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Two Weeks in Nova Scotia, PEI, New Brunswick

I am planning a trip with three friends for 2 weeks in early July. I have mapped out the trip below but wonder if I am being overly ambitious. Any tips or suggestions would be much appreciated.
Halifax. 3 nights.
Can do a day trip to Peggy's Cove and Lunenburg
Maritime Museum
Public Library
Farmers Market
Baddeck. 2 nights
Alexander Graham Bell Museum
Cabot Trail
Possible Whale watching cruise
Fortress of Louisbourg
Pictou. 1 night
Take Ferry to PEI
Charottetown PEI. 2 nights
Ferry from Caribou (just outside of Pictou) to Wood Islands (free to get on to PEI, pay to get off)
Cows Creamery
Anne of Greengables
Hopewell Cape (via bridge). 1 night
Hopewell Rocks
Digby via St. John Ferry 2 nights
Possible Whale watching cruise
Explore Annapolis Royal Gardens
Wolfville. 2 nights
Halifax airport hotel. 1 night

Posted by
347 posts

I can share my experience and you can decide how it might apply.

About 24 years ago I took my daughter on an auto trip around Nova Scotia. We circumvented the whole island in about 10 days. We spent a lot of time behind the windshield as the speed limit on the roads was about 50mph max. I'm suggesting the drive-times may be longer than you expect. It was a beautiful drive.

It was a great trip. Had my first and best-ever clam chowder from a shack on the Cabot Trail. Stayed in bed and breakfasts primarily. Met some lovely people. The government regulated them at that time.

I was really watching my pennies back then. It was cheaper, though not more convenient, to fly to Maine, rent a car and take the ferry to NS than to fly into Halifax and rent a car there. I'm not sure what the exchange rate was back then.

Thanks for bringing back the good memories. I may still have most of my itinerary information. Many of the locations we mentioned are familiar.
PM me if you wish.

Posted by
8206 posts

Our next door neighbor has a summer home on Prince Edward Island, and he warned us that distances are great to that part of Canada. If we drove it all the way from Alabama, Boston would be about halfway to Sydney, NS--the end of the roads. Boy, was he right.
We flew into Manchester, NH and drove up and back--2,000 miles put on a rental car.

Posted by
4574 posts

This is hard to follow with no line breaks, but unless the plan was to just wave at thes things on your way by, it is too ambitious in some areas. Often 3 nights means only 2 days, so I really can't gauge how much topime you really have. Part of the appeal of these places is to stop and watch life happening around you albeit at a slower pace. You also have to consider weather. We arrived in PEI after a storm July 1 when the island lost power and it rained, and rained. Everyone with a spare bead opened their houses to campers there for the long weekend. Then there is pea soup fog. Or a chance for a stone cut tire in Hopewell area. And you have to match the tide to your schedule.
I think you need to give up PEI or Cape Breton.

Posted by
381 posts

I think you need to give up PEI or Cape Breton.

I have been to 7 or 8 Canadian provinces, and PEI was by far the most boring and least scenic. Nova Scotia on the other hand might beat out British Columbia as among the most scenic. So if you need to drop one destination, unless you are a HUGE fan of Anne of Green Gables, drop PEI.

Posted by
6622 posts

I agree about Nova Scotia vs. PEI, and about the distances you're contemplating.

If I understand your plan, you'll be driving from Halifax to Baddeck, which will take some time, sleeping there, then having one full day for the Cabot Trail, a possible whale watch, and Louisbourg, another night in Baddeck, then driving to Pictou. The Cabot Trail and Louisbourg are in opposite directions from Baddeck, and each worth a whole day.

Posted by
123 posts

Our family owns a house in Malpeque close to Cabot Provincial Park (which we find lovelier than Cavendish BTW). Been traveling there from NE throughout last 35 years.
Honestly, PEI is pretty but not your traditional tourist hotspot. If you are not into sports or camping you can literally ‘see’ the touristy spots in one day. I don’t understand why folks go to Charlottetown; unless you have to go. I’d eliminate that stop.
I agree with others—-the driving is vast between your chosen locations and the roads are not in great shape especially on PEI. Limited cell coverage too.

Cape Breton and south shore of New Brunswick (around St Andrews) are stunning.

Hope that helps.

Posted by
7061 posts

Just my personal experience but I saw and did everything on your list, except for the whale watching cruise and I did it in 10 days. So, I would say 2 weeks is plenty of time to see and do those things at a bit more leisurely pace. I was by myself so maybe moved a bit faster than a group of 4 who may have different needs and wants to account for. The driving distances aren't horrible and the ferry rides are pretty short. I absolutely loved every place I went in all three of the provinces, hard to choose a favorite but if pressed I would say PEI was the tops. Enjoy your trip.

EDIT I disagree with others' suggestions to drop PEI. You have plenty of time and if you're not big on nature and lighthouses and pastoral scenery (or Green Gables and Charlottetown are not on your must see lists) one day is enough. But it's still worth seeing.

Posted by
336 posts

Another suggestion to drop PEI with your limited time. Spend it on Cape Breton or possibly the Parrsoboro/Cape Chignecto area of Nova Scotia. You didn't say how you're getting there or where you're coming from, but if you drop PEI, Hopewell Rocks may not fit, or might be better as a first or last stop. Also, if you're planning to hike among the exposed "flower pots" and saea stacks, make sure that low tide coincides with the time you plan to visit.

Posted by
472 posts

Yup, one more ehh on PEI, but ohh for Cape Breton. No comparison. PEI felt & looked pedestrian, but Cape Breton's scenic drive is spectacular, the Scots cultural heritage terrific, the people ditto.

Posted by
46 posts

We did a similar trip a few years ago. I would spend more time in Annapolis Royal/Wolfville. We had 2 nights in Annapolis Royal and felt cheated. I think you will have difficulty working in all you want to see in Halifax and do the day trip. We skipped Peggy's Cove and spent more time exploring Lunenburg and other towns.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you all so much for your input. We are flying in and out of Halifax and renting a car. Ideally it would be good to spend a minimum of two nights in each stop, planning 3 nights for Halifax at the start because we get in early evening. If you were to stay somewhere in addition to Baddeck on the Cape, where would that be? We really want to go to Hopewell Rocks, so even not doing PEI, I think we are committed to New Brunswick.

Booked flights and car rental, accommodations in Halifax, Baddeck, and Wolfville so far, but need to rethink this middle part now that PEI is out.

Thanks again for your assistance.


Posted by
3 posts

One more thing is Fortress Louisbourg worthwhile? We are contemplating dropping that and adding a night or two in the northern part of the Cape.

Posted by
4574 posts

I enjoyed Louisburg but that was 38 years ago and was meh about Hopewell Rocks.

Posted by
164 posts

In Halifax, by Public Library, I assume you mean the new Central Library on Spring Garden Road? While the building is quite spectacular, unless you are planning to spend time reading or have a special interest in libraries I'm not sure it warrants the time. Though it's not far from the Halifax Public Gardens, which should be in full bloom at that time of the year. But I do recommend a visit to Pier 21 Museum. And when you're on the waterfront, make sure to eat at The Bicycle Thief - best lobster roll ever!

Posted by
6622 posts

We went to Louisbourg several years ago and found it quite interesting and well presented -- good exhibits, costumed interpreters and all that. But I'd choose time in or around Cape Breton National Park, including the Cabot Trail, over Louisbourg (or Baddeck) if I had to choose.

Cheticamp and Ingonish both have lodging options on the Cabot Trail. We spent some memorable time at the Markland Resort near Dingwall many years ago, I see it's still there and might be worth checking out. We took a whale watching trip out of Bay St. Lawrence, a lovely little town at the north end of the island -- the town was more memorable than the boat ride.

Posted by
197 posts

From your list of places and nights in each, I gather you are planning on driving the Cabot Trail as a day trip from Baddeck. While that’s possible, it makes for a very long day, with much of it spent in the car. I’d recommend spending at least a night along the coast, either in the Ingonish area on the east side of Cape Breton, or somewhere between Inverness and Mabou on the west side. Mabou is in the heart of fiddlin’ country if you’re interested in Cape Breton music. Most of Canada’s fiddling legends have their roots in this area, and there are cèilidhs on most summer nights. (Baddeck has its fair share as well.). If you’re into single malts, the Glenora distillery is in the area as well (just don’t call it Scotch, because you’re not in Scotland!.). Or, for a splurge night, spend a night at the famous Keltic Lodge, at the eastern end of the Cabot Trail. As for Louisbourg, it’s fun for the kids, but in my opinion it’s not worth the long drive if you’re already short on days. I found the Citadel in Halifax at least as interesting. And while in Halifax, be sure to allow lots of time for just strolling around the harbour area.

Posted by
3941 posts

Along the route to Peggy's Cove/Lunenburg, Chester seems to be a fav spot (yes, I live here, but I've never been to Chester) and Mahone Bay makes a nice stop as well. One lovely spot in Mahone Bay for delicious pieces of pie/sweets is Joann's - I always treat myself to a lemon square, and hubby gets a ginger cookie. I splurged once on a huge slice of coconut cream pie - divine but make sure you're hungry. Right beside Joann's is a small LaHave Bakery outlet - the cheese/herb bread/rolls are my fav. Mahone Bay has the lovely photo op of the Three Churches, otherwise, lots of nice little shops (Amos Pewter has gorgeous stuff and Northern Sun has some lovely quirky items) and some lovely homes - you could stroll for an hour.

We always hit Lunenburg and Mahone Bay as my mother-in-law is from Lunenburg (where she now rests behind the Lunenburg Academy) and my hubby has a cousin down there.

As for Peggy's Cove - I find earlier in the morning or just after supper to be a good time to visit - it's so crowded thru the day - only thing is after supper the businesses are likely to be closed. We will have lots of daylight in July, so no worries there. And PLEASE - stay off the black rocks (just google black rocks Peggy's Cove to see why).

In the Annapolis Valley, make sure to drive up to The Lookoff. If you are OK with zoos, check out Oaklawn Farm Zoo - you can look into feeding times - usually after supper when they feed the big cats, which is interesting. If you decide to pass on Louisbourg in Cape Breton, you could visit Fort Anne in the Valley, and for sure have to visit Grand Pre. If you want to wander around and bird watch, visit Miner's Marsh in Kentville.

Let's see, when passing by Truro (as you prob will coming back from NB) - before Truro is Masstown and the amazing Masstown Market - fish and chips, a wonderful bakery (heading there soon myself - the cinnamon buns...mmmm), their soup and sandwich counter is always busy, nice souvenirs.

When in Halifax - you have to try a Beaver Tail pastry - and of course, poutine - Smoke's Poutinerie or Cheese Curds are both good. And as someone else mentioned - the library is lovely - but you might walk around for 20 min admiring the inside, but that's about it (they do have a café tho, so you could have a snack and a sit). Lots of construction going on on the waterfront. They have a road train now, which I haven't done, but looks interesting. There is (I think it's still there) a Cows Creamery on the waterfront for ice cream, but the lines can be very long.

Posted by
303 posts

We camped our way through Nova Scotia a number of years ago, and our favorite stop was Lunenburg. Be sure to spend time in this very charming harbor town. We also loved the Cabot trail, but I had read that you encounter less traffic driving from east to west as most folks drive the opposite way. It worked for us. We skipped PEI so I have no input for it. You will enjoy the Maritime provinces!

Posted by
752 posts

Bay Saint Lawrence on the very north point of Cape Breton is beautiful and worth visiting/staying.. We loved the remote feeling and spent a night there at Burtons Sunset Motel (classic simple Mom and pop motel, with efficiency kitchen). You can order your fresh lobsters when you book your room, and they will get them fresh from the local lobster boats, cook them for you in their outdoor cooker. You can see the lobster boats in the harbor from the motel.

The next morning there was a double rainbow. This night was one of the most memorable of our entire trip. There are other lodgings on the bay, and hiking as well. Also whale watching leaving from the harbor.

We spent the next 2 nights in Baddeck at Heritage Bed and Breakfast, which was lovely. Alexander Graham Bell Museum not to be missed.

On the Cabot Trail, we stopped for two trail hikes on the west coast, and one on the east coast.

On PEI, the northeast coastal area was our favorite part of the island. Plenty of eagles and Inn at Saint Peters had good rooms with sea views. Nearby nature trails and coastal bike path.

Have a great trip!

Posted by
41 posts

I have family sprinkled around NB and NS. I spent a couple weeks in Pictou area and PEI about 4 years ago.
I don't know your specific needs and wants, so I will guess from your list. I'll only comment on a couple locations.
Skip PEI unless you are an Ann of Green Gables fanatic, or Cdn history fanatic, or beach fanatic, or potato farming fanatic.

IRT NB the whale watching is an entire day from Grand Manan. This depends on weather [as all your outdoor sightseeing does] so it cannot be planned on until a couple days before. Try to spend a whole day experiencing the Tidal events in the Bay of Fundy. There is a BF National Park in NB where you experience more of the raw natural beauty and power of tides plus at NS places such as Wolfville where you can see urban adaptation. Amherst and Moncton have enchanting downtowns. Saint John has the oldest covered Market place in NA [IIRC], Across the street is a fascinating cemetery. There are a few other interesting historical buildings on the street down to the harbour. This area of SJ warrants a few hours.
When in the Maritimes you may see the initials UEL; which means United Empire Loyalists. They are the people who escaped, or were booted out of, the new nation of USA because they had supported GB in that insurrectionist civil war. Remember "The Victor writes the history".

IRT NS. Halifax Maritime Museum and Immigration Museum [I think also called Pier 21] each warrant at least 2 hours [better 3] to visit. The Harbour board walk between them is 30 minutes. The Citadel is at least 2 hours [better 4]. Remember this fort when you are visiting FL.
As others have noted, sites such as Lunenburg and Peggys Cove can get crowded; plan suitably. Also spend time enjoyably driving coastal roads and local roads, On the way to Cape Breton [CB] you can take an expressway, ]very boring] or local roads. On CB there are only good quality local roads and lesser quality. Don't drive fast or you will miss the beauty!
Fort Louisbourg [FL] is essential if you have an interest in USA history. When France built it, it was the largest military building project/location/fort in the Western Hemisphere. It had a substantial impact on the shipping lanes of the Atlantic Ocean. France controlled most of North America. Great Britain, with enthusiastic support and urging from its Colonies, attacked it repeatedly until they won and demolished it. Later GB plus colonists attacked Quebec City and conquered New France. Within two decades those Colonists rebelled against GB, now that New France no longer posed a threat [what ingrates, eh!] and won their independence. So, Fort Louisbourg is essential in understanding the history of the USA. At least 4 hours, longer better.
At some time in the future perhaps you will be able to visit the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City?
Cabot Trail is beautiful if the weather is clear. Most of a day. Maybe parts of two days if it is a way to get to something, like FL.
Fiddle music in CB should be experienced. It is often in local halls, so internet info might be sparse. But that is changing fast.

Both NS and NB have large tourism information bodies, plus each city and local area and NP or similar place. Plus there is a tremendous amount of info on the internet, including, on Youtube and similar places, large amounts of video coverage.
Have a wonderful trip and I hope you have good weather.

Posted by
7 posts

Native Nova Scotian here. I’m so excited for you!!! You will love the east coast :)

Just a couple of thoughts. You mentioned that you want to do Peggys cove and Lunenburg as a day trip. I should point out that these two attractions are both must-sees (see if you can spot the Whales Back rock formation on the side of the road - north bound on route 333!) but these two areas of interest are on opposite sides of St. Margaret’s Bay, over an hour away from each other and each roughly an hour away from Halifax. Add in the fact that if you take the scenic route to Lunenburg (which I recommend), you are looking at single lanes of traffic packed with tourists and, on the Lunenburg side, beach goers, so those times will definitely be inflated. Pro safety tip, for the love of all that is good and holy, read the warning signs at Peggy’s Cove and STAY OFF THE BLACK ROCKS!!!! Even if the water is calm as glass, rogue waves sweep people out every year at Peggy’s Cove and many people have died there. Please supervise any children closely and respect the power of the ocean! A close friend of mine died there a number of years ago - this is not something to take lightly. It is a beautiful place and must be respected.

As others have mentioned, there are so many lovely villages along the south shore, including Lunenburg, Chester, Mahone Bay. The three churches in Mahone Bay is an iconic scene, and is worth the stop. There are also some great shops (support local artists!!) and seafood in the area. When you are travelling between the two, of you make it into the small community of Upper Tantallon, there is a fish and chip shack called “Maya’s Favorite Fish and Chips”, which is next the the Tantallon Esso. Hands down the best fish (haddock) and chips in the area, made by locals (the owners are truly lovely people that live just up the street!) using locally sourced ingredients.

Finally, for PEI. I’m not quite sure why folks are saying not to go there! I live in western Canada now and every summer I go home to NS and I ALWAYS make a trip to the island! The confederation bridge is an attraction all on its own. And the beaches, my dear god, the beaches in PEI are second to none. The water is warm by Atlantic Ocean standards (on the south side of the island). The people are friendly. People are right, there aren’t a lot of “tourist attractions” and droves of tourists flocking to buildings, but the seafood on the island is some of the best. PEI shellfish is the cleanest on the coast (I used to test shellfish for a living, so this is a scientific fact!). Traffic moves slow as you are on island time once you cross the pond :)

Please feel free to message me with any questions! I am proud to say I am a Bluenoser and am happy to help you enjoy your trip. Be prepared - the people there are very friendly :)

Now, you’re going in July, so if you like the beach, consider taking pause and discovering one of Atlantic canada’s phenomenal beaches! If you go further down the south shore you can find some amazing beaches and shorelines to explore. My personal favourite is Hirtles Beach. There is a little day hike you can take; the train head is at the end of the beach and it’s called “Gaff Point.” It’s a little known gem with amazing rock cliffs made is red stone. About halfway through the hike you will find a myriad of Inukshuks that hikers have made out of rocks, making for some really cool photo ops!! Carters Beach is another gem in that area. It is a beautiful white sand beach, but be advised that the water is typically frigid. If you go early enough in the day before the beachcombers have ravaged the shoreline, you might be able to find some sand dollars (please leave the live ones be!). The ovens is also in the area, and while the infrastructure of the park needs some serious help, I can assure you that the views of the caves and rock cliffs is well worth the admission price!

Posted by
7 posts

I almost forgot...if you have time/interest, google “tidal bore rafting” in the Bay of Fundy. It’s pretty wild and a heck of a lot of fun!!!!!