Photo Story | Atlantic Canada, Sable Island and Gulf of Saint Lawrence

The Top Ten Experiences on Atlantic Canada Explorer

© Michelle Valberg

Each Adventure Canada expedition holds its own unique itinerary highlights. Fascinating history, unique ecosystems, and fantastic wildlife sightings make us swoon for the Maritimes. Read more about our ten picks for the top experiences of this trip of a lifetime, the Atlantic Canada Explorer.

Canada’s eastern shore is a place of wild encounters. Here, ancient rock meets storm-lashed sea. The cultures of First Nations, Acadians, Scots, and Anglos intertwine. Humpbacks leap from the waves while gannets plunge into the sea, and icebergs from the Arctic glide past while wild horses dash over dunes.

The Battery neighbourhood among the Narrows

© Dennis Minty

1. Savour the colourful cityscape of St. John’s, Newfoundland

Clinging to Canada’s easternmost tip, Newfoundland’s historic and vibrant capital, St. John’s, is a city brimming with character, and it's worth planning to spend a few extra days here. Sailing through the famous narrows, keep your eyes out for its photogenic attractions—including Signal Hill, the Basilica of St. John the Baptist, The Rooms (the city’s cultural centre), and the bright houses of The Battery. Beyond, the wild North Atlantic takes over. Watch for whales, seabirds, and, in the springtime, icebergs—some towering twenty-five storeys above the waterline.

Breaching humpback whale

© Dennis Minty

2. See why whales and seabirds flock to the famous Grand Banks

The shallow waters between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia are among the world’s richest fishing grounds, for both humans and animals alike. While at sea, search the waves for whales—humpbacks especially, plus fins, minkes, and white-sided dolphins. Birders, too, will be delighted by the likely profusion of gannets, shearwaters, and sea ducks.

Sable island stallion

© Dennis Minty

3. Run wild on the sand dunes of remote Sable Island

Endless beaches. Eerie fog. The world’s largest grey seal colony. And wild horses galloping the dunes. Sable Island, an isolated sandbar as long as Manhattan but barely a kilometre wide, is a marvel to explore. Cruise its coasts, stroll its salt-marshes, witness its rare animals, and learn about its lore, including five centuries of haunting shipwrecks.

Northern bottlenose whale

© Dennis Minty

4. Witness deep-water wildlife at Canada’s sub-sea canyon

At the Gully, the floor of the North Atlantic plunges into a submarine chasm. Nurtured by this unique ecosystem are more than thirty species of cold-water coral, a resident population of northern bottlenose whales, and fish galore, including sharks, swordfish, and tuna. Join our onboard expert staff to appreciate the abundance of life in this Marine Protected Area.

Fortress of louisbourg aerial

5. Travel back in time at the colonial Fortress of Louisburg

At this living museum on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton, French soldiers march the streets, cannon-fire shakes the ground, and the past bursts to life. Built three centuries ago, the fort was a flashpoint of colonial conflict, changing hands repeatedly between the French and British. Chat with its expert “inhabitants,” trek its trails, and live like it’s 1720.

Puffins pair

© Dennis Minty

6. Let your spirit soar at Nova Scotia’s raucous Bird Islands

The aptly named Bird Islands, just offshore of Cape Breton, bustle with breeding seabirds. Here, nesting on twenty-metre sea cliffs, you’ll find Canada’s largest colony of great cormorants, plus black-legged kittiwakes, razorbills, Atlantic puffins, black guillemots, and perhaps Leach’s storm-petrels.

Walking cape breton

© Dennis Minty

7. Great Scots! Go Gaelic on friendly Cape Breton Island

At one time a stand-alone colony, Cape Breton remains a world apart. Thanks to thousands of settlers from the Highlands and Hebrides, the island is said to be more Scottish than Scotland itself. Explore its Gaelic culture and music, plus the rolling mountains and rugged coasts aptly famous for the Cabot Trail and Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

Prince edward island

8. Get comfy in the quaintest province, Prince Edward Island

Wee, twee, and on the sea, Canada’s smallest province features gentle hills, wooded glades, cozy coves, and rich red soil. This bucolic isle is most famous as the home of the beloved fictional character Anne of Green Gables. Tour P.E.I.’s iconic sites, including historic Charlottetown, known as the birthplace of Confederation.

Boardwalk at francois newfoundland

© Dennis Minty

9. Explore the raw south coast of The Rock, where people are few and nature runs wild

Newfoundland’s south shore is its roughest and most remote. On this wave-lashed coast you’ll see roadless outports where the locals live much as their forbears did, surviving almost entirely from the sea. Here, too, you can experience raw and ancient geology, cool critters—puffins, seabirds, whales—and, if the weather is right, take a perfect hike.

Mirror reflection street saint pierre france

© Dennis Minty

10. Sail to France—yes, really!

Just kilometres offshore of Newfoundland is Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, an official territory of the French Republic and its last colonial jurisdiction in North America. The 6,000 locals drive Citroens, smoke Gauloises, and pay in Euros, but are crazy about ice hockey. Here you can (over)indulge in French food, wine, and shopping—without having to fly clear to Paris.