The Atlantic region of Canada includes the four provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador. In each of the Canadian provinces, families can experience breathtaking natural beauty, participate in a variety of outdoor activities, visit fascinating cultural and historical attractions, enjoy east coast entertainment, and dine on delicious fresh seafood. Atlantic Canada is a diverse family-friendly destination that many travelers return to again and again.
A visit to the province of Nova Scotia should include at least a couple of days exploring the capital of Halifax, which is the largest city in Atlantic Canada. Visitors can climb aboard the Harbour Hopper amphibious vehicle, which travels on land and on water, enjoy a relaxing sail aboard the Tall Ship Silva, or take part in one of Theodore Tugboat’s family-friendly harbour adventures. Learn more about the city’s past at historic sites and museums including the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site of Canada, Province House, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, and the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. Take a leisurely stroll while shopping along the boardwalk which runs along the waterfront from Casino Nova Scotia to the Halifax Seaport cruise ship terminal and dine on all the fresh seafood that you can eat along the way.
Tourists flock to the picturesque fishing village of Peggy’s Cove, which is just a short drive from Halifax. Take photos of the red and white lighthouse, one of Canada’s most recognized landmarks. Kids will love scrambling around the smooth granite rocks, just be sure to exercise caution because the surface can be slippery and the surf unpredictable. A bit farther down the coast is the historic town of Lunenburg which was established in 1753 and is now a National Historic Site of Canada and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lunenburg, which is known for its shipbuilding was home to the original Bluenose schooner depicted on the Canadian dime. Today visitors to Lunenburg can see the Bluenose II schooner which is presently being restored.
Cape Breton Island is part of the province of Nova Scotia and has its own distinct character. Most visitors are drawn to the scenic Cabot Trail which winds across the northern part of the island for about 300km along precipitous coastal cliffs and through valleys and farmland. A portion of this trail is within the Cape Breton Highlands National Park boundaries which offers many places to hike and explore. Another must-see on the island is The Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site which is North America’s largest historical reconstruction. Kids will have a blast spending the day at this 18th century fortified village while immersing themselves in the daily life of its residents.
In the province of New Brunswick, families can observe natural wonders in the Bay of Fundy region. Spend the day relaxing on warm, sandy beaches along the coast. Fish, kayak, or canoe on inland rivers such as the Miramichi. Experience the vibrant culture of the Acadians who descended from the French settlers of the early 17th century. In the city of Moncton, there’s plenty of family-friendly fun to be found in the Magnetic Hill area where kids can experience the optical illusion of sitting in a car that rolls up hill, splash around at Magic Mountain Waterpark, or admire the creatures at Magnetic Hill Zoo, the largest zoo in Atlantic Canada. Visitors to the historic seaside village of St. Andrews-by-the-Sea can stroll the lovely main street lined with galleries and boutiques before heading out onto the Bay of Fundy on a whale watching cruise.
The Bay of Fundy, which stretches for 270km along Canada’s Atlantic coast between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia is home to the most extreme tidal environment on earth. One of the best locations to experience the extreme tides at The Bay of Fundy is at Hopewell Rocks located about an hour’s drive from Moncton. During low tide, visitors can walk the ocean floor and have a close look at the 40-70 foot high rock structures, known as the Flowerpot Rocks, that have been carved by the daily tidal movements. Then return during high tide to observe the rising water or participate in a kayak excursion around the rocks.
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island may be the smallest Canadian province but there is no shortage of activities for families here. In the capital city of Charlottetown, families will enjoy exploring the Peake’s Wharf historic waterfront while learning Canadian history at the interactive multi-media museum, Founders Hall. Kids will love cruising with the Harbour Hippo tour which explores the city and harbour. Fans of a certain red-headed orphan shouldn’t miss Anne of Green Gables: The Musical which has played at the Confederation Centre’s Charlottetown Festival every summer since 1965. Prince Edward Island is also home to world-famous Cows Ice Cream and there are several locations around the island where visitors can indulge in a delicious treat and purchase a cow-themed souvenir.
The Cavendish Resort Area of Prince Edward Island is one of the most popular vacation regions for families who love the red sand beaches and sand dunes of Prince Edward Island National Park, the golf courses, and the fun family attractions. The area is also known as “Anne’s Land” because author Lucy Maud Montgomery was born and raised in the area. Her classic novel Anne of Green Gables is set in the fictional village of Avonlea in this region of the island and there are numerous Anne of Green Gables attractions nearby that are fun to visit.
Newfoundland and Labrador
The province of Newfoundland and Labrador is so vast that it’s nearly impossible to see it all in one visit. St. John’s, which is now the provincial capital, is one of the oldest cities in North America and has a a long and colorful history dating back to the 16th century. Visitors to the city will enjoy historic sites, outdoor activities, arts and culture, and some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. Historic sites nearby include Cape Spear which is the most easterly point in North America, and Signal Hill National Historic Site where visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of the harbour below. You may even witness an iceberg floating by at certain times of the year. If the weather turns bad, head indoors to The Rooms to learn more about the culture of Newfoundland or the Johnson GEO Centre, which is an educational and fun science museum. Cod has traditionally been a staple in Newfoundland diet and there are many traditional foods, such as cod tongues, that adventurous eaters should sample before they leave the province.
A great day trip for families is to head south of the city for a boat tour of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. The reserve is located a few miles off the coast of the Avalon peninsula and is home to North America’s largest Atlantic puffin colony. Puffin sightings are guaranteed and there’s a chance that whales may be spotted as well. Following the boat tour, continue driving along the Irish Loop scenic route to Ferryland where picnic lunches can be pre-ordered, then enjoyed while sitting along the cliffs that overlook the Atlantic.
In Western Newfoundland, outdoor enthusiasts will want to spend time hiking or camping in Gros Morne National Park. Kids will especially love taking the boat tour through the majestic fjords. At the L’Anse Aux Meadows National Historic Site, visitors can learn about the first viking settlements in North America, and at nearby Norstead, travelers will find a recreated Norse settlement where they will enjoy interacting with costumed interpreters while learning about the daily life of viking settlers.