Atlantic Canada has icebergs, whales, puffins, and the world’s highest tides. What more do you need to get your adrenaline pumping?
Hunt an iceberg or hang out with a puffin? Go tidal bore rafting or hike to a shipwreck site? Luckily, you can do all of the above in Atlantic Canada thanks to its variety of unique and unforgettable outdoor adventures. Weather forecasts can be full of fog, wind, and maybe even rain, but don’t let those things keep you indoors. Here are 10 outdoor adventures to kick-start visits to Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.
The Bay of Fundy Tides
The Bay of Fundy is home to the world’s highest tides and the iconic Hopewell Rocks. Make a day of it and stay for both high and low tide or, better yet, make two days of it because every entrance fee is good for two consecutive days. Tide tables are posted online. The government-run natural attraction has an interpretive center (with a restaurant, but picnics are encouraged) and a forest walk or quick shuttle to the giant staircase to the beach and its famous “flowerpot rocks.” You can walk the ocean floor before and after low tide but will be shooed off the beach and up to the observation deck before high tide.
Deep-Sea Fishing in Prince Edward Island
You don’t need to know how to fish or even want to eat your catch to enjoy kicking back for a few hours on the water with a fishing adventure. Deep-sea fishing charters around Prince Edward Island might involve sharks, Bluefin tuna, cod, or mackerel. Depending on the fish, season, and rules, the captain might fillet it for you to eat later, you might catch-and-release your fish, or the fish (if it’s a giant tuna that takes several hours to reel in) might belong to the boat and captain under a strict quota system. Lobster tours are a popular alternative if you want to see how lobster, mussels, and oysters are harvested, and later have a shellfish feast.
INSIDER TIPTrips to hand-feed or even swim with schools of Bluefin tuna are possible at select times of the year.
Iceberg Hunting in Newfoundland
As Canada’s youngest province, Newfoundland is fast becoming a global hotspot for iceberg tourism thanks to the large number that find their way here after breaking off glaciers in Greenland. People set out in search of these 10,000-year-old natural wonders with boat tours, from land, and even by kayak. May and June are prime times to go, but the weather-dependent season can stretch from April through August. You’re likely to see plenty of seabirds and whales on your journey, too. Just keep in mind that the whole “tip of the iceberg” saying is true—about 90 percent of icebergs are underwater—and icebergs randomly break and roll so keep your distance. Iceberg Alley stretches from Labrador to Newfoundland’s northern and eastern coasts. Iceberg Finder and Newfoundland Iceberg Reports are great resources for planning your iceberg expedition.
Puffin Spotting in Newfoundland
There’s a reason the Atlantic puffin was named the provincial bird of Newfoundland—something like 95 percent of North America’s puffins breed here every spring after wintering at sea. If you’ve only ever pictured puffins standing on land, you’ll be charmed by the way these striped-beak beauties fly like mini torpedoes just above the water. The Witless Bay Ecological Reserve is puffin central, and multiple operators have boat trips to visit. The Elliston Puffin Viewing Site offers views from land. On Fogo Island, Ketanja Boat Tours takes people by rocky outcrops where puffins breed.
INSIDER TIPFor a few weeks every August, the volunteer Puffin & Petrel Patrol rescues baby pufflings that have been drawn to the shore around Witless Bay at night by light pollution and returns them to the ocean.
When Atlantic salmon return to the rivers of Fundy National Park in early fall, Parks Canada offers several ways to experience these creatures up-close. These are very rare chances to don a dry suit, waterproof socks and gloves, wading shoes, and a lifejacket and snorkel in the cool, clear water observing (not touching) these beautiful and endangered fish. More importantly, this is an educational experience led by park biologists and interpreters, as well as indigenous experts, so you’ll learn about the life-cycle of the salmon, the challenges of the fishing industry, and the future of both.
Sandcastle Making in Prince Edward Island
If you’ve always wondered why your childhood sandcastles were lame, it’s either because nobody ever taught you how to make them or you didn’t devote several hours to the task. Maurice Bernard, an artist and sand sculptor, has carved out a niche for himself teaching people how to build elaborate sandcastles, publicly through Parks Canada and privately through Experience PEI. Without giving away all his secrets, there are buckets of seawater, special (but affordable) tools, and assistants involved. If you feel you’ve really mastered the art after one class, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia all have sandcastle competitions and festivals every summer.
Sea Kayaking in Nova Scotia
Paddling a kayak through rough ocean waves can be a challenge, so getting to experience the sea from relatively sheltered waters is a treat. This is the case near Peggy’s Cove, a coastal region about an hour from Halifax where you can poke around fishing villages, islands, inlets, and beaches in a single or double kayak with operators like East Coast Outfitters. You might get lucky and spot whales, seals, eagles, and even tuna. Lobster feasts can be arranged, and so can kayak/hike combos. Save time to explore the fishing village of Peggy’s Cove and its iconic Peggy’s Point Lighthouse.
During World War II, three American naval ships were shipwrecked in a winter storm and miners from the nearby Newfoundland towns of St. Lawrence and Lawn rushed to the scene to rescue 186 oil-covered sailors. The USS Truxton and USS Pollux sank, killing 203 men, while the USS Wilkes eventually sailed away without any fatalities. Laurentian Legacy Tours takes people to Chamber Cove and the Bergeron Trail to see where the Truxton sank and to bring the disaster and rescue story to life. Pair the seaside hike with a guided tour of the St. Lawrence Miner’s Memorial Museum, which polishes fluorspar from the local mine and turns it into jewelry.
Whale-Watching in New Brunswick
The Bay of Fundy’s embarrassment of riches includes giant tides, charming seaside towns, and a multitude of whales. Humpbacks, minkes, and finbacks are all here, along with the occasional endangered North Atlantic right whale, plus porpoises, seals, and seabirds. The hardest decision is picking a boat. Large tour boats have creature comforts like warm and dry cabins, bathrooms, and snacks. High-speed Zodiac tours are more adventurous, but you’ll wear flotation suits and have a bumpier ride. All trips discuss education and conservation, and a few have whale guarantees. Fundy Tide Runners is one of many operators.