Atlantic Canada offers a spectacle of nature viewing and expansive vistas, from lush rolling hills to dramatic coastlines. This fascinating region is home to warm, welcoming people, Atlantic puffins, breaching humpback whales and the highest tides in the world. Colorful fishing villages are alive with history, and picturesque lighthouses stand watch over the ocean. All this and so much more await you in Atlantic Canada. Are you curious about the best things to do in Atlantic Canada provinces or what to do in the maritimes of Canada?
We collected insider tips from experts in educational travel to assemble the top list of places to see and things to do in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
Top Things to Do in New Brunswick, Canada
Atlantic Canada is filled with stunning landscapes defined by scenic forests and rugged coasts. One of the top things to do in Atlantic Canada is to explore the province of New Brunswick, which is one of the three maritime provinces. Traveling to New Brunswick can bring you to a wide range of exciting destinations with invigorating adventures, from whale watching in the Bay of Fundy to learning about Canada’s famous Confederation Bridge. Continue reading our Atlantic Canada travel guide to learn more about the places you can explore.
1. Hopewell Rocks & the Bay of Fundy
The Bay of Fundy is one of the top things to do in New Brunswick. This iconic bay is home to the highest tides in the world — making it one of the seven wonders of North America! The power of these mighty tides can be witnessed with a visit to the Hopewell Rocks at the Bay of Fundy. These red sandstone giants stand 40-70 feet tall and were formed as the mighty tides of the Bay of Fundy eroded a mountain range once larger than the Canadian Rockies. Walk among the Hopewell Rocks at low tideor kayak around them at high tide.
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2. Canada's Confederation Bridge
One of Canada’s top engineering accomplishments is the Confederation Bridge, which connects the provinces of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island and is part of the Trans-Canada Highway. The Confederation Bridge is the longest bridge in the world spanning ice-covered waterways, making it an exciting landmark to see.
The history of Canada’s Confederation Bridge started with a lengthy back-and-forth among residents of Prince Edward Island, who weren’t keen on a driving bridge providing easier access for tourists to infiltrate their way of life. The local governments of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island conducted feasibility studies and various assessments to determine the economic and environmental impact of the bridge to ensure it would be a wise investment if the plan moved forward.
In 1988, they brought it to the polls by having residents vote on whether they would like a bridge to connect Prince Edward Island to the mainland of Canada. After the polls closed, 59.4% of constituents voted in favor of the bridge, starting the four-year-long construction process involving over 5,000 skilled workers, completing it on May 31, 1997.
If you travel Atlantic Canada and Prince Edward Island, crossing the Confederation Bridge is likely. While ferry services are still available, the Confederation Bridge offers more convenient access and you can take in the views for over eight miles as you cross the Abegweit Passage of the Northumberland Strait. Overall, the Confederation Bridge has significantly impacted the economics and tourism of Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, as it offers a direct link between these two provinces, serving as a symbol of unity.
Top Things to Do in Newfoundland & Labrador
Some of our most popular learning programs allow you to enjoy Atlantic Canada through tours of Newfoundland and Labrador. Newfoundland and Labrador is another Canadian province on the Atlantic coast, known for its rugged landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and diverse blend of natural wonders. Below, we outline some of the top things to do in Atlantic Canada in Newfoundland and Labrador, from exploring Gros Morne to interacting with puffins at the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve.
3. Gros Morne in Newfoundland & Labrador
Words alone cannot describe the stunning beauty of the diverse landscapes of Gros Morne in Newfoundland & Labrador, where you can see barren cliffs, fjords, bogs and beaches alongside mountains and forests. This National Park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit to learn how the plate tectonics and glacial formations shaped the Tablelands of Gros Morne, and hike in Gros Morne National Park to discover one of the few places where the Earth’s mantle is exposed. You can also catch a performance of the Gros Morne Theatre Festival troupe!
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4. Puffins in Newfoundland & Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador is known as the “Seabird Capital of North America” and is also home to the largest concentration of humpback whales in the world! Learn about these giants of the sea, and observe the puffins of Newfoundland and Labradorand other marine life as you ride the waters surrounding the infamous Witless Bay Ecological Reserve.
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The icebergs in Newfoundland and Labrador come from western Greenland and attract visitors from around the world. Touring the icebergs is a great way to experience the beauty of Canada in the fall and summer, as icebergs from the Arctic drift southward along eastern Canada’s coastline, allowing you to view these large chunks of ice up close.
Twillingate is known as the iceberg capital of the world, with winding countryside roads that lead to the area’s rugged coastline. Twillingate also has an annual Iceberg Festival that showcases the significance of these icebergs.
Newfoundland and Labrador offer various outdoor activities to showcase the icebergs in this region. Kayaking is a popular water activity that allows you to explore icebergs with expert guides while maintaining a safe distance. Coastal walks and hikes also offer panoramic views, making it easy to appreciate the natural beauty and landscape and take advantage of unique photography opportunities. One of our top Canadian travel tips is to take safety considerations into mind, as the size of icebergs can be deceptive, and chunks can break off unexpectedly.
Top Things to Do in Nova Scotia
There are countless things to do in Atlantic Canada when exploring Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia is known for its maritime history, scenic landscapes and great cuisine with local favorites like lobster and seafood. Nova Scotia also has a famous Lighthouse Route that leads to some of the region’s top lighthouses along the coast. As we continue to go through our Atlantic Canada travel guide, we will cover some of the top attractions and activities in Nova Scotia, including the Cabot Trail, kayaking in the Bay of Fundy and discovering the town of Lunenburg.
6. Cabot Trail Cape Breton
The Cabot Trail is a scenic roadway that skirts around the rugged cliffsides of Cape Breton Island. The 186-mile loop through Cape Breton Highlands National Park showcases the stunning coastal and verdant mountain landscapes. Hike Cape Breton Island through Acadian hardwood forests and see waterfalls. Learn about the Gaelic influences in the region, and visit the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site.
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7. Downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia
Head to downtown Halifax in Nova Scotia to explore this bustling harbor town and the province’s capital city. Pop into the shops and restaurants in the historic red brick buildings on Argyle Street, or stroll along the seaside boardwalk. Head up to Citadel Hill to learn about the history of Fort George or stop by Fairview Law Cemetery to pay respects to victims of the sinking of the Titanic. Then stop at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic to learn about the Royal Canadian Navy and more!
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When you travel Atlantic Canada, you may want to stop in the town of Lunenburg, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its stunning and well-preserved 18th- and 19th-century architecture. The historic charm and maritime character make this a top destination spot for tourists across the globe. The unique architecture gives visitors a glimpse into the town’s past as a bustling seaport, and nearly 70% of the original colonial buildings are still standing today.
Old Town Lunenburg has a vibrant and colorful waterfront with artisanal shops, craft breweries, distilleries and restaurants serving local food delicacies. Visitors can also tour the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, which dives into the town’s maritime past with detailed exhibits on the fishing industry, boatbuilding and marine life. The museum also allows guests to explore preserved vessels and learn about the maritime traditions that make Lunenburg so special.
Another top attraction in Lunenburg is the Bluenose II, a replica of the original Bluenose and a schooner that symbolizes Nova Scotia’s heritage. When the Bluenose II is docked in Lunenburg, it’s often open for tours. To get the most out of Lunenburg, a walking tour is a great way to explore the town. Through walking tours, you can traverse down the narrow winding streets and learn of the town’s many landmarks.
Top Things to Do in Prince Edward Island
9. Prince Edward Island’s Anne of Gables
Decades before the creation of the Prince Edward Island National Park, Lucy Maud Montgomery was born in the village of Clifton (now called New London), located on the north shore of the island. The pastures and verdant bluffs of PEI would inspire her to write her most famous novel: “Anne of Green Gables.” Visit the island where Montgomery dreamed up the beloved stories of Anne Shirley, and learn about their literary significance at Green Gables Heritage Place.
Road Scholar Recommends: Best of Prince Edward Island →
10. Charlottetown, PEI
Charlottetown, PEI, the capital of the province, is a charming little port city filled with Victorian beauties like the Beaconsfield Historic House. Also home to the Culinary Institute of Canada, the city is a center for gourmet cuisine and craft beer. Explore the restaurants and shops along Richmond Street and pop into the galleries at the Confederation Centre for the Arts. Learn about all the people who have made this island their home over the centuries, from the Mi’kmaq natives to French explorers and Acadian farmers.
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Have we convinced you to embark on an adventure to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador or Prince Edward Island?