What do we need to See & Do in Newfoundland, the Gaspe Peninsula, & New Brunswick?
May 26, 2006 7:53 PM   Subscribe

What are the "must see" places and "must do" activities when the wife and I visit Newfoundland, the Gaspe Peninsula, New Brunswick & possibly Nova Scotia in mid-July? If you have ideas for quaint, clean and reasonable places to stay that will provide lasting, fond memories, please suggest those too. If you have photos to post or link to, you receive bonus points! The trip will begin & end in Boston.
posted by thebarron to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
For Nova Scotia, the Cabot Trail, a gorgeous driving circle route through Cape Breton. We did it quickly as a lark and even so saw whales from the road, a waterfall, stopped at a pebble beach, and had a moose run alongside our car.
posted by Yogurt at 8:05 PM on May 26, 2006

I am from Halifax. If you decide to pass through there, I can suggest lots of things to do and places to go. It is not at all quaint though, so I doubt it will interest you.

I haven't been home since 2004 so check to make sure places are still in operation.

Nova Scotia:

My husband and I enjoyed staying in a log cabin on the Northumberland Strait. We stayed at (and would recommend) Amet View Chalets, but there's a million little places dotted along the shoreline. If you decide to stay in that part of the province, consider having a big breakfast at Sugar Moon Farm, a pancake house attached to a maple syrup operation. It's a bit tourist-pricey but very enjoyable.

The Cabot Trail in Cape Breton is, indeed, beautiful. There are a lot of bed and breakfasts along it that are supposed to be wonderful. If you end up in Cape Breton, go to Port Hawkesbury for a meal at the Fleur-de-Lis Tea Room, which had really good fishcakes and what they called Scotch Toast, which is French toast with a thick molasses bread rolled in oats. There's also a place in Baddeck (don't remember the name) that does an excellent all-you-can-eat meal of seafood chowder and mussels and desserts with lobster or planked salmon. It's pretty inexpensive.

My husband (an American from a landlocked state) could not have more charmed by Peggy's Cove, which has a picturesque lighthouse on large slabs of grey rock, with lots of sea spray and small, crooked houses. If you go there, the restaurant closest to the lighthouse has the best seafood chowder I have ever had in a restaurant (and yes, I've had it in Boston).

Find anything you need to know about tourist destinations, restaurants etc at Destination Nova Scotia.

New Brunswick:

Fundy National Park in New Brunswick is gorgeous and very well maintained. You can rough it or stay in comfort - they have log cabins and hotels and everything in between, iirc. I've only ever camped there but I recall a posh hotel at one end. The Bay of Fundy is spectacular. If you do this, go hiking along the coastline.

Avoid Saint John if you can. Friends who are from there describe it as a sucking pit of despair.

Newfoundland & Labrador:

I've never been, but Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland is reputed to be quite excellent.

Prince Edward Island:

The Confederation Bridge (which spans the Northumberland Strait) is a destination in and of itself if you're interested in engineering at all. It's freaking long.

PEI is wonderful to vacation in. It's very small and easy to get around. Charlottetown, their capitol city, is small but proud, and as the site where Canada came into being, has lots of historical interest and federal money for well-done tourist attractions along those lines. They also have lovely docks to walk along.

Lots of beaches with red sand. Lots of golf. Lots of lobster.

On preview: man, I must be hungry.
posted by joannemerriam at 8:40 PM on May 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

Peggy's Cove.
Bay of Fundy tidal bore
Fortress of Louisbourg -- it's like stepping back in time. All the people stay in character and it's really an amazing place to go. It's a National Historic Site. You can ask the maids and soldiers questions and they answer as if it was still 300 years ago. Totally cool.

I also liked the Marconi Historic Site and the Alexander Graham Bell Historic sites. However, I'm a wee bit of a communications buff.
posted by acoutu at 9:01 PM on May 26, 2006

BTW, the Bell Historic Site is in Baddeck, if you want to tie in with the lobster feast.
posted by acoutu at 9:03 PM on May 26, 2006

I have fond memories of the Cabot trail from a family road trip when I was a kid. I recommend Louisbourg as well, especailly if you're interested in North American history. PEI is paradise in the summer. I remember staying in Cavendish on PEI - Bright red sands and unbelievable sunsets every night. Watch out for the little jellyfish in the ocean, though!

I found out much later that Cape Breton is quite unique culturally - a (dwindling) number of its citizens speak Scots Gaelic as a first language.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:16 PM on May 26, 2006

You should rent a car in Newfoundland and take a drive down the Irish Loop. It goes all the way down the Avalon Peninsula. Beautiful scenery, little hamlets all over the place and lots off semi-improved roads leading to light houses on cliffs.

If you're lucky, you'll be there when the whales are spawning or icebergs are migrating. Lots of caribou, especially in spring, though there are less than there used to be because of some disease which wiped them out.

Between Cappyhayden and Bay Bulls is a 30 kilometer area known as The Barrens. It's not quite that barren, but it's mostly...barren. Dwarf pines, hills, the ocean off to one side (though you can't always see it), the occsional hunting shack, moose and caribou. It's even more amazing at night.

One town I love on the Loop is Trepassey. There's a great little restaurant called First Venture which serves some of the best down-home food I've ever had. There's a painter who lives on the far side of town on a hill who does beautiful work.

I very much love all of St. John's, but in my experience being a young American male it wasn't fantastic as far as the bars went. By that, I simply mean that an American accent (which is VERY obvious in Newfoundland) seemed to attract people who thought I had a lot of money to spend. I'm not really sure what that was about and don't mean offense to anyone, that was just my experience on several visits.

That said, George Street is three blocks solidly filled with all manner of bars.

If you're going to be on the Western end of the island, I would say visiting the Nordic viking site at L'anse aux Meadows is not worth it unless you really want to be somewhere were some tall white people left a few cotterpins. There's really not much there (though it is pretty).

Finally, if you do any hunting, don't do it with a drunk Newfie...
posted by Captaintripps at 7:36 AM on May 27, 2006

In Nova Scotia I would add the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site (in Baddeck) if you're into technology, Sherbrooke Village if you like history and Musquodoboit Harbour just because I stayed there on my honeymoon. The water is fairly cool and don't expect to find sandy beaches, so swimming isn't in the picture. We took a sailboat trip out of Lunenburg, it shouldn't be hard to find one there.
posted by tommasz at 7:41 AM on May 27, 2006

St. Andrews By The Sea in New Brunswick is lovely, and a bit quaint too. Another link. I stayed here.
posted by JanetLand at 8:57 AM on May 27, 2006

Enjoy your trip - beautiful part of the country. And definitely don't skip out on P.E.I. - some stunning landscapes there and amazing seafood.
posted by rmm at 10:53 AM on May 27, 2006

I second the vote for Cavendish Beach, which now that it's been mentioned I remember we went to several times when I was a kid. Lovely.

Depending on how much time you have, you may have to choose between Newfoundland & Labrador, and the rest of Atlantic Canada. You can easily plan a trip to PEI, NB and NS that ties together without more than a few hours' drive between spots, but the ferry ride to NL is iirc around seven hours, so you might not want that in the middle of your trip. I remember the ferry as very dull, but I was a child and didn't appreciate vast oceanic scenery so maybe it's actually quite interesting.

If you decide to visit the mainland of Nova Scotia (i.e. the parts that are not Cape Breton) and want to swim, you could do worse than the Queensland area. Don't expect to be able to swim in Halifax Harbour, into which the city still dumps its raw sewage (it's a very deep harbour so this does not result, most of the time, in stinkiness, but it's not a place anybody swims - all of the swimming in Halifax is in lakes).

If you're interested in unique cultural interactions, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick both have French-speaking areas settled by Acadians, who are distinct culturally from other French-Canadians.

In Nova Scotia you want the area around Point de-l'Église (Church Point) on the French Shore, where Université Sainte-Anne is (the campus is kind of meh, but their existence helps keep Acadian culture vibrant), or else the area around Cheticamp in Cape Breton. There are some gorgeous little old churches in both places, and almost any roadside diner you stop at will have amazing food. Cheticamp is famous for its hooked rugs.

As previously mentioned, Cape Breton also has a number of people for whom Gaelic is their first language. If you see an advertisement for a ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee), that means there's the kind of party with lots of booze and fiddles, usually worth checking out.
posted by joannemerriam at 2:23 PM on May 27, 2006

Lots of great suggestions! I drove the entire coast(s?) of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick two summers ago. Adding to the information above, I would say check out a ceilidh in Mabou, go canoeing in Kejumkujik National Park, even ride the reversing falls in St. John if you are feeling especially touristy. Whatever you do, don't miss Cape Breton. It's the coolest thing on the east coast of North America.
posted by billtron at 9:53 AM on May 29, 2006

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