Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Amanda Stancati
Known for its seafood, friendly people, melodic accents, and beautiful landscapes, the Maritime Provinces are small but mighty. Along the coastal drives and within the communities lining the Trans-Canada Highway, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and PEI hold a mountain of beauty. Choose to explore all three provinces, settle on diving into one, or let the winding roads and splashing waves lead you into so much more than ocean views, into some of the country’s finest food, amazing arts and culture, and toe-tapping music.
The best way to tackle the routes along the rocky shores of the Bay of Fundy and the Atlantic Ocean is by car, making your east coast road trip of Canada a perfect summer activity. In New Brunswick, find the highest tides in the world and the warmest salt water swimming in Canada among small farming communities. Nova Scotia boasts fresh lobster and seafood, and 7500km of coastline, giving the province its name of Canada’s Ocean Playground. Drive the 12.9-kilometre bridge to Prince Edward Island and step back in time at Green Gables to visit the house that inspired the famous story of Anne Shirley, take a swing at one of the island’s 33 golf courses, or relax on the red-sand beaches.
Ready to set out on your east coast road trip and discover the beauty of the Maritimes? We walk you through this tried-and-true route for the best attractions in New Brunswick to see.
To get to the Maritimes from Ontario, take highway 401 past Toronto, merging onto highway 20 in Quebec before taking the Trans-Canada Highway Nouveau-Brunswick 185 exit, landing you in Edmundston, New Brunswick, on the province’s north-western corner.
Attractions in New Brunswick:
Follow highway 2 down the River Valley Coastal Route to Fredericton to start your visit to New Brunswick. Approximately a 3-hour long drive Quebec border, don’t miss these stops en route to the capital city and our recommended first stay in the Maritimes:
- Grand Falls: Visit the falls and Gorge in the center of town. Hike along the Gorge and walk down 401 steps a view it from a different angle or explore by boat. Zipline over the famous gorge or deepell (face-forward repelling) down a rock wall into the gorge. Recommended season: mid-spring to mid-fall for best experiences and viewing.
- Hartland: Pucker up and smooch your sweetheart as you cross the world’s longest covered bridge in this small New Brunswick town in potato country. Stretching 1,282 feet across the Saint John River, the bridge opened in 1901 and was covered in 1920-21. It’s now a National Historic Site and rumour has it kissing on a covered bridge is good luck!
- Woodstock: New Brunswick’s first town sits quietly along the Mudexnekeag and Saint John Rivers. Walk through town and admire the Victorian-era homes, visit the L.P. Fisher Public Library and learn more of the province’s history or visit the Hon. Charles Connell House and see the Connell Stamp from 1850, known to stamp collectors around the world. Visiting on a Thursday? Stop into the Connell House between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. for Victorian High Tea.
- Nackawic: See the world’s largest axe, standing at over 15-metres tall along the banks of the Saint John River in this mill town.
Choose Fredericton accommodations in the downtown area, with options ranging from quaint bed & breakfasts to traditional hotels like the Crowne Plaza on Queen Street, or the downtown Delta Fredericton. Fredericton is split in two by the Saint John River, dividing the city into Fredericton South and Fredericton North. Walk along the water in Fredericton South on what the locals call “the Green.” This stretch of trail is part of the Trans-Canada Trail system which has over 80km of walking and biking trails running through the city. Find the Lighthouse on the Green along the route for an ice cream treat in the summer, and get the best view of the river from the Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge. There’s no shortage of activities when it comes to Fredericton tourism.
Downtown Fredericton and the Historic Garrison District: Downtown Fredericton is littered with things to do and attractions. Continue your walk along the Green to Officer’s Square and find the Fredericton Region Museum in the old Officers’ Quarters. In the winter months, strap on skates and zip through the park around the statue of Lord Beaverbrook. In the summer, enjoy free concerts with local musicians on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Walk down Queen Street, voted one of Canada’s Best Streets in Canada in 2013, and find the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, home to Salvador Dali’s Santiago el Grande. Nestled between office buildings, find a multitude of cafes and restaurants, including the Lunar Rogue Pub, which boasts over 400 types of whisky and is a local favourite. For the jazz-lover, plan your east coast road trip in the fall and catch the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival which takes over downtown, bringing in artists from around the world for a week of musical fun.
- Kings Landing Historical Settlement: Step back in time at this historical village depicting early New Brunswick Loyalist life from the 19th century. Walk through museum homes and be immersed in New Brunswick’s history in restored homes that come to life with costumed staff representing Loyalist families that once lived in the Saint John River Valley during the time. Learn how to churn butter the old fashioned way, watch gardens be tilled with horse and plough, make beeswax candles, and learn about rural life before modern conveniences and the people that founded New Brunswick.
- Boyce Farmer’s Market: Join locals Saturday morning at one of the city’s best kept secrets: the farmers market. Grab freshly squeezed orange juice, spicy samosas, local crafts, maple syrup, and everything in between. Whether you’re looking to shop locally for groceries, take home a souvenir, or enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of Fredericton, the market is a perfect spot to connect with old friends and meet new ones. Recommended season: Summer and fall months for fresh produce and outdoor stalls, though the market is open on Saturdays from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. year-round.
Active living: Don’t leave your walking shoes at home! Fredericton’s trail system means the city is walk-able, bike-able, run-able and boat-able along the Saint John River. For winter fun, don’t miss FROSTival with ice slides and an ice maze. For golfers, visit Kingswood or the Mactaquac Provincial Park golf course. Mactaquac also offers swimming, boating, hiking, camping, and sliding in the winter. No road trip in Canada is complete without stretching your legs and hiking through provincial and national parks.
After exploring Fredericton, get back on the Trans-Canada Highway 2 and head towards Moncton. Just under 2 hours away, salt air awaits you in the Moncton and Shediac area. Stay a day or more and experience Acadian culture, and hit one or two of these must-see attractions in New Brunswick in the Greater Moncton Area before continuing to Nova Scotia or taking the northern route of the province, the Acadian Coastal Drive (don’t miss Kouchibouguac National Park and the town of Caraquet for great stops along this route!).
- Fundy National Park, and the Hopewell Rocks: Just south of Moncton visit one of New Brunswick’s prized possessions: the Hopewell Rocks. These flower-pot shaped rocks are surrounded by the highest tides in the world. Walk the ocean floor when the tide is out and watch the massive formations disappear as the tide comes in. Continue down route 114 past Riverside-Albert and Cape Enrage (stop here for great rappelling) to Fundy National Park. Start your visit to the park with a stop at Kelly’s Bakery for a taste of the NB-famous sticky buns (you’ll want more than one after the first taste!). Enjoy hiking, swimming, canoeing, camping, and whale watching in this part of the province, located along the Fundy Coastal Drive (connecting Moncton to the Saint John area and southern province).
- Shediac: Swim in the warmest salt water north of South Carolina at Parlee Beach Provincial Park and visit the world’s largest lobster on display in this seaside town. Don’t leave this area, just east of Moncton, without buying lobster straight from the dock, and walking the quaint Main Street, full of restaurants selling as-fresh-as-it-gets seafood. Recommended season: For visitors to New Brunswick in July, plan your New Brunswick tourism adventure around the Shediac Lobster Festival and take a bite out of the world’s longest lobster roll, be wowed by buskers and concerts, and celebrate the region’s specialty. It is the lobster capital of the world, after all!
- Moncton Zoo and Magnetic Hill area: Perfect for your family vacation, visit the Moncton Zoo and Magnetic Hill in Moncton’s north end. With 618 animals, and a new cat exhibit featuring jaguars and Amur tigers, the zoo usually opens mid-April through October with special winter activities on select dates. Experience Magnetic Hill and the magic that is rolling uphill backwards in your vehicle, or cool off in the summer at Magic Mountain water park, featuring waterslides, a wave pool, lazy river, and more.
Before leaving Moncton, explore Main Street Moncton and the Moncton market for great dining and local breweries, like the Pumphouse (we love the Blueberry Ale!), test your luck at Casino New Brunswick on Mountain Road or catch a concert at Magnetic Hill or within the casino, and relax at Centennial Park for a leisurely walk. In the summer months, enjoy national festivals like the Atlantic Nationals car show and the Mosaiq Multicultural Festival, catch the amazing Tidal Bore up the Petitcodiac River and watch the bore surfers.
If you’re not ready to say goodbye to New Brunswick yet, you don’t have to! Take the Fundy Coastal Drive down to St. Andrews By the Sea for even more fresh seafood, beautiful beaches, and a picturesque town famous for its view and the Algonquin Resort. Take a detour to the northern coast or to Saint John and visit the New Brunswick Museum, Reversing Falls, the Saint John City Market, Irving Nature Park for the outdoorsmen, or the caves along the ocean in St. Martins.
After a taste of the salty air (and perhaps a taste of salt water if you test the waves), Nova Scotia is the perfect destination to continue your east coast road trip. Buckle up, charge up your camera batteries, and get ready for every drive being a coastal one in beautiful Nova Scotia.