A 10-Day Itinerary Between Boston and Nova Scotia
Best Casual Luxury and Boutique Hotels in NS, PEI, and Maine
My mother Georgi, Jim and I packed our bags for a ten-day road trip to Nova Scotia. It was a reunion of sorts; my parents spent summers on Canada’s Northumberland Strait to escape the heat and stay connected to my father’s family heritage. Scenes filled with country life and ocean views spoke of a simpler time.
The drive to Antigonish, Nova Scotia took eleven hours by car from our home south of Boston. There are quicker ways to get there. There’s the high-speed ferry (the CAT) from Portland Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and another from St. John, New Brunswick. And, a flight from Boston to Halifax only takes about two hours.
However, driving offered an opportunity to more thoroughly enjoy the journey through two countries and four provinces. So many picturesque places materialized as stopping points along the way during our road trip to Nova Scotia and back.
We covered Maine, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick, and our route bordered both sides of the Northumberland Strait. We didn‘t intend on “slow travel,” but managed something similar.
The five hotels and cottages that hosted us anchored our road trip to Nova Scotia; their unique offerings and commitment to excellence made our excursion more memorable.
Stop #1: The Lucerne Inn (Dedham, Maine)
Our first day of travel involved a late start (my passport went missing!) followed by four hours of driving. We hugged the New England coast northward along Route 95 making good time with an easy exit at Bangor, Maine. Our destination: The Lucerne Inn, twenty minutes from the off-ramp in nearby Dedham, Maine. We considered motor inns closer to the highway, but I wanted this trip to be memorable. The Lucerne Inn was unforgettable.
On approach, The Lucerne Inn provided a refreshing contrast to Bangor’s industry and storefronts. Nestled in the foothills of Bald Mountain and overlooking Phillip Lake, it appeared like a scene from Switzerland.
The inn‘s pristine grounds abut Maine forest and featured two gazebos and a spotless pool. Built in 1818, The Lucerne Inn is on the National Register of Historic Places. No doubt this timeless retreat has welcomed many weary travelers. If walls could talk…
History Meets Comfort
Make no mistake, this 200-year-old inn wears its history well, showcasing period antiques and art throughout. The three of us checked into two well-appointed suites with plenty of creature comforts plus spectacular views of the lake and mountains.
After freshening up, Jim, Georgi, and I decided between our on-site dining options. The Lucerne Inn Restaurant offered fine dining and view to the rolling hills. Rian’s Pub reminded us of Colonial times with a center fireplace and oak bar. We chose the cozier setting for a delicious dinner with tastey beverages on tap. It was just what we needed before comfortably retiring for the evening.
After a great night’s sleep and a generous complimentary breakfast of pastry, fruit, cereals, sausage, and eggs, we strolled The Lucerne Inn property for a last view of the magnificent setting. White chairs surrounded one gazebo, and I imagined the idyllic nuptials to take place. Alas, we continued on to the next leg of our journey on the road trip to Nova Scotia.
Stop #2: The Beach House at Seafoam Campground
On the second day of our road trip to Nova Scotia, we traveled along 373 miles of the Maine coast and crossed into Canada at Calais/St. Stephen. Canadian Law requires proof of citizenship and identity, so we had our U.S. passports at the ready. Short of a few questions related to our intentions and goods, and a quick review of our passports, it didn’t take long to clear Customs.
We continued toward the Seafoam Campground, which was another five hours from the border. Day two was a long day of driving and we’d lost an hour due to the time change—Nova Scotia is on Atlantic Standard Time (AST) and one hour ahead of our Boston (EST) home.
“Home” for next five nights was a rustic Beach House overlooking the Northumberland Strait. The open floor plan featured knotty pine cabinets, log walls, a spiral staircase, and airy ceilings. This cottage slept seven in two bedrooms on the ground level and a third upstairs; more than plenty for the three of us to comfortably co-habitate!
A Location Close to Friends
Most importantly, the Beach House at Seafoam Campground was beside the RV Park where my parents had forged deep and lasting friendships. Over the years, they watched friends’ children grow and begin their own families, a surrogate family complete with grandchildren.
Staying here provided nearness to dear friends and family, enabling us to visit and host guests. It was great for us to finally meet everyone!
We prepared simple home-cooked meals, relaxed together, and explored the northern coast of Nova Scotia from River John to Cape George. We visited the local Lavender Farm, Amish Bakery, and area artisans, and so much more. I relished having my morning coffee on the elevated deck with a waterfront view and a short walk to the beach. If this was a taste of the “slow travel” trend, I loved it.
Even after five days, leaving the Beach House at Seafoam Campground was bittersweet and teary. I felt lucky to have met my mother’s treasured friends and long-lost family and hoped to return.Click To Tweet
Fortunately, we didn’t have far to go to reach our next stop on our Nova Scotia Road Trip: The Maritime Inn, Antigonish.
Stop #3: The Maritime Inn, Antigonish
Asters and other wildflowers flanked much Route 6 from the Seafoam Campground to Antigonish. It’s a picturesque drive, punctuated by farmland, modest tin-roofed homes, and coastal views. The lifestyle of this region was particularly appealing as it’s my ancestral home.
Andrew “Ban” (Aindra Ban) MacGillivray, my paternal great-great-great-great-grandfather (!), crossed the Atlantic from Scotland in 1791. He founded our homestead on Highfield mountain in Maryvale, a small settlement of Antigonish County. We trekked up the mountainside without my late father’s guidance in search of the homestead. The ruins of our mountain homestead remained safely hidden amidst the modern-day wind turbines, logging trails, and mining threatening Highfield’s natural habitat.
The closest “city” to Maryvale was Antigonish. We stayed two nights at The Maritime Inn, a four-star, full-service hotel in Antigonish’s charming downtown. Georgi’s “drive up” guest room provided easy access from the ground level, a convenience for anyone in need of special accommodations. Jim’s and my room was on the second floor. Dressed in soothing, rich fabrics with soft bedding, both first-rate rooms of The Maritime Inn offered amenities including complimentary Wi-Fi and a morning newspaper.
A Delicious Dining Option
Off of the swanky lobby of The Maritime Inn was the hotel’s Main St. Cafe. It’s a favorite of locals and guests alike. We continued family visits there while dining on “Taste of Nova Scotia” specialties, as fresh and tasty as advertised. This came as no surprise, given Nova Scotia’s booming seafood industry.
Time was flying and we hadn’t yet decided on the best return route—west across Nova Scotia‘s mainland or via Prince Edward Island. Then I received word that The Great George in PEI could host us. That meant our point of embarkment from The Maritime Inn would be the Ferry to Pictou. I was beyond delighted that we would catch a glimpse of PEI on our trip.
Stop #4: The Great George
We hitched a ride on Northumberland Ferry’s route from Caribou N.S. to Wood Islands, PEI. The 1.15-hour crossing of the Northumberland Strait was free, car and all. (Note: The return trip is not free. As of this writing, the fare is $78 for a vehicle under 7 feet high to leave PEI by ferry.)
I always enjoy the open seas. In addition ocean views, this ferry ride included cafeteria-style dining on regional favorites, live entertainment, wine-tasting, an ice cream shop, and a gift shop. We had a grand old time and before long we docked in Wood Islands.
Once on land, we drove forty-five minutes through the most vibrant landscape, stopping multiple times for photos on the way to The Great George Hotel.
Award Winning Hospitality
The Great George is an award-winning boutique hotel in Prince Edward Island’s historic capital city of Charlottetown. It’s composed of upscale rooms and suites in the main inn’s “Pavillion” and a cluster of nearby heritage buildings which include townhouses, luxury condos, and hideaway suites.
The Great George has revitalized a historic district which was not always suited for tourism. They have done an amazing job elevating the area to ensure outstanding guest experiences. Case in point, we indulged in ice-cold lemon water and took a few warm cookies to-go from the reception lobby before checking out our overnight digs.
While The Great George did not have a room in the Historic Pavillion for us, their email had offered us lodging at The Cross Keys Condos, fit for executives and guests seeking larger accommodations. What an incredible upgrade!
Light spilled into the chic loft’s open floor plan with high ceilings and a stone-hearth gas fireplace. The kitchen gleamed with stainless steel appliances and tumbled marble and glass tile decor.
Two stunning bedrooms occupied opposite ends of the condo, providing private living spaces. Our room attached to an en-suite bathroom with an expansive rain-showered marble shower and a separate large jet tub. Georgi’s room glowed with natural light and a stylish brick accent wall as if culled from the pages of a trendy architectural magazine.
In addition, our hosts welcomed us with a custom basket of local treats, including chocolate, wine, chips, and regional gifts. I fell in love with The Great George‘s executive condo and envisioned myself retiring to a trendy condo in an artsy city.
The three of us settled in before taking in the hotel’s free historic walking tour, followed by a wine and cheese reception. (Both events are open to guests every weekday.) We continued exploring on foot, then returned to the condo to relax with the delicious honey wine we’d purchased on the ferry.
Breakfast within Posh Surroundings
After a comfortable overnight rest, Georgi and I enjoyed an incredible breakfast in the main lobby. Comparable to a posh cocktail party, we mingled with guests and filled up on the hot breakfast buffet, pastry, muffins, fresh fruit, yogurt, fresh-squeezed juices, coffee, and tea. We sat on rich leather couches across from a massive fireplace, surrounded by antiques and classical music. Truly, this was an incredible start our day.
Before a late checkout, we toured St. Dunstan’s Basilica Cathedral and visited the waterfront. It disappointed us that the Confederation Centre Art Gallery closed for the day. But, it was just as well. Our visit to Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, and The Great George Hotel called for a longer stay, but it would have to wait until next time because of the long ride ahead of us back home.
We took a slow route west across the island to savor the scenery, then crossed the 8-mile (12.9 km) Confederation Bridge connecting PEI to the mainland. You pay a fee on leaving the island whether by ferry or bridge. (We paid $47 to cross the bridge, which seemed a cost-effective and more adventurous departure than the ferry.) Our next stop would be St. Andrews By-The-Sea in New Brunswick.
Stop #5: Cory Cottage at the Pansy Patch
The fog rolled in as we crossed the Saint John Harbour Bridge in St. John and thickened as we arrived in the seaside Town of Saint Andrews By-the-Sea. We couldn’t see over three feet in front of us, missing the scenery almost entirely. We arrived later than we had planned; it was a long ride, and we were fogged-in. Our spirits were falling as the trip was ending. I had hoped to capture the essence of this renown coastal community.
Joseph, the innkeeper at Cory Cottage awaited our arrival and immediately brightened our day. He welcomed us with a grand tour and history of Cory Cottage at the Pansy Patch. The two-story Greek Revival style house built in 1830 is a neighbor to the Algonquin Resort and the Pansy Patch, a French Normandy style house which is the most photographed private home in New Brunswick.
Situated beside such a unique property, Cory Cottage’s charming exterior might seem underwhelming. When we stepped through the center entrance, we recognized its magnificence.
Impeccable Interior Design and Hospitality
The professionally remodeled and decorated interior is magazine-worthy—à propos for a property formerly owned by Canada’s first woman interior decorator, Kate Reed. A bold color palette, comfortable, coordinated furniture, and period antiques are just a few of the design elements that made this space in Cory Cottage spectacular. It is a casual luxury at its best.
The cottage is deceivingly spacious, with a living area, breakfast nook, dining room, and enviable front-to-back kitchen on the first floor; in addition, two first-floor bedrooms have modern en-suite bathrooms. The well-appointed second-floor guest rooms also feature modern en-suite bathrooms along with soaker tubs and custom showers.
An Unexpected Gem of our Road Trip to Nova Scotia
We couldn’t have asked for a better stay the last night of our road trip to Nova Scotia than Cory Cottage. We relaxed and unwound, still oohing-and-aahing over unexpected creature comforts, like complimentary Perrier and chocolates, and the private balcony with a view to the (foggy) coast. Our room had the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in–no kidding–I thoroughly enjoyed a long soak with most luxurious bath products, signature bathrobe, and slippers before retiring.
The next morning the three of us and another guest awoke to a breakfast spread loaded with local and organic goodness. We found freshly baked banana bread, prosciutto, Icelandic yogurt, blueberries, fruits, delectable runny cheese, and fresh-squeezed juices.Cory Cottage at the Pansy Patch was the unexpected gem of our whole trip Click To Tweet
I’d already filled my blue Blue Willow china plate and when Joseph asked us how we preferred our eggs. (To liken it to my first Italian multi-course experience, I’d gorged myself on il primo pasta not realizing the main course would be coming!) Overstuffed, I declined, but I’m certain the eggs met Cory Cottage‘s high standard of excellence.
Cory Cottage at the Pansy Patch was the unexpected gem of our whole trip, and we regretted leaving so soon. After check out, we briefly explored the coastal roads of St. Andrews, but the fog remained. I suppose it made moving on easier. So, we said goodbye to the charming seaside town that withheld its full allure.
Thanks to the outstanding hospitality of Joseph and Cory Cottage, we left satisfied and rejuvenated nonetheless for our 6.5-hour ride home.
(In retrospect, I might have added another stop in Maine to break up the drive.)
A Place to Call Home
These five lovely hotels and cottages formed the cornerstones of our ten-day road trip between Boston and Nova Scotia—an amazing tour of the Maritimes filled with incredible scenery and seashores, made even more memorable by the places and people we met along the way. It was an opportunity to spend quality time with my mom and Jim in a place that generations before me called home.
On the return drive to our homes south of Boston, I was already envisioning a return road trip to Nova Scotia, perhaps next time with my college-age children so they could experience the depth of their own family roots. Having seen it for myself, it’s no wonder my ancestors settled in this beautiful maritime land. In my mind, Nova Scotia will always be “home.”In my mind, Nova Scotia will always be 'home.' Click To Tweet
Note: This blog post provides a high-level overview of our road trip to Nova Scotia. If you’d like to hear more in-depth coverage, I will be including additional links to stories about our daily excursions as well as detailed hotel reviews. So, be sure to come on back!