Summary : The islands of Canada’s Atlantic Maritime Provinces feature a rich and diverse culture, found in small fishing communities and remote out ports. The area is well known for its Celtic traditions and the music and cuisine of the region is celebrated the world over. Historically, this is one of the most fascinating places in North America. Your exploration of the Maritimes starts and ends in the historical town of Louisburg on Cape Breton Island. The region offers a staggering abundance of wildlife, including prolific birdlife, numerous seal and whale species and even the fabled ponies of Sable Island. Beaches and lagoons provide viewing opportunities for numerous shorebirds and as you cruise towards the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, hope to see the great baleen whales such as the humpback, minke and blue whale, as well as grey and harp seals. These rich feeding grounds act as a magnet for wildlife. A ship-based exploration allows you to visit places that are otherwise inaccessible or difficult to get to for land-based visitors and achieve this all in a manageable time frame. Daily shore excursions with expert guides, a range of wonderful activities and an inspired dining menu make this an ideal way to experience this enchanting region of Canada.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Your adventure begins in the historic port town of Louisburg, Nova Scotia, where you board your expedition vessel. First visited in 1597 by the English, the town was fortified in 1713 by the French in recognition of its strategic maritime location. During the 18th century, Louisburg was the third busiest seaport in North America. Board the ship in the late afternoon in time for a dinner of fresh local lobster as you sail out past the lighthouse into the North Atlantic, and onto the Grand Banks.
Located on the edge of the Grand Banks, hundreds of kilometers from the coast, Sable Island has a storied history as a graveyard of ships, with more than 350 ships falling victim to the treacherous currents and sandbars. Sporadically inhabited by sealers, shipwreck survivors and salvagers, the island is now home to fewer than six year-round inhabitants, a herd of Sable Island ponies and one of the largest gray seal colonies in the world. It is an important stopover for numerous migratory bird species as they make their way to and from the High Arctic region. Sable Island is one of Canada’s newest national parks and the long sand beaches are best explored on foot.
Heading into the mouth of the St Lawrence River, you will commence your exploration along the north-central coast of Cape Breton. The Bird Islands are home to a number of important species including the great cormorant, Atlantic puffin, Atlantic razorbill, black-legged kittiwake; and are known as an important feeding area for Cape Breton’s population of bald eagles. Plan to cruise in the Zodiacs and hike onshore during your daily shore excursions, all in the company of your expert guides.
In September of 1864, representatives from the British Colonies in North America met in Charlottetown to discuss Confederation. On July 1st, 1867, the Dominion of Canada came into being. This is a very historic location and a fitting place to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary. Today, we anchor off Prince Edward Island near the town of North Rustico. From here we can split off in several directions. A tour into Charlottetown for those interested in a day in town is an option, or perhaps a visit to Green Gables, or spend a few hours at the island’s famous Cavendish beach with a mandatory sampling of Cows Ice Cream. Other enticing options could be a leisurely bicycle ride along the Confederation Trail or the Coastal Drive, a round of golf on one of the islands celebrated golf courses, or a kayak paddle in Rustico Bay.
Sculpted out of sandstone, the remote islands of the Gulf of St. Lawrence are home to unique fishing communities with beautifully maintained waterfront houses and boats, and flowing grassy plains. In addition to the traditional fishing and sealing culture found in the islands, you will encounter a wide diversity of bird life along the beaches and lagoons. Europeans first discovered the islands in the mid-15th century, though it’s thought indigenous Mi’kmaqs have been visiting for centuries to hunt walrus. Quebecois and Acadian culture runs strongly through the towns and villages of the islands, through local cuisine, craft and language.
At Bonaventure Island you will drop anchor near the town of Perce and visit the island by Zodiac. This location has a rich natural, historic, and geological heritage. Sculpted by time and the sea, the island is situated at the tip of the Gaspe Peninsula. Its outstanding flora and fauna, including its famous colony of Northern Gannets, make it a must-see location. Almost 300 different species of birds have been recorded as visiting, migrating to, or living here.
The island's gentle terrain is a cyclist's paradise, while the sea kayaking and stand up paddle boarding through sea arches and into sandstone sea caves is superb. Otherwise, you might enjoy a whale-watching cruise in the zodiacs or head to the beach to soak up some sun and build sand castles!
At the mouth of the St. Lawrence River where the river water mixes with Arctic waters from the Strait of Belle Isle and the more temperate Atlantic waters, Anticosti Island is rich in marine wildlife. Hike along the beaches near the eastern end of the island followed by a zodiac cruise along the cliffs at East Point. Keep your eyes open for shorebirds and seabirds as well as whales and seals, which are frequent visitors to the island's waters.
Sailing into Bonne Bay, in the heart of Gros Morne National Park, the cliffs soar up out of the water and are covered in a green blanket of tuckamore forest. At Woody Point you will be welcomed ashore by a delegation from the community before hiking up to the excellent interpretation centre. From there, various guided walks take you into the World Heritage-listed Tablelands and to the lookout for a view over much of the park – a spectacular experience!
The community of Francois on the south coast of Newfoundland was settled in the late 1700s. Small boat fishers harvested a variety of species during the summer fishing season. Francois’s rich fishing heritage also included operation of a whale factory in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Known as an ‘out - port’, and accessible only by boat or from the air by helicopter, Francois has a deep harbor which is navigable year round. When entering Francois harbor, you will first be greeted by one of the few remaining manned light stations anywhere on the coast of Newfoundland. Once past the light, the narrow opening leading into the steep, walled rocky fjord will amaze you. This is a spectacular location and for many, a highlight of the trip.
Saint - Pierre et Miquelon are a small group of islands situated off the south coast of Newfoundland. They were first settled by the French in the early 17th century and today, the islands represent the sole remaining vestige of France’s once vast North American empire. Walking down the streets feels like taking a stroll through a provincial French town. As a part of France, the area has much in common with Europe, but also with its Canadian and American neighbors. There's an excellent puffin colony here and, if weather permits, you will cruise in the zodiacs to see these colorful birds. Tonight you will enjoy a special dinner attended by the Captain to mark the end of your voyage through Canada’s spectacular Atlantic provinces.
Sail back to Cape Breton across the mouth of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, heading again for the historic port of Louisbourg. You will disembark in the morning and, while some of you will head to the airport, many will add a few extra days in Cape Breton to enjoy one of the gems of Canada’s East Coast.
Specific sites visited will depend on ice and weather conditions experienced and the itinerary will be updated throughout the voyage in order to take advantage of favorable conditions. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Medical Documentation: Once you have booked your voyage to the Polar Regions, you will be required to complete a Medical Information Form. This form must be completed, signed and returned no later than 90 days prior to departure.
Bikes, helmets, high visibility vest, and guides are included. A range of guided bike excursion options are available.
Photographer in Residence: Included
The photographer in residence provides presentations, critiques, informal instruction, and a photographer zodiac to assist with each passenger's photographic goals.
Sea Kayaking Option: $695 per person; pre-booking required.
Limited to 16 passengers. Guests will be accompanied by 3 kayak guides. Both single and double kayaks are available. This activity requires previous experience and must be booked in advanced. There is no option to book once onboard. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details and booking information.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding: Included
A fleet of stand up paddle boards are available for passenger use.
A range of guided hiking options are available for passengers, from contemplative, relaxing shore walks to two-to-three hour treks with challenging terrain.
Special Family Departure:
This is a special family-friendly voyage. There will be hands on activities in the field with binoculars and journals provided, a miniature laboratory, and social events including a movie night with popcorn, a game night, and on deck wildlife identification. Families can expect to learn about the early explorers during their voyage, see hundreds of seabirds, have the chance to spot pods of whales and seal colonies and take trips by zodiac to get up close to wildlife and also visit traditional communities within the region. Children will receive a membership to the Young Explorers Club, an embroidered badge and certificate, and specialized pre-departure information.
All guests are required to have comprehensive travel insurance which must cover accidents, injury, illness and death, medical expenses, including any related to pre-existing medical conditions, emergency repatriation (including helicopter) and personal liability. It must cover cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. You must carry proof of insurance with you and produce it if requested by expedition staff. The expedition team reserves the right to cancel or suspend your participation on a trip or in certain activities that comprise part of a trip, at any time, including after the commencement of your tour, with no right of refund, if you are unable to provide proof of insurance when requested.
Accommodations onboard; meals; complimentary tea and coffee 24 hours per day; shore excursions; services of guides and naturalist staff; access to multimedia room and download stations; use of onboard expedition rubber boots; use of wet weather gear; transfers as applicable, kayaking; stand-up paddle boarding; cycling.
International airfare; charter airfare where applicable; pre- and post-cruise hotel nights; passport and visa fees; excess baggage charges; airport taxes; travel insurance; all gratuities; extra meals; items of a personal nature such as laundry, drinks; medical expenses; optional activities and trips.
PHOTOS: © Chantal Briand; © Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism; © Boris Wise; © Daisy Gilardini