Newfoundland and the three Maritime Provinces – New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island.
Canada is a vast country and there are so many different parts of the country that you could explore if you had the time.
Each part of the country is unique its own right and will create a different experience and memory of your time here.
You could cruise on a ship up the west coast through the inland passage, or just stay in Vancouver and see Victoria and Vancouver Island, or you could head to the Rockies, ski and snowboard, ride rapids, see Rodeo in Calgary, head to the Yukon or cross over the Prairies, see big cities like Toronto and Montreal, see the Capital City of Ottawa, see old Quebec City, watch bears in the wild, bike hike or see Hockey played on ice, go ice-fishing, or take in the rush of water over Niagara Falls. These experiences will all be worthwhile and all will prove to be memorable and all quite different, one to the other. Perhaps that is what makes Canada such an interesting country to visit.
Canada is such a diverse group of people and their histories – from the Inuit and First Nations tribes, to early explorers, fur trappers, frontiersmen and traders, to French and British merchants and company men, Jesuit Priests and nuns, military officers, sailors, army men, farmers, ranchers, miners, tradesmen, women, men and families – and within all this mix there is language – Inuit, First Nations languages and dialects, French, English and other European and Asian languages too – as people came to or emigrated to Canada from many parts of the world.
Almost all people who have come to live in Canada have done so in the hope of enjoying a better life and every Canadian today would have a story of their ancestry. Within this mix there are some amazing stories.
If you read the History of Canada section of this website, you will be familiar with the French and British battles at sea and on land in the 16th and 17th century particularly in New France and Quebec with the Plains of Abraham battle in 1759 and subsequent Treatise (Treaty) of Paris leading to Britain taking claim over New France from France.
At the time people with French heritage had been living in settlements along the St Lawrence River from the days when Samuel de Champlain had first established a settlement where Quebec City is located in 1608. His first settlement however was even earlier, when he established Port Royal (today called Annapolis Royal) in 1605 in Nova Scotia.
When you look at it, from 1605 to 1759 you have 154 years, two to three generations of French settlement and then with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763, all of New France became a British Territory, but there again, you could also say that after thousands of years settlement by First Nations and Inuit people, their ownership over the land was equally changed too when the French and then British Companies and settlers arrived and claimed the land as theirs.
Wars and politics create great movements of people escaping from possible death, injury and destruction to areas of safety and this is almost the inevitable consequence of war.
There are also situations where a specific group of people of an ethnic, political, religious, cultural or language group are pushed out from an area or country too. From time immemorial there have been migrations of people and no doubt this will continue to happen in the future too.
When you look at a map showing the Maritime Provinces of Canada you see a jagged coastline of inlets, bays, straits, Gulf of St Lawrence, other gulfs, islands and waterways, and then Newfoundland to the north too with an equally rugged coastline, so it is little wonder that the Atlantic Ocean, fishing, whaling and the waterways have played such an important part of this whole eastern coast of Canada.
While there are hundreds of islands, tiny specks on the ocean, there are big islands too. Newfoundland is over 1000 kilometres (600 miles) from north to south, so in coming to Newfoundland and the Maritime Provinces, check the distances too, so that you don't make the mistake of thinking that a day trip will get you to all the places you hoped to visit.
NEW FOUND LAND - Newfoundland
In Newfoundland the Beothuk people in Newfoundland and Mi'kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy people in the Maritime Province area had lived here for thousands of years before the first European fishermen arrived here to fish off the coast. The trip by Ferry across from North Sydney in Nova Scotia to Argentia (near St John's) is around 14 hours.
The Viking sailor, Leif Eriksson (c.970-1020) is said to have been the first European to land here, and he came from Greenland, naming the lands he saw along the Atlantic Coast as Helluland, Markland and Vinland. Another Viking, Bjarni Herjolfsson is also credited as having sighted the land here a few years earlier in 986 AD, but he is said not to have landed on the shores.
In the 11th Century at the very northern tip of Newfoundland where the Atlantic Ocean connects to the Strait of Belle Island which then connects to the St Lawrence Strait, Vikings from Greenland and Iceland established a settlement.
That settlement is called L'Anse aux Meadows, a village of small huts using wooden frames and covered in peat turf, the same style as original huts that were built in Greenland and Iceland. The Vikings did not end up staying, but their huts still can be seen today, giving them claim to be very first Europeans to settle on America shores. To see some of this area, they have also created what is called the Viking Trail – See www.vikingtrail.org
It would not be until 1487 that the British King Henry VII funded an Italian Explorer, Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot) to sail across the Atlantic Ocean with the land that he saw, naming it as Newfoundland. More explorers would follow and also fishermen from Spain, Portugal, France and Britain.
What they were attracted to was the Grand Banks of Newfoundland – a shallow ridge of land under the sea along the coastline, where the cold currents from the north, the Labrador Current meets with the warm Gulf Stream Current, making an ideal fish breeding ground. The Portuguese even gave this fishing ground the name 'Bacolao' – land of the Cod Fish, while south in the United States, Cape Cod also recognizes this great fishing ground too. Where you see a flock of birds hovering in frenzy above the water, you know they are here for the fish, and this whole coastline is a bird watcher's paradise. The Fish also attracts other animals too – seals, whales, penguins and other animals including men.
While the fish may have brought the fishing boats, the land also became a big attraction too and small camps were set up by fishermen and whalers and sealers at points along the coastline, and in time some became small settlements, including St John's during the 1600's on the Avalon Peninsula in the south of Newfoundland. St John's is the closest point of the American coast to the European coastline, and today is a town with over 100,000 people.
St John's and its harbour are close to the Great Banks fishing grounds, and with a good harbour, it was natural that it should develop as a town with the fishing boats and whalers coming into the harbour and a fishing trade develop, with places to dry, smoke or salt fish and warehouse them ready to send to the European markets.
The town also came under siege too, as Basque, Dutch, French and British fought to control the fishing grounds and control the trade and therefore the town. Ultimately the British became the victors, with the French conceding defeat in 1762.
Newfoundland was from then on under British control and right up to 1907 it was a British Colony and then a Dominion within the British Empire, before becoming part of Canada in 1949.
Irish, English and Scottish migrated here from the 1600's onwards, and the island's isolation both as a whole and as villages and towns around the island led to the Newfoundlanders continuing to speak English but with words and expressions that are uniquely found only in Newfoundland.
From a tourist point of view, the cold and possibly seeing iecbergs, the language, scenery, whales, history, isolation, pubs, B&B's, amazing bird life, moose, national parks and wilderness areas, great seafood and traditional English and uniquely newfoundland foods, colourful village houses, the people themselves and the weather all play a part in making Newfoundland an amazing place to visit.
To get to Newfoundland, the fastest way is to fly and land at St John's International Airport, or if you want to see L'Anse aux Meadows, then you fly into St Anthony in the north roughly 50 kilometres from L'Anse aux Meadows or Deer Lake Airport – See www.deerlakeairport.com There are also car and passenger Ferries (See www.gov.nl.ca and www.marine-atlantic.ca The Trans-Canada Highway that crosses Canada from Victoria on the west coast, also has its eastern end at Mile 1 in St Johns.
Most people will have heard of Newfoundland dogs – and yes, they originate from here, bred for their strength to help pull fishing nets from the water and carry small loads. Their size, long coat for the winter and strength are world renowned.
The Newfoundland dogs are believed to have developed as a breed from dogs brought by fishermen from Devon and other parts of England which developed into what became known as St John's Dogs. These St John's dogs no longer exist, but are also believed to also be the origin breed that led to the Labrador Retriever Dogs being bred too, their love of water, retrieving and hunting. Labrador is of course right next to Newfoundland on the mainland, coming closest to the northern tip of Newfoundland where the Strait of Belle Isle is located. Along this coastline there were at one time numbers of Basque whalers camps set up.
When you look at a map of Newfoundland you will see almost all of the place names are of English origin with a few French names mixed in too.
France like Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands, Belgium, Swedish, Russian and Germany all at one time or another were colonial powers, which saw lands outside of Europe become parts of their Empires and then as time progressed these parts mostly became independent countries or territories in their own right.
Under the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht signed between France and Britain, France ceded the island of Newfoundland, Rupert's land to the far north and Nova Scotia to Britain, but this didn't mean that France and Britain stopped warring with each other. It was then not until 1759 that General Wolfe and the British triumphed over the French in Québec and 1762 that the British also fully secured Newfoundland following the battle of Signal Hill in St John's (See www.pc.gc.ca/signalhill) with the Treaty of Paris signed in 1763 creating a settlement between the two countries. Under this settlement Britain gained control over the French territories in North America, with France gaining certain territories in the Caribbean. When you look at the Caribbean nations even today, you can see that some are Spanish, some French and others English speaking with histories all dating back to colonial times.
In North America, it is a little known fact that there is one small isolated group of islands that has remained as French Territory, not British or Canadian Territory and that is the islands of St-Pierre, Miquelon and some tiny nearby islands, located just about 26 kilometres west off the coastline of the small town of Fortune on the Burin Peninsula in the south end of Newfoundland. The islands are over 600 kilometres north from Halifax in Nova Scotia.
The islands were first claimed in the name of France by Jacques Cartier in 1536, and though over the centuries that followed they were variously claimed by both Britain and France, they were formally agreed that they were French Territory in 1816, the situation that remains to this day.
Only around 6000 residents live here. You need to show a Passport to enter, use Euros as the currency and the islands come under French control under their "Collectivité d'outre-mer" (COM) Authority controlled from Paris. Other islands in French Polynesia, the Wallis and Fortuna Island in the Pacific and Saint Barthélemy (St Barts) in the Lesser Antilles Islands in the Caribbean are also under the "Collectivité d'outre-mer" control, while other territories such as Martinique, Saint-Martin and Guadeloupe in the Caribbean come under French authority, but a different department.
St-Pierre is just 26 square kilometres in area, and being small, isolated and French it makes for an interesting mix of people, nature, heritage, French culture and cuisine. You can fly here from St John's in Newfoundland or from Halifax in Nova Scotia, or travel by boat from Fortune in Newfoundland. As an island, its people have long depending on Fishing to make a living, but Tourism is also playing a part too, though the Island also has a past when 'smuggling liquor' when prohibition was in place in the United States in the 1920's.
NOVA SCOTIA –
Nova Scotia is a long narrow island, about 90 miles (130 kilometres) across facing the Atlantic Ocean on the east side and New Brunswick and Maine (USA) coast, with Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton Island to its north. There are 3809 identified islands around its 7579 kilometres of coastline (4709 miles) with the remarkable Bay of Fundy separating Nova Scotia from the mainland. The Bay of Fundy has some of the biggest tidal rises and falls in the world.
The island province was the long standing home of the Algonquian First Nations people and today Nova Scotia has a population of just under a million people, with the biggest city an Capital being Halifax.
The name 'Nova Scotia' is Latin and stands for New Scotland, which is the clue to thinking that many of the people here are of Scottish origin. The island was given this name in 1621 under Royal Charter by Scottish King James 1st, (1566-1625) who was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and became the King of Great Britain – being both King of Scotland and also King of England too (as James IV).
In 1625 the Scottish poet and Courtier, William Alexander (c.1570-1640) who had been the Usher to King James's son, Prince Charles, under traditional 'Sasine' Scottish Law, was given lawful possession to the whole of Nova Scotia and a knighthood, becoming Sir Alexander of Menstrie , Menstrie Castle being where he was born in Scotland. This castle is a 4 storey Manor House built around AD 1322, and it is still standing today and located at 7 Castle Street in Menstrie, Scotland.
Attempts to establish Scottish settlements in Nova Scotia initially failed, but Sir William Alexander then devised a plan whereby for a substantial payment, new Scottish settlers of means could take up 16,000 acres of land in Nova Scotia and be given a Baronet Knighthood at the same time, which would also become the Hereditary Title of "Baronet of Nova Scotia" to pass down to their sons. A small number of Scottish settlers took up the offer, and between 1629 and 1632 they came here, before also returning to Scotland in 1632.
The French however named the island 'Acadia', with the French people who ended up settling here, becoming known as Acadians. The name Acadia itself dated back to the time when a French exploration by the Italian Explorer, Giovanni da Verrazano explored here in 1524-25, his voyage funded by the French King.
The French, led by Pierre Du Goa de Monts (c.1558-1628)and Samuel de Champlain first established a settlement in 1605 at Port Royal in St Mary's Bay in the Annapolis Valley on the east coast (today named Annapolis Royal), which the British then burned down in 1613. There is a re-creation of this original settlement that you can visit.
During the 1600's and 1700's the rivalry between France, Spain and England saw not only battles and then treaties made between the three Colonial Powers in Europe, but then these battles also spilled over into battles between New Spain, New France and New England in the New World.
In Nova Scotia/Acadia during the 1600's and early 1700's there was a see-saw battle for supremacy between the French and English to establish their own authority over the islands. Both the British and French built forts at strategic locations, appointed Governors and the French also established their presence in the north at Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island) and at Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), where the French Fort at Louisbourg was built while the British established more of a stronghold in Halifax on the east coast where they built Fort George in 1749.
The Treaty of Utrecht was signed between France and Britain in 1713 with Nova Scotia coming under British Authority, but not Île Saint-Jean and Île Royale and the tensions between the two sides continued to simmer.
While the British had the Governorship in Halifax, there was already a growing French Acadian population and a lack of trust between the English and French.
In 1745 and again in 1757 the British mounted an attack on the fortress town of Louisbourg on Île Saint-Jean and on the French ships protecting the port but were forced to retreat.
Following the 1757 retreat the British recognized that if they were to mount an attack on the French in Quebec they would need to sail through the St Lawrence Gulf and up the St Lawrence River, and that meant passing Louisbourg and its defences too.
The British therefore assembled a massive fleet of ships and men to mount an attack on Louisbourg in 1758 involving 150 transport and 40 man-of-war ships with 14,000 soldiers on board, while the French were only able to defend Louisbourg with around 3500 men, mostly sailors from the ships that were stationed here. After months of battle, the British were able to capture Louisbourg, burning or sinking the French ships. This battle, what became known as the 'Siege of Louisbourg' would be the pre-curser to the battle in Quebec under General Wolfe in 1759, and lead to the British taking control over all of the former French Territories under the Treaty of Paris signed in 1763.
It was during the years 1755 and 1762 that one of the most significant historic events took place here in Nova Scotia. While the French Arcadians had declared their neutrality during the wars between the British and French forces, the British made the decision to deport the Acadians from Nova Scotia and in most cases confiscate their lands. Of the 13,000 or so Acadians living in Nova Scotia and Île Saint-Jean and Île Royale, around 10,000 were forcibly evicted from their homes and lands, most fleeing first to Maine and then eventually to Louisiana, where they became known as 'Cajuns' – the word derived as a short-form for the word, Acadians. Cajun and Creole cooking and cuisine dates back to this time. To learn more about the Cajuns visit New Orleans. It is a great city. There is also information about New Orleans in the USA section of this website.
While many Acadians attempted to return to the former homes in the years that followed, most found their former homes occupied by groups of new migrants – Loyalists from the New England area in the lead up, during and after the American War of Independence (1775-1782) and Scottish Highlanders.
Many of the Scottish Highlanders emigrated from Scotland to Nova Scotia following the Battle of Culloden in 1746. The battle was fought in Scotland just outside Edinburgh between the Jacobite troops supporting Bonnie Prince Charlie (1720-1788) and Prince William Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland (1721-1765) and his soldiers, representing the 'House of Hanover', with King George II (a Hanover) reigning as King of England and Scotland from 1727 to 1760.
Bonnie Prince Charlie – (a Catholic) also called the "Great Pretender" made claim to the Throne of Great Britain on the basis of him being the rightful King, from the House of Stuart. This situation arose following the death of Queen Anne (1665-1714) (a Stuart) who became Queen in 1702, but while she had endured 18 pregnancies, none of her children survived, either dying at childbirth, or shortly after, with one just surviving to the age of eleven. With no children as her direct descendant, the line of succession and therefore crown moved to a distant cousin, who became George the 1st reigning from 1714 to 1727. He was from the House of Hanover and 52nd in line to the Throne, but as the closest Protestant he was crowned as King.
When Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobite supporters were defeated, Prince William Augustus, set about destroying what remained of the Jacobite supporters, who were mostly Highlanders. He killed large numbers, burned their crofts (houses) and took their cattle, banning Bagpipes and forbidding the use of Gaelic as a language. It was this event that led many Highlanders to leave Scotland and head to Nova Scotia, and while Prince William Augustus was hailed a hero in parts of the lowlands and England, he also became better known as "Butcher Augustus".
The expulsion of the Acadians, the migration of the Scots and also Loyalists moving north from the colonies in New England to Nova Scotia resulted in Nova Scotia's population both growing and also changing, and within this mix there were also the Mi'kmag people too. The name of towns, roads and street names also changed from largely French to English – with Île Saint-Jean becoming St John's Island and then in 1799 taking the name Prince Edward Island. The island was named in honour of Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent and Strathearn (1767-1820) the father of Queen Victoria, who led a British Regiment here in Nova Scotia in 1799. Also the name Île Royale was changed to Cape Breton Island and the name Acadia was no longer used with Nova Scotia becoming the official name also encompassed New Brunswick as well.
The American War of Independence (1775-1783) saw the Loyalists in the New England colonies calling themselves the United Empire Loyalists, sometimes called Royalists or King's Men reject the Patriot's demands for independence from Britain and allegiance to the British Crown.
Around 65,000 to 70,000 Loyalists headed back to Britain or other British Territories including Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec where many of the Loyalists were granted land as compensation.
Within this group of Loyalists there were an estimated 3000 Black Loyalists who supported Britain (former slaves) and while some stayed in Nova Scotia, a number of them, around 1100 were enticed in 1792 to travel to another part of the British Empire, Sierra Leone in West Africa, where they established the city of 'Freetown' – a city that now has over 1 million people.
Another group of around 600 'Trelawny Maroons', had been sent by the Jamaican Government to Nova Scotia in 1796 to work on building the 3rd Citadel in Halifax. The shock of coming from the hot climate in Jamaica to the cold winters in Halifax, also led them to mostly also decide to move to Sierra Leone, and they left Halifax in 1800.
Within any mass migration story, be that a forced migration or otherwise there are thousands of individual stories both of those who emigrated and also those whose parents or ancestors did, and then of course there are millions of people who have mixed heritage too.
Just one of the thousands of stories that could be written is that of Samuel Cunard (1787-1865) who was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia and went on to become a Shipping Magnate, his name still associated with the luxury Cunard Cruise Liners – with Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary and Queen Victoria three of the most famous ships in the world.
Samuel Cunard's parents were British Loyalists who came to Halifax in 1783. His father, Abraham Cunard, a Quaker was originally from Germany, while his mother was an Irish Catholic.
Samuel Cunard's wealth initially came from Timber and property, but then his business expanded into whaling, tea, coal, banking and ferries. In 1830 he founded the Halifax Steamboat Company, building some of the first Steam Ferries to run in coastal waters. Then in 1839 Cunard was awarded the British Post Contract to provide postal services across the Atlantic and in 1840 his ship the Britannia made the crossing from Liverpool in England to Halifax and Boston. This was the beginning of the Cunard line transporting cargo, mail and passengers across the Atlantic, and becoming one of the biggest shipping companies in the world.
The company also enjoyed good times and bad too in its long history. In World War I the Cunard ship, the Lusitania was sunk by a German Submarine, with 1924 lives lost in the disaster, while during World War II its ships were used to transport about 2 million servicemen.
Today the Cunard flag still flies on its super liners, and the Cruise Industry is enjoying a massive resurgence as people experience new levels of luxury and entertainment. The Cunard line is now owned by the Carnival Cruise Ship Corporation.
Samuel Cunard's story is but one story of a Nova Scotian. In the years between 1928, as the Great Depression took hold and right up to 1971, over a million immigrants from Europe would also come to Canada, landing first at Pier 21 in Halifax, the Capital of the Province.
There is certainly a lot of history in Nova Scotia and the islands here, and most Tourists and travellers here will be amazed at the scenery and atmosphere of the islands. These are some of the places to look for and see –
IN HALIFAX –
The best way to get a feel for Halifax and Nova Scotia is to head to the downtown wharf area – Piers 19 to 21 where there are cafes, galleries, the Cunard Centre, Farmers Market, micro brewers and the Passenger Cruise Terminals. Look for Pavilion 22 – a shopping centre. You can also catch a Ferry ride out into Halifax Harbour to the other side of the harbour. Halifax also has lots of pubs (head to Argyle Street) and festivals too. To see what's on see www.thecoast.ca
Notable places to see -
THE GREAT OUTDOORS -
The Maritime Climate of Nova Scotia means that while in the middle of winter in January, temperatures will hover around 0⁰C (32⁰F) along the coastal areas and a little colder away from the coast, and in summer in July they will average around 23⁰C (73⁰F) which is a pleasant temperature to get out and see the countryside.
As much as Halifax is a big city, it is really the coastline and its beauty that attracts tourists to come here.
The coastline with its small islands off the coast, headlands, lighthouses, fishing boats, beaches, and small villages, colourful houses and the valleys, trees and small farms that are here, make driving to 'just see what you see' and 'find what you find' a real pleasure. And of course there is great seafood including lobsters to be found too.
Bird watching, golf, biking, hiking, rafting, sea kayaking, walking on beaches, swimming, whale watching, seeing wildlife are all here and there are also some spectacular sights too.
Bay of Fundy tides – The Bay on the west coast of Nova Scotia (facing the mainland) is like a giant funnel so when the tides in the Atlantic Ocean rise and fall they do so here in a massive way, rising and falling over a 6 hour period around 15 metres ( 50 feet). In some places this means that the tidal flats get exposed and then flooded by the water, and at Burntcoat Head they recede about 3 miles! Huge.
There are lots of places along the western coastline facing the Bay to see the tides, but South Maitland and Halls Harbour are two of the best. There is also a small village called Bear River, where some of the houses are built out over the River on high stilt posts to cope with the rise and fall of the tides.