From New England to Canada
Make your New England adventure a Two-Nation Vacation by venturing from Maine, New Hampshire or Vermont into neighboring Canada. With a passport or passport card, it's easy...and fun—but you must have your passport or passport card!
Imagine a foreign country where English is the common language, you can speak French if you want to, lots of daily life is quite easy and familiar, but also somewhat different—even a bit exotic. That's Canada, and it is literally a stone's throw (or enjoyable ferry voyage) from several Maine towns, and also accessible from New Hampshire and Vermont.
Bring your passport and you can enjoy a Two-Nation Vacation!
To visit Canada and to return to the USA, you must prove your identity and citizenship to Immigration officials of both countries. This is best done with a passport or passport card. In some cases—but not many—another form of identification may be acceptable.
US passports are kind of expensive ($145 for your first one), especially if you have to get one for each member of your family. Passport cards are cheaper ($65), but the cost for a family still adds up. More...
Under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), a program that allows US citizens to use some alternative identification documents to enter Canada and to re-enter the USA by land, some US states issue Enhanced Drivers Licenses (EDL, also called REAL ID) to their residents which employ up-to-date security features so they can act as land or sea border-crossing documents. (But Enhanced Drivers Licenses are not valid for international AIR travel!)
Check with your state Department of Motor Vehicles to see if your driver's license qualifies as a border-crossing document under WHTI. If you're not a driver, ask for an enhanced non-driver photo ID card (ENDID).
If you're bringing a vehicle into Canada and back to the USA, be sure you have up-to-date ownership, registration and insurance documents for the vehicle. Your home auto insurance may provide coverage in Canada,, but check with your insurance company to be sure.
If you are not the owner of the vehicle named in these documents, you may need additional documents to prove that you have the owner's permission to take the vehicle into Canada and back to the USA.
What if I Forget or Lose My ID?
Uh-oh... To re-enter the USA, you are required to prove your identity and citizenship. How will you do that? The US Customs and Immigration officers at the border may be willing and able to help, but it will take time, days perhaps, or even more—not to mention hassle....
Crossing the Border
Every person and vehicle entering Canada or the USA must be inspected and approved. In my experience, the entry into Canada is usually quicker than the entry into the USA.
Expect to wait in line between 10 minutes and 45 minutes, or even more to go through the US border post.
The first question the Immigration Officer asks is "Where do you live?" Both countries' officers will want to know how long you plan to stay, or did stay; whether you are carrying alcoholic beverages, drugs legal or illegal, firearms and/or weapon-like substances such as pepper spray (Mace). They will also ask if you are importing anything you plan to leave in Canada, or if you are bringing anything acquired in Canada into the USA.
Untruthful answers can result in rigorous inspection, confiscation of undeclared items, fines, denial of entry, or criminal prosecution.
How to Behave at the Border
Customs and Immigration officers perform important international security duties. Border inspections are serious business, so you should behave accordingly. Answer questions simply, clearly, briefly, and truthfully. Avoid idle chat and humor, and all should go well and quickly, and you'll be on your way.
You may be able to pay with US dollars in some pestablishments near the border, but the rate of exchange may not be so good. It's better to use a credit card or payment app, to change your currency into Canadian dollars, or to withdraw some money from your home bank account in Canadian dollars from an ATM/cash machine in Canada.
Where to go in Canada for your Two-Nation Vacation? Here are a few of the most easily-accessible Canadian delights:
Just across the Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial Bridge from Lubec, Maine, this verdant island is where Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt spent many enjoyable summers. Their large "summer cottage," and the cottages of some neighbors, are now protected and preserved by the Roosevelt Campobello International Park, a joint US-Canadian reserve.
The island is also home to New Brunswick's Herring Cove Provincial Park, two small settlements, several places to stay and dine, and lots of room for hiking, biking, birding and nature lore. More...
A short drive or ferry ride can take you and your vehicle to several other delightful destinations in this Canadian province.
Besides driving from Lubec ME to Roosevelt Campobello International Park, you can drive via Calais ME into New Brunswick, Canada, and enjoy the city of Saint John and the charming, delightfully uncrowded summer seaside resort town of St Andrews-by-the-Sea.
St Andrews by-the-Sea NB
A half-hour drive (20 miles/32 km) southeast of Calais, Maine is the New Brunswick, Canada resort town of St Andrews by-the-Sea (map), as delightful today as it was in its 19th-century heyday. Surrounded by the sea, with plenty of fine places to stay and dine, it can be restful or active—or both, as you wish.
Framed by the St Croix River and Passamaquoddy Bay, St Andrews occupies the southern tip of a peninsula, so it's surrounded by water, with spectacular views.
The population of 1,900 swells in summer with the arrival of Canadian and US visitors—but not too much. It retains the comfortable, uncrowded, un-hectic feel of a 19th-century resort, which it was.
Sailing and sea kayaking, whale watching cruises, fishing and walking, the splendid Kingsbrae Garden, Algonquin Golf Course, Huntsman Fundy Discovery Aquarium, Ross Memorial Museum, picnics in the parks and along the seashore, and the simple but absorbing pleasure of strolling and window-shopping along Water Street fill your St Andrews day.
Though a small town, St Andrews has a resort-worthy collection of hotels, inns and bed-and-breakfast houses. Grandest of them all is the palatial 5-star, 239-room Algonquin Resort, preserving its 19th-century splendor with 21st-century comforts and convenience. More...
Just down Prince of Wales Street from The Algonquin, the luxurious 5-star, 10-room Kingsbrae Arms Relais & Chateaux is right next to beautiful Kingsbrae Garden, and walking distance to most of the sights in St Andrews. More...
The 3-star, 8-room Europa Inn Hotel Restaurant & Spa is just off Water Street, with all its shops, pubs and activities, and an easy walk to the town dock for whale watching boats and sea cruises. More...
Likewise with restaurants, the year-round family restaurants and pubs of Water Street are supplemented by Savour in the Garden, a superb gourmet tasting-menu experience served in the evening at Kingsbrae Garden under the direction of Chef Alex Haun.
Chef Chris Aerni is in command of the kitchen at the Rossmount Inn, making it a must-try during your stay.
Most US visitors drive to St Andrews via Calais, Maine and St Stephen, New Brunswick, but in summer (mid-June through September), East Coast Ferries Ltd operates small car ferries between Eastport, Maine, and Deer Island, New Brunswick, and between Campobello Island and Deer Island.
After crossing Deer Island by car you can take the Coastal Transport Ltd ferry from Deer Island to the New Brunswick mainland at L'Etete (near St George and Blacks Harbour). From L'Etete it's a 45-minute, 52-km (32-mile) drive via St George to St Andrews.
Note that ferries operate on Atlantic Time, one hour ahead of Eastern Time; these ferryboats are not large; places on the ferries are first-come, first-served, and they may fill completely well before departure time. You should enquire in advance about ferry operations, weather, and possible waiting times.
Two ways to reach Nova Scotia from Maine. Both involve a ferry voyage.
The Cat, a fast ocean-going catamaran car-and-passenger ferry, provides international ferry service between Bar Harbor ME and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. A fast, comfortable Australian-built, ocean-going vessel, The Cat boasts cafés, a cafeteria, movie area, children's play area, and gift shop.
Daily summer ferry service is scheduled from June through October.
Operated by Bay Ferries Ltd and Northumberland Ferries Ltd, The Cat departs Yarmouth, Nova Scotia at 09:30 am Atlantic Daylight Time on the 5-1/2 to 6-hour outward voyage. The ferry returns to Nova Scotia in the afternoon, departing Bar Harbor Ferry terminal, 121 Eden Street (map), at 3:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time. More...
Arriving from Bar Harbor to Yarmouth, you'll probably want to spend the night. Check this Hotel Map with Prices to find where to stay in Yarmouth or beyond:
Province of Québec
Québec City, only a two-hour drive from the US-Canada border at Jackman, Maine (map), is the heart and soul of French Canada. The difference in scenery, culture, language and cuisine is amazing. The first settlement (1608) in La Nouvelle France is a charming city that is still the governmental and cultural capital of Canada's largest and second-most-populous province.
Vieux Québec (Old Québec) is a walled city perched beneath and atop the rocky promontory of Cape Diamond overlooking a narrows (kepek in Algonquin) in the St Lawrence River.
Modern Québec City sprawls far beyond the walls of Vieux Québec, and the adjoining cities of Ste-Foy and Lévis are fully modern as well, but it's Vieux Québec that you want to visit.
Québec City has a fine variety of hotels, from the castle-like Le Chateau Frontenac to small, cozy inns on the narrow streets of Vieux Québec. Here's a Hotel Map with Prices to help you locate the best place to stay:
Plan to spend a bit of time and you can make your New England tour a Two-Nation Vacation with a few days in Québec City, and then perhaps a quick train or bus ride to Montréal.
Montréal is one of my favorite cities in all the world, a wonderful multi-cultural metropolis of bustling streets, fascinating things to see and do, good hotels and excellent cuisine from a dozen parts of the world. It's one of the four great cities that frame New England: Montréal, Boston MA, New York City, and Albany NY.
The Maisonneuve Monument in the Place d'Armes, Old Montréal, Québec.
It's also easily accessible from New England, and vice-versa. Passport in hand, you can cross to or from Montréal easily in a car, on a bus, train or plane. Greyhound runs several buses daily from Boston and New York City to Montréal, and Amtrak's Adirondack train travels between New York City and the Québec metropolis daily.
As for Montreal itself, it's simply delightful: beautiful architecture, great museums and galleries, fine restaurants, a great selection of hotels from world-class cosmopolitan to homey B&Bs, and lots to see and do year-round.
Here's a Hotel Map with Prices to help you estimate the cost of a Montreal excursion, and to check room availability: