Much of the provinces’ wildlife congregates on the coast, whether it’s the whales cruising between its craggy bays, the puffins plucking herring from the waves or the polar bears riding in on icebergs from the north.
Some of the best whale watching can be found in the Bay of Fundy, as the world’s highest tides create rich feeding grounds for acrobatic humpbacks, pods of pilots and various other species, including the endangered North Atlantic Right whale, with only 400 remaining on the planet. Also keep an eye on the skies for the seabirds wheeling overhead, as it’s possible you’ll spot kittiwakes, petrels and cormorants, as well as swooping bald eagles.
Of course, you’ll find plenty of wildlife back on land, too. The alpine plateaus, glacial valleys and grassy lowlands of the national parks, such as the glacier-carved Gros Morne National Park – a UNESCO-site in Newfoundland & Labrador – provide a lush home for bears, moose, deer and enormous herds of caribou.
3. For fresh seafood
Atlantic Canada almost redefines the meaning of fresh when it comes to its seafood, which can go from ocean to plate in a matter of hours. Its 43,000km of coast offer a mixed platter of briny morsels, ranging from mussels, scallops and crabs up to halibut, cod and salmon.
But if there’s one thing Atlantic Canada is known for, it’s lobster. In New Brunswick, lobster is a near-ubiquitous feature on restaurant menus, and you can learn all about how they’re caught on a lobster-themed cruise around Shediac Bay. Come dinner time, you’ll be able to tuck into one of your own directly on the boat.
The focus shifts to oysters on Prince Edward Island, where you can join local fishermen tonging and shucking them before enjoying an all-you-can-eat supper. For the full experience, visit in September to coincide with the PEI International Shellfish Festival.
4. For musical festivals
Festivals pack the calendars in Atlantic Canada, and many of them pay homage to the region’s colourful roots. Think fiddle playing, local food and vigorous jigs that’ll wear out the soles on your dancing shoes.
On Cape Breton Island, the Celtic Colours International Festival celebrates Nova Scotia’s Gaelic heritage with nine days of folk music concerts, dances and workshops every October, set against a fiery backdrop of autumnal colours. Artists travel from as far as Scotland, Brittany and Germany.
Over in Caraquet, in French-influenced New Brunswick, you’ll find the provinces’ most important Acadian festival, with a full programme of music and theatre spread across two weeks in August. The crowd favourite is the Grand Tintamarre on National Acadian Day, when revellers are invited to make as much noise as possible over the course of an hour – horns, bells and drums encouraged.
5. For breathtaking hikes
In all, there are nine national parks spread between the four provinces, where you can kayak between craggy coves, cycle through old-growth forests or practice yoga on a red-sand beach. But hiking is an almost essential activity here, as you’ll find picturesque trails right across the region.
In Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Highlands National Park, the five-mile Skyline Trail is a local favourite, tracing a lofty route across a dramatic headland overlooking the ocean. If you keep an eye out from the viewing decks, it’s possible you’ll spot pods of whales.
For something more challenging, you can try a section of the East Coast Trail, a series of 26 long, hilly wilderness paths near St John’s, the technicolour capital of Newfoundland & Labrador. You’ll pass quaint fishing villages, puffin nests and sea arches, and – if you choose the Spout Path – a natural wave-driven geyser.
6. For coastal road trips
Quiet coastal roads meandering between salt-tanged towns, pretty lighthouses and untouched beaches are an Atlantic Canada speciality, so it’s no surprise the region is perfect for a self-drive road trip.
The 185-mile Cabot Trail is one of Nova Scotia’s great routes, looping around a sizeable chunk of Cape Breton Island past colourful villages, hospitable inns and countless glorious coastal viewpoints. Keep an eye out for black bears, moose and bald eagles along the stretch beside the Gulf of St Lawrence.
Over on Prince Edward Island you’ll find a number of spectacular coastal drives through the landscapes that inspired the novel Anne of Green Gables. For a memorable picnic, stop off at PEI Preserve Company and stock up on homemade pies, cheese and jam – it’s just thirty minutes outside Charlottetown.
7. For historic sites
For those interested in history, Atlantic Canada is peppered with historic sights, and one of the most notable can be found on Prince Edward Island in its eponymous national park. The Green Gables Heritage Place formed the inspiration for Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic 1908 book Anne of Green Gables, a heart-warming tale of a plucky red-headed orphan. Fans of the novel shouldn’t miss a trip to the visitor centre, the final resting place of Montgomery’s original typewriter.
On Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, the laidback fishing village of Baddeck is home to the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, where the inventor of the telephone chose to build his enormous estate beside Bras d’Or Lake. On a behind-the-scenes White Glove Tour, you can hold his notebook and many of his other former possessions.