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Planning an east coast Canada road trip? I grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and lived in New Brunswick for 18 months. I’ve road-tripped across the east coast more times than I can even count!
It’s one of my favorite parts of the world, so I created this guide to share all my favorite hidden gems with you.
While not as popular to visit as the Canadian Rockies, an East Coast Canada road trip should not be overlooked.
Humpback whales dancing below towering cliffs, fresh seafood, epic hiking trails, and the friendliest people you’ll ever meet are just some of the reasons to plan an eastern Canada road trip.
This guide will share all the best places to visit on a road trip through the east coast of Canada so that you can plan out your dream trip.
The truth is, there’s no such thing as a ‘perfect’ itinerary – It entirely depends on the time you have available and the activities that interest you most.
To road trip around all the places I’ve suggested below, you would need at least two months. But don’t fret if you don’t have that much time – simply choose the ones that interest you most.
I’ve also included some sample routes at the end to help you come up with a perfect Canada east coast road trip itinerary.
Get your car rental first
BEST CANADA CAR RENTAL COMPANY: DISCOVER CARS
When booking your Canada car rental online, I recommend and use Discover Cars. They search both international and local Canadian companies, so you get the best price.
If you aren’t taking your own vehicle for the road trip, make sure to rent a car in advance, as car rentals can get booked up early in the summertime (especially in Newfoundland).
All the airports have car rental agencies inside them, so this is the easiest option if you’re flying into one of the provinces from the mainland or abroad.
To find the best prices on car rentals, search on Discover Cars. They will search all the main car rental agencies (Enterprise, Hertz, etc). so you can easily compare rental prices and find the best deal!
Toronto to East Coast Canada Road Trip
The focus of this post is on the Maritime provinces and Newfoundland. But since I know many of you will be planning your east coast road trip from Toronto, I’ve made a few suggestions for places to stop on the way below through Ontario/Québec before reaching New Brunswick.
There are MANY more amazing places to visit than outlined here, but they need a post of their own (and it’s coming).
If you’re starting from Toronto, make your first stop in Ottawa (a four-hour drive) or Montreal (a six-hour drive). Opt to stop at Thousand Islands National Park along the way.
Spanning across the border between Canada and the U.S., this park is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Ontario.
You can either spend the night in the park or just stop on the way to see the islands.
BEST THOUSAND ISLANDS TOUR
There’s no better view of the thousand islands than from the sky! This 5-star rated tour takes you on a scenic twenty-minute helicopter ride over the islands. Perfect if you’re short on time!
After touring the thousand islands, continue on to either Ottawa or Montreal. They are just two hours apart, so either make a great place to spend the night if you’re coming from Toronto. It just depends on how much driving you want to do in one day!
I love Montreal because of its exciting nightlife and overall atmosphere. However, if you prefer a quieter city with beautiful parks and historic sites, Ottawa is a great option.
BEST OTTAWA HOTEL
Staying overnight in Ottawa? Don’t miss the chance to stay at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier – it’s one of Canada’s most iconic hotels, adjacent to the Parliament Buildings and Rideau Canal. Reserve early, as it does book up!
Leaving Ottawa or Montreal, continue your drive towards the province of New Brunswick.
Fredericton (capital of New Brunswick) is about 8 hours East of Montreal, so you could get there in a day if you drove all day. But if you prefer to do more sightseeing along the way, a great option is to spend the night in Québec City.
With its picturesque cobblestone streets lined with bistros and boutiques, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to Europe.
BEST QUEBEC CITY HOTEL
If you didn’t get the chance to stay at the Fairmont in Ottawa, there’s another opportunity in Quebec City! The Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac is situated in Old Quebec, boasting gorgeous views of the St. Lawrence river in a fairytale setting.
New Brunswick Road Trip
Hooray, you’ve made it to your first Maritime province! So many people call New Brunswick a ‘drive-through’ province, but I couldn’t disagree more after living here for 18 months.
There’s plenty to see in New Brunswick, and it should be part of your East coast Canada road trip itinerary.
Québec City to Fredericton (593 KM)
Your first destination will be the capital of New Brunswick and my favorite city in the province, Fredericton. It’s an entire day of driving from Québec City to Fredericton, so plan to spend a night or two here so you can enjoy what the city has to offer.
Visit the Garrison District, which hosts summer outdoor concerts, movie nights, and guided history tours. From there, take a walk across the Fredericton Railway Bridge.
No longer a train route, the bridge has become a sanctuary for pedestrians and cyclists where you can get spectacular views of the city and Saint John river below.
In the evening, enjoy a cold brew at one of the city’s craft breweries.
RECOMMENDED FREDERICTON HOTEL
Staying overnight in Fredericton? The Quartermain House B&B is the perfect retreat after a day of exploring the city.
Fredericton to Saint John (112 KM)
After a night in Fredericton, head to Saint John (not to be confused with St. John’s, Newfoundland).
It’s just an hour’s drive to reach this charming coastal town. You can either just stop in for lunch or spend the night in town.
BEST SAINT JOHN TOUR
Short on time? Join this walking tour of Saint Johns to discover the city’s most interesting streets and central market – the oldest continuing farmers market in Canada!
Another fun thing to do in Saint John is to take a boat cruise to see the reversing falls, a unique natural phenomenon where the Bay of Fundy collides with the Saint John River.
Saint John to Fundy National Park of Canada (111 km)
From Saint John, it’s an easy hour’s drive to my favorite place in New Brunswick, Fundy National Park. You’ll want to spend at least two days here, either camping or staying in a hotel near the park. It’s a paradise for hikers and waterfall chasers!
Another attraction worth visiting in New Brunswick is Hopewell Rocks, which is home to the highest tides in the world. The tide rises and falls 40 feet or so – twice daily!
To fully appreciate this phenomenon, visit Hopewell Rocks at low tide to walk around on the ocean floor and see the unique rock formations up close. At high tide, take an ocean kayak tour. It’s incredible to see the difference!
Hopewell Rocks to Moncton
After leaving Hopewell Rocks, head out for a half-hour drive to New Brunswick’s most populous city, Moncton. You can spend the night here or just stop for a few hours. An excellent spot for lunch is the Tide and Boar Gastropub, one of my favorite restaurants in New Brunswick.
While in Moncton, be sure to take a drive up Magnetic hill. Park at the bottom of the hill, put your car in neutral, and it will start reversing up the hill on its own. It’s magic! Okay, really, it’s just an illusion caused by the landscape, but it’s a cool thing to experience, and kids will love it. There is also a water park near Magnetic hill.
A great day trip or alternative destination to Moncton is Shediac; it’s just 20 minutes away. Shediac is home to Parlee beach, which has the warmest salt water in Canada.
It’s known as the “lobster capital of the world”, this is the best place to get your first taste of fresh lobster.
SHEDIAC FOODIE TOUR
If you’re visiting Shediac, join this small-group food tour to taste its fresh seafood and other delicacies. You’ll sample everything from scallops to chocolates!
After you’ve filled up on seafood, head to Parlee beach to soak in the sunset.
Optional Route: Acadian Coastal Drive
If you’ve got plenty of time on your east coast road trip in Canada and want to see an alternative side of New Brunswick, then keep heading North.
New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province in Canada, and the northern part of the province is where you can fully experience French Acadian culture.
Moncton to Kouchibouguac National Park (101 km)
From Moncton or Shediac, head North towards Kouchibouguac National Park. Spend a night or two here camping to soak in the pristine wilderness. The park has beautiful beaches, canoeing, hiking trails, and wildlife, including an adorable seal colony.
Kouchibouguac National Park to Miramichi
Just half an hour away from Kouchibouguac National Park is the town of Miramichi, which was my home for a year and a half. Miramichi is most famous for its fly fishing opportunities on the river.
Another fun thing to do in the summertime is to go on a tubing adventure down the river. In the evening, be sure to soak in the incredible sunsets.
RECOMMENDED MIRAMICHI HOTEL
A great place to stay in Miramichi is The Rodd. It’s set right on the river where you can soak in the breathtaking river sunset. Plus, it’s a 5-minute walk from O’Donaghue’s Irish Pub – one of the best pubs in the city!
Miramichi to Miscou (138 km)
Keep heading North from Miramichi to Miscou, a beautiful island at the very northern tip of New Brunswick. There’s a picturesque white lighthouse you can visit there.
Miscou to Caraquet (60 km)
Make your way to Caraquet, the heart of Acadian country. If your visit coincides with August 15th, you’ll be able to take part in some of the National Acadian Day festivities, which are sure to be a fun time.
There are several quaint B&B’s in Caraquet to spend the night. While there, be sure to visit the Acadian Historic Village just outside of Caraquet, where you can learn what life used to look like here.
If you opt for the Acadian Coastal Drive, you’ll have to return south to Moncton/Shediac, which takes about three hours from Caraquet.
From there, continue your east coast trip to Prince Edward Island.
Prince Edward Island (PEI) Road Trip
At just 224 km long and 64 KM wide, Prince Edward Island (PEI) is Canada’s smallest province. But don’t be fooled by the size; PEI has some of Canada’s most beautiful landscapes.
Red cliffs along the blue Atlantic ocean, golden sand dunes, and picture-perfect white lighthouses are just some of the gorgeous scenes you will find here.
PEI connects to New Brunswick via the Confederation bridge. It’s a 45-minute drive from Shediac to the start of the bridge, and it takes about 20 minutes to cross over.
While driving over the ocean, be sure to appreciate the undertaking it took to build this bridge. It’s an impressive example of architecture and engineering.
PEI isn’t a big place; you could see the main highlights in one day if you really wanted to. But I suggest staying at least a couple of nights as there are some wonderful things to do here.
The province is roughly divided into three sections, with three coastal routes you can make: North Cape Coastal Drive, Central Coastal Drive, and Points East Coastal Drive.
You’ll enter the province from New Brunswick at Boredon-Carleton, which is smack dab in the middle of the province, so you could do these scenic routes in any order.
Borden-Carleton to North Cape
The North Cape coastal drive is 350 km and features a Canadian potato museum you can visit in O’Leary. PEI is very serious about potatoes! Cedar dunes provincial park is another place worth checking out, and a good option for camping overnight.
If you prefer to stay indoors, A unique place to spend the night in the North Cape is the West Point Lighthouse Inn and Museum.
PEI has 63 different Lighthouses, each one with a unique history. You could fill your whole time in PEI just searching for lighthouses, and at least a few should be on your itinerary.
North Cape to Cavendish (129 KM)
After exploring the North Cape, head over to Cavendish, home of Anne of Green Gables. While that has never been an interest of mine, I know it’s a big attraction of PEI, so I can’t write this guide without mentioning it.
RECOMMENDED ANNE OF GREEN GABLES TOUR
Tour the popular Green Gables House with a knowledgeable guide, then stop at a riverside restaurant with artisan preserves, fine teas, local pottery, and more.
Cavendish is home to Green Gables Heritage Place, which inspired the beloved tales’ setting.
Cavendish is also famous for its beautiful sandy beaches and red stone cliffs. The cliffs here are the best place to take in these stunning landscapes.
Afterward, head over to Cavendish beach to soak in the sun along a 37-mile stretch of red sand. The red color comes from the high amount of iron in the island’s sandstone, which oxidizes and rusts when it comes in contact with air.
Cavendish to Charlottetown (38 KM)
After taking in the stunning natural landscapes of PEI, head to the capital of the province, Charlottetown.
Don’t expect big city lights; the population of Charlottetown is under 40,000. But that’s all part of its charm! There are several accommodation options in Charlottetown to spend the night.
RECOMMENDED CHARLOTTETOWN HOTEL
Staying overnight in Charlottetown? Just two blocks from downtown, this breakfast inn features charming guest rooms, shaded patios, breakfast, and friendly staff to help you with anything you need.
Start your day in Charlottetown with an ice cream cone from Cows Creamery. It was voted Canada’s best ice cream spot and is one of my most treasured childhood memories.
In the afternoon, explore the local farmers market (it runs on Saturdays all year plus Wednesdays in the summer), or take a bike ride by the sea.
Later that evening, head out to Victoria row. This pedestrian-only street is lined with a mix of bars, shops, and restaurants.
Charlottetown to Greenwich (58 KM)
Spend your last day in PEI exploring the Points East Coastal Drive. Be sure to stop in Greenwich, which is part of the PEI National Park.
This section is home to some incredible dunes as well as an extensive floating boardwalk, which goes out to a white-sand beach.
After a few days in Prince Edward Island, it’s time to make your way to Nova Scotia!
There are two ways to get to Nova Scotia from PEI. You can either go back via the confederation bridge through New Brunswick or take a 75-minute ferry from Wood Islands to Caribou, Nova Scotia.
I’ve always taken the confederation bridge as I find it more convenient, but the choice is up to you.
Nova Scotia Road Trip
Nova Scotia, known as ‘Canada’s ocean playground,’ is a paradise for outdoor activities. Kayaking, hiking, and rafting are just some of the ways you can enjoy the natural beauty of this stunning province.
Charlottetown To Halifax (325 KM, via Confederation bridge)
Start your journey in Halifax, the capital city of Nova Scotia. Spend at least a night or two exploring this vibrant city using this Halifax itinerary.
RECOMMENDED HALIFAX HOTEL
Staying overnight in Halifax? The Westin is a great choice, centrally located. Across the street is the Halifax farmers market, a great place to start your day and grab breakfast.
Soak in the views of the harbor from the second floor of the Halifax farmers market and then head outside to walk along the pier.
The harbourfront comes to life with street performers, public art displays, and restaurants with outdoor seating during the summertime.
Enjoy lunch here and then head up the hill to Citadel National Historic Site. From the top, you’ll get gorgeous views of the harbor below.
In the evening, head out to Argyle street for some live music and rest your head at one of these wonderful places to stay in Halifax.
DISCOVER MORE THINGS TO DO IN HALIFAX
Halifax to Peggy Cove’s (75 km)
The first stop after Halifax is just 45 minutes away. Peggy’s Cove is a quaint fishing village with a stunning white lighthouse.
It’s a paradise for photography, with the lighthouse that often reflects in the pools of water. The best time to visit Peggy’s Cove is during sunrise to avoid the crowds. Plus, the light is incredible during the golden hour.
RECOMMENDED PEGGY’S COVE TOUR
If you’re tired of driving, join this Peggy’s Cove sunset tour from Halifax instead! Get a fully guided experience, with hotel pick-up and drop-off included.
Peggy’s Cove to Lunenberg (100 km)
Next up is Lunenberg, a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most colorful towns in Nova Scotia.
Dating back to the 18th century, this historic town is full of charming architecture and gigantic tall ships docked in the harbor. Head over to the golf course across the harbor for the best views and photo ops of this picturesque town.
RECOMMENDED LUNENBERG HOTEL
Lunenberg is the perfect place to spend the night relaxing by the sea. Check out The Sail Inn – a turn-of-the-century bed and breakfast just 35m from the waterfront.
A more off-the-beaten-path place to explore nearby is Blue Rocks, a small fishing village just outside of the Lunenberg. Head there for sunrise – you won’t be disappointed.
Lunenberg to Kejimkujik National Park (90 KM)
Next up, make your way to Kejimkujik National Park for some of the most pristine kayaking opportunities in eastern Canada. Kejimkujik is also a great place to go camping and stargazing if you want to spend the night.
Kejimkujik National Park to The Shubenacadie River (308 km)
If you love adventure, you must try Tidal Bore rafting on the Shubenacadie River. It’s one of the most unique rafting experiences in the world.
Twice a day, when the tide changes, the tidal bore temporarily reverses the flow of the river, creating incredible high-speed rapids. It’s the only place in the world where you can experience this! There’s even a Tidal Bore Rafting Resort where you can spend the night.
Cape Breton Island
Although Cape Breton Island is part of Nova Scotia, it’s so unique that it almost feels like its own province.
After leaving the Shubenacadie river, head 338 km east (approx four hours of driving) to Cape Breton Highlands National Park of Canada.
Cape Breton Highlands National Park is home to the Cabot Trail, which is continuously named one of the most beautiful drives in the world.
It’s only 298km in length, but you’ll want at least a couple of days to take it all in. Thankfully, there are plenty of unique places to stay along the Cabot Trail.
RECOMMENDED CABOT TRAIL HOTEL
One of the most beautiful places to stay on the Cabot Trail is the Keltic Lodge at the Highlands. It’s got stunning views from the property and is right next to Ingonish Beach.
With such incredible views on the Cabot Trail, you’ll be stopping every five minutes for photos. Plus, there are a ton of hiking opportunities along the way. Be sure to hike the Skyline Trail for sunset.
DISCOVER MORE THINGS TO DO ALONG THE CABOT TRAIL
Cape Breton Highlands National Park to North Sydney (114 km)
After a few beautiful days in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, drive to the North Sydney ferry terminal.
This is where you’ll say goodbye to the mainland of Canada, and catch an overnight ferry to the island of Newfoundland.
Newfoundland Road Trp
Many people don’t include Newfoundland on their east coast Canada trip itinerary, but it absolutely should be. Newfoundland is a great province with its own identity, unlike anywhere else in Canada.
While out of the way, it will be worth making the trip there. Here’s everything you need to know about planning a road trip through Newfoundland.
There are two ferry options for getting to Newfoundland from the mainland. Both depart from North Sydney, Nova Scotia. One goes to Argentia on the East Coast of Newfoundland, and the other goes to Port aux Basques on the West Coast.
I recommend taking the Port Aux Basque ferry because it’s shorter, cheaper, and more reliable. The other ferry only runs during the summer months and is often canceled due to weather.
Port Aux Basque – Corner brook (219 km)
You’ll arrive in Port Aux Basque early in the morning, around 7 am (assuming the ferry is on time). Drive two hours East to Corner Brook, the largest city on the West Coast.
The next few days will be camping in Gros Morne National Park, so stock up on supplies at a grocery store in Corner Brook. Sobeys or Dominion are the best options. There are some small stores in Gros Morne national park, but they are limited in supplies and more expensive.
Corner Brook to Gros Morne national park (85KM)
From Corner Brook, it’s just an hour’s drive to Gros Morne National Park, one of the main highlights of Newfoundland. Spend at least two nights here either camping in the park or at lodging nearby.
RECOMMENDED GROS MORNE HOTEL
Rocky Harbour is the most convenient place to stay in the park if you aren’t camping. I recommend Bambury’s Hillside Chalets, cute saltbox homes with a 9.5+ rating.
With over 100 kilometers of pristine trails, Grose Morne is the perfect place to take a hike. Challenge yourself to go 800 meters up to the summit of Gros Morne mountain!
This hike is no easy feat, as the last two hours involve climbing up steep rocks. The views at the top are worth it – this is one of my favorite hikes in Newfoundland. It’s an all-day hike (16 km) that will take you between 6-8 hours.
If you want a real adventure, try backpacking the long-range traverse. This epic hike takes four nights but will take you to one of the most sought-after photos in Newfoundland. This trek is not for beginners – you must attend a backcountry briefing to receive a backcountry hiking permit for this trek.
For a less strenuous activity, take a boat tour through the fjords and marvel at the beauty carved out by the work of glaciers over thousands of years.
Optional route: Viking Trail
You could continue your journey on a scenic drive down the Northern Peninsula, also known as the Viking trail, to the UNESCO world heritage site of L’anse Aux Meadows. Here you’ll find remains of an 11th-century Viking settlement.
I’ve done this route before, and it’s stunning, but you’ll need an extra couple of days. It’s about a three-hour drive from Gros Morne each way.
I recommend spending the night in St. Anthony, the largest town on the peninsula. It’s one of the best places to see icebergs in the spring!
RECOMMENDED ST. ANTHONY HOTEL
Grenfell Heritage Hotel & Suites is a historic hotel in St. Anthony, centrally located in town. It offers fully equipped kitchens in the apartment rooms – we stayed here for a week and loved it!
Gros Morne National Park to Bonavista Peninsula (406 km)
After a few glorious days on the West Coast, you’ll continue your journey towards Newfoundland’s east coast through the Trans-Canada Highway (Route 1).
It’s an easy drive as there is only one main highway across Newfoundland – just look out for moose along the way.
If you’re craving more adventure along the way, stop along the way in Grand-Falls, where you can go whitewater rafting on the exploits river. This is a great place to stop for lunch or spend the night to break up the journey.
Optional route: Central Newfoundland and Fogo Island
While driving across the province, you could take an optional detour to Twillingate and Fogo Island, home to some of the cutest small towns in Newfoundland. Fogo island has become a popular spot in recent years with the addition of the 5-star Fogo Island Inn.
RECOMMENDED FOGO HOTEL
We all wish we could stay at the Fogo Inn, but it’s not in most people’s budget. Instead, stay at one of The Old Salt Box Co. locations and enjoy sunsets over the ocean from your room.
There’s so much adventure in Central Newfoundland you could easily spend another week exploring this region!
The Bonavista Peninsula is one of my favorite parts of Newfoundland. With endless picturesque fishing villages, a lively arts scene, fantastic puffing spotting opportunities, and gorgeous hiking trails, you’ll be sure to love it here. Check out this video of some friendly puffins I met there last summer!
Trinity is a perfect place to spend your first night here, with several homey guesthouses to stay.
RECOMMENDED TRINITY HOTEL
The Eriksen Premises is one of Trinity’s historic homes and a great place to spend the night. Antique wood décor is featured in all individually decorated rooms, and it’s next to restaurants and shops.
After a good night’s rest, take a harbour kayak tour where you can come up close with whales and icebergs, depending on the season.
Trinity is also home to some great hiking trails. Try the Skerwink trail, a 4.7-kilometer loop with beautiful coastal views.
DISCOVER MORE THINGS TO DO IN TRINITY
Trinity to Bonavista (50 km)
Take a day to drive around the Bonavista peninsula or spend another night. Along the way, opt to visit the Port Rexon Brewing for a delicious craft beer.
In Bonavista, take a hike in the stunning Dungeon provincial park, grab a cone at Sweet Rock Ice Cream, or head to nearby Elliston to spot puffins and whales.
In the evening, enjoy a locally-sourced dinner at the Bonavista Social Club.
Trinity to St. John’s (258 km)
Continue driving east to St. John’s, the capital city of Newfoundland, and my hometown. It’s one of the oldest cities in North America!
Celebrate the end of your east coast Canada road trip by driving to Cape Spear and soaking in the ocean views. Congratulations, You’ve made it to the most easterly point in North America!
RECOMMENDED ST. JOHN’S HOTEL
One of the most beautiful places to stay in downtown St. John’s is Blue on Water. This 4-star accommodation features beautiful interior designs and is steps away from top attractions.
Another option is the Cabot Guest House in Georgetown, a charming neighborhood I used to live in. If you stay here, be sure to grab your morning coffee and bagel at the Georgetown Bakery.
St. John’s is a great city with tons of fun things to do. Hike up to historic Signal Hill, where you can get sweeping views of the St. John’s narrows.
Take a walk around downtown St. John’s, or visit the picturesque fishing village of Quidi Vidi, which has a brewery that you can tour.
In the evening, head to The Duke for the best fish and chips in the city, then George Street for a night on the town. With the most bars per capita in Canada, St. john’s has a lively nightlife and a great local music scene.
As a visitor, you must get screeched in to become an honourary Newfoundland. Christians Bar on George Street is a perfect place to do that.
The next day (assuming you’re not too hungover), take a stroll along a section of the East Coast trail – there are over 336 kilometers of trail to explore that will take you through breathtaking towering cliffs with beautiful views.
During the summer months, the world’s largest population of humpback whales makes their way to Newfoundland’s coast to feed. It’s one of the best places to go whale watching in the world!
Whales can often be spotted while hiking on the East Coast Trail but for a closer look, join a whale-watching tour.
RECOMMENDED WHALE-WATCHING TOUR
Departing from the heart of downtown St. John’s, this two-hour boat tour will take you to see the world’s largest population of humpback whales, icebergs that are over 10,000 years old, and the charismatic Atlantic puffin.
If you’re a diver, you can also join a diving tour to see WWII shipwrecks, reefs, wall dives, and more! Diving is a unique way to explore Newfoundland from the ocean floor.
DISCOVER MORE THINGS TO DO IN ST. JOHN’S
Itineraries for Best Road Trips to Canada’s East Coast
With two months, you would be able to road trip all of Eastern Canada, including the optional routes I mentioned.
You could visit the main highlights in a month, but the trip would be very fast-paced with a lot of driving.
An example Canada East coast two-week road trip itinerary through the Maritimes would be New Brunswick (3 nights), Prince Edward Islands (3 nights), Halifax and Nova Scotia’s South Shore (3 nights), and Cape Breton (4 nights). Alternatively, you could do Cape Breton (4 nights) and Newfoundland (8 nights).
If you just wanted to visit Newfoundland, you could fly into the province to save time. St. John’s has an international airport where you can rent a car.
For a 7 day east coast canada road trip, you aren’t going to be able to road trip all of eastern provinced. I recommend sticking to one province, suchf as Nova Scotia or Newfoundland, and making the most of your time there. PEI and New Brunswick could be done together in one week.
Best Time to Road Trip the East Coast of Canada
While it’s possible to visit the East Coast year-round, I would not advise planning a Canada east coast itinerary around the winter months (November-April – yes, it can really go that long!), simply because the road conditions could be dangerous.
The Maritimes are famous for their horrible winter storms. Plus, the ferry to Newfoundland often gets delayed in the winter.
Summertime is the ideal time for a road trip, but it is also the most popular. The shoulder seasons are also great options. During the springtime, you will have fewer tourists and the possibility to see icebergs in Newfoundland.
During autumn, you can see beautiful fall colors, which will make the drive breathtaking, especially on the Cabot Trail. That said, you can expect some cold nights, and even days, if you are visiting the East coast during October.
Booking A Car Rental for an East Coast Canada Road Trip
If you’re booking a car rental for your road trip around the east coast, make sure you do early. Car rentals do book up in the summertime (especially if you’re picking it up in Newfoundland)!
I use and love Discover Cars, which searches local and international providers to find you the best deal. Plus, you can buy insurance directly through them so you’re fully protected!
BEST CANADA CAR RENTAL COMPANY: DISCOVER CARS
When booking your Canada car rental online, I recommend and use Discover Cars. They search both international and local Canadian companies, so you get the best price.
Essential Items For an East Canada Road Trip
When road tripping around Eastern Canada, don’t forget to bring these items with you.
- Parks Canada Discovery Pass – This will get you unlimited admission for 12 months at over 80 parks across Canada. This may be worth it if you plan to visit a lot of the national parks.
- Insect Repellant– they are fierce in the summertime!
- Road trip snacks
- Canadian cash – Most places accept major credit cards and debit but in smaller communities, you may find places that only accept cash. Bring Canadian dollars as these places will probably not exchange American money.
- Roadside emergency kit
- Canada Road Map
- First Aid Kit
- Blankets and Pillows – it gets cold in Canada, even in the summertime! You never know when those will come in handy.
- Audiobooks for the road. I love Audible for this.
- A car charger for charging your devices
- A GPS or download Google offline maps for your phone. Many rural places you will be driving through in Canada do not have cell phone reception.
I know this post has a lot of information, but there’s just so much to see. I hope it could help you plan and dream about an east coast Canada road trip. If you’ve got any questions, just let me know in the comments below!
There are so many places to visit on Canada’s east coast! Some of the best places are Halifax, Peggy’s Cove, Gros Morne National Park, and Fundy National Park – check this guide for more information.
Read this blog post! It has all the essential information you need to plan an epic road trip through the east coast of Canada.
It’s known for its friendly locals, fantastic seafood, incredible whale watching, the Atlantic Ocean, and beautiful landscapes.
Absolutely! While many people overlook the east coast for the Rockies, they are two completely different experiences. The east coast of Canada has some of the most breathtaking scenery in Canada, along with fantastic cuisine, friendly people, and endless outdoor adventure.
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Your photos alone make me want to pack a bag and hit the road! I’d love to do a coastal drive of Eastern Canada and PEI has always been on my radar!
Happy to hear that!! PEI is gorgeous, hope you can visit sometime!
Yay for road tripping! I haven’t had a chance to explore too much of Canada but would love to someday! I wanna visit the national parks!
Hope you can someday! We are lucky to have so many beautiful national parks 🙂
This is a very informative guide. Definitely will refer to it in future when I go.
Glad you found it helpful! 🙂
I love all those rugged coastal views with the reflections in the waters and the lighthouses. I already love the West side of Canada, but I do really like the idea of exploring the Eastern coast as well. It looks like SUCH a fantastic area to hike, and then eat icecream.
p.s. My mum loves Anne of Green Gables…I wonder if telling her that would be a good way to lure her to Canada!? 😉
I love the West coast of Canada too, but the East coast is a completely different experience! Haha I think that would definitely get her there if PEI is on the itinerary!
I live in Vancouver and have never been to the east coast so this is all high on my bucketlist! Looks beautiful 🙂
Vancouver is a beautiful spot too!! Hope you can visit the East Coast sometime 🙂
Thank you for such an informative post! You’ve helped me narrow down most of the places I wanted to go as I’m currently planning an Eastern road trip! I wanted to know what your estimated budget was for the entire trip, if you don’t mind my asking. Thank you again 🙂
That’s awesome, glad to hear! That’s so variable depending on how long your trip is, if you’re renting a car, camping or staying in hotels, solo etc. If you give me more details I can try and help!
This is very informative.
Was just wondering if you could suggest a perfect Canada East Coast road trip itinerary with RV Camper that last up to 16 days (3 adults)? I have seen and read many but l just don’t know how to manage that. The idea is to do a road trip from Montréal – Nova Scotia (16 days) or just Nova Scotia (16 days) suggesting probably “must see” places and camping possibilities.
The road trip is planned for next year 2021 summer (hopefully by then the pandemic is under control). Wouldn’t mind if you can email me your ideas also per email.
Thanks for your time.
Hi Mitch. You can definitely plan a great road trip from Montreal to Nova Scotia with 16 days. You’ll have to drive through New Brunswick anyway so I suggest spending a night or two there on the way and back. Fundy national park is a great place to visit! That should still leave you with 10 or more full days in Nova Scotia, so for the rest of your itinerary, it depends on what you are interested in seeing. I love Cape Breton island for the Cabot Trail, I’d recommend 3-5 days to do that. The Halifax area is great too, and there are a lot of fun day trips to small towns you can take from there.
Your blog is so informative and what beautiful pictures! I want to plan an East Coast trip this summer but I’m waiting (and hoping) for some travel restrictions to loosen up so we can visit from Ontario. If not, then I will save this information for 2022!
I have a question for you. I know you said that Newfoundland shouldn’t be missed but we only have 3 weeks and when I followed most of your itinerary that didn’t leave me much time for Newfoundland. Is there a place for whale watching in the other 3 provinces?
Thanks so much! Yes for sure, there are lots of places to go whale watching on the East Coast. You can go in St. Andrews by-the-sea in New Brunswick, as well as Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. I do think Newfoundland is the best place for it though! Really hope you can make it out to the east coast this summer!
Hi, thank you for all of the info. Ten of us rented an RV and have booked our trip for Sept 3-10. We want to eat fish, do a lot of water activities and sightseeing. Since we have only a week and have no wish to see Montreal. Can you help me choose best places. We are from Toronto and are so tired of being on lockdown.
Hi! Without stopping somewhere in Quebec it will be a long drive to New Brunswick (14 hours) but doable if you guys don’t mind a long day of driving. I would recommend spending most of your time in Nova Scotia by the coast, they have tons of water activities and delicious seafood.
This is great – I may have missed this and will re-read your post, but how long did it take you to road trip across the east coast and as woman would you safe it is safe if I do it alone? Thanks.
I’ve done it in as little as 3 days and as long as a month! It really depends on how much you want to see but I’d recommend at least one to two weeks. It is safe to travel there as a woman alone – I did last summer! Atlantic Canadians are extremely friendly and helpful 🙂
Hi Lora, Thank you so much for this great article. I would love to start planning a short east coast trip to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and PEI at the end of august (August 19-29). I live in Ontario. Do you maybe have any more specific information about the border restrictions for people from other provinces? Thank you!
Hi Cloe, I just updated the article with the latest information. Border restrictions depend on your vaccination status – fully vaccinated travelers can visit all four provinces, but you will have to apply for a PEI Pass for PEI.
Hi Lora, thank you for all the information you have provided. We are from Alberta and have planned to visit the East Coast Aug 26 – Sept 7th and hoping to see highlights in all provinces. Will check out your article on vaccination status for all provinces. Quick question – is it worth the long drive from Montreal to New Brunswick or should we fly? Thanks for any info you can provide.
If you are flying anyway I would just go to New Brunswick. Montreal is a great city and Quebec City is a nice stop along the way but if you are limited on time and want to see all four provinces it’s better to just fly.
Thanks for so much great info! We are planning an -unfortunately- fairly rushed road trip in our camper van next month. Leaving from Muskoka on the 19th and we have to be home on the 29th. Staying near Quebec City the first night, somewhere close-ish to Fredericton the second night, then the weekend visiting friends in PEI. Monday morning we will board the ferry to NS and do a couple days on Cape Breton Island. We pretty much have to start heading towards Ontario on Thursday, or at the very latest, Friday.
Two questions: 1) Is it fairly easy to “free camp” in PEI and Nova Scotia, or do we really need to book campsites? We are self-sufficient with a solar fridge, stove and composting toilet in a 19′ van.
2) If we do Cape Breton (Cabot Trail) over Monday-Tuesday, what’s the #1 thing you’d suggest for Wednesday/Thursday? Do we go west to Halifax/Lunenberg area? My concern is we might be burnt out from driving so much, but we also want to make the most of our time out there. Leaving from Halifax instead of closer to NB means a few extra hours of driving overall. I have been to Halifax/Peggy’s Cove/Lunenberg but my partner has not.
Thanks in advance!
Hi Ashley, I have only camped at campsites but if you are a resident of Canada and self-sufficient you could camp on crown land for up to 21 days. I’m sure there is lots of it there, but I’m not an expert in this area.
If you have been to Halifax/Lunenberg and don’t want to add on the extra driving I would just stay on Cape Breton Island. Two days isn’t a lot of time there, the cabot trail is so beautiful I spent a week on it! Inverness or Baddeck are two nice spots on either side of where it starts. I am not super familiar with the part of Nova Scotia between Halifax and Cape Breton Island so can’t make specific recommendations for there, but I think you could easily spend more than two days in Cape Breton and enjoy yourself!
Excellent presentation and very nicely explained all relevant issues for travelling. I have sent you an email also seperately for guidance but I know you are very busy. In fact I want to visit Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI with a friend from Brampton. We will fly from Toronto to Sydney and back from Halifax. We will get a car rental for visiting other provinces. My preference is Cabot trail and other areas to be covered in 8 days. Kindly guide.
Hi, I would spend at least 2-3 days to drive the Cabot Trail – it’s so scenic you’ll want time to stop and soak it in. PEI is a very small province, you could see a lot in just two days. If you take the bridge from New Brunswick you’ll be close to Moncton, although I personally prefer Fredericton. It’s worth spending a day or two in Halifax as well, but that’s about all you could fit in!
Hi Lora, we are planning to visit Atlantic from Aug 14-Aug22(must be back to Toronto Aug 22), we are planning to stay 1 night in Quebec for example leaving Toronto to Quebec city on Saturday Aug 14 morning, stay a night in Quebec, then leave Quebec around afternoon Sunday, please advise the next beautiful stop we should stay for 1 or 2 nights? group of 20 people 8 kids ranging from 3-11 years old. Thanks so much
Hi Lora, great article. We are thinking of taking a 2 week family road trip this summer from Toronto, do you think that’s enough time to explore the east coast?
Thanks! Two weeks is absolutely enough time – there’s an example two week itinerary in the guide 🙂
Thanks so much for this perfect article, I’m planning for a small group 17 people 1st time ever driving from Toronto to Atlantic. This article perfectly giving me all ideas we can explore. Thanks
Thanks so much for your nice comment! I’m so glad you found it helpful.
thanks a lot for this information – it already helps me a lot 🙂 I will go to Canada in October and will spend there 4 weeks. I would have more time, but I think, it would get cold in November. What would you think? Yes it really depends on mother nature … 🙂
As the temperature is getting low during my trip from beginning October till end of October, could you recommend me a good starting point? Is it better to start in Toronto or in Newfoundland? Or doesn´t it make a difference?
I will come from a one-month-trip in Iceland, so I would get used somehow to colder weather, but maybe you have some advice for me ? 🙂
Hi! So glad you found the post helpful. It can definitely be cold in Atlantic Canada by November – even in October! It stays warmer in Ontario longer (I’ve experienced 20+ degree at end of October in Toronto), so I would actually start in Newfoundland and end in Toronto to make the most of the weather 🙂
Hello and thank you for sharing your experiences.
I’m planning a last minute roadtrip the first three weeks of Sept 2021.
I’m looking at starting from TORONTO and making my way out EAST and then driving back of course.
Will be using personal vehicle and travelling with my spouse
( no kids )
Any recommendations itinerary wise ?
I believe 3 weeks should be enough time to see and do a fair amount.
Thank you in advance for your time
3 weeks is enough time to see all four provinces! I would spend a week in Newfoundland, one in Nova Scotia and the other split between PEI and New Brunswick.
In the middle of October, are leaves still on trees on the east coast in NB and NS?
Yes they should be!
Great article! I am planning about a 2 1/2 month trip for next summer and hoping to hit most of what you suggested. We will be traveling with a truck and trailer from about mid June to early September. Based on weather and crowds, I have two questions for you. Any idea for camping if reservations will be needed for National or provincial parks? And what would be your suggested order for the provinces coming from Maine? Was thinking of NB, NF, NS then PEI? Thanks, great article!
Hi Darlene, if you’re planning to visit the parks over the long weekends (Canada day, the first weekend of August, and labor day), I would make reservations as they can get really busy then. Otherwise, a few days in advance should be fine and the provincial parks usually have walk-in space (national ones can get busier in the summer). The order you suggested sounds perfect to me!
This is great – I may have missed this and will re-read your post, but how long did it take you to road trip across the east coast and as woman would you safe it is safe if I do it alone? Thanks for sharing this post and it is really very intresting east coast Canada road trip.
I’ve done it many times as short as 3 days to as long as 3 weeks, it just depends on how much you want to see! Yes, the east coast is extremely safe to travel I’ve done it solo many times.
Do you have any other whale watching recommendations? We will only have a week with our 3 kids and are thinking of flying in to NB from Toronto to save time on the drive through Ontario & Quebec. We will likely just end up doing NB and PEI…maybe NS…think we’ll have time?
There is good whale-watching in New Brunswick by Saint Andrews by-the-sea! One week is enough to visit them but it will be rushed. I would spend at least half the week in Nova Scotia!
I’m curious about your quoted time of 2 hours from Hopewell Rocks to Moncton? Google maps says it is a 30 minute drive, and now I’m worried I’m missing something?
Hi Lisa! Thanks so much for your comment. You are right, it’s just over half an hour to get between them so that was just an error on my part. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, it’s been fixed!
Hi Lora, Thanks for such a wonderful travel guide. I am planning a road trip from Toronto to St. Johns or NFL by end of June. I will be traveling with family including Kids. I will leave the city on Thursday evening and so far I am planning the following
Thursday | Home->Montreal
Friday | Montreal->New Brunswick
Saturday |New Brunswick->North Sydney, NS
Sunday 7 AM | Channel-Port aux Basques, New FoudnLand
Friday (11 AM Ferry) | Channel-Port aux Basques->North Sydney, NS B2A 3V2
Friday | North Sydney, NS-> Moncton, New Brunswick
Saturday | Qubic City
Sunday | Home (Pickering)
So I will have a total of 5 days in NFL and I need your help to plan these 5 days (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday). We both can drive so driving is not an issue. We are interested in Whale watching and icebergs if still, we can see them.
Please guide me how I should plan these 5 days.
Hello! And thank you for such detailed info for the East Coast .My husband and I are planning a short 9-10 day road trip to east coast. this coming week. We were planning to drive straight to New Brunswick. Any suggestions on where to go for camping that I don’t have to make reservation? possibly in the Saint John, we’re planning to go all the way to Nova Scotia with this 9 days trip. Please let me know just the important places that we should see. Hope you can help.
Thanks in advance……..
Thanks for this info Lora! I am going to use this when I cycle and driveEast in a few days. All the best to you!
My 2 friends and myself would like to take a road trip for about 2 weeks next year (2023) to the East Coast and visit all four(4) lovely provinces. We all work together in the hospital and after the last couple years (with the COVID Pandemic) we all decided we REALLY need a break and a nice vacation. This road trip has been on our bucket list for quite a while now. We are hoping to save enough money by next year to do this amazing trip. A trip to be remembered!!!!
(1) to visit all those wonderful places you mentioned and stay in nice B&B’s in all 4 provinces and really spend time with all the wonderful folks out East.
Approx $$ for each person with our own single rooms. Just an approx $$. We will not hold you to that $$, just wondering and hoping we can make the trip re: our budget.
(2) Approx in gas?
(3) Do we stay in a motel/hotel/B&B along the way?
Would you be able to plan our trip for us and do the bookings at the B&B or hotels?
(4) We are thinking in May/June? Would you recommend those months?
Oh … I should mention, we all live in the GTA area in Ontario and will be leaving from there. We are planning to rent a vehicle. Please help us make this trip a “dream come true” Thank You Lora!! :-))