Filled more with ocean breezes than people, the Atlantic Provinces of Canada create an outdoor paradise in which you can unwind and bask in the fresh air, lush greenery, and open waters. You can spend weeks visiting the numerous cities and historical destinations that populate the coastline. To point you in the right direction, here’s a roadmap for those looking to break away on Canada’s Atlantic coast.
Start with breathtaking ocean vistas
With its unrivaled historic elements, pristine waterfront, and picturesque ocean views, St. John’s, Newfoundland, is an ideal first stop. Considered to be the oldest English-founded city in North America, it’s listed by National Geographic as one of the top 10 ocean destinations in the world. Representing the classic beauty of Newfoundland, a walk along St. John’s waterfront is rewarding in itself — but a hike up nearby Signal Hill is a must. Atop the hill awaits the iconic Cabot Tower, which has truly breathtaking views of St. John’s harbor on one side and the roaring, open Atlantic on the other.
On the mainland, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in particular offer unique recreational activities. Most visitors to the region end up in Halifax, Nova Scotia’s capital with its sense of history and abundant walking trails. Surrounded by Atlantic waters on three sides, Point Pleasant Park covers 190 acres at the city’s south end and offers almost 25 miles of seaside and forest trails ideal for hiking, jogging, or cycling.
Halifax’s historic boardwalk starts at Pier 21 (Canada’s Ellis Island) and follows the harbor past the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (which offers excellent Titanic displays) and the terminal for the Halifax-Dartmouth ferry (the longest running saltwater ferry service in North America). From there, visitors can walk uphill to the Halifax Citadel, the star shaped British-built fortress that dominates the downtown. Close by is the Victorian treasure known as the Halifax Public Gardens, a must-visit for outdoor enthusiasts.
A short drive outside the city takes nature lovers to numerous quaint fishing villages and the longest sandy beach in Nova Scotia — Martinique. Its three miles of smooth, white sand is surrounded by a waterfowl refuge and areas ideal for kayaking. The closest community, Musquodoboit Harbour, is the starting point for the unspoiled and popular Musquodoboit Trailway, ten miles of abandoned railway bed for walking or cycling that follows the path of the Musquodoboit River and includes several looped trails that offer challenging climbs and spectacular views of woods, cliffs, the river, and the ocean.
Head out west
When leaving Nova Scotia and driving to New Brunswick, the first town encountered is Sackville, home of the Sackville Waterfowl Park. With two miles of winding trails and boardwalks, the park has recorded over 150 species of birds and almost 200 species of plants.
In the city of Moncton, New Brunswick, you’ll find the Magnetic Hill Zoo, the largest zoo in Atlantic Canada, with 40 acres of winding trails that house more than 600 animals, including 77 indigenous and exotic species.
A stroll along Moncton’s Petitcodiac River rewards visitors twice a day with the amazing tidal bore. The Bay of Fundy tides, some of the highest in the world, create tidal bores that push water into the river to create a wave a little over a yard high (about one meter in height). As the waves charge upstream, intrepid surfers can glide for miles, paving the way for future of river surfing in Moncton.
The dramatic Fundy tides—up to 50 feet between high and low water marks—can be seen between Moncton and Saint John, New Brunswick, at Hopewell Rocks, which are natural rock formations carved by the incessant tides twice a day. After consulting tide tables to ensure you’re not cutting it close to high tide, you can walk on the ocean floor for hours before the beach is covered in salt water once again.
Conclude your journey
A final, rewarding stop in New Brunswick is the charming capital city of Fredericton. The city council has prioritized the continuous expansion of non-motorized, multi-use trails and now boasts more than 50 miles of cycling trails along both sides of the Saint John River. In addition, Fredericton city council has approved a Frisbee golf course in the community’s scenic Odell Park. With so many sites to behold and activities to experience, a trip along the Atlantic coast of Canada is sure to bring out the outdoorsman in everyone.
Ready to jet off to the land of lighthouses and lobster rolls? Plan your trip to Moncton, Fredericton, St. John’s, Halifax, or Saint John now, or discover other outdoor activities along the Atlantic Coast.