You don’t have to voyage far to discover historic charm and rich, magnificent landscapes of Eastern Canada, and the New England coast. From the UNESCO Heritage Site in Quebec to Acadia National Park of Maine, an earthy and rugged geography brings a semblance of “settled-ness” to ones mind.
Days 1 & 2: Quebec City, Quebec, CDA
Few places in North America are as steeped in history as Québec City, Canada. Older than Jamestown and founded before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, it is the only city north of Mexico whose original fortifications remain intact. The Québec City historic district, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is still home to religious orders and hospitals that date back to the 17th century. Its Place-Royale would look familiar to the explorer Samuel de Champlain, even with its modern attractions of gift shops and cafés. On the Plains of Abraham, you can walk the battlefield where, in 1759, the French forces under General Montcalm were decisively trounced by the British, led by General Wolfe.
Day 3: Baie-Comeau, Quebec, CDA
Baie-Comeau is beautifully located on the banks of the Mancouagan and Saint Lawrence Rivers. Stroll the lovely quartier Sainte-Amélie. Learn about regional wildlife at the Maison de la Faune. Or visit the new Centré Boréal, a fascinating Glacier Center where visitors can walk through a manmade glacier, experiencing its temperature, sound and movement.
Day 4: Havre-Saint-Pierre, Quebec, CDA
The tiny French island of St-Pierre & Miquelon are the last remnants of the former colonial territory of New France. Enjoy the uniquely French architecture, cafes and people. Sample shore excursions: Highlights of St.-Pierre; A Tour of Sailor Island.
Day 5: Corner Brook, Newfoundland, CDA
Corner Brook, a small but bustling city, is on Newfoundland’s west coast. Captain Cook initially mapped this area, known as the Bay of Islands, in 1767, and like many other Newfoundland settlements, Corner Brook started out as a fishing village. Later, one of the largest pulp and paper mills in the world was built here. In the city’s downtown core, West Street and Broadway are the center of action, thanks to numerous pubs, shops and restaurants. The local university has renowned fine-arts and drama programs, so you’re never too far from entertainment. Corner Brook also has an impressive amount of green space—you’re always within walking distance of a park or trail. Nearby Humber Valley and the Marble Mountain offer some of the best skiing in Atlantic Canada, a big enticement for outdoor-adventure junkies.
Day 6: St. Anthony, Newfoundland, CDA
Near the northern tip of Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula, tiny St. Anthony predates even the famed navigator and explorer Jacques Cartier. Though he gave the town its name, it was already a seasonal camp used by French and Basque fishermen when he arrived in 1534. St. Anthony’s fortunes have long been tied to the sea: Those fishermen were followed by whalers, and now tourism has become increasingly important, with whale-watching expeditions among the principal draws. For many travelers, however, St. Anthony is the gateway to one of North America’s most intriguing archaeological sites. While Christopher Columbus is popularly credited with being the first European to “discover” the New World, Viking explorers were there before him—more than four centuries earlier. The remains of an 11th-century village at L’Anse aux Meadows, located less than an hour north of St. Anthony, are the oldest evidence of a European settlement in North America. Today, the reconstructed sod houses at this UNESCO World Heritage Site give a sense of the hard lives of those early settlers.
Day 7: St. Johns, Newfoundland, CDA
Closer to London than it is to Canada’s west coast, the capital of Newfoundland, St. John’s, has long looked east and across the Atlantic. It is the easternmost city in North America, excluding Greenland, and has its own time zone, a half-hour ahead of the rest of eastern Canada. Long before there was a permanent town, established around 1630, British fishermen would set up camp here in the summer. To this day the harbor remains the center of the city, with its oldest buildings and streets (including Water Street, the oldest street in North America) nearby. And although it was primarily fishing and whaling that drove the economy of St. John’s for centuries, today the oil and natural gas found beneath the ocean floor is increasingly important. The rest of St. John’s sits on hills around the harbor, which has led to frequent comparisons to San Francisco. The tallest, Signal Hill, is one of St. John’s most famous sights with its panoramic views. While the city shines at a distance, it is also in the details that it charms visitors, with its houses painted in jelly-bean hues and cozy restaurants and pubs that provide relief from Atlantic breezes.
Day 8: At Sea
Day 9: Halifax, Nova Scotia, CDA
Located on a rocky inlet on the Atlantic Ocean, Halifax—Nova Scotia’s provincial capital—is defined by its maritime geography. It’s a spirited mix of world-class history and nautical-themed museums alongside bunkers and fortresses that guarded the harbor, plus striking public art and sights, funky shops and excellent pubs serving up folk music (and good pints). Explore the Halifax waterfront where steamships once anchored to drop off arriving immigrants at Pier 21. Savor the low-key but classy culinary scene for fresh seafood and Nova Scotia specialties—the city has both street vendors and casual joints catering to university students and upscale eateries with elegant settings. Along Nova Scotia’s southern shores, the city is surrounded by lush greenery and charming villages that are worth the trip from downtown proper. Snap photos of attractions in the charming fishing village, Peggy’s Cove, with its picturesque lighthouse on a rocky outcropping. Or wander the streets of Lunenburg, whose colorful Old Town is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can also soak in the charms and sights of Mahone Bay, home to artists’ studios and a trio of steepled churches.
Day 10: Bar Harbor, Maine, U.S.
Located on Mount Desert Island in Maine, Bar Harbor is the quintessential New England coastal town. Picturesque and charming, it is a scenic and walkable town with streets lined with restaurants and boutiques. Dining on lobster is a must, as is a scoop or two at one of the town’s homemade ice cream shops. Boat tours explore the waters and islands that surround Bar Harbor, with seasonal opportunities to see wildlife—including whales—and lighthouses along the way. Bar Harbor is surrounded by the magnificent Acadia National Park, making the area an adventurer’s playground. The park, which is celebrating its centennial in 2016, is home to sites such as Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain along the eastern coast of the United States and the first place in the country to see the sun rise. Guests can hike, bike or take a horse-and-carriage ride to explore Acadia’s lakes and striking coastline. Take advantage of the best bargain in Bar Harbor during your visit: The free Island Explorer buses take guests to Acadia’s major sites and to other nearby destinations.
Day 11: Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
New England’s largest city, Boston, Massachusetts, is home to historic sights and modern neighborhoods; stores and restaurants with old-time character; and gracious green spaces as well as a beautiful waterfront. Legendary figures of the American Revolution come alive at buildings and attractions along Boston’s Freedom Trail, including the Paul Revere House and Old South Meeting House, and in Lexington and Concord just outside Boston. Pay homage to great U.S. presidents at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum and in the town of Quincy, birthplace of Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams.