Atlantic Canada is a crossroads of creatures, traditions, and stunning sights. Along these fabled waterways, humpbacks leap from the waves while gannets plunge into the sea, and icebergs from the Arctic glide past while wild horses dash over sand dunes. The rich music, art, cuisine, and heritage of Québécois, Mi’kmaq, Acadians, Inuit, and Newfoundlanders intermingle. Find out more about the top experiences to be had in Canada’s easternmost provinces.
l'anse aux meadows longhouses newfoundland and labrador

© Dennis Minty

Get dramatic at L’Anse aux Meadows, the only authenticated Norse site in North America

One thousand years ago, at the tip of Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula, Leif Erikson and his crew of Vikings became the first Europeans to visit North America. The settlement they established, L’Anse aux Meadows, was unearthed in 1960 and today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tour the intriguing interpretive centre and then visit the reconstructed Scandinavian-style sod buildings, where staff in period costume re-enact and explain what life here was like for those pioneering Norsemen

Sable island horse

© Dennis Minty

Run wild on remote Sable Island

Endless beaches. Eerie fog. The world’s largest grey seal colony. And stallions 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 saltmarshes, witness its rare animals, and learn about its lore, including five centuries of haunting shipwrecks

Gros Morne National Park landscape

© Dennis Minty

Appreciate why Newfoundland is called the Rock at stark, stunning Gros Morne

Welcome to Gros Morne National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site! Newfoundland’s most dramatic landscape is an austere, ancient, wind-wracked plateau 600 metres high, slashed by plunging fjords. Choose a hike that suits you best. (Five hours along the Trout River? A short stroll on the Tablelands?) The park’s Discovery Centre provides a wealth of information about the geological importance of the area. The nearby town of Woody Point, meanwhile, is great for crafts and cappuccino.

Nain building Labrador

© Dennis Minty

Go wandering in welcoming Nain, the metropolis of Labrador’s Inuit region

Nestled in tamarack forests between the Torngats and the brooding Labrador Sea, stunning Nain is the most northerly town in Labrador and the administrative capital of Nunatsiavut, the Labrador Inuit government region. Visit Illusuak, the impressive new cultural centre, as well as the beautiful Moravian Church. Expect a warm welcome, take the opportunity to peruse plenty of arts and handicrafts, and enjoy the rousing brass band music—an old tradition in northern Labrador

Eclipse channel torngat mountains national park

© Dennis Minty

Hike to your heart’s content in Torngat Mountains National Park

Every landing site in the Torngats is a fan favourite. At Eclipse Channel, marvel at the spectacular rushing water, vibrant tundra, and playful seals. In Saglek Fjord, explore Thule tent rings, meat caches, and graves; see (and hear legends about) the Giant’s Footprints that gouge the fjord walls; and check out the bird life, including harlequin ducks and lesser black-backed gulls. At Kangidluasuk (St. John’s Harbour), the base camp of Torngat Mountains National Park, meet Inuit rangers and join them on epic hikes across the alpine tundra

Newfoundland south coast francois

© Dennis Minty

Explore the raw south coast of Newfoundland, where people are few and nature runs wild

Newfoundland’s south shore is its roughest and most isolated. On this wave-lashed coast you’ll see roadless outports where the locals live much as their forebears 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.

Red Bay Basque Whaling Station

© Rob Poulton

“Basque” in Labrador’s sixteenth-century whaling history at legendary Red Bay

Crossing the Strait of Belle Isle, you reach mainland Labrador and the Red Bay Basque Whaling Station, yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site in this great province. Here, Basque mariners operated North America’s first export industry, hunting bowhead and right whales and rendering their fat into oil. The interpretation centre features items recovered from the wreck of the 500-year-old whaling ship San Juan. Pay your respects at the whalers’ graveyard, check out the excavations at Saddle Island, and hike to the top of Tracey Hill.

Peoples hiking Labrador coast

© Dennis Minty

Ride the waves of the history-haunted, iceberg-bedazzled, whale-spangled Labrador coast

From forbidding Killiniq Island in the far north to the (relatively) busy Strait of Belle Isle, Labrador’s coast is wild and wonderful. History lives here: of generations of Inuit hunters, Basque fishermen, Norsemen seeking trade and timber, and English mariners questing for the Northwest Passage. Also here are islands and skerries and golden beaches, springtime icebergs twenty storeys tall, marine mammals—especially humpbacks, minkes, and harp seals—and, come summer’s end, the mysterious aurora, dancing madly in the sky.

Saint Pierre France landscape

© Dennis Minty

Sail to France—yes, really!

Just kilometres offshore of Newfoundland is SaintPierre 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.

Charlottetown Prince Edward Island

© Vladimir Rajevac

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 PEI’s iconic sites, including historic Charlottetown, known as the birthplace of Confederation.

St john's Newfoundland

© Dennis Minty

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 neighbourhood. Beyond, the wild North Atlantic takes over. Watch for whales, seabirds, and, in the springtime, icebergs—some towering twenty-five storeys above the waterline.

Miawpukek traditional dance

© Andre Gallant

Dance and delight in lively Miawpukek

A long Zodiac ride up Newfoundland’s Conne River takes you to the community of Miawpukek, whose name means “middle river” in the Mi’kmaq language. It is one of the two fastest growing communities in the province and is a vibrant hotspot. Here you can visit the powwow grounds, enjoy a cultural presentation, and receive a formal welcome from local leaders

puffin birds, Nova Scotia

© Dennis Minty

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.

Sandstone cliffs Magdalen Islands Quebec

© Dennis Minty

Make merry on the Magdalens

Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine are a world apart. On this remote, cliff-flanked archipelago thrive 12,000 hearty fisherfolk, many of them descendants of shipwreck survivors. Over centuries, they’ve forged a distinctive Acadian dialect and culture. Get to know the islanders—and their handicrafts, seafood, and local beers and wines!