From Pictou, Nova Scotia we took the 75 minute ferry to Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island on a beautiful sunny day. PEI is Canada’s smallest province and is mostly rural with pretty villages interspersed by extensive agricultural land.
PEI has three main regions and each has its own clearly marked scenic drive; we drove the eastern and central routes which included the capital of Charlottetown. The tourist information centre just after leaving the ferry was a great source of information and maps.
We had some amazing park ups along the coast all of which were very quiet at this time of year. The main tourist season here is very short, just July and August so a lot of places were closed, although the cruise ships still dock in Charlottetown. The capital is a very pretty town and worth a visit. Whilst there we treated ourselves to two local delicacies – lobster and chocolate covered crisps (not at the same time I should add!).
We drove along the Green Gables coast (as in Anne of Green Gables – the book was written here by Lucy Maud Montgomery) but found the area to be overly touristy and think it would probably overrun in the summer.
We were lucky with wildlife too – watching the seals and a bald eagle from one spot. If there had been a water source nearby it would have been much harder to drag ourselves away.
The coast is littered with lighthouses which make for great park ups (although not all allow overnight parking) and the beaches of the north coast were stunning. This was a very relaxing week!
After almost two weeks apart and sleeping in five beds in nine days, we couldn’t wait to get back into the van. Don’t get us wrong, we loved seeing everyone and people’s hospitality has been endless but as they say, there’s no place like home!
After a couple of days of shopping (still trying to get our heads around prices, taxes and conversions back to GBP), it was time to hit the road again and see as much of this region as we could before the winter set in. Whilst fuel is significantly cheaper, about £1.25 per litre, food seems for an average shop more expensive, and alcohol is definitely more expensive and sold only through government stores.
We spent almost three weeks in Nova Scotia exploring the province via a figure of eight route starting in Halifax, then north to Cape Breton, south to Yarmouth and back to Halifax following the coast. There are a number of well signed routes around the province and roads are in reasonable condition but are not always tarmacked.
As we left Halifax for the first time we were avidly watching the weather keeping an eye of the severity and route of Hurricane Lee (it’s the middle of the hurricane season) as we headed to a campsite to continue sorting the van. We also wanted to be around people should the storm be particularly bad, but luckily for us we escaped with just a lot of rain.
There is so much to see and do here taking in the scenery, the history and wildlife. The indigenous people were the Mi’kmaq Indians but the land has been settled by the French, English, Germans and Scots (Nova Scotia means New Scotland) and many of the town names are familiar to anyone from the UK!
We drove in a clockwise direction around the island of Cape Breton from the relatively flat south to the winding roads of the highlands of the Cabot Trail in the north. Lots of Scottish influence here; some of the road signs are in Scottish Gaelic and the language is still taught in some schools. It’s also a licence for the tourist shops to sell anything and everything tartan themed!
The Bay of Fundy is home to the world’s largest tides and watching an incoming tide is apparently a sight to behold (I say apparently as we haven’t yet got our timing right to actually see it!). The tidal bore can be surfed and a couple of companies offer rib trips out to play in the bore and the local red mud – too cold to do this now. At low tide it’s possible to go out onto the rocky seabed in places with the knowledge that in a few hours the spot will be underwater by up to 16m!
The southern coves are home to many small fishing villages and the coastline is dotted with lighthouses, with the most famous being Peggy’s Cove. Being in the van we were able to stay in the carpark overnight and take photos before the place was overwhelmed with tour coaches.
Nova Scotia was a great place to start our tour; friendly people, good food and plenty to keep us busy. Next stop will be Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island.
Note re campsites! Due to power differences, we will not be hooking up on this trip, relying on our solar/inverter/battery set up to keep everything charged and working. Our travel style means no more than two or three days in any one place so even if there is little solar power coming in we will recharge the leisure batteries via the engine. Having swapped from a cassette toilet to a separating one over the summer this also means that we are not looking for black water disposal. This page explains the changes and improvements we have made to the van.
Porters Lake Provincial Park: small lakeside camping area in the park. Grass pitches with some gravel, BBQ pits and picnic benches. Some pitches have power and water. Walking trails and a small boat launch. Booking was via online system (www.parks.novascotia.ca).
We paid CAD28.85 p/n without services.
Nimrod’s Campground, Sherbrooke: small lakeside camp with a lot of seasonal trailer pitches. We parked on a small lakeside pitch (we are small by local standards) which was supplied with water and EHU. Pitches are grass and some areas were, not surprisingly, very muddy. Lots of activities available in peak season but our reason for visiting was to sit out a storm!
We paid CAD46 p/n over a weekend.
Other overnight spots:
We find our spots via the iOverlander and Park4night apps with the former having more entries in the Americas. These are usually public car parks where overnight parking is permitted and out of season, there is much more choice. Most are free but not always flat. We always review where we’ve stayed – just check out the app to see if we’ve stayed in a particular place.
Cape Breton – Baxter’s Cove, Pleasant Bay, Donkin and Gabarus Bay.
Mainland Nova Scotia – Fundy Tidal Interpretive Centre, Cape Split Provincial Park, Cape Fonchu, Peggy’s Cove (need to be aware of restrictions in the two car parks), Halifax city centre near Pier 21 (daily rate of CAD12) and Salt Springs car pool carpark.
Two and a half years later than intended, we have finally realised our motorhoming dream and shipped the van to Canada!
We were originally planning to leave the UK in Spring 2021 but COVID, ongoing shipping delays and finally family commitments meant that we wouldn’t begin the trip until September 2023.
We travelled up to Liverpool and left the van on the docks, unlocked and with the keys in the cab, on 30th August with a scheduled shipping date of 3rd September. At this point we have to thank our friend Myles who works on the docks and gave up part of his day off to guide us through the checking in process and then drop us back at Lime St Station to catch the train home. Hopefully we’ll see him and his wife Helen on the road at some point!
After a few days at home saying goodbyes to family and friends whilst watching the MV Atlantic Star carrying our van, start its journey across the Atlantic, we took a flight from London to Toronto (via Dublin) where we were proper tourists in Toronto, enjoying the warm weather, walking miles and visiting the main attractions including the CN Tower. Lots of eating too!
No sooner had we arrived then it was time to leave and we flew a couple of hours back to Halifax, Nova Scotia to await the van’s arrival. We were lucky to be staying with an old work colleague of Bob’s who emigrated from the UK several years ago with his family. We can’t thank Simon, Laura and Rachel enough for their kind hospitality, for their tips for travelling in Canada and for letting us park the van on their drive whist we unpacked everything we had stowed away for shipping.
Despite leaving Liverpool a day late, the vessel docked on time and just a few hours later we had picked her up; thankfully all our fears relating to damage and theft were unfounded – nothing was missing nor broken.
After restocking the food cupboards and refilling all the tanks (fuel, water and LPG) it was time to hit the road properly. Just an incoming hurricane to contend with…..