Off to the Tropical Island of Newfoundland!
March 10, 2008 10:28 AM   Subscribe

Planning a trip to Atlantic Canada in June. What should we get around and what should do once we're there?

My girlfriend and I are planning a trip to Atlantic Canada in June and would love advice on how to get around and where to go. We're traveling from Vancouver, so air is really our only choice for getting there (any advice on how to score cheap tickets would be appreciated). We can only get a week off work, so we're planning on flying out later Friday/early Saturday and returning the next Sunday.

We're planning on flying into Halifax, spending a day or two there and then renting a car to go to PEI via New Brunswick and then heading for Newfoundland. I grew up in the mountain west, so driving for a bit of a ways isn't something I'm particularly adverse to. But if the driving is going to consume a huge portion of our time, then we might scale back the itinerary a bit.

In general, we're huge fans of celtic/folk fiddle-y bands (Great Big Sea, Flogging Molly, Chieftans, Ashley MacIsaac, et al.), so if there are festivals/performances we wouldn't want to miss, our dates are a bit flexible. We're also more pub and history types than of fancy foodies or major outdoors people, but we're not adverse to a day or two of beautiful hiking.

We're purusing wikitravel and the Lonely Planet guide, but are there any things we absolutely shouldn't miss or definitely should?

Additionally, how difficult would it be to get tickets that fly us into Halifax but return to Vancouver from St. John's? Seems like buying two one-way tickets is quite a bit most costly than a round-trip, but avoiding returning to Halifax by car or ferry just for the airport might be better timewise.

Any other information about traveling to Atlantic Canada is more than welcome. I saw this thread, but it's not a direct overlap. Thanks!
posted by Nelsormensch to Travel & Transportation around Newfoundland, NL (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you're in Halifax, check out the Old Triangle pub. Dave MacIsaac jams there regularly, along with several other fine celtic type musicians.
posted by LN at 10:31 AM on March 10, 2008

If you're into celtic music, and have time, definitely take the time to head up to Cape Breton (northern most part of Nova Scotia) It's where most of the NS celtic music comes from. My parents live about an hour from Halifax, near Peggy's Cove, and that whole coastal area is really worth a drive around (again if you have time).

For the slightly nerdy: I think Theordore Tugboat should still be in Halifax Harbour, and he's always worth a visit!

If it's open (not sure if it is), you can try the Halifax Citadel for a bit of History.

I hope that helps! I'm not a Nova Scotian resident, but when I visit my parents, those are the must-sees.
posted by Planet F at 10:43 AM on March 10, 2008

NFLD is a bad idea if you only have a week off work. It is a non-stop 13 hr drive from the ferry terminal to St. John's. The ferry takes you all night. This means you will burn over 24 precious hours traversing the rock. Sure, it's interesting (I thought it was like visiting the moon), but it's not the best plan for a week-long vacation.

If I were you I would consider touring Nova Scotia extensively, venturing to PEI and perhaps New Brunswick, instead of driving across NFLD.

If you are into history, you can very well tour NS (drive around coast to Yarmouth and Annapolis for WW2 history). You will then see the Bay of Fundy on your tour. Dunno about the pubs but there's lots of tasty food along the way.

Cape Breton Island is also a great place to go hiking.

Do not overlook New Brunswick, it's a charming place to tour. I just drove hwy 1 and made some random stops along the way (also visted my aunt in Fredericton). I was consistently impressed with the scenery and the friendliness of the natives.
posted by crazycanuck at 10:45 AM on March 10, 2008

I'm a newfie, and I half-agree with crazycanuck about going there. Instead of going to St. John's, a better idea is to take the ferry (overnight if you can), and then going up the west coast. Stop in Corner Brook perhaps, and then go up towards Gros Morne for some good middle-difficulty hiking (or go to Green Gardens for a 16-km trickier one, very pretty there). Near there are Rocky Harbour, Woody Point, and a few other towns which often have good shows.
posted by Lemurrhea at 11:04 AM on March 10, 2008

The Alexander Keith's Brewery tour in Halifax is kind of fun. And the beer is tasty, too.
posted by Grither at 11:07 AM on March 10, 2008

It is a non-stop 13 hr drive from the ferry terminal to St. John's. The ferry takes you all night.

It's either one or the other. The ferry that takes about 14 hours drops you off in Placentia, which is less than two hours from St. John's. The ferry that leaves you with the really long drive takes less than half that.

That said, if you're flying into Halifax and planning to drive around Newfoundland, it's an all-day drive from Halifax to North Sydney, unless you drive on the TCH through Antigonish both ways without stopping. If you want to see the sights or the coast, it's going to take at least twice that. If you want to see Louisbourg or anything east of the populated part of the HRM—which I recommend you do, because it's beautiful—you will be spending a lot of time driving around.

And don't expect the weather to be agreeable more than about 50% of the time. No, you don't get to pick which 50%.
posted by oaf at 11:14 AM on March 10, 2008

crazycanuck, Newfoundland is only a bad idea if all you want to see is St. John's. There are plenty of interesting things to see, but you usually have to get off the main highway to see them.


In addition to the hiking, the Gros Morne Theatre Festival will have started by then, and in Corner Brook the Art Gallery at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College is going to be hosting The Great Book of Gaelic exhibition, with a Gaelic Arts Festival to go with it sometime in the middle of June.
posted by hip_plumber at 11:15 AM on March 10, 2008

The national park at Greenwich on P.E.I. is very nice, particularly walking over the dunes. Murray Harbor is a pretty fishing village. You can also take the ferry to or from P.E.I. You might think about taking it on your way back to the mainland, because it lands you considerably closer to the NFLD ferries than the bridge does. When you take the ferry, go to Crabby's Seafood Stand (at the Wood Islands ferry terminal) for good seafood. The steamed mussels are particularly good if you like mussels.
posted by louigi at 11:17 AM on March 10, 2008

shoot, I spelt Theodore wrong :(
posted by Planet F at 11:19 AM on March 10, 2008

Oh, and if you're spending a night on P.E.I., Woodlands Country Inn is a beautiful place to stay.
posted by louigi at 11:20 AM on March 10, 2008

Here's my response about PEI from an older thread.
posted by loiseau at 11:35 AM on March 10, 2008

One week won't be enough time if you're flying to Halifax and want to visit Nfld. But if somehow you do make it to Nfld in June, it's the best month for icebergs.
posted by yqxnflld at 12:05 PM on March 10, 2008

Domestic flights on Westjet or Air Canada are generally sold in one way segments, so you shouldn't have to pay any more to return from a different city. If you rent a car, you will have to pay extra (quite possibly a lot) to return it in a different city.

I am a major outdoors person, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but I found that a few of the parks in Atlantic Canada were very beautiful. PEI National Park (especially the Cavendish section), Cape Breton Highlands NP, and Cape Chignecto Provincial Park are all very nice and well worth a visit. None of them are far off your route.
posted by ssg at 2:01 PM on March 10, 2008

If you do get to Newfoundland and have a passport handy, St. Pierre & Miquelon is definitely worth a visit. Living in Atlantic Canada, that's just about the only thing I can wholeheartedly recommend. It's France in miniature!

PEI, yes, definitely. I daresay you should spend most of your time there, despite the horrifying jellyfish swarms.

If you're into charming little towns, Lunenburg, NS is where to look.

In New Brunswick, I'm gonna have to recommend the Bay of Fundy. Hopewell rocks and the caves and the lobster are all there. Plus it's not too far over the NS border. (Once you've driven through Sackville, you've pretty much seen what the rest of the province has to offer.)
posted by Sys Rq at 4:13 PM on March 10, 2008

Sys Rq: In New Brunswick, I'm gonna have to recommend the Bay of Fundy. Hopewell rocks and the caves and the lobster are all there. Plus it's not too far over the NS border. (Once you've driven through Sackville, you've pretty much seen what the rest of the province has to offer.)

How rude! And also, totally not true. To name two, the south coast west of Saint John, between say Chance Harbour and Deer Island/Campobello is beautiful; the southeastern coast from Cap-Pelé up to Bouctouche has beautiful beaches, nature preserves and Acadian cultural sites. If you get to the north coast, Chaleur Bay is the NB side of the Gaspésie and is stunningly beautiful.
posted by loiseau at 4:33 PM on March 10, 2008

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