This is my first ever blog post and I will try my best to share my Atlantic Canada trip on a budget. I love to plan elaborate trips but not very keen on spending an insane amount of money on Travel, Hotels but I do enjoy the luxuries. This was one of the best trips that I planned on a very low budget while enjoying all the key places that I wanted to see and also, no shoulder season traffic.
What is Maritime Canada? I got so excited without really explaining what Maritimes Canada aka Atlantic Canada is. Information Source: Wikipedia
The Maritimes, also called the Maritime provinces, is a region of Eastern Canada consisting of three provinces: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island (PEI). The Maritimes had a population of 1,813,606 in 2016, which makes up 5.6% of Canada’s population. Together with Canada’s easternmost province, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Maritime provinces make up the region of the Atlantic provinces.
Located along the Atlantic coast, various aquatic sub-basins are located in the Maritimes, such as the Gulf of Maine and Gulf of St. Lawrence. The region is located northeast of the United States’s New England, south and southeast of Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, and southwest of the island of Newfoundland. The notion of a Maritime Union has been proposed at various times in Canada’s history; the first discussions in 1864 at the Charlottetown Conference contributed to Canadian Confederation. This movement formed the larger Dominion of Canada. The Mi’kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy people are indigenous to the Maritimes, while Acadian and British settlements date to the 17th century.
So without writing pages and pages of nostalgic memories, I will dive into the plan directly.
Length of out Trip: 1 week. After doing some research, we decided to keep the trip at least a week long so that we could enjoy our time and see all the sights on our list.
Key Cities we wanted to see: Halifax, Saint John, Moncton, Cape Breton Island and Charlottetown. There are a lot more beautiful towns in the Atlantic to see but we did not want to rush ourselves and enjoy few places versus just running around checking boxes.
Plane Tickets: We decided to Fly to Halifax and rent a car from there and do a road trip across the provinces so that we could get some road trip feels. There are epic road trip plans from Ontario to Maritimes but we wanted to save some time as we had already decided on the length and wanted to enjoy the sites. There are 2 options when choosing your plane tickets:
- Swoop Airlines: Swoop is a super budget friendly airline which costs a fraction of other airlines and gives you the freedom to enjoy Canadian and US destinations on a budget. They now fly from Toronto as well. When we took this trip back in 2019 (Pre- COVID era) it was only flying from Hamilton. So even if you took the flights from Hamilton and included the parking rate at Hamilton airport it is still cheaper during busy time. Once things get better it might be easier to just take Swoop from Toronto for Halifax but that we can only know once it’s safe enough to go any place.
- Flying from YYZ: We took our trip post shoulder season (Mid of October) so it was actually costing us the same to fly from Air Canada from YYZ or from Hamilton.
Rental Car: We typically book our rental car ahead of time because it gives us more flexibility to choose our car segment and if you are lucky, you might get a great deal. You can use any website like expedia or hotwire to book your rental car or simply just get it from the car company directly.
Hot Car Rental Tips:
- We mostly book our car rentals from COSTCO and the reason for that is we have always seen that the price is cheaper than other vendors plus you get One Additional Driver included in the price. So if you book with them, no additional driver fees.
- Also, if you have an existing car insurance it’s usually a very cheap add-on to cover your rental cars versus having to buy the insurance over the counter.
- When you go to pickup your car, if the segment you booked is not available make sure you ask for a discount or a free upgrade to an upper segment. We had booked a regular SUV for the trip but this is what we ended up getting.
Day 1: We reached the airport early as our flight was scheduled for 8:30 AM. We had an amazing breakfast at the airport lounge which you can usually get into with your PRIORITY PASS membership. We have free priority passes with our credit cards so that’s always a good thing. That way we never have to rush out of the house with a super early breakfast and enjoy the great spread that they usually have. Scotiabank’s Passport Visa is a great choice for travel related benefits. After landing at Halifax, we picked up our rental car and headed straight to a grocery store.
RANDOM Tip: Always buy some groceries for any trip as it reduces spending to a great deal and gives you flexibility to eat whatever your preference is. We always ensure to get a case of water, breakfast essentials, fruits and some easy to cook food. We have noticed that just by doing this you end up saving up to 300$ on eating out all your meals and feeling bloated and guilty.
After getting our essentials, we checked into out AirBnb that we were going to stay at for the first 2 days of the trip. Then after we got a chance to freshen up and had a quick lunch of soupy noodles, we headed out to Peggy’s cove lighthouse. It is an easy 90 minute drive from the city and we were so lucky that it was totally empty. From what we have heard from othes, it’s usually packed with people.
I had never seen high tides before in my life so I was completely mesmerized with the waves crashing on the big stones and almost reaching out to the lighthouse. It was a magical evening and just having the place to myself was another dream come true.
We drove back lost in memories and reached back to our AirBnb just in time for dinner. We had some wine and cooked our food and that was the end of an amazing first day.
Day 2: We woke up pretty early after having a restful sleep and decided to head out for a walk and explore Halifax a little. For that we decided to go to the Halifax Public Gardens and took a stroll across the park. There is a beautiful little café in the garden and we grabbed our coffee from there and got some steps in.
Then we went back and cooked a lovely breakfast and then began our journey to Lunenburg.
“Lunenburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, National Historic District, winner of the Communities in Bloom most beautiful small town in Canada, Prettiest Painted Places in Canada, Port City of the Year and Society of American Travel Writers’ awards. Picturesque Lunenburg lies nestled along the scenic shores of southern Nova Scotia one hour from Halifax and the international airport. Source: Link“
It is every bit beautiful as in the pictures and the waterfront is a delight to walk through. We had a quick lunch at Burger King there and tried ice cream at Sweet Treasures Confectionery Make sure to drive through the town as it is so picturesque.
Interesting Fact: Netflix’s popular show Locke and Key is shot in this pretty little town, so if you have seen it try to spot the places.
After coming back, we decided to spend some time at the Halifax Casino which is surprising famous for the seafood buffet. My understanding is that the menu changes frequently but when it’s lobster season, there is no other place where you can find the cheapest lobster tails. Atlantic Canada is famously known for the lobster and that is the place to go and binge eat them.
Day 3: This was our road trippin day. The next stop was Saint John so we packed up early and had our breakfast. We also made some pasta for lunch and got ready. So, if you check google maps, it takes you through Moncton and I really wanted to see the famous Magnetic Hill there. Lucky for us, the park that sells the tickets for the hill had closed already for the season so we were able to enjoy the magic of the hill multiple times. Check my reel at Instagram (@Whiskeygirltravels)
The drive is simply beautiful and we finally reached our destination at Saint John.
As we took a stop in Moncton, we reached there by evening and checked in into our AirBnb right away. We took a shower and headed out to see the sights in the city. Reversing Falls is a hidden gem of the city which is actually a fall which reverses directions due to the tides. We cooked a nice light meal and retired for the night.
Day 4: This was one of the longest day of the trip as we had a lot of things planned for the day. We started our day at 6 am as we were going to explore FUNDY NATIONAL PARK…….YEYYYYYYY
It has been on a bucket list for me for so long and I was so excited to see St. Martins Sea Caves, Hopewell Rocks and hike through the Fundy National Park itself. Unfortunately, Hopewell Rocks were closed for the season and it was unsafe to go there at that time but I will tell you shortly what did I compensate it with.
After stopping by at the Sea Caves and having some famous Chowder, we headed to the Fundy National Park itself. So, we wanted to do some hiking but there are tons of things to do in this great park. Plan your activities ahead of time to make the best use of your day there. We hiked through Dickson Falls, Herring Cove Beach and Caribou Plain and enjoyed every minute of it. We grabbed lunch at Octopus’ Garden Cafe and enjoyed a beautiful fall meal on their patio. I collected sea shells, watched the sunset and saw the tides rise and fall, all in one day.
BEST HIGHLIGH TOF THE TRIP: Stargazing at night and seeing the GALAXY with your eyes. No telescope and no fancy equipment. That moment is etched to my brain for eternity and I feel envious of the people who get to do camping there. We saw it by the red chairs near the visitor centre on a hill and I had to be dragged to go back. If you ever visit, please wait for the sundown on a clear day. It’s totally worth it.
By the time we got back to our Airbnb we were extremely exhausted so we ate a ready to eat meal and headed to bed. Next day had more excitement in store for us.
Day 5: Next on the list was Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island. So there are 3 ways to access the island:
- By Road: Via Confederation Bridge which is the longest bridge in the world over ice covered water at 12.9 kilometers.
- By Sea: By taking a ferry. You can make reservations here.
- By Air
So an interesting thing to note here is that you only pay a fare while exiting PEI. For example in BC you pay fare both ways but from PEI it’s a one way fare. We wanted to experience the bridge and the Ferry both so we had decided to enter by Confederation Bridge and planned to exit taking the car on the Ferry.
It is a marvel when you drive over the bridge and all you see is water for miles. Make sure to appreciate the bridge once you get off of it. Marine Rail Park is a great place to do that and take in the land of lighthouses. You will spot 2 lighthouses right here. Then we headed over to our AirBNB and checked in. This was a fully private cottage style AirBnb which had all the amenities and privacy that we needed.
After having our lunch we headed to COWS Creamery for the best ice cream ever. PEI is the home if Cows and the ice cream is a must have if you stop by here. We tried the Mango Sorbet and PEI Strawberry and were not disappointed at all. Our next destination was the Prince Edward Island National Park and saw the Covehead light house and the red sandy beach. I collected some more sea shells which are sitting pretty right behind me in a glass jar. The best thing I saw in PEI was the sunset and I will never forget it. Maybe it was the beauty of this park or just the colors but I do still dream about it.
When in PEI, don’t forget to count the lighthouses as there are many to spot. The only thing I wish was I had another day in PEI and see the Green Gables Heritage Park of Anne of the Green Gables but you got to leave something behind to go back and revisit. At least that’s how I like to think about that.
Day 6: The most Hectic Day!!!!!! We woke up very early to catch the 6 am ferry back to Nova Scotia. Hot Tip: Have breakfast on the Ferry while enjoying the sights. It’s super cheap, fresh and delicious. I have heard you can spot whales in summer but we were there in fall. The Ferry takes you to Caribou and is very close to Halifax which was our final destination but no trip to Maritimes is complete without going to Cape Breton Islands. Cabot trail is the holy grail that needs to be visited and probably planned with an overnight stay.
So we did an 800 kilometers drive on this specific day just to see the Skyline trail that gives you the view of the sweeping mountains to oceans vies. Please see the pictures and decide yourselves that we chose to do this the way we did. I would say take another day and enjoy this beauty the way it is meant to be enjoyed. We were very exhausted but had no regrets.
Day 7: We planned to take the late night flight on our day back which gave us the freedom to enjoy the city of Halifax. We woke up late, cooked a hearty meal and checked out of the hotel that we had booked for the night. After leaving that, we headed straight to downtown Halifax where we strolled through the city and the famous boardwalk.
HALIFAX BOARDWALK SCENES
Then we spent time at a board game café called the Board Room and had some snacks and played board games for a couple of hours. This café is Nova Scotia’s first board games café and has a huge selection of games to try out with friends. The milkshake and sandwiches were delicious and the presentation, service and hospitality is top notch.
After this we headed to the airport and with a heavy heart and truckload of memories we headed back on a plane to Toronto.
Cost Analysis of the trip (for a couple):
- Plane Tickets – 180$ total as we used up our points and paid the taxes and extras
- AirBnbs and Hotels- 350$ as we saved serious money going a bit later in the fall
- Car Rental- 478$ all thanks to Costco Travel
- Food and entertainment- 400$ as we did not end up eating all our meals outside
Total= 1408$ which was quite amazing for the trip that we had!!!!!!
Let me know your thoughts and share your tips and tricks in the comments below.