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Eastern Canada driving

Hong Kong, China
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Eastern Canada driving

I am planning a trip in Eastern Canada for about 12 days with my wife, leaving Toronto around Aug 8. Plan to drive most part of it in Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, before flying to NY. Will definitely spend time seeing the beautiful cities of Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. We love natural scenery and wildlife. I was in Banff and Jasper last year, and we both could not get enough of that beautiful snow capped mountains and lakes.

Welcome any suggestions to help me plan our trip better. Which national park? what is my best option for whale watching? Driving from Quebec City to Halifax is very long. Only worth while if there is enough interests in between. Otherwise, we will hop on a plane.

Thank you.

West Grey, Ontario
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1. Re: Eastern Canada driving

Hi singsong1;

You may find it next to impossible to find a one-way car rental from Toronto to Quebec City, a distance of approx. 500 miles / 800 km. If you do find a company that will allow the one-way rentals, it will most likely come with a high "one-way drop fee", as the vehicle must somehow be returned to the point of origin, towed if necessary. Taking the car all the way to Halifax from Toronto will be cost prohibitive !

Eastern Canada can NOT be compared to the Rocky Mountains, so if it is "beautiful snow capped mountains" that you are expecting, this is the wrong part of the country to be exploring.

12 days isn't very long to visit such a large part of Canada, as you have planned.

Toronto is Canada’s largest city, 4th largest in Canada & the US after New York, Los Angeles & Chicago. You could spend an entire week in Toronto and still have plenty to see and do !

Ottawa requires a minimum of 2 days.

Montreal requires 2-4 days to see.

Quebec City requires 3 - 5 days to visit.

About a 3 hour drive east of Toronto (180 miles / 290 km.) and about a 2 hour (103 miles / 165 km) drive from Ottawa, is the town of Gananoque (pronounced GAN-AN-OCK-WAY), the "Gateway to the Thousand Islands". From there you can take a boat tour of the 1000 Islands.

tripadvisor.ca/Attraction_Review-g182143-d13…

www.ganboatline.com/

For more info on the 1000 Islands;

www.1000islandsgananoque.com

www.visit1000islands.com/

www.1000islandsinfo.com/

Canada has a natural beauty that MUST be seen, which is why I'm suggesting some time in the 1000 Islands Region.

If I may suggest, with the limited time that you have, and to avoid the one-way fees, you may wish to consider a smaller circuitous route, such as - Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Gananoque, Toronto, leaving Quebec City and the maritimes for another trip.

I hope that helps to get you started with your planning.

Best Regards

Toronto
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for Algonquin Provincial Park
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2. Re: Eastern Canada driving

Hi singsong1,

First, your whale question: probably the place with the highest concentration of whales in southern Canada is the mouth of the Saguenay River, where it enters the St. Lawrence Estuary from the north. The town closest to this location is Tadoussac, Quebec, which is a bit of a capital for whale watching - not only to whales concentrate here more than they do anywhere in the maratime provinces, with early august being prime time, but there is a population of rare beluga whales.

However, if you are traveling towards Halifax you'll be on the south shore of the St. Lawrence, while Tadoussac is on the north. So, you may want to go whale watching from one of the towns on the south shore, such as Riviere-du-Loup or Trois-Pistoles. Whale watching boats based in those towns would visit the same whales, they'd just spend more time crossing the St. Lawrence to get to them. (I have been whale watching from Trois-Pistoles several times, always with lots of success.) If you decide you'd rather go to Tadoussac, you can travel along the north shore of the St. Lawrence from Quebec City to Tadoussac and then take a ferry south across the St. Lawrence to continue east (there are ferries from Sainte-Simeon to Riviere-du-Loup and from Les Escoumins to Trois-Pistoles).

My comments on whales also in part answer your question about things to do between Quebec City and Halifax, as any of the whale watching destinations I mentioned are about 2 to 3 hours east of Quebec City. Now if you are taking the most direct route to Halifax, Riviere-du-Loup is the only one of those destinations that is strictly speaking on your way as from there you will follow the trans-Canada highway south towards Fredricton; however if you are travelling via Mirimachi, you would continue east and pass Trois-Pistoles and then Parc du Bic, a provincial park where seals can be viewed sunning themselves on the beach (no boat required). You might want to take one route there and the other back, for a change of scenery? If you do travel the Mirimachi route (along the east coast of New Brunswick) for one of the ways, Kouchibouguac National Park would be an idea for a stop.

In southern New Brunswick, with a bit of a detour you can visit Fundy National Park, definitely some great hiking. The Bay of Fundy is known for having the world's highest tides, and also a population of right whales. In Nova Scotia itself, a great national park to visit for some good hiking and wildlife viewing is Cape Breton Highlands, although this park is another 6 hours east from Halifax, so not exactly on your way.

It's certainly an ambitious trip but not impossible. I myself once drove from Toronto to Halifax Cape Breton via Halifax and back in about 14 days, making a lot of stops along the way, in fact covering off most of the destinations/activities I mentioned in this post and doing a little sightseeing in Montreal and Quebec City also. Hope this is helpful.

Edited: 08 February 2011, 17:16
Toronto
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for Algonquin Provincial Park
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3. Re: Eastern Canada driving

Since RescueTeam replied while I was typing my own post, I should post again to address some of it. Singsong1 - given that you say that you "love natural scenery and wildlife" and are interested in national parks and whales, I would NOT focus on the Toronto/Montreal/Ottawa circuit, where you will see none of these. Make quick visits to Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City, skip Ottawa, and begin your east coast adventure. Eastern Quebec and the Maritimes are indeed nothing like the Rockies, but they are a land of rugged hills, sea-battered cliffs, wild beaches, soaring eagles, lumbering moose, and of course whales and seals, and are spectacular in their own very different way from Banff or Jasper. As I said in my first post, your plan is an ambitious one, but it is worthwhile and feasible - you just have to decide what your priorities are. And it sounds from your post like you already know.

Ottawa, Canada
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4. Re: Eastern Canada driving

Hi SingSong1,

Welcome to the CANADA TRAVEL FORUM.

This certainly sounds like a great adventure… although with just 12 Days, I respectfully say you won’t have enough time to cover the amount of country you wish (and actually see anything along the way… it would all be just too rushed !!).

Toronto is quite far inland from our actual Atlantic Coast…by about 1700 Kms… and it typically takes 3 Days JUST to make this aprox 20 Hour Drive*

Here on the CANADA FORUMS we typically advise Travellers to look at spending 2 to 3 weeks exploring and discovering any ONE Canadian Geographic Region… you are trying to do TWO in with the shortest amount of recommended time (Eastern Central Canada ~ Quebec & Ontario AND The Maritimes).

Last Summer I spent 10 Days on a Maritime Holiday (Leaving from Ottawa, I spent 2 Days Driving each way, and 6 divided between JUST the Bay of Fundy coastline of New Brunswick & Nova Scotia and a quick stop in PEI) that week timeframe in the Maritimes was very very rushed… but as we have both been to The Maritimes several times previously… this trip was ONLY to focus on one element… The Bay of Fundy.

If one was to try to discover ALL the great things that these Provinces have to offer (which I highly recommend… they can indeed be as stunning as visiting Canada’s Rockies & West Coast) then you truly need to spend ALL of your 12 Days in that Geographic Region… do a circle route by Rental Car… and fly in and out of Halifax.

The Maritimes (the 3 Provinces of New BrunswickPrince Edward Island – and Nova Scotia) are dominated by of course the Atlantic Ocean Coastline… and the life and culture that results because of it… Geography (rocky or sandy beaches) – History (the French, the Acadians, Scots & Celtic Culture) – Fishing – Seafood – and stunning scenery. If these interest you, then they’d certainly make a good vacation Destination.

As my esteemed colleague RESCUE TEAM has pointed out, you’ll need a good amount of time just to cover Quebec & Ontario Destinations ALONE.

Quebec & Ontario is very different from other parts of our country (lol, actually no two Geographic Regions in Canada are the same… we are a HUGE Country made up of 10 Provinces & 3 Territories… all of which are larger than most countries in the world… and likewise we have about that many different Geographical Areas). Quebec & Ontario is much more about Cities – Our Founding History as a Nation – Canadian People and Cultures. And WATER… we are dominated by Water… with of course the Great Lakes, two Magnificent Rivers (the St Lawrence & the Ottawa) and 1000s and 1000s of Lakes of the Canadian Shield. And the role that water plays in our lives… be it in the awe of the millions of gallons of water cascading over Niagara Falls, a cruise thru the 1000 Islands, Whale Watching on the St Lawrence, or being at a campground / lodge and watching the sunset over a Lake in the Canadian Shield. If an holiday that combines Cities and Country interests you, then Eastern Central Canada would be a good vacation Destination.

As I reside in Ontario (Ottawa ~ Canada’s Capital City), and am therefore much more familiar with Eastern Central Canada… like RESCUE TEAM, I will give you some MINIMUM Timeframes to work with…

Niagara Falls & the Niagara Region (including Historic Niagara-on-the-Lake) = 1 OVERNIGHT although 2 FULL DAYS would be best

Toronto (Canada’s Largest City) = 3 FULL DAYS

Kingston & the 1000 Islands = 1 OVERNIGHT (usually divided up as an Afternoon, Evening & Morning)

Ottawa & Canada’s Capital City Region = 2 FULL DAYS

Montreal = 2 FULL DAYS

Quebec City = 3 FULL DAYS (a 4th if you add on the Lower St Lawrence)

Charlevoix – Tadoussac & Saguenay Fjord = 2 FULL DAYS

As you can easily see… we are already at 14 Days… or that MINIMUM 2 Weeks Vacation timeframe that I suggested earlier (and this is ONLY the highlights of Quebec & Ontario and hasn’t allowed for a lot of exploration off the beaten path to discover the incredible beauty of our countryside…places such as Georgian Bay – The Muskoka Lakes – Algonquin Park – The Kawarthas – Prince Edward County & Quinte Isle – Rideau Canal & Lakes District – The Quebec Foothills – The Laurentians – The Eastern Townships etc… it primarily is focused on our cities).

If you add on The Maritimes… then as you’ve discovered you’ll need another full day to drive there from Quebec City and then again likewise want to spend another 10 Days (which would be very rushed) to 3 Weeks exploring all that is The Maritimes.

As you did visit Canada’s West last year… so are a bit familiar… let me help you out with distances… Calgary thru the Rockies to Vancouver (direct route via the Trans-Canada… so no real sightseeing) ALONE is aprox 972 Kms or about 12 Hours Driving Time*

Similarly, Niagara Falls thru to Quebec City… is aprox 922 Kms or about 10-1/2 Hours of Driving Time* (and again this is a direct route following Expressways… so allowing for no additional side trips for sightseeing purposes)

*NOTE – Driving Time is just that… time spent driving. It doesn’t allow for Stops, Breaks or Sightseeing, nor for Delays caused by International Border Crossings, Ferry Waits, Traffic Congestion, Road Construction, Weather Conditions or any other such things… it is Estimated using GOOGLE MAPS for the shortest most direct route (unless otherwise noted)… and driving under ideal conditions at the posted speed limit.

As stated by RESCUE TEAM renting a car in one city and dropping it off in another can be somewhat problematic (DROP FEES are very expensive)... so if you choose Quebec & Ontario you'll want to either plan out a circle route... or look at flying into Toronto and out of Montreal... as Canada's two largest cities, and considerable Tourist Travel along Hwy 401 that connects them, these two cities will have the best rates for Drop Fees.

I think at this point in time it is probably best that you do some more investigation to decide which of the two Geographic Regions more fit your interests (lol, either that or expand your vacation to at least 4 Weeks).

You can find out much here on TripAdvisor in any of the following Provincial FORUMS – ONTARIO – QUEBEC – NEW BRUNSWICK – PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND – and NOVA SCOTIA and on their respective TRAVEL PAGES. These will be a good place to start… after that you can narrow it down even farther to specific DESTINATION FORUMS for each city etc to learn more detailed info for planning your Itinerary.

You might also look at Wikipedia… as an Overview, it is a great way I’ve discovered to learn something about a place I might possibly visit. Evidently, Canadians are the greatest contributors to Wikipedia in the world, and as such just about everything imaginable about Canada is on there… Provinces – Cities – Towns – Historic Sites – etc. Can serve as a good basic source of info.

And of course all of the Provinces, Regions, even Cities have their own Tourism Offices… so once you’ve made your choice of which Region to explore… you can certainly find out even more online in regards to ordering Maps, Tourism Guides, Accommodations Listings, etc.

Hope this is helpful,

Cheers!

Wine-4-2

Hong Kong, China
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5. Re: Eastern Canada driving

Thank you all for very quick and extensive replies, especially alerting me of huge drop of charge. Will definitely find out drop of charges before finalizing the trip. Would like to avoid loop if possible.

Since my 1st note, I have given more thoughts to this trip. With most Google images showing the beautfy of autumn leaves, it is unfortunate that I cannot post my trip for 2 months. Instead I will be back again 2012 fall to this part of Canada, perhaps with a one-way cruise from Boston/NY and explore the foliage trails.

With this in mind, how can I max my stay this time with 16 days (add back the 4 days in Toronto). Should I still just focus on Ontario and Quebec, with the whale watching, and national parks, plus the gorgeous cities of Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec?

Many thanks.

Hong Kong, China
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6. Re: Eastern Canada driving

Thank you for advice on whale watching. My wife and I went to one in New Zealand 1 1/2 years ago and we were just thrilled. How would you compare the Bay of Fundy versus the St. Lawrence estuary for whale watching? The latter is much more accessible, isn't it? If not much different, I might skip the Nova Scotia part and save this for next year autumn.

Hong Kong, China
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7. Re: Eastern Canada driving

Having read through all the very informative replies from all of you folks, I really need to re-think about this trip totally.

With another trip planned, probably 3 weeks 2012 fall for the autumn leaves, I would prefer not to duplicate (although summer and autumn will present it differently)

I am very flexible which one to go this year, and what's for next year. I could easily do the Toronto/Montreal/Vermont/New hampshire/NY/Toronto loop next year if that's the best for foliage, and focus on the Maritime provinces this trip (with the highlight of whale watching and wild life)_

Welcome new ideas on how to plan 2 trips to avoid duplication.

Ottawa, Canada
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8. Re: Eastern Canada driving

Hi SingSong1,

Two trips are ideal... one for each Geographic Region.

Although there are definitely some change in Fall Leaves in Nova Scotia & New Brunswick... the more dynamic colours will be found in Quebec & Ontario and in the US for Upstate NY, Vermont & New Hampshire (where the Reds and Crimsons will be more apparent due to the existence of more Sugar Maple Trees… those which produce Maple Syrup in the Spring).

If you are planning a Fall Visit... then plan to be here sometime that includes the last week of September and the first two weeks of October, this is when the leaves are typically at their best (the biggest section of leaves coming to their peak that first week of October).

NOTE – Leaf change is dependent upon 3 elements… Latitude – Elevation – and Weather. The last one being the unpredictable item. Leaves don’t transition in a set way every year (because of weather) so we can’t tell you precisely what will happen when, what we can say is that generally speaking the order will go something like this… Quebec City Region – New HampshireVermont – The Laurentians – Upstate NY – and then around the cities of Montreal and Ottawa – followed last by the Niagara Region (so running from the last week of September thru to near the end of October).

Your Fall visit to Quebec & Ontario will be ideal… the weather will be good, the crowds will be gone (kiddies will be back in school) and although some places will have moved to a shorter schedule, most things will still be OPEN including Whale Watching on the St Lawrence…

NOTE - Our Prime Tourist Season runs from Victoria Day Weekend in May thru to our Thanksgiving Weekend mid October). After Thanksgiving (2nd Monday in October, and lots of things will go to REDUCED HOURS or CLOSE Entirely for the Winter Season). Weather here also drops off dramatically after Thanksgiving… Late October thru November until the snow flies is cold, wet, gray, dark and well quite miserable !! (Likewise Late March to Late April also aren’t our best months in Canada… again cold, wet, gray and dark… as well as slushy, dirty and muddy).

For your Summer visit… personally, I’d concentrate on The Maritimes… Summer is certainly the best season there. With 16 Days now you’ll be able to cover a lot of territory… and as per my original post above, I suggest that you make a circle route with a rental car by flying in and out of Halifax (The Maritimes largest city).

The Bay of Fundy is unbelievable… and you can do whale watching on it, as well as several other spots in The Maritimes… also seal watching… (when you work on your Itinerary and start posting in the local DESTINATION FORUMS then Local Advisors & DEs can help you more with that info).

Looking forward to seeing your future posts in the various TRAVEL FORUMS as you work out the details now for two trips !!

Cheers!

Wine-4-2

Hong Kong, China
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9. Re: Eastern Canada driving

Ah, your suggestion is what I was just discussing with my wife. Of the Maritime Provinces, where is a more convenient place to go for whale watching? Bay of Fundy is world class for whale watching. Quite a few TA reviews say Brier Island, which is a bit remote, and takes 2 ferries to get there. What would be your recommendation ( prioritised) for national parks in those 3 provinces?

Ottawa, Canada
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10. Re: Eastern Canada driving

Hi SingSong1,

Like out West, down East has a lot of Parks... National Parks & Provincial Parks... You'll want to consult GOOGLE MAPS again.

National Parks in Canada differ from region to region... and Province to Province... so what you experienced in The Rockies... cannot compare directly to what is happening in The Maritimes etc.

In not all cases were the Parks necessarily the highlight of our trip... just driving around the coasts for us was stunning.

For example... We were blown away by the scenery of The Bay of Fundy... in my July Trip we focussed on that primarily and did it from one end to the other… from the Maine Border (Lubec / Calais) thru to Digby NS. I had done some of it before (Hopewell Rocks) but never the whole thing from one end to the other (was particularly impressed with the NB Islands… Campobello & Deer when it came to rugged scenery and a close-up on a Fisherman’s life). But everything about The Bay of Fundy was amazing… tough to say one place being better than another (ie Bay of Fundy National Park)… some of our best bits was as I said just driving round… Sea Caves at St Martins – High & Low Tide at Alama, and in the Salt Flats of Waterside – Driving across the Ocean Floor at St Andrews to Ministers Island - Blustery Cape Enrage – and Hopewell Rocks.

Over in PEI… the national seashore (PEI National Park) is a MUST SEE… but we just as much enjoyed again exploring elsewhere… in our case we were interested in Acadian History, so we drove the North Cape Coastal Drive. And the scenery was gorgeous… Rolling green countryside – sea views – craggy red coastlines – Lighthouses and look-offs.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been up to Cape Bretton… but the Cabot Trail is certainly a MUST DO for many. It offers up another slice of The Maritimes with its rocky coastline and incredible Scottish – Celtic culture.

So ya, hard to pin point this down (not the same as The Rockies… as I said all our Geographic Regions are quite different… in so many ways… scenery – people – culture - approach to tourism, etc).

If you are set on The Maritimes (which I think you now are) then it would be best from this point on if you begin posting in those more specific FORUMS… as this the CANADA FORUM is primarily for “general” Questions about the country as a whole (or someone like yourself who was wanting to learn more, so to narrow down your choices).

And I’d certainly recommend also ordering the Official Guides from the Tourism Offices for the various Provinces. Because as much as words can give you a lot of info… pictures are still worth 1000s of words !!

New Brunswick Tourism = www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca

Prince Edward Island Tourism = www.gentleisland.com

Nova Scotia Tourism = www.novascotia.com

Cheers!

Wine-4-2