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Meandering through Maritime Canada by Rail

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Aug 20, 2020

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Atlantic Canada.

Photo by Michael George

Atlantic Canada.

Encounter gorgeous views and friendly locals on a train ride across Eastern Canada.

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This itinerary is part of Travel Tales, a series of life-changing adventures on afar.com. Read more stories of transformative trips and inspired itineraries on the Travel Tales home page. Though COVID-19 has stalled many travel plans, we hope our stories can offer inspiration for your future adventures—and a bit of hope.

If you rode the rails clear across Canada, you’d encounter the same breadth of landscapes as you would in America. But keeping your journey limited to eastern Canada—specifically from Montreal to Halifax—allows you to go deeper into this unique area. Along the way, you’ll learn about Canada’s Acadian culture, dine on delicious seafood, and spend some quality time with friendly locals.

The Ritz-Carlton, Montreal, Canada

Montreal
Start your historic journey at a place with some history of its own: The Ritz-Carlton, Montreal, which dates to 1912. This European-inspired haven melds historic touches with modern luxury—something you’ll experience while relaxing in the rooms, dining at Maison Boulud, and enjoying afternoon tea in the Palm Court. Prepare for your journey with a massage at the spa and a dip in the indoor saltwater pool, which affords a skyline view.

Stretch your legs and get a different take on the Montreal skyline from the city’s iconic Mount Royal Park, then go for a stroll along Rue Saint Paul, the oldest street in Old Montreal. Enjoy a meal at L'Express, a beloved institution since 1980, and toast your travels at Champagnerie, a champagne-only bar with 50 different brands of bubbly.

Mount Royal Park, Montreal, Canada

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Montreal to Miramichi
The next day at suppertime, you’ll climb aboard a Via Rail train known as The Ocean, which has been in operation since 1904. All at once, the journey to Halifax would take 22 hours, but you’ll be breaking it into segments, giving you time to explore. Roll out of Quebec and into New Brunswick, the only province in Canada that’s officially bilingual.

The next day, you’ll arrive in Miramichi, an English-speaking city at the mouth of a major salmon fishing river. Rent a car and drive to remote Miscou Island, where you’ll find unspoiled shores with spectacular beaches, fascinating trails, and vast peat bogs. Check out the Miscou Island Lighthouse—said to be the oldest in New Brunswick—and enjoy a snack with an ocean view at the café before driving back.

Miramichi to Moncton
After just two hours, you’ll arrive in Moncton—a great place to sample New Brunswick seafood, which features locally caught salmon, lobster, scallops, mussels, clams, and Beausoleil oysters. (Hint: Try them at Little Louis’ Oyster Bar.)

Rent another car and head to Saint Andrews, a designated National Historic Site full of well-preserved architecture. One gorgeous example: the late-19th-century, 50-room Covenhoven, a summer retreat for former Canadian Railway president Sir William Van Horne, which sits on Ministers Island. The road there crosses the ocean floor, so be sure to note when the tides come in—otherwise, you may have to look for a friendly local to give you a push!

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Moncton to Halifax
Get back on The Ocean to finish up your trip to Halifax, in Nova Scotia. Here, too you can trace Canada’s rich past, in places like the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21—the Ellis Island of Canada. Or check out the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which features items recovered from the Titanic. And visit the Halifax Citadel, a military fort that honors the town’s 1749 founding by the British.

Then enjoy—what else?!—a seafood dinner at the Five Fishermen Restaurant and Grill, a longtime Halifax mainstay. Skip the formal dining room and opt for the casual oyster and wine bar, then finish your trip how you began it: with a toast.

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