Yep, those roads are very interesting if you have the time.
Traveling towards Halifax on the 100-series highways is a zombie drive. Straight, fast and to the point. Not much to see except the occasional cow and trees. But you'll get there much faster.
The side roads are full of character and much more interesting (if you take the time to explore). Most people want to get from point A to point B quickly.
The slower route (215) will add anywhere from 1-2 hours, depending on how many stops you make along the way. It is a 2 lane country road, with little to no passing lanes, and a much lower speed limit. (...but much prettier)
The fast way is to go from the 101 to the 102 to the 104 and follow signs to teh Pictou ferry.
The 215 route around that coast will be a longer route but means you get to see the Bay of Fundy from several points, so depending on the tides , that can be a nice treat. Other than that , you can cross country on the 14 as a faster crossing to the 102
In terms of time, it does consume slightly less time to take the freeway, Rt. 101 and 102, to Truro. The view is mostly of freeway vistas, including innumerable green sins. The speed limit on the freeway is 70 mph in Nova Scotia. Most cars drive 75.
Route 215 contains a typical slice of rural Nova Scotia scenery, including small farms, small river valleys, woodlands and villages. There's also the Clarence Gosse bridge over the Shubenacadie River, the final bridge before the ocean. It's an interesting view of the deep, wide river channel. The speed limit on the open road is 50 mph, down to the 30s in villages.
Rt. 215 is not the most direct route, by the way. It arcs to the north near Minas Basin and Cobequid Bay. When I've driven this route, I was disappointed that there were so few views of the water. Private property lies between the highway and the tidal flats most of the way.
Rt. 236 is the most direct route in terms of mileage, although slightly longer in minutes than the freeway. I must say that I prefer to take Rt. 236 through Kennetcook rather than the 215 through Noel.
If Bay of Fundy scenery is what you're seeking, you'll find better views around Grand Pre and cape Blomidon to the west, Truro to the east, and the north shore of Minas Basin at places like Five Islands and Parrsboro.
Happy travels, and let me know if I can help further!
Thanks for all of the info! We may decide at the last minute which route to take. There are several ferry crossings, but we do need to be sure we arrive at the right time, so we aren't waiting for a few hours. I hope that we do not need to make a reservation for the ferry. I would rather not be on a time schedule. I was also hoping that we could wait to decide on accomodations until the last minute the night before we depart for Pictou. I don't think I will take that chance.
The name of the ferry company operating the Pictou crossing is Northumberland Ferries Limited. Perhaps you've checked their web site.
Ferries run roughly every two hours. According to the ferry company, reservations are "strongly recommended," but I've never made one, and I've always been able to get on promptly. Like you, I prefer the freedom of going whenever I wish, without a prepaid, non-refundable reservation.
I've never arrived on Prince Edward Island and found myself shut out. Here's what you do. The Welcome Center at the ferry dock in Wood Islands, PEI, keeps track of who has rooms when things get tight. If it's getting late in the afternoon, or if you've phoned a couple of places and found them to be booked up, the Welcome Center should have a short list of available places.
What with the economic recession and the new laws in the US requiring travelers to carry passports when coming to Canada, my guess is that this will be an off-year for tourism, bad news for the people who run accommodations here, but good news for you when arriving without reservations.
Actually, we will be taking the ferry from Pictou to PEI. That is why we may wait to see which route to take from the Grand Pre area to Pictou. Do you think that it is necessary to have a reservation for that? I have a room reserved in PEI. I was contemplating waiting to book a room in the Grand Pre area the night before we head to Pictou.
We may return to NS by ferry from Saint John to Digby. I was told that a reservation is needed for that. There are only 2 crossings per day. The first leaves Saint John at 12:30PM and the 2nd doesn't leave until 11PM. Digby does not seem to be that big of a place to be able to find a hotel room at 2 in the morning!
Coming from Louisiana , I'll assume shellfish is on your wish list.
Well, we just had a guest who had bought lobster at a restaurant in Maine. He paid $45 US plus tax for a dinner with a 2 pound lobster. Here on Cape Breton, you can get a lobster and crab dinner for like $22-25.
I just don't understand what is the communication problem here. So many in the USA seem to think the passport expense is a deterrent, yet it seems the cost of accommodations and food in Canada is generally far less than the Maine Coast.
Just want everyone to know that !!
As far as the PEI ferry is concerned, the worst that could happen is that you might have to wait another two hours for the next boat ... or drive two hours on the freeway and take the bridge to western Prince Edward Island instead.
Canadian travelers know that too, so traffic on the ferry is rarely so intense that cars are backed up such that anyone has to wait for a later crossing.
Out of curiosity, why would you take an 11 p.m. ferry to Digby, unless you've always had a yen to be on a ship over black water at midnight? It's a five hour drive from St. John, NB to Grand Pré on the freeway. And five hours by sea (three of them on the ferry) if you include the drive from Digby to Grand Pré. If the ferry schedule is inconvenient for you, just drive, and stay wherever you want.
Chain motels in Nova Scotia are usually staffed 24 hours. In smaller mom-and-pop places, the host may go to bed and turn out the "Vacancy" light. If I were arriving at 2 a.m., I'm make a reservation for a room, and tell the host what time you'll arrive. But then, I wouldn't take a ferry at such an odd hour when I could drive there on my own time.
The Digby-St. John ferry is in big financial trouble and there has been talk about closing it down. These inconvenient schedules may be a part of the reason.
We do not want to take the ferry at 11PM. We were planning on spending 1 night in Saint John with freinds. From there we were going to take the ferry to Digby and then tour that area (Annapolis Royal, etc) as we head back to Halifax. (We figured the ferry would be better than driving, especially during the day!) We have since arranged a tour of that area with a guide earlier in our trip. I'm not sure that we will be able to see all that we want in that one day, but we may just skip Saint John all together and head back towards Halifax from Miramichi. We don't want to spend all of our time driving.