Atlantic Canada is made up of four eastern provinces: the three maritime provinces—New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island—and the easternmost province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Among the reasons you should visit are its deliciously fresh seafood, incredible whale watching opportunities and scenic glacial landscapes. But there are few images more iconic of Atlantic Canada than the lighthouse.
With 150 in the province of Nova Scotia alone, it’s a challenge to journey through this part of the country without seeing at least one. Having historically served as beacons to sailors navigating the coast, each one has its own fascinating story to tell.
To help you tick off the best, we’ve created a road trip to inspire you on your next (or first!) visit to Atlantic Canada. Read on for details of each spot.
Note: we have detailed the driving instructions between each point below. Some routes include ferry travel.
East Quoddy Lighthouse, Campobello Island
The first stop on our Canada lighthouse tour is one of the most photographed in the world. Also known as the Head Harbour Lightstation, the East Quoddy Lighthouse was built in 1829, making it one of New Brunswick’s oldest. You’ll need to wait for low tide before visiting since it sits on Head Harbour Island which is only accessible by foot. Awaiting you is the original tower, with a working light which shines across the Bay of Fundy. Interpreters on the site will happily provide you with more details about the history of the lighthouse and the island on request.
1) Take NB-172 N and NB-176 S to Blacks Harbour, NB – Grand Manan Island, NB
2) Take the Blacks Harbour, NB – Grand Manan Island, NB ferry to Paroisse de Grand Manan
3) Follow NB-776 S/Rte 776 to Whistle Rd
4) Turn right onto Whistle Rd
Long Eddy Point Lighthouse
Standing at 9.3 metres tall, the Long Eddy Point Lighthouse—also known as ‘The Whistle’—was built in 1966 and is located on the northern tip of Grand Manan Island. Originally built as a combined lighthouse and fog alarm building, it previously navigated visitors through thick fog and violent storms which caused frequent shipwrecks around the Bay of Fundy. It’s now a popular whale and birdwatching site and can be easily identified by its distinctive traditional red and white exterior.
1) Take Whistle Rd to Blacks Harbour, NB – Grand Manan Island, NB
2) Take the Blacks Harbour, NB – Grand Manan Island, NB ferry to Blacks Harbour
3) Get on New Brunswick Route 1 E/NB-1 E in Pennfield
4) Continue on New Brunswick Route 1 E/NB-1 E to Shediac
5) Continue on NB-15 E. Take Trans-Canada Hwy, Veteran’s Memorial Hwy/All Weather Hwy/PE-2 W and PE-14 N to Cedar Dunes Park Rd in Lot 8
Prince Edward Island
West Point Lighthouse
West Point Lighthouse is Canada’s first active lighthouse to operate as an inn. If you’re looking for somewhere unique to stay along the route of your East Canada tour, this is a great spot. Its 13 contemporary guest rooms offer incredible views of the Northumberland Strait, with 11 rooms also featuring walkout decks. Be sure to explore the West Point area during your visit, with a varied ecosystem complete with sandy beach, dunes and wooded areas, along with Cedar Dunes Provincial Park and the quaint West Point craft shop being some of the notable highlights.
1) Follow Cedar Dunes Park Rd to PE-14 S
2) Follow PE-14 S and Veteran’s Memorial Hwy/All Weather Hwy/PE-2 E to Wilmot Valley Rd/PE-120 S in Lot 19
3) Take Blue Shank Rd/PE-107 E to Veteran’s Memorial Hwy/All Weather Hwy/PE-2 E
4) Follow Veteran’s Memorial Hwy/PE-2 E and Trans-Canada Hwy/PE-1 E to Point Prim Rd/PE-209 W in Belfast
5) Turn right onto Point Prim Rd/PE-209 W (signs for Mount Buchanan)
Point Prim Lighthouse
Point Prim is PEI’s oldest lighthouse, built in 1845. Distinguishable by its unique structure, it is one of only two in Canada to combine a round form with brick construction. For a panoramic view of Hillsborough Bay and the Northumberland Straight, climb 60 ft to the top. You can also take a guided tour, view historic displays, pick up souvenirs at the gift shop and enjoy lunch in the picnic area.
1) Take PE-1 E to Trans-Canada Hwy in Belle River
2) Take the Trans-Canada Hwy ferry to Pictou
3) Continue straight onto Trans-Canada Hwy/NS-106 S
4) Follow Trans-Canada Hwy/NS-104 W and NS-102 S to Hammonds Plains Rd/NS-213 W in Bedford. Take the exit from NS-102 S
5) Follow Hammonds Plains Rd/NS-213 W and Lighthouse Rte/Peggy’s Cove Rd/NS-333 S to Peggy’s Point Rd in Peggy’s Cove
Of all the lighthouses featured on our road trip, this is arguably the most famous. Located in the picturesque village of Peggy’s Cove, around an hour’s drive from Downtown Halifax, it marks the eastern entrance of St. Margaret’s Bay and is famously photographed with sea waves crashing against it. After you’ve had a look at this striking sight, explore the local shops and boutiques that populate Peggy’s Cove and pick yourself up something special.
1) Get on NS-102 in Bedford from Lighthouse Rte/Peggys Cove Rd/NS-333 W and Hammonds Plains Rd/NS-213 E
2) Continue to Port Hastings
3) Get on Peacekeepers Way/NS-125 E in Leitches Creek from NS-223 E
4) Follow Peacekeepers Way to Nova Scotia Trunk 22 S in Mira Road. Take the exit from Peacekeepers Way
5) Follow Nova Scotia Trunk 22 S to Havenside Rd in Louisbourg
The first lighthouse to be built in Canada (and the second in the whole of North America), the original Louisbourg Lighthouse, built in 1923, was made of stone but was damaged during the 1758 British siege of Louisbourg. The lighthouse which currently stands was rebuilt in 1823 and provides visitors with sweeping views of the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site. Interpretive signs tell you more about its history as you walk around.
1) Follow Havenside Rd to Nova Scotia Trunk 22 N
2) Follow Nova Scotia Trunk 22 N and NS-125 W to N Sydney, Nova Scotia – Argentia, Newfoundland in North Sydney
3) Take the N Sydney, Nova Scotia – Argentia, Newfoundland ferry to Freshwater
4) Take NL-100 N and Trans-Canada Hwy/NL-1 E to Hamilton Ave in St. John’s
5) Follow Black Head Rd to your destination
Newfoundland and Labrador
Cape Spear Lighthouse
Situated close to St. John’s, the Cape Spear Lighthouse is perched on a rugged cliff and is the oldest surviving lighthouse in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s a designated National Historic Site of Canada and offers a glimpse into the lives of the 19th-century lighthouse keepers and their families. Many come here to witness one of the most incredible sunrises in the whole of Canada. We recommend arriving just before the sun comes up for the best view possible!
1) Get on NL-2 N from Blackhead Rd
2) Follow Trans-Canada Hwy/NL-1 W to Cooper Blvd/NL-330 in Gander
3) Continue on NL-330. Drive to NL-340 N in Crow Head
Long Point Lighthouse
A great place to catch a glimpse of wildlife including whales, seals and sea birds (as well as some impressive icebergs), Long Point Lighthouse is one of the most photographed landmarks on the northern coast. It’s located at Crow Head in the town of Twillingate and sits more than 300 feet above sea level. Here, you can experience expansive views over the Atlantic Ocean and choose to join a tour of the Lighthouse if you wish.
Interested in a Canada tour? Let an expert guide show you the highlights.