Please help with an impromptu Nova Scotia/PEI trip
June 29, 2008 4:45 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I are planning a somewhat impromptu driving trip to PEI and Nova Scotia - maybe involving camping...

Last year, we did a similar thing in Scotland and England.

This time the rough itinerary is that starting on Tuesday, we will be driving up to PEI from Boston, then heading towards Cape Breton Island, then we'll begin making our way to Yarmouth for the ferry to Maine and the drive back home next weekend.

To make things a bit more interesting, we decided somewhat on a whim to try perhaps to camp a bit along the way. We're leaning towards doing the sleeping outside thing, but perhaps not the cooking portion. We got a tent, some sleeping bags/mats, and other assorted goodies the other day in preparation for this. I've never gone camping before, and I think my girlfriend may have a few times when she was a kid. Also, we did the dry run of putting the tent together and making it habitable.

So the question I guess boils down to a few things:

1) What are some must see sights and things to do along the route listed above? Which campgrounds should we check out (or any to avoid)?

2) What are some newbie mistakes to avoid while camping? What are some things we should absolutely take if going camping? Is it stupid to avoid the cooking bits?

3) If we do decide to cook while camping, can we bring a camping stove and fuel to Canada with us? This seems to say yes.. Also, is a camping stove what we should be using as a heat source for cooking?

3) I realize that this week is the 4th of July here in the US. I don't know if that will have an impact up there as to crowds etc. In other words, can we just fly by the seat of our pants in regards to finding places to stay for the night? (This was pretty much our M.O. during the UK trip except for a few nights.)

And with that, hivemind, we turn to you for insight and guidance. Thanks!
posted by o0dano0o to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: 1) First, read this thread. The NS gov't also publishes a tourism guide you might find useful.

Driving from Cape Breton to Yarmouth may bring you through the Annapolis Valley, or through Halifax, depending on the route you take. If you stop in Halifax, try a donair from King of Donair in downtown Halifax (behind the public library on Spring Garden); a Halifax donair is a distinct form of donair and is kind of amazing. (Make sure you have good toilet facilities for approximately the next 24 hours, however.) My other recommendations are in the thread linked above.

If you're just going to drive straight through, skip Halifax, which is a great city but not a particularly scenic drive, and go via the Valley, which is hella pretty.

2) Bring mosquito repellant.

3 & the other 3) Can't help here.
posted by joannemerriam at 5:32 PM on June 29, 2008

Best answer: Tuesday is a national holiday in Canada; some businesses will be closed. Your mats should be quite thick and comfy or you will be very sore in the mornings, if you're not accustomed to sleeping on the ground. Be sure to bring bug repellent and/or net clothing - it's blackfly season here and those guys will drive you mad.
posted by fish tick at 5:37 PM on June 29, 2008

Best answer: to answer 2-

-a major newbie mistake is not to properly check the ground before pitching your tent. If you don't, you will probably get stuck with a lovely tree root or a stone right where your head wants to be. Not fun!

-things which must be brought: definitely bug repellant. It is your friend! and tons of sunscreen. A good sleeping bag is a must, and they last forever if you put the money into one (mine has lasted me for 14 years now, and I got it from my mum when I was 5). Water proof matches and a few flashlights and extra batteries are also necessary. Bring extra sweaters! You never really realize how much the temperature drops at night until you're camping, seriously.

-Is it stupid to avoid the cooking bits? um, YES! Some of the best food is cooked over a camp fire, and it's also incredibly fun to cook it in the first place. Some of my favourites:

garlic bread made by putting garlic butter on both sides of every piece of bread in a sliced loaf, then covering the whole shebang in tin foil and tossing it in the fire

hot dogs, cooked on a dirty stick, of course (adds flavour). Part of the fun is trying to keep it from falling into the fire!

baked potatoes: similar to garlic bread, butter the potatoes up, cover them in tin foil and throw them in the fire.

and finally, bannok... also cooked on a stick... preferably not too clean a stick for added flavouring. Bonus points for adding chocolate chips.

As for #3, I suggest using the cook stove as a last resort, because building your own fire is tons of fun and you feel really accomplished when you're done!

Finally, make sure you have a good water proof tent, because eastern Canada tends to get rain between the hours of 2 and 6 am, and you don't want to wake up all wet and cold, I assure you!
posted by Planet F at 5:51 PM on June 29, 2008

Best answer: In summer you want to drive the Cape Breton ring road counter-clockwise (so as to be on the outside and get the great views). In winter, clockwise (to be on the inside and thus safer in slippery conditions).

For curiosity you may want to arrange to see the tidal bore/reversing rivers that come off the Bay of Fundy at some point in the trip.

In Halifax (and elsewhere maybe?) they have fried pepperoni.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:59 PM on June 29, 2008

Best answer: As a Nova Scotia resident who loves to go camping, there is one piece of advice I urge you to bear in mind. It can get very cold at night here. It's often pretty humid too, so it can be a cold that chills you to the bone. Waking up cold, damp and miserable in the middle of the night is a common Nova Scotia camping moment. I suggest bringing warmer gear than you might otherwise consider.
posted by standbythree at 8:11 PM on June 29, 2008

Best answer: After spending a week in PEI last summer, I can't agree with standbythree enough. I was overwhelmed by how cold it could get in the middle of the night.

Have fun!
posted by jazzman at 6:25 AM on June 30, 2008

Best answer: If you haven't gotten one yet, I am going to suggest an air mattress. They can be had for cheap for a queen size and be sure to get a pump too (they have rechargeable ones). Maybe it's a cop out but man they are pretty comfortable and if you are with your significant other well, you can sleep together rather than in two different sleeping bags.

Other tips:
-Clean up after yourself. Take out all trash.
-Buy some hand sanitizer and maybe some of those sanitizing wipes
-Bring toilet paper

If you are looking to get away then check out some of the provincial camp sites. We literally stumbled upon one last time we were there on the coast (lighthouse area). It was obvious that it hadn't been used in some time we had the whole place to ourselves. Seriously if it were in the states they would have charged us 70/night to camp there, right on a beautiful beach. Granted this was in late August/Early Sept but it was pretty cool. We were later told while looking for another site further up the coast that camping on any public land is technically legal and that you won't get arrested for it. Not sure how true that is, but we chanced it a few nights and weren't bothered.

Have fun.
posted by WickedPissah at 8:27 AM on June 30, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the help!

We had a great time, and now I can't wait to go camping again.

We camped for a total of 3 nights
1) Cabot Beach Provincial Park in PEI.
2) Corney Brook in Cape Breton Highlands National Park
3) Graves Island Provincial Park near Chester NS.

Number 1 was very buggy, but nothing too bad to scare us away for the first night. We were 1 of maybe a dozen groups of people. It was very empty.

Number 2 was the smallest site that we stayed at. It was on a grassy area overlooking a stony beach. No running water, but we went for a dip in the nearby river in the morning.

Number 3 was the most crowded site we were at, but it didn't detract from our experience at all. It's a very beautiful area, with the campground being on an island.

Here's a map of the general route we took if you are interested: map
posted by o0dano0o at 11:52 AM on July 7, 2008

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