A Guide to The Maritimes, Possibly Canada’s Best-Kept Secret

by  Tiffany Thornton | Feb 27, 2024

Imagine driving past craggy vistas with lighthouses jutting out towards the sea, feasting on fresh lobster, and dipping your feet in Atlantic waters. That's a trip to the Maritimes in a nutshell, as the region offers visitors a mix of vibrant culture steeped in seafaring history, surrounded by an abundance of nature and ocean to explore.

What Is The Maritimes?

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The Maritimes is a region that comprises three Canadian provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, each one distinct thanks to the influence of a mixture of Indigenous communities and French, British, and Irish settlers. Today, the region is known for its stunning coastal landscapes, incredible seafood, and unique blend of cultures that are mirrored in the area’s food and traditions.

The Best Things To Do in The Maritimes

There’s no shortage of things to do, from riding the world’s highest tides to setting out to sea in search of the largest mammals on Earth. 

Start your travels in Nova Scotia — dubbed “Canada's ocean playground” — which it truly is. You could easily spend days hanging out by the water at crystal-clear beaches, indulging in local seafood, and visiting quaint fishing towns.

Things To Do in Nova Scotia


Ride the World's Highest Tides in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia is home to the highest tides in the world, and the Bay of Fundy is the only place where you can ride them. Over 100 billion tonnes of seawater flows from the Bay into the Shubenacadie River, creating a mass of currents and waves up to 13 feet high. It’s the perfect spot to start your tidal bore Zodiac rafting adventure, a uniquely Nova Scotian activity that’s not for the faint of heart.

How much tide do you want to ride? You can choose from regular, high, or extreme levels. At first glance, as you head down to the river when the tide is out, the water appears calm: A reddish sandy layer of muddy water lies below as you head upriver to meet the waves as they start to rush in. Get ready for an adrenaline kick and hold on tight as your guide navigates large waves and rapids. Once the rapids start to subside, you’ll make your way to one of the riverbanks for a bit of fun in the mud. Tidal Bore Rafting (Nova Scotia’s original rafting operation) has been in business since 1985 and offers guests both rafting and lodging.

Enjoy One of the World’s Most Scenic Drives Followed by an Unparalleled Hike

Courtesy of the author

The famous Cabot Trail — one of the world’s most scenic drives — boasts incredible views of the mountains and rugged coastline below. However, no visit to Nova Scotia is complete without a trip to Cape Breton Island’s Highlands National Park and the Skyline Trail, which lie within the Cabot Trail. The Skyline Trail is worth the moderate, roughly two-hour hike any time of day, however, there’s something magical about reaching the end of the trail just before sundown, when the Gulf of St. Lawrence sparkles in the last rays of the day. You may even spot a moose or two (be sure to keep a safe distance) grazing in one of the acadia, boreal, and taiga forests along the way — nowhere else in Canada do three regions of northern and southern ecosystems coincide together.

Go Whale Watching

Courtesy of the author/Jorge Vasconez

Hop on board a whale watching tour in the Bay of Fundy, where you can spot several species of whale, from the endangered North Atlantic right whale to finbacks and the ever-majestic humpback whale. When the tide is high, the Bay is teeming with krill, a favorite food for whales. It's like an aquarium at sea, as you’re even bound to see a few porpoises and seals bobbing around on your tour.  Based in Saint Andrews, New Brunswick, Jolly Breeze Whale Watching offers classic Tall Ship and Zodiac style adventures. Be sure to book early.

Take a Walk Through the Past in Historic Lunenburg


Stroll along the historic streets of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, a UNESCO World Heritage town known for its preserved 18th-century architecture and rich shipbuilding past. Be sure to visit the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, located on the waterfront, which houses several interactive exhibits focused on the Maritimes’ extensive fishing industry. You can even get a sense of what life at sea would have been like by stepping on board two vessels — one being Canada's oldest saltbreak schooner, built in 1938. The museum opens for the season in May.

Things To Do in New Brunswick

Eat World-Famous Lobster 

Courtesy of Daniel Norris

Next stop on your travels is New Brunswick, the largest province in the Maritimes. It’s a nature lover's paradise, with 12 national parks and the warmest saltwater beaches in Canada. It's also the land of lobster — often referred to as the "lobster capital of the world" for its lobster fishing industry. Generally, lobster from the Atlantic Canada region is world famous for its hard shell and tender meat. In Shediac, there’s even a festival for this succulent crustacean every July. If that's not enough, the town erected the world's largest lobster (a monument made of fiberglass), which is 35 feet long and weighs an impressive 90 tonnes. Savor a delicious lobster roll stuffed to the brim at Bistro le Moque-Tortue in Shediac, New Brunswick.

Walk or Drive Across The Ocean Floor

Have you ever driven across the ocean floor? You can experience this one-of-a-kind adventure in New Brunswick. Located minutes from the charming town of St. Andrews by-the-Sea is Ministers Island. Each day for a few hours when the tide rolls out, you can drive, bike, or walk across the shelly shoreline to the island. Be sure to bring your hiking shoes to explore over 12 miles of nature trails with ocean views along the way. Plan accordingly so you don't miss getting back across the ocean floor in time before the tide comes back in. 

Things To Do in Prince Edward Island

Enjoy Hundreds of Miles of Beaches and Coastline


From New Brunswick, drive across the 8-mile Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island. PEI may be Canada's smallest province, but it offers thousands of miles of pristine coastline to discover. In fact, the island is home to 90+ beaches and gorgeous parks that are all worth exploring. Greenwich Beach, part of the island's National Park, is a local favorite, as it has an expansive trail system to discover. Be sure to make your way to the floating boardwalk, past marshes with views of the fragile parabolic dunes in the distance. The largest and rarest sand dunes on PEI, these dunes are surrounded by a white sandy stretch of beach below. Pack a picnic if you can, and spend the afternoon nestled between the dunes and the Atlantic Ocean. 

Stay at a Lighthouse


If you’re looking for lighthouses, PEI has 65 of these beacons, the highest concentration in North America. One of the most recognizable is the iconic black and white striped West Point Lighthouse, an 18th-century historic lighthouse surrounded by the red sandy beaches of PEI’s Cedar Dunes Provincial Park. You can even sleep here, climbing up to the top to watch the sun go down before the sound of the sea lulls you to sleep. 

Uncover the Island’s History 


Be sure not to miss the old cannons and the remains of historic Fort Edward, and take a stroll around Charlottetown, PEI’s capital: Visit Beaconsfield Historic House, a prime example of the island's Victorian architecture, and check out Victoria Row, a pedestrian-only street that's lined with historic buildings, outdoor bars, cafés, and live music. 

Learn About Potatoes (Yes, Really)

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Besides incredible seafood, one thing Prince Edward Island has a lot of is potatoes. Wherever you drive you are bound to pass fields of them, so it's no surprise that the island is home to The Canadian Potato Museum, which is loaded with interesting facts on these spuds. Pop into the museum’s restaurant for a bite of the best baked potato you will ever taste. Try the pulled pork potato, topped with cheese and sour cream. Before you leave be sure to get a photo in front of the world's biggest potato, a fun take-away memory from your Maritime adventures. 

The Best Time to Visit The Maritimes


The best time to visit Canada's East Coast is from June through to September, when it’s warm, dry, and everything is buzzing (many seasonal businesses close by early October). That said, fall is a great time for savings and fewer crowds: The Maritimes is famous for its incredible foliage, and the season is filled with local harvest festivals and food-centric events.

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