French Culture, Lobsters and Lighthouses
- 18 Days
- 18 Days
- Prices From:
- US$ 3,409
FIRST-CLASS | SELF-DRIVE: Lobsters and lighthouses are part of a fascinating journey that visits the first urban centers and villages of Québec along the St. Lawrence River before travelling into Acadia and further east to explore the stark magnificence of the Cape Breton Highlands. The route leads back into Quebec passing by the Gulf of St. Lawrence en route to Québec City. A trip packed with history, mesmerizing landscapes, vibrant art and culture, and culinary delights.
This 18-day adventure immerses you in the heart of Canada’s Francophone and Maritime cultures across Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Hop into your rental car in Montreal and steer yourself eastward towards the Gaspé Peninsula, Bay of Fundy, and Cape Breton Highlands, stopping in quaint towns steeped in rich history and untouched landscapes as you tour eastern Canada’s hidden gems.
Montreal is the perfect starting point for French Canada, a cosmopolitan melting pot where you get a taste of Quebecois culture. Successive legacies of colonization by both British and French settlers in addition to new immigrant populations have influenced every inch of the city, from architecture to cuisine to languages that float through its cobblestone streets and leafy walkways. Whether you hike to the top of Mont Royal for an aerial view or browse the colourful fruit stands of Marché Jean Talon, there’s something to suit everyone in Montreal.
However, Quebec culture is best experienced in its small towns like Trois-Rivières, Montmagny, Rivière-du-Loup, and Saint Pascale, all fiercely proud of their unique heritage and language that rolls off their tongues with a melodic twang. You can’t miss out on poutine, the French-Canadian dish of fries, cheese curds, and gravy, which you can customize with a number of toppings like pulled pork, bacon, or coleslaw, a local favourite.
Crossing into New Brunswick, Canada’s only officially bilingual province, you’ll enjoy the picturesque towns of Edmundston and St. Andrews-By-The-Sea before boarding the ferry at the port of Saint John. Feel the wind blow through your hair as you cross the Bay of Fundy, home to sapphire waters and the highest tides on Earth, keeping your eyes peeled for any whales breaching the surface.
Once landed in Nova Scotia, follow the lighthouses that dot the seascape as you move across the Maritime province from Digby to Halifax to Baddeck, gateway to the Cape Breton Highlands. Here you’ll find vibrant blues that contrast against the rolling rocky coast that border sweeping meadows of flowers, bringing you inner peace as you explore Acadian settlements that date back hundreds of years. Thousands of kilometers of coastline mean a fresh catch is guaranteed, so you won’t want to miss out on trying local lobster or world-famous Digby scallops.
Looping back into New Brunswick, explore the east coast this time from Shediac to Caraquet and beyond. Allow the laws of attraction to take hold of your car at Magnetic Hill in Moncton where you’ll seemingly be pulled uphill before strolling through Kouchibouguac National Park for some typical Acadian coast scenery, complete with colourful salt marshes and lagoons in an area rich in biodiversity.
Prepare to be stunned by the Gaspé Peninsula, whose deep blue depths and fishing towns from Bonaventure to Percé and Matane trace the Gulf of the St. Lawrence River. Eastern Quebec has strong musical roots and tons of live shows that support local Quebecois artists, from traditional folk to rap to live storytelling all year round. The Chic-Choc mountains provide views over Quebec’s wild interior rain or shine, providing you with plenty of opportunities to see deer, moose, and bears at the Matane Wildlife Reserve.
Take the ferry across the St Lawrence to Quebec’s stunning north shore, including stops in La Malbaie, Beaupre, Baie-St-Paul, and Les Escoumins, considered the most beautiful village in the region and famous for its sunsets and whale watching opportunities.
While the raw nature of the Haute-Côte-Nord may stun you, prepare to be breathless in Quebec City, an ancient walled fortress that straddles the French-English and historic-modern divide with class and poise. You’ll enjoy a tour of the city that provides a comprehensive look at what has given the city its character, from the winding streets of the Latin Quarter to monumental spaces like the Citadel, the Plains of Abraham, the National Assembly, and more.
Quebec City is the final stop on your list, so load up on maple syrup before heading to Jean Lesage International Airport to return home or hang around a few more days to continue exploring the magical city.
- 18 Days
- 18 Days
- Prices From:
- US$ 3,409
Itinerary View Trip Map
Arrival in Montréal
Arrive at Montréal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport and transfer independently to your downtown hotel. The Roadbook you received has all the information needed for your holiday/trip/journey. The remainder of the day is yours to explore this cosmopolitan city. Montréal is a truly fantastic city. You can savor its French-Canadian flavor walking on its original cobblestones through historic Old Montréal, marvel at the architecture of Notre Dame Basilica or enjoy magnificent views of the city from the observation point at the top of triple-peaked Mont Royal. Add open markets, the unique boutiques of Saint Laurent Boulevard, the amazing Botanical Gardens, the nightlife of Crescent Street and, of course, an exceptionally vibrant culinary scene.
Overnight in Montreal.
DAY 2 - Montréal to Montmagny (313 km / 194 miles) Rivière-du-Loup (435 km / 270 miles)
Depart Montreal and travel eastward on the east side of the St. Lawrence through the cultural heartland of French Canada. En route to Montmagny, we suggest a stop at Cap-de-la-Madeleine, Canada's national shrine to the Virgin Mary. You may wish to alter your route slightly north to the shore of the river to the bustling town of Trois-Rivières. Stop for lunch, or perhaps visit the Museum of Quebec Folk Arts and Traditions to see excellent examples of period wood carving, tapestries and other fascinating artwork that tells the story of the region’s people and cultures. Afterwards, carry on to the small waterside community of Montmagny or farther north up the shoreline of the St. Lawrence to Rivière-du-Loup, depending on your booked hotel.
Overnight in Montmagny or Rivière-du-Loup
Montmagny to Edmundston (243 / 151 miles) or Rivière-du-Loup to Edmundston (120 km / 75 miles)
Towns and villages, such as Riviere-du-Loup and Saint Pascale have developed along the banks of the river and reflect a complex modern history spanning over three centuries. The cultures of these communities are the legacy of both French and English empires during the country’s formative years. Take your time and perhaps stop at any one of these vibrant towns to experience a true taste of Quebecois culture. Crossing into New Brunswick, arrive in the small, picturesque town of Edmundston.
Overnight in Edmundston.
Edmundston to St. Andrews-By-The-Sea (348 / 216 miles)
Today’s journey takes you through the central parts of New Brunswick until you reach the southern shores of the province. The central region of New Brunswick contains some of the most pristine wilderness of Eastern Canada. The vast tracks of forests are home to wildlife such as brown and black bears, moose, wolves, and other woodland creatures large and small. It is an avid naturalist’s or casual outdoor enthusiast’s dream come true. Arrive in the seaside village of St. Andrews-by-the-Sea where the rest of the day is free to explore this charming maritime community.
Overnight in St. Andrews-by-the-Sea.
Today is yours to experience a day in the life of an East Coast villager. This bustling town has developed into one of the premier tourist destinations in the Maritimes. Everything from local modern and native art galleries to interactive salmon hatcheries, to a fascinating aquarium delight visitors year-round. If seafood is to your liking, the small restaurants of the village serve up tantalizing delicacies from the daily catches that are sure to tantalize you.
Overnight in St. Andrews-by-the-Sea.
St. Andrews-By-The-Sea to Digby (108 / 67 miles, land only)
This morning take the short journey to St. John where you independently take a ferry across the deep blue waters of the Bay of Fundy. Disembark at naturally-sheltered cove settlement of Digby, a Loyalist town dating back to English settlers in the 1750’s. Named after the captain of the first colony ship, Robert Digby, you can tour several small museums and historic homes celebrating the town’s establishment.
Overnight in Digby.
Digby to Halifax (230 / 143 miles)
Crossing the width of Nova Scotia, your route takes you alongside the gates of Kejimkujik National Park, an idyllic natural oasis of old growth forest surrounding a large inland lake. Continuing towards the southern coast, you pass by Bridgewater on the shores of the La Have River, followed by a drive through the port of Lunenburg and its Famous Fisheries Museum. As you approach Halifax, you follow the northern shores of Margaret’s Bay, one of Nova Scotia’s largest natural harbors, peaked by the famous Peggy’s Cove. Its iconic whitewashed lighthouses are historic sentries preventing ships from running aground on the rocky shoals that surround the harbor entrance.
Overnight in Halifax.
Halifax to Baddeck (350 / 217 miles)
Today you drive through the center of Nova Scotia, passing through the towns of Truro and New Glasgow. Once you arrive at the eastern reaches of the Northumberland Strait, you are on the doorstep of the island and the commercial hub of Ports Hawkesbury near the tip of St. Georges Bay. Continue through gentle rolling fields of the bay area as it transitions into the beautiful Bras D’Or Lake lowlands. Arrive in Baddeck, often known as the gateway to the Cape Breton Highlands.
Overnight in Baddeck.
With a day free in Baddeck, we suggest a scenic drive along the Cabot Trail into the highlands of northern Cape Breton. The trail runs past lochs and glens settled by Scottish Highlanders and along scenic coastlines settled by Acadians. Meander through the rugged Cape Breton Highlands National Park, enjoying stunning views of sea-swept headlands, steep cliffs, and tranquil beaches. Hiking trails lead into the interior of the park where stunning vistas appear at each turn. Return to Baddeck through the lush Margaree Valley.
Overnight in Baddeck.
Baddeck to Shediac (419 / 260 miles)
Today you have another opportunity to stop and visit the small towns on the route back into New Brunswick. If you didn’t have the chance on your journey east, perhaps now stop for lunch in the small town of Truro, or watch gravity be defied at the Magnetic Hill in Moncton where your car will appear to roll uphill. Continue to Shediac where you might wish to treat yourself to a lobster dinner at one of the local restaurants.
Overnight in Shediac.
Shediac to Caraquet (236 / 147 miles)
Heading up the coast of New Brunswick consider visiting the Bouctouche Bay Eco-Tourism Site, which is preserving and restoring one of the few remaining great sand dunes on the north-eastern coastline of North America. Alternatively, you may wish to consider stopping at the Kouchibouguac National Park visitor center for an interactive presentation of the wide variety of forests, marshes, and lagoons indicative of the Maritime Plain ecosystem. Continue to Caraquet where the remainder of the day is yours to explore this pleasant waterside community of the shores of Chaleur Bay.
Overnight in Caraquet.
Caraquet to Percé (423 / 263 miles)
Today the road follows the southern shores of the Baie des Chaleurs and the original lands of the Acadian people who were among those expelled from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in 1760. Passing through seaside resort town of Bonaventure, you can visit the Acadian Historical Museum of Quebec, featuring the art and cultural artifacts of that displaced community. Crossing the provincial border back into Quebec, you arrive in Percé. Overlooking the waters of the river, this commercial center of the Gaspe Peninsula marks where Jacques Cartier first took possession of the land for France in 1534.
Overnight on Percé.
Once the largest fishing port in the Gaspé Peninsula, Percé is now the gem of the entire Gaspé region as a resort and tourist town and renowned for the extraordinary beauty of its surroundings. Its prominent geological feature is a great rock pierced with a hole, from which the community derived its name. The town has a delightful selection of restaurants and cafes, some of the best in the region as well as a summer theatre program and a boardwalk that stretches along the south beach. At the wharf you can watch the fishermen cleaning their daily catch.
Overnight on Percé.
Percé to Matane (347 / 216 miles)
Passing by the wide headwaters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, you begin to follow the river of the same name as its waters flow by out to sea. Perhaps divert inland a short distance for a pleasant drive or short outing in Parc de la Gaspésie – one of the most beautiful and accessible protected lands in eastern Canada. Continue to pass through the lush and historic farmlands of Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, one of the first and most prominent early Catholic churches in the New World. Although most of the original building has been destroyed by subsequent fires over the last 150 years, it has been immaculately restored and is an unforgettable sight. Arrive in Matane where the rest of the day is at leisure to discover the charms of this francophone town.
Overnight in Matane
Matane to La Malbaie (260 km / 162 miles, land only)
This morning you board the ferry in Matane and cross the wide waters of the St. Lawrence to Baie-Comeau. During your sailing, you may see some of the Great Lakes shipping vessels that continue to use the waterway as a viable transportation route for heavy goods into the interior Great Lakes. Upon debarking at Baie-Comeau, the scenic north shore of the river offers a day of discovery through picture-perfect waterside towns. Les Escoumins is considered one of the most beautiful villages of the Haute-Côte-Nord region, located along the riverside at the gate to the Parc Marin du Saguenay. During the summer months, whales may be glimpsed from the shores of the village on their migratory or feeding routes.
Overnight in La Malbaie.
La Malbaie to Quebec City (140 / 87 miles)
Today as you travel into the heart of Quebec, you are retracing the route of early European explores as they pushed into the interior along inter-tribal trade and hunting routes used by the First Nations peoples for thousands of years. Furthermore, the towns and villages such as Beaupre, Baie-St-Paul and Saint- Simeon that have grown up along the banks of the river reflect a comparatively recent 300-year history of both French and English empires, leaving their mark on the architecture and the local cultures. As the river narrows, the spires and fortifications of Quebec City come into view, quickly dominating the riverside landscape.
Overnight in Quebec City.
Today you can enjoy a comprehensive tour of historic and modern Québec City. The cobblestone streets still resonate with the long histories of French and English empires that formed the foundation of Canada. The walled city is one of the finest examples of a colonial fortified city in the world. On this guided tour, you will see the Latin Quarter, the Plains of Abraham, the Citadel, the Fortifications, the National Assembly, Place Royale, the Basilica, and other points of interest within Québec City. The remainder of the day is free to explore the sights of sounds of the city on your own. The local restaurateurs have refined dining to a fine art and no visit here is complete until you have experienced the city’s culinary delights.
Overnight in Quebec City.
Your tour ends today, and you travel to either Québec’s Jean Lesage International airport to return home, unless you have plans to extend your stay.
Daily departures: May 16 – September 26, 2023
- 18 days Intermediate Car Rental with unlimited mileage (Toyota Corolla or similar)
- Customized Self-Drive Roadbook (Digital version)
- 1 night first-class accommodations in Montreal
- 1 night first-class accommodations in Montmagny/ Riviere du Loup
- 1 night first-class accommodations in Edmundston
- 2 nights first-class accommodations in St. Andrews by-the-Sea
- 1 night first-class accommodations in Digby
- 1 night first-class accommodations in Halifax
- 2 nights first-class accommodations in Baddeck
- 1 night first-class accommodations in Shediac
- 1 night first-class accommodations in Caraquet
- 2 nights first-class accommodations in Perce
- 1 night first-class accommodations in Matane
- 1 night first-class accommodations in La Malbaie
- 2 nights first-class accommodations in Quebec City
- Ferry crossing: Matane to Baie Comeau
- Shared City Tour of Quebec City
- Car rental insurance
- Travel insurance
- International and domestic airfare & airfare taxes
- Entrances fees to sites not explicitly listed as included
- Meals and beverages not mentioned
- Road tolls
- Ferry Crossing (Please note: ferry crossing cannot be pre-booked)
- Items of a personal nature
- Visa fees if applicable
TERMS AND CONDITIONS:
Prices are "from" per person based on twin/double share accommodation and for travel in low season. Seasonal surcharges and blackout dates may apply. Limited seat/spaces and all pricing is subject to change and availability. Rates for single or triple travellers are available on request. Additional terms and conditions apply for car rental - please inquire.
7 Sep 2023