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Exploring Canada’s East Coast

November 3, 2017
East Coast Canada Trip

This trip has been our longest trip yet.  We spent 3 weeks exploring the East Coast of Canada.  There were a lot of landmarks we wanted to see that we did not get to on our previous trip out east.   This trip had a mix of short and long drives as well as major highway and secondary roads.  There was a mix of KOA and National Parks, including some of the biggest sights in Eastern Canada.  We also found out that 3 weeks was about our limit for a single trip.

The Drive

Leg 1 Home to Malloytown:  This leg was simple in that we did the 401 across Ontario with a detour around Toronto via the 407 and the brand new 412.  This day did not go well when we merged back into the 401, as it was Saturday, Canada Day and the start of the first long weekend of the season.  This meant that we lost a lot of time on the stretch east of Toronto getting bogged down in cottage country traffic.

Leg 2 Mallorytown to Quebec City:  This part of the drive was also straight forward, just continuing along the same one highway, 401 until it turned into Autoroute 20 in Quebec.  We detoured Montreal via AUT30 but with a twist.  This time we tried highway 201 across Grand ile to join AUT30 just after the toll.  The drive was uneventful and we lost very little time on traffic lights on Grand ile.

Leg 3 Quebec City to Fundy National Park:  This part of the drive started to get more scenic.  As you take AUT20/Trans Canada east to Rivere du Loup the St Lawrence river widens and the views across the St Lawrence valley open up and are dotted with occasional mountains.  The stretch along the Trans Canada south to Fundy is hilly and well forested with few towns and stops along the way.  The road curves and goes up and down enough to not be boring like most of the highways around the Great Lakes, however this was the longest stretch of the trip, with over 8 hours of driving to get to Fundy.  The scenery really picks up after you get off the TransCanada and drive the last hour into Fundy.  It gets quite a bit more hilly with long views of the Bay of Fundy in the final stretch into the campground.

Leg 4 Fundy National Park to Halifax:  This was one of the shortest legs and we chose to not follow the GPS straight back to the Trans Canada and on to Moncton, we ended up taking highway 114 along the coast of the Bay of Fundy which is a very scenic secondary highway that hugs the water the whole way.  After Moncton, the drive was not much different from the TransCanada thru New Brunswick as we entered Nova Scotia.  It is worth noting that there is a toll on the TransCanada strategically located at the narrowest point where there are few secondary roads to avoid the toll.  The typical east coast rocky scenery you see in pictures does not really start until you get right to Halifax itself.

Leg 5 Halifax to Sydney:  This leg started on the TransCanada again until reaching Cape Breton Island.  I found some of the most aggressive and unfriendly drivers of anywhere in North America on this stretch.  Once onto Cape Breton, the scenery changed dramatically and the roads were smaller, winding and had lots of views.  As we got closer to Sydney, the views kept getting better and better with steep inclines and long mountain views over hills, bays and open ocean.  The last hour of this drive was one of the most scenic drives we have ever taken, second only to the next leg of this trip.

Leg 6 Sydney to Cape Breton Highlands NP Cheticamp:  For this part of the drive we planned to follow the Calbot Trail around the island to the North shore.  This was only 4 hours of driving which allowed us to stop at every turn off and lookout on the trail and still get to Cheticamp in time to set up before dinner.  This drive was the most spectacular drive we have ever taken.  Of all the drives we have taken thru the Poconos, the Adirondacks, the Laurentians, the Smokey’s and along various coastal drives like US Route 1, this is the best.  The only other drive that can come close to comparing is the Blue Ridge Parkway.  However with the great views, came quite a few long steep climbs, long steep drops, and twisty roads with sheer drop offs.  There was even some construction near Cheticamp just to keep us on our toes.    Although we were able to manage the drive just fine with our rig in tow, you need to be comfortable driving in mountains and be prepared to downshift so you do not burn thru your brake pads.  Taking the trail from Sydney to Cheticamp is the better direction, as this puts you on the outside edge the entire way, the passenger side will have an amazing view the whole way.  Going the other direction puts you closer to the hills with less ability to see the sights below, although going the wrong direction is still going to be one of the best drives one can take.  Word of warning, almost immediately after leaving the Sydney KOA we had to do a ferry.  This ferry ride was only a few minutes/ few hundred feet across and only cost about $7 to cross, however we were lucky having an SUV and a 21′ trailer.  I did see them turn away a Class C motor home on the other side and when I talked to one of the crew about the size of my rig, it was clear there was a size limit and that mine was OK.  The alternative would be another 30 minutes added to the trip to detour.

Leg 7 Cheticamp to PEI National Park:  After you leave the national park, it almost immediately changes from huge hills to small hilly/rocky fishing towns like you would see in postcards.  After we left Cape Breton, we joined the TransCanada again until New Glasgow.  We decided instead of taking the TransCanada the rest of the way to turn off and take highway 6 along the coast.  Again this route was like the drive from Fundy to Moncton, lots of views, small fishing villages and scenery.  this route takes you right to the bridge to PEI.  Like the previous trip, the bridge and the drive thru PEI was spectacular.

Leg 8 PEI National Park to Jellystone Woodstock:  This drive was just a straightforward drive along the TransCanada once we left PEI.  New Brunswick is fairly easy driving as it is not flat and boring, there is always something to drive up, down or around to keep you occupied while behind the wheel.

Leg 9 Jellystone to Quebec City:  By this point we were repeating the drive down so it looks the same both directions.

Leg 10 Quebec City to Mallorytown:  Again this drive was the same as the drive out east

Leg 11 Mallorytown to Home:  The only difference on this leg was there was no Canada day traffic to slow us down.

 

The Stops

Mallorytown KOA: I have written about this KOA in the past, it is one of our favorites, it is quiet, well-kept and the owners are excellent.  The first stop of our trip was on Canada day.  There was no shortage of activities and they had a professional firework show at the end of the night.

Quebec City KOA:  On our way down we did not get a chance to really enjoy this KOA as it was pouring rain and we arrived late in the day and ended up staying in the trailer all evening.

Fundy National Park:  The park is a definite must see, the Chignecto campground was well forested and private.  The drive thru the park was incredibly scenic with long ocean views from the tops of the hills.  There is an amazing lookout with the UNESCO World Heritage Site plaque just up the hill from the Headquarters campground.  The pool, which is not far from the Headquarters campground was unique as it was built right on the edge of the Bay of Fundy with nothing but a glass wall keeping the ocean spray back.  The town of Alma is right next door to the park and it was quite nice and not too touristy, with an excellent little bakery and a perfect spot to witness the tides from the bridge.  Fundy is in easy driving distance to Cape Hope Provincial park where you can see the famous flowerpots and caves at low tide.  Cape Enrage Lighthouse is another great place to see a lighthouse and to go right down to the water to see the tides and is an easy drive from the park.  The roads in this area are very scenic and there are even a few covered bridges in the area as well as lots of maritime post card views.

Halifax West KOA: This KOA was the biggest disappointment of the trip.  You could tell at one time it was a great park, but in the past few years they bulldozed a swamp and filled it in to make a big back section for larger RV’s.  The back section was flat and open with no privacy.  Because it was built on a swamp the sites were very uneven and buggy.  Also we had issues with both water pressure in the morning and had frequent brownouts as well.  The kids still loved the park and we probably would have enjoyed it more if we stayed up in the front forested area.  However this park was well located as we could get down into the city to see the Titanic Graves, The Maritime Museum, The Citadel, and the Keith’s Brewery Tour in under a half hour.  Peggy’s cove was also only an hour away and was cold but absolutely incredible to see and to climb the rocks on the shore.

Sydney KOA:  This campground is very unique with great views.  It is not a big park and probably the only real draw to it is that it is close to the ferry to Newfoundland.  However the campground is built on the side of a very large hill with terraced rows so every site has amazing views of the water, the bridge and the surrounding hills of the Cabot Trail.

Cape Breton Highlands NP:  The park itself is quite large and takes hours to drive across but the Cabot Trail thru the park is very scenic with some of the best postcard views near Cheticamp campground.  There are also numerous primitive camping areas along the trail and lots of hikes as well.  Cheticamp was a nice campground but we picked poorly and ended up right beside the maintenance yard and had a lot of heavy equipment noise while we were there.  If you are at Cheticamp or anywhere on the north side of the island, doing the Skyline trail is an absolute must.  You do not need to do the full 10km loop, in fact I would suggest you take the left fork to the lookout and return on the same path and only do about 6km.  The rest of the loop is nice but really the wow factor of this trail is the boardwalk that goes right on the tops of the hills along the water and has some of the best views on the entire east coast of North America.  It is worth noting that Cheticamp does not have laundry as we found out after we arrived with a load of dirty clothes and the town has a small laundry that at the time only had one working dryer.

PEI National Park:  I have talked about PEI National Park before, Cavendish is one of our favorite campgrounds.  The park is well-kept, has new comfort stations, the red sand beach is amazing to walk along and to watch the sun set.  The full hookup sites in the trees are very large and will accommodate a large Class A with a Toad.  If you want just water/electric or unserviced, you can get a grass site right at the beach and watch the sun set right from your site.  The Cavendish area is touristy due to all the Ann of Green Gables activities, but it is not over the top touristy like Niagara Falls or Las Vegas.  This trip we ventured further away to the north part of the island to see the famous bottle house and a lighthouse that was converted to a hotel.

Woodstock Jellystone:  This campground was a letdown for us as well.  The water park is fantastic however the sites were quite tiny and it was difficult to fit a small trailer in.  It was also a party park.  There were lots of people running around yelling, lots of tailgate parties, and lots of extended family visits.  The park is also beside the TransCanada so the road was quite loud as well.

Quebec City KOA:  On the return visit we stayed in Quebec for a few days to visit the old city.  The city itself is fantastic and well worth the visit.  The park turned out to be quite nice and the staff were very friendly.  Although we did our best to speak French, everyone at the campground and in the old city was more than willing to speak English if you were struggling.

Mallorytown KOA: We initially planned on staying one night, just as a stop over on the way home, but we decided we just wanted to take it easy and relax after a long trip, so we added another night and just sat by the pool for a day.

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