When it comes to scenic Canadian roadways, the Cabot Trail, Fundy Coastal Drive and Hwy 1 through Nova Scotia would probably make the Top 10 on most destination lists.
Winding along Canada’s stunning maritime coastline, these drives offer breathtaking scenery as they pass through charming communities with quaint museums, unique shops, great seafood dining and friendly locals.
A road trip through the Canadian Maritimes had always been on Evan and Denise Bedford’s bucket list and in September they had the chance to live the dream and experience the trip with their daughter Amy. Their 12-day journey began in Halifax and took them along a large portion of the Cabot Trail, through parts of the Fundy Coastal Drive, and through Nova Scotia to see famous sites such as Peggy’s Cove, Cape Rage, Fortress Louisbourg, Windsor and Lunenburg.
“Driving in the Maritimes is very similar to driving in Alberta,” explained Evan. “The highways are well manicured and it’s generally pretty easy to get where you want to go. There is so much to see that you could spend weeks exploring. Driving is definitely the best way to see the Canadian Maritimes.”
The three enjoyed many sites and scenic stops as they explored the region. Here are some of their favourites.
The Cabot Trail is considered by many to be Canada’s ultimate scenic drive — especially during the autumn months. Looping around Cape Breton Island, the 298-km trail passes through charming communities with breathtaking scenery, world-class hiking and gracious locals.
“Late September to early October is probably the best time to drive the Cabot Trail if you want to see fall colours,” said Denise. “Some friends of our recommended that we drive the trail in a counter-clockwise direction, so that we were always on the side of the road that is closest to the water. No matter what time of year you do this drive or which direction you go, it is wonderful.”
Amy enjoyed stopping at quirky and fun little shops in little towns they passed through during their driving trip. “The Red Barn on Cabot Trail was my favourite,” she said. “It was a giant craft store and I really enjoy doing crafts.”
Located on Capre Breton Island, Fortress Louisbourg is the largest reconstructed 18th century French-fortified town in North America. It uses interpreters to tell the story of what it was like to live in this part of the world in the 18th century.
“You can wander some of the streets and pretend that you have stepped back in time and are living 200 years ago,” said Evan. “The work they did to restore it is incredible. It’s really worth a stop for anyone who is visiting this part of Canada.”
The Confederation Bridge that links P.E.I. with New Brunswick is an engineering marvel that at 12.9 km is the longest bridge in the world over ice-covered waters. For Evan, who works on bridge construction and maintenance for Red Deer County, driving across the Confederation Bridge and visiting its visitors centre was a highlight of the journey.
“The Confederation Bridge is definitely one of Canada’s top engineering achievements of the 20th century,” he said.
“I think anyone would find the bridge fascinating, but since I have a background in this it was of particular interest.”
Founder’s Hall in Charlottetown, P.E.I., turned out to be a fascinating stop for Denise and Amy. Founder’s Hall celebrates the birthplace of Canada and tells the story of Canada from its inception in 1864 when delegates arrived in Charlottetown for the historic Charlottetown Conference.
Located on the waterfront of the city, the museum is interactive, detailed and entertaining.
“I really liked the museum and had a nice time exploring it with my mom,” said Amy. “After we visited the museum, we enjoyed a horse and carriage ride around Charlottetown.”
Home to Frances Xaviar University, the Nova Scotian town of Antigonish claims to be the Highland heart of Nova Scotia and was a highlight for the family.
“I love the place names of communities in the Maritimes,” said Denise. “Antigonish is a beautiful little town that is very walkable. There’s a beautiful little river running through it.”
Lunenburg is a beautiful waterfront town established in 1753 and located near Halifax. The town is filled with many architectural delights with houses, public buildings, and businesses that date to the late 1700s and early 1800s. Old Town Lunenburg has been federally designated as a place of national historical significance.
The Bedfords were impressed by the architecture as well as the people of Lunenburg.
“I enjoy photographing churches and cathedrals and I particularly enjoyed visiting St. John’s Anglican Church in Lunenburg,” said Evan. “In 2001, half of the church, which was originally built in the mid-1700s, burned down. The community came together to rebuild and restore the church and it is an impressive building today.”
One of the most popular stops in Atlantic Canada, Peggy’s Cove is a tiny fishing village that is so scenic that it is a photographer’s paradise.
“We were really impressed with Peggy’s Cove, despite the fact that it was pouring rain during our visit there,” said Denise. “It’s one of the places where we’d like to go back and spend more time.”
Shaped by the highest tides in world, the Hopewell Rocks have become the symbol for the Bay of Fundy.
At low tide, you can walk on the ocean floor and see the flower-shaped rock formations with names like Mother-in-Law and ET up close.
At high tide, you can paddle a kayak around the stone pillars or explore the onsite interpretive centre.
“The rock formations reminded me of the hoo doos,” said Evan. “I really enjoyed wandering around the ocean floor taking photographs of the rocks. It’s amazing to see the power of the world’s highest tides.”
If you go:
• If you want to see fall leaves, late September to early October is the ideal time to enjoy a road trip through Atlantic Canada. Regardless of when you choose to travel, the scenery is great.
• The Bedfords recommend driving the Cabot Trail counter-clockwise so that your vehicle is always on the side closest to the coastline — thus yielding better views.
• Bed and breakfast hotels are a great accommodation option in the Maritimes. The Bedfords particularly enjoyed a B&B called Telegraph House in Baddeck, N.S. More info: www.canadaselect.com/NovaScotia/CapeBretonTrails/TelegraphHouse.cfm.
Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story who we might interview, please email: DOGO@telusplanet.net or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, Alta., T4R 1M9.