Which Province to Visit in Atlantic Canada

Atlantic Canada is made up of four provinces, which makes dividing the region into manageable areas easy. But even among Canadians, there is sometimes confusion about the definition of “Atlantic Canada” versus “the Maritimes.” The latter comprises New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, while Atlantic Canada comprises the Maritime provinces together with Newfoundland and Labrador.

Sunset at Nova Scotia’s Crystal Crescent Beach—the locals’ favorite Atlantic beach. Photo © Vadim Petrov/123rf.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia typifies Atlantic Canada, with a dramatic, 7,459-kilometer-long coastline notched with innumerable coves and bays holding scores of picturesque fishing villages. It would be easy to spend an entire vacation exploring Nova Scotia, yet still leave feeling you hadn’t seen everything. The cosmopolitan streets of Halifax, the colorful port of Lunenburg, the historic ambience of Annapolis Royal, and the wilds of Cape Breton Island are just a taste of what you can expect in this diverse province.

New Brunswick

New Brunswick is the largest of the Maritime provinces, but is the least known to outsiders. Although the province is mostly forested, it is its coastline and fertile Saint John River valley that attract the most attention. Here you’ll find the elegant resort town of St. Andrews, the phenomenal Fundy tides, and pristine beaches such as Parlee. These attractions, along with the three main cities—Fredericton, Saint John, and Moncton—and a distinct Acadian flavor to the north coast create a destination with something for everyone.

Prince Edward Island

Little PEI ranks as Canada’s smallest province, as well as its most densely populated, most cultivated, most ribboned with roads, and most bereft of original wilderness. PEI also has the country’s smallest provincial capital—Charlottetown, with a population of just 33,000. Tourism revolves around Cavendish, but the island’s low-key charm is found elsewhere, along rural roads that end at the ocean and drift through neat villages that have changed little over the last century.

Colorful waterfront at Summerside, Prince Edward Island. Photo © Vadim Petrov/123rf.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Three times the size of the Maritimes put together, this province redefines the region as Atlantic Canada. It comprises the island of Newfoundland as well as Labrador on the mainland. The Maritimes share a kindred climate, history, and lineage, but Newfoundland is different. About half of the island is boreal forest, while much of the rest is rocky, barren, or boggy. The people, many of whom live in the capital, St. John’s, in some ways seem more akin to their Irish or English forebears than culturally blended or archetypically Canadian.

If You Have…

  • A weekend: Spend your time along the Halifax waterfront, Citadel Hill, and Point Pleasant Park.
  • One week: From Halifax, drive around the South Shore to the Fundy Coast.
  • Two weeks: Add Prince Edward Island—spend two days in Charlottetown and then enjoy some beach time in Cavendish.
  • Three weeks: Expand the two-week itinerary by catching a ferry to Newfoundland and traveling from St. John’s to the tip of the Northern Peninsula.
Nova Scotia
New Brunswick
Prince Edward Island

Andrew Hempstead

About the Author

While writing Moon Nova Scotia & Atlantic Canada, Andrew Hempstead traveled extensively through all four provinces. He feasted on traditional rappie pie along the Acadian Coast, viewed the wonders of Prince Edward Island through the eyes of his children, and drove the entire length of the Trans-Labrador Highway. These diverse experiences, along with input from untold numbers of locals and a love of the outdoors, created this guidebook.
As a professional travel writer, Andrew spends as much time as possible out on the road. During his travels, he experiences the many and varied delights of Nova Scotia the same way his readers do.
Since the early 1990s, Andrew has authored and updated more than 60 guidebooks, and supplied content for regional and national clients like Expedia and KLM. His photography has appeared in a wide variety of media, ranging from international golf magazines to a Ripley's Believe it or Not! Museum.
Andrew and his wife Dianne also own Summerthought Publishing, a Canadian regional publisher of nonfiction books. He is a member of The Diners Club® World's 50 Best Restaurants Academy. Andrew has also spoken on travel writing to a national audience and has contributed to a university-level travel writing textbook.

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