The entire coastline of the Maritime Provinces is very accessible through roads and a vast network of ferries. Through Confederation Bridge, the longest bridge in the world that stretches over saltwater, Prince Edward Island is now linked with New Brunswick.
Inland waters of New Brunswick
Waters feeding the head of the Saint John River form a lake system linked by portages that are very accessible and suitable for family outings. The Saint John River, feeding into the ocean, is long and large: beginning in northwestern New Brunswick, where it functions as the border to the United-States, it ends in the Bay of Fundy. For those not thrown off by the idea of portaging at each weir, the river lends itself to a one-week trip. The sections between the weirs allow for one-day excursions. New Brunswick also has a number of lake systems as well as rivers with rising tides. The beginning of the St Croix River also leads to a lake system. The Miramichi River is known for poling and for salmon fishing. The area by the mouth of the river, close to the town of Miramichi, is very suitable for sea kayaking.
The Baie des Chaleurs
The northern coastline of New Brunswick is very inhabited and offers many services. A series of splendid beaches await in the bay of the Nepisiguit River. The region of Miscou Island is somewhat more exposed to winds and the water there is colder.
Northumberland Strait and the northern coast of PrinceEdward Island
This region includes coastlines of each of the three Maritime Provinces and is known for its extremely mild maritime climate. With water temperatures rising above 20°C at some sheltered points, the area is professed to have the warmest waters on the east coast north of the Carolinas. The coastline offers endless beaches and sand dunes and is not very foggy. While clearly at the ocean, the region receives heat from the mainland through prevailing southwest winds. Tides stay below one metre. In the Northumberland Strait, a weak current flows from west to east. The region is very inhabited.
Though more exposed to the gulf wind, the northern coast of Prince Edward Island does not present more difficulty for kayakers.
Bras d’Or Lake
Situated on mainland Cape Breton, this immense saltwater lake is protected from the fog and storms of the Atlantic Ocean. Nevertheless, due to its great size, it can be subjected to very strong winds. We may think of Bras d’Or Lake as an inland ocean with numerous channels that link it to the sea. On the coastlines of its warm waters we find many towns, marinas, and a rural landscape. The region is very inhabited.
Grand Lake and Spednic Lake in New Brunswick are also of interest to kayakers, though these should be wary of the winds that may appear abruptly on the lakes’ relatively shallow waters.
Nova Scotia's Kejimkujik National Park region also offers great opportunity for lake kayaking and also has a very interesting coastline.
Eastern and southern coastline
The eastern and southern coastline of Nova Scotia is very exposed to Atlantic winds. However, along the entire stretch of this coastline kayakers can find numerous ports, creeks, islets and islands that offer refuge in case of difficulty. The water is warm enough for bathing in the summer, though still too cold for longer swims. This is the region of the Maritimes with the most frequent fog, especially from May through July. Prevailing winds are from east to southwest wind and storms are short. Tides vary from 1.5 to 2.5 m and the current is negligible.
The southern part of the coastline up until Shelburne is influenced by the Bay of Fundy, meaning that tides can reach 4 m, followed by considerable currents. This region is also very foggy and water temperature varies from 13 to 18°C.
The northern part of Cape Breton is continually exposed to heavy winds (NW and SE). Not very many islands line the shore. Shoals, sandbars as well as strong currents are common and make for difficult access to the ports. There are not many good places to land. Water temperature often rises above 16°C in summer and the region is not very foggy. Tides vary from 1 m on the gulf side to 2 m on the Atlantic side.
The coastline is savage and not very inhabited. Yet the landscape is overwhelming, offering views to astonishing heights. People are welcoming and outside help is accessible.
The Bay of Fundy
The first advice to a kayaker venturing into this region is to purchase a tide table for the Bay of Fundy. Varying from 6 m (Grand Manan Island) to 18 m (Minas Basin), these tides hold the world record for amplitude and result in strong currents that can reach up to 8 knots. Moreover, the ocean is often deceptive. Feeling assured upon leaving shore at high tide when everything is calm, you may come to feel as if in a giant whirlpool only three hours later. Long stretches of mud whirled up after at low tide are also very unappealing. Or, glitchy pebbles hidden under the grass may complicate landing or setting camp.
Wind may rise abruptly within minutes, and when counter-current,may create standing waves that make it difficult to manoeuvre. Moreover, this inhospitable coast has the highest cliffs of the Maritime coastline. In general, there is no place to find shelter. However, the Bay of Passamaquoddy and its islands are protected from the Atlantic winds and present one of the most beautiful wildlife areas of the Maritimes.
Water in this region is also very cold, rising rarely above 13°C. Even in summer, campers have to wear hats and mittens. Fog is often so dense that kayakers cannot see the tip of their own kayak. (People of the region say that the fog is so dense that you can lean against it).
Sea traffic is very dense at the entrance and exits of ports and commercial fishing vessels move very quickly.
The water movement, however, whirls up many nutrients, making for a rich environment for marine and bird wildlife.
We conclude with advice to all kayakers who plan to visit these waters for a first time: make use of services offered by experienced guides.
Nova Scotia Tourism
Nova Scotia Adventure Tourism Association
New Brunswick Tourism
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island Information Centre
Scott Cunningham, Sea Kayaking in Nova Scotia, Nimbus Publishing, 1996
Alison Hughes, Paddling in Paradise, Goose Lane Editions, 2002
Channels 21B, 25B and 83B.
Transport Canada, Marine Safety
Office of Boating Safety : 1-800-387-4999
Canadian Coast Guard
Marine Pollution Reporting: 1-800-387-4999