After having travelled abroad for over 8 months, I was excited about the prospect of exploring more of my own country. Atlantic Canada is the most easterly region of Canada, comprising the four provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island (PEI), Nova Scotia and Newfoundland/Labrador. This part of Canada offers red sand beaches, amazing seafood, breathtaking scenery, and the friendliest folks in the country. In this post, I will go over my budget breakdown of my Atlantic Canada road trip!
Below is the route that we took in our Atlantic Canada road trip. We started in St. John’s, Newfoundland and finished in Nova Scotia’s capital, Halifax.
We booked flights with Air Canada from Toronto Pearson to St. John’s and returning from Halifax. In total, the tickets cost $392.95 CAD per person. Travelling in other parts of the world made me realize just how much expensive it is flying within Canada (insert Arthur’s fist meme here).
For all you non-Canadians, flights to and within Canada are generally not cheap. We have a lack of budget airlines, and airline taxes make tickets expensive compared to other countries.
Food & Drinks
Seafood is quintessential for this region. Dishes like lobster rolls, fish and chips, or seafood chowder are found in most menus. But aside from seafood, each province is known for their own specialty. PEI is renowned around the world for their potatoes, which is said to have a unique flavour due to the rich red soil. Berries such as partridgeberry (similar to cranberry) are grown all over Newfoundland and makes great pies! Nova Scotia has the donair which is a variation of the doner kebab consisting of spiced ground beef, vegetables, and a distinctive sweet sauce, wrapped in flatbread. With a strong french community, traditional Acadian cuisine can be found all over New Brunswick.
In this region of Canada, you will find smaller mom and pop restaurants. The prices are not cheap but reasonable for the quality and service that you get. Apart from cooking your own food, there is not much option to eating on a budget. Usually you will have to resort to fast food chains. Chains like Tim Horton’s, Robins, and McDonald’s are your best bet.
Here is what I ate and what they cost:
- A seafood feast of lobsters, a lobster roll, fried clams at Lobster Deck in Shediac, the “Lobster capital of the world”. $83.91 CAD
- Fish & Chips at around $13 CAD for 2 pieces
- Seafood Chowder Poutine for $15 CAD and small Steamed Blue Mussels Jardiniere for $10 CAD at The Blue Mussel Cafe in PEI.
- Donair at Johnny K’s Authentic Donairs. $11.15 CAD
- Donair pizza $24.60 CAD
- Fried chicken at Mary Brown’s, a fried chicken chain based out of St. John’s, Newfoundland. $15.86 CAD
- Partridgeberry pie with ice cream. $4 CAD
- Two scoops of ice cream at Shediac, NB $6.64 CAD
- Beer in the many bars in St. Johns $5.99 CAD
I have made a separate post on my Top 5 Eats in Atlantic Canada!
With a lack of public transportation available, Atlantic Canada is best explored by car. It’s the best way to find yourself in quaint villages, deserted beaches, amazing viewpoints, and plenty off-the-beaten-track places.
As in the name of this blog post, we rented a car for the entirety of our trip. We rented a full size vehicle (Ford Fusion) with Hertz for $1,275.76 CAD. It was quite expensive as we picked it up from St. John’s and dropped it off at Halifax. For the 3,936 km that we drove, we filled up the gas/petrol 7 times amounting a total of $294.72 CAD.
I booked the car using Rentalcars.com. I find it the best for finding the best deals in Canada. I found that they show more rental companies and better prices compared to other sites like Expedia and Kayak.
Another big chunk of expense was the overnight ferry that we took from Port-aux-Basques, Newfoundland to Sydney, Nova Scotia. The 8 hour ferry with Marine Atlantic cost $255.99 CAD.
Also, if you are planning to drive in and out of Prince Edward Island, there will be a toll for using the Confederation Bridge. Driving from PEI to New Brunswick on Canada’s longest bridge will set you back $47.75 CAD.
As I was travelling with two other people, my share was only a third of each of the listed price.
When it comes to budget travel, Canada isn’t really a big hostel destination. Especially in Atlantic Canada, hostels are few and far in between with at most only one hostel in each city. Dorm beds are somewhat comparable to Western Europe or Australia starting at around $35 CAD per bed. Camping is a great alternative to sleep on a budget, and a great way to immerse yourself in our country’s natural beauty.
Travelling with others, I find Airbnb to provide the best bang for your buck for accommodation.
Here are the accommodations that we paid:
- St. John’s, NL $55.45 CAD per night for a 3 bed in a basement
- Gros Morne National Park, NL $158.03 CAD per night for small 4 bed chalet
- Ferry from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia $145.48 CAD per night for a 4 bed cabin
- Cape Breton, NS $37.26 CAD per night (per person) for a dorm bed in HI Cabot Trail Hostel
- Moncton, NB $69.87 CAD per night for a 2 bed in a basement
- Halifax, NS $45.16 CAD per night for a 1 bedroom in shared apartment
For those who have not tried Airbnb yet, sign up with my referral link and you will get $45 CAD off your home booking! You will also be supporting this website, win-win!
The best thing about Canada is its amazing landscapes. Atlantic Canada is no different with breathtaking views of the ocean, beautiful national parks, and luscious forests. Best of all, most of these scenes can be viewed for FREE or for minimal costs. Here are the activities that we saw in our Atlantic Canada road trip:
- Signal Hill National Historic Site – This site offers sweeping views overlooking St. John’s and the Atlantic Ocean. It was also the site where Guglielmo Marconi received the world’s first transatlantic wireless signal in 1901.
- Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site – The lighthouse sits at the most easterly point in North America!
- Skerwink Trail – This 5.3-km loop coastal trail offers breathtaking views from cliff tops overlooking the ocean where you can see whales, icebergs and sea stacks. Unfortunately for us, it was really foggy and we didn’t see much.
- Cape Bonavista Lighthouse Provincial Historic Site – One of the best places to see icebergs and whales in Newfoundland. There were also amazing landscapes to be seen in this area.
Gros Morne National Park
One of Newfoundland’s most spectacular nature spots has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 due to its unique natural and geological features. We spent three days here exploring the many sights found in this park such as:
- Gros Morne Discovery Centre – Here is a great place to start off your visit in the park. They have great displays teaching visitors the history and the significance of the park along with suggestions on what to see during your stay.
- Tablelands – Hike at the site where two ancient continents collided, exposing Earth’s mantle. This is also the site were scientists proved the theory of plate tectonics, making it a big reason why this park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
- Green Gardens – One of the more popular hikes at the Gros Morne National Park. This 9 km return trail takes you through a number of diverse landscapes from green forest to volcanic sea coast.
- Western Brook Pond- This fjord was carved out billions of years ago by receding glaciers. You can either hike around or take a boat tour. We did the latter and definitely recommend it! On board, we were able to get better views of the spectacular fjords, waterfalls, towering cliffs, and even some wildlife sightings (black bear). The boat tour is $65 CAD per person.
- The Cabot Trail – This is one of Canada’s (or perhaps the world’s) most impressive drives. The trail loops around Cape Breton Island and goes through Cape Breton National Park, alternating between oceanside stretches and forest covered hills.
- Cape Breton Highlands National Park – We hiked the Skyline Trail on the North East side of the park. This 7 km (return) hike leads to a boardwalk on steep cliffs giving panoramic views of the winding Cabot Trail and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Entrance fee to the park was $15.27 CAD for our group.
- Lunenburg – Walk around this beautiful and historic town. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, visitors to Lunenburg can have a great idea of what towns looked like under British colonial times.
- Tour the deck of Bluenose II – This is the replica of the original fishing schooner Bluenose, which is on the Canadian dime (10 cent coin). The ship spends most of its time in the harbours of either Lunenburg or Halifax harbour. You can find the schedule of the boat here!
- Peggy’s Cove – The lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove is famous for being one of the most picturesque in the world.
- Stroll the Halifax Waterfront – One of the best waterfronts in the country, there are endless amounts of boutique shops, street vendors, sand some of the city’s best restaurants. Go here for sunset for beautiful colours shimmering on the water.
Prince Edward Island
- Charlottetown – Walk around this quaint provincial capital, the birthplace of Canada. There is the beautiful Victoria Row, a street filled with many boutique shops and delicious restaurants.
- Cavendish Beach – The province is known for its red sandy beaches, and this is one of the best beaches to check out.
- Basin Head Provincial Park – best known for the “Singing Sands”, in which the white sand “sings” as you walk through it, due to a high silica content.
- Canada’s Smallest Library – Fitting that the country’s smallest province is home to its smallest library. This fun sized shack houses about 1,800 books.
- Hopewell Rocks – Walk on the ocean floor thanks to the Bay of Fundy’s low tides. The Bay of Fundy is home to the world’s highest change of tide – up to 17 m (56 ft) tidal change takes place here. If you have some more time, check out the difference between high tide and low tide. Entrance is $10 CAD.
- Shediac – This French-Acadian community is known for two things: warm beaches and lobster. The saltwater beaches are some of the warmest water north of Virginia. The town claims itself as The Lobster Capital of the World for its lobster fishing and processing plants.
If you have some time for shopping, head to the Halifax Shopping Centre, where they have a free $5 gift card promotion for visitors. Just follow these steps!
- Step 1: Head to guest services.
- Step 2: Present an out of town ID.
- Step 3: Profit.
The Sum of the Atlantic Canada Road Trip
Our Atlantic Canada road trip lasted 11 days, and I spent a total of $1,946.37 CAD. That amounts to $176.94 CAD per day.
The tourist season here is remarkably short. Summer’s compact high season runs from early July to early September. When we went in June, we were surprised to find that many attractions were not open for the season yet.
As you can see, transportation costs made up the biggest chunk of my spend–this was mostly due to the car rental. Due to the lack of public transportation and having the flexibility to go wherever (for the most part) you want, renting a car is a must for this region in Canada… especially as the best sights are the natural landscapes.
Something that took getting used to while travelling back home was that the stated price is not the price that you will pay. The additional sales tax (15%) and sometimes tip (15-18%) in restaurants add a significant $$$ to your overall spend.
My food and drinks spend was quite higher than average as we mostly ate out at restaurants and eating the local delicacies. Seafood is more expensive than other kinds of meat.
Ways to save Money
- Prepping your own food is always cheapest, whether that means packing simple eats for breakfast e.g. fruit, granola bars, or tortilla wraps with your simple choice of filling such as tuna or peanut butter. Farmers markets exist in most major cities, and can be great for stocking up on fresh produce and locally farmed eats.
- If your route and schedule permits, have the same pick up and drop off point when renting a car. This saves you from paying a one-way fee.