They’re less known than the classic Canadian cruise ports, like Charlottetown, Halifax and St. John’s, but as more cruise lines put an emphasis on Atlantic Canada, some until now hidden gems are starting to get the attention they’re due as they attract smaller cruise lines and expedition ships. Here’s a look at attractions you should consider:
St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick
A classic summer resort on scenic Passamaquoddy Bay, St. Andrews recently opened new facilities for cruise ships.
Founded in 1783 by British Loyalists who moved from Maine after the American Revolution, it’s one of New Brunswick’s oldest settlements. For 50 years, it prospered as a merchant settlement supplying lumber and fish to the West Indies in exchange for rum and molasses for the British market. After the British left in the 1840s, though, the town’s economy crumbled. Economic relief did not come until the turn of the century when the railways were built and titans of industry from New York, Boston and Toronto traveled to the coast to escape the summer heat.
Half of the town’s 500 buildings predate 1880 and feature a range of architectural styles from Norman farmhouse and Georgian to Gothic, Queen Anne and Greek Revival. There are plenty of active options including whale watching and sea kayaking with dolphins on a bay that has the world’s highest tides.
Shipping out: The Grand Caribe of Blount Small Ship Adventures will call regularly at St. Andrews from July 24 to September 5, 2015.
Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador
On Newfoundland’s west coast, Corner Brook is the gateway to the magnificent Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The port is at the end of a beautiful fjord in the sheltered Bay of Islands.
A statue in the city honors British explorer Captain James Cook who surveyed the area in 1763. The Captain Cook’s Trail stretches 30 miles along the south shore of the Bay of Islands. The Corner Brook Museum and Archives highlights the region’s rich history and the Railway Society Museum displays the Newfie Bullet, the fastest train of its time.
The area around Corner Brook offers kayaking, fishing, rafting and hiking on trails through mountains and past waterfalls. At nearby Marble Mountain, there is Canada’s highest zip line and a new high ropes course.
Holland America’s Veendam and the Astor of Cruise & Maritime Voyages made inaugural calls in 2014. Celebrity Cruises, Oceania Cruises and Silversea will also have ships visiting this year.
Pictou, Nova Scotia
In 1773, the ship Hector carrying 198 Scottish Highlanders landed in Pictou marking the first wave of immigration from Scotland. Today at the Hector Heritage Quay on the town’s historic waterfront, visitors can see a full-scale replica of the fully rigged, three-masted vessel and tour a blacksmith’s shop and a carpenter’s workshop. There are pristine sandy beaches near town and on Pictou Island a few miles offshore.
The Northumberland Fisheries Museum is dedicated to preserving the sea heritage and culture of the Northumberland Strait and pays tribute to the hardworking fisher folk. The main collection is housed in a 1904 Canadian National Railway Station and a new life-size lighthouse on the waterfront displays a collection of lighthouse memorabilia and photography.
Nearby, at the Lobster Hatchery, visitors can “adopt a lobster” to support its Lobster Stock Enhancement Research Project, that promotes the future health of lobster fishing by successfully raising and releasing lobsters back into the ocean.
Shipping out: Pictou will host the Pearl Seas Mist on for port calls in October.
Summerside, Prince Edward Island
Besides being renowned for its Malpeque oysters, Summerside is also home to some of PEI’s 333 species of birds. Malpeque Bay is an important wetland and has large nesting colonies of herons and cormorants.
The small, thriving city sits on a peninsula at the narrowest part of Prince Edward Island. Ships entering the harbor pass one of PEI’s 50 lighthouses, the unique octagonal Indian Head Lighthouse. The Baywalk runs three and a half miles along the oceanfront. At the marina, the colorful shops of Spinnakers’ Landing are designed to look like a fishing village.
The PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation is comprised of four museums dedicated to the Acadians, fisheries, shipbuilding and the railway, an art and culture center with historical displays and exhibitions, an 1877 home and a 1890s village with a blacksmith and a candle maker.
Shipping out: There are currently no scheduled port stops this year, but the port authority is promoting cruise visits and tours from Charlottetown, where Celebrity Cruises, Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and The Yachts of Seabourn make stops.