With three capital cities under a five–hour drive from each other, Canada’s Maritime provinces are road–trip ready, and easy to tackle in a handful of days. (As opposed to some other parts of Canada – we’re looking at you, Quebec and Ontario.) The top time to travel through New Brunswick, PEI and Nova Scotia is spring through early fall, which coincides with some of the best months for lobster lovers, but this itinerary is as accommodating as Maritimers are: add or subtract days as you please, and make sure to slow down and smell the salt air.
Day 1 — New Brunswick: Beach strolls and lobster rolls
Launch your East Coast escape in Moncton, New Brunswick’s largest city, just 30 minutes from the Acadian coast. Before hitting the road, a tour of Hub City, so–called for its central location, should include a visit to Magnetic Hill, a trippy natural optical illusion. On your way, try to spot some of the 50 murals sprinkled around the city. But don’t dawdle – there’s lobster waiting, and you’re a half–hour drive from the Lobster Capital of the World: Shediac, New Brunswick. (If you can’t wait, know that even McDonald’s serves decent rolls in these parts.)
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Start by paying your respects to the World’s Largest Lobster, a 90–tonne sculpture that’s 11 metres long and five metres high, then head for a taste of the real thing at Lenny’s Take Out. This no–frills, family run counter with plenty of outdoor seating serves generously garlic–buttered buns bursting with lobster meat (exactly how a lobster roll should be). Add an order of golden fried clams, a New Brunswick favourite, too.
After your lobster’s been rolled and your fingers licked, carry on 15 minutes down the road – staying on Route 133 to take the shore–skimming scenic route – to the seaside village of Cap–Pelé. This stretch of coast is home to the warmest saltwater swimming north of Virginia (thank you, Gulf Stream). The five–kilometre–long Aboiteau Beach is a hub of activity, with a restaurant, gift shop, yoga lessons, beach volleyball and live music and events on all summer. (The centre is closed in the off–season, but the beach remains open for frolicking — and even a dip for the determined — as does the 450–metre–long boardwalk that criss–crosses the marshlands.) For a less eventful swim, check out Murray Beach Provincial Park, a long stretch of quiet sand and silky seagrass at the foot of the Confederation Bridge.
Stay: Past the boardwalk at Aboiteau Beach are the Chalets de l'Aboiteau, a cluster of cozy two– and three–bedroom cottages, available for rent via Airbnb and Cottages in Canada. Or, on Main Street in Shediac, check into one of the 12 rooms at the charming bright yellow Gabrièle Hotel & Restaurant, complete with antique furniture, exposed beams, and colourful nods to local Acadian culture.
Listen: Nothing beats Acadian trash–folk star Lisa LeBlanc’s self–titled debut for navigating the back roads around Shediac. Windows down, volume up!
Days 2–3 — PEI: Cow–themed ice cream, red–headed heroine paraphernalia and… lobster rolls
From Shediac or Cap–Pelé, it’s just a hop, skip and a scenic drive over the Confederation Bridge to PEI. As a superlative, “the longest bridge in the world to cross ice–covered water” might leave something to be desired, but as a trip, it’s awe–inspiring: Just try not holding your breath as you climb its 12.9 kilometres of humps and curves before being delivered to Canada’s smallest province.
If you’re looking to turbocharge your Island experience, stop by Gateway Village. At the Borden–Carleton Visitor Information Centre, you can catch your first glimpse of Anne with an “E” and enjoy an inaugural scoop of Cows, PEI’s famous ice cream shop known for its cow–centric apparel and flavours, like Cowconut Cream Pie and Nanaimoo Bar. Then head to Victoria–by–the–Sea, just a 20–minute drive east on the Island’s south shore, for picture–perfect lighthouse–and–wharf vibes. Explore the area by renting a bike from By–the–Sea–Kayaking, planning stops at PEI’s largest tree (a 33–metre–tall American elm) and Island Chocolates for a “Factory Coffee,” a warm Belgian chocolate–lined glass filled with fresh coffee and topped with whipped cream. Finish up with – what else? – lobster poutine at the Lobster Barn Pub & Eatery (reservations heartily recommended). If you can’t snag a table at the Barn, north shore favourite Richard’s Fresh Seafood opened a shop in Victoria, across from the wharf, in 2019.
Stay: Make capital city Charlottetown your home base for the next two nights. (It’s only 30 minutes from Victoria–by–the–Sea, but everything’s “just down the road” in PEI.) Fairholm Boutique Inns is a historic downtown property with 32 rooms set in four restored heritage buildings. Slaymaker & Nichols is another downtown option, with three elegant guest rooms tucked away on the second floor of a 1912 residence. On the main floor, a small restaurant serves weekend brunch and comforting dinner plates, including braised beef short rib and red Thai curried salmon.
Listen: Queue up The Send Off, by PEI’s own Rose Cousins, for any cross–Island driving. The singer/songwriter’s fresh and airy (and critically adored) folk–pop is perfect for a sunset spin through the tiny province’s rolling hills and red farmland.
Grab a cortado (or a mimosa, it’s vacation!) at Receiver Coffee’s Brass Shop location – so named for the 1876 building it’s housed in – then start your second day on the Island with a stroll. Begin in the grounds at Province House National Historic Site, the birthplace of Confederation, then meander through the picture–perfect, pedestrian–only Victoria Row, before wending your way to seaside Victoria Park. Anne fans (and those who love them) should pop into the Anne of Green Gables Store and Anne of Green Gables Chocolates, two side–by–side shops on Queen Street. You can’t leave PEI before trying a bottle of Raspberry Cordial, the ruby red soda made famous in L.M. Montgomery’s 1908 novel.
To get up–close–and–personal with Charlottetown Harbour, book a tour with Peakes Wharf Boat Cruises – “We offer seals, lobster and fun!” Captain Kenny MacDonald will have you cruising the water, hauling traps and seal–watching aboard a 45–foot fishing boat. And when it’s time to eat, why not another lobster roll? Dave’s Lobster ranks high for its generously stuffed rolls, grilled cheeses and tacos, and there’s a location right at Peake’s Wharf. Or, head to the Water Prince Corner Shop & Lobster Pound, a gem in historic Charlottetown. It might be a bit of wait, but it’s worth it. In the evening, catch a performance at the Confederation Centre of the Arts, where what’s on can range from a comedy show hosted by Rick Mercer to, you guessed it, Anne of Green Gables – The Musical.
Days 4–5 — Nova Scotia: Lighthouses, libations and – yep – more lobster
Why leave the way you came when you can take a ferry instead? Head southeast to catch the 75–minute crossing from Wood Islands, PEI, to Caribou, Nova Scotia. Stretch your legs with a board walk or beach walk along Melmerby Beach Provincial Park (or Merb as it’s known to the locals), a two–kilometre–long sandbar beach on the Northumberland shore known for its warm waters.
Carry on to Halifax, Nova Scotia’s capital, a two–hour drive southwest. Upon arrival in Canada’s largest city east of Quebec City, get a dose of culture at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 or the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. When you’re ready for happy hour, there are plenty of options: Halifax is home to more than 15 craft breweries. Hit up a few on a self–guided crawl, starting at Garrison Brewing at the Halifax Seaport, then heading up toward the Citadel for 2 Crows Brewing Co. and Propeller Brewing Company. For dinner, seek out Spanish–inspired small plates at Highwayman, which placed ninth on the Canada’s Best New Restaurants list in 2016, or Edna, a cozy North End bistro that ranked tenth in 2014.
Stay: Muir, a 109–room Autograph Collection Hotel, opened in December 2021 on the edge of the harbour. Make the most of your Maritime adventure and hop aboard the property’s 36–foot yacht, Little Wing, or its high–speed motorboat, Reach, before ending the day with a tipple at BKS, a secret, guests–only speakeasy that opens onto a waterfront terrace. For something more boutique, Brewery Park opened in the city’s North End in 2020. Its eight unique apartment–style suites feature fully equipped kitchens, fireplaces and smart TVs, so you can feel at home while still enjoying breakfast in bed (delivered from on–site Sidekick Café).
Listen: Crank up One Chord to Another by sons of Halifax, Sloan. The 1996 CanRock classic clocks in at a nimble 38 minutes – perfect for the drive from Caribou to Merb.
On your final day, take a day trip to the fishing community of Peggy’s Cove, a one–hour drive from Halifax. Explore the rocks (when they’re white and dry) around world–famous Peggy's Point Lighthouse, before heading for lunch at Tom’s Lobster Shack. If you’re really on a lobster roll, order the Classic, but if you’re all rolled out, chef–owner Tom Hejny serves up lots of impossibly fresh seafood specials, from red curry lobster Thai soup to smoked salmon tartare.
Carry on 100 kilometres down the Lighthouse Route to historic Lunenberg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site awash in colourful Victorian homes that look out over the harbour. For a rambling intro to the 18th–century fishing town, take a guided tour with Lunenburg Walking Tours, or stop by Ironworks Distillery, a micro–distillery that produces everything from gin and vodka to apple brandy (with fruit from the Annapolis Valley) out of a former marine blacksmith’s shop in the port.
From Lunenburg, it’s just over an hour to Halifax Stanfield International Airport if your trip is coming to an end here. Or, while you’re in the area, why not tack on Newfoundland and Labrador? Start in St. John’s and go from there – it’s just an extra 400,000 square kilometres to explore.
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