Highlights of Eastern Canada | Nova Scotia, PEI, Quebec

During my last contract on board a cruise ship, I had the privilege of spending two months visiting ports along the Canadian Atlantic Coast.  The voyages were each seven days long, starting in Boston and heading up the coast to Montreal, and then back down to Boston.  You can see a screenshot of the itinerary below.  Spending several months on contract in a particular area means that I visit the ports many times, and have the opportunity to really grasp the culture, history and activities the area has to offer.

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  • Halifax, Nova Scotia: Halifax is a major economic center in Eastern Canada, and a tourism hot spot.  The ship terminal is packed with local craftsmen showing their art, farmers selling their produce and a variety of food stands offering all sorts of delicious treats.  My go-to was Norbert’s Good Food, a farm-to-table restaurant with a health-conscious and delectable menu.
    • Titanic Grave Site – As someone who works on board cruise ships, I thought it necessary to visit the Titanic grave sites and pay respect to those lives lost in the dreadful accident.  When word of the disaster spread, the areas closest to the sinking ship, including Halifax, sent help.  The bodies of the wealthy were sent back home, but the families of the poor could not afford to have them sent, so here they stay.  Each grave has a story, which you can either look up online or have a guide tell you about.  Some headstones bear no name, because the body could not be identified.  Visiting the site was quite moving, and a must-see if visiting Halifax.

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    • Peggy’s Cove – The lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove is a popular tourist destination, and one of the most photographed in Canada.  Built in 1915, the lighthouse stands tall along the rocky cliff side, perched along an array of coastal houses and fishing boats.
    • Local Brews – There are many breweries scattered across the city of Halifax, offering local craft beers from the province.  My favorite has to be Garrison Brewery, just a block away from the ship terminal.  For only $10 CAD, you can order a flight of five regional beers, and if you’re feeling hungry, there’s a gourmet pizza shop next door!

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    • Halifax Citadel National Historical Site – The Halifax Citadel is a must-see, as it is one of the only star-shaped fortresses in the world!  Entrance is free into the fort, and it is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm.  The changing of the guards is at 1 pm every day, and it is a sight to see!  For approximately five minutes, the guards perform the ceremony, ending with a loud BANG! as the cannon shoots off.  And, if you want to take your visit to the next level, you can “become a soldier for a day,” where you can experience what it was really like to be a mid-19th century Citadel soldier, from wearing the uniform to learning to drill!

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    • Fisherman’s Cove – Visit a 200 year old restored fishing village along the picturesque boardwalk of Halifax.  Browse the many museums and shops selling maritime crafts along the water, as well as dozens of seafood restaurants, cafes and breweries.

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    • Maritime Museum of the Atlantic – This is Canada’s largest and oldest maritime museum, and takes you through the country’s marine history with everything from old boating exhibits to the stories and tales of Canadian sailors, including those from the world-famous Titanic.
    • Pier 21 – Explore the old ocean liner terminal which acted as the gateway for over one million immigrants who came to Canada in the mid 1900s, and hear their first-person stories and memoirs.
    • Halifax Public Gardens – Stroll through a 17 acre plot of Victorian-style gardens and observe hundreds of exotic and semi-tropic plant species.  Stop off and get a coffee or ice cream at the park’s cafe, and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the walking paths!

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    • Nova Scotia Crystal – Stop off at the glass works door to witness the production, start-to-finish, of the only crystal items made in Canada, then view and/or purchase the finished goods inside the store!
  • Sydney, Nova Scotia: Contrary to the bustling city in Australia, the Sydney of Nova Scotia is a quaint seaside town on Cape Breton Island’s east coast.  Sydney is very peaceful, and the people are kind and welcoming.  When you pull into the ship terminal, you immediately witness one of Sydney’s famous monuments beside the waterfront – the world’s largest fiddle! Inside the terminal, local artists and crafters have set up shop to sell their homemade goods to cruise guests.  Upstairs within the terminal is Flavor on the Water, a wonderful bar and restaurant which serves delicious food and local beer.  There are several charming bars, eateries and cafes in the town, my personal favorite being Doktor Luke’s coffee shop.  Sydney is also notable for the Cabot Trail, one of the most scenic drives in North America, taking you along the Atlantic coast and into Cape Breton’s Highland National Park.

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  • Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island: Charlottetown is the largest city and capital of Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island, home to approximately 36,000 people.
    • History & Architecture – The city is most noted for it’s Victorian style architecture and parks – the most popular park is even named Victoria Park!  Charlottetown is thought of by many Canadians as the birthplace of Confederation, because it is an 1864 meeting here, at the Province House, that led to the creation of the Dominion of Canada.
    • Anne of Green Gables – If you are a fan of the popular book series, you will know that Charlottetown is home to the house and farm that inspired the story.  Many shops, cafes, etc. around the city are named after Anne of Green Gables, and offer themed tours, souvenirs or meals.
    • Confederation Bridge – A major highlight sailing out of Charlottetown is the passage under the Confederation Bride, built in 1997.  Guests and crew migrated to the top decks to watch our ship nearly graze the bottom of the bridge, with a spectacular sunset backdrop.

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    • City Scavenger Hunt – A fun day activity we stumbled upon was a free city scavenger hunt, which led tourists past the major city monuments in search of the next clue board.  The story follows Ringo the baby fox who lost his family, and at each marker, he runs into a helpful friend that sends him in the right direction (and to the next board).  The last of nine boards ends near the starting point, completing a full loop of downtown Charlottetown.  The story walk begins by the giant sunflower statue at Founder’s Hall.  There is a similar scavenger hunt named Eckhart in the City, which follows a mouse as he passes by the highlights of Charlottetown.

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  • Quebec City, Quebec: Quebec City is one that’s history remains intact since it’s beginning in the 17th century.  More than 95 percent of residents speak French as their first language, and walking around, it is easy to see that French cuisine and architecture remains dominant.
    • Biking and Walking Paths – Quebec City is home to a very active public.  Hundreds of miles of biking and walking paths weave through the city and line the waterfront.  Adventuring down these paths is a wonderful and effective way to see all the city has to offer.
    • Montmorency Falls – My favorite Quebec City highlight is Montmorency Falls, a towering 275 ft waterfall along the Montmorency River.  The falls is a 17 km bike ride from the ship, or by car.  Once at Montmorency, there is loads to do and see!  The more adventurous type can zip line across the top of the falls, rock climb alongside the falls or hike the stairs to the top and witness beautiful views of the ocean and surrounding areas.  Walk across the bridge on top for a spectacular view straight down the gushing water, and over to a delicious cliff side restaurant.

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    • French Markets – One of the best ways to experience French culture is to visit a French style market!  My favorite in Quebec is Marché du Vieux-Port de Québec, which offers fresh pastas, fruits, vegetables, flowers, pastries and more!  Only several blocks from the ship terminal, it is the perfect place to grab a coffee and some sweets (best macaroon I have ever had!) and sit along the water’s edge, watching the locals walk by, and the boats pull into and out of the harbor.

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  • Montreal, Quebec: Montreal is a developed and forward-thinking city, while still maintaining strong ties to it’s history and roots.  It was founded in the mid 1600s, and sits at the base of the scenic St. Lawrence River.  The architecture is quite contrasting, as the streets are lined with a mixture between old, French-style buildings and new, contemporary skyscrapers.  The city is urban and bustling, rich in culture, art, music, food and shopping.
    • Food Tour – Most activities in Montreal revolve around eating and drinking.  The city is famous for its markets, smoked meat sandwiches, poutine and coffee!  My favorite brunch cafe is Aloha Espresso Bar, where you can order deliciously healthy and wholesome food and coffee, and sit outside to watch the passersby along the waterfront.
    • Fine Arts – The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts contains both permanent pieces and traveling exhibits, so be sure to check the website and see if there are any shows that catch your interest!
    • Biodome – Learn more about animals by visiting the Montreal Biodome Space for Life, where you can view and learn more about hundreds of plant and animal species!

Whether you’re planning a cruise vacation to Canada/New England, or stopping along some of these places on your own, I hope my travel tips have been helpful to you!  I absolutely loved this region of North America, and am grateful I had the opportunity to visit each place so many times!  The cities and coastline are just as beautiful as the people, and the history is undeniably interesting and compelling.

Have fun!  And don’t forget to follow my page and subscribe to my YouTube channel for updates on my travels around the world! ❤ Jess

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