Barely a six-hour flight from the UK, Gillian Thornton gets away from it all by touring the coastal landscapes of north-east Canada
Twice a day in the heart of Maritime Canada, some giant invisible hand pulls the plug on the Bay of Fundy, a liquid cul-de-sac some 45 miles across. Home to the world’s highest-recorded tides, this funnel-shaped bay offers spectacular rock formations, pretty fishing communities, and outdoor activities aplenty.
So I don’t miss the chance to stand on the seabed at Hopewell Rocks off the north shore, where I’m dwarfed by towering pillars in ‘flowerpot’ shapes and topped with vegetation. At high tide, the water will rise more than 35ft but I’m perfectly safe for now.
The effect of the sea is ever-present in Maritime Canada, a label that links the three provinces of New Brunswick in the north, Prince Edward Island (or PEI) to the east and Nova Scotia to the south. The first Europeans from France, England and Scotland settled here, and it’s a stunning destination for a touring holiday, with quiet roads and scenery that changes round every bend.
Plan a circular driving tour or explore a smaller area in depth, independently or through a specialist tour operator. Spring and summer are best for water sports and whale watching, while late September to mid-October brings autumn colours and a pumpkin on every porch.
Vines of Nova Scotia
Air travellers arrive in Halifax on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia (novascotia.com) in less than six hours from London or Glasgow. This historic city boasts one of the world’s deepest natural harbours and is popular with cruise ships. Pick up a hire car and head through Nova Scotia’s rural interior or take the 30-minute scheduled flight to Charlottetown, capital of PEI (tourismpei.com).
North of Halifax, the gentle slopes of the Annapolis and Gaspereau Valleys produce Nova Scotia’s quality wines. Stop off in the buzzing small town of Wolfville on the Fundy shore; visit Burntcoat Head, the official location for those world-beating tides; and, if you fancy a thrill or two, maybe ride the rapids created by the daily tidal bore.
A ferry from Pictou reaches the seaside island of PEI in just over an hour. Don’t miss historic Charlottetown, birthplace of modern Canada, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year.
Discover the story at the Confederation Centre of the Arts and take a walking tour with a costumed guide.
Painted clapboard houses, small farms and lighthouses dot the PEI landscape, a haven for cycling, kayaking or just chilling out at seaside hotels like Dalvay by the Sea.
The island also inspired local author LM Montgomery to write Anne Of Green Gables in the early 1900s and I was able to step inside her books at the heritage properties associated with her.
From PEI, my circular tour took me back across the Northumberland Strait, but this time on the magnificent 13km sweep of Confederation Bridge, the world’s longest bridge over ice.
Arriving in this eastern corner of New Brunswick, I joined the irrepressible Anna-Marie Weir for an insider’s nature tour that included lobster capital Shediac, Hopewell Rocks and Cape Enrage lighthouse (roadstosea.com).
Only 15% of this vast wooded province is developed, most people settling along the New Brunswick coast, but five scenic drives are an open invitation to explore (tourismnewbrunswick.co.uk).
Following the Fundy Coastal Drive, I stopped to enjoy the fishing village of St Martins with its twin covered bridges, and the marked paths, beaches and lookout points of the Fundy Trail Parkway.
Furthest point west, next to the US border, is the small resort of St Andrews. Kingsbrae Gardens were ablaze with late-summer colour and two heritage houses gave me an insight into the lives of the well-to-do. But like most visitors, my highlight was a whale-watching cruise among the Fundy Islands (fundytiderunners.com).
We spotted minke and huge finbacks as well as porpoises and seals, but humpbacks are regulars, too.
Motorists cross the Bay of Fundy on a 2.5-hour ferry trip from St John’s to Digby, scallop capital of Nova Scotia.
I headed south to pick up the picturesque Lighthouse Route west of Halifax, stopping off at UNESCO-listed Lunenberg to see coloured clapboard houses and take a cruise on a Bluenose schooner. Visit the galleries and craft shops of nearby Mahone Bay and stop at the iconic white lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove on the return to Halifax.
Allow at least two days to explore this rewarding city, where animators bring the hilltop Citadel vividly to life. In April 1912, rescue ships left from Halifax to help the victims of Titanic. Atlantic Tours offers the moving stories behind the simple headstones in
Fairview Cemetery (atlantictours.com) and artefacts from the liner are displayed in the Maritime Museum. A last seafood supper at one of Halifax’s many top restaurants and you can be back in Britain for breakfast.
Great for culture vultures
Discover the moving story of the original Acadian French settlers at Grand Pré National Historic Site, near Wolfville. Deported by the British in the mid-18th century, many went to Louisiana, where Acadian morphed into Cajun (visit pc.gc.ca).
Great for spirited adventurers
Ride the rollercoaster rapids of the Shubenacadie River in a Zodiac inflatable raft, as the tidal bore surges up from the Bay of Fundy. Thrilling, safe and extremely wet! Find details at raftingcanada.ca.
Great for food lovers
Seafood is king here – especially lobster and scallop – but enjoy delicious local lamb and beef, too.
All wonderful washed down with excellent Nova Scotian wines such as Tidal Bay, the province’s premier white (luckettvineyards.com).
Woman’s Weekly travel offer
Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer & Alaska Cruise escorted tour from only £3,189pp for 16 days.
Enjoy spectacular scenery combined with a train journey on the Rocky Mountaineer and a cruise to Alaska.
Call to book or for a free brochure on 01283 742 396, or visit escorted.womansweekly.co.uk