The world’s second-largest country in landmass behind Russia, Canada offers diverse landscapes and vast expanses of wilderness in addition to big city attractions and small-town tourism hubs. The latter is particularly true in Atlantic Canada, which includes coastal provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island.
The following are five must-visit destinations in Atlantic Canada:
Based in the province of Nova Scotia, Lunenburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is considered one of the most beautiful towns in Canada. It traces its origins back to the early 1600s as an Acadian and Mi’kmaq village and was given its current name by the British in honor of King George II, Duke of Braunschweig-Lunenburg.
As a settlement, Lunenburg garnered a reputation as a major shipbuilding center in the 20th century. It is also the birthplace of the famous Bluenose, a schooner that maintained a perfect record in international racing for 17 years and now adorns the Canadian dime.
Blending old and new, roughly 70 percent of the colorful buildings constructed during the 18th and 19th centuries remain standing in Lunenburg.
Beyond its historical significance and harbor front beauty, the town, which is located 60 miles from the province’s capital of Halifax, features attractions such as the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, the Ironworks Distillery, and the Knaut-Rhuland House. The latter is a designated National Historic Site that showcases what life was like in Lunenburg during the early 1800s.
Sailing and whale-watching tours are also popular in the area during the summer.
2. Bay of Fundy
One of the 7 Wonders of North America, the Bay of Fundy lies between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and boasts diverse coastal landscapes consisting of unique rock formations, sea caves, and breathtaking cliffs. It is also the site of the highest tides on earth; twice per day, the waters rise and recede by as much as 19 meters as a result of the length and funnel-like shape of the bay.
The Bay of Fundy is also known for its geological discoveries, marine life, hiking trails, and water-based recreation activities. Settlements along the Bay of Fundy include Digby, Truro, St. Andrews, Sackville, and Saint John (the oldest city in Canada).
One of the premier attractions along the Bay of Fundy is Hopewell Rocks in New Brunswick. Due to tide activity and erosion, pillars of rock stand separate from the shore. At low tide, visitors can walk among the pillars, which extend 21 meters above the ocean floor. At high tide, the pillars appear as small, tree-covered islands.
Other attractions in the area include the Fundy Trail Parkway, the Reversing Falls Bridge and the recently built Skywalk Saint John, Fundy National Park, and Grand Manan Island.
3. Gros Morne National Park
Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland boasts an abundance of natural beauty with diverse landscapes, wildlife, and recreational activities.
The park is regarded for its unique combination of geologic features across its two distinct landscapes: the alpine plateau of the Long Range Mountains and the coastal lowland that borders the Gulf of St. Lawrence. As a result, the park is home to a mixture of boreal, temperate, and arctic species.
There’s an abundance of hiking and camping opportunities offered throughout the park’s uninhabited mountains, while nearby seaside communities are rich in culture and history.
4. L’Anse aux Meadows
Newfoundland is also home to L’Anse aux Meadows, which is the only confirmed Viking settlement in North America. Located along the Great Northern Peninsula of the province, the region was visited more than 1,000 years ago by Norsemen sailing from Greenland. Archeological evidence of their presence was discovered during the 1960s and the region was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.
Today, L’Anse aux Meadows sits against a backdrop of rugged cliffs and coastline. Costumed Viking interpreters offer guided tours around a recreated base camp that includes authentic Norse artifacts.
5. Prince Edward Island
The smallest province in Canada in terms of population and land area, Prince Edward Island (PEI) is accessible from New Brunswick via the Confederation Bridge, the longest bridge spanning ice-covered waters in the world. It takes 10 minutes to drive across.
The island can also be accessed from Nova Scotia via Northumberland Ferries or by aircraft at the Charlottetown Airport.
The province is known for its potato farming (producing one-quarter of Canada’s potatoes) and Anne of Green Gables, a 1908 novel authored by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Millions of people have visited PEI to discover the land detailed in Montgomery’s stories, while Anne-related attractions have been installed all over the island.
PEI offers dramatic coastline views as well as picturesque rolling green hills further inland. Moreover, it is home to several of the top-ranked golf courses in Canada and hosts signature events such as the Guild Festival, the Jack Frost Children’s Festival, the Indian River Festival, and the Victoria Playhouse Festival.