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Trans Canada Road Trip Part 2: Sydney, Nova Scotia to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Antigonish, NS on a trans canada road trip through Nova Scotia

Image: Antigonish, Nova Scotia

Trans Canada Highway Road Trip, Part 2: Sydney, Nova Scotia to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

A true bucket list adventure if there ever was one, driving the Trans Canada Highway from coast to coast is the experience of a lifetime. Whether you’re planning to drive the whole highway, or enjoy a couple days’ road trip, we’re bringing you all of the adventures, food, and local culture along the way. 

Starting in St. John’s Newfoundland, and ending in Victoria, British Columbia, the 7714km of open road will awe, surprise, and amaze you. Take it slow, take it easy, and remember – it’s not about the destination, it’s the journey. Check out Part 1: Newfoundland here

The Maritime provinces may be small in size (comparatively), but are big on adventure. Catch the scenic ferry from Port aux Basques, Newfoundland to North Sydney and let your Nova Scotia road trip on the Trans Canada begin! On the 341km drive – and ferry ride – from North Sydney to Charlottetown, the sights, experiences, and opportunities for adventure are plentiful. Buckle up, grab a snack (lobster roll, anyone?) and hit the road! 

Cape Breton Island, Nova, Scotia, Canada on a Road Trip Through Nova Scotia

Image: Cape Breton Island (Courtesy of Destination Canada)

Stop 1: Sydney, Nova Scotia 

When you cross the Cabot Strait and arrive in Sydney, Cape Breton Island, you’ll want to set aside a day or two to explore. As the largest city on Cape Breton Island, it’s the gateway to adventure in this beautiful part of the province. This quirky city is home to a bustling waterfront area – including the world’s largest fiddle. It’s also a 30 minute drive away from the Fortress of Louisbourg – a historic French fortress and historical site. 

Nova Scotia is famous for its lobster, and Sydney is no exception. Head to The Lobster Pound and Moore, Governors Pub & Eatery (we hear there’s lobster ravioli!) or the Old Triangle Irish Alehouse to get your fix. When you’re finished eating, wash it down with a pint from Breton Brewing Co. We’re partial to the strawberry rhubarb sour. 

Stop 2: Baddeck, Nova Scotia 

Take an hour’s drive from Sydney to the town of Baddeck, a stunning adventure hub. Perched at the beginning of the world-famous Cabot Trail, it offers a plethora of opportunities to get outside and explore nature. The only restriction is how much time you have! 

Head to the beautiful Bras D’Or Lake to paddle, camp, and explore this saltwater estuary. It’s also a UNESCO designated biosphere reserve. Take a 40 minute drive and head to the Margarees, to explore a hidden waterfall or drive to the coast and watch the surf. If hiking’s what you’re after, we recommend Uisge Bàn Falls Provincial Park – where you can find an easy hike to a spectacular waterfall. 

If you’re wanting to learn more about local history, head to the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site in town. A visit to Baddeck isn’t complete without a stop at Baddeck Lobster Suppers. It’s a local institution with roots dating back to 1828. In summer, learn how to plank Atlantic salmon over an open flame. Year-round, enjoy an all-you-can-eat seafood feast including local lobster, local salmon, local snow crab, and more! 

Stop 3: Whycocomagh, Nova Scotia

Just a 30 minute drive from Baddeck, the municipality of Whycocomagh is worth a visit due to its proximity to nature and outdoor activities. To take in as much as possible, we suggest exploring Whycocomagh Mountain on a UTV tour. The Whycocomagh Provincial Park offers camping and yurts to stay in. The town is small and charming with several places to stop and eat. 

Lobster in Nova Scotia on a Canada Road Trip in Nova Scotia

Image: Lobster in Nova Scotia (Destination Canada)

Stop 4: Antigonish, Nova Scotia

Hop back on the Trans Canada for an hour, to get to Antigonish. Home of St. Francis-Xavier University, it’s rich with history. It’s known as “the Highland Heart of Nova Scotia,” for its deep Scottish cultural roots. It hosts the oldest continuously run Highland Games each summer, inviting participants from around the world. Go for a walk through the downtown to explore eateries, breweries, and local shops and galleries. Head to the Antigonish North Shore Lookoffs to take in the scenic beauty of the Antigonish region. 

Stop 5: New Glasgow, Nova Scotia

Located in the Pictou region, explore New Glasgow and the surrounding area. With a cute downtown area, New Glasgow is a great place to stay a night or two. Formerly the industrial heart of Nova Scotia, New Glasgow was founded by hardworking Scottish immigrants. Visit the Nova Scotia Museum of Industry to learn more about its industrial heritage. 

Stop at Melmerby Beach Provincial Park for an ocean dip. You can also walk the riverfront trail system, and enjoy all of your favourite water activities such as kayaking, sailing, fishing, and more. 

Next, head to picturesque Pictou for a last stop before hopping on the Caribou Ferry to Prince Edward Island. The first wave of Scottish settlers arrived in Pictou, giving it the claim to fame as the birthplace of New Scotland. As such, there’s a replica of the original ship, Hector, at the Hector Heritage Quay.  Learn more about Nova Scotia’s fishing heritage at the Northumberland Fisheries Museum and Heritage Association. Make your last stop in Nova Scotia a good one, and check out Uncle Leo’s Brewery, a true hidden gem. Then head to the Caribou Ferry Terminal, and get ready to head to Canada’s smallest province! 

Stop 6: Point Prim, Prince Edward Island

Drive off of the ferry into Canada’s most quaint province, with red sand beaches and friendly culture abound. Your first stop, about 20 minutes away from the ferry terminal, is Point Prim. It’s home to the Point Prim Lighthouse – the oldest lighthouse on Prince Edward Island, built in 1845. Here, you can climb 60ft above sea level for a breathtaking view of the Northumberland Strait. 

A lighthouse in Prince Edward Island, as seen on a road trip on the trans canada highway.

Image: Tobias Negele

Stop 7: Points East Coastal Drive, Prince Edward Island

If you’re short on time, you can head straight to Charlottetown. However, if you have a couple of days to spare, make the most of your time in P.E.I. with a trip on the Points East Coastal Drive. The drive will take you past coastal landmarks, charming towns, beaches, and farmlands. You can golf at the island’s best courses, walk on red sand beaches, and connect with nature in National and Provincial parks. Take your time on this leisurely drive, and enjoy the island lifestyle! 

Stop 8: Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

When you’re ready for some city life, head to Charlottetown, the vibrant capital of P.E.I. Take a walk through the safe, charming and picturesque downtown area, to get a sense of the city’s culture and history. Stroll down Victoria Row for shopping, local restaurants, and breweries. It’s pedestrian-only in the summer, which means restaurants extend their patios into the street. We can’t think of a better way to spend a summer afternoon! 

Stretch your legs on the Victoria Park Boardwalk, a 1.2km walk along the seaside. Head to Peake’s Wharf for shops, restaurants, and live music! The perfect way to explore downtown Charlottetown is with a culinary and brewery tour – why not try it on a solar-powered party bike? Grab your friends (or make new ones) and hop on. It’ll be the most fun afternoon you’ve had in a while! 

If you’re in the mood for hiking or cycling, the famous Confederation Trail (a 273km hiking and cycling trail that crosses P.E.I from east to west) has a branch trail that runs into Charlottetown. Hop onto the trail and get exploring! 

Anne of Green Gables

We’d be remiss to talk about Prince Edward Island without bringing up everyone’s favourite redhead, Anne of Green Gables. If you’re a fan, it’s well worth the journey to Cavendish to stop at the Green Gables Visitor Centre. If you’re sticking to Charlottetown, you can visit the Anne of Green Gables Store, or go see Anne of Green Gables: The Musical! 

Once you’ve made the most of your time in Prince Edward Island, the next step is a trip over the Confederation Bridge into New Brunswick! Keep your eyes peeled for Part Three, where we make our way to Quebec City! 

Aerial view of Prince Edward Island, as seen on a Trans-Canada Highway road trip

Travelling around the Maritimes? Check out the Adventures below!

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Mackenzie is passionate about connecting with our Yervana community of Locals and Explorers, and sharing their stories. Originally from the Canadian prairies, she spent three years living in Aotearoa New Zealand before settling in Kimberley, BC. She loves practicing and teaching yoga, perfecting her homemade pasta and sourdough, attempting to ski and surf, hiking, and travelling.
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