Where to vacation this summer?
February 28, 2011 10:56 AM   Subscribe

Should we go to PEI or Nova Scotia and what areas would be excellent summer vacation spots?

We are planning our summer vacation. We want to go to PEI or Nova Scotia.

We are both open to either province, we just don't know what areas would be best for what we want. So if we choose to go to Nova Scotia, what area should we be looking at? Someone has recommended the Cavendish Beach area of PEI which looks quite nice and has lots of cabins.

We have one week and would like a cabin/cottage so that we may cook for ourselves. This is a vacation meant for relaxing so we want a place where we can happily hang out for the day just reading, knitting, drawing or going for a walk but close enough to cool site seeing and exploring. We will be renting a car.

Can you reccomend specific areas in PEI or Nova Scotia where we can accomplish all of this? Also, if you have site seeing, activity, restaurant recommendations, please share!
posted by sadtomato to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I spent two weeks driving from New Brunswick->PEI->Nova Scotia -> Cape Breton Island. It was a lovely trip, but Cape Breton Island truly stuck out as a special place. It's a great place to relax and there are very few people. And it's really fun to go for drives, awesome sightseeing.
posted by pintapicasso at 11:07 AM on February 28, 2011

Also check out the Cabot Trail!
posted by pintapicasso at 11:11 AM on February 28, 2011

Best answer: The north shore -- near Cavendish -- has excellent swimming beaches. it's also pretty developed and can be a bit crowded. That said, if there are too many people at Cavendish beach, North Rustico beach right beside (and exactly the same, save for the famous name) will probably be empty.

If you like to move around, you could easily go to PEI and Nova Scotia -- the Woods island ferry is a 2hour or less drive from Cavendish and drops you off on the north mainland of Nova Scotia. (You've not really been to PEI unless you come and go by ferry). From there, you could go to Cape Breton, or down the highway to Canso.

I've not been to Cape Breton at all, but I've been on the north mainland (Near Canso) several times. The landscape is very different from PEI. PEI is very soft - the beaches are mostly sand, the water is (relatively) warm, it's mostly developed as farmland -- it's very beautiful, but in a picturesque way. Northern Nova Scotia is rocky -- granite headlands dominate the shores, with pebbly beaches. In many places, wild conifer woods go on miles and the water of Chedabucto Bay can be freezing cold even August. But it's stunningly beautiful in a wild, half-tamed way.

So it's a matter of what you are interested. If you want a maritime beach vacation, I would say PEI. I you want to hike and camp and see wild rocky shores, I would say Nova Scotia.
posted by jb at 11:37 AM on February 28, 2011

I did a 2 week family vacation on PEI a few years back. We stayed on the south shore and could see the bridge from the beach near our cottage. PEI is really lovely although pretty low key - don't expect any huge excitement, just seafood, potatoes and great beaches. Anywhere on PEI is probably OK as the island is tiny - you can cross it in a couple hours tops. Nothing is very far.

Our cottage was on a bit of land partitioned off from a potato farm which was still operational and the owners very kindly gave our kids a short tour of their potato packing facility and a bag of potatoes dug fresh from the ground.

But at the risk of sounding lame, find a nice cottage on PEI that has it's own beach frontage on the Northumberland Straight and go from there.
posted by GuyZero at 11:42 AM on February 28, 2011

Best answer: Cabot Trail is a must in Nova Scotia! You can easily drive it in an afternoon, but it is something that is worthwhile exploring over a few days.
It is on the north peak of Cape Breton island and good areas to stay are on either side of the Cape Breton Highlands Park. Cheticamp on one side and Ingonish on the other.
Things to check out, Whale Watching in Pleasant Bay or Cheticamp. Loads of hiking and sight seeing in the park. Swimming at Ingonish Beach, and Black Brook. Louisbourg on the other side of the island is another historic park, but I love the trail by the lighthouse and the view of the rocky shore, also Kennington Cove for swimming. Baddeck is a beautiful small town on the Bras' Dor lakes. Also if you are interested, there are a lot of celtic concerts during the summer season, Broadcove, and Highland Village.
posted by phirleh at 11:50 AM on February 28, 2011

A guess the real question is how much time you want to spend more or less staying put and how much time you want to spend exploring the area.My family and I spent three weeks driving around Nova Scotia and could easily have spent three more, given the places we either didn't have enough time or missed altogether. I suppose that's true of anywhere, when it comes right down to it, but if you're looking to do something different every day, Nova Scotia is probably your best bet, as Nova Scotia is almost exactly ten times the size of PEI.

But if you're looking to basically set up camp somewhere and just relax for a week or three, either would do. I'd definitely recommend Cape Breton in Nova Scotia.
posted by valkyryn at 12:03 PM on February 28, 2011

Best answer: I know, I know. Everyone loves Cape Breton. But as someone from the South Shore of Nova Scotia, I want to put in a good word for that half of the province.

Going south from Halifax within a couple hours, you have Peggy's Cove, Mahone Bay, Lunenburg (a UNESCO World Heritage site), and lots of little seaside villages. Canada's first geocache is just off the 103, if you're into that.

There are quite a few nice sand beaches along that stretch (though do check ahead of time, how much sand there is will depend on the year). I recommend Bayswater, Hubbards Beach, Graves Island, or any of the little rock beaches if you're tolerant of a bit of seaweed. White sand beaches like Bayswater that are out near the end of a peninsula do tend to have cold water, so watch out for that.

The Shore Club is a good time but a bit pricey - a lobster supper and a dance.

Halifax is a fun city and the citadel, historic properties, public gardens are worth visiting if you're in the area. As are the many pubs. Halifax has quite a few festivals in the summer, and we'd often make the hour drive in from Blandford for the day. The Busker festival is fun. Shakespeare by the Sea is lovely on a nice night in Point Pleasant.

I've never stayed at White Point , but my mum has, and has been happy with it. It is a resort though, so you wouldn't be isolated in a cabin if that's something you're looking for.

There are lots of other cabin and cottage rentals in the area - tourism has really become a mainstay of our economy on the South Shore.

Phew! You'd think I worked for South Shore Tourism! I don't, but of course I am biased since the South Shore is home to me.
posted by magicicada at 1:48 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Can I just mention one thing that really put a downer on our last PEI trip? Or rather several million buzzy bitey things? The place was overrun with mosquitoes. Seriously, some places involved "get out of car, get bitten to hell and back, get back in car 10 seconds later screaming and slapping self all over"

It was a beautiful place but damn was I bitten...?
posted by merocet at 3:13 PM on February 28, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the input folks, it really helped. We decided to go to PEI this summer and when we have two or three weeks for vacation we will do Nova Scotia so we can see as much as possible.
posted by sadtomato at 6:12 PM on February 28, 2011

If possible I suggest timing your trip for August (the later the better) as the weather is better in both places and there are way fewer mosquitoes!
posted by saradarlin at 12:53 AM on March 1, 2011

Watch out for scheduling the vacation too late. There will be a strong undertow and you won't be able to swim.
posted by kitcat at 6:31 AM on March 1, 2011

I highly, highly recommend the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia, along the north coast, especially Annapolis Royal. My partner and I did a trip around the Maritimes last year and both loved the Annapolis Valley the most. If you're into wine at all, this is a great wine-producing region.

Cape Breton is a huge time investment, since it's pretty far away and its roads typically all only two lanes, but we also camped at Cape Breton Highlands during our trip and really enjoyed the Corney Brook Campground very, very much.

We were not particularly charmed by Baddeck, as the restaurant choices were not that good and there wasn't much to do around the town, and if we were to do it again we would stay closer to Louisbourg. If you do stay in Baddeck, I don't recommend the Broadwater Inn Cabins, which are not as waterfront or as private as the descriptions suggest or the photos show and are really overpriced for that reason.

Lunenburg is also nice, but suuuuuuper busy in the summer.

Cavendish is very (very very very) touristy and we found it to be the least PEI-like of PEI - quite a shock to the system after going around the rest of PEI, which is quite slow-paced (in such a good way) and tranquil. That being said, PEI was amazing.

We went in September, when it was still warm/pleasant, but the height of the tourist season had ended. There were no mosquitos, but lots of black flies (or possibly no-see-ums).
posted by urbanlenny at 8:22 AM on March 1, 2011

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