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Best Times to Visit the East Coast of Canada

While six provinces make up Eastern Canada, only four of these provinces lie along Canada’s eastern coast wild Atlantic Ocean. These Atlantic provinces include New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador, and offer stunning coastal scenery and pristine beaches. The coast offers a wealth of adventures and sightseeing. Outdoor activities abound, there’s culture galore and the wildlife-watching opportunities are out of this world. Food-lovers can sink their teeth into an abundance of delectable fresh seafood and wine aficionados can sip on the unique Tidal Bay wine, produced only from grapes that grow in Nova Scotia. Locals are known for their friendly disposition and each area boasts its own unique history, culture and traditions.

Sunset over Peggy's Cove lighthouse  with a reflection is seen in a pool of water gathered on the rocks.

While all of the Atlantic provinces offer a temperate climate with refreshing ocean winds, the summer months are pleasantly warm, making this an ideal time to experience the myriad delights of Canada’s east coast. Most visitors come between April and October, keen to discover some of Canada’s most exciting areas. The best times to visit the East Coast of Canada does depend on what is important to you. 

[ Explore: Maritimes Nova Scotia Train ]

The Best Time of Year to Visit Eastern Canada to Avoid the Crowds

View of the colourful houses of Fisherman's Cove near Halifax

When considering the best time to visit east coast Canada, you may want to factor in avoiding the summer crowds. The Canadian Maritimes experiences its high season in July and August. Schools are closed over the height of summer and many families take day trips and vacations around the beautiful coast. That said, the crowds are rarely stifling; Eastern Canada is still relatively peaceful, even during the summer. The increase in visitors does mean an increase in costs. You should also book accommodations, transportation and activities in advance to avoid disappointment. Our Canadian Insiders can make all of your arrangements for you.

June and September are especially great months for avoiding crowds. The weather is pleasant and there’s an abundance of things to see and do, but without the summer vacationers. Although cooler temperature wise, April and May (outside of the Easter school break) are also ideal if you want to explore in quieter times. 

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Keep reading or discover more travel inspiration in our brochure. This guide showcases our world-famous train journeys, with ideas for personalizing your Canadian vacation.

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The Best Time for Seeing Fall Colors on Canada’s East Coast

Two hikers enjoy the autumn colours in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Picking the best time to visit the East Coast of Canada also depends on what you want to do — and the fall offers fewer fellow travellers and vivid colours. With the changing of the seasons comes the stunning fall foliage, with trees painting the landscapes in shades of red, brown and orange. Fall colors start to appear along Canada’s east coast around late September, with russet hues aplenty until around the end of November. The best time to enjoy fall colors at their peak is between the middle of October and early November.

The Best Time to Visit Eastern Canada for Whale Watching

Over the shoulder view of a person taking a photograph of a whales tale

The East Coast of Canada is one of the top spots for whale watching in the world. In general, there’s a decent chance of seeing whales off the shores of eastern Canada between April and October. However, different species are visible in different areas at varying times of the year.

In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick is a top spot for seeing humpback, fin and North Atlantic Right Whales. Newfoundland and Labrador offer visitors the chance to see humpback, fin and minke whales. Nova Scotia is ideal for sightings of humpback, fin, North Atlantic Right Whales and long-filled pilot whales. In all areas, it’s possible to catch a rare glimpse of orcas, blue whales, beluga whales and sperm whales.  

Whale-watching season is also a terrific time for seeing dolphins, porpoises, seals and a range of aquatic birds in the waters around Canada’s east coast.

Most whale-watching tours around Halifax operate between May and September, with July, August and September being the prime months for whale spotting. The weather is generally clear and there are numerous whales in the waters.

By June, humpback whales are abundant around Cape Breton and the Bay of Fundy, with other species appearing earlier in the spring and remaining until the fall. August is generally considered the ultimate time for whale-watching adventures.

Talk to your vacation advisor about adding a whale-watching excursion to your Canadian train vacation

#1 Travel Tip: Take a tour to the Bird Islands

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From May to August, bird enthusiasts can search for Atlantic puffins on a boat tour to the Bird Islands in Cape Breton. These islands are an official bird sanctuary and the puffins' nesting grounds.

Katherine Foxcroft
Product Manager, Tours and Vacations

The Best Time for Special Events When Visiting the East Coast of Canada

A large crowd at Busker's Festival watches a flame throwing show

There are plenty of celebrations and festivals throughout the year that can help you determine the best time to travel to eastern Canada, with summer an especially lively time for revelry and fun.

In Nova Scotia, where several of our train vacations start or end, notable events to add to your calendar include the Margaree Highland Games, Pictou Lobster Carnival, the cultural Nova Multifest in Dartmouth, Fox Mountain Country Music Festival, Festival Acadien De Clare and the music-filled Nova Scotia Summer Fest.

Nova Scotia’s capital of Halifax has myriad special events during the summer, including the Halifax Busker Festival, Halifax Pride Week, the splendid Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo, Halifax Urban Folk Festival and Halifax Seaport Cider & Beerfest. The city also hosts one of the biggest summer festivals along Canada’s Atlantic coast: TD Halifax Jazz Festival. Festivals related to food, film and music add to the vast diversity. Summer is the best time to visit the Canadian Maritimes if you plan on attending festivals such as these.

The Best Time for a Canadian Train Vacation on the East Coast of Canada

The Via Rail Ocean Train rounds a bend in the track, in a rural area.

While there’s no bad time to enjoy a memorable train vacation in Canada, the summer is an especially exciting time. As well as warmer sunnier days, summertime features a packed calendar of special events, excellent wildlife spotting opportunities and many ways to enjoy the spectacular nature and scenery of the great outdoors.

Over the summer, board an overnight rail tour of eastern Canada and discover the magic of Montreal, Quebec City and Halifax, complete with local guides in each destination. With even more time, how about traveling coast to coast and enjoying a Vancouver to Halifax adventure?

#2 Travel Tip: Prince Edward Island

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Looking to visit Prince Edward Island? July and August are the busiest months and have the best weather, but foodies should go in September for the award-winning PEI Fall Flavours Festival.

Blog Author - Hannah Poaros-Mcdermott
Hannah Poaros-McDermott
Travel Writer and Senior Content Coordinator

When to Visit the East Coast for the Best Weather

Peggy's Cove in Nova Scotia

Warm summers, cold winters and relatively pleasant shoulder seasons make spring to fall the most appealing time, weather wise, to visit the East Coast of Canada. 

Novia Scotia and nearby areas, collectively known as the Atlantic Maritime ecozone, typically have the warmest temperatures in Atlantic Canada. Rain is common throughout the year and winters are often snowy and icy. 

Using Halifax as an example, by April, you can expect a high of 48 degrees Fahrenheit and a low of 32 degrees, with an average daytime temperature of 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Rain is frequent, with around 15 days of the month seeing precipitation, although there are clear sunny days too. 

In May, the average daytime temperature is around 66 degrees Fahrenheit. Days are brighter and sunnier, and there’s a high chance of clear blue skies. While rain showers are still common, the spring flowers start to bloom and many national parks become more accessible. 

June is the first month of summer, and temperatures can reach up to 75 degrees. There are 8 hours of sunshine, on average, each day, and June sees some of the longest daylight hours in Halifax. 

July’s temperatures can reach 78 degrees Fahrenheit. With almost 9 hours of sunlight and the least rainfall, July can be a great month for enjoying the great outdoors. 

August has the most sunshine, with an average of 9.4 hours each day. August is the hottest month in Halifax; temperatures are typically between 61 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. August also has the warmest seawater temperatures. August is the best time to visit the east coast of Canada if you are looking to spend a lot of time outdoors. 

As the first month of fall, September sees a slight drop in the temperature, with a daily average of 68 degrees Fahrenheit. There’s a combination of sunny and rainy days. Not only will you get to experience the beautiful fall foliage, but the month of September is also considered the peak of the salmon run. This peak time attracts large numbers of bears, which increases your chances of spotting one in the wild. 

In short: 

  • July and August are the warmest months 
  • July has the least rainfall 
  • June and July have the longest hours of daylight

About the author: Hannah Poaros-McDermott is the Senior Content Coordinator at Fresh Tracks Canada. She has previously written for and shared her local knowledge in Where Vancouver, Where Whistler, and Essential Vancouver magazines. Originally from the UK, Hannah travelled... Read more

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