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Maritimes Road Trip Itinerary: Exploring New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island

Updated: Jul 1

A solo road trip through the picturesque Maritimes region of Canada is a dream for every traveller. This 14-day Maritimes Road trip highlights the charming coastal towns of New Brunswick, the stunning landscapes of Nova Scotia, and the captivating beauty of Prince Edward Island, promising a perfect blend of history, culture, and nature—and some incredible eats, too! Get ready to hit the road and discover the charm and beauty of the Maritimes!

A view across the water of a coastal village surrounded by fields
Prince Edward Island

A Bit of Background

The Maritimes is a region in Eastern Canada that includes the small provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. When Newfoundland and Labrador are added to the group, it becomes known as Atlantic Region.

A map showing the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and PEI
The Maritime Provinces (credit: wikipedia)

The indigenous Mi'kmaq, Maliseet, and Passamaquoddy peoples have inhabited the area for millennia. These First Nations groups established intricate societies and cultures, with the Mi'kmaq primarily living in what is now Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, while the Maliseet and Passamaquoddy were mainly found in New Brunswick. The arrival of European explorers in the early 16th century, starting with John Cabot in 1497, brought about significant changes for the indigenous populations through trade, conflicts, and diseases.


European settlement began in earnest in the early 17th century with the establishment of Port Royal in Nova Scotia by the French in 1605, which became the center of the colony of Acadia. The region changed hands multiple times between the French and the British over the next century, leading to a mix of cultural influences. The British ultimately gained control after the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 and solidified their claim with the Treaty of Paris in 1763. The deportation of the Acadians by the British in 1755, known as the Grand Dérangement, was a significant event during this period, leading to the displacement of thousands of Acadian people. The fishing industry played a crucial role in the region's economy, with both the indigenous populations and European settlers relying heavily on the rich fishing grounds of the Atlantic.


credit: Heritage Minutes, CBC


In the 19th century, with the advent of the Age of Sail, the Maritimes became a center for shipbuilding and trade. The construction of wooden sailing ships became a significant industry, especially in Nova Scotia. However, the region faced economic challenges as the global economy shifted and the importance of shipping declined. The creation of the Canadian Confederation in 1867, initially including New Brunswick and Nova Scotia (with Prince Edward Island joining in 1873), brought political changes and aimed to boost the economy through the promise of a national railway. Despite this, the Maritimes struggled economically compared to other regions of Canada, shaping its distinct identity and cultural heritage.


Driving In The Maritimes

To have a safe and pleasant journey in the Maritimes, drivers need to consider several important factors. Road conditions in the region are variable, ranging from well-kept highways to narrow, twisting rural roads. Be ready for changing road conditions, particularly in remote areas. Additionally, the weather can be unpredictable, with fog, rain, and snow occurring depending on the season.


Although the provinces look small on a world map, the distances between towns and services can be considerable, particularly in rural areas. It's advisable to keep your fuel tank topped up and carry basic supplies such as water, snacks, and a first-aid kit. Mobile phone reception can be spotty in remote areas, so having a physical map or a GPS device is a good backup. Wildlife, such as deer and moose, can be common on roads, especially at dawn and dusk.

car driving along loaded with equipment for a road trip
image created with Wix AI Image Studio

Speed limits are generally lower than in other parts of North America and strictly enforced. In Nova Scotia, for example, the maximum highway speed limit is usually 110 km/h (about 68 mph). Seatbelt use is mandatory, and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is strictly prohibited. Be aware of school zones and their reduced speed limits, and be prepared for the unique feature of ferry crossings, particularly if travelling between the mainland and islands.


Maritime drivers are remarkably courteous and generous (at least compared to the drivers in my home community!) Drivers stop for pedestrians even before they have entered a crosswalk. In heavy traffic, drivers will make room for other vehicles and patiently wait their turn. Expect a friendly wave from passing cars in rural areas.


Maritimes Road Trip Itinerary

This will be a whirlwind of a journey, covering a lot of pavement and by-passing many amazing attractions, excursions, and towns. This region is very attractive and urges travellers to slow down and enjoy life, but few travellers have unlimited time, and for many, this may be their only visit to the Maritimes. This itinerary assumes travel during the summer/shoulder season. Many attractions and sites close or operate under very reduced hours during the long, cold winter months.



This itinerary begins in Fredericton, New Brunswick. continues to Nova Scotia and ends in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Throughout this post, I will link to more detailed posts describing additional things to do in the area for those with the luxury of more time to linger. If flying/renting a vehicle, the most straightforward arrangement would be to fly into Fredericton, New Brunswick and fly home from Charlottetown Prince Edward Island. Arrange your car rental to be returned in Charlottetown at the end of your trip. On the other hand, the drive from Charlottetown to Fredericton is about 3.5 hours, so spending your last day travelling back to Fredericton is a fairly easy drive and will save any additional drop-off fee.


Before you start your road trip, check out my post on Eating Your Way Around Canada's Eastern Provinces. Foodies will enjoy exploring regional dishes such as hodge-podge or rapée. Seafood lovers will feast on lobster and seafood chowder. A bowl of warm blueberry grunt with a scoop of Cow's Ice Cream perfectly ends a splendid meal.

A bowl of seafood chowder with a bread roll
Seafood chowder

Day 1-4: New Brunswick

Start your journey in New Brunswick, where rich history and natural wonders await. Watch the Changing of The Guard ceremony in Fredericton or wander along the Taproom Trail. Visit the historic city of Saint John, known for its vibrant arts scene and the iconic Reversing Falls. Explore the enchanting Fundy National Park, home to dramatic coastlines, incredible sea stacks and world-renowned tides.

6 costumed British "soldiers" marching in the Changing of The Guard Ceremony
Changing of the Guard - Fredericton

Day 1 Arrive in Fredericton, New Brunswick

If arriving by air, you will land at Fredericton International Airport, about 20 minutes from downtown. You can get into the city by public transportation or choose to pick up your rented vehicle and start your self-driving adventure. I recommend saving a few days of rental costs and arranging to get your car on Day 3. Fredericton has a full range of accommodations to suit every travel style and budget. The downtown core is very walkable, and most attractions are close together. Find your accommodations and get a good night's rest. The adventures begin in the morning!


Day 2 Explore Fredericton

Fredericton spans the Saint John River and takes full advantage of its riverside location. "The Green" is a riverside park with beautiful views and walking trails. Locals and visitors can paddle or kayak, walk through gardens and trails or discover the historic Garrison District. Unique shops, grand Victorian homes, a vibrant craft brew scene, and welcoming locals make Fredericton a great place to linger for a few days.

A summer patio outside the Roundhouse craft brewery
Part of Fredericton's Taproom Trail

Check out everything to see and do in this post Exploring Fredericton.


Day 3 Saint John, New Brunswick

The drive south along Hwy 7 to Saint John will take about 1 hour and 15 minutes. To plan your arrival time, check the tide tables to determine when the tide will be reversing in the Saint John River.

Saint John is Canada's oldest incorporated city, established in 1785. Its history is deeply connected with the Loyalists who settled in the area following the American Revolution. Later, Saint John became a major entry point for immigrants escaping the Irish famine during the 19th Century.

a market display of fresh fruit and vegetables
Saint John Market

This historic city of Saint John is known for its Reversing Falls, historic uptown area and the StoneHammer UNESCO Geopark, where you can stand on 3 continents on the same day. Don't forget to check out the famous Saint John City Market. For more details, check out my post A Visitor's Guide to Saint John here.

A tall sign advertising the Reversing Falls with a large British soldier holding the sign
Check the tide table for prime viewing times

Day 4 Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick

Head southeast along Hwy 1 from Saint John to visit the famous rock formations and experience the Bay of Fundy's impressive tides. The drive is approximately 2.5 hours.

Sea stacks at low tide with people walking around
Hopewell Rocks at low tide

Hopewell Rocks are sea stacks or flower pot stacks eroded by the tremendous tidal action of the Bay of Fundy, which boasts the strongest tides in the world (16 m/52 ft). When arriving at low tide, visitors will walk on the sea floor amongst the sea stacks. The height of the tide is marked clearly by the erosion way above your head.


Try to fit a return visit during high tide (your ticket is good for two days) or explore the park while waiting for the tides to turn. If you can only do one visit, time it for low tide. Adventurers arriving at high tide may want to rent kayaks to paddle around the stacks.


For more details, check out my post of Hopewell Rocks here.

Seastacks surrounded by water
Hopewell Rocks at high tide

After your visit, continue on to Moncton, where you'll spend the night. While in Moncton, you can make a fun stop to experience the magic of Magnetic Hill, where your vehicle will roll UP a hill (well, not really, but the optical illusion is very strong!).

Sign on stop of hill reading "Magnetic Hill" with a sculpture of a magnet
Magnetic Hill, Moncton

Day 5-9: Nova Scotia Exploration

Crossing to Nova Scotia, immerse yourself in this Maritime province's vibrant culture and stunning landscapes. Stop and enjoy the windmill array and beautiful scenery from the Visitor Centre at the border between the provinces. Visit the historic town of Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its colourful architecture and maritime heritage. Drive along the iconic Cabot Trail in Cape Breton Island, where lush forests, rugged cliffs, and stunning ocean views will take your breath away. Explore Halifax's vibrant arts scene and indulge in delicious seafood at Peggy's Cove.

an abandoned rowboat on the banks in front of wooden racks of fishing equipment
Peggys Cove, Nova Scotia

Day 5 Travel Day

This will be a longer driving day. Following the TransCanada Hwy, the route will take just over three hours to complete. Plan to stop at the Nova Scotia Visitor Centre and any of the delightful small towns along the route. Watch for roadside signs advertising farm stands, unique museums, and artisan galleries. Make your way to Halifax and settle into your accommodations for the next two nights.


Day 6 Halifax

The bustling capital of Nova Scotia, with its rich maritime history and vibrant waterfront, is teeming with things to see and do. Highlights include the Halifax Harbour Waterfront, the Citadel, a Haunted Walking Tour, and whatever festival you encounter while visiting (there's always something happening!)


Check out a complete Visitor's Guide to Halifax here.


Day 7 Mahone Bay, Peggy's Cove, Lunenburg, Blue Rocks

Spend a delightful day driving along the Lighthouse Route (Hwy 103) from Halifax to Lunenburg, lingering at each stop. From the charming small town of Mahone Bay, the quaint fishing village and historic lighthouse of Peggy's Cove, to the UNESCO World Heritage town of Lunenburg, you will find many places to stop and admire along this coastal route. This route hits all the highlights and is a must-see when visiting Halifax. Check out Halifax Day Trip: Scenic South Shore Drive to Lunenburg here for more details.



Day 8 Baddeck, Cape Breton

Your journey continues along the TransCanada Hwy for about 3.5 hours. Traffic bottlenecks at the Canso Crossing onto the island but usually crawls through at a steady pace.


Cape Breton Island is a large island north of mainland Nova Scotia with a strong blend of Gaelic and Acadian culture. The most Acadian communities are along the western shores.


Travel northeast from Peggy's Cove to Baddeck, a charming village on Cape Breton Island, known as the start of the Cabot Trail.

A white and red lighthouse on an island in a lake
Baddeck, Nova Scotia

You'll be making the town of Baddeck your base for exploration of Cape Breton. Baddeck is the heart of the island, located on the shores of Bras d'Or Lake. While in town, visit the Alexander Graham Bell Museum for a fascinating look into his life, work, and experiences in Baddeck.


Members of the Bell family continue to live and spend time here. Check out the community hall for the next ceilidh (kitchen party) -- a rousing evening of traditional Gaelic music and singalongs.

sculpture of a couple sitting on a bench looking out onto the water
Alex and Mabel Bell enjoying a view of Bras d'Or Lake

Check out all the things to do in my Visitor's Guide to Baddeck here.


Day 9 Cabot Trail

One of the most scenic drives in the country, the Cabot Trail, is featured in many eco-adventures, car commercials, and films. It is a loop trail starting and ending in Baddeck that winds around the northern end of Cape Breton, through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park and small Acadian communities. There are many trails: long and short, challenging and easy. Stop for lunch at the Keltic Lodge for a tasty meal with a fabulous view.


I recommend arranging for a driver if you want to see the sights rather than concentrate on driving. Your accommodations or the Visitor Centre will have lots of suggestions.


For more information, see my post A Day on the Cabot Trail here.



Day 10 Louisbourg Fortress

Louisbourg Fortress is a reconstructed 18th-century French fortress covering more than 16,000 acres, with 60 acres making up the town inside the walls. It will take a full day to explore. The site is staffed with costumed interpreters who bring the world of the French settlers and armed forces of the time to life.

A view down a wide gravel road with 18th Century buildings lining the way. A grand sea gate is at the end of the road
Louisbourg Fortress

If you have time, visiting nearby Glace Bay is also a treat. Glace Bay was a thriving mining town that experienced all the highs and lows of miners over the years. Visitors can go underground to experience "the Deeps". Check out the full experience in my post, Fortress of Louisbourg.

a large spoked iron wheel used in mining
Glace Bay Mining Museum

Day 11-14: Prince Edward Island

We're nearing the end of your Maritimes adventure and are heading to the smallest Canadian province, Prince Edward Island (PEI). Prince Edward Island is a quaint island paradise known for its red sand beaches and rolling green hills. Visit the charming capital city of Charlottetown, where you can explore historic sites and enjoy local cuisine. Don't miss a drive along the scenic North Shore, dotted with lighthouses and sandy beaches. Explore the literary world of Anne of Green Gables in Cavendish and savour the island's culinary delights, including fresh lobster and PEI potatoes.

a building covered with colourful buoys with a Canadian flag flying in the background
PEI National Park

Day 11 Travel Day

Today will be another long day of driving. Today's journey (without stops) will take approximately 4.5 hours but fear not, there are many great stops to make along the way to break up your journey. The Old Barn Galleries (71 Melanson Rd, Antigonish) is a gem with art, artifacts, and a beautiful garden. It's a great way to break up the journey.


The Hector Heritage Quay (33 Caladh Ave, Pictou) is another wonderful stop. It features the ship Hector, used by 18th-century Scottish migrants on their journey to the New World. The town of Pictou is known as the Birthplace of New Scotland.

A 2 story wooden maritime building with a 3 masted ship floating on its pier
Hector Quay

Day 12 Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Charlottetown is considered the Birthplace of Confederation and is very significant in Canada's history. It was here in Charlottetown that commitments were made to create the new country of Canada.


Charlottetown has plenty of history, an extremely walkable and friendly downtown and more references to Anne of Green Gables than would seem possible. Enjoy a day wandering around the downtown. Order tickets to the Anne of Green Gables Musical for a glorious evening out.

4 costumed actors in Victorian dress outside a modern sidewalk cafe
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Day 13 Cavendish

The famous book series Anne of Green Gables, written by PEI native Lucy Maud Montgomery, has been translated into nearly 40 languages, sold more than 50 million copies worldwide, and inspired many musicals, plays, TV shows, and films. Montgomery's inspiration came from her childhood home, relatives, and life around Cavendish. For an overview of what to expect and detailed information, here's my Anne of Green Gables Day Trip post.

a humble 3 room wooden house with greying vertical board siding surrounded by flower gardens and a white picket fence
Lucy Maud Montgomery's childhood home

Another fun place to visit is the Bottle Houses on the western side of PEI, about an hour from Cavendish. These structures were privately built by a local from recycled bottles. For more information and inspiration, check out my post Les Maison de Bouteilles/Bottle Houses of Prince Edward Island here.

An interior wall made of green, amber, and clear bottles with the light shining through
Inside the 6 gabled house at Les Maisons de Bouteilles

Day 14 Travel Home

Sadly, the road trip is over, and it's time to return home. Depending upon your travel arrangements, you'll need to pack up, return your vehicle and make your way to the Charlottetown International Airport, about 30 minutes outside of the city. Another choice is to make the 3.5 hour drive back to Fredericton, reviewing the memories of your Maritimes road trip along the way.


Final Thoughts

The Maritime provinces of Canada are full of scenic views, fascinating history, friendly locals, and delicious food. The best way to experience all that the Maritimes offers is a road trip where you choose your pace and get off the beaten track. This Maritimes Road Trip itinerary will give visitors all the highlights with a few bonus stops along the way. If you are enjoying the content and would like to be kept up to date with new posts become a member/subscribe (it's free!) and follow along on the RamblynJazz Facebook page, Facebook Group, Twitter, and Instagram. You can help the blog to grow by sharing the link with a travelling friend or through social media. I truly appreciate your comments and encourage you to share your thoughts below.


10 Comments


What an incredible itinerary - I think you must have seen everything there is to see in the area.

So much history too - I loved teh introduction with the whole historical context as it gives definition to what one is about to see and experience.

A driving holiday looks so easy and attractive to do here. I'll certainly take your advice on that when I am in the area.

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Guest
Jul 12

An incredible itinerary that explores not only phenomenal landscapes, but also the culture of the region and its gastronomy.

Without a doubt, this will be a post to keep in mind for those who want to visit this region with so much to offer


Angela | Blonde Around The World Travel -

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What a fabulous itinerary, you've thought of everything. After years of living in Vancouver, I do like the sound of the drivers over in the Maritimes. And not a lot of long driving days on this trip which is really nice. PEI sounds very interesting to me, I'd love to visit. And out of all the activities in your itinerary, I think Louisbourg really grabs my attention. However going this far across Canada I'd have to add a trip to Newfoundland too. It would be a shame not to

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Replying to

Adding Newfoundland will add at least another week (but two weeks would be better) to the itinerary. Newfoundland is a long ferry ride from Nova Scotia, no matter which voyage you choose. Having said that, I agree. Newfoundland is spectacular and for those with the time, it absolutely should be on the itinerary!

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Guest
Jun 30

Oh you took me on a wonderful and transportive ride on Nova Scotia with plenty of sights as well as food to devour on the way. I can see myself doing a repeat of this itinerary and doing it really slow #flyingbaguette


Jan - https://flyingbaguette.com/

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Slow is always the best, in my not-so-humble opinion!

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Guest
Jun 27

I nearly got a shock when I saw the first picture of the very heavily loaded car, thank god this was a stock image and not your actual van! I am familiar now with this area having read your previous posts. Nice to return to Fredericton and now travel further beyond. I would b intrigued how much distance you covered each day since you mentioned the itinerary skips a few activities since there is so much to do and see and readers may have only a limited time for a visit.


Carolin | <a href="https://solotravelstory.com/">Solo Travel Story</a>

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This itinerary is based on several trips to the Maritimes/Atlantic, each of which was much longer than 2 weeks. Based upon my experience, this would hit the highlights and must-sees in that 14 day period.

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