2017 is Canada’s sesquicentennial (that is to say, 150 years since Confederation), and to celebrate, Parks Canada is making access to national parks free for the year. substantial number of those national parks are on significant coastlines, and can be explored by boat. In this blog, the first of a series, we will provide information about National Parks on the Atlantic Coast.
Gros Morne National Park
Midway up western Newfoundland, Gros Morne is a spectacular park on the Gulf of St Lawrence, facing Labrador.
Soaring fjords and moody mountains tower above a diverse panorama of beaches and bogs, forests and barren cliffs. Shaped by colliding continents and grinding glaciers, Gros Morne’s ancient landscape is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wander coastal pathways and beachcomb among sea stacks. Cruise the dramatic, sheer-walled gorge of Western Brook Pond. Spot moose and caribou. Hike to alpine highlands where Arctic hare and ptarmigan thrive on tundra, and explore the colourful culture of nearby seaside communities.
Terra Nova Provincial Park
Terra Nova is in northeastern Newfoundland, north and west of the Avalon Peninsula and St. John’s.
A ragged-shaped oceanside park of sheltered inlets, islands, headlands, ponds, forests and bogs across 400 square kilometres (154 square miles), Terra Nova is perched on the northeast coast of Newfoundland, a three-hour drive from the provincial capital of St. John’s.
Though easily accessible by the Trans-Canada highway, it is a traditional island wilderness with abundant wildlife like black bears, lynx, ospreys, moose and the rare indigenous Newfoundland marten. Join a campfire sing-along, touch sea critters in a tank, enjoy live performances under the stars. Arrange a guided, interpretive park tour or explore the park on your own for a day or on a multi-day camping trip. Ten hiking trails range from kid and wheelchair-friendly nature strolls to challenging treks. Canoe or swim in Sandy Pond, kayak rugged shorelines. In winter, strap on snowshoes or cross-country skis for a backcountry experience.
Prince Edward Island National Park
PEI National Park extends over 65 kilometres of shoreline, including beaches, red sandstone cliffs and rolling sand dunes on the North Shore of Prince Edward Island in Atlantic Canada. Broad, sandy beaches draw crowds of day-trippers and campers throughout the summer. Meanwhile, extensive walking trails and boardwalks, as well as 20 kilometres of paved multi-use trail for cyclists, slice through varied coastal terrain, from saltwater marsh to Acadian forest. If the landscape seems storybook-perfect, there’s good reason. The park is also home to the 19th-century farmhouse immortalized in the novel Anne of Green Gables, now one of Canada’s most popular heritage places. Marvel at exotic dunescapes on the Greenwich peninsula. Camp, cycle and swim in the central Brackley-Dalvay region. Or just enjoy sun and sand and a glimpse of Canada’s literary past in Cavendish. With three distinct regions overall, PEI National Park brings together the best of Atlantic Canada.
Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Over 100 kilometers of rugged, wave-pounded cliffs, sheltered coves and long curving beaches mark the breathtaking journey to Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Every turn inspires a photograph. Some 26 hiking trails are carved out along the coastline, across mountaintops, and tucked into forested valleys. The Skyline Trail leads to a breathtaking headland above the Atlantic, where mountains meet sea. View the Chéticamp River valley from the gorgeous Acadian Trail. Lone Shieling is a walk through 350 year-old sugar maples. And Fishing Cove leads from mountain top to secluded ocean cove. You might spot a bear eating blueberries, or notice velvety moose antlers poking out between spruce and fir boughs. Overhead, bald eagles, hawks, and cormorants soar. Along the coast, catch a glimpse of plunge-diving northern gannets, bobbing seals, and, peeking out of the ocean waves, minke or humpback whales. Stay awhile to enjoy swimming, golf, ocean and beach-front camping, and of course, the warm welcome from the fishing communities you’ll pass along the way, where you can stop to take in a ceilidh or a yummy dinner of fresh local seafood.
Charts: 4449 Cheticamp/ Grant Etang/ Margaree Harbours, 4464 Cheticamp to Cape St Lawrence
Cruising Guide: The Complete Cruising Guide to the Down East Circle Route, Cruising Guide to the Nova Scotia Coast
Kouchibouguac National Park (New Brunswick)
Kouchibouguac National Park extends over 238-square-kilometres of Maritime Plain Natural Region along New Brunswick’s scenic Acadian Coast. This mosaic of salt marshes, peat bogs, freshwater systems, Acadian woodland and sandy beaches has long captivated guests, one generation to the next.
Hundreds of species of birds, dozens of mammals as well as amphibians, reptiles, rare plants and a wide variety of sea life inhabit this park, and the landscape welcomes exploration via its network of gentle hiking and cycling trails. Offshore, shifting sand dunes harbour the endangered piping plover and a colony of grey seals swims in the sea. Stargazing takes a unique perspective in this coastal Dark Sky Preserve. Kellys Beach is one of the region’s most popular summertime destinations. And in winter, the snowy side of Kouchibouguac invites soft adventure with cross-country trails and cosy warm-up huts.
Canada’s Atlantic Coast is a great place to cruise, and we hope you’ll explore the National Parks this summer. In the next blog in this series, we’ll explore the National Parks of the Gaspé Peninsula and the St Lawrence River