Canada’s Maritime provinces are the country’s smallest, but the staggering beauty of their picturesque landscapes is anything but insignificant. Bordering the Atlantic Ocean, this alluring region was once part of Acadia, the colony of New France in North America, where French immigrants built small settlements throughout what is today Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Île-Saint-Jean – now known as Prince Edward Island or simply PEI.
Before the Europeans, Canada’s first inhabitants were nomads from Asia who crossed the land bridge that once linked Siberia with Alaska. Then came Leif Eriksson and the Vikings, and in 1497 John Cabot sailed under a British flag as far west as Cape Breton. However, it was French explorer Jacques Cartier who first claimed the region for the King of France in 1534. After two centuries of struggles for dominance, France ceded nearly all its North American territories to Britain under the Treaty of Paris of 1763.
Our wonderful tour of the Maritimes explores these three stunning provinces, each with their own distinctive character and countless charms, which we enjoy at a relaxed pace with ample free time.
First, we discover Nova Scotia and its fascinating blend of British and French influences. Latin for New Scotland, its northern half was once attached to Scotland hundreds of millions of years ago. Despite its size, Nova Scotia’s landscape varies wildly, boasting an inspiring canvas of low mountains and forested valleys, to a diverse coast that ranges from the rugged extreme to sandy beaches. We follow the famously scenic Cabot Trail, which winds through the magnificent Cape Breton Highlands National Park, where the highland hills and verdant forests offer views and glimpses of wildlife you won’t soon forget.
A short ferry ride takes us to New Brunswick, Canada’s only bilingual province. Its southern coast hugs the Bay of Fundy, a feeding ground for minke, finback and humpback whales. We witness the world’s highest tides at Fundy National Park, where 160 billion tonnes of seawater flow in and out of the bay. The mesmerising tides are best explored at the Hopewell Rocks, where we walk around the famous ‘flowerpot rocks’ at low tide before they disappear under water.
Last but certainly not least we visit Prince Edward Island, where the undulating scenery will remind you of home. This pastoral paradise is an intoxicating patchwork of rolling hills, flat farmlands, coastal villages, pink-sand beaches and red sandstone cliffs. It’s this storybook setting that inspired local author Lucy Maud Montgomery to create one of the most beloved characters of the 20th century – fans of her books will be delighted that we visit the Anne of Green Gables Museum.
As you’d expect, Maritime Canada is famed for its fresh shellfish, lobsters and oysters, but there’s so much more to the local cuisine, thanks to different cultural influences and the innovative use of indigenous ingredients. Traditional Acadian fare serves up the popular poutine râpée, a dumpling-style dish made with salted pork and potatoes topped with fruit preserves. On local menus it’s not uncommon to find ingredients such as wild blueberries, maple sugar, potatoes and fiddlehead ferns.
Then there are the friendly Canadians themselves, who are more than happy to share their beautiful country with you. Their warm-hearted humour and proclivity towards politeness will make you feel right at home.
Arrive at the airport for your flight to Halifax in Nova Scotia. Upon arrival we transfer by coach to the three-star Cambridge Suites Hotel, where we stay for one night with breakfast.
Picturesque Halifax is a delightful combination of refreshing sea breezes, colourful heritage buildings and lush parks. Our tour this morning starts with a visit to the historic Citadel, an impressive fort perched atop a large hill. Its strategic location overlooking the harbour led the British military to establish Halifax here in 1749 and its distinctive star shape is so typical of 19th-century British forts.
There’s free time to explore the history of the fortress and the lives of the soldiers once stationed here. Between May and October, the citadel is brought to life through live re-enactments by two historic regiments of the British Army: the 78th Highlanders and the Royal Artillery.
Then we continue to Fairview Lawn Cemetery, the final resting place of 121 of the victims of the RMS Titanic. Look out for the grave of ‘the Unknown Child’, later identified as an English toddler whose family also perished in the sinking. Film buffs who spot the headstone of J Dawson might be reminded of Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in the film Titanic, but the grave actually belongs to an Irishman who worked on board the ship.
After a fascinating and moving morning, the rest of the day is at your leisure. Perhaps stroll along Halifax’s historic waterfront or take in a museum – the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is an excellent introduction to Nova Scotia’s rich maritime history.
When it comes to dining out, you’re spoilt for choice: there’s a superb selection of pizzas, burgers and, of course, seafood. Even if you’re not a lover of shellfish, the freshness of the catch of the day might change your mind.
After breakfast we depart Halifax and take the coastal road to picture-postcard Peggy’s Cove. Gracing a rolling granite outcrop is its famous red-and-white lighthouse – one of the most photographed in Canada. Built in 1914, the concrete lighthouse retains the octagonal shape of its wooden predecessor.
We then drive to charming Lunenburg, where brightly painted buildings in red, green and blue line its ship-filled port. Founded in 1753, Lunenburg was the first British settlement outside of Halifax and a UNESCO World Heritage site, recognised for being one of the best-preserved planned settlements in the New World.
You have free time to wander the waterfront and the old town, whose historic highlights include the Knaut-Rhuland House, which features a New England Colonial exterior; and Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, a High Victorian Gothic jewel.
This afternoon we drive to the lush Annapolis Valley and call at Fort Anne, Canada’s first administered National Historic Site. Located on the banks of the Annapolis River, Fort Anne is a vivid reminder of a time when Europe’s powers battled for supremacy in North America. It was built to protect the harbour of the nearby town of Annapolis Royal. Surrounded by a maze of defensive ditches and bastions, the 1797 officers’ quarters are now a museum where visitors can delve into centuries of Canadian history and learn about the Acadians.
Afterwards we transfer to the four-star Digby Pines Golf Resort, where our overnight stay includes breakfast.
After breakfast we take the ferry across the Bay of Fundy to Saint John in New Brunswick. Porpoises can sometimes be seen playing alongside the ferry during the crossing, which takes 2 hours and 45 minutes.
On arrival we witness a unique natural phenomenon at the Reversing Falls Rapids, created by the collision between the Bay of Fundy and the Saint John River. At the right moment, you can watch the bay’s astonishingly high tide reverse the flow of the mighty river, even as it pushes through a gorge formed by the collision of continents millions of years ago.
We then drive towards St-Andrews-by-the-Sea, a quintessential Canadian fishing town situated on a south-facing peninsula that extends into the Bay of Fundy. Blessed with an elegant beauty and superb climate, St Andrews as it’s simply known also has a colourful history. Founded in 1783 by Loyalists – the ‘King’s Loyal Americans’ who settled in British North America – this designated National Historic District is one of the oldest and most distinctive in the Maritimes.
The rest of the afternoon is free for you to explore. Set deep in a natural harbour, the port city of Saint John is surrounded by an impressive ring of rocky bluffs, vertical cliffs and sleepy coves. Walk to the historic old town to see its 19th-century buildings, perhaps visit the New Brunswick Museum to see its entertaining exhibits on local geological, cultural and natural history, or head to the hilltop Carleton Martello Tower, a stone fort built during the War of 1812, for panoramic views over Saint John and the Bay of Fundy.
Our hotel for 2 nights is the 4* Algonquin Resort.
The day is yours to do as you wish, so what is it to be? Stroll along the broad, straight streets – many of which have names associated with British royalty – and browse the quaint shops and art galleries decorated with colourful flowers and flags. Admire the range of architecture, from simple salt box and Cape Cod houses to genteel Georgian townhouses and summer homes built in the American ‘shingle’ style. Or take in the stunning views along the harbour, where fish and lumber were once shipped to Britain in exchange for rum, molasses and sailing vessels.
If you’re visiting in the months of June to September, you may wish to experience a 2.5-hour whale-watching excursion in the Bay of Fundy. Please see the Personalise Your Holiday section for details.
This morning we drive to Fundy National Park, New Brunswick’s awe-inspiring coastal wonderland featuring the world’s highest tides. The leafy Acadian Forest here is home to a multitude of flora and fauna, including the snowshoe hare, pileated woodpecker and rare bird’s-eye primrose. We stop at the Hopewell Rocks, where time and tide have carved distinctive sandstone formations in the red cliffs. Twice a day you can see the highest tides, and at low tide you can wander the ocean floor for small marine life.
After a fascinating morning discovering Canada’s rich natural heritage, we travel eastwards and cross the impressive 8-mile long Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island (PEI). Pastoral and reminiscent of England, PEI is renowned for its beautiful landscapes. Meandering coastal roads present an ever-changing panorama of sea, sand and sky. Wherever you look, emerald farmlands, red-clay roads and the sapphire sea seem to merge in endless awe-inspiring patterns.
We arrive in Charlottetown, where we stay for two nights with breakfast at the four-star Delta Hotels by Marriott Prince Edward or the four-star Rodd, Charlottetown.
The smallest of Canada’s provincial capitals, elegant Charlottetown is as pretty as a picture. But first we follow in the footsteps of Prince Edward Island’s most celebrated author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, on a visit to the Anne of Green Gables Museum at Silver Bush. Set on the 110-acre property is the museum with beautiful flower gardens and a view of the Lake of Shining Waters, as well as some of the island’s loveliest scenery.
After our visit we return to Charlottetown, where we’re introduced to the town on a brief tour before the rest of the day at your leisure. The town is best-known for hosting the 1864 conference that led to the foundation of modern-day Canada. Step back in time as you discover the old-world charm of the downtown area, which has stayed true to its roots with well-preserved Victorian buildings from its 19th-century prime. Look out for the impressive neo-Gothic cathedral, inviting shops and heritage houses, such as the Beaconsfield Historic House that boasts a grand veranda and crowning belvedere. The leafy Victoria Park offers 40 acres of beautiful green space to relax in along the waterfront.
Charlottetown has a burgeoning food scene, so there are plenty of dining choices available. For dessert, why not try COWS creamery? The mouthwatering ice-cream produced here is arguably Prince Edward Island’s most popular edible export. We stay for 2 nights at either the four-star Rodd Charlottetown or the four-star Delta Prince Edward.
This morning we drive to Wood Islands to take the ferry to Pictou in Nova Scotia. Our return to Nova Scotia sees us exploring a different side: the ruggedly breathtaking Cape Breton Island. On our way we pass by Antigonish, a cosy university town with a strong Scottish heritage. Interestingly, it’s home to the oldest continuous Highland games outside of Scotland, held annually since 1863.
We cross the 4,544-foot Canso Causeway that connects Cape Breton Island to the Nova Scotia peninsula and stop in Baddeck, where we visit the superb Alexander Graham Bell Museum. The Scottish inventor serendipitously discovered Bras d’Or Lake while on holiday and fell in love with the beautiful landscape, which reminded him of his birthplace, Edinburgh. Set on the shores of this shimmering lake, the museum displays artefacts from his years of experimental work in Baddeck, from full-scale replicas of the pioneering Silver Dart aircraft to electrical devices, medical inventions and, of course, telephones.
After our visit, we check in to the four-star Inverary Resort, where our two-night stay includes breakfast.
Have your camera ready today as we experience the world-renowned Cabot Trail, a wonderfully scenic road that loops and snakes for 185 miles around the northwest of Cape Breton Island. During this unforgettable drive, we journey through the spectacular Cape Breton Highlands National Park, where thickly forested river canyons have been carved over time into an ancient plateau edged by rust-red cliffs. This dramatic highland haven is home to a unique blend of Acadian, Boreal and Taiga plants and animals. Keep your eyes open for moose, bald eagles and, if you’re lucky, a whale. We also travel through quaint fishing villages nestled in idyllic coves and pause at lookout points to admire the breathtaking views of coastal cliffs, glorious beaches and the sparkling Atlantic Ocean.
After a fabulous day soaking up the extraordinary views, we return to Baddeck with the rest of the day free. Perhaps stroll along the lovely promenade into town, where you can see the traditional county courthouse and the graceful façade of St Michael’s church. Why not catch dinner and a show at the modest Theatre Baddeck?
After a leisurely morning, we transfer to Halifax airport for our flight home.
We arrive back in the UK.
The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a room. Single rooms are subject to availability, at the relevant supplement. The price includes:
Whale-watching in the Bay of Fundy - from £55 per person
If you’re visiting from June to September, you may wish to enjoy a 2.5-hour whale-watching excursion in the Bay of Fundy, the breathtaking playground of porpoises, seals and whales.
Subject to weather conditions. Riviera Travel cannot guarantee any wildlife sightings.
Please contact us to pre-book this experience.
Along with a valid passport, UK citizens must have an eTA (Electronic Travel Authorization) in order to travel to Canada. For the most up-to-date passport and visa information visit
eTA cost is CAD$7 per person. Full details of how and when to apply will be sent with your booking confirmation.
We are unable to accept responsibility if you are unable to travel because you have not complied with any passport/entry/immigration requirements.
Please note that visa costs may be subject to change.
We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to call us to discuss these concerns. General information on mobility in connection with our tours can be found here.
There are no current health requirements for travel to Canada, however, whilst the travelling schedule shall pose no problems for people of any age in normal physical health, we would point out that we often enjoy walking tours (sometimes over unmade paths) so this holiday may not be suitable for clients of greatly impaired mobility. Please bear this in mind when considering this holiday.
All transfer times listed here are approximate, and dependent on traffic. If you have a question regarding transfer times please don't hesitate to contact us.
|Arrival airport||First hotel location||Transfer time||Final hotel location||Departure airport||Transfer time|
|Halifax, Nova Scotia||Halifax, Nova Scotia||45 mins
||Baddeck, Nova Scotia||Halifax, Nova Scotia||3 hrs 30 mins|
My wife and I have just returned from a holiday of a lifetime made even better by our guide Nickie who was helpful and very well organised. The trip on the Rockie mountaineer was made even better by the wonderful crew on-board who...
Where do I start....such an amazing experience which we shall definitely be repeating once we have decided which trip to choose next. The staff are all an absolute credit to the company, we had the pleasure of Andras & Alina who l...