As their name implies, Canada’s Maritime Provinces – Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island — are dominated by the sea, with a long, jagged shore flanked by scenic bays, sandy beaches, towering cliffs, some of the prettiest cities in Canada and the freshest, tastiest lobster in the world — Nova Scotia’s motto “Canada’s ocean playground” is no real surprise.

Indeed, the sea was crucial to the development of the Maritimes, not just in bringing waves of settlers but also accounting for its best businesses: shipbuilding and fishing. Forestry became significant in the nineteenth century, and even now, the majority of the region remains intractable wilderness — 84 percent of New Brunswick, as an instance, is covered by trees. The Maritimes were also in the core of the epic struggle between England and France for North America in the nineteenth century, and they boast a rich heritage of historic sights, many connected with the French-speaking Acadians, who were usually caught in the middle.

Most travelers concentrate on Nova Scotia, where the provincial capital of Halifax creates an appealing base from which to explore the scenic shore, then go north to Cape Breton Island. Driving from the USA or the rest of Canada, you will pass through the frequently overlooked state ofNew Brunswick, with tons of world-class diversions of its own: the gritty, revitalized port of Saint John (never “St John”, and not to be confused with St John’s, Newfoundland), the Acadian Coast and the Bay of Fundy, whose taper creates tidal surges up to 12m. Prince Edward Island (PEI) was connected to the mainland from the whopping Confederation Bridge in 1997 and owns one of the area’s most enticing culinary scenes. Leafy, laidback Charlottetown is well worth at least a day or two, especially as it is only a short jump from the glorious sandy beaches of the Prince Edward Island National Park.