Ultimate Eastern Provinces 61 Day RV Caravan
The United States may share the North American continent with Canada and we may speak the same language, but some of these similarities stop when we cross that northern border. Eastern Canada offers amazing scenery, appealing and sometimes quaint customs and a fascinating history, and the language does differ throughout French-speaking Quebec. Fantasy’s Ultimate Eastern Provinces Tour gives you the opportunity to really explore and appreciate the beauty and people of eastern Canada on a 61-day tour which promises to be the adventure of a lifetime!
We set off on our journey, meeting up in Montreal, where we will spend the next two nights. Quebec’s largest city, Montreal is located on an island in the St. Lawrence River. Its name comes from its centerpiece – Mount Royal, a gentle mountain in the middle of the city. Today, Montreal has become one of the world’s most modern and dynamic cities. On our guided bus tour we visit Olympic Park, home of the 1976 Olympics and which has become one of the most universally recognized landmarks of the city. We marvel at the beautiful interior of the Notre Dame Basilica, harboring some of the finest Gothic Revival architecture in North America. At our lunch stop in Old Montreal, we glimpse the city’s European heritage in the beautiful 18th-century buildings and cobblestone streets. We relax at the Montreal Botanical Gardens. With 22,000 plant species, 10 exhibition greenhouses and more than 20 thematic gardens, it’s one of the largest in the world. Old in soul but young at heart, Montreal is absolutely captivating.
We follow the St. Lawrence River to Quebec City – our home for the next three nights. Here we walk on the cobblestone streets of Old Quebec City. Our guided bus tour takes us to the beautiful Plains of Abraham park, the site of many battles between the French and British. We venture on to Quebec’s provincial Parliament Building, its architecture inspired by the Louvre in Paris, and view the words engraved above the main entrance, ‘Je me souviens’ (I remember), Quebec’s motto. We enjoy lunch at Le Chateau Frontenac, a Quebec City icon perched atop Cape Diamond and overlooking the St. Lawrence River.
The following day we again board a bus for a guided tour of the beautiful and charming surrounding areas, visiting the Ile d’Orleans, an island situated right in the middle of the St Lawrence River and where agriculture, farm-fresh foods and gorgeous scenery flourish. We learn about the art of “Repousse” (embossing) on metal at the Gilles Copper Museum. We view the 240 stained-glass windows in the Basilica of St. Anne and enjoy a gourmet lunch at the Manoir at Montmorency Falls with a breathtaking view of the Falls’ cascading water – actually higher than Niagara Falls!
We continue our travels to the small city of Riviere du Loup, located close to the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, thus proclaiming to offer the best views of whales in the world. We see them for ourselves on our whale-watching boat tour and enjoy another memorable lunch at the Auberge de la Pointe hotel that overlooks the river. We move on to Grand Metis to visit the Reford International Gardens with close to 3,000 native and exotic plants. Then it’s on to the Grand Gaspe Peninsula and Forillon National Park, complete with sandy beaches, salt water fishing and walking and hiking trails – it’s also where the International Appalachian Trail begins. Right within the park, the Grande-Grave National Heritage Site depicts the way of life of fishing families in this area during the 19th and 20th centuries, complete with restored authentic buildings, exhibitions, interpretive trails, films and historical animations.
Our drive begins along the coastline and our next stop is Perce, a charming village dwarfed by the landmark Perce Rock and Bonaventure Island. There’s time for browsing the boutiques, galleries and cafes in town, and we also enjoy a guided boat tour of Perce Rock and Bonaventure Island, where we encounter the amazing gannet colony. We move down the coast to Pointe a’la Croix, stopping en route at Miguasha National Park’s Escuminac Formation, a rock formation containing a large number of well-preserved fossil specimens from the Devonian period of 370 million years ago.
We bid farewell to Quebec and travel on to New Brunswick, stopping for two nights in Caraquet. Here, we experience the Acadian ‘Joie de Vivre,’ or love of life. The Acadian lifestyle and culture have been shaped by the sea, with coastal islands, lighthouses and seaside cottages in an idyllic setting. We tour a historic Acadian village and sample their delicious cuisine for lunch.
The scenery and culture change again when we move on to Prince Edward Island (or PEI as the locals call it), spending the next several nights in Cavendish. We take the high road to get there – traveling over the Confederation Bridge. At eight miles long, it is the longest bridge in the world crossing over ice-covered water.
Once on the island, we tour Green Gables farm, the setting for the popular novel Anne of Green Gables, published in 1908 by Lucy Maud Montgomery. The land here is rich, producing a bounty of fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products, and the local waters teem with fish, lobster, oysters and shellfish. Farmers and fishermen provide the ingredients and PEI’s award-winning chefs turn them into culinary masterpieces. We enjoy some delicious meals on the island, including a visit to PEI Preserve Company, where authentic fruit preserves, English tea and china are sold and served.
Next stop? Nova Scotia – with a night and campground cookout in Elm River. Then on to Baddeck, where we can opt to discover the beautiful coastline and charming bays by self driving the Cabot Trail. We’ve got another day to explore the many sights in Cape Breton: the Cheticamp River, Cape Breton Highlands National Park and the Alexander Bell National Historic Site as well as the Bridge Museum, where Gaelic music, culture and much of the history of Cape Breton is archived. Then it’s all aboard the ferry (rigs included) as we head to more adventures exploring Newfoundland.
Newfoundland, aka ‘The Rock,’ is a land less traveled – definitely off the beaten path but home to friendly people known as ‘Newfies.’ If you weren’t born here, it’s possible to become an Honorary Newfoundlander, and one of our activities on the island is to participate in a Newfie ‘Screech In’ ceremony. After that, we’re good to go.
We begin our Newfoundland tour in St. John’s, the capital of the province and also the oldest and most easterly city in North America. The narrow crisscross streets and colorful jellybean row houses are full of character and history. We marvel at the ocean vistas and crashing waves at Cape Spear and visit the Cape Spear Lighthouse, perched on a rugged cliff at North America’s most easterly point. We enjoy a typical local Newfie lunch. At Signal Hill, we can relive the days when signalmen perched on the hill to look for ships heading toward St. John’s. Their flag signals communicated the names of arriving ships to the harbor below. The iconic Cabot Tower guards the top of Signal Hill, and it was here that Guglielmo Marconi made history by receiving the first transatlantic wireless signal in 1901.
We camp at Mallorytown and visit Bonavista. When Italian explorer Giovanni Caboto (or John Cabot as he is locally known) first discovered North America in 1497, his first words were ‘O buono vista!’ When translated into English, this phrase means, ‘Oh happy sight!’ And it’s certainly fitting for what would become the town of Bonavista, the historic site of Cabot’s landing. We have multiple nights in the area with plenty of time to explore its rocky shores, pebbled beaches and picturesque fishing boats. Whales, seabirds and icebergs are the usual guests along the amazing shorelines surrounded by dense trees. We can opt to visit Dungeon Provincial Park, where the cliffs give way into a natural opening with two seaward-side channels. You may catch a glimpse of icebergs and puffins at Cape Bonavista Lighthouse, and you can learn more about Newfoundland’s cod fish history at Ryan Premises National Historic Site and the Mockbeggar Plantation. Or visit the Bonavista Museum to learn more about the traditional lifestyles of the people who inhabit this beautiful land.
We continue on to the picturesque port town of Twillingate, located alongside Iceberg Alley. Here, we visit the Long Point Lighthouse, built in 1876 and one of the most photographed sites in Newfoundland. We view life from under the sea at the Prime Berth Fishing Museum and the polar bear exhibition at the Durrell Museum. We spend an evening at the Twillingate Dinner Theatre, where locals not only prepare and serve our food but also are members of the cast.
We head to western Newfoundland and spend three nights near Gros Morne National Park – a spectacular backdrop for all kinds of outdoor activities and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We cruise two fjords at Bonne Bay, feeling the spray of waterfalls splashing down the steep cliffs and watching eagles, moose, whales, seabirds and much much more in this incredible setting. We visit the picturesque coastal community of Norris Point, named after the first white man to settle in the area. And there’s time for all kinds of optional activities and tours – hiking to Western Brook Pond with a boat tour, browsing arts and crafts at Woody Point, fishing on the McKenzie River or viewing the art exhibit at Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse, which has been guiding ships through Bonne Bay since 1897. We cap things off with a performance by Anchors Aweigh – an experience which teaches us about Newfoundland culture through music, jokes and stories.
We travel on to St. Barbe, where we can leave our rigs and opt for a ferry ride over to Labrador. Then we drive along the Viking Highway to St. Anthony, located on the northern tip of Newfoundland and the northernmost stop on our tour. We enjoy a Viking Feast dinner and the next day venture on to Norstead, a Viking village created to take history out of the exhibit case and place it in the hands of visitors. Here, with the help of costumed interpreters, we can check out the blacksmith forging iron, step aboard a replica of a Viking sailing ship and learn how the Vikings navigated the Atlantic using a simple notched stick to measure the distance by the stars. We visit L’Anse aux Meadows, the archaeological remains of what is believed to be the oldest European settlement in the New World, depicting the lifestyle of the Vikings.
We move on to Deer Lake and then to Grand Codroy, where we board the ferry taking us back to North Sydney on the mainland. It’s a short drive to lunch at Ft. Louisbourg, where we step through the fortress walls into a time-warp back to the 1700s with costumed animators working the forge and tending the gardens and where children play in the streets.
We drive on to Halifax, Nova Scotia’s capital city. We enjoy a guided bus tour, learning about the history at the Halifax Citadel, where the sounds of rifle fire and bagpipes contrast with the modern bustle of the city. When the Titanic sank in 1912, the survivors went to New York but all who perished came to Halifax. At the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, we are introduced to life aboard that ship and view artifacts from the most luxurious vessel of the time. At the Fairview Cemetery, we view the graves of 121 of the passengers who were lost at sea. We’ve left enough time in the schedule for those who wish to drive to the fishing village of Peggy’s Cove – where the iconic Peggy’s Point Lighthouse still keeps watch over ocean waves and working lobster boats as it has done since 1915.
Next stop is Lunenburg, a planned British colonial settlement established in 1753. The town has retained its original layout and overall appearance throughout the centuries. Here, we visit the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, experiencing life in a fishing community through the fish exhibit and wharf-side vessels. We drive on to spend the next few nights in Annapolis Royal, known for its craftspeople, writers and artists. We enjoy a guided bus tour to Fort Anne, originally built by Scots in 1629 with later additions from the French. We visit Port-Royal, established by French fur traders and resembling fortified farm hamlets in 1600s France. We then stop to smell the roses and enjoy lunch in the Annapolis Royal Gardens.
We travel to Glenholme and the Bay of Fundy, where 160 tons of water move in and out of this tidal bore every day, twice a day, and home to the highest recorded tides in the world – a phenomenon which has created a unique seascape. The following day we move on to Hopewell Cape, New Brunswick, where we can take a tram ride to Hopewell Rocks, aka the Flowerpot Rocks, to view them at low tide when we can walk along the ocean floor and explore coves filled with the flowerpot-shaped rocks. At high tide, these rocks become small islands in the sea.
Next stop is Saint John, where we take a guided city bus tour, stopping at the site of Fort Howe, built by the British in 1777 to protect local residents from attacks by Americans during the Revolutionary War. We savor the delicious aromas at the Old City Market, the oldest continuing farmers’ market in Canada and a full city block long. We witness yet another phenomenon resulting from the tides of the Bay of Fundy – the Reversing Falls. As the bay’s tides begin to rise, they slow the course of the river until the flow stops completely, called a slack tide. Then the bay tides become higher than the river level and the river begins to flow upstream, eventually creating rapids. After high tide, the upstream flow of the river gradually subsides and it resumes its normal flow back out to the bay. This happens once every 12.5 hours!
It’s just a short drive to beautiful St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, where we visit Kingsbrae Gardens, 27 acres of themed gardens, ponds, streams, sculptures and various animals and birds. And what would a day in St. Andrews be without high tea? We delight in ours at the beautiful historic Algonquin Hotel.
Our 61-day adventure is nearly over, and we join our fellow travelers for our traditional Fantasy Farewell Dinner. What a trip this has been! The following morning, we bid farewell over continental breakfast, and return to our lives in the fast lane – but always remembering the charm and beauty of eastern Canada.
“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”- L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables