Hi everyone! My name is Malcolm, I'm a 28 year old guy preparing for my 3rd (and by far most ambitious) multi-day bike tour.
This summer I will be riding from the apartment that I'm moving out of (on June 30th) in Philadelphia and heading 1500 miles to the Northeast to St. John's, Newfoundland. I am a meticulous planner and have my route almost entirely mapped out, including the towns, cities, and campgrounds (some official, some not-so-official) where I intend to spend each night.
I feel pretty confident about the US portion of the trip--I know New Jersey and New York like the back of my hand and have spent a lot of time in New England (though not as a cyclist). However, I have some questions about riding in Atlantic/Maritime Canada that I am hoping some of you can help answer for me. Here they are:
1) How much do I need to plan ahead for ferry crossings? My route includes four ferry crossings: from Campobello Island-Deer Island, NB; Deer Island-L'Etete, NB; Wood Islands PEI-Caribou NS; and North Sydney NS-either Argentia (short route) or Port-Aux-Basques (long route) NL. I have been able to browse the websites for these ferries to learn about rates and bike policies, but some of the schedules posted are a year or more old. Also, I don't have a sense of whether I can just walk up and buy a ticket for these ferries or if it would be wiser I should reserve my spot ahead of time. Should I call ahead to reserve my ferry trips? How reliable are schedules from 2016-2017? Are there any major, recent service changes I should know about?
2) How late in the day does the Confederation Bridge bicycle shuttle run and where do I catch it? My plan is to arrive at Cape Jouriman in the evening (having departed in the morning from Moncton NB) and get the shuttle across the bridge to Prince Edward Island... but I can't figure out where to catch it, or how late into the evening it runs. Does anyone know?
3) Unmarked roads in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia--are they reliable and/or legal to ride on? It seems that in order to get from point A to point B on certain days, I'll have to take roads like this or like this. These little dirt roads don't have names, apparently, and it is unclear to me whether they are actually public roads. Is it worth the trouble to try and ride on them?
4) Is it legal to to ride on the Trans Canada Highway in Nova Scotia? It seems that I have no other choice but to take the TCH (Rte. 104) for a 5-6 mile stretch between Antigonish and Port Hawkesbury. I know that some of the TCH is legal to bike on, but I don't know if this section is legal or not. It looks from the satellite images that there's been a lot of new construction here.
5) How much daylight will I have in July in the Atlantic/Newfoundland time zones? My guess is a lot, since it's the summer and it's so far north, but with all of the time-zone switching I'm not quite sure what to expect. I'm intending not to ride after dark unless absolutely necessary.
6) Would I need a visa to get into St. Pierre and Miquelon (technically part of France) as a US Citizen? I might take a little side trip to St. Pierre if I have time, just to check it out. Can I get in with just my passport?
Thanks for reading and for any guidance or advice you can give! I'm also looking for potential companions and places to sleep, so if you want to come along or can host me, let me know!
I can answer some of your questions.
I've never had to book a ferry crossing except for the one from Sydney NS to Argentia NL, and that was just because I wanted a cabin.
I believe the Confederation Bridge shuttle is 24/7. There's a phone at the info centre on the NB side, and the shuttle is supposed to come within about a half hour.
The quality of dirt roads varies a lot--some are hard packed easy riding, some full of mud or loose gravel. Best to ask locals or see for yourself. There are also a lot of trails in NB, NS, and NL (shown on the bicycling setting on Google Maps), but most of them are used by ATVs and very rough. I rode quite a few of them with 35mm tires, and often had to walk the bike in heavy gravel or sand. Allow extra time, or switch over to nearest road. Motorists are generally pretty courteous though. Be very visible. Traffic tends to be light if there's a parallel freeway.
I took Highway 4 most of the way from Antigonish to Port Hawkesbury, but there was no problem on the shoulder of the TransCanada where there was no other choice.
Days are very long in July.
Don't know about visa for St. Pierre et Miquelon. Probably not, but best to check.