Planning A Summer Road Trip To Eastern Canada

Visit Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and PEI

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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.

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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.

Confederation Bridge From

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

A long day after Gaspe will take us back to Quebec City for 3 nights at the Marriott Downtown. We visited Quebec City on our last road trip to Nova Scotia. So we visited some of the major spots.

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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 Eastern Canada 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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  1. Oh happy early anniversary to the two of you! New reader here! Just wanted to drop in and say how excited I am for you to finally be able to head out for a long trip like this! I’m based in Toronto and I’ve gone to the East side only once as a kid via tour bus. I’d love to undertake a similar trip like this staying several weeks at different provinces!

    Not sure if you’re the type of blog that does this – but I would be really interested in knowing the final tally of the costs – it seems like you took extra time to spend on places that had flexible reservations and I know those are likely a premium and I’d love to see the breakdown and see if I can work in a possibility of undertaking a similar trip in the future for myself!

    • Hi Maria and welcome to our RetiredAndTravelling blog. I hope you enjoy following this trip and all the others you will find on the blog. If you subscribe, I do a monthly newsletter with updates and some places to visit. As to costs … When I do the wrap up blog post for a new long trip like this, I typically do a summary of key statistics but often don’t include costs. We will be tracking them as we go and maybe will include it on the final post. If it is not there, you can send me an email (use “Contact Us”) and I can give you some indication on costs. There are lots of trade offs to make along the way to increase or decrease the trip cost.

      • Awesome! Thanks so much for the reply back! I’ll definitely keep an eye out for some of the key statistics once they are out – I follow your blog on an RSS feed so I definitely won’t be missing any updates from here on out 🙂

  2. You’re going to love this trip, and I have to admit, I’m a litle jealous! My husband and I made a trip to Toronto and Quebec a few years ago, but didn’t get any further east than Quebec. In Quebec, be sure to cross the bridge over the top of Montmorency Falls — so breathtaking to look down on it from above. Also, spend some time on the island across from Quebec (Ile D’Orleans). It is filled with farms, B & B’s, local parks, and many great places to stop to purchase fresh farm goods! And you must visit the charming village of Saint Jean on the island!

    • Thanks for the great suggestions in Quebec. We have two passes through the Quebec City area and hope to see a lot on this visit. Hopefully one day you will get to Eastern Canada. Some new spots for us too!

  3. This will be a fabulous trip! We are planning a trip to Eastern Canada for next summer including New Foundland and (if possible) Baffin Island. We just spent one month in Switzerland where we visited the village where Cesar Ritz, the founder of the Ritz hotels, was born. There are always some connections…Looking forward to your posts about the trip! And happy anniversary!

    • I hope we have some tips coming out of our trip to Eastern Canada to help you in your planning. We are sure looking forward to it. So cool to visit the place where Cesar Ritz is from. We just arrived at the Ritz-Carlton in Montreal and were royally welcomed. All in Ritz style!

  4. I do have Beluga whales on my list and I do hope to see them someday. That will be really cool if you get to see them and I would love to hear your experience. I have been to Canada only once and I have not explored all these places. I do have Quebec on my list and will visit it the next time I am in Canada. I am so envious of your travel as in Australia we are completely closed so we cannot travel anywhere. And as you said I think having good cancellation policies at the moment is very important.

    • We were locked down for 18 months with only a bit of local travel. So it is great to finally be able to see a bit more of Canada this year. But we are watching the changing situation carefully and are prepared to abandon if needed. So many great spots in Canada to visit. This road trip adds some new ones for us.

  5. If there’s one take-away from this pandemic when it comes to travelling, indeed, it would be on flexibility. I love how positive you are about this trip, but also realistic and open to surprises! I’d love to hear how this pans out. I’ll wait for the updates.

  6. I would love to stay in Rtiz Carlton. I must say hats off to your planning. It’s so detailed. We are still confused with the pandemic in India and things will take time to return to normal. Under this shadow, even virtual tours, through posts like yours, are such a pleasure.

    • I am glad to offer you a view of how things might get better as things open up. We still don’t expect this trip to feel like things are back to normal. But it is great to head out again.

  7. Your post has brought back amazing memories! We did the exact same trip in Canada a few years ago. I was, however, a little disappointed on the whale watching around Tadoussac because we ended up not seeing too many whales! It got so cold in the middle of the river, despite it being thick summer. I loved Quebec city as well.

  8. I truly would love to visit Canada once things go back to normal – more or less. However, since to me, it would be all about the nature, I wonder if I could do it by myself. I’m not driving and at least in the US – sorry for the comparison – it was really tricky to visit some of the places I wanted to see. Hence, I wonder if in Canada I would face the same problem.
    But maybe I’ll find a designated driver one of these days and I’ll be off to the woods 😉

    • It would be tough to get around Canada without a car. The train and planes can get you to major spots. But to get out into the plentiful outdoor spots, you may need a car or find a tour. The distances in Canada are vast. Maybe pick an area as a base and find tours from there.

  9. Good thing you guys are flexible. That is always my number one planning tip. It is always important to have back up itineraries in case something doesn’t work out. The whole trip sounds amazing!

  10. Eastern Canada has so many awesome “hidden gems”. I loved visiting Nova Scotia on a cruise once!

  11. This looks like amazing, I would love to travel around New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia & Newfoundland I look forward to reading more about this and seeing what you get up to on this trip.

  12. I think it was well-thought that you booked all reservations as fully cancellable. The flexibility is surely important during the pandemic. I’d love to do this road trip too. Whale watching experience sounds amazing, and the final stop at Quebec seems lovely.

  13. This sounds like quite the adventure with the ferries and whale watching. Looks like you’ve had a great time. We have also traveled to Canada in the winter and it was so cold we rarely left our hotel. I want to go back and see Canada in the summer.

  14. Let me first wish you a very Happy Anniversary in advance. And so happy you are planning such a lovely trip. Wish you enjoy to the fullest especially after what happened in the last year and till now this year. Would eagerly look forward to learning more about your experience. Haven’t been to Canada as yet but it’s in our plans and so your plan should help us in deciding ours as well.

    • Thanks for the Anniversary wishes! I sure hope this itinerary sparks your interest in doing a long road trip in Canada. We are looking forward to begin on the road again.

  15. A few Summers ago I actually took a family trip to Seattle and we then drove to Canada shortly after. We spent over 2 weeks there and it was such an amazing experience! I saw you mentioned whale watching in your article and this is a must, when we went we were out on a ferry all day and got to see so many whales. Best part was when they would jump out of the water, truly was a once in a lifetime experience. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • We are quite excited about the chance to see Beluga whales on this trip along the St Lawrence. We were spoiled a bit on our west coast trip with great whale sightings so the bar is quite high. But we will see!

  16. What a great article giving an insight into one’s trip planning during pandemic times. It is very inspiring and interesting to see the process. I am sure you will love your journey. Enjoy.

    • These days travel planning seems to take a lot more thought. And even with the plan pretty firm, we expect some changes along the way. But I am sure it will be a lot of fun.

  17. Pictures from Newfoundland and Nova Scotia made me want to visit eastern Canada badly. The planned was to combine our visit to the New England with Eastern Canada, but Covid changed it all. But now I have a clearer understanding in term of timing, transportation, and places to visit in Eastern Canada from your post. This is a great information to have in hand for planning our future trip to Eastern Canada.

    • I am glad this post will help you to plan a similar trip. We did some of New England in 10 days. So with the Maritimes it is a long trip. Newfoundland adds a week with the ferries and the long drive around.

  18. Great itinerary! Would like to try this someday. We too booked our next trip with trip insurance. It’s great to finally be traveling again, but it’s important to have precautions in place until we are on steadier ground with COVID.

    • We debated the timing on this trip. But finally decided we would keep enough flexibility to address any Covid changes. But great to be on the road again.

  19. Great article, i’m going to pin this for later. We were due to be there this summer as we have bought a plot of land in New Brunswick (unseen) just north of Fundy National Park. We are dying to get over there and explore the maritimes through to Ontario.

  20. A Summer Road Trip To Eastern Canada seems to be a perfect adventure. I have visited only the western and northern parts of Canada so far, and I truly fall in love with its landscapes and wildlife. I would love to take such a trip by RV. 5 Canadian provinces and to the furthest east point in Canada seems pretty impressive. New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland are also on my dream list. Prince Edward Island is on my top. It’s so great that there is a lot of ferries on this route. Whale watching on St Lawrence must be a magical experience.

  21. That’s an ambitious itinerary. I think you’re wise to travel in Canada given the changing Covid landscape. May the sun shine and you find some fantastic seafood. The latter is a given! Enjoy this remarkable corner of Canada.

  22. This guide is so perfect! I’m just getting into road tripping around Canada, so I love this itinerary so much. I used to live in Halifax so maybe I’ll visit following this itinerary

  23. So I love all of your travels and often think it would be so much fun travelling with you guys but planning a summer Road Trip to Eastern Canada like this would have been a disaster for me. (I am sure you will still want Darcee to come, haha!)
    What I mean is that I am an outliner with check list points for when I travel, so I would have never thought about even looking into booking ferries ahead of time for a 30 day adventure. Heck if I had planned out the hotels, instead of the Ritz Carlton Montreal we would have been roughing it at the Motel Pierre.
    Now I will say that the whole idea of exploring Halifax with David to see all of his old Navy haunts sounds awesome. So with that as an incentive, I could be bribed to do more diligent homework & prep.

    • Eric, we would indeed take Darcee with us on our road trip travels. We were glad we did our ferry bookings in advance in Eastern Canada but forgot that lesson when we just had to shuffle plans when a ferry we needed was fully booked! We loved the mix of places along our trip. And I am sure David would regale you with his Navy past!

  24. Good article and knowledge for me! I found a lot of information here! This article is really good for all newbie here. Thank you for sharing with us!

  25. I always recommend an East Coast trip to anyone who hasn’t experienced it yet. I love how different each of the provinces are. You shared a great road trip itinerary, and it makes me want to return. I haven’t properly spent much time in NS or NFLD but need to one of these days.

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