When my husband was sick with cancer, he planned a trip to visit the Canadian Maritime provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. We used planning for that trip as something to look forward to if he got to the other side of harsh chemotherapy.
Unfortunately, he could not tolerate the chemo, and six months after diagnosis with pancreatic cancer, he died peacefully, with me by his side.
For the last 8 days, I fulfilled his dream and added my own twists. Read on…
I have had the great fortune of visiting every province and territory of Canada for work, but those trips were 20 years ago in a different “life.” Those trips were always “in-and-out” for business meetings. I enjoyed the hospitality of my hosts, but did not have time to tour (much.)
My husband joined me on some of those trips which we extended for personal vacation. He loved (as I did as well) touring Toronto (where we visited most and had our honeymoon) and all over British Columbia. We both particularly enjoyed visiting national parks when we could.
I planned a self-guided trip using my husband’s original plan, but added additional days and places to visit and things that I wanted to do.
This post shows lots of photos and has a narrative, so be sure to scroll on to catch it all.
The trip began in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I arrived by airplane and rented a car at the airport.
Halifax is a pleasant city, yet very hilly. As long as you walk north and south, you’re fine; it’s fairly level. But going east toward the harbour, or west back into the city, the hills are rather steep.
Day 2 began with a steady rain, but I did not let that daunt me from exploring. I got going at 7am and drove to the shoreline areas along the Atlantic Coast south and west of the city. I visited Peggy’s Cove (a nice spot to see, especially early before loads of tourist arrive by motorcoach), then moved on to Mahone Bay, Lunenberg, and Port Medway.I made my way to Yarmouth on the far west coast of Nova Scotia where I stayed the night.
Day 3 began with a pleasant drive north to Digby, where I boarded the ferry to travel across the Bay of Fundy to the lovely city of Saint John, New Brunswick. The weather was delightful as were the people of the town.Visiting here was hard, since my husband dreamed of seeing this lovely city and talked about it a lot. I stayed the night at the Hilton with a great view of the harbour.
Day 4 began my part of this journey. I love Canada National Parks and had always wanted to see the vast tidal fluctuations of the Bay of Fundy. I drove into the Fundy National Park and made my way to Hopewell Rocks at low tide. It was fascinating to set my boots in the mud of the ocean floor!
Since this date was my birthday, I thought, “what the heck, you only live once,” so I drove to a spot where a rafting outfit takes guests on a thrilling ride on the crest of the Bay of Fundy Tidal bore as it comes in. What fun!
Day 4 ended with a hot shower in a nice hotel in Moncton, New Brunswick. I enjoyed a lobster roll as a treat for my birthday dinner.
Day 5 started early. I wanted to enjoy a full day on Prince Edward Island, the third province to visit on this journey. I drove across the Confederation Bridge, an 8-mile long bridge that connects New Brunswick to the smallest province of Canada, known as “the island” or simply “PEI.”
It rained all day, but that didn’t stop me from exploring the next national park on the Gulf of St. Lawrence. I met a number of local residents who guided me, offered advice, and shared stories of life on the Island. The hospitality, food, and picturesque shoreline was wonderful.
I stayed in the provincial capital of PEI, Charlottetown, and had a lovely dinner with buddies I met through my volunteer fire service — even out here on the island!
Day 6 began with more rain. I set off for Wood Islands to catch the ferry across the Northumberland Strait to the Island of Cape Breton on Nova Scotia’s northeast coast. I made my way to a nice, quiet, inn located in the heart of the #1 in-north-America scenic road: The Cabot Trail. Everyone told me, “you’ve gotta see the Cabot Trail!”
Day 7 began on the Cabot Trail. This road is 185km of scenic pleasure that hugs the coast of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. I began my drive going “counterclockwise” on the leeward side. This side of the coast is more dry and less likely to encounter tour buses that enter from the windward side. The trip began in full sunshine.I stopped to have a picnic lunch in the Cape Breton National Park. Rocky shorelines and fishing villages were great to see. As I continued my journey, I went higher in elevation — actually into a cloud atop Mount Makenzie! This convinced me that I will not come back here on a motorcycle. No way! The tour ended with more visual scenery along the coast. I made my way to the town of Sydney on the east side of Cape Breton Island where I stayed for the night.
Day 8 was a “tour more of Cape Breton Island” and making my way along the Atlantic Coast again. It was sunny and a pleasant drive with no traffic whatsoever.I loved this tour. There were times I struggled emotionally. Touring alone is hard. “Table for One” at a restaurant is even harder.
The warmth, hospitality, and genuine friendliness of all of the Canadians I met and with whom I spoke and dined was truly remarkable and pleasant. It was hard to return to the land of rude, self-centered, Americans. I look forward to returning to Canada again.
Life is short: live and realize your dreams.