Our Thoughts On Planning A Summer Road Trip To Eastern Canada
We are in the final stages of planning a summer road trip to Eastern Canada. This will be our first long road trip in 2021. Our last long trip circumnavigated South America before the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the world. So we are a bit out of practice with all it takes to plan and get ready for an extended stay away from home.
Our Eastern Canada itinerary is an exciting path that takes us to 5 Canadian provinces and to the furthest east point in Canada. We will start in Quebec and then transit through New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for the ferry to Newfoundland. After exploring Newfoundland for a week, we take an overnight ferry back to Nova Scotia. Stays in Halifax, Nova Scotia (NS) and then in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (PEI) finish up our longer stops.
From PEI we head back through New Brunswick (NB) and do a stop on the Gaspé peninsula in Quebec. A final stop in Quebec City will provide the last break before we head home to Toronto. We even have a Plan B in our back pockets. If the Canada-U.S. border opens up, we may even take the high-speed ferry from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia to Bar Harbor in Maine. And travel back through the U.S. That will be a last minute decision.
The current plan is about 30 days long and covers about 5,000 km (3,000 miles).
Finally Leaving For A Long Trip
The Covid-19 pandemic kept us close to home for about 18 months. When it was safe and things were open, we did some great local day trips, several trips north to cottage country, around the Canadian Great Lakes and up Lake Ontario to Kingston. But for much of the pandemic the provinces in the Atlantic bubble were closed to even Canadian tourism.
As things started to open up at home in Toronto, we watched the status in Atlantic Canada. We looked at both opening timelines and Covid requirements. Luckily we were both fully vaccinated and it soon became apparent that our vaccination status opened up the Atlantic provinces for us to visit. There were varying online forms and approvals needed by province. But we had the green light to start planning.
We were so excited to begin planning our summer road trip to Eastern Canada.
Challenges With Last Minute Planning
One of our key principles for planning travel during the Covid pandemic was flexibility. We knew how quickly the situation and requirements changed. So as we planned, we booked all reservations as fully cancellable, even if there was a cost premium. While we might have wanted to leave our route and timing flexible, it soon became apparent that we needed to devise a firm plan and make reservations. Or we would not get the trip we wanted.
We made our decision to head to Eastern Canada quickly and started the planning for our month long trip less than 2 weeks before we left. But we were not the only people who moved quickly to plan a trip once the Maritimes provinces opened up.
It was soon obvious that we needed to book the required ferries first and then plan to those dates. The overnight ferry back from Newfoundland had only a few dates available. So our first stop was to book that ferry.
We originally planned to visit the Gaspe peninsula in Quebec on our way east. But booking on short notice, we found no accommodation. Or as David would say, “no accommodation that met Linda’s requirements”. But we found that if we shifted the stay in Gaspe to mid-August, that extra lead time let us book where we wanted.
A key issue with ferry and hotel bookings was cancellation policies. Since companies offered generous windows for cancelation, many people made one (and maybe more) reservations knowing they could cancel much later. We were sure that reservations would open up as we approached our dates. But we did not want to bank on that!
We shuffled and re-shuffled the itinerary for our summer road trip to Eastern Canada until we booked all reservations we needed. But our refundable reservations gave us the flexibility to make changes if we needed to.
A Plan With Extremes
The plan for our trip to Atlantic Canada provided many extremes in the type of travel we would do. Our path took us along the major east-west highway in Canada (the Trans-Canada Highway). But we loved to travel on the smaller roads that run along the water too. This made timing the legs of our travel a bit interesting. We never knew where we would stop along the way!
We will also cross from Prince Edward Island to New Brunswick on the Confederation Bridge. This is Canada’s longest bridge and the world’s longest bridge over ice-covered water.
We planned to enjoy the views from the water when we could. We have five ferries on our route. The ferries vary greatly in size and distance covered. On the long ferry back from Newfoundland (18 hours), we booked a room so we can sleep overnight. In addition to ferries, we booked a whale watching excursion in Quebec on a small inflatable RHIB. And at some point, we hope to get out on kayaks.
Our accommodations also span a wide variety. We start with a return visit to the Ritz-Carlton Montreal for a luxury splurge for our anniversary. But the non-brand small hotels we booked on our transit around Newfoundland will be at the other end of the luxury spectrum. Where we could, we booked with brand hotels we had high loyalty status with. In addition to points, this will give us upgrade opportunities, free breakfast and a certain standard in rooms and amenities. Much needed if we plan to do some blog and social media work as we travel.
On this trip we will also experience a wide range in geography. We have a few larger cities on the plan. But we also intend to explore many of the parks in Quebec and Atlantic Canada. And expect we will be fascinated with “The Rock” – what Newfoundland is often referred to as.
The itinerary for our summer road trip to Eastern Canada ….
Start With A Luxury Stay In Montreal
Our trip starts with 3 nights at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal. This will be a return visit for us. On our first trip we were spoiled with luxury for a birthday stay. This trip we celebrate our anniversary. We know we will enjoy the amazing food at the Maison Boulud on the hotel property. But since Montreal is known for great food, we know we will wander out for other tasty treats.
On our last visit to Montreal, it was so cold we barely left the hotel. On this visit we plan to explore Old Montreal and parts of the downtown we missed on our last visit.
Whale Watching On The St Lawrence
From Montreal we move to the Delta Saguenay in Quebec. We planned this area of Quebec for the summer whale watching around Tadoussac. We had trouble with reservations in Tadoussac. So a stay in Saguenay gave us a day on the Saguenay River to see the fjords and rapids.
On other trips around the world, we had amazing whale watching experiences. But we booked a whale watching trip in Tadoussac and we really hope to see Beluga whales. And we hope to see even more whales in Newfoundland!
We cross the St Lawrence River from the north to the south shore by ferry from Les Escoumins to Trois-Pistoles. Since this is a later ferry, we booked one short overnight stay in Mont Joli, Quebec.
Planning A Summer Road Trip To Eastern Canada With Some Quick Stops
When we changed our reservations for the Newfoundland ferries, it meant a shorter time along the route to Newfoundland. From Quebec we plan to drive across the Gaspe peninsula and enter New Brunswick around Campbellton. Our first New Brunswick stop will be a short overnight stay in Bathurst.
We chose to stop at this point so we could enjoy a long drive the next day out along the point to Miscou Island. There we hope to see the island lighthouse and peat bogs. And from there we will head back inland for a one night stop in Miramichi. We booked the Rodd Miramichi right on the water for this one night stay. Although we may not have much time to enjoy it.
The next day we head off for the drive to Sydney in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia for 2 nights. For our day in Sydney we plan to drive the iconic Cabot Trail. We know we should probably have longer than one day. But our ferry schedule to Newfoundland was fixed.
A Week in Newfoundland
From North Sydney, we take the 7 hour ferry across to Port Aux Basque in Newfoundland. Since we arrive late, we booked a night in a local hotel in Port Aux Basque.
On our original plan, we wanted to drive up the west cost of Newfoundland to Anchor Point. Then cross the St Lawrence River to Labrador. It was a very short ferry ride. But this detour added 3 days. And in the end, we left this off the plan. One day we will do a longer visit to Labrador.
The drive from Port Aux Basque to St John’s was too long to do in one day with no stops. So we planned a mid-point one night stay in Grand Falls Windsor at the Robin Hood Hotel.
By this time we needed a break in our nightly hotel changes. So we booked 4 nights in the Delta Waterfront Hotel in St. John’s. From there we can do day trips and enjoy St. John’s. We hope to see Jelly Bean houses, Signal Hill at the harbour entrance and head to the furthest east lighthouse at Cape Spear on this visit.
The day we leave St. John’s we drive to Argentia and take the ferry back to North Sydney. This is an overnight ferry (16 hours). We booked a room on the ferry so we can sleep. A fun new “cruise” experience.
Pausing In Halifax In Nova Scotia
When we land back in North Sydney at 9am, we have the time to do a leisurely drive to Halifax. We will pick up some spots in Cape Breton along the Bras d’Or Lakes region and then drive the coast to Halifax.
Halifax is another longer stop for us at the Marriott Harbourfront Hotel. The last time we visited Nova Scotia, we were on the other coast and enjoyed the tides on the Bay of Fundy. So we did not need to head that way on this trip.
Halifax is the east coast home port of Canadian Navy. As an ex-Navy officer, David spent about 10 years living in the Halifax area. So he has many spots he wants to share with me. The 3 days will give us a chance to explore some local Nova Scotia gems like Peggy’s Cove, Lawrencetown Beach and return to the Lunenburg area.
A Leisurely Stop In Prince Edward Island
From Halifax we head to Caribou to take our final ferry for this trip. The short ferry trip will drop us at Woods Island on Prince Edward Island (PEI). After a short drive we arrive in Charlottetown on PEI. We debated many hotel options but knew accommodations might be challenging. So in the end we opted for a 4 day stay at the Delta PEI. Our upgraded reservation has already been confirmed so I know we will have a lovely spot to relax.
There are many things on our agenda for the stay on PEI – Anne of Green Gables sites, lighthouses up to the North Cape and Summerside. But PEI is really a small island and each day we know we can wander and find some new charming spot. And maybe even just relax for a day!
When it is time to leave PEI, we will cross on the Confederation Bridge back to the mainland. Unlike the ferry to PEI, the bridge is open 7/24 requires no reservations. So this leaves us some flexibility in scheduling our return trip.
Planning A Summer Road Trip To Eastern Canada With A Finish In Quebec
The trip back home will be far quicker. From PEI, we have a one night stop in Moncton, New Brunswick. From there we head straight to New Richmond on the Gaspé peninsula in Quebec. On our 2 night stop we will head further up the peninsula to the end and see Percé Rock.
At home in Toronto, we visit Niagara Falls on a regular basis. So on this final stop, we want to spend some time at the Montmorency Falls, which are 30m taller than Niagara Falls. While they are said to be spectacular in the winter as they freeze, they are still something we don’t want to miss.
And maybe on this stop I might get my spa day!
Almost Finished Planning A Summer Road Trip To Eastern Canada
We have pretty much all of this trip planned and booked. But we know our summer road trip to Eastern Canada will likely still throw some surprises our way. The trip may also have a surprise twist ending if we come home through the U.S. We are quite excited about the itinerary and the great sights along the way.
We arrive home in Toronto with enough time to pack for our next adventure. At the end of August we head for our fall road trip to Western Canada. That trip will be for a few months. And I am sure we will have lessons learned on our Atlantic trip to help improve the plan and journey west.
Do you have any input to help us planning a summer road trip to Eastern Canada?
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