. Overall our cost for taking the ferry both ways (and we got 20% discount for booking early) was just over $1000. If I had it to do again I'd take the ferry over, and then drive back via PEI and Bay of Fundy. My husband agrees.
    We saw so much in a week, but it was too much driving for our kids. They were good about it but there was some complaining for sure. Now we know where we'd like to return (Cape Breton Island!). Halifax and points south were beautiful too but it looks alot like Maine and not so different from New England where we live.
    Safe travels.

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    One more thing, if you are still going up to PEI, there's a super place to stay in Pictou called Pictou Beach Resort & Lodge that our kids loved. Little cabins, big beautiful main lodge, restaurant, paddle boards and kayaks and canoes (free), swimming pool, games. You can sit on adirondack chairs in front of your cottage and watch the kids play in the water.

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