Canadas Maritime provinces are the countrys smallest, but the staggering beauty of their picturesque landscapes is anything but insignificant. Bordering the Atlantic Ocean, this alluring region was once part of Acadia, the colony of New France in North America, where French immigrants built small settlements throughout what is today Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and le-Saint-Jean now known as Prince Edward Island or simply PEI.
Before the Europeans, Canadas first inhabitants were nomads from Asia who crossed the land bridge that once linked Siberia with Alaska. Then came Leif Eriksson and the Vikings, and in 1497 John Cabot sailed under a British flag as far west as Cape Breton. However, it was French explorer Jacques Cartier who first claimed the region for the King of France in 1534. After two centuries of struggles for dominance, France ceded nearly all its North American territories to Britain under the Treaty of Paris of 1763.
Our wonderful tour of the Maritimes explores these three stunning provinces, each with their own distinctive character and countless charms, which we enjoy at a relaxed pace with ample free time.
First, we discover Nova Scotia and its fascinating blend of British and French influences. Latin for New Scotland, its northern half was once attached to Scotland hundreds of millions of years ago. Despite its size, Nova Scotias landscape varies wildly, boasting an inspiring canvas of low mountains and forested valleys, to a diverse coast that ranges from the rugged extreme to sandy beaches. We follow the famously scenic Cabot Trail, which winds through the magnificent Cape Breton Highlands National Park, where the highland hills and verdant forests offer views and glimpses of wildlife you wont soon forget.
A short ferry ride takes us to New Brunswick, Canadas only bilingual province. Its southern coast hugs the Bay of Fundy, a feeding ground for minke, finback and humpback whales. We witness the worlds highest tides at Fundy National Park, where 160 billion tonnes of seawater flowin and out of the bay. The mesmerising tides are best explored at the Hopewell Rocks, where we walk around the famous flowerpot rocks at low tide before they disappear under water.
Last but certainly not least we visit Prince Edward Island, where the undulating scenery will remind you of home. This pastoral paradise is an intoxicating patchwork of rolling hills, flat farmlands, coastal villages, pink-sand beaches and red sandstone cliffs. Its this storybook setting that inspired local author Lucy Maud Montgomery to create one of the most beloved characters of the 20th century fans of her books will be delighted that we visit the Anne of Green Gables Museum.
As youd expect, Maritime Canada is famed for its fresh shellfish, lobsters and oysters, but theres so much more to the local cuisine, thanks to different cultural influences and the innovative use of indigenous ingredients. Traditional Acadian fare serves up the popular poutine rpe, a dumpling-style dish made with salted pork and potatoes topped with fruit preserves. On local menus its not uncommon to find ingredients such as wild blueberries, maple sugar, potatoes and fiddlehead ferns.
Then there are the friendly Canadians themselves, who are more than happy to share their beautiful country with you. Their warm-hearted humour and proclivity towards politeness will make you feel right at home.
ARRIVAL IN HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA
Arrive at the airport for your flight to Halifax in Nova Scotia. Upon arrival we transfer by coach to the three-star Cambridge Suites Hotel, where we stay for one night with breakfast.
HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA
Picturesque Halifax is a delightful combination of refreshing sea breezes, colourful heritage buildings and lush parks. Our tour this morning starts with a visit to the historic Citadel, an impressive fort perched atop a large hill. Its strategic location overlooking the harbour led the British military to establish Halifax here in 1749 and its distinctive star shape is so typical of 19th-century British forts.
Theres free time to explore the history of the fortress and the lives of the soldiers once stationed here. Between May and October, the citadel is brought to life through live re-enactments by two historic regiments of the British Army: the 78th Highlanders and the Royal Artillery.
Then we continue to Fairview Lawn Cemetery, the final resting place of 121 of the victims of the RMS Titanic. Look out for the grave of the Unknown Child, later identified as an English toddler whose family also perished in the sinking. Film buffs who spot the headstone of J Dawson might be reminded of Leonardo DiCaprios character in the film Titanic, but the grave actually belongs to an Irishman who worked on board the ship.
After a fascinating and moving morning, the rest of the day is at your leisure. Perhaps stroll along Halifaxs historic waterfront or take in a museum the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is an excellent introduction to Nova Scotias rich maritime history.
PEGGYS COVE & LUNENBURG, NOVA SCOTIA
After breakfast we depart Halifax and take the coastal road to picture-postcard Peggys Cove. Gracing a rolling granite outcrop is its famous red-and-white lighthouse one of the most photographed in Canada. Built in 1914, the concrete lighthouse retains the octagonal shape of its wooden predecessor.
We then drive to charming Lunenburg, where brightly painted buildings in red, green and blue line its ship-filled port. Founded in 1753, Lunenburg wasthe first British settlement outside of Halifax and a UNESCO World Heritage site, recognised for being one of the best-preserved planned settlements in the New World.
You have free time to wander the waterfront and the old town, whose historic highlights include the Knaut-Rhuland House, which features a New England Colonial exterior; and Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, a High Victorian Gothic jewel.
This afternoon we drive to the lush Annapolis Valley and call at Fort Anne, Canadas first administered National Historic Site. Located on the banks of the Annapolis River, Fort Anne is a vivid reminder of a time when Europes powers battled for supremacy in North America. It was built to protect the harbour of the nearby town of Annapolis Royal. Surrounded by a maze of defensive ditches and bastions, the 1797 officers quarters are now a museum where visitors can delve into centuries of Canadian history and learn about the Acadians.
Afterwards we transfer to the four-star Digby Pines Golf Resort, where our overnight stay includes breakfast.
FERRY CROSSING TO SAINT JOHN, NEW BRUNSWICK
After breakfast we take the ferry across the Bay of Fundy to Saint John in New Brunswick. Porpoises can sometimes be seen playing alongside the ferry during the crossing, which takes 2 hours and 45 minutes.
On arrival we witness a unique natural phenomenon at the Reversing Falls Rapids, created by the collision between the Bay of Fundy and the Saint John River. At the right moment, you can watch the bays astonishingly high tide reverse the flow of the mighty river, even as it pushes through a gorge formed by the collision of continents millions of years ago.
Later we check in to our hotel for two nights with breakfast, the four-star Hilton Saint John.
The rest of the afternoon is free for you to explore. Set deep in a natural harbour, the port city of Saint John is surrounded by an impressive ring of rocky bluffs, vertical cliffs and sleepy coves. Walk to the historic old town to see its 19th-century buildings, perhaps visit the New Brunswick Museum to see its entertaining exhibits on local geological, cultural and natural history, or head to the hilltop Carleton Martello Tower, a stone fort built during the War of 1812, for panoramic views over Saint John and the Bay of Fundy.
FREE DAY IN ST ANDREWS BY-THE-SEA, NEW BRUNSWICK
Today we drive to St Andrews by-the-Sea, a quintessential Canadian fishing town situated on a south-facing peninsula that extends into the Bay of Fundy. Blessed with an elegant beauty and superb climate, St Andrews as its simply known also has a colourful history. Founded in 1783 by Loyalists the Kings Loyal Americans who settled in British North America this designated National Historic District is one of the oldest and most distinctive in the Maritimes.
The day is yours to do as you wish, so what is it to be? Stroll along the broad, straight streets many of which have names associated with British royalty and browse the quaint shops and art galleries decorated with colourful flowers and flags. Admire the range of architecture, from simple salt box and Cape Cod houses to genteel Georgian townhouses and summer homes built in the American shingle style. Or take in the stunning views along the harbour, where fish and lumber were once shipped to Britain in exchange for rum, molasses and sailing vessels.
If youre visiting in the months of June to September, you may wish to experience a 2.5-hour whale-watching excursion in the Bay of Fundy. Please see the Personalise Your Holiday section for details.
FUNDY NATIONAL PARK, NEW BRUNSWICK & CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI
This morning we drive to Fundy National Park, New Brunswicks awe-inspiring coastal wonderland featuring the worlds highest tides. The leafy Acadian Forest here is home to a multitude of flora and fauna, including the snowshoe hare, pileated woodpecker and rare birds-eye primrose. We stop at the Hopewell Rocks, where time and tide have carved distinctive sandstone formations in the red cliffs. Twice a day you can see the highest tides, and at low tide you can wander the ocean floor for small marine life.
After a fascinating morning discovering Canadas rich natural heritage, we travel eastwards and cross the impressive 8-mile long Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island (PEI). Pastoral and reminiscent of England, PEI is renowned for its beautiful landscapes. Meandering coastal roads present an ever-changing panorama of sea, sand and sky. Wherever you look, emerald farmlands, red-clay roads and the sapphire sea seem to merge in endless awe-inspiring patterns.
We arrive in Charlottetown, where we stay for two nights with breakfast at the four-star Delta Hotels by Marriott Prince Edward.
GREEN GABLES & CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI
The smallest of Canadas provincial capitals, elegant Charlottetown is as pretty as a picture. But first we follow in the footsteps of Prince Edward Islands most celebrated author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, on a visit to the Anne of Green Gables Museum at Silver Bush. Set on the 110-acre property is the museum with beautiful flower gardens and a view of the Lake of Shining Waters, as well as some of the islands loveliest scenery.
After our visit we return to Charlottetown, where were introduced to the town on a brief tour before the rest of the day at your leisure. The town is best-known for hosting the 1864 conference that led to the foundation of modern-day Canada. Step back in time as you discover the old-world charm of the downtown area, which has stayed true to its roots with well-preserved Victorian buildings from its 19th-century prime. Look out for the impressive neo-Gothic cathedral, inviting shops and heritage houses, such as the Beaconsfield Historic House that boasts a grand veranda and crowning belvedere. The leafy Victoria Park offers 40 acres of beautiful green space to relax in along the waterfront.
Charlottetown has a burgeoning food scene, so there are plenty of dining choices available. For dessert, why not try COWS creamery? The mouthwatering ice-cream produced here is arguably Prince Edward Islands most popular edible export.
CAPE BRETON ISLAND
This morning we drive to Wood Islands to take the ferry to Pictou in Nova Scotia. Our return to Nova Scotia sees us exploring a different side: the ruggedly breathtaking Cape Breton Island. On our way we pass by Antigonish, a cosy university town with a strong Scottish heritage. Interestingly, its home to the oldest continuous Highland games outside of Scotland, held annually since 1863.
We cross the 4,544-foot Canso Causeway that connects Cape Breton Island to the Nova Scotia peninsula and stop in Baddeck, where we visit the superb Alexander Graham Bell Museum. The Scottish inventor serendipitously discovered Bras dOr Lake while on holiday and fell in love with the beautiful landscape, which reminded him of his birthplace, Edinburgh. Set on the shores of this shimmering lake, the museum displays artefacts from his years of experimental work in Baddeck, from full-scale replicas of the pioneering Silver Dart aircraft to electrical devices, medical inventions and, of course, telephones.
After our visit, we check in to the four-star Inverary Resort, where our two-night stay includes breakfast.
CABOT TRAIL & CAPE BRETON NATIONAL PARK
Have your camera ready today as we experience the world-renowned Cabot Trail, a wonderfully scenic road that loops and snakes for 185 miles around the northwest of Cape Breton Island. During this unforgettable drive, we journey through the spectacular Cape Breton Highlands National Park, where thickly forested river canyons have been carved over time into an ancient plateau edged by rust-red cliffs. This dramatic highland haven is home to a unique blend of Acadian, Boreal and Taiga plants and animals. Keep your eyes open for moose, bald eagles and, if youre lucky, a whale. We also travel through quaint fishing villages nestled in idyllic coves and pause at lookout points to admire the breathtaking views of coastal cliffs, glorious beaches and the sparkling Atlantic Ocean.
After a fabulous day soaking up the extraordinary views, we return to Baddeck with the rest of the day free. Perhaps stroll along the lovely promenade into town, where you can see the traditional county courthouse and the graceful faade of St Michaels church. Why not catch dinner and a show at the modest Theatre Baddeck?
After a leisurely morning, we transfer to Halifax airport for our flight home.
We arrive back in the UK.
The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a room. Single rooms are subject to availability, at the relevant supplement. The price includes: