What’s the best kind of road trip? A last-minute, surprise your cousin for his birthday kinda one! Oh, and to the East Coast of Canada!
I’ve been planning a dream road trip to the east coast for over a year, but like most travel plans, the best trips are those you take on a whim, completely unplanned! I took the bus to Montreal from Toronto to surprise my cousin, Sri, for his 23rd birthday! And then we (his 2 friends and I) mega-surprised him by letting him know our plans for the next 4 days – road tripping the Canadian east coast with stops in Quebec City, Fredricton, and Charlottetown.
The biggest thing we overlooked perhaps was the weather and time of year we decided to venture to this part of Canada. Although it’s April, the season in Canada is still winter. And I suppose with Sri’s birthday being in April, we didn’t actually have a choice. What at first seemed to be a setback (the crazy, snowy east coast weather) actually turned out to be quite a blessing as we got to experience some beautiful, snow covered landscapes.
Four is the perfect number of people required for a 4 day road trip. Although only 3 of us drove (and I only for 6 hours out of the 40 something hours on the road) it didn’t seem overwhelming and we also drove through most of the nights. It should be noted however that this can be dangerous especially on the Trans Canada Highway which has several twists and turns, making it hard to fall asleep at the wheel, but also a challenge during a blurry snowstorm. The Trans-Canada is the longest highway in Canada and stretches from the east to the west and is an enjoyable ride due to the natural scenery. It feels like you are just driving through the wilderness. The driving overall was relatively easy but I wouldn’t want to do it alone. To be honest I just sat in the back seat, admiring the scenery and eating snacks for most of the ride.
Our first stop was a city we had all been before and was only 4 hours from Montreal. We arrived around midnight at Quebec City (the capital of the province of Quebec and the oldest settlement in Canada) and got out to stretch, run around the empty streets of the old city, take some pics, grab some Timmy’s (Tim Horton’s coffee, every Canadian’s favourite!), and get back on the road. Maybe it was the adrenaline but we were determined to drive through the night. Quebec City’s weather was also relatively mild so we didn’t know what was in store for us as we headed further east.
A small fishing town in eastern Quebec was recommended to us, so we stopped along the way and checked out the local sea food. It was a quaint fishing town, with lighthouses and snowy streets and a population under 50,000. The attraction here is the Rimouski River and how Quebecois the town really is. The small towns of rural Canada really are the best spots to explore if you are after culture, and a road trip is the perfect way to explore them on your own time. After a brief stop by the water with some Timmy’s to refresh, we took off again.
It was quite beautiful to drive through dawn into the province of New Brunswick. The big surprise was how much snow was still on the ground and how much colder it was. We stopped at several lookouts along the way, not really knowing the names of places, but rather just taking it all in while I took photos. People have always told me that the landscape of Canada, specifically eastern Canada is stunning, but you really do have to see it with your own eyes! We spent the night in Fredricton, the capital of New Brunswick, wandering the small city amidst the cold, hanging out by the water (St. John’s river) wherever we could. The truth is there aren’t much attractions in the East Coast, but it’s the landscape you come for, so we took every opportunity to take it all in.
Our final destination was Prince Edward Island, the smallest province in Canada, and home to my favourite childhood novel, Anne of Green Gables. It’s also the lobster capital of Canada but unfortunately we missed lobster season by ONE day (May 1st)! We did get to eat some lobster rolls which I could live off of for the rest of my life if I had to!
The scenic drives of PEI is what makes this province popular. Rolling hills, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, red sand beaches, beautiful lighthouses and country homes. It felt like I was in an old time movie! Being so close to the water alone was simply bliss!
After a night in Charlottetown (PEI’s capital city which is more of a town) and hours of driving to the eastern part of the island, we headed back west. On the way we stopped back in New Brunswick at Hopewell Rocks, 40 to 70 feet talk rock formations created by tidal erosion located near the Bay of Fundy. This was listed as one of the most popular touristic destinations in NB however it was basically deserted when we visited. It was off season which meant we could just walk in for free, which is exactly what we did! It was serene to have this beautiful piece of nature all to ourselves. That’s the perks of travelling off season, even if it was cold! But hey, we are Canadians so it felt like a true adventure!
I do hope to visit the East Coast again one day but after 25 years of being in Canada, I’m glad I got to witness and capture the natural beauty that is Canada! It’s truly stunning what we have in our own backyards.