The area north of New York and Boston is often ignored when it comes time to plan a vacation. However, we recommend taking a look at this loop and exploring all the northeast and Canadian Maritimes has to offer. From the rocky coast of Maine to the dunes of Prince Edward Island, the loop offers you a mix of urban history, natural wonders, and relaxing ocean views.
From Boston, drive to along the Atlantic coast to Bar Harbor, Maine. Acadia National Park consists of many archipelagos along the Maine coast. This is the featured destination of this trip, so we recommend making two nights accommodations.
We highly suggest the Park Loop road, a 20 mile drive around a great portion of the park. From the Park Loop road, there is a drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain, but we would wait and hike to the top of Cadillac Mountain on Day 3. You can see the details of the drive on the park map >>.
There is only camping within Acadia National Park. For other lodging, see the offerings for cottages, cabins, and B&Bs in surrounding Bar Harbor >>.
Visit Acadia National Park
For us, the best way to experience sunrise in Acadia National Park is hiking the 4.4 mile Cadillac Mountain North Ridge Trail. It is a moderate hike, but offers spanning views of Frenchman Bay. It also ends at the parking area of the Park Loop Road, so you may be able to catch a ride back down the mountain. If you are not inclined to do this hike, you can drive to the top of the mountain and do the 0.4 mile Cadillac Summit Loop Trail.
After spending the morning on Cadillac Mountain, drive around the park to see the rocky coastline and lighthouses, including the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. Also, be sure to enjoy lobster while you are in Maine. You can tend to find it much more affordably in this area than anywhere else in the country. You can either choose the purchase a live one and boil it at home, or enjoy one at a local restaurant. For a more authentic and less expensive option, find a chowder house rather than a white table cloth restaurant.
In order to experience the full range of events at Fundy National Park, we recommend an early start from Bar Harbor. Canada's Fundy National Park has the highest tide in the world. The 12 hour tidal period can see changes of up to 55 feet. During low tide, you can hike to the bottom of the bay and walk among the Hopewell Rocks. Then, stand at the top and watch as the tide rises and envelopes the area you were just walking on. The Point Wolfe area, seen on the park map >> is the main destination for most visitors.
There is no lodging in the park, so stay at one of the small towns just north of the park.
With the low tidal period at Bay of Fundy, we recommend heading back on the morning of Day 5 if you were not able to experience the entire ebb and flow. From there, continue to Halifax, Nova Scotia.In Halifax, enjoy a relaxing afternoon touring the coastline, lighthouses, Citadel Hill, and Halifax town clock. Halifax will be the jumping off point for Day 6, so we recommend making two night's accommodation in or around Halifax.
The Canadian Maritimes is one of the best locations to go on a whale watching tour. From Halifax, there are many options for tours. Some leave from closer to Halifax and others from further away. The Brier Island whale watching >> is one of the greatest areas to leave out from, but it is almost 5 hours from Halifax, so you may want to plan your accommodations accordingly. Additionally, there are good tours off Cape Brenton Island to the north of Halifax. Again, it is almost 5 hours away from Halifax, so plan accordingly. Whale watching tours tend to be around $50/adult and $25/child and last 2 to 4 hours.
- Visit Kejimkujik National Park or
- Cape Brenton Highlands National Park
If you choose not to do the whale watching tour, you have two national park alternatives. Closer to Halifax, Kejimkujik National Park offers maybe hikes and canoeing. We recommend the Grafton Woods or Grafton Lake trails. The park is 2 hours from Halifax and you can easily return that evening.
Alternatively, you can travel to Cape Brenton Highlands, with many hiking trails and many cliffs with views of the northern Atlantic. Due to the distance from Halifax, we recommend staying near the park, rather than driving back. If you are visiting Cape Brenton, you may skip southern Nova Scotia all together.
Along the Way
- Prince Edward Island National Park
Prince Edward Island is the smallest of the Canadian provinces, but it still offers much in the way of sites. From Halifax, visit Prince Edward Island National Park on the northern coast. Walk along the sand dunes on the Cavendish Dunelands hike. From nearby Cavendish, visit the Green Gables House >>, the inspiration for L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables.
Continue south to the southern coast along the Northumberland Strait. Water in this strait are as warm as the water off the coast of Virginia, so it would be a nice time to take a dip in the ocean further north than you would ever expect. The island is quite small, so you can stay wherever you find adequate accommodations, but Charlottetown is the largest city and may have the best options.
Day 8 is strictly a driving day, so the final destination is dependent on your appetite for driving. From PEI, take the Confederation Bridge back to mainland Canada and head towards Fredicton, New Brunswick. The destination for Day 9 is White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, but this is a 10 hour drive from PEI, so this day is just to get you close. You can either stop in Fredicton or continue on to Woodstock or even down to Bangor, Maine, which is approximately a 7 hour drive.
Mt. Washington National Forest is a large area in northern New Hampshire known for its spectacular foliage during the fall season. However, during all seasons of the year, Mt Washington, the tallest peak in the northeast, offers visitors breath-taking vistas. While hiking to the top of the mountain is an excellent trail, it takes the greater part of a day and so it probably does not fit into the time frame of this trip. The Cog Railway >> offers a 3 hour round trip to the top. The railway costs $62/adult and $39/child. Alternatively, you can take the Mt. Washington Auto Road >>. You can drive your own vehicle ($16/first adult, $8/each additional adult, $4/child) or take the Guided Van Tours ($22/adult, $10/child). The road has been in continuous operation since 1861. Even in the summer months, the road may be closed due to weather, so ask ahead.
Please note that the autoroad and cog railway are on opposite sides of the mountain and take nearly 45 minutes to travel between. After traveling to the top, take the rest of the afternoon to see the covered bridges in the area. Accommodations are available in Conway and North Conway, though they tend to fill up in summer months, so make reservations ahead of time.
Return to Boston. Return flight home.
Day 10 is the final day of the loop. Return your rental vehicle and begin the trek home. We hope you truly enjoy the loop experience and have found that you were able to see much more in this one trip than you could have imagined.