Forested headlands awash in explosions of autumn colors, fog-shrouded inlets and vast tidal flats: Canada’s Maritimes are nothing if not scenic. But this collection of Atlantic provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) also offers tidy, walkable cities rich in history and a culture that mixes rural and seafaring traditions from Great Britain and Ireland, not to mention great opportunities for day hikes and sea kayaking. An ideal way to see the scenery is by boat.
Cruises along Canada’s eastern shore started for leaf-peepers. Because of the Gulf Stream, the season in many parts extends weeks beyond New England’s display. Since many ports of call are relatively close together, you typically arrive in the early morning and get a generous 8 or 9 hours on shore. Some cruises add bonuses, like a visit to far-flung Newfoundland and a stop in romantic Quebec City. Here’s what to see, do, try and eat at each of the major ports on a fall cruise to the Maritimes.
One of the first Maritime stops for many cruises is Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada’s first incorporated city. Set on the Bay of Fundy and settled by French-speaking Acadians fleeing British attacks, it’s in Canada’s only constitutionally bilingual province, with French and English intertwined like nowhere else. You can take in the Uptown area’s splendid Victorian architecture on foot (the Market Square information center has walking-tour maps) or onboard one of the horse-drawn trolleys lined up near the terminal.
The most dramatic sight is the Bay of Fundy itself, where the world’s highest tides surge upwards of 55 feet twice daily. Cruise ships offer whale-watching excursions, usually from nearby St. Andrews, allowing passengers to witness the dramatic tides and catch a glimpse of the humpbacks, minkes and finbacks that thrive in these waters.
HALL OF GREAT WHALES: The New Brunswick Museum has a Hall of Great Whales, with skeletons and life-sized models of the leviathans, as well as examples of the shipbuilding industry that helped establish Saint John’s prosperity. Market Square; 1.506.643.2300; nbm-mnb.ca
NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.