Exploring the Different Faces of Canada’s Maritime Provinces Posted October 11, 2018
The Canadian Maritime provinces—Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island—represent Canada’s three smallest provinces by area. They all sit in close proximity to each other, right on the Atlantic Ocean in Canada’s northeastern corner. And they share similar strands of Native, French, and British colonial history. Yet despite all these similarities, each of Canada’s Maritimes offers a distinct travel experience, with its own riches to uncover. Let’s take a quick journey through these three lovely regions, which you can explore for yourself on our Canadian Maritimes small-group tour.
Though it’s smaller than the state of West Virginia, Nova Scotia boasts a combination of fascinating history and scenic beauty that far outstrips its size. Americans have Jamestown and Plymouth to point to when discussing their nation’s European history, but the first permanent European settlement north of Florida actually belongs to Nova Scotia. Port Royal, which was settled by the French in 1605 along Nova Scotia’s west coast, served as the capital of the massive French colony of Acadia.
Destroyed by the British in 1613 and rebuilt nearby, Port Royal served as the capital of Acadia for much of its expansion through the 17th and 18th centuries, when the colony spread to include all of the Maritimes and parts of Quebec and present-day Maine. And we can credit Nova Scotia’s deep link to Canadian-French history with a part of our American culture as well: the British expulsion of the Acadians in the late 1700s led to many Acadians fleeing to Spanish-owned Louisiana, where they created the “Cajun” culture we know today.
And it’s no wonder this territory was so hotly contested – in addition to its strategic location along Canada’s east coast and abundance of bays, coves, and inlets perfect for sheltering fishing fleets, the landscape is drop-dead gorgeous. In fact, Cape Breton Island and its famed Cabot Trail (above), Nova Scotia’s northernmost region full of rolling fields, dark green pine forests, rushing rivers, and jagged coastal cliffs, was voted the # 1 island in Canada by Travel + Leisure readers in 2018.
Think of New Brunswick as a buffer province. Sitting between Nova Scotia to the east and the French-speaking Quebec to the west, New Brunswick is the only Canadian province with two official languages (English and French). It was the site of much of the conflict between the British and French during their century-plus of hostilities for control of Canada, and Britain incorporated the first official Canadian city (St. John) in New Brunswick in 1785.
Though St. John remains an important city in Canada, New Brunswick is defined by its coastal towns. With miles of coastline stretching down the west coast of the Bay of Fundy to the Maine border, and more beaches and harbors along the north shore on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, New Brunswick prides itself on its connection to the ocean. Three examples: the superb marine life in the Bay of Fundy; the world’s highest tides at Hopewell Rocks, far up inside the Bay of Fundy’s basin (above); and the scallop and lobster capitals of Digby and Shediac, respectively. NB’s swaths of pristine forest are beautiful and produce their iconic maple syrup, but the coast is where the province’s true heart lies.
Prince Edward Island
Even the name is romantic. Prince Edward Island (voted Canada’s third-best island in the aforementioned survey) is tiny; at 2,185 square miles, it’s barely larger than Rhode Island, the smallest U.S. state. Beyond its gorgeous windswept dunescapes and an abundance of farmland (PEI produces 25% of Canada’s potatoes), the island offers more than it first appears to. In fact, despite its size, the island has made waves on the world stage from its very beginnings.
It is known as the “Cradle of Confederation,” a reference to its capital being the site of the Charlottetown Conference in 1864, which paved the way for Canadian independence. Ironically, despite hosting the initial independence discussions, PEI was not a part of the Confederation of Canada when it was created in 1867. The island joined as the country’s seventh province in 1873.
Some quarter century later, PEI returned to the world stage for good with the publication of L.M. Montgomery’s seminal young adult novel Anne of Green Gables in 1908. The story of a young island girl who was mistakenly sent to two farm owners looking for a boy helper has been translated into over 30 languages and has sold more than 50 million copies around the world. The green-gabled farmhouse that inspired this story still exists today, and we visit this heritage site on our tour of the island.
Canada’s Maritime provinces don’t offer the glitz and glamour of some old-world European capitals, nor the exotic wonders of some Asian destinations. But these three distinct regions along the North Atlantic provide more than their fair share of history, culture, and picturesque scenery, and they’re much closer to home! Intrigued by the Maritimes? Join us on our Canadian Maritimes small group tour.
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