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Get Wild in Atlantic Canada

Prince Edward Island

The smallest province in Canada, Prince Edward Island does big business in three areas: agriculture, fishing and tourism. The island has a population of 143,000 residents but welcomes 1.2 million visitors each year, many of whom come to explore the beautiful outdoor environment.

For groups, some of the best opportunities for adventure come through the fishing industry, which is famous for its lobsters and the Prince Edward Island blue mussels that are served in fine restaurants across North America.

“In Georgetown, there’s a retired lobster fisherman that runs Tranquility Cove, a converted lobster boat,” said Grant MacRae, trade and sales officer for Tourism Prince Edward Island. “He takes groups on the boat toward Boughton Island and gets you suited up in wet gear. Just off the shore, you get out, go underwater and start digging for giant bar clams. When you get back on the boat, he’ll take you to the island, and you do a clam bake.

“He can also take you out to haul a lobster trap. I’ve been out with him where we fished for rock crab and lobster and then ate them on the boat. They taste so much better that way.”

Another fishing-related expedition is called Feeding the Giants. Tuna-fishing boats take groups out to waters frequented by giant bluefin tuna. But instead of helping crews catch the huge fish, visitors help them chum the waters to attract schools of the magnificent creatures.

“It’s an incredible site — the tuna could be anywhere from 500 to 900 pounds,” MacRae said. “When you get five or six of those swimming around a boat, it’s really cool.”

Other fishing experiences allow groups to try their hands at harvesting oysters, mussels and other shellfish, and can be combined with culinary programs that teach visitors how the fresh seafood is prepared by local experts.

Most groups that visit the island make time for a stop at Prince Edward Island National Park. Overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the park is known for its beautiful beaches and hiking trails. It also preserves the home of Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of “Anne of Green Gables,” and visitors can tour her home and see how the island provided inspiration for her famous stories.


Newfoundland and Labrador

Canada’s northernmost Atlantic province, Newfoundland and Labrador, is also its largest.

“We have a population of a half-million, but geographically, we’re the size of California or Japan,” said Erin Skinner, international marketing development specialist for Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism. “You have opportunities for nature on a grand scale.”

Many of those opportunities are related to the province’s 18,000 miles of coastline. The Atlantic waters off St. John’s are home to a large and diverse marine life ecosystem.

“One of the biggest attractions for us is whale-watching,” Skinner said. “We have North America’s largest migration of humpback whales. There are also 28 other species of marine mammals, including minke whales and gray spotted dolphins.”

Visitors can encounter wildlife in various other areas of the province as well. Witless Bay Ecological Reserve has North America’s largest population of Atlantic puffins. The province also has the most concentrated moose population on the planet, large caribou herds and an abundance of black bears. Bird lovers flock to Newfoundland and Labrador, which are home to the continent’s largest seabird colonies, with more than 35 million birds gathering annually at six ecological preserves.

At Red Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, visitors can catch a glimpse of hundreds of icebergs.

“The icebergs drift down our Iceberg Alley,” Skinner said. “You can see them from the land, and there are boat tours that get you a little closer.”

There’s also plenty of opportunity for sea kayaking along the province’s Atlantic coast.

“You can kayak out of a place called Cape Royal,” Skinner said. “You can paddle in and out of sea caves, talk about lobster fishing and see the lobsters along the coast.”

Altogether, Newfoundland and Labrador has more than 115,000 square miles of wilderness and several national parks, including Gros Morne National Park, with mountains said to be much older than the Rockies.

Groups shouldn’t leave the province without visiting Cape Spear National Historic Site, the most easterly point in North America. Visitors arriving there before dawn can see the sun rise before anyone else on the continent.